Best Budget Gaming Laptops

Yes, you can snag a decent device for right around $1,000

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The words “gaming laptop” often conjure up images of boxy high-priced computers decked out in flashing lights. But these products have evolved in recent years.

Today's options are thinner, lighter, and available with more subdued stylings. And while it’s still possible to spend more than $2,000 on a high-end model, you can now find gaming laptops that perform well for around half that.

You’ll lose some “nice to haves” available on the more expensive models. You’ll have to settle for a 1080p display instead of a 4K one, for example, or less onboard storage space. But you’ll still be able to play modern games like Humankind, Fortnite, and the latest Call of Duty at reasonable settings.

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And while a new PS5 or Xbox Series X may outperform these budget laptop models (assuming you can actually buy one, that is), don't forget that a gaming laptop can perform double duty as a productivity device. You can’t exactly get homework done or pay your cable bill on 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.

HP Pavilion Gaming 16

With this 16.1-inch notebook, you can tick all the right boxes for a budget gaming laptop featuring a previous-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, 512GB of solid-state storage, and a dedicated Nvidia graphics card.

As you’d expect with a gaming laptop, the model scored well in our performance evaluations. Our testers liked the display, too, noting that it’s bright and color-accurate, and provides a wide viewing angle, which is good if your awesome gaming skills tend to draw a crowd. Everyone behind you can clearly see what’s happening on the screen. There's a built-in webcam for quick and convenient Zoom calls.

Like other gaming laptops, this one is a little on the heavy side compared with nongaming models, coming in at nearly 5 pounds, and it lasted a modest 5 hours in our battery life tests.

Asus ROG Strix

This 15.6-inch model has a previous-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, 512GB of solid-state storage, and a dedicated Nvidia graphics card. Those are solid specs for all but the most demanding games.

Our performance tests bear this out, revealing that this is one of the fastest models in our ratings regardless of price. The 1080p display did a good job of reproducing accurate colors, which is key for those who enjoy watching Netflix and HBO Max. You'll also find an array of built-in ports for connecting external devices.

One device worth considering: an external webcam. That’s right— this is one of the rare laptops that doesn’t have a built-in webcam. If you’re okay with that and the so-so battery life (as little as 5 hours per charge), then this is a smart pick.

Lenovo Legion 5

This 15.6-inch option also has a previous-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, 512GB of solid-state storage, and a dedicated Nvidia graphics card.

It generally earns high marks from our testers, particularly when it comes to performance and versatility, thanks in part to a built-in webcam, an array of USB and Ethernet ports, and support for the relatively new WiFi 6 standard.

Once again, the model has average battery life (6 hours per change) and is somewhat heavy (5 pounds), but that’s typical for a gaming laptop.


Headshot image of Electronics editor Nicholas Deleon

Nicholas De Leon

I've been covering consumer electronics for more than 10 years for publications like TechCrunch, The Daily (R.I.P.), and Motherboard. When I'm not researching or writing about laptops or headphones I can likely be found obsessively consuming news about FC Barcelona, replaying old Super Nintendo games for the hundredth time, or chasing my pet corgi Winston to put his harness on so we can go for a walk. Follow me on Twitter (@nicholasadeleon).