Small laptop gaming setup. Steam Deck vs. Gaming Laptop: Which One Makes More Sense

Steam Deck vs. Gaming Laptop: Which One Makes Sense?

When it comes to gaming, the choice between a Steam Deck vs a gaming laptop can be a difficult one. Both options have pros and cons, and the best choice depends on your individual needs and preferences.

A Steam Deck is a dedicated gaming device specifically designed for gaming and is generally more affordable. In contrast, a gaming laptop is a portable computer that can be used for other tasks, such as browsing the internet or working on office documents, in addition to gaming, but it is typically more expensive.

In this guide, we will compare Steam Deck and gaming laptops in terms of performance, portability, and cost to help you determine which makes more sense for you.

Steam Deck vs. Gaming Laptop: Side-by-Side Comparison

Steam Deck vs. Gaming Laptop: History

The Steam Deck is a gaming computer which has been developed by Valve. It was released in February 2022. Although it is designed as a handheld device it can be connected to a TV or monitor so it can be used like a desktop computer or a video game console. It is a powerful device and features Valve’s Steam operating system. It also comes with three storage options — 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB.

Gaming laptops were first designed in the early 1980s and initially used much of the same software as a desktop computer. However, the began to vastly improve in the 1990s and 2000s, becoming much more powerful. Today, they are far superior to their predecessors and use powerful technology such as Nvidia’s RTX series graphics cards and AMD’s Ryzen processor.

Steam Deck vs. Gaming Laptop: What’s the Difference?

The Steam Deck has quickly gained popularity in the gaming community for its compact size and versatility. Many users have even started using it as their primary computer, as it has the capability to meet the majority of their needs.

This rise in popularity has led to a new debate among gamers, as the Steam Deck is now being compared to the traditional gaming laptop. But before you ditch your gaming laptop for a Steam Deck, here are some key differences you need to know about.


Price is one of the most significant differences between Steam Decks and gaming laptops. Steam Decks are generally more affordable than gaming laptops.

The Steam Deck is a compact, dedicated gaming device specifically designed for use with the Steam platform, allowing it to offer a lower price point compared to gaming laptops. Steam Decks usually cost in the range of 300 to 700.

  • Plays your Steam library and PC games from anywhere
  • Optimized AMD processor
  • 7-inch touchscreen and touch controls
  • 64GB onboard storage

On the other hand, gaming laptops are often more expensive, with ranging from 800 to 3000 and beyond, depending on the specs and features of the device. The main reason for this price difference is that gaming laptops are designed to be versatile and powerful, with the ability to run demanding games and perform other tasks such as video editing, 3D rendering, and more.

They also have more powerful hardware, such as dedicated graphics cards, high-end processors, and more RAM. So, if budget is a concern for you and you are looking for a more affordable option, a Steam Deck might be the better choice. But, a gaming laptop would be better if you require more power and versatility.


A Steam Deck offers much better portability due to its small size and weight compared to a laptop. The Steam Deck is the size of a game controller and is designed to be held in your hands while you play, making it a great option for gaming on the go. On the other hand, even though a gaming laptop is portable, it is often bulky and requires a power outlet.

Additionally, gaming laptops can become quite hot after extended use, meaning they cannot be used on your lap or in a tight space. While both devices provide a good gaming experience, the Steam Deck is much more suitable for gamers who want a lightweight device to go with them wherever they go.


When it comes to performance, both Steam Decks and gaming laptops have a lot to offer. Steam Decks are designed to be small and portable, so they have to make compromises on the hardware used. They typically have less powerful processors, graphics cards, and less RAM compared to gaming laptops.

This means they may be unable to handle games that require a lot of processing power, such as those with high-resolution graphics or complex AI. On the other hand, gaming laptops are designed to be powerful and able to handle demanding games.

They are equipped with high-end processors, graphics cards, and a large amount of RAM, making them capable of running games with high-resolution graphics and complex AI. They can also handle more demanding games and support VR experience.

Games Library

A Steam Deck is a dedicated gaming console, much like the Sony Playstation or Microsoft Xbox, and therefore it comes preloaded with hundreds of games designed to play on the system. On the other hand, a gaming laptop can run any game that is available for its operating system.

So, if you’re looking for a specific game or type of game, your selection may be much more limited with a Steam Deck than with a gaming laptop. However, there are some advantages to using a Steam Deck over a gaming laptop.

For example, with a Steam Deck, you have access to Steam’s massive library of games, which includes more than 5,000 titles. This allows you to choose from a wide variety of games, including many that are not available on other platforms. Furthermore, Steam often has discounts and sales on games, which can help you save money while still getting a great gaming experience.


A Steam Deck is designed with an efficient hardware setup and an optimized operating system that helps it get better battery life compared to a gaming laptop. While a Steam Deck can last for hours, even with demanding games, a gaming laptop will require you to plug it in or limit your game settings to conserve battery life.

Types of Games

Steam Deck is ideal for playing indie games, such as 2D platformers and some 3D games, but it does not offer the best performance for AAA heavy-duty games. Gaming laptops, on the other hand, can handle more demanding titles. Ultimately, what type of game you plan to play should be a determining factor when deciding which device to buy.

For example, if you are looking for an affordable option to enjoy your favorite retro classics or some free-to-play battle royale titles, Steam Deck may be your best bet. If you are looking to experience AAA blockbusters at their fullest potential, then investing in a high-end gaming laptop is your only option.

Input / Controls

When it comes to playing games, the controls you use can make a huge difference in your gaming experience. With a Steam Deck, you get all the buttons and controls you’d find on a regular controller, along with two trackpads, four mappable buttons, and the ability to connect to a wireless keyboard and mouse.

On the other hand, with a gaming laptop, you are often stuck with an inferior keyboard and a trackpad for navigation. You also have to buy additional input devices like controllers and keyboards if you want something better.

This can add up to a lot of extra costs, as well as the added burden of having to carry all these devices around with you. In this sense, the Steam Deck provides a much more convenient and economical solution.

Ease of Use

A Steam Deck is an all-in-one gaming system. It is designed to be as simple as possible, with minimal setup required. The Steam controller offers precise control, and the steam interface makes navigation easy. In addition, games on Steam can be purchased directly from the store, making it easy to find the games you want.

On the other hand, gaming laptops require more setup before you can start playing. You must install the necessary drivers, connect other peripherals, and ensure your graphics card is properly configured.

This may require some technical knowledge, which can be intimidating for those unfamiliar with computers. Additionally, it can be difficult to find the games you want since you need to search through numerous online stores or download sites.

Steam Deck vs. Gaming Laptop: Which One Makes Sense?

Ultimately, the choice between a Steam Deck and a gaming laptop depends on your individual needs and preferences. A Steam Deck allows you to play games from your Steam library and stream content from other services.

On the other hand, gaming laptops offer higher-end specs and performance for more intense gaming. While both devices offer pros and cons, it’s important to consider which makes the most sense for your gaming needs.

The Steam Deck is ideal for those who want an easy-to-use gaming device that can fit in small spaces. It has a minimalistic design and offers access to your Steam as well as streaming options like Netflix and Hulu.

While the Steam Deck may lack some graphical power compared to a gaming laptop, its simplicity and portability make it an excellent choice for casual gamers. On the other hand, gaming laptops are powerful enough to handle more intense gaming experiences while offering some portability. However, they’re more expensive and require more maintenance than the Steam Deck.

Up Next

  • The Best Gaming Laptops — Reviewed and Ranked: Check out the top-rated gaming laptops here.
  • Ninth Generation Video Game Consoles: Discover the latest game consoles here, including PS5 and Nintendo Switch.
  • The Top Selling Video Games of All Time — Ranked: Discover the very best video games in the world here!

Steam Deck vs. Gaming Laptop: Which One Makes Sense? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is a Steam Deck?

A Steam Deck is a small form factor gaming computer designed by Valve, the company behind the popular PC gaming platform, Steam. It is an all-in-one gaming system with a built-in monitor, keyboard, and mouse, making it a complete gaming solution. The Steam Deck runs on a customized version of the Linux operating system.

What is a gaming laptop?

