The best budget gaming laptops for under $1,000 in 2021

The best budget gaming laptops for under $1,000 in 2021
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Are you wondering what is the best cheap gaming laptop for you? In this post, we will list some of the best budget gaming laptops you can get your hands on currently. At a casual glance, $1000 can get you an entry-level gaming laptop powered by the GTX 1650 or 1650Ti.

However, you can find some excellent options powered by Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and AMD Ryzen 5 or 7 that can offer even more performance than just playing games. You may also be able to extract the maximum bang for your buck with a low-end RTX 30 Series portable gaming machine.

Depending on your priorities, you could either end up with a powerful gaming laptop carrying an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 that lacks other departments. Alternatively, you may prefer an RTX 3050/3050Ti, with a better CPU and display.

But before we dive into the best gaming laptops under $1000, let’s talk about some stuff you should focus on, as well as what to expect from a sub $1000 portable gaming device.

In particular, we will focus on the specs you should look for and the graphics card generations you should target.

Read also: Best cheap gaming mouse in 2021

Budget gaming laptop buyer’s guide

Gaming laptops are all about the CPU and the GPU. In terms of CPU, you can get a better laptop overall with AMD’s Ryzen 5000 or 4000 series, while Intel has a slight edge in terms of gaming.

In terms of GPU, some solid advice is to avoid the NVIDIA RTX 20 series. There is nothing wrong with GPUs in terms of performance, of course. But at this price range, it is better to either go for even older GPUs of the GeForce GTX 1600 series to save some money or stick with the RTX 30 Series for better gaming performance on a tight budget.

  • You can usually find a cheap gaming laptop with an entry-level GTX 1650 for around $700-800. With that chip, you can play today's most demanding games at low-to-medium settings and Full HD resolution.
  • On occasion, you may find a 1650 Ti-powered gaming laptop on the upper side of $800.
  • You can get an RTX 3050 or 3050 Ti for a better gaming experience for around $1,000.
  • By spending more than $1,000, you can get a 1660 Ti or an RTX 3060 to play more demanding games now and in the future.

Keep also in mind that getting a better GPU with a lower TGP (Total Graphics Power) will provide no real benefit.

You should also look for at least 8GB of RAM. That is, 4GB or 6GB won’t cut it these days.

Finally, make sure to accompany the above with a solid-state drive with at least 256GB of SSD storage, a combination of SSDs and hard drives, or a larger solid-state hybrid drive.

In most gaming laptops, you can easily upgrade memory and storage, so you should invest your money in the GPU and processor once again.

The best cheap gaming laptops under $1000 in 2021

The laptops below come in various configurations, and while we provide a recommended one, you should also explore other options. I would recommend getting a gaming laptop with an RTX 3050 Ti if you can afford it.

Dell G15

1. Dell G15 (2021 Edition)

  • CPU: 10th Generation Intel® Core™ i5-10500H
  • GPU: NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3050 Ti 4GB GDDR6
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 2933MHz
  • Storage: 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive
  • Display: 15.6″ FHD (1920 x 1080) WVA 120Hz Display
  • Weight: Starting at 5.39 lbs

The Dell G15 is arguably the best cheap gaming laptop. Dell acquired Alienware several years ago in an attempt to enter the gaming PC market. However, Alienware gaming laptops remain more expensive than those purchased by the average Dell customer. 

Under its brand, Dell introduced gaming computers with starting prices below $1000 in response to this trend. Gaming laptops such as the Dell G15 feature many of the same specs as budget models, such as 8GB of RAM and 256G BSSD, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card.

In particular, the Dell G15 of 2021 uses a newer, faster Core i5-10500H processor and 3050 Ti. 

Additionally, the G15 has some Alienware-like features, such as its thermal design and the Alienware Command Center software. The ACC allows the user to optimize the performance settings with its Game Shift feature.

Moreover, the Ryzen edition of the G15 boasts a battery life of close to 10 hours, depending on workload. If you want to take performance to the next level, you should consider the Dell G15 Special Edition (SE).

