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The best budget gaming laptops of 2024: Expert recommended

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The best budget gaming laptops of 2024: Expert recommended


A solid gaming laptop doesn’t have to cost a fortune, or even have the latest components and hardware. Whether you’re upgrading or buying your first model, there are plenty of options for budget-minded gamers from top brands, such as Asus, Dell, MSI, HP, and more.

Also: The best laptops of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed 

And if you’re looking to get started as a gaming content creator, there are plenty of options out there to help you put together high-quality videos and live streams to build an audience. At ZDNET, we’ve tested and researched some price-friendly yet powerful options to help you find the best budget gaming laptops on the market. We considered the latest CPU offerings from Intel and AMD, graphics card offerings from Nvidia and AMD, as well as battery life, screen sizes, and storage capacity.

What is the best budget gaming laptop right now?  

As an avid gamer myself, my pick for the best budget gaming laptop is the Asus TUF A15, packing a 144Hz refresh rate, 12-hour battery life, and Dolby Atmos audio. Read on for the rest of our picks for the best cheap gaming laptops available now.

The best budget gaming laptops of 2024

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Asus TUF A15

Best budget gaming laptop overall

The Asus TUF A15 is an excellent choice if you’re in the market for a budget-friendly gaming laptop that doesn’t compromise quality. It’s priced a little over $1,000 while offering premium features like a 144Hz refresh rate, support for Dolby Atmos, and an RGB backlit keyboard. The laptop is tested against MIL-STD-810H durability standards for drop, temperature, and humidity resistance, which means you won’t have to worry about occasional spills or bumps ruining sensitive components or essential data.

It’s built with a 6000 series AMD Ryzen 7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card for all the power and storage you need for the latest indie and triple-A titles. Asus also outfitted the TUF A15 with a MUX switch, which allows you to choose between integrated or discrete graphics processing to boost battery life and power efficiency. The battery is also impressive, offering up to 12 hours of use on a full charge. Users who bought the Asus TUF A15 love the aluminum chassis for helping to dissipate waste heat and prevent the laptop from overheating as well as the ability to use it as both a work and gaming laptop when needed.

Asus TUF A15 tech specs: CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 6000 series | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti | Display: 15.6-inch FHD | Refresh Rate: 144Hz | Battery life: Up to 12 hours

An Asus TUF A15 gaming laptop on a grey background

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MSI Katana 15

Best budget gaming laptop for content creators

If you’re kicking around the idea of starting a YouTube or Twitch channel to showcase your gaming skills and news scoops, the MSI Katana 15 is a great laptop for content creators. It’s built with a 1TB SSD and an RTX 4050 graphics card for plenty of power and storage space for triple-A and indie games as well as large raw video and photo files.

The 15.6-inch display produces 1080p full HD resolution and up to a 144Hz refresh rate. This means that you’ll get great detailing and color as well as smoother motion during fast-paced gameplay or action-packed cutscenes. The Katana 15 is also user-upgradable too, supporting up to 64GB of RAM and featuring dual M.2 SSD slots. This means that you can tailor your laptop to your needs as time goes on, without having to drop a fortune on a new streaming or video production rig. Verified reviewers who bought the MSI Katana 15 appreciate the FHD display as well as the fast refresh rate, though you may have mixed results keeping your laptop cool.

MSI Katana 15 specs: CPU: Intel Core i7-12620H | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TBB SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 | Display: 15.6-inch FHD | Refresh Rate: 144Hz | Battery life: Up to 4 hours

MSI Katana 15.6-inch gaming laptop

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Acer Nitro 5

Best budget gaming laptop for beginners

This model from Acer has some welcome upgrades and improvements over previous Nitro 5 iterations, which had Intel Core i5 processors. With a 12th-gen Intel Core i7 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card, you can 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 needing a headset. And if you’re worried about the Nitro 5 being able to keep up with your games library, its specs fall well within the most popular components noted in the Steam hardware and software survey.

It also features improved heat dissipation compared to previous models. While other gaming laptops might need a cooling pad to maintain optimal performance, the Acer Nitro 5 has 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. Gamers who chose the Acer Nitro 5 agree that it’s an excellent entry-level model that offers a decent balance between power, performance, and battery life.

Acer Nitro 5 tech specs: CPU: Intel Core i7-12500H | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 512GB SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 | Display: 15.6-inch FHD | Refresh Rate: 144Hz | Battery life: 8 hours

Acer Nitro 5

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MSI Bravo 15

Best budget AMD gaming laptop

The MSI Bravo 15 is one of those precious few gaming laptops built with an AMD CPU and AMD Radeon graphics card, which means you’ll be able to squeeze out a bit more performance for your money. It uses the AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor and Radeon RX 6500M graphics card to provide the power you need to play the latest or graphically demanding indie and triple-A titles. 

