The bottom line? We suggest going with one of the GTX 1650 picks below, as it’s newer tech and likely to keep up with your gaming needs for longer. However, there really isn’t a bad choice on this list of the best budget gaming laptops.
TL; DR – These are the Best Budget Gaming Laptops:
1. MSI GF63 Thin
Best Budget Gaming Laptops
The Turing-based GTX 1650 debuted as a low price yet high-performance mobile GPU, and MSI’s GF63 Thin delivers on that promise. Priced at about $800, the GF63 Thin comes with an Intel Core i5-8300H, GTX 1650, 8GB of memory, 256GB SSD, and a 15.6-inch 1080p display. Naturally, the MSI GF63 Thin has the same tried-and-true look that MSI’s gaming laptops are known for: A black housing, sharp edges, bright red highlights and a bright red keyboard. Oh, and this one weighs in at a fairly light 4.1 pounds.
2. HP Pavillion Gaming Laptop
Best Ultra Cheap Gaming Laptop
This was the absolute cheapest gaming laptop on this list last year, and we’ve held it over this year for much of the same reason. Its components are still capable of keeping up with medium gamers, and it’s an incredible value. You get a 1050 Ti, which is basically the bare minimum graphics card you need to still hit acceptable performance levels in gaming.
It’s worth the small extra cost over the vanilla GTX 1050 that’s available in the base model. But on top of that, it comes with an i5-8300H, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB 7200 rpm hard drive. Better still, it looks the part of a gaming laptop with a green, backlit keyboard and sharp, aggressive angles. This is the ultimate budget gaming laptop, and its hardware tradeoffs are a minor price to pay for such affordability.
3. Asus TUF FX505
Best Budget AMD-Powered Gaming Laptop
The Asus TUF Gaming Laptop is another GTX 1650-equipped laptop that currently sits at $650. Instead of Intel inside, you’re looking at AMD’s Ryzen 5 3550H, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD. All of those components power the 15.6-inch 120Hz 1080p display that sits just above a military-grade keyboard that should take any abuse you can throw at it. Guess it had to earn its “TUF” name somehow, right? You shouldn’t have any issues hitting 120 fps to match the display’s refresh rate on this gaming laptop.
4. HP Omen 15t
Best Budget 15-inch Gaming Laptop
Another gaming laptop with a GTX 1650 is the HP Omen 15t. Currently listed at $850, it checks off all the boxes to make our list. There’s an Intel Core i5-9300H inside powering 8GB of memory, a 1TB 7200 RPM hard drive, and a 15.6-inch 1080p display.
For an extra $70, you can bump up to a 144Hz panel and stay under the a grand. Avid Fortnite players will appreciate the free 2,000 V-Bucks, outfit, glider, pickaxe and back bling that is included when you purchase the Omen 15t right now.
5. Lenovo Ideapad L340 Gaming
Best Budget 17-inch Gaming Laptop
Lenovo’s Ideapad L340 Gaming was recently upgraded to include an Nvidia GTX 1650 alongside an up to 9th generation Intel Core i7 processor. Like most gaming laptops you can find the L340 gaming in 15- and 17-inch models, however, it won’t cost you a single extra dime to get the big version of this machine.
Both models—yes, that includes the 17-inch model—are available at a $950 starting price (we picked out a higher-end model that’s actually in stock right now). So, if a little extra screen real estate without the guilt is what you’re looking for, the 17-inch Ideapad L340 might just be what you’re looking for.
6. Acer Nitro 5
Most Customizable Budget Gaming Laptop
The Acer Nitro 5 is configurable with AMD and Intel processors, but we really like the Intel variants. Specifically, the (normally) $830 model strikes a good balance of affordability and performance. At that price you get an i5-9300H, a GTX 1650, 8GB of memory, 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD in a housing that fits a 15.6-inch display. It’s just over 5.5 pounds, so it’s not the most portable laptop on this list, but you’re still able to throw it in a bag and take it wherever you go.
7. Asus ROG Zephyrus G GA502
Best Budget Everday Gaming Laptop
Okay, I’m might be breaking my own rule here by picking out this $1,049 gaming laptop, but it’s still on helluva machine even if it costs over a grand. For your money, you’re getting a machine with a high-end AMD Ryzen 7 3750H CPU, Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti graphics, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.