A gaming laptop is a portable computer that is designed for high-performance gaming. It typically has more powerful hardware than a standard laptop, such as a dedicated graphics card and high-performance processor. These laptops are preferred by gamers who want to play games while on the go or in places where desktops are not allowed.

Which one is more powerful, a Steam Deck or a gaming laptop?

A gaming laptop is typically more powerful than a Steam Deck, as it is designed for more demanding and professional gaming needs. It has more powerful hardware and advanced features such as overclocking and custom cooling systems.

Which one is easier to use, a Steam Deck or a gaming laptop?

A Steam Deck is generally considered easier to use as it is designed to be plug-and-play and comes with a user-friendly interface similar to that of a gaming console. Gaming laptops are often more complex and require more technical knowledge to set up and use.

Can I upgrade the components of a Steam Deck or a gaming laptop?

The Steam Deck has limited upgrade options, such as adding a MicroSD card for additional storage or replacing or upgrading the SSD. However, it is not recommended to upgrade the RAM. On the other hand, some gaming laptops have empty expandable slots for RAM and M.2 SSD that can be accessed by removing the bottom shell of the device.

However, both the Steam Deck and gaming laptops are limited in their ability to upgrade or change major components like the CPU and GPU.

Is Steam Deck worth it if you have a gaming PC?

If you already have a gaming PC, then the question of whether a Steam Deck is worth it really comes down to how portable and convenient you want your gaming experience to be. A Steam Deck can provide an incredibly portable gaming experience, allowing you to take your gaming on the go without any additional setup or hardware.

What is the price difference between a Steam Deck and a gaming laptop?

The price of a Steam Deck and a gaming laptop can vary depending on the specific model and features. However, gaming laptops generally tend to be more expensive than Steam Decks.

About the Author

Jane Wangui

Jane is a versatile writer who loves research and writing content that connects with readers. Since 2016, she has been helping businesses market themselves online by producing high-quality, engaging, and informative content. With a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences, Jane specializes in writing about science and technology topics. She especially enjoys writing about science fiction, EVs, video games, GPUs, the history of technology, space, programming, personal tech, cybersecurity, VR/AR, and cryptocurrencies. When not writing, you will find her motorcycling, belly dancing and roller derbying.

The 5 Best Gaming Laptops. Summer 2023 Reviews

Buying a gaming laptop isn’t easy as there are many options, with new models coming out every year sporting increasingly more powerful CPUs and GPUs. On top of that, a CPU or GPU might perform very differently from one laptop to another due to their power draw and the chassis’ thermal limitations, making the buying decision even harder. To help you, we’ve narrowed down the best laptops and configurations to give you the smoothest gaming experience for various price segments. The list is short for now but will grow as we review more laptops.

We’ve bought and tested over 75 laptops. Below are our recommendations for the best gaming laptops you can buy. You can also see our recommendations for the best laptops, the best budget and cheap gaming laptops, and the best Windows laptops.

Best Gaming Laptop

Razer Blade 14 (2022)

The best gaming laptop we’ve tested is the Razer Blade 14 (2022). This premium 14-inch model has a sturdy aluminum chassis, a comfortable keyboard with per-key RGB backlighting, and plenty of ports for peripherals. It’s very portable, thanks to its compact design, although you’ll have to bring the charger if you want to game on the go, as the battery life is very short when gaming. Its 1080p webcam is good if you want to stream, and it doubles as a Windows Hello IR camera for facial recognition, allowing you to log in quickly. The keyboard gets a little hot under load, but thankfully, the fans remain relatively quiet and aren’t distracting. The Razer is available in three preset configurations. All three have the same AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage, so you only have to choose the display and GPU combo you want. We recommend getting the base model with an FHD 144Hz display and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 GPU or the mid-range model with a QHD 165Hz display and an RTX 3070 Ti. Both will provide smooth gameplay in modern AAA titles with minimal tweaks to the graphics settings. The top-end RTX 3080 Ti configuration will provide higher frame rates, but it’s significantly more expensive and isn’t the best option value-wise.

Best Mid-Range Gaming Laptop

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022)

If you find our top pick too expensive, consider the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022). This all-AMD system sports an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU, and you can choose between an AMD Radeon RX 6700S or 6800S GPU. Both GPUs provide smooth gameplay in AAA titles at the display’s native QHD resolution. As for the display itself, the 120Hz IPS panel has a fast response time to deliver a clear image in fast-moving scenes and FreeSync support to reduce screen tearing. The storage maxes out at 1TB, which isn’t very much considering the size of modern AAA games; however, it’s user-upgradeable. Ports include two USB-As, two USB-Cs, an HDMI, and an SD card reader. One last thing: there’s a newer (and more expensive) model of the G14 with AMD Ryzen 7000 CPUs and NVIDIA 40-series GPUs, and consequently, this 2022 model is often on sale at around 1,000 USD, so it’s a great time to pick one up. Another option is the HP OMEN 16 (2022). It’s a great alternative if you want a larger 16-inch screen or prefer an Intel/NVIDIA system. It’s available with an Intel 12th Gen. Core 5 or i7, and there are many GPU options, from an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 to an RTX 3070 Ti. It has a wider port selection than the Asus, including an Ethernet port and Thunderbolt 4 support. Also, it doesn’t get as hot or loud under load. The downside is that none of the available displays get very bright, so it might not be the best option if you often use the laptop in very well-lit settings.

Best Budget Gaming Laptop

Lenovo Legion 5 Gen 6 15 (2021)

The Best Cheap Gaming Laptop

New laptops built with the latest generation of CPUs and GPUs are on the way, and we’ll begin another round of testing for this guide once they’re released. For now, we recommend waiting to buy a gaming laptop.

Cheaper laptops are being built with more powerful processors and GPUs all the time, and games are also getting more demanding. This year, affordable gaming laptops are set to launch with the newest generation of graphics cards and processors from Nvidia, Intel, and AMD, and we don’t recommend buying a laptop from the previous generation until this happens. If you can’t wait, we think the Acer Predator Triton 300 (PT315-53-79FG) is the best value with the fewest compromises for anyone who wants a cheap gaming laptop. But for around the same price or less, laptops with the newest hardware will start coming out in the next few months, and they should be able to support modern games for longer.

The best gaming laptop under 1,500

The Predator Triton 300 has a great graphics card and processor that will offer solid performance for years. But it can run pretty hot, and its quiet speakers are hard to hear over its loud fans.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

Recommended configuration

The powerful processor and graphics card at the heart of the Acer Predator Triton 300 (PT315-53-79FG) can run almost any game well on high settings. Most people won’t need more than the included 16 GB of RAM, and its 512 GB SSD has enough space to keep a few games installed. It’s also easy to pop open the lid and upgrade both the RAM and storage. The Triton 300’s battery life won’t last a full day of schoolwork or light web browsing, but few gaming laptops at this price will. If you want to run graphics-intensive games on it, expect the fans to be at maximum to keep it from overheating, which may drown out the quiet speakers.

Better performance, but worse for work

The Aorus 15P can play almost any game on ultra settings with ease, but a combination of bad battery life, hard-to-read key legends, and odd webcam placement makes it a poor fit to double as your work laptop. And Gigabyte offers limited support options compared with larger brands.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

Recommended configuration

The beautiful display on the Gigabyte Aorus 15P (KD-72US223SH) has an impressive 240 Hz refresh rate, and it consistently delivered the highest frames-per-second (fps) rates of any laptop we tested across the board. It has the same great graphics card and processor as the Predator Triton 300, and both should be able to play games smoothly for years. However, the short battery life and unflattering webcam placement make the Aorus 15P less than ideal for leisure and work on the go. Also, the keyboard’s backlight shines only through the main letters and symbols on each key, which makes the secondary media keys and symbols that don’t light up a strain to read. Gigabyte doesn’t offer phone support, so the Auros isn’t a good choice if you aren’t comfortable doing some of your own troubleshooting, or waiting a few days for a response on a support ticket.

Cheaper, less powerful

The Acer Nitro 5 is the best inexpensive gaming laptop we considered, but it won’t play more-demanding games for as many years as our other picks, it has half the storage, and its screen isn’t as nice.

Cheaper, less powerful

This model is identical to the AN515-44-R99Q but has a four-core Intel processor instead of a six-core AMD processor. We recommend it if the AMD model is unavailable, or if this one happens to be cheaper.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 749.

