Mobility

Best cheap gaming laptop 2022: Level up for less

Gaming laptops can cost a pretty penny, but even top brands like HP, ASUS, and Dell offer budget-friendly and entry-level models for anyone who wants to game on-the-go without emptying their wallet. For this list, I tried to keep my picks under $1,000, but with the chip shortage and stock issues, don’t be surprised if retailers start to bump up price tags a bit. Fortunately, there are some models, like the HP OMEN and HP Victus that let you configure your laptop while still coming in under $1,100. I chose both Intel and AMD based models to help you find the best gaming laptop that suits not only your budget, but your playstyle as well.

Also: Best gaming laptop 2022: Top rigs

Dell G15 Ryzen Edition


Alienware-level quality for HP budgets


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Dell

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600H | RAM: 8GB DDR4 3200MHz | Storage: 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 4GB GDDR6 | Display: 15.6-inch FHD | Refresh Rate: 120Hz | Battery Life: 10 hours


Even though the retail price for this gaming laptop sits comfortably under $1000, it’s still packed to the brim with premium hardware. It’s built around an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card, giving you more than enough power to play the latest triple-A titles. The base configuration comes with just 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, but you can upgrade these yourself later on if you need more memory and storage. The native 120Hz refresh rate gives you buttery smooth action, and the anti-glare coating on the 1080p screen improves viewing angles by cutting down on reflections from overhead lights. Wi-Fi 6 compatibility gives you ultra-fast wireless internet speeds to give you the edge you need to win fast-paced online matches. And the 10 hour battery life lets you either game all night or use the G15 as a workstation during the day.

Pros:

  • Great battery life
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • User upgradeable
  • Alienware Command Center

Cons:

  • No USB-C charging/display output
  • Heavy
  • Only supports up to 32GB RAM

HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop


Impressive battery life


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HP

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H | RAM: 16GB DDR4 3200MHz | Storage: 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti | Display: 15.6-inch FHD | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Battery life: 11 hours 


This AMD-based gaming laptop is on the upper-end of “budget friendly,” but if you’re willing to spend a bit extra, it’s a worthwhile investment. Not only will you get an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, you’ll also get Bang & Olufsen audio for more immersive sound, AMD FreeSync compatibility for smoother playback, USB-C fast charging that gives you up to 50 percent battery in just 45 minutes, and a truly impressive 11 hour battery life. The only drawback is that if you want to upgrade the laptop later on down the line, it only supports up to 16GB of RAM; which is perfectly fine for most games, but if you want to also use the laptop for things like 3D modeling and rendering, you’ll definitely need more RAM.

Pros: 

  • Excellent battery
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bang & Olufsen speakers
  • USB-C fast charging

Cons:

  • Only supports up to 16GB RAM
  • Heavy
  • Lackluster refresh rate

Acer Nitro 5


Perfect starter machine


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Best Buy

CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 512GB SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti | Display: 15.6-inch FHD | Refresh Rate: 144Hz | Battery life: 8 hours


This model from Acer has some welcome upgrades and improvements over previous Nitro 5 iterations. With an 11th gen Intel Core i7 and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card, you’ll be able to handle all but the most graphically demanding titles. Wi-Fi 6 connectivity gives you faster wireless internet speeds than before while DTS:X audio creates richer, more immersive audio without the need for a headset. It also features improved heat dissipation than previous models, with twin cooling fans and four vents to draw waste heat away from delicate components and allow your laptop to run at optimal temperatures for longer. And with an 8 hour battery life, you can marathon your favorite games well into the night before you need to worry about plugging in.

