You're searching for the best gaming laptops, and you're hit with a big dose of reality: Gaming laptops are really expensive. Even midrange laptops can cost upwards of $2,000, and if you want a flagship laptop, you can spend as much as $5,000. Who's supposed to buy these things anyway?
Fret not, as we've rounded up the best budget gaming laptops so you can play your games for cheap. For this guide, we're focusing on laptops you can by for at or below $1,000, with a particular focus on gaming notebooks that provide the best bang for your buck.
Lenovo Legion Pro 5 Gen 8
The best budget gaming laptop
- Fantastic value
- Top-tier gaming performance
- USB-C charging available
- DLSS 3
- Middling screen
- A bit heavy
The Lenovo Legion Pro 5 shouldn't be a budget gaming laptop, but somehow, it is. Lenovo's Legion range consistently offer some of the highest performance we see out of gaming notebooks, and although this range typically sells in the neighborhood of $1,500, you can find the latest model for as little as $1,100.
The base configuration comes with an AMD Ryzen 5 7645HX CPU and an Nvidia RTX 4050 GPU, along with 512GB of storage and 16GB of DDR5 memory. If you can stretch your budget a bit, you can get an even better configuration. For instance, the $1,250 model comes with an RTX 4060 and Ryzen 7 7745HX.
You can save $100 or so with similarly configured laptops from other brands (we'll highlight a few here, even), but the Lenovo Legion Pro 5 stands out for its quality. It's a little more expensive, but it's built like a flagship laptop, with an excellent keyboard, minimal body flex, and solid battery life.
Out of all of the gaming laptops we review, the Lenovo Legion Pro 5 is usually the go-to option regardless of your budget. The fact that Lenovo offers a budget-friendly configuration is just the cherry on top. It's not the absolute cheapest laptop you can buy, but it's well worth a small premium.
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022)
The best budget gaming laptop on sale
- Excellent gaming machine
- Thin, small, and light
- Game-changing CPU performance
- Responsive touchpad
- Unique lid design
- Noisy at idle
- Mushy keyboard
- No webcam
Asus' popular ROG Zephyrus G14 is too expensive for this list. However, you can find last year's model for very cheap, and if you can pick one up on sale, it's easily the best deal on a gaming laptop you can find.
We're talking about the 2022 model, and in particular, the base configuration with a Ryzen 9 6900HS processor and Radeon RX 6700S graphics card. It retails for $1,650, but you'll commonly find it for around $1,100 these days. On sale, you can find it as low as $800, and it offers performance that easily beats the other options on this list.
The ROG Zephyrus G14 earns its stripes due to premium features. You're getting more storage space than most other laptops on this list, a beautiful 120Hz display, and features like USB-C charging that are normally relegated to high-end machines like the Razer Blade 14.
The Zephyrus G14 is the right laptop at the right time. It might not be available in six months from now, but for the time being, it's hard finding a better deal.
The best budget gaming laptop under $800
- Great build quality
- One of the cheapest laptops money can buy
- Solid keyboard
- Poor battery life
- Big and bulky
If you're on a strict budget and need a new gaming laptop, the Dell G15 is tough to beat. For only $730, it offers the 10-core Intel Core i5-13450HX, along with an Nvidia RTX 3050, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD. It's not a top performer, but it's a great option for 1080p gaming if you don't mind turning down a few settings.
Similar to the Lenovo machine we recommended, this one blows past the competition with great build quality. It's mostly plastic, but Dell makes the most of the material to make the G15 feel robust. It also comes with a decent cooling solution, so it's not too loud or hot when pushed.
The keyboard is much better than what you normally find at this price, too. It's not the best keyboard we've seen on a gaming laptop, but it doesn't come with the mushy feeling and sticky keys you find on most laptops around $700.
While the Dell G15 is great for its base configuration, we wouldn't recommend buying one of the more expensive configurations. The price jumps up massively for even the slightest upgrade, and you can find much better (and cheaper) options for less.