Recommended configuration

If you want the cheapest possible laptop that will play games decently, get the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-44-R99Q or AN515-55-53AG. Due to its less-powerful graphics hardware, the Nitro 5 can’t play the absolute newest, most demanding games at their highest settings, and it doesn’t support VR, but it’s powerful enough to play older games or less demanding modern titles for the next few years. The Nitro 5 keeps cool enough without blasting its fans. It also has a responsive keyboard and trackpad, and it’s easy to upgrade. But compared with our top pick, the Nitro 5 has a dimmer screen at the lower and more standard 60 Hz refresh rate. It also offers less storage for games and comes with a ton of bloatware installed.

The best gaming laptop under 1,500

The Predator Triton 300 has a great graphics card and processor that will offer solid performance for years. But it can run pretty hot, and its quiet speakers are hard to hear over its loud fans.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

Better performance, but worse for work

The Aorus 15P can play almost any game on ultra settings with ease, but a combination of bad battery life, hard-to-read key legends, and odd webcam placement makes it a poor fit to double as your work laptop. And Gigabyte offers limited support options compared with larger brands.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

small, laptop, gaming, setup, steam

Cheaper, less powerful

The Acer Nitro 5 is the best inexpensive gaming laptop we considered, but it won’t play more-demanding games for as many years as our other picks, it has half the storage, and its screen isn’t as nice.

Cheaper, less powerful

This model is identical to the AN515-44-R99Q but has a four-core Intel processor instead of a six-core AMD processor. We recommend it if the AMD model is unavailable, or if this one happens to be cheaper.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 749.

Why you should trust us

Haley Perry has been gaming on terribly underpowered laptops for most of her life, so testing and playing games on proper laptops for our 2022 update was a delight. She spent more than 100 hours researching 32 models and testing seven with a variety of games and applications.

Kimber Streams has spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school, and has tested and reviewed hundreds of laptops, including most budget and high-end gaming models released in the past seven years. They’ve also written or edited most of Wirecutter’s gaming guides, including our reviews of laptops, keyboards, mice, controllers, and headsets.

Who this is for

A gaming laptop isn’t right for everyone. If you don’t need a computer you can take with you, consider an entry-level gaming desktop with similar performance for around 800. A desktop is much more powerful than a laptop of the same price, and easier to upgrade in the future. But if a laptop fits your needs better, you may have to compromise on your budget depending on what games you plan on playing. If you can afford to spend a bit more, there are great laptops for around 1,500 capable of handling newer games at settings higher than the absolute minimum. And if you stick to the 800 to 1,200 range, you’ll still be able to play those games on lower or even medium settings, including less-demanding titles like Counter-strike: GO, Valorant, and Apex Legends.

Spending more can buy you a slimmer, more portable thin-and-light gaming laptop with better performance, higher refresh rates, and support for ray tracing and deep learning super sampling, or DLSS. These features are showing up in more games—especially since the launch of the Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series X and Series S—and our main and runner-up picks can utilize ray tracing without sacrificing good performance or high frame rates. But cheaper laptops with graphics cards that support ray tracing are also becoming more abundant—80% of the laptops we considered for the current version of this guide had RTX cards, and we hope they’ll eventually perform well enough to recommend them consistently.

Whether you’re getting a gaming laptop for the first time or replacing an older model that doesn’t play games as well anymore, looking at’s useful chart of Computer Games on Laptop Graphic Cards can help you figure out what games you’ll be able to play.

How we picked

Budget gaming laptops have to make trade-offs to keep their low. You can get a great one for less than 1,500, but you typically have to spend more than 800 (unless you find a great sale).

Though different games mean different things by low, medium, high, ultra, or any other vague term for their settings presets, we looked for laptops that could consistently maintain medium performance on modern games like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy at medium settings at a resolution of 1080p, and high performance on less-demanding games like Valorant at 1080p at frame rates higher than 60.

affordable models tend to cost around 1,000 and typically have middling graphics that struggle with lower settings on modern games and are best suited for classic and less-demanding titles. The even weaker graphics hardware in cheaper laptops can’t handle current AAA games at acceptable settings, let alone future games, so we don’t recommend them.

Here’s what we look for, in order of importance:


Graphics: The most important feature in a gaming laptop is the graphics processing unit, or GPU, since it has the greatest influence on what games you can play and at which settings you can play them. You can’t upgrade your laptop’s GPU, and if you cut corners at the time of purchase, you’ll have to shell out for a new computer sooner to play new games in the future.

In 2022, we found that many models under 1,500 include GPUs that support ray tracing, an advanced graphical feature that allows for more realistic in-game effects. However, we ruled out Nvidia’s 20-series GPUs because newer and more powerful gaming laptops use 30-series cards, which support newer games for much longer.

Frame-rate test results on Nvidia RTX 30-series GPUs

NotebookCheck’s tests illustrate the differences between the RTX 3060 and the RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti. Results below the 30 fps threshold represent poor performance, while results between 30 fps and 60 fps are considered playable. Results above the 60 fps threshold are great.

In models under 1,000, we considered laptops with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650, 1650 Ti, and 1660 Ti graphics chipsets. AMD also makes GPUs for laptops in addition to desktops, but we didn’t see any options that offered them in our budget worth considering.

Frame-rate test results on Nvidia GTX 16-series GPUs

Nvidia’s GTX 16-series cards won’t play newer games on the highest settings very well, so they’re best used to play less-demanding games or newer games on medium-to-low settings. We don’t recommend spending more than 1,000 for a laptop using them.

Using NotebookCheck’s comparison tool, we determined that the RTX 3060 is the best graphics card for laptops under 1,500. The RTX 3070 and 3070 Ti offer great performance, but they are seldom found in laptops in this price range. We don’t recommend paying more than 1,000 for a laptop with an RTX 3050 or 3050 Ti—these GPUs struggle to maintain acceptable frame rates in more-demanding games at medium-to-high settings.

Video memory: We also consider a graphics processor’s dedicated video memory, or VRAM. After looking at the system requirements for a handful of demanding AAA games released in 2018 and later, we found that most recommended at least 6 GB of VRAM. It’s uncommon to find a laptop under 1,000 with more than 4 GB of VRAM, but if you spend more than this, you shouldn’t settle for less than 6 GB.

Processor: A gaming laptop needs a processor powerful enough to effectively coordinate with the GPU. We recommend 11th- or 12th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and 4000-series or 5000-series Ryzen 7 or Ryzen 9 processors because they’ll provide acceptable performance for longer.

Memory: You can get by with 8 GB of system memory, or RAM, in a gaming laptop if you aren’t live-streaming, but 16 GB of RAM is ideal for modern games, especially if you also live-stream on platforms like Twitch or YouTube.

Solid-state drive: A solid-state drive speeds up boot times and reduces loading times in games, so all of our recommendations have SSDs. We prefer at least a 250 GB solid-state drive. With games like 2021’s Call of Duty: Vanguard demanding 177 GB of free space for a full install, 128 GB options aren’t enough.

