Best cheap gaming laptops under $1,000 to get in 2019

There has never been a better time to be a cash-strapped PC gamer in need of a new laptop. Just about every PC manufacturer has a model for $1,000 or less andthey can do more than play old games at low quality settings.

Chipmaker Nvidia announced at CES 2019 that new gaming laptops running mobile versions of its RTX 2060, 2070 and 2080 graphics cards would start shipping by the end of January. The good news is they have. The better news is the prices are starting to come down on older laptops with Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 10-series GPUs, which are still generally awesome.

Although prices for models with an entry-level GTX 1050 card start around $600, spending $1,000 or a little more will get you a laptop with a midrange Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. At the moment, it’s with this GPU that you’ll find the best prices.

BEST OVERALL MAINSTREAM GAMING LAPTOP

Dell G5 15

Dell’s G-series gaming laptops are cheaper than those from its Alienware division, but still capable of playing the latest AAA titles. There are three separate models — the G3, G5 and G7 — available in 15- and 17-inch sizes. The G3 15, which starts at $680, is most like a typical slim mainstream Inspiron, while the G5 and G7 look more like gaming laptops.

The midrange G5 15 hits the mark with an excellent price-to-performance ratio, build quality and design. The entry model is $700 with a GTX 1050, but you can find it for $1,000 with a GTX 1060.

Lenovo Legion Y530

Lenovo’s Legion Y530, Y730 and Y7000 gaming laptops can all be found for $1,000 or less, so it really comes down to what components and design features you want in it. The Y7000’s chassis (pictured) looks a bit more like a gaming laptop, while the Y530 can be found with higher-performance components for the money and the Y730 has more gaming extras like an RGB-backlit keyboard with a row of assignable macro keys.

The Legion Y530 is currently the best deal when it comes to performance since it’s available for $1,000 with a GTX 1060 and a six-core Intel Core i7 processor.

Acer Nitro 5

The Nitro 5 isn’t as polished as Dell’s or Lenovo’s offerings and Acer doesn’t offer it with a GTX 1060 GPU. But $750 gets you one with 1050 Ti graphics, so while there are a few cut corners, you still come out ahead overall. Also, if you can afford going up to $1,100, the company’s Predator Helios 300 gets you a lot more gaming laptop for your money.

Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE

The TUF comes in multiple configurations, but all of them have a cushy keyboard for long gaming sessions and Asus says it’s extra durable, lasting for up to 20 million key presses. The cheapest configuration’s display is poor quality and overall not a good deal, however. Bumping up to its $800 configuration gets you a better IPS-level display, a 1050 Ti, a fast 256GB SSD and a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H. Or go up to $1,000 and you’ll get a GTX 1060 with 3GB RAM in 15.6- or 17.3-inch sizes.

HP Pavilion Gaming 15t

HP’s Pavilion Gaming laptop is similar to Dell’s G series, giving you a mainstream option instead of shelling out for a pricier PC from its Omen gaming brand. We haven’t seen it in person yet, but pricing is on par with the competition here. For example, you can find it for $719 with a Core i5-8300H processor and a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor and a 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 for $999.

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Gaming laptops in disguise

Between the integrated graphics you find in most nongaming laptops and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 are Nvidia’s MX family of discrete graphics processors, with the MX150 at the top of the line.

Frame rates aren’t going to be fast enough for enjoyable play on high-detail settings with newer graphically demanding games. In our tests, however, older games such as Bioshock Infinite were playable, as were popular online games such as Overwatch and Fortnite. Below are a couple of our favorites, but if you’re a casual gamer keep an eye out for the MX150 elsewhere.

Acer Aspire E 15

For $600, the E 15 is an absolute bargain for a desktop replacement. Along with the MX150 graphics and an eighth-gen Intel Core i5 processor, you get a good 15.6-inch full-HD display, a bevy of ports — new and old — and even a DVD burner for those still working in the world of physical media.

Asus ZenBook 13

While all the other laptops here are big 15.6-inch models and weigh around 5 pounds each, the $899 ZenBook 13 is a gorgeous 13.3-inch ultraportable. In fact, when it launched it was the world’s thinnest 13-inch laptop with discrete graphics, making it a good choice for a little light gaming on the go in between meetings or classes.

Buying tips for cheap gaming laptops

You’ll want to make sure you get the most graphics power you can afford from the start since this can’t be upgraded later, unlike memory or storage. If you’re on a strict budget, go with one of Nvidia’s Geforce GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti graphics cards, which will give you good performance on newer games at medium or high settings with prices starting down around $600. If you can afford to spend closer to $1,000, you’ll be better off in the long run getting a laptop with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with 3GB or 6GB of memory.

Beyond the graphics chip, look for:

  • Seventh- or eighth-gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processor
  • At least 8GB of memory (RAM)
  • At least a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD), a combo of a 128GB SSD and hard drive or a large solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD)

Most if not all gaming laptops let you easily expand or upgrade your memory and storage, so again, it’s best to put your cash into the GPU and processor. Sure, you’ll get more for your money with a gaming desktop, but if you don’t have room for one or you must have mobility, these budget-friendly laptops are worth the investment.

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