Best Budget Gaming Laptops

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

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Gaming laptop and headphones with video game playing on the screen. Photo: iStock

The words “gaming laptop” often conjure up images of high-priced computers decked out in flashing lights. And while you can easily find such 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 other 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 the higher-end models are generally faster, which may translate to better-looking games.

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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 (assuming you can actually buy one of those, that is), but 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, 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.

Asus ROG Strix

Roughly $900 gets you this 15.6-inch model with a previous-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, 512GB of solid-state storage, and a Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti entry-level 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. 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.

You might want to start with a new webcam, because this is one of the rare laptops that doesn’t have that feature built-in. 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.

Dell G15 SE

This 15.6-inch notebook, which sells for around $950, has an AMD Ryzen 5 processor, 8GB of memory, and 512GB of solid-state storage. It, too, has an entry-level Nvidia graphics card: the RTX 3050.

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

Our testers find 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.


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).