Other important features

  • Heat: Without an effective cooling system, a gaming laptop can overheat while playing more-demanding games, which can slow gaming performance, shorten the laptop’s lifespan, or even burn you. 1 No gaming laptop can keep completely cool—all the heat from the CPU and GPU has to go somewhere. But a laptop must keep its high-contact areas, such as the WASD keys and the left palm rest, cool; the same goes for its internal components. It’s more forgivable for a laptop to get hot in areas where you make less direct skin contact.
  • Noise: Noisy fans are a reasonable trade-off for a cool laptop, but ideally a gaming laptop can keep high-contact areas cool without drowning out the speakers with loud fans. The fans shouldn’t blast during non-gaming activities, either.
  • Keyboard: The keyboard should be comfortable and responsive, as you use it for the majority of game inputs.
  • Display: In our research we found that 15-inch laptops strike a good balance between screen size and relative portability, but there are also 17.3-inch laptops in our budget. Any pick we make for the best cheap gaming laptop needs to have a 1920×1080 screen—no exceptions. Lower resolutions look terrible. There’s no reason to strive for expensive 4K screens, since the GPUs in these laptops can’t play games well at resolutions above 1080p anyway. Some laptops in this price range now have high-refresh-rate (120 Hz or 144 Hz) panels, which are a nice bonus for first-person games like Overwatch or PUBG; the higher the refresh rate, the smoother animations appear, as long as the frame rate is also high. IPS screens are usually brighter and more color accurate than TN panels, but we didn’t rule out a laptop with a TN panel if it otherwise met our requirements.
  • Trackpad: Most people use a mouse while gaming, but a decent trackpad still matters for web browsing and everyday tasks.
  • Portability: Plenty of gaming laptops are also used for school or work. For that reason, we still consider battery life, size, and weight in this category.
  • Upgradeability: You should be able to easily remove the bottom panel of the laptop to upgrade the memory and storage. But to keep low, laptop makers often design budget models to be less upgradeable.
  • Software and bloatware: A gaming laptop should come with software for controlling the fans, performance, and lighting. Budget gaming laptops typically come with an excess of bloatware, but you can either remove unnecessary programs one at a time or run Microsoft’s reset utility to remove all that and reinstall any specific programs you need. Resetting Windows gets rid of everything, including the useful programs that manage fans and some important drivers, so make sure you can download those from the manufacturer’s site before you nuke it all.
  • Build quality: Good build quality is important, but it’s rare in budget gaming laptops. Many cheap laptops flex and creak under light pressure, sound hollow or plasticky, and have wobbly lids. A well-made laptop will hold up better over years of use (and occasional abuse), but it will also cost more.

How we tested

We benchmarked each laptop using Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Gears Tactics to check for any unexpected performance and heat issues. Then we played half an hour of Valorant—a popular game, but not too taxing—on ultra settings. After that, we pushed our finalists with a more graphically demanding game, playing 45 minutes of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy on its highest settings with VSync off. If the laptop had an RTX graphics card, we also turned up the ray-tracing settings to their highest value. We measured the laptops’ internal temperatures using HWMonitor Pro and measured the surface temperature at various points on the keyboard and underside using an IR thermometer.

We used each of the finalists for many more hours of work and games to get a feel for the keyboard, trackpad, screen, and speakers. Using a Spyder4Pro colorimeter, we set our finalists’ screen backlights to 150 nits (or candelas per square meter, cd/m2) and ran a web-browsing battery test that cycles through web pages, email, Google Docs, and video. Because we set each laptop to the same brightness, the results are directly comparable.

Our pick: Acer Predator Triton 300

The best gaming laptop under 1,500

The Predator Triton 300 has a great graphics card and processor that will offer solid performance for years. But it can run pretty hot, and its quiet speakers are hard to hear over its loud fans.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

Recommended configuration

The Acer Predator Triton 300 (PT315-53-79FG) can play most of the newest titles at higher than medium settings at its screen’s native resolution of 1920×1080, and maintain acceptable frame rates while doing so. It’s thinner than any of the other laptops we tested, it has plenty of RAM, and it has a great graphics card and processor that should perform well for years to come—as long as you’re wearing headphones to drown out the fan noise during more-demanding games.

We tested the Triton 300 with a GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card, which has 6 GB of VRAM and support for ray tracing. This is enough VRAM to meet the recommended requirements for most demanding games from the past few years, like Cyberpunk 2077, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Death Stranding. And when we tested Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy with ray-tracing graphics set to ultra, the performance was still smooth. The Triton 300 didn’t display graphics as clearly or crisply as our runner-up pick, the Gigabyte Aorus 15P, but games still looked good considering the price and the stress put on the machine.

Frame-rate test results (Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Gears Tactics)

Though it lagged behind the Aorus 15P, the Acer Triton 300 kept the games we tested playable on higher settings, including Shadow of the Tomb Raider on high settings with fps priority, and Gears Tactics at ultra settings with fps priority.

Temperatures on the Triton 300’s keyboard and underside run pretty hot if you roll with the laptop’s standard settings while playing games. However, we measured a huge drop in temperature once we raised the fan speeds through Acer’s PredatorSense application, which can be accessed quickly from a dedicated button located above the number pad. PredatorSense is a bare-bones utility, but fan speed and keyboard lighting can be easily adjusted on it, and you can monitor internal temperatures with it as well. The Triton 300’s fan noise is obnoxious at maximum speed, but this trade-off is expected and is best mitigated with a good gaming headset.

Temperature differences in our top gaming laptops (Valorant test)

While we played Valorant, the Acer Triton 300 had similar max temperatures to the Gigabyte Aorus 15P and kept the GPU much cooler. This wasn’t the case in more-demanding games when the Triton got uncomfortably hot.

The Triton 300 we tested comes with 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD, which is enough to meet any current game’s recommended system requirements. It’s also easy enough to upgrade either component. After removing the 11 Phillips screws on the bottom, we had to slide a guitar pick around the border a few times to gently loosen the panel, but the process was quick and straightforward.

The keyboard has 4-zone RGB backlighting, which means you can customize and program four different areas on the keyboard with colorful lighting and effects. It’s satisfying to type on, and there’s a full number pad on the side that adds a lot of functionality compared to less-gaming-focused laptops. All our picks have this extended keyboard layout, though only our runner-up, the Aorus 15P, has more customizable lighting options. The Triton’s trackpad is responsive—we tested a number of games without a mouse and had no trouble clicking around.

The Triton 300 managed a battery life of over 6 hours in our battery test while web browsing. This isn’t quite enough to last a full day away from an outlet, but it’s still respectable for a Windows laptop, and it’s two hours longer than our runner-up. Despite the Triton 300 being a full half-inch thinner than the Aorus 15P, it still had longer battery life. You’d have to spend quite a bit more to get a thinner gaming laptop. We measured the thickness of the closed laptop at 0.75 inches, and it weighed about 4.94 pounds with the charger plugged in—still portable, even if it isn’t the lightest or smallest laptop around. The bottom panel and keyboard are solid and don’t flex under pressure, but the top panel and screen are prone to caving in when you push against it or unfold the laptop.

The Triton 300 has two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, one USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 port, a Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port, and slots for Ethernet, HDMI, and Mini DisplayPort cables, though it lacks an SD card reader. It also comes with a one-year limited warranty.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The speakers on the Acer Predator Triton 300 are too quiet when playing games, and at max volume it’s still difficult to hear anything if the laptop’s fans are raging. Activities that don’t kick the fans into high gear—like watching videos on YouTube—are audible, but we still never found ourselves lowering the volume much from 100%. If you don’t always like wearing headphones while gaming on your laptop, the Triton 300 will force you to start.

Most of Acer’s Predator laptops have a Turbo Boost button located somewhere above the keyboard, and it’s easy to mistake this as a quick way to adjust the fan speeds. However, this doesn’t just increase the fan speed—it also overclocks the CPU. We’d advise against pressing this button unless you’re okay with the ear-splitting volume of the fans that come with it. In our tests the Turbo button made our laptop keys overheat to uncomfortable degrees, and the performance didn’t increase enough to justify the jet-engine-loud fans or burning-hot surfaces. We recommend sticking with the settings you can get to using the PredatorSense button above the number pad.

The fans run at an ear-splitting volume when you press the Turbo button on the Predator Triton 300’s keyboard. Video: Hunter Boone

Running with the default fan settings, the Triton 300’s keyboard and underside get uncomfortably hot when the laptop is stressed by even slightly demanding games. If you plan to play current games on higher settings, you’ll also need to set the fans to maximum to keep temperatures down.

Runner-up: Gigabyte Aorus 15P

Better performance, but worse for work

The Aorus 15P can play almost any game on ultra settings with ease, but a combination of bad battery life, hard-to-read key legends, and odd webcam placement makes it a poor fit to double as your work laptop. And Gigabyte offers limited support options compared with larger brands.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 1,300.

Recommended configuration

If you want the best mobile gaming performance for the price and don’t mind some sacrifices when it comes to non-gaming activities, you should get the Gigabyte Aorus 15P (KD-72US223SH). It consistently delivered the highest frame rates and coolest keyboard temperatures of any laptop we tested, and it had no problem playing the newer games on higher settings. But its short battery life, and odd webcam placement and quality, make it less ideal for anyone who’d also like to use their laptop for productivity.