The 15.6-inch display uses an IPS panel with a native refresh rate of 144Hz to give you plenty of viewing and smoother motion in action-heavy games. With 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, you’ll have plenty of power and storage space for your games; the Bravo 15 also supports up to 64GB of RAM, allowing you to upgrade your laptop as your needs change. The MSI Bravo 15 also has a decent battery life for a gaming laptop, coming in at about 6 hours, though you may want to keep your power cable handy for longer play sessions or productivity work. Verified reviewers who purchased the MSI Bravo 15 appreciate the fast refresh rate on the display as well as the backlit keyboard for gaming in low-light environments. 

MSI Bravo 15 tech specs: Display size: 15.6-inch FHD  | Display type: IPS  | Refresh rate: 144Hz | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Touchscreen: No  | RAM: Up to 64GB DDR4 | GPU: AMD Radeon RX 6500M | CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H | Storage: 512GB SSD | Battery life: 6 hours

An MSI Bravo 15 gaming laptop on a grey background

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Lenovo Legion Pro 5i Gen 8

Best budget Intel gaming laptop

The Lenovo Legion Pro 5i Gen 8 is a budget-friendly gaming laptop for Intel loyalists as well as anyone looking to make the switch from an AMD-based rig. It can be configured with up to a 13th gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, up to a 1TB SSD for storage, and up to an Nvidia RTX 4070 graphics card. The Legion Pro 5i Gen 8 supports up to 32GB of RAM, so you can add more memory later as your needs change.

Read the review: This Lenovo Laptop makes a case for using gaming hardware at work

You’ll also get smooth action with the 165Hz refresh rate while the 2560 x 1600 resolution display gives you better detailing than a 1080p FHD display. The display also supports Nvidia G-Sync VRR technology to help prevent screen tearing and stuttering that can ruin immersion or throw off your online matches. And with an HDMI output, you can set up a second display for better multitasking. I got to go hands-on with the Legion Pro 5i in 2023, and I love the understated design, which makes it a great choice for a double-duty work/gaming laptop. I also heartily agree with verified reviewers that the build quality of the Legion Pro 5i is excellent for the price, feeling sturdy and robust in your hands and while you type or play games.

Lenovo Legion Pro 5i Gen 8 tech specs: CPU: Up to 13th Gen Intel Core i7 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: Up to 1TB SSD | GPU: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 | Display: 16-inch 2560 x 1600 IPS | Refresh Rate: 165Hz | Battery life: Up to 6 hours

A Lenovo Legion Pro 5i laptop on a dinging table

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My pick for the best budget gaming laptop is the Asus TUF A15. Not only is it priced comfortably, but it offers great components like a 6000 series AMD Ryzen 7 CPU and Nvidia GeForce 3050 Ti graphics card. It also has one of the most impressive batteries in a gaming laptop, offering up to 12 hours of use on a full charge.

Best budget gaming laptop

Price

CPU/GPU

Battery life

Asus TUF A15

$700

AMD Ryzen 7 6000, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti

Up to 12 hours

MSI Katana 15

$1000

Intel Core i7-13620H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050

4 hours

Acer Nitro 5

$730

Intel Core i7-12500H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050

8 hours

MSI Bravo 15

$750

AMD Ryzen 7 5800H, AMD Radeon RX 6500M

6 hours

Lenovo Legion Pro 5i Gen 8

$1070

Up to 13th gen Intel Core i7, Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070

6 hours

 *Lowest price at the time of writing. Please note that prices may vary based on retailer and available promotions, sales, or discounts.

Tech specs are usually overrated when 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 without sacrificing your gaming experience. 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, you’ll likely get more than just the basic gaming laptop specs: maybe a newer processor, 16GB of RAM, or a 512GB solid-state drive. However, if you’re watching every dollar, 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 laptops on this list fall on either side of the 5-pound mark, but if you’re planning to take the laptop on the go, 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 PC games will chew through a charge. However, if staying unplugged as long as possible is crucial, serious consideration should be given to the Asus TUF A15’s impressive 12-hour battery. 

Buy this budget gaming laptop…

If you need…

Asus TUF A15

A well-rounded and budget-friendly gaming laptop. The Asus TUF A15 has an impressive 12-hour battery life and a Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card.