Acer Chromebook 516 GE
The best budget gaming Chromebook
- Performance and endurance
- Great display
- Good price for the specs
- Play AAA games without your lap turning into lava
- Gaming-related bugs and crashes
- No touchscreen
- Could use customizable keys
Chromebook gaming is still a long way away, but the Acer Chromebook 516 GE provides a hint of the future. It's a high-end Chromebook, offering great battery life and a fantastic screen, but it doesn't offer peak performance.
That's because you're not supposed to run games on the Chromebook 516 GE. Its Intel Core i5-1240P processor can handle light games you find through the Google Play Store, but you're meant to use the device primarily with cloud gaming services like GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass.
Thanks to the Wi-Fi 6E module, you can easily run even the most demanding games through the laptop without much latency. Don't ignore the display, either. Even the cheapest Chromebooks are capable of cloud gaming, but the exceptional 2,560 x 1,600 screen makes them look far better on the Chromebook 516 GE. You can even drive the full 120Hz of the display with apps like GeForce Now.
Of course, your experience with the Acer Chromebook 516 GE is entirely dependent on your internet connection. The machine sets you up for success with its wireless connectivity, though, and if you're experiencing stutters, you can tether it directly to your router with the Gigabit Ethernet jack.
HP Victus 15
The best 15-inch budget gaming laptop
- Solid productivity performance
- Decent 1080p gaming performance
- Good keyboard and touchpad
- Conservative good looks
- Confusing configurations
- Poor battery life
- Ho-hum screen
You're not going to find a proper gaming laptop cheaper than the HP Victus 15. For $800, it comes with an Intel Core i5-13500H, along with 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and an Nvidia RTX 3050 graphics card. Similar to the Dell G15, it's not going to blow you away in every game, but it's a solid performer considering the price.
The other aspects of the laptop are middling, as to be expected at this price. The screen is just OK, the battery life isn't the best, and the webcam is poor. Thankfully, the keyboard and trackpad are solid, as is the overall build quality.
Outside of gaming, the processor is also a winner. It's not the fastest chip you can buy, but it can accelerate tasks like Adobe Premiere Pro and chew through video transcoding with ease.
Asus ROG Ally
The best handheld gaming laptop
- Solid performance
- Acceptable battery life
- Beautiful, 120Hz screen
- Flexible control scheme
- Support for basically any PC game
- Turbo mode drains battery quickly
- Windows has a lot of quirks
- Armoury Crate is a utility, not an OS
OK, hear me out. No, the Asus ROG Ally isn't technically a laptop. But it also kind of is a laptop. It doesn't come with a keyboard and trackpad, and the screen is small, but the ROG Ally is basically a laptop with a controller strapped on.
It's not great for taking around and browsing the internet, but it works wonders for gaming on the go. And when you're back at your desk, you can use a USB-C hub to connect a keyboard and mouse, monitor, and any other peripherals you have.
The best use is to hook it up to the XG Mobile for a full desktop experience. It's an expensive accessory for the ROG Ally, so it doesn't quite fit the budget mold, but it's a good place to aspire to.
The hardware inside the ROG Ally is basically an efficient gaming laptop chip. The Ryzen Z1 Extreme comes with eight Zen 4 cores, along with AMD's Radeon 780M graphics. Together, they can run most games at 1080p above 60 frames per second (fps), though it's worth noting that the ROG Ally isn't as powerful as some of the proper laptops on this list.
It's tough to find a gaming laptop for $500. The cheapest gaming laptops start around $800, and you can expect to spend around $1,000 if you want something that will last a while. However, you can frequently find gaming laptops around $600 if you shop sales or opt for last-gen models.
The main thing you need to use a cheap laptop for gaming is a discrete graphics card. If you have a discrete GPU, there's a good chance you can play games on your laptop, regardless of its price. Integrated graphics built into your processor can work for very lightweight games, but they'll struggle with anything more demanding.
Chromebooks aren't great for gaming on their own due to having limited storage space and generally weak components. Most games aren't compatible with the operating system, either. However, you can use cloud gaming apps like GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass to stream games to Chromebooks with ease.
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