Pros:

  • Decent battery life
  • DTS:X audio
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Great refresh rate
  • User upgradeable

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Only supports up to 32GB RAM
  • Only supports Crucial brand components

ASUS ROG Strix G15


Premium performance for an entry-level price


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B&H Photo

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H | RAM: 16GB DDR4 3200MHz | Storage: 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD | GPU: Nvidia Geforce RTX 3050 4GB DDR6 | Display: 15.6-inch FHD | Refresh rate: 144Hz | Battery life: 8 hours


ASUS is one of the biggest names in gaming laptops, and the ROG Strix G15 proves that you can get a quality machine without having to skip this month’s rent. It runs on an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU for tons of graphics processing power. It also supports up to 32GB of RAM, so you can expand memory later if you need to. The 15.6-inch display has a 3ms response time for near real-time reactions to your inputs as well as a native refresh rate of 144Hz for silky smooth action even during intense action sequences. And with Adaptive-Sync technology, the display automatically adjusts its refresh rate to match optimal settings for your favorite games to reduce screen tearing and stuttering. You can use the USB-C port to set up a second display for when you want to multitask or use your laptop for streaming so you can game and monitor chat or your streaming software without constantly alt tabbing out. The 8 hour battery gives you plenty of time to rack up Apex Legends wins before needing to recharge.

Pros:

  • Great battery life
  • User upgradeable
  • VRR compatible
  • Wi-Fi 6

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Only one USB-C port
  • Only supports up to 32GB RAM

HP OMEN 16.1


Customize your laptop for under $1000


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HP

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600H | RAM: 8GB DDR4 3200MHz | Storage: 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 | Display: 16.1-inch FHD | Refresh rate: 144Hz | Battery life: 9 hours


The HP Omen base model is one of the most budget-friendly gaming laptops you can buy right now, and it’s a solid machine if you’re ok with working with an older GTX 1650 GPU. However, you can bump up to an RTX 3050 Ti and still stay under $900. There are plenty of other affordable upgrades you can choose from like 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, or you can upgrade the laptop yourself at a later date so you can catch components on sale. This laptop features both Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity for faster internet speeds and more stable wireless connections to peripherals like headsets and mice so you don’t have to worry about dropping out of team chat in the middle of a match or your mouse disconnecting at an important moment. On a full charge, the battery gives you up to 9 hours of use so you can game well into the evening.

Pros:

  • Great battery
  • Affordable configurations
  • User upgradeable
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bang & Olufsen audio

Cons:

  • Only one USB-C port
  • RGB backlighting costs extra
  • No fast charging

Are there other budget gaming laptops to consider?

Below is a list of some alternatives you might prefer. 

HP Victus 16

Configure and conquer

CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H | RAM: 8GB DDR4 3200MHz | Storage: 256GB M.2 NVMe SDD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti | Display: 16.1-ing FHD | Refresh rate: 144Hz | Battery life: 5.5 hours

The Victus is basically an Intel-based version of the OMEN, which makes it a little pricier, but you can still configure a quality machine for under $1000. The base model is build with an Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, and 8GB of RAM; you can bump up to 16GB for just $70 more, and I suggest that you do so you are absolutely sure you have enough system memory for most games. A 256GB SSD is included in the base price, but you can either bump up to a 512GB for an extra $40 or add a second 256GB SSD that’s Raid 0 configured for $60. A plus for anyone who wants their gaming laptop to double as a work machine, the Victus doesn’t feature any RGB backlighting and has a full 10-key keyboard so you can seamlessly transition from typical office work to gaming in the evening. You’ll want to keep your charging cable handy though: it only has a 5.5 hour battery life.

Pros: 

  • Affordable configurations
  • Great refresh rate
  • User upgradeable
  • Bang & Olufsen audio

Cons:

  • Somewhat disappointing battery life
  • Only supports up to 32GB RAM

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3

Best budget display

CPU: Intel core i5-11300H | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 | Display: 15.6-inch FHD | Refresh rate: 165Hz | Battery life: 6.5 hours

Lenovo may be best known for their workstations, but the IdeaPad Gaming 3 is a solid gaming laptop from the brand. It also has one of the best displays you can get without spending thousands of dollars on a premium machine. The 15.6-inch screen has a native refresh rate of 165Hz for some of the smoothest action you can get without overclocking your display, and it also produces 100 percent of the sRGB color spectrum for more lifelike images. The only marks I have against this laptop is that it only comes equipped with 8GB of RAM and doesn’t have USB-C charging or support for USB-C display output; though it does have an HDMI port, so you can set up a second display that way. The battery life isn’t anything to write home about either: just 6.5 hours on a full charge, but that’s still plenty of time to play.