MSI Katana 15

A budget gaming laptop for content creators. With a 144Hz refresh rate and RTX 4050 graphics card, you’ll be able to stream, record, and create digital art for your Twitch or YouTube channel.

Acer Nitro 5

A budget and beginner-friendly gaming laptop. With a price tag just under $800, the Acer Nitro 5 is an excellent choice for PC gaming newcomers who don’t want to spend a fortune on a decent rig.

MSI Bravo 15

A budget-friendly and AMD-based gaming laptop. The MSI Bravo 15 is built with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU and an AMD Radeon RX 6500M graphics card.

Lenovo Legion Pro 5i Gen 8

A budget-friendly and Intel-based gaming laptop. The Lenovo Legion Pro 5i Gen 8 can be configured with up to a 13th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU and an RTX 4070 graphics card.

Obviously, price is key when it comes to budget gaming laptops, so we kept the list of models as close to or below $1,000 as possible. These laptops are from well-known brands available through major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart, as well as their own online stores. 

Other factors critical to making the list that we recommend considering when choosing a budget gaming laptop for you are:

  • CPU: Your gaming laptop’s processor is its most crucial component. It’s the brain of your laptop and does most of the heavy lifting while you’re playing games. Whether you’re an Intel or AMD user, you’ll want to opt for a laptop with a CPU released within the last five years. Not only does this ensure that it will be compatible with other components like your motherboard, but it also guarantees that your build will be supported by updates for most of your laptop’s life.
  • Battery life: Gaming laptops tend to have shorter battery lives than their office-bound counterparts, but you should be able to squeeze at least 6 hours of use out of a full charge while browsing the web or streaming video. Your gaming battery life mileage will vary, but for under $1,500, aim to get at least 3 hours of playtime on a full charge.
  • Display size: I did my best to include the most popular screen sizes for gaming laptops, typically between 15 and 17 inches. Larger screens give you more in-game viewing area but often cost more. Smaller screens are affordable but may not have QHD or 4K options or middling refresh rates.
  • Graphics card: Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have the latest, most powerful GPU to get the most out of your favorite games or new releases. And if you’re working on a smaller budget, opting for an older graphics card can make a big difference in budget. 
  • Storage: A 500GB capacity should be more than enough to handle everything; however, you can upgrade the laptop with a larger drive later on. Keep in mind that storage space determines game download capacity. While you can set up external drives to accommodate, choosing a base storage drive with plenty of room for your operating system, game library, and essential programs like web browsers and office suites is important. 

As an avid PC gamer myself, I understand what budget-conscious gamers are looking for when shopping for a new laptop. When researching and testing each laptop featured on this list, I kept things in mind that I would look for when shopping for a personal upgrade, like:

  • Brand integrity: It may be tempting to snap up that $400 laptop from that weird Amazon seller with the alphabet soup name. But what you save isn’t worth the headache of dealing with nonexistent customer service, long overseas shipping times, or possible fraud. It’s best to stick to trusted, verified brands and sellers like MSI, Asus, Acer, and Dell.
  • End-user upgrades: Upgrading a laptop is a bit trickier than a desktop, since you need laptop-specific components. But PC gamers can save a decent chunk of change by purchasing a lower-end laptop and dropping in better components like more RAM, larger storage SSDs, or better graphics cards later. 
  • RAM and storage caps: Not all gaming laptops are created equal. If you plan on upgrading your rig yourself at a later date, it’s important to make note of the upper limits of how much memory and storage a model will support. Because nothing is worse than wasting money on hardware you can’t use.

The word “budget” is sort of subjective when it comes to gaming laptops. But for this list, I tried to keep my picks close to or 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 like graphics cards or having a high refresh rate. 

If you’re alright 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.

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. How much RAM you need will depend on what you want to get out of your gaming experience, but most people won’t need more than 16GB.

SSD stands for “solid state drive,” and HDD stands for “hard disk drive.” Given it’s based on older technology (using a physical disk), an HDD or hard drive is typically more affordable. They’re also much more prone to damage since they have physical parts that can break down and wear out over time and are more susceptible to shocks and drops. 

Conversely, a solid-state drive uses flash memory and a specialized chipset to store programs and files. This helps prevent damage from normal wear and tear and 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. However, they do tend to be on the pricier side. 

Crucial, makers of storage and memory solutions, recommend an SSD if you want a storage drive that uses less energy and runs at cooler temperatures (important for content creators and enterprise workstations), while an HDD is recommended if you need a lot of storage space without spending a fortune on a new drive.

More budget gaming laptops to consider

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