With these specs it blows any other budget gaming laptop on this out of the water—as well it should for the $200-400 premium you’re paying here. Best of all, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G GA502 has a rated 7 hours of battery life to get you through school and your other everyday tasks when you’re not gaming.
8. Dell G3 15 Gaming
Best Budget Thin Gaming Laptop
Dell has been building up a strong fleeting of affordable gaming laptops and it’s latest G3 15 Gaming laptop is one of the best it has ever made. It’s thinner and lighter than ever at just 0.85-inches thick and 5.18 pounds. At the same time, this 15-inch gaming laptop comes packing the latest components with the combination of an i5-9300H and a GTX 1650. The base 128GB SSD is a little bit on the small side, but that’s nothing you can’t fix by selecting a larger drive at checkout or installing an inexpensive aftermarket SSD yourself.
The Dell G3 15 should also be of interest for those looking for a sleeper gaming laptop. Nothing about this machine screams the fact that your living the gamer life. If anything this machine’s sleek blue lines make it look more like a budget school laptop, which can be a good thing if you plan to take it out every day.
9. HP Pavilion Gaming 15
Core i7 Power on the Cheap
The new HP Pavilion Gaming 15 is one of the most powerful gaming laptops you can get for under a grand. For just $900, you get an Intel Core i7 processor paired with Nvidia’s most powerful Turing GTX graphics, the GTX 1660 Ti. It’s also well specced in other places sporting 8GB of memory with a 256GB SSD. You also get one helluva gaming screen with this unit’s Full HD 144Hz display.
The black housing isn’t the most exciting, but the overall design has seen a massive update recently. HP granted its affordable gaming laptop some seriously slimmed down bezels and reducing its overall thickness by 20mm. The slimmer redesign also gave the Pavilion Gaming 15 some serious and stylish vents, so it looks more aggressive and runs cooler at the same time.
10. Acer Predator Helios 300
Best Budget 144Hz Gaming Laptop
Arguably, Acer’s Predator Helios 300 (read our review) is a little pricier than most of the gaming laptops on this list, but wow is it worth it. It’s headlining feature is a Full HD monitor gives you a 144Hz high-frame rate experience and great colors that only an IPS panel such as this can provide. The Helios 300 also comes loaded with a 9th Generation Intel Core i9 processor and the latest Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti, two specs that honestly should demand a higher price.
With an ample 16GB of memory—but only a 256GB SSD—this budget gaming laptop offers a lot at a low price. It also helps this machine was built for gaming from the ground up with one of the industry’s most competent cooling systems and an easy, one-button overclocking model.
What to Look for in a Budget Gaming Laptop
Below I’ve sketched out which graphics card and what other specs you need in a cheap gaming laptop. I also go over the main features to consider when shopping for a cheap gaming notebook.
For screen resolution, a 1080p display hits the sweet spot between price and required GPU beefiness. It is really the only option for a value-oriented gaming laptop. Even if you could score a cheap laptop with a high-resolution 4K panel, the GPU inside won’t be able to run games at that resolution, so prepare yourself for 1080p gaming.
When it comes to storage, try to steer clear of laptops with a lone solid-state drive. Heck, even a model with a 256GB SSD offers barely enough space to keep multiple games installed and at the ready, so you might be stuck getting a system with a slower, yet much more spacious, spinning hard drive.
You can also get a sweet deal by going with something older sporting previous generation processors, as they are usually available at fire-sale prices and there’s not a huge difference in performance between 8th Gen Coffee Lake and 9th Gen Coffee Lake Refresh for gaming. You won’t be quite as future-proof down the line, but you’ll still enjoy several years of solid 1080p gaming at a low price.
One more thing: just because it’s a laptop doesn’t mean you need to take its name literally. The best experience with a laptop usually isn’t on your lap but a desk. Do yourself a favor and check out my guide to the best computer desks to find one to suit your needs—and perhaps a laptop cooling pad to boost your performance—and don’t forget to check out the best gaming chairs to sit in with your new laptop.
Jason Cipriani has covered technology full-time for the past 8 years. During that time he has freelanced for the likes of CNET, Fortune, Time, ZDNet, Macworld, Wired, and TechRadar.