Pros:

  • Great refresh rate
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • User upgradeable
  • 100% sRGB

Cons:

  • Low battery life
  • Heavy
  • NO USB-C charging

Gigabyte G5

A DIYer’s dream

CPU: Intel Core i5-11400H | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 512GB SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti | Display: 15.6-inch FHD | Refresh rate: 144Hz | Battery life: 3 hours

Gigabyte is a lesser known brand in the world of PC gaming, but their G5 laptop is a perfect pick for anyone who likes to upgrade their own machines. It supports up to 64GB of RAM and up to 6TB of storage, letting you pick up the base machine for less than $1000 and upgrading later when components go on sale. The base model is already pretty impressive though: featuring an Intel Core i5-11400H CPU, 16GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card. The 15.6-inch display produces 1080p resolution and a refresh rate of 144Hz so every game looks its best. These are power-hungry components though, so you’ll be lucky to get 3 hours of use on a full charge. But if you’re more concerned with being able to customize your laptop to suit your needs than with being tethered to a wall outlet, the G5 is still a great choice.

Pros:

  • Supports up to 64GB RAM
  • User upgradeable
  • Supports up to 6TB of storage
  • Wi-Fi 6

Cons:

  • Very poor battery
  • No VRR support

Are budget gaming laptops worth it?

The word “budget” is sort of subjective when it comes to gaming laptops. But for this list, I tried to keep my picks under $1,000. While they probably won’t blow you away when it comes to things like storage, you can still get a worthwhile machine if you’re willing to compromise on some components. If you’re ok with your laptop having an older GPU, or are comfortable upgrading things yourself later on, you can find even better prices than what I’ve managed to scrape up. You can even find certified pre-owned units, but they often aren’t covered by any sort of warranty, so if a component fails, you’re going to have to pay out of pocket to fix or replace it.

Is there such a thing as “too much RAM”?

Yes, actually. For most games, you won’t need more than 16GB of RAM. And while some models support up to 32, 64 or even 128GB, chances are that unless you’re going to also use your laptop for things like video editing or 3D modeling and rendering, you’re just spending money to show off at that point.

What’s the difference between an SSD and an HDD?

SSD stands for “solid state drive,” and HDD stands for “hard disk drive.” An HDD is typically much more affordable since it’s based on older technology that uses a physical disk that is written and read similar to old, blank CD-Rs. They’re also much more prone to damage since they have physical parts that can break down and wear out over time and are much more susceptible to things like shocks and drops. A solid state drive uses flash memory and a specialized chipset to store programs and files. This not only helps prevent damage from normal wear and tear, it makes accessing said programs and files much faster. And if you have an SSD as your boot drive, you can get your computer up and running in seconds. They tend to be more expensive though, especially at higher capacities, so make sure your budget can handle it.

How did we choose these budget gaming laptops?

Obviously, price is key when it comes to budget gaming laptops, so we kept the list to models as close to or below $1000. These notebooks are from well-known brands available through major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart, as well as their own online stores. 

Also critical to making the list was the inclusion of a capable discrete graphics card, as integrated graphics really cannot handle anything beyond casual gaming. Manufacturers clearly market these laptops for gamers, so they often include touches like neon-backlit keyboards and gaming hotkeys. 

Which budget gaming laptop is right for you?

Specs are usually overrated when it comes to picking a PC, but not when it comes to gaming systems. Purchasing a cheap gaming laptop is definitely a case where you have to get the most bang for the fewest bucks. It’s a careful balance, though, as doubling your RAM or getting a better graphics card will impact your budget. The closer you get to the $1,000 price point, the more likely you’ll be able to get more than just the basic gaming laptop specs: maybe a newer processor or 16GB of RAM or a 512GB solid-state drive. If you’re watching every dollar, however, you’ll have to make do with those bare minimum specs.

Two other important considerations are weight and battery life, neither of which is a gaming laptop’s specialty. The notebooks on this list fall on either side of the 5-pound mark, but if you’re planning to take the laptop with you on the go often, a lighter system might be of greater importance to you. You also shouldn’t expect miracles when it comes to battery life, as more powerful components being pushed to the max by games will chew through a charge, though if staying unplugged as long as possible is crucial, serious consideration should be given to the Acer Nitro 5’s superior battery numbers.

 


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