Playing modern PC games used to require a desktop machine worth thousands of dollars, but the gaming laptops under $1,000 offer similar performance for a lot less. Yes, desktop PCs still have an advantage over portables because they don’t have to balance power consumption with battery life, but laptops win on portability. A gaming laptop allows you to play the latest titles wherever you go, be it a vacation or work trip, without much hassle.
Many newer titles offer support for Bluetooth controllers designed for the Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, or Nintendo Switch, so you can recreate the game console experience if you don’t want to play a certain game using a mouse and keyboard. Advancements in processor efficiency, storage speed, and memory have allowed gaming laptops to thrive over the past few years. These components require less power and take up less space.
Improvements in display technology — most notably the ability to sustain high refresh rates — have made gaming laptop screens closer to dedicated gaming monitors than ever before. You’ll have to make some performance compromises when playing on the best gaming laptops under $1,000, but there’ll be fewer than you think.
How We Picked the Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,000
Our best gaming laptops under $1,000 recommendations are based on a mix of research and hands-on testing. Below are the factors we considered most highly when deciding which laptops to include in this buyer's guide.
Graphics Cards: A laptop’s graphics card is responsible for processing images on your computer, and outputting them to your screen. In the PC gaming world — both laptop and desktop — this is the most important component in your rig. Graphics cards can be broken down into two categories, dedicated and integrated, which offer significantly different experiences.
— Dedicated: A dedicated graphics card is a piece of dedicated hardware with its own processor(s) and memory. This allows the PCs main processor and memory to run other software, like the computer's operating system and other apps, without a hit to performance.
— Integrated: Integrated graphics cards, which are typically found on laptops, have a significantly slower processor, and share the computer's main memory pool. Graphics in high-end games are huge, so your computer will run out of memory more quickly, which leads to a loss of fidelity as the system struggles to keep up. Additionally, there's some lag time between a computer's processor, integrated graphics card, and memory, which slows down performance even further.
All of our gaming laptop recommendations have a dedicated graphics card, except for the MacBook Air, which we’ll get into later.
Processor: A computer's processor is responsible for executing code on your computer. Everything you do, from moving the mouse cursor around to playing a game in 4K, requires some level of processing power. High fidelity games require a lot of power, so we made sure to prioritize both the processor speed and number of processor cores in the machines we're recommending. Multi-core processors, which are standard in all computers now, allow your gaming laptop to run several tasks in parallel to avoid overloading the processor and burning it out.
Memory: All of our gaming laptop recommendations have 8 GB (gigabytes) of RAM (Read Only Memory). Game assets, from graphics to music tracks, are huge, so you'll want as much memory in there as possible. When a computer runs out of memory, it ends up dumping old data onto the system's hard drive or deleting it entirely.
Your gaming laptop’s performance will be significantly impacted by how much of the game your computer can keep stored in memory at any given time. This is especially true in open-world games, which allow you to roam freely in a single gigantic world instead of navigating through small areas that can be loaded and unloaded as necessary.
Storage: New PC games are gigantic, so if you have a large library, you'll ideally want a computer with a lot of space.
The gaming laptops we liked all had solid state drives, which store data on computer chips rather than a spinning platter. This allows your laptop to read and write data very quickly. In the gaming world, using a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD) means you’ll see fewer loading screens and have a smoother experience overall. The tradeoff with using a gaming laptop with a SSD is you’ll have less space to work with. This means you may only be able to keep a limited game library on your SSD at once, deleting and re-downloading titles as is necessary.
Ports: A computer's ports determine what accessories can be plugged into them, and how they can output information like graphics and sound. Notebook computers have fewer ports than desktop computers, but we made sure most of our gaming laptops had the essentials — Apple’s MacBook Air excepted. All the Windows machines have several USB-A and USB-C ports for connecting accessories like a mouse or keyboard, an HDMI port to let you easily connect the machine to a TV or projector, and an Ethernet port to create a wired connection to the internet.