The Gigabyte Aorus 15P has the best-looking display of all of our picks, along with an excellent 240 Hz refresh rate. We were impressed at how well the 15P’s GeForce RTX 3060 rendered cutscenes and graphics in Guardians of the Galaxy. Even when we pushed all the settings to the max, including putting the ray-traced graphical features on ultra, it looked and performed without any stutters or lag. The super-slim bezel around the screen is nice for gaming and watching movies, but this design sacrifices the webcam by placing it on the lower panel just above the keyboard. The camera quality isn’t great, and the placement gives the illusion that you’re always looking up and away from the screen. This could be a problem if you plan to make this your primary laptop for work, gaming, and personal use.

Temperature differences in our top gaming laptops (Guardians of the Galaxy test)

Aside from the GPU, the Acer Triton 300 generally had higher max temperatures than the Gigabyte Aorus 15P while playing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s likely, in part, due to the louder and more-aggressive fans that keep the Aorus cool.

We tested the Aorus 15P with an RTX 3060 graphics card and an Intel Core i7-11800H processor, and this was powerful enough to play almost any game on the highest settings with few trade-offs. It has two fan modes—gaming and maximum—that can be easily switched with a function key. In our tests the difference in performance between the two was negligible, but internal and keyboard temperatures did measure a bit lower when set to maximum mode. The fans are too loud on maximum to play games pleasantly without a headset, and it can be overbearing to others in a shared or public space. In the standard gaming mode, the Aorus 15P isn’t silent, but the noise isn’t particularly bothersome.

On standard fan modes during our Valorant play test, the Aorus 15P had temperature results comparable to those of our top pick, the Triton 300. But when we played Guardians of the Galaxy, the Triton 300 measured anywhere between 10 and 20 degrees hotter than the Aorus 15P on the WASD and K keys, left palm rest, and underside. Setting both laptops to their maximum fan speeds closed this gap significantly, but the Aorus still stayed cooler in almost every area.

The Aorus 15P’s keyboard has a full-size number pad and full-size arrow keys, and the trackpad is responsive enough to use in lieu of a mouse for web browsing. It also has per-key RGB backlighting, which can be adjusted and customized in the Aorus Control Center. Typing felt enjoyable, but we disliked that only the main legends on each keycap (such as the letter or number) are illuminated, which made it difficult to read any of the other functions, such as the media keys or number row symbols.

When we played Guardians of the Galaxy, the Triton 300 measured anywhere between 10 and 20 degrees hotter than the Aorus 15P on the WASD and K keys, left palm rest, and underside.

While the Triton 300’s display reaches a maximum brightness of about 357 nits, the Aorus reaches around 231 nits, dimmer than any of the other final contenders we tested. But when placed next to the Triton, the Aorus 15P’s contrast is better and its picture quality is slightly sharper.

The Aorus 15P has one USB-C (Thunderbolt 4) port, three USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, a Mini DisplayPort, an Ethernet jack, an audio jack, a power jack, and an SD card slot. It also comes with a three-year warranty, which is longer than that of almost any other laptop we considered.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Gigabyte Aorus 15P

The Gigabyte Aorus 15P’s top panel is thin and flexes under pressure, and the low webcam placement would be embarrassingly bad on just about any video call. It’s also disappointing that the keyboard’s backlight only shines through the main keycap legends, making it almost impossible to see the secondary functions unless you lean in and strain your eyes. And in our web-browsing battery test, the Aorus 15P lasted only 4 hours 20 minutes, which is two hours shorter than our top pick.

Gigabyte doesn’t provide any live tech support, unlike Acer, which offers support via phone and live chat.

Despite the long warranty, Gigabyte doesn’t provide any live tech support. We had to register an account and submit a ticket to reach tech support, and the company only commits to responding to inquiries in three to seven days. If you’re not comfortable troubleshooting your own problems or having some downtime if something goes wrong, you’ll be better off with one of our recommendations from Acer, which offers support via phone and live chat.

Budget pick: Acer Nitro 5

Cheaper, less powerful

The Acer Nitro 5 is the best inexpensive gaming laptop we considered, but it won’t play more-demanding games for as many years as our other picks, it has half the storage, and its screen isn’t as nice.

Cheaper, less powerful

This model is identical to the AN515-44-R99Q but has a four-core Intel processor instead of a six-core AMD processor. We recommend it if the AMD model is unavailable, or if this one happens to be cheaper.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 749.

Recommended configuration

If you want the cheapest possible laptop that will play modern games at low-to-medium settings, get the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-44-R99Q or AN515-55-53AG. No laptop at this price will play the latest games as well as our other picks. But the Nitro 5 is capable enough for older games or less-demanding modern ones. The cooling system remains effective without running the fans full tilt. The laptop has a responsive keyboard and trackpad, too, and it’s easy to upgrade. But compared with our top pick, the Acer Predator Triton 300, the Nitro 5 has a dimmer screen with a lower 60 Hz refresh rate, less storage for games, no support for VR, and too much bloatware.

We tested the AN515-44-R99Q model with a six-core AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, but we also recommend the AN515-55-53AG model with a four-core Intel Core i5-10300H processor if the AMD variant is sold out, or if the Intel model is cheaper. We didn’t see any differences in gaming performance between those two processors on the other laptops we tested this year. Both models usually cost 700 or less, while most other laptops with similar specs cost at least 800.

At its default fan settings, the Nitro 5 kept its most-touched surfaces and its internal components cool enough during our gaming tests. After half an hour of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the Nitro 5’s WASD keys hit 96 °F—which felt a little warm to the touch, but not uncomfortably so—while the CPU measured 82 °C and the GPU reached a comparatively cool 64 °C. Setting the fans to Max in Acer’s NitroSense software made a big difference on the CPU and GPU, keeping those components 15% to 25% cooler. (It kept the WASD keys only a little cooler, though.) This setting is effective if you’re playing a more-demanding game or gaming in a warmer room.

Like many cheap gaming laptops, the Nitro 5 has a vent positioned toward the back of the laptop’s right side. This vent directed some warm air onto my mousing hand—but since the laptop runs so cool, we didn’t notice any discomfort during gaming sessions.

On the Nitro 5’s default settings, the fans weren’t quite as loud as the default cooling on our top picks. When running at max speeds, the fans still produced a loud, impossible-to-ignore whooshing noise, but in our testing we found that max fans weren’t necessary to maintain reasonable temperatures during less-demanding games. We still appreciate the option to max them in the NitroSense software when the extra cooling is needed.

The Nitro 5’s red-backlit keys are lightly cupped and responsive; the keyboard also has a full number pad, and the WASD, arrow, and Nitro keys all have a bold, red outline. Sometimes, when we pressed very lightly on the outside edge of a key, the key press wouldn’t register, but we didn’t have any issues with the keyboard in regular typing or gaming as we did on the Nitro 5’s more powerful sibling, the Acer Predator Helios 300. The Nitro 5’s one-piece precision trackpad was reliable and accurate for all our gestures, taps, and clicks, and you can disable it during games by pressing Fn F7.

Budget gaming laptop screens tend to use cheaper panels, so it’s not surprising that the Nitro 5’s 60 Hz 1920×1080 IPS display doesn’t get very bright, and its viewing angles could be better. Although we’d prefer a brighter screen with better viewing angles, the screen looked fine enough when we were playing games.

small, laptop, gaming, setup, steam

The Nitro 5 has pretty good battery life for a gaming laptop, though it won’t last quite long enough for a full day of work or classes. The Triton 300, our top pick, lasted about the same amount of time, and most cheap gaming laptops we’ve tested have terrible battery life. At 4.8 pounds (or 5.9 pounds with the charger), the Nitro 5 isn’t especially portable, but it weighs about as much as each of the budget gaming laptops we considered this year, and it will fit into any backpack designed to hold a 15-inch laptop.

Like the Triton 300 and the Gigabyte Aorus 15P (our runner-up pick), the Nitro 5 has an empty M.2 PCIe slot for extra storage, plus an open RAM slot. When you fill up the included 256 GB SSD, we recommend adding another M.2 PCIe solid-state drive, since you can get 500 GB for around 65. (The Nitro 5 also comes with a hard drive upgrade kit, but we recommend the PCIe SSD because it’s much faster, especially for gaming, and not too expensive.) You can access the Nitro 5’s expansion slots by removing 11 Phillips screws and popping off the underside of the chassis. We found a plastic opening tool helpful to get started, but we didn’t have any trouble opening the Nitro 5.

