Let’s face it, the world is moving away from desktop PC gaming. The hulking gaming PC beasts are now reserved for hardcore gamers who want to tap the absolute most out of their hardware. Most people are now shifting to laptops and, thanks to serious price drops and performance increases, gaming laptops are a viable option.

Modern CPUs and GPUs have more than enough grunt to compete with their desktop equivalents, but price still remains an issue. Gaming laptops in particular often carry shocking price tags.

So, can you still get a decent gaming laptop on a budget? That’s what we’re going to investigate here, while looking at a few specific deals that are pretty darn good, in my opinion.

If you want to know more about how to pick out a good gaming laptop, check out my gaming laptop buyer’s guide for the most important things to consider. For now, let’s discuss what we want from a budget machine.

What’s the Definition of Budget?

That’s a fair question, since terms like “affordable” and “budget” mean different things to different people. In the context of gaming laptops I have decided to cap the price of these machines at $1000. That might seem arbitrary, but my observation has been that gaming laptops at this price point sit neatly at the start of the premium gaming experience. That is, hitting 60 frames per second with most of the eye candy turned on.

At the lower end of the spectrum we have laptops that cost as much as a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X – with the advantage that they are more versatile than a game console and you can take them wherever. Also, gaming laptops have their own displays!

The main downside of these machines is that they are not particularly futureproof. However, I have picked laptops within the price range that will provide good frame rates at 1080p. Speaking of which, you’ll find only 1080p screens here, since none of this hardware will push pixels competently at higher resolutions. However, 1080p gaming is certainly nothing to sneeze at, and certainly a step above most console games!

So here are my picks for the best budget gaming laptops.

The Best Gaming Laptop for a Grand? – Acer Predator Helios 300

This laptop is really sitting on the edge of my budget rules for these reviews, but at the time of writing it just makes it under the cap. It’s a good thing too, because this Helios 3000 from Acer offers a heck of a lot for the money.

Let’s start with the design. While this is undeniably a gaming laptop, it’s not garish by any means. It’s pretty aggressive with the sharp angles and black and red coloring, but there’s no reason to feel embarrassed by it. Ten out of ten for styling balance then.

The touchpad is offset to the left, which might not make this a great choice for lefties. But most gamers are going to use a pad or an external mouse, so from a gaming perspective it’s largely irrelevant.

The display is a real star here. It’s a 15.6” model using IPS technology, yet sporting a whopping 144Hz refresh rate. That’s premium gaming territory for sure and the GTX 1060 is more than capable of hitting those framerates in eSports titles where it might make a difference.

Although the GTX 1060 is a last-generation GPU, it’s still significant overkill for a 1080p screen; most games will happily hit 60fps with the visuals cranked up. Coupled with a six-core i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM, this is one serious mid-range gaming machine.

One area where costs have been cut is secondary storage. You only get a 256GB NVME drive, which barely leaves any space for games after Windows 10 is taken into account. There is a 2.5” bay left vacant for a compatible drive, but it would have been nice to include a cheap mechanical drive in the package.

All in all, you could do a lot worse for the money and I’ve been unable to find anything better at the price. So for now this is the king of the upper budget range, if you ask me.

ASUS TUF FX504

The TUF FX504 comes in at about 25% less than the Helios, but still manages to pack in the same GTX 1060, which is a very solid 1080p GPU and should remain so for a few years yet. At least, that’s the way it might seem. This is, however, the 3GB variant of the 1060, which isn’t just gimped in terms of VRAM, but also bandwidth and overall GPU performance. Still, even this chip is more than a match for the 1080p panel that comes with this machine; yet there’s a noticeable downgrade.

This laptop also only sports a quad-core CPU, which is fine right now, but following the PS5 generation of consoles, expect multithreading to become much more prevalent in games. A quad core may not cut it and limit frame rates. RAM is also comparatively halved, although 8GB is enough for almost all modern games, given that you don’t want to leave 100 tabs open in the background. The bottom line here is that this machine will be fine for gaming today, but don’t expect it to be relevant for very long.

The Budget Gaming King - ASUS Vivobook K570ZD Casual Gaming Laptop

This Asus Vivobook really takes a refreshing approach to gaming laptops. Rather than trying to woo the hardcore gaming crowd, it’s actually marketed as a “casual” gaming machine. Coming in at about the price of a modern console plus a little on top, this uses AMD Ryzen technology for the CPU and the non-TI variant of the GTX 1050. That means it will ace most eSports titles and hit medium detail with good frame rates on its 1080p screen. It’s a competent gaming machine for people who either have a decent gaming PC at home or just want to play a select few titles on this mobile format; a nicely balanced deal that will please anyone with the right attitude.

The design is just OK and storage barely adequate, but Asus has achieved exactly what it advertises as what’s arguably the perfect casual gaming machine. If that’s what you are looking for, this is a great choice.

HP Omen 15 DC0020NR

The HP Omen series has slowly been building a decent reputation over the years – no mean feat given the HP brand’s image as office mules. Even Dell has a separate gaming brand in the form of Alienware.

This Omen has a great, balanced design with aggressive lines and attractive lighting. The specs are lower mid-range, with the 1050Ti a good choice for 1080p eSports titles or medium-high gaming at 1080p, at least for current-gen PC games. Storage is tight, with the 128GB SSD just enough to house Windows and perhaps one or two demanding titles. Upgrading that SSD would be a good goal during the lifetime of the machine. Luckily the 1TB mechanical drive is a 7200rpm model, which helps a lot for the games you’ll have to inevitably play from it.

The quad-core CPU limits the long-term viability of the machine, but that’s fine at this price point. 12GB of RAM is a smart choice, since 8GB is getting tight with modern titles while 16GB is still a pricey spec in this segment. I think this is a machine of smart compromises and probably one of the best choices at its specific price point.

Thin and Light Gaming: MSI GL62

The value proposition with this laptop is a little different. It matches the casual gaming laptop from Asus in terms of GPU specs, with a 1050 onboard, but packs it into a tiny chassis. The main reason to get this specific model is if you travel or need to lug your machine around a lot, but still want to get some Overwatch or Fortnite in every now and then. If not for the GPU and gaming keyboard built in, this would have nothing particularly “gaming” about it. The SSD is just large enough to be usable and there is no mechanical mass storage here. You’re paying a bit of a premium for portability with mediocre gaming performance, but if you’re budget-constrained and need this form factor, there’s not much else that can compete.