Display Resolution: A display’s resolution determines how much detail you’ll be able to see when playing games — or doing anything else for that matter. Most of our gaming laptop recommendations have a screen whose resolution is at least 1080P (full HD). These laptops are capable of outputting video at resolutions up to (or exceeding) 4K, and you can take advantage of this if you hook them up to a gaming monitor or television. Cranking up a game’s resolution can put significant strain on your machine, though, so it’s important to balance clarity and fidelity.
Display Refresh Rate: A screen’s refresh rate dictates how many times it can be updated with new information every second. Many newer games support refresh rates of 120 fps (frames per second), or beyond. The higher a display’s refresh rate, the smoother your gameplay will look. This matters the most if you’re playing games that require pinpoint precision and fast reflexes, like first-person shooters.
Battery Life: A gaming laptop’s battery life will be determined by your screen brightness, the games you’re playing, and whether you’re using its WiFi or Bluetooth antennas. Games take up so much power that any PC manufacturer’s battery life specs are guesses at best. In general, expect to plug your machine into an outlet to charge every four to five hours.
Upgradability: Portable PCs are not known for their upgradability, but gaming laptops are an exception. These machines don’t need to be super thin and light, which allows their manufacturers to use parts that aren’t soldered onto their motherboard. If you’re shopping on a budget now, but want the option to add more memory or storage to your gaming laptop later on, many of our recommendations can accommodate that. We’re big fans of upgradable tech because it allows you to improve your current system instead of replacing it entirely.
Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,000: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: ASUS ROG Strix G15
Why It Made The Cut: This laptop’s mix of solid specs, a robust port selection, and overall design make it the obvious choice for gamers.
— Screen Refresh Rate: 144Hz
— Memory: 8 GB
— Storage: 512 GB
— A lot of storage
— A wide array of ports
— A relatively light package
If we could only recommend one gaming laptop that cost less than $1,000, it’d be ASUS’ ROG Strix G15.
The machine is equipped with a fast AMD Ryzen 7 4700H processor, 8 GB of memory, 512 GB of storage, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 with 4 GB of dedicated video memory, and a 15.6-inch HD display with a refresh rate of up to 144Hz. It’s true that getting a gaming laptop with these specs requires you to push your budgets to the upper limit of “under $1,000,” but it’s totally worth it. These specs are impressive today, but ASUS also allows you to upgrade the machine with more RAM and a higher-capacity SSD down the line, which is icing on the cake.
These tech specs are complemented by a wide range of inputs and outputs, including three USB-A ports, a USB-C port, an HDMI port, an Ethernet jack, and a headphone jack. Many of these ports are located on the back of the laptop, which makes routing cables on a desk a lot easier. If you plan on using your gaming laptop as part of a desk setup at home in addition to taking it on the go, this design choice alone makes this the ultimate gaming laptop.
What makes the ROG Strix 15 especially impressive is that ASUS managed to cram these components into a laptop that weighs just 4.5 pounds, which is relatively light for a gaming laptop. Many cross the five-pound threshold, which can weigh down your backpack considerably when commuting or traveling. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this laptop’s RGB keyboard and light strip, which can be customized to any color scheme you’d like. This is a fun extra, though we’d keep most of the lights turned off whenever possible to conserve power.
If you’ve set a hard $1,000 limit on your gaming laptop purchase, and don’t mind spending your entire budget, look no further than ASUS’ ROG Strix 15.
Best Budget: Lenovo Ideapad 3
Why It Made The Cut: Lenovo’s IdeaPad 3 is a great gaming laptop given its impressive specs and price.
— Screen Refresh Rate: 120Hz
— Memory: 8 GB
— Storage: 256 GB
— Three-month Gamepass trial
— Solid port selection
— Low-resolution screen
— Limited storage
Lenovo made the right choices when deciding which features to sacrifice in order to get the IdeaPad 3 down to its sub $650 price.
The machine is packed with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H processor, 8GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 with 4 GB of memory, and a 15.6-inch 720P display with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. That screen resolution is a little low for our liking, but the fact that Lenovo chose a faster refresh rate was the right move for a gaming laptop. Additionally, playing games at a lower resolution requires fewer resources, which means the IdeaPad 3’s graphics card should be able to play titles at faster speeds.