The left side has (from left to right) a Kensington lock slot, an Ethernet jack, two USB-A ports, and an audio jack. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

On the right side, the Nitro 5 has (from left to right) a USB-C port, another USB-A port, and an HDMI 2.0 port. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The left side has (from left to right) a Kensington lock slot, an Ethernet jack, two USB-A ports, and an audio jack. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Our budget pick has one USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) port, three USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, an Ethernet jack, an audio jack, and a Kensington lock slot. The Nitro 5 also has a power jack on the back of the laptop, so the cable can face either direction and stays out of the way when you’re gaming. The Nitro 5 has the latest-generation Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, and it comes with a one-year limited warranty.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Acer Nitro 5

It’s easy and not too expensive to add more storage, but the Nitro 5’s 256 GB of SSD space will fill up quickly with games. In addition, compared with our RTX 3060–equipped top picks, the Nitro 5 and its GTX 1650 graphics processor will be unable to play equally demanding games for quite as many years, and it doesn’t support VR. Even so, the Nitro 5 offers unbeatable gaming performance for the price.

The Nitro 5 comes with so much bloatware, and we recommend removing it all. If you opt to use the Windows Refresh tool rather than removing each program individually, search for your model number on Acer’s website to reinstall the NitroSense software for controlling fan speed and any drivers you may need.

Like many cheap gaming laptops, the Nitro 5 suffers from mediocre build quality. Its lid flexes, so we don’t recommend stacking things on it or putting too much pressure against it in a bag. That said, the Nitro 5’s plastic chassis is good enough to withstand the average laptop bag, especially considering its price.

Options under 1,000

Not all gaming laptops under 1,000 are bad, but they stand up poorly over the long run, and those with decent configurations go out of stock quickly. Most models are built with budget versions or older generations of graphics cards and processors. Games are only getting more demanding—a cheaper laptop might do the job now, but it might not be able to run even moderately demanding games in a year or two. It’s common for cheaper models to be built with smaller SSDs or less RAM than their higher-priced counterparts, and this means you may end up spending the same amount of money to upgrade it as you would buying a more expensive option. You can’t upgrade a laptop’s processor or graphics card, so you’ll have to decide whether it’s better for you to upgrade a cheaper laptop with a less-powerful CPU or GPU, or save up for a pricier model.

It’s also hard to find cheaper laptops with more than 4 GB of VRAM. Many modern games need more than this to run well on medium settings, and some games won’t run at all. Unless the laptop is well under 1,000, we think you should save a little bit and opt for something with more VRAM.

We know it’s unreasonable to call our top picks “cheap,” even considering how much fancier gaming laptops can cost. In our most recent round of testing, we evaluated and tested four laptops under 1,000, and we liked two of them. But although there are a couple places they can still be purchased, they were quickly discontinued. If you can get your hands on them and are okay with a few trade-offs, check out our recommendations in Other good gaming laptops. We’re also watching out for new options under 1,000, and you can find notes on this in What to look forward to.

Other good gaming laptops

The Asus TUF Gaming A15 (TUF506IU-ES74) was one of our previous top picks, but it’s since jumped up in price (bumping it out of the sub-1,000 range), and it’s difficult to find it in stock anywhere. The A15 has a 15.6-inch screen with a 144 Hz refresh rate, and its keys stayed cooler than those of most other laptops we tried. It’s also easy to upgrade, and the battery lasted for about 7.3 hours of regular use in our tests. But the A15’s fans are loud during games, there’s no way to manually run the fans at max speed for extra cooling if you need it, and some owners have reported issues with its trackpad.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 15 (1650) is a bare-bones laptop that’s best for running less-demanding games. Its 15.6-inch screen has decent picture quality and a 120 Hz refresh rate, and while it holds up okay with more taxing games, it can sometimes crash on the higher graphics presets. We like that it stays cool internally and externally, and its fans are almost silent. However, we did have some issues with the system’s memory: The IdeaPad Gaming comes with a single 8 GB stick of RAM, but some of this is swallowed up by the system, making the usable RAM less than 6 GB. Most games we tried with a minimum requirement of 8 GB of RAM had no problem running, but we did get some strange error codes on Gears Tactics. We installed an extra 4 GB in the laptop’s extra RAM slot—which was an easy process—and the game ran fine afterward. If you’re okay with buying extra RAM and making the upgrade yourself, the IdeaPad is a decent option.

If you like bigger screens and don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Asus TUF Gaming F17 (FX706LI-ES53) has a 17.3-inch display with a 144 Hz refresh rate. Similar to the IdeaPad Gaming 3 15, it’s better suited for less-intensive gaming, but it can support newer, more-demanding games on medium settings. In our Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark tests, it averaged 60 fps on medium, and even 55 fps on high. We experienced pretty bad screen tearing and lag during Guardians of the Galaxy on ultra, even on the game’s pause menus, but it played fine on lower settings. Asus confirmed that this model, and all others with 10th-generation Intel processors, have been discontinued. We initially considered naming this laptop our top pick, but you won’t be able to buy one for much longer.

Why you shouldn’t buy a gaming laptop right now

At CES 2023, major laptop manufacturers like Acer, Asus, and MSI announced new laptops that will be built with the next-generation of PC hardware. This includes the latest Nvidia 40-series GPUs, AMD 7000-series GPUs and CPUs, and 13th-generation processors from Intel. Our budget for laptops within this guide is 1,500 or less, and we expect to see the first affordable models built with the newest hardware come out in the next few months.

For now, we don’t recommend buying a gaming laptop until some of these new models are released and tested. Games are only getting more demanding over time, and laptops built with the newest generation of hardware should be able to play modern games for longer into the future than our current picks. We also expect to see a bump in performance among these new models compared to laptops we tested last year. In addition to upgraded GPUs and CPUs, we previewed a number of affordable gaming laptops at CES with less-bulky designs and higher refresh rate displays than our current picks.

What to look forward to

In Fall of 2022, Nvidia, AMD, and Intel launched a host of new graphics cards and processors. Nvidia released new 40-series GPUs, AMD launched new 7000-series GPUs and CPUs, and Intel revealed its next family of 13th-gen processors. We saw many gaming laptops integrating these new components at CES 2023, including a number of promising options in the budget category.

Gigabyte announced new Aorus laptops at CES with Nvidia 40-series GPUs and 13th-gen Intel processors, and we will evaluate them for this guide when they become available. We expect to see a couple of options priced under 1,500, and look forward to testing them against our current upgrade pick.

Acer will be releasing new Nitro laptops with Nvidia 40-series GPUs and either 13th-gen Intel or AMD Ryzen 7000-series CPUs. The new Nitro 16 (AN16-51) will have a 16-inch screen with a 165 Hz refresh rate—an upgrade from the lower refresh rates of our current top and budget picks—and the Nitro 17 (AN17-41) will have a 17-inch display with 144 Hz and 165 Hz options. The new laptops look more thin and sleek than the build of our current budget pick (the Nitro 5), and both will go on sale in May starting at 1,150 for the 16-inch model and 1,200 for the 17-inch version.

We saw a few promising budget models from Asus, including new 40-series additions to their TUF Gaming lineup and Zephyrus lineups. Specifically, we’re keeping an eye on the Zephyrus G16, a thin, 16-inch laptop with a QHD display, 240 Hz refresh rate, and configurations with up to RTX 4070 GPUs. No precise details about pricing or availability have been disclosed, but these laptops are expected to go on sale this spring, and Asus assured us that these laptops—including the Zephyrus G16—will fall under our pricing criteria for this guide.

MSI also announced entry-level laptops built with the newest generation of hardware, the Cyborg 15 and the Katana 15. Both laptops have similar configurations and price points, but vary slightly in build and design. They have 15.6-inch displays with 144 Hz refresh rates, and offer configurations with up to RTX 4070 graphics cards. The Cyborg 15 and Katana 15 are expected to go on sale during February starting at 1,000, and we will evaluate them for our next round of testing.

