Shopping for a gaming laptop can be challenging, as gaming is a demanding task with many requirements. First and foremost, you need to look for a system with a powerful CPU, a dedicated GPU, and a good cooling system to reach high, consistent frame rates. You also want a laptop with a high-quality display to see a clear image in fast-paced games, a comfortable keyboard that won't cause fatigue on long gaming sessions, and a fast SSD to reduce loading times. These things add up, making gaming laptops far more expensive than your typical thin, light ultraportables. That said, good budget options are available, costing around $1,000 or less. We've made a list of a few that we've tested below to get you started. The list is short for now but will grow as we review more laptops.
We've tested over 95 laptops, and below, you'll find our recommendations for the best budget gaming laptops you can get. You can also check out our recommendations for the best budget and cheap laptops, the best laptops for college, and the best gaming laptops.
The best budget gaming laptop we've tested is the ASUS TUF Dash F15 (2022). You can get this 15.6-inch model with an Intel 12th Gen Core i5 or i7 CPU paired with an NVIDIA 30-series discrete GPU, up to an RTX 3070. The RAM and the storage drive are user-replaceable, so if you're on a strict budget, you can get a cheaper configuration to start and upgrade later. There are three display options: two 1080p (144Hz or 300Hz) and a 1440p 165Hz panel; unfortunately, none support VRR to reduce screen tearing.
This laptop isn't overly bulky or heavy, so it's still relatively portable, though you'll have to bring the charger with you, as the battery lasts only a little over an hour when gaming. It has Wi-Fi 6 wireless connectivity and an Ethernet port to ensure the fastest and most reliable internet connection when playing online. Other ports include two USB-As, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4s, and a full-size HDMI. Thermal throttling is minimal, but the laptop gets hot and loud.
Our best cheap gaming laptop pick is the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (2021). For around $800 USD, you can get a configuration with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. This CPU and GPU combo can provide a solid 60 fps gaming experience at 1080p in demanding titles, albeit with medium or low settings. 8GB of RAM isn't ideal for gaming, so you'll have to add more memory to get the most out of this laptop or spend a little more for a 16GB model. The SSD is user-replaceable, too, if you want more storage since 512GB isn't a lot these days. This model has a 120Hz display; its response time is slow, but it supports VRR to reduce screen tearing.
Unlike the models we recommend above, this laptop doesn't have a MUX (multiplexer) switch. This feature lets the GPU send information directly to the display without going through the integrated GPU. The lack of this feature can reduce performance, causing as much as a 25% performance loss in games where it matters.
The best gaming Chromebook we've tested is the Acer Chromebook 516 GE (2022). Unlike Windows gaming laptops, this device runs Chrome OS and is designed specifically for cloud gaming services like NVIDIA GeForce NOW. Cloud gaming means that all the processing takes place on NVIDIA's server—or whichever company provides the service—and the image is streamed to your device, like any other video streaming service. The laptop comes with a three-month trial of GeForce NOW. You can play games from the Google Play Store; know that these titles are made for smartphones and tablets running on an ARM processor, so they might not always run properly. Also, some of them lack keyboard, mouse, and controller support.
The laptop feels well-built, and while it's on the bulkier side, it isn't too heavy. It sports a nice 16-inch QHD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate. It gets bright enough for use in most indoor settings, and its response time is good, resulting in a clear image in fast-moving scenes. The keyboard feels spacious, doesn't get hot under load, and has RGB backlighting. Don't get too excited; it only has a single lighting zone. You get Wi-Fi 6E and an Ethernet port, which is great because cloud gaming performance heavily depends on your internet connection. Battery life is short at around six hours of light use or an hour of gaming, so keep the charger close.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best budget gaming laptops you can get. We factor in the price (a cheaper laptop wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no laptops that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you prefer to make your own decision, here’s the list of all of our laptop reviews. Keep in mind that most laptops are available in various configurations, and the table only shows the results of the model we tested, so it’s best to see the full review for information about other variants.