We’re happy that Lenovo didn’t skimp on the IdeaPad 3’s port selection. The machine has two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, an HDMI port, and an Ethernet jack. The laptop has a 720P webcam built into the lid, and a privacy shutter you can close when your video calls are over. The webcam isn’t high resolution enough to use for Twitch streams, but it’s sufficient for casual chats with friends and family.
You won’t be able to boost this gaming laptop’s processor speed and graphical horsepower, but you can add more memory and storage with relative ease. It’s possible to double the laptop’s memory and quadruple its storage while staying under $1,000 if you shop around or wait for a sale. These opportunities make the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 an even better buy. As a bonus, Lenovo is bundling this gaming laptop with a free, three-month pass to Microsoft’s GamePass service, which allows you to get unlimited access to a wide variety of games, which you can download and play at your leisure for the duration of your subscription.
Best Port Selection: Acer Nitro 5 AN515-55-53E5
Why It Made The Cut: Acer’s Nitro 5 AN515-55-53E5 offers similar specs to our top gaming laptop recommendation at a far lower cost.
— Screen refresh rate: 144Hz
— Memory: 8 GB
— Storage: 256 GB
— Fast processor
— Impressive graphics chip
— Fast refresh rate display
— Limited storage space
We found a lot to like about Acer’s Nitro 5, and it could easily have been our top pick if it was equipped with a little more storage.
As it is, the Nitro 5 is built with an Intel Core i5-10300H processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 with 4 GB of dedicated video memory, and a 120Hz 15.6-inch full HD display. Having such a high resolution and high refresh rate display with you on the go will make a big difference when playing games, and we’re pleased to see that the Nitro 5 is well specced enough to handle such a resource-intensive task.
These internal specs are matched up with three USB-A ports, a USB-C port, an HDMI port, an SD Card slot, an Ethernet jack, and a headphone jack. This is an impressive array of ports, and we’re especially happy to see an SD Card slot. This feature will allow photographers and videographers to use the Nitro 5’s graphical horsepower for more than just playing games by letting them easily get media off of their camera.
We’ve dinged Acer for limiting the Nitro 5’s storage to 256 GB by default, but you can pop in a larger SSD and additional memory to this machine if you’d like. If that’s your plan, we’d argue that this machine is better than the ASUS ROG Strix 15 in most cases. This gaming laptop’s ports are located on its sides, which means your desk setup will be messier than if you chose ASUS’ machine, but that’s the biggest difference.
If you want the highest level of performance out of a gaming laptop, and don’t mind waiting a little while to upgrade your machine, Acer’s Nitro 5 AN515-55-53E5 is an excellent gaming laptop under $1,000.
Best Mac: M1 MacBook Air
Why It Made The Cut: The Mac isn’t known for gaming, but Apple’s M1 processor aims to change that, offering a lot of power in a thin and lightweight design.
— Screen refresh rate: 60Hz
— Memory: 8 GB
— Storage: 256 GB
— Runs MacOS
— Impressive M1 processor
— Ultra portable
— Limited game library
We’ll be honest, MacOS is not a platform designed for gaming, but Apple is attempting to turn that ship around by designing its own processors and courting game developers to port bigger titles to their platform. We don’t expect MacOS’s game library to reach parity with what you can play on Windows, but understand some folks may prefer Apple’s operating system for non-gaming tasks. If you want your one computer to run MacOS and play games, we recommend the MacBook Air.
It’s equipped with Apple’s M1 processor, which is far more power efficient than chips produced by Intel and AMD. The M1 only has one pool of memory that needs to be shared between the chips processor and graphics cores, but it’s so good that it can compete with laptops using a dedicated graphics card. The M1 is complemented by 8 GB of memory, 256 GB of storage, and a 60Hz 13.3-inch display with a resolution of 2560 x 1600. These are impressive tech specs for a laptop that weighs just 2.8 pounds.