The Best Gaming Laptops Under 1,000 of 2023

Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases made through the links below may earn us and our publishing partners a commission. were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

HP Victus 16 (2021)

The HP Victus brings the latest generation of Nvidia’s 30-series GPUs and stylish looks to the budget laptop market. Read

Acer Nitro 5 (2022)

Fast, powerful and boasting a high display refresh rate, this reasonably priced gaming laptop whithers in the area of battery life. Read

Asus TUF Dash 15 (2022)

The Asus TUF Dash F15 is a thin and stylish gaming laptop that doesn’t sacrifice performance. Read

Dell G16 (2022)

The Dell G16 packs in plenty of cooling hardware and doesn’t put limits on its power draw. It’s a great choice for utility-minded gamers. Read

HP Pavilion Gaming 15Z-EC200

HP’s Pavilion Gaming 15 is an uncontroversial, yet stellar laptop, balancing price with performance. But that may change after the RTX 3050s arrive. Read


You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great gaming laptop. Processors keep getting more powerful, and features reserved for flagship gaming laptops have trickled down to their budget cousins. You can find high refresh rate displays, customizable keyboards, thin bodies, and decent battery life for under 1,000—a relatively cheap gaming laptop.

Our pick for the best overall is the HP Victus 16 (available at Amazon). a delightful PC that offers over seven hours of battery life, excellent 1080p gaming for demanding games, a slick profile that can travel with you, and good build quality that’ll keep you going for years to come. If the Victus 16 isn’t quite right for you, our other picks are just as great.

The HP Victus 16 is a budget gaming laptop that can go beyond gaming.

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-11800H
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
  • Memory: 8GB DDR4 3200MHz
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 16.1-inch, 1920 x 1080, 144Hz IPS
  • Battery life: About 7.5 hours

The HP Victus 16 has a little more style than the usual budget gaming laptop, and it’s no slouch under the hood. Even paired with an older 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, the RTX 3060 can still take advantage of this gaming laptop’s 144Hz display. You won’t be able to play something like Cyberpunk 2077 at max settings, but if you can live with 90 frames per second (fps) on a game like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the Victus will serve you well.

It’s also a good productivity laptop with a springy keyboard and a smooth trackpad. Its multiple USB-A ports, USB-C ports, and an HDMI 2.1 port make it a breeze to use with peripherals.

You can leave your charging cable at home: this svelte machine can last over seven hours on a single charge if you’re browsing the web. That puts it in the top ten out of every gaming laptop we’ve ever tested, from budget to high-end.

The downside (other than the pre-installed bloatware) is that this exact HP Victus 16 model is getting harder to find. The model linked below has 16GB of RAM instead of 8GB.

The extra RAM puts it over 1,000, but it’s well worth it if you have the wiggle room in your budget. If you don’t, we recommend either of these equivalent models: a 15.6-inch display with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H, RTX 3050 Ti, and 16GB of RAM for 890; or this other 15.6-inch display with an Intel Core i5-12500H, RTX 3050, and 20GB of RAM for 889.

Read our full review of the HP Victus 16.

Other Gaming Laptops We Tested

We loved the Acer Nitro 5, though the one we reviewed cost a little over 1,000. Swapping out the graphics card in our test Nitro 5 (RTX 3060) for the RTX 3050 Ti puts this great gaming laptop into the sub-1,000 category. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti performs almost as well as the RTX 3060. It supports ray tracing and offers twice the speed of the GTX 1650 in our previous Nitro 5 budget pick.

This Nitro 5’s all-black color scheme and subtle colored highlights look more mature than many of the RGB light shows you tend to see in the gaming space. It’s bulky, but it uses its space to circulate air and keep its high-powered hardware cool. The keyboard and trackpad are both comfortable and easy to use. Finally, the display produces gorgeous colors and its 144Hz refresh rate is useful for fast-paced esports titles.

Acer’s battery life has never been a standout feature, and this Nitro 5 is no exception. If you’re doing any kind of serious gaming, you’ll want to plug it in—our test unit didn’t even last four hours when gaming on battery power. We also wish that the display’s color gamut was more vibrant. Still, Acer gets the essentials right in its affordable Nitro 5.

Read our full review of the Acer Nitro 5.


  • Processor: Intel Core i7-12650H
  • Graphics: Nvidia RTX 3060
  • Memory: 16GB DDR5 4800MHz
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 144Hz IPS
  • Battery life: 6 hours

The Asus TUF Dash F15 is another stand-out gaming laptop we enjoyed. The model we reviewed is just a smidge out of the budget range, but configuring the Dash F15 with a Core i5-12450H and an RTX 3050 drops the price to 900 or less without cutting too much of its gaming performance. You only get 8GB of RAM, but you can always add more since the memory isn’t soldered to the motherboard.

The Dash F15 comes with an important feature for increasing its gaming performance: a MUX Switch. When enabled, the laptop’s discrete GPU processes every frame before sending them to the display, reducing latency and boosting gaming performance by a small percentage. When disabled, the GPU will route information through the CPU’s integrated graphics first. That will boost your battery life at the cost of some fps.

Like a lot of sub-1,000 gaming laptops, the Dash F15 gets loud and hot when under a full load, and the built-in speakers produce a thin, tinny sound. Combine those two together and you probably won’t hear much of what you’re playing.

We recommend using a headset or headphones, especially for playing games that incorporate 360-degree sound.

Read our full review of the Asus TUF Dash F15.


  • Processor: Intel Core i7-12700H
  • Graphics: Nvidia RTX 3060
  • Memory: 16GB DDR5 4800MHz
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 16-inch, 2160 x 1440, 165Hz IPS
  • Battery life: About 2 hours

The Dell G16 is a utilitarian gaming laptop that puts performance above all else. It consistently outputs between 74 and 108 fps at 1080p on the highest graphics preset in some of the most demanding games. Less demanding games like Fortnite will average much closer to the G16’s 165Hz refresh rate even at max settings.

If you like crisp, vivid gaming, the G16’s native 1440p display resolution and color accuracy are spectacular—among the best you’ll find on a gaming laptop with a non-OLED screen.

It’s thicker and heavier than most gaming laptops with the same performance and price range. However, that thickness creates extra space for a better cooling design to keep CPU temps down. The G16 also offers easy access to its internal hardware. You can swap or upgrade the SSD or RAM without taking it to your local computer repair shop.

Now the caveats: the Dell G16 has abysmal battery life, even for the most basic tasks. Forget about ever trying to run games on battery power. Its fans are loud, and they run for ages on default settings even when the internal components are cool. That adds noise and contributes to the low battery life.

Still, if you’re looking to replace your gaming desktop and tend to use a headset or an external speaker setup, these things shouldn’t matter too much.

Finally, if you want this laptop for under 1,000, you will have to wait for a sale to get this exact configuration or hope the price permanently drops before it’s discontinued. Alternatively, you can bump the graphics card down to an RTX 3050 Ti and get the G16 from Dell for 900 if it’s on sale.

If you downgrade to a base G15 model with a 12th-gen Core i5 and an RTX 3050 Ti, you can still have a great gaming experience. The speed difference between the Core i5 and Core i7 is only 200MHz.

Read our full review of the Dell G16.


  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 5600H
  • Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1650
  • Memory: 16GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 144Hz IPS
  • Battery life: About 3 hours

The HP Pavilion Gaming 15 is a good choice for anyone on the slimmest of budgets. It’s also good for parents looking to get something reasonably inexpensive yet powerful enough for their child to start coding with Minecraft.

The GTX 1650 graphics card is best for playing super low-fidelity games, but it can push surprisingly high framerates in games like Overwatch 2, up to an average of 120 fps on the Ultra graphics preset. For more demanding games like Control, using the Low graphics preset is best.

Compared to many of the other gaming laptops on this list, the Pavilion Gaming 15’s cooling fans are much quieter. That’s not surprising given the less-demanding hardware, but it’s a win over the likes of the Dell G16 and Asus TUF Dash F15.

It also has springy, albeit slightly shallow, keys. They feel like a mechanical keyboard instead of a membrane keyboard. That feeling helps this laptop seem more expensive than it actually is.

