Best Budget Gaming Laptops

Yes, you can snag a solid choice for right around $1,000

By Nicholas De Leon

The words “gaming laptop” often conjure up images of high-priced computers decked out in flashing lights. And while you can easily find flashy models on store shelves, you now have more options.

Many are thinner, lighter, and more subdued in their styling than those of years past. And yes, it’s still possible to spend more than $2,000 on a high-end model. But today $1,000 will get you a perfectly capable gaming laptop.

It will have higher-end specs than your standard issue notebook, including an all-important dedicated graphics card, but may require concessions. 

For example, you’re probably looking at a 1080p display instead of a higher-resolution one. You may have less onboard storage for games. And while any dedicated graphics card is better than no dedicated graphics card, those in higher-end models are generally faster, which may translate to better-looking games.

Still, today’s budget gaming laptops have enough oomph to play popular titles like Apex Legends, Fortnite, and the latest Call of Duty at reasonable settings. 

Sure, a new PS5 or Xbox Series X may outperform these models, but a gaming laptop can perform double duty as a productivity device. You can’t exactly get homework done or manage the family budget with a PS5.

As with all products tested in our labs, Consumer Reports buys laptops, including gaming laptops, at retail stores to ensure that manufacturers don’t try to skew our results with cherry-picked models. Our testers evaluate performance data, battery life, and display quality, among other criteria, to help you pick the right model for your needs.

Below you’ll find our current budget gaming laptop picks, arranged in ascending price order.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3

For around $800, you can grab this 15-inch gaming notebook, which has a Ryzen 5 processor, 8GB of memory, 512GB of solid-state storage, and an entry-level Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card.

The model is powerful enough to run demanding games without issue, though you may want to turn down some settings to keep the action moving smoothly. The battery lasted almost 9 hours in our web-browsing test but more like 4 hours in the hi-res-video-screening trial, so don’t expect a marathon gaming session unless you have a power outlet handy. 

The 1080p display does the job, but our testers say that it isn’t as color-accurate as others, so it’s not the best choice for streaming-video fans.

Another Lenovo model you might want to consider is the Legion 5, which costs about $100 more than this IdeaPad Gaming. The specs are roughly the same but with an Intel Core i7 processor and a slightly more powerful Nvidia GTX 1660 graphics card.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 15 (Ryzen 5)

MSI Pulse

This 15.6-inch notebook from MSI, a company that specializes in gaming computers and related accessories, also sells for around $800, and it’s got an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, 512GB of solid-state storage, and an Nvidia RTX 3050 graphics card. 

RTX cards are generally more capable than their GTX counterparts, displaying more accurate-looking lighting effects, for example.

Those specs should be enough to run today’s top games, though you’ll likely need to turn down graphical settings a bit to maintain smooth frame rates when playing demanding titles like Call of Duty. 

Like most gaming laptops in our ratings, the Pulse has what might be termed modest battery life, lasting a bit longer than 7 hours for web browsing and 4 hours for high-res video playback. Given the heft here—the model weighs nearly 5 pounds—you’re probably not going to be carrying this around with you much, so as long as there’s a power outlet handy you should be okay.

MSI Pulse GL66

Dell G15 SE

This 15.6-inch notebook, which sells for around $1,000, has an AMD Ryzen 5 processor, 8GB of memory, and 512GB of solid-state storage. It also has an Nvidia RTX 3050.

Our testers found this to be a solid notebook, capable of running popular games without much trouble. The 1080p display is in the ballpark in terms of color accuracy, which means it’s fine for gaming but not ideal for Netflix fans with a sharp eye for cinematography.

You won’t want to lug this model around too often, either, seeing that it weighs more than 5 pounds and has a battery that lasts as little as 5 hours when tackling demanding tasks.

Another option available for $1,000-ish ($1,080 at press time) is the Asus TUF A15, which has an AMD Ryzen 7 processor, 8GB of memory, 512GB of solid-state storage, and an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti, which is a hair more powerful than the 3050.

Dell G15 SE

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