If you’re in the market for a gaming laptop but aren’t in a position to shell out a ton of cash, believe it or not, there are some pretty decent budget options out there. Whether you’re a hardcore FPS player or a lover of story-driven games, these high-powered machines should get the job done.
Although every laptop on this list has been personally vetted by the PCWorld team, there’s one that really stands out from the pack: The Acer Swift X nabbed our top spot because of its impressive battery life, attractive color scheme, and discrete graphics card. Read on to learn more.
[Best laptop deals 2022: Top picks from budget to extreme]
1. Acer Swift X (SFX14-41G-R1S6)
Between the surprising graphics performance and compact form factor, the Acer Swift X is small but fierce. This laptop comes equipped with a discrete RTX 3050 Ti GPU, which adds a decent boost in gaming capability. According to our review, the Swift X maintained a steady 52 frames-per-second while running Metro Exodus on the normal preset. 60 fps is considered acceptable, so this result is pretty good, especially for an ultraportable laptop. If you’re a student who likes to game in between classes, the Swift X is a solid option.
Read our full Swift X (SFX14-41G-R1S6) review
2. Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition
The Asus ROG Strix G15 Advanced Edition is an all-AMD laptop that delivers fast CPU and GPU performance at a reasonable price point. It’s packing an AMD Ryzen 5900HX processor, an AMD Radeon RX 6800M GPU (with 12GB of GDDR6), 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. According to our review, the GPU “doesn’t outpace higher-wattage RTX 3080 laptop GPUs, but it’s a worthy competitor for conventional gaming tasks.” Unsurprisingly, the Strix G15 is one chunky machine, measuring 28mm at its thickest part. Although the additional thickness allows more space for cooling components, it’s not very portable. That said, so long as you don’t plan on taking this laptop everywhere with you, it’s a powerful gaming rig that’s well worth the money.
We understand that the $1,650 price tag isn’t “cheap” in the traditional sense, but this all-AMD laptop costs significantly less than comparable laptops in power. If you look on Best Buy or Nvidia’s website for 3080 machines, they cost upwards of $2,200 to $3,000.
Read our full Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition review
3. HP Envy 14 14t-eb000 (2021)
The HP Envy 14 is a good choice for modest gaming or content creation. The configuration we tested features an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor and an Iris Xe/Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q graphics card. However, the most surprising thing about this laptop is its battery life. Gaming laptops generally aren’t known for having good battery life, so the Envy 14 really breaks the mold here. In our tests, it ran about 15 hours on a single charge. The Envy 14 doesn’t produce much fan noise, either. In our review, we found that it ran “extremely quiet during both CPU- and graphics-intensive loads.”
Read our full HP Envy 14 14t-eb000 (2021) review
4. HP Victus 16 (16-d0097nr)
When it comes to the HP Victus 16, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. The 16-inch 1080p display has a high refresh rate of 144Hz, the keyboard is surprisingly comfortable, and there are a wide range of configuration options. Although the laptop’s GeForce RTX 3050Ti GPU falls on the lower end of the spectrum, it still delivers solid 1080p gaming performance. Plus, the subtle design makes it a suitable choice for either work or play.
We tested the top-tier configuration, which is still relatively affordable at $1,250. However, as we mention in our review, these models can go as low as $730. The cheaper models use the older GTX 1650 GPUs, which lack DLSS and Ray Tracing support. With that being said, these laptops should still provide decent gaming performance with lower graphics settings.
Read our full HP Victus 16 (16-d0097nr) review
What you should look for in a budget gaming laptop
When it comes to picking the right gaming laptop, it really depends on what you want to do with it. Do you plan on playing lightweight indie titles like Stardew Valley (no shade, I love this game) or something more visually demanding like Metro Exodus? Are you going to use the machine for work as well as play? It’s possible to get reliable performance out of a gaming laptop that costs under a grand, but you’ll need to take a hard look at the individual components. You don’t need a powerful GPU for something like Fortnite. The guts, my friends. That’s what matters.
- GPU: The thing about the GPU is that it can’t be swapped out and upgraded later, so you need to be real choosy about which one you pick, as this component will determine how well your machine runs games. Luckily, you don’t need the best of the best to get reliable gaming performance. The GTX 1650 is an entry-level GPU that’s affordable and good enough for 1080p gaming with mid-to-high graphics settings. That said, expect lower frame rates on newer titles. If you’re looking for a bit more power, we’d recommend opting for a GTX 1660 Ti or higher, or a more current RTX 30-series GPU.
- CPU: Like the GPU, the processor can’t be upgraded either, so you’ll want to be selective. For Intel, we’d recommend an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7. For AMD, you’ll want to spring for a Ryzen 4000 or 5000. A processor with at least four cores is good, but six cores or more is better.
- RAM: You’ll want at least 8GB of RAM. If you can afford 16GB of RAM, go for it. Memory is normally upgradable, so you can always swap it out and add more later on.
- Storage: Storage impacts how many games and applications you can install on your laptop. Like RAM, storage is upgradable and can be swapped out later. However, you should aim for at least 512GB of SSD storage plus a hard drive, as AAA titles tend to eat up a lot of space. SSDs load games faster, as data is stored on chips rather than spinning disks.
- Display: 1080p is what you can expect at this price range. Budget gaming laptops don’t always have the best displays, as that’s where manufacturers tend to cut corners to keep the cost low. If you’ve got a dim display, you can always pick up an external monitor to plug into it.
- Battery life: Generally speaking, gaming laptops are known for having poor battery life. That’s because they use a ton of power. They also tend to be heavier than other laptops because they need more space for heatsinks and other cooling components. Depending on the use, most will last anywhere from four to six hours on a single charge. That said, there are a few exceptions. The HP Envy 14 (featured above), for example, hit the 15 hour mark during our battery test.