Unfortunately, this model is a couple of years old. That’s a long time in laptop years, and it’s getting much harder to find, accordingly. But if you can get your hands on a certified refurbished model with an Intel Core i5-11300H and a GTX 1650, you’ll be able to keep the price way under 1,000.

small, laptop, gaming, setup, steam


  • Processor: Intel Core i5-1240P
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Memory: 8GB LPDDR4X
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Display: 16-inch, 2560 x 1600, 120Hz LED
  • Battery life: 7 hours

Chromebooks have had Cloud gaming support for a while, but gaming-specific Chromebooks are a new development. The Acer Chromebook 516 GE is one such device. We love this well-constructed, powerful, and pleasantly affordable Chromebook, whether you use it for Cloud gaming or not. But what makes it a “gaming” Chromebook?

The Acer’s Chromebook 516 GE’s answer includes special keyboard features like anti-ghosting and RGB lighting. It also has a high refresh rate display normally found only on traditional gaming laptops. In fact, this Chromebook’s entire package gives you more features for the same or lower price than many of Acer’s Windows-based productivity laptops like the Swift 3.

Of course, you can play games in the Cloud on any device. A specific machine like the 516 GE—any gaming Chromebook, really—is less important than a stable, speedy Internet connection.(As good as the Wi-Fi 6E adapter is on this device, it can’t do magic.)

Acer did include an Ethernet port with this device, and a wired Internet connection is plenty stable for Cloud gaming. Unfortunately, too much of the gaming experience is dictated by factors like Wi-Fi speeds that the device can’t control.


  • Fantastic performance
  • 120Hz display makes everything smoother
  • Plenty connectivity options


  • Processor: Intel Core i5-1235U
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Xe (Integrated)
  • Memory: 8GB DDR4
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Display: 16-inch 2560 x 1600p 120Hz IPS
  • Battery life: 12 hours

There isn’t a lot that makes the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Gaming Chromebook a “gaming” laptop, either. It offers the same features as Acer’s Chromebook 516 GE. It has a similar 120Hz display, RGB lighting, anti-ghosting keys, and Wi-Fi 6E, yet costs more when it’s not on sale. That’s a bummer considering it has the slower processor of the two.

Also like Acer’s 516 GE, Lenovo’s gaming Chromebook is compatible with Nvidia GeForce Now, Xbox Cloud Gaming, Luna, Utomik, and others. GeForce Now can stream games at 120 fps, and it’s the only one that supports ray tracing.

When it is on sale, the IdeaPad 5 Gaming Chromebook instantly becomes a better value. It may have a weaker processor, but its battery lasts five hours longer than what Acer offers.

You can go with a “non-gaming” Chromebook and still have a good Cloud gaming experience. But the gaming Chromebook options presented here offer high refresh rates that traditional Chromebooks can’t match.


  • Processor: Intel Core i7-12650H
  • Graphics: Nvidia RTX 3060
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4 3200MHz
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 144Hz, IPS
  • Battery life: About 4 hours

The MSI Sword 15 offers solid gaming performance. Unfortunately, it’s a poor value compared to literally every other entry on this list. Still, it’s worth it if you can find it on sale for under 1,000 or spring for the base model with an Intel Core i5-12450H and Nvidia RTX 3050.

Its gaming performance is decent. The Sword 15 routinely hit a minimum of 60 fps in all the games we tested at 1080p on the highest graphics preset, even Cyberpunk 2077. That’s respectable, but other options like the Acer Nitro 5 and HP Victus 16 crank out higher fps in the same games.

The Sword 15’s 1250:1 contrast ratio is good for a budget gaming laptop. Just expect details to get a bit murky in games with darker scenes like Dead Space and Outlast.

Our biggest gripe with the Sword 15 is its design and construction. The display’s hinges aren’t tight enough to keep it from wobbling. The trackpad is awkwardly off-center to the left, which can get in the way when you’re gaming. Frustratingly, the downward-firing speakers are on the bottom of the laptop.

Read our full review of the MSI Sword 15.


  • Good non-ray-traced performance
  • Decent amount of connectivity ports
  • Great cooling


  • Incredibly loud fans
  • Poorly designed keyboard and trackpad
  • Finicky performance-management app

How We Tested Gaming Laptops Under 1,000

We test everything from processing capability to screen brightness.

The Testers

Hey there, I’m Adrien Ramirez, laptop staff writer here at Reviewed. I’ve been working professionally with tech and PCs for six years, from game development to reviewing and everything in between. Before I came to Reviewed, I had worked with Lifewire and the MIT Game Lab. I’m passionate about all things tech, although I especially enjoy working with PCs. When I’m not testing and evaluating laptops, I’m planning new keyboard and small form factor desktop builds, playing games in virtual reality, or nerding out about graphics cards.

The Tests

We run the same rigorous set of tests on every gaming laptop that comes into our labs. We overwhelm the processor with tasks to determine how well it can handle the complex work involved with streaming, managing dozens of Chrome tabs, or (especially) high-powered gaming. We benchmark the graphics card to see how well it handles the speedy, smooth rendering of highly-detailed imagery.

Gaming laptops are thin and light compared to PC gaming rigs, and there’s a lot of powerful hardware crammed into that space. We test fan noise to measure whether the fan noise will drown out your game. Likewise, we measure heat output to make sure the laptop won’t become painful to use.

We also test battery life, usually by setting the computer to cycle through basic tasks like web browsing until the battery dies. Gaming laptops are notorious for having poor battery life, but some are better than others. If a machine can’t even handle a couple of hours of web browsing, then gaming will be impossible unless you’re plugged in.

Finally, we consider the build quality. The machine should be light but feel substantial, and it should have enough ports for any gaming peripherals you’re using.

With cheaper gaming laptops, at least one area will usually take a hit. You may find solid battery life and great performance in a machine that gets too hot to touch. You may find a well-built powerhouse that’s too much for most batteries to handle. We note issues like that so that you can apply your priorities to our research to make your choices.

What You Should Know About Buying Budget Gaming Laptops

What kind of CPU should I look for in a gaming laptop?

There isn’t an abundance of choices for gaming hardware these days, even when you’re constrained by budget. Most processors are from Intel or AMD.

A lot of the models we recommend for budget gaming include hardware that’s a step shy of the top-of-the-line. Intel’s Core i5 processors, or some of the older i7s, offer strong performance that feels modern without shelling out for the top of the line. AMD’s Ryzen 5 processors are also good.

These chips are more than capable, but as you put your laptop through its paces, you will notice a difference compared to the top-of-the-line.

What graphics cards work for a cheap gaming laptop?

Your best budget bet for a graphics card is going to be something like the Nvidia 3050 Ti. It’s well-powered and can handle ray tracing. It offers G-Sync to link up with your display for smooth frame rates. But it’s nowhere near as expensive as the 3060 or the newly-announced RTX 40-series.

Graphics cards have their own processors, and that will affect the performance of your machine more than the processor will, so whatever wiggle room your budget does have should usually go toward your graphics card.


Most gaming laptop displays run between 15 and 16 inches, and you’re unlikely to find much that’s bigger than that for budget prices.

At the end of the day, the refresh rate is going to matter as much or more than pure size. Higher refresh rates mean smoother motion in single-player games and better response times in competitive games online.

What’s a good price for an affordable gaming laptop?

As components get more affordable, finding a good gaming laptop for less than a grand has gone from “impossible” to “a little tricky.” There are plenty of good computers out there with specs that you can tweak to find just the right balance between power and affordability.

For under 1,000, you aren’t going to be playing Cyberpunk 2077 with the settings cranked to the max. You may need to tone the graphics down or turn on Nvidia’s DLSS feature, which uses AI to assist in approximating graphics for the appearance of smoother performance. Still, you can absolutely get a decent foothold in the world of modern gaming for that price.

Meet the testers

Adrien is a staff writer for Reviewed, mainly focused on reviewing laptops and other consumer tech. During his free time, he’s usually wandering around Hyrule.

Senior Editor, Electronics

Joanna specializes in anything and everything gaming-related and loves nerding out over graphics cards, processors, and chip architecture. Previously she was a staff writer for Gizmodo, PC Gamer, and Maximum PC.

Checking our work.

Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you’re confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we’ll compare notes.