The G15 comes with a USB 2.0 port, 1 USB 2.0 with PowerShare port, a USB Type-C® port, a USB 3.2 port, an HDMI port, an RJ45 Ethernet port, and a Headset (Headphone and Microphone combo) port.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 budget gaming laptop

2. Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen™ 5 4800H mobile processor
  • GPU: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1650 Ti; 4GB
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 3200MHz
  • Storage: 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive
  • Display: 15.6 inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 120Hz
  • Weight: Starting at 2.2kg / 4.8lbs

The IdeaPad Gaming 3 laptop with the Ryzen 5 5600H and 90W RTX 3060 is the best gaming laptop deal available. Since the 115W RTX 3060 is 90 percent faster than the 80W RTX 3050Ti, the 90W RTX 3060 should provide about 70 percent more performance over the 80W RTX 3050Ti. With Ray Tracing and DLSS enabled, the RTX 3060 90W achieves around 75-78fps in Control. Compared to the RTX 3050Ti, this is a vast improvement.

An AMD Ryzen 5 5600H processor powers the laptop with six cores and 45W TDP. Also included is a 512GB SSD with an additional M.2 slot. On the downside, this device has only 8GB of memory. 

The laptop is also upgradeable to 16GB, thanks to the two DIMM slots on the motherboard.

The screen is a 1080p 120Hz IPS panel with mediocre colors and brightness (maximum brightness is 250 nits). The screen isn't great, but it's not disappointing either. If you look at the rest of the hardware, you get a lot for the price. The build quality is satisfactory, the body is plastic, the keyboard is fantastic, the webcam is acceptable, and the average battery life.

The laptop comes with AMD Freesync Premium and Advanced Optimus. This is a superb gaming package and if you have only $1000 to spend on a gaming laptop, get this one along with an extra stick of RAM.

The IdeaPad Gaming 3 has two USB 3.2 gen1 ports, one USB-C port, a full-sized HDMI port, an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H processor that powers the laptop, an RJ45 (LAN) port, and a combo audio jack is also included.

Lenovo Legion 5 cheap gaming laptop

3. Lenovo Legion 5

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen™ 5 4800H mobile processor
  • GPU: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1650 Ti; 4GB
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 3200MHz
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD (SK Hynix HFM512GDHTNI-87A0B)
  • Display: 15.6 inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 60Hz
  • Weight: Starting at 2.29 kg / 5.05 lb

Overall, the Lenovo Legion 5 with RTX 3050Ti is the best deal. In terms of gaming performance, the RTX 3050Ti is far behind the RTX 3060, though. Yet, the Legion 5 is a significant improvement over the Y540. What I would recommend here is getting the Lenovo Legion 5 powered by the 1660 Ti. 

Even now, the Ryzen 7 4800H is one of the fastest CPUs you can get on a mobile device at the moment. Read our Lenovo Legion 5 review

In addition, there is 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and an additional M.2 slot. An IPS panel with a refresh rate of 165Hz, 100% coverage of the sRGB color space, and a maximum brightness of 350 nits is under consideration. 

Additionally, the build quality is much better than the IdeaPad Gaming 3. The Legion 5's body is made entirely of plastic, but there are no creaks, very little flex, and a durable screen hinge. Also, the full-sized RGB keyboard and touchpad are excellent. It is precise and smooth, but it is made of plastic and is small. 

The cooling is good, and the battery life is above average if you get the 80Wh version. As with most entry-level gaming laptops, the webcam and speakers are at best passable.

The Legion 5 is equipped with three USB-A ports, one USB-C port with DP 1.4 support, an HDMI 2.1 port, and an RJ45 port. Lenovo's Legion 5 is an excellent gaming laptop on a budget, but it will set you back a little over $1,000.

Note that there is a 144Hz refresh option for the screen, which you can find at a better price than even the 60Hz version.

HP Pavilion Gaming 15

4. HP Pavilion Gaming 15

  • CPU: Intel® Core™ i5-11300H
  • GPU: NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3050 Ti
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4-3200 MHz RAM
  • Storage: 256 GB PCIe® NVMe™ M.2 SSD
  • Display: 15.6″ diagonal, FHD (1920 x 1080), IPS
  • Weight: Starting at 2.23 kg / 4.92 lb

The HP Pavilion 15 is one of two gaming laptops offered by HP (the other being the long-standing Omen line). The HP Pavilion is a decidedly no-frills, relatively stripped-down gaming laptop that packs in as many up-to-date components as possible for the price. 