These specs are fine for light to moderate gaming if you’re interested in playing titles like “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” and the upcoming MacOS version of “Resident Evil Village”. You can also subscribe to Apple’s Arcade service, which costs $4.99 per month and gives you unlimited access to a library of higher resolution versions of mobile games. Apple Arcade also features titles like “Sayonara: Wild Hearts,” a highly-rated title that was also released on the PC and for game consoles.
If you can accept the inherent game library limitations of the M1 MacBook Air, you’ll be able to marvel at how a machine with no fan can play games without overheating after a few minutes of gameplay. Investing in this machine also means accepting Apple’s adherence to making their machines un-upgradable, and equipping them with a paltry two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The future of gaming on the Mac appears to be getting brighter, and if you believe in Apple’s ability to bring more titles to MacOS, the M1 MacBook Air is a great machine.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Gaming Laptop Under $1,000
Display Size: Your gaming laptop’s display size should be one of the first tech specs you look at when deciding which model to get, especially if you don’t plan on hooking the machine up to an external display. Most gaming laptops have a screen that’s around 15 inches diagonal, which provides a sufficient level of immersion when playing games. Larger screens require more power, but they’re typically connected to laptops with big batteries that can handle the extra energy consumption.
Your Gaming Space: A gaming laptop is a great investment for PC gamers who travel often, but you’ll still get better performance from a desktop in this price range. A desktop doesn’t come with a screen, but you’ll be able to upgrade it more easily, which is a tradeoff that may be worth making, depending on the hardware you already have. If you have limited space for gaming, either in a dorm or apartment, a gaming laptop is the better choice.
Cooling System: Playing games will constantly tax your computer, so it's important to get a machine with a cooling system that will keep it from overheating. In the gaming laptop world that means getting a computer with fans inside. Yes, you will be able to hear the machine whirring away as you play, but it's better than the laptop overheating.
Operating System: Windows has been the dominant operating system for gamers since the early 1990s due to its extreme popularity. You can run some games on a machine running MacOS or Linux, but the library available to you will be much lower.
Q: Is 8 GB RAM enough for a gaming laptop?
Yes. 8 GB of RAM is sufficient for playing most PC games on a gaming laptop. Only the highest-end PC titles, like “Elden Ring” or the remake of “God of War”, require more than 8GB or RAM. In that case, it may be worth looking into getting additional memory to upgrade your machine.
Q: What's more important, SSD or RAM for a gaming laptop?
Both. It’s a tough answer, but the truth is you’ll want a gaming laptop with both an SSD and sufficient amount of RAM to have any hope of getting strong performance while playing games.
Q: Is i5 good for a gaming laptop?
Yes. Intel’s line of i5 processors — which spans a remarkable gamut between consumer and professional levels of performance — is sufficient for gaming laptops. Higher-end i7 processors offer better performance, but soak up more battery life.
Q: How do I responsibly dispose of my old gaming laptop?
If you're replacing an old gaming laptop, we recommend reading our guide on how to responsibly dispose of e-waste.
Final Thoughts on Gaming Laptops Under $1,000
The fact that we can have a reasonable discussion about playing PC games on a laptop that costs under $1,000 is pretty remarkable. Major PC companies have done an excellent job at establishing their gaming laptop lines, and are slowly making their entry-level models highly affordable. The world of PC hardware moves quickly, but it’s nice to see that efforts aren’t focused solely on the highest echelons of performance and price.
The gaming laptops we’ve recommended should last you several years, especially if you choose a model with upgradable components and feel comfortable popping off their backplate and doing the work yourself. If you keep an eye out for PC component sales, it’s possible to get more memory and a high-capacity SSD at budget-friendly prices. Supply chain constraints caused PC component prices to spike significantly, but they’ve thankfully stabilized in recent months.
Our final advice before getting a gaming laptop under $1,000 (or at any price frankly) is to check the minimum system requirements of the games you want to play before making your choice. Taking the time to do a games audit before making your purchase will allow you to definitively know whether the machine you get is powerful enough to handle the titles you want to play.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.