The HP Pavilion Gaming 15 laptop with its bright, screaming-green keyboard stands out from other midsize laptops as a gaming machine. Yes, there are some pretty sizeable rear fan vents, but otherwise, the chassis is pretty tame and all black except for a slight green tint to the HP logo on the lid. 

This year's iteration comes with the latest processors from Intel and AMD, although you can still find last year's components on sale at many retailers. 

Acer Swift X

5. Acer Swift X

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800U 
  • GPU: NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX™ 3050Ti
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4-3200 MHz RAM
  • Storage: 512 GB PCIe® NVMe™ M.2 SSD
  • Display: 14” FHD (1920 x 1080), LED
  • Weight: 1.50 kg / 3.31 lbs

The world of ultraportable laptops and gaming used to be very different just a few years ago. Nowadays, a thin device like the Acer Swift X can provide a 60fps gaming experience in AAA games with medium or high settings, depending on the game. 

Despite the low power consumption of the ultrabook-oriented AMD Ryzen 5 5800U, it packs enough power both for gaming and productivity tasks.

In most AAA games, the RTX 3050Ti, 40W version can achieve 60 frames per second at 1080p resolution, which is not as fast as its 85W and 75W cousins.

The rest of the specifications include 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD (with an extra M.2 slot), a 1080p IPS screen with a 60Hz refresh rate, 100% sRGB coverage, and a maximum brightness of 370 nits. Apart from the 60Hz refresh rate, the hardware you get for the price is impressive. 

The metal and plastic construction of the body has excellent build quality, noticeably better than that of other gaming laptops on this list. The tenkeyless keyboard could be better, while it has a relatively small yet precise touchpad. 

Meanwhile, the webcam and speakers are acceptable; the battery offers up to 12 hours of video playback.

MSI GF75 

6. MSI GF75 

  • CPU: Intel® Core i5-10300H Processor
  • GPU: NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 1650Ti
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4-3200 MHz RAM
  • Storage: 512 GB PCIe® NVMe™ M.2 SSD
  • Display: 17.3” FHD (1920×1080), 144 Hz
  • Weight: 2.29 kg / 5.07 lbs

The MSI GF75 is a rare sighting of a 17” laptop around the $1000 price tag. It features a Core i5-10300H and GTX 1650Ti, making it one of the best. 

A 512GB SSD and 16GB of dual-channel memory round out the hardware specification. The IPS screen comes with 1080p resolution, and a fast 144Hz refresh rate has decent color reproduction, although the brightness could be better. 

Its battery size is average for a gaming laptop. The device has three USB-A 3.2 ports, one USB-C port, a full-sized HDMI port, and an RJ45 port.

While the webcam and speakers are only passable, the keyboard is more than acceptable for an entry-level gaming laptop. The touchpad is small for a 17-inch device, but it is responsive and relatively precise.

The GF75 offers Intel Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN, one USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port, three USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, one HDMI-Out, and one combo audio jack.

Acer Nitro 5

7. Acer Nitro 5

  • CPU: Intel® Core™ i7-i7-11800H
  • GPU: NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX™ 3050 Ti
  • RAM: 16 GB DDR4-3200 MHz RAM
  • Storage: 512 GB PCIe® NVMe™ M.2 SSD
  • Display: 15.6” FHD (1920 x 1080), LED
  • Weight: 2.29 kg / 5.07 lbs

Acer Nitro 5 laptops are available in 17.3- and 15.6-inch sizes. In the sub-$1,000 gaming laptop market, 17-inch displays are rare; most sub-$1,000 gaming laptops have 15.6-inch displays; the Acer's larger screen lets the gamer get lost in the game's world. 

Acer's Nitro 5 economy gaming laptop is short on storage, but it delivers lively 1080p gameplay for less than $700.

You can get this budget gaming laptop Nitro 5 with a 15.6-inch display for as little as $720, including an AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card.

You will be able to play current games at FHD resolution with graphics settings set at medium to high, depending on the game you are playing. 

Acer still makes an affordable gaming laptop with some nice extras like direct power and cooling control. The laptop’s RAM and storage are also upgradeable.

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