While some of the most powerful gaming laptops on the market can really empty your bank account, some features have been getting a bit cheaper over the last few years. Today, you can find a system with a high refresh rate display, a speedy SSD and a GPU that’s good enough to play 1080p games at relatively-high settings for less than $1,500 and, in some cases, far less than $1,500.
Tom’s Hardware evaluates and reviews a wide variety of gaming laptops at every price level and many different configurations. This experience gives us insight into what type of performance, build quality and other features you should reasonable expect with a budget of less than $1,500. We'll highlightwhich systems deliver the most in that price range.
CES 2023 brought along some new GPUs aimed at budget laptops. Keep an eye peeled for new laptops under $1,500 with Nvidia's GeForce RTX 4050 and RTX 4060. Most of these systems should come with Intel and AMD's latest chips (13th Gen Core for Intel, Ryzen 7000 for AMD), though some of those won't release until later this year.
We’ll get into this in more detail in the “What to Expect” section further down the page, but with one of the best gaming laptops under $1,500, you should be able to run games smoothly at 1080p with high or possibly ultra settings. But if you get under $1,000, you’ll have to sacrifice the settings or resolution except for on some esports games.
The Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,500
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When we reviewed the Asus ROG Strix G15, it was just over $1,500. Recently, it's dropped a bit with the same AMD Radeon RX 6800M, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB storage drive that we reviewed it with.
The Strix G15 Advantage Edition showed both strong gaming and productivity performance on our tests, competing with laptops using Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 and RTX 3070 in our suite of games.
But what particularly impressed us was the battery life. It ran for 10 hours and 14 minutes on our battery test, which shamed almost all of its competitors and is longer than some ultrabooks we've tested recently. The laptop remained cool at most touch points. The display could be a bit brighter, but is not unusable. You'll have to bring your own webcam, however, as this laptop doesn't have one. For those who want their laptop to scream "gaming," the G15 is covered in RGB lighting, including a strip on the bottom. There are also a handful of AMD and Asus-themed easter eggs both on the computer's exterior and even inside the laptop, underneath the bottom plate.
Splurge Config: Available for around $1,600 at Amazon (opens in new tab), there's a G15 Advantage Edition config with a 2560 x 1440, 165 Hz display and a faster, Ryzen 9 5980HX CPU. We haven't tested with those specs, but one can expect sharper images and tad more pep.
Read: Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition Review
It's often assumed that even mid-range laptops don't have great construction. That's not the case. In fact, one of the standout aspects of the Alienware m15 R7 is that while its chassis is made of plastic, it feels extremely solid. This is a laptop that can be taken places to game (if you don't mind a bit of extra weight).
In our tests, the combination of an AMD Ryzen 7 6800H and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 traded blows with Intel-based machines using the same GPU, but it's clear that you can play just about anything on this with the right settings.
The Alienware also proved to be efficient in non-gaming tasks. It ran for 8 hours and 57 minutes on our battery test, which involves browsing the web, streaming video and light graphics work. That's far more than most gaming laptops get these days.
There are some knocks — Intel laptops have the AMD-equipped Alienware beat on productivity benchmarks. But if you want a luxury feel and a high refresh rate, this laptop is a serious contender under $1,500.
Read: Alienware m15 R7 Review
For under $1,400 ($1,349.99 at the time of review), the MSI Sword 15 has a subdued white design and a wide variety of ports to plug in plenty of peripherals and external storage.
A combination of an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 and an Intel Core i7-12650H proved potent for gaming, though you have to be willing to deal with some the loud fans that MSI is using to keep the components cool. You can try to adjust them in MSI Center.
There's a bit of room for upgrade potential with this device, including a second M.2 PCIe SSD slot if you want to upgrade your storage down the line.
While the Sword 15 wasn't at the top of our productivity benchmarks, it's still powerful enough for some work when you're not playing. You'll still want to keep it plugged in most of the time, however.
Read: MSI Sword 15 Review
To get real power, you typically have to toe that $1,500 line without a sale. We tested the Asus TUF Gaming i7-12700H at $1,499.99 with a Core i7-12700H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, and for the added price you'll also get a 300 Hz display, which is great for esports gamers that need the highest possible frame rates.
In our benchmarks, the TUF Gaming F15 beat many comparative laptops on tests like the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark (highest settings, 74 fps), the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (very high settings, 90 fps), and the Red Dead Redemption 2 benchmark (medium settings, 59 fps).
The laptop also did well on most of our productivity tests, suggesting this is a decent workhorse when you're not playing games, too. There are improvements to be made here. We didn't love the webcam or speakers, though you could supplement them with one of the best gaming headsets or an external webcam.
Read: Asus TUF Gaming F15 review
For a few years, we've held up the Acer Nitro 5 as the gold standard of budget gaming notebooks. We're still fans. Acer has redesigned the chassis to make it a bit more subtle — goodbye, red and black!. It still has RGB lighting, but the angles are less aggressive and it could fit in while gaming with friends or at a coffee shop.
We tested a Best Buy-exclusive $899.99 model (opens in new tab) with a Core i5-12500H and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, which offered solid performance as long as you're willing to turn down the settings in some games.
Acer does include a lot of bloatware on the Nitro 5, so you'll have to spend some time removing the extras you don’t want. We also liked the ability to upgrade the NItro 5 down the line. There’s an empty 2.5-inch drive bay, and Acer includes a SATA cable in the box so that you can add a hard drive or SSD later on, to make room for games. Not too many laptops include room for extra, affordable storage.
Splurge Config: If you're willing to spend a bit more, you get the Nitro 5 with an RTX 3060, which should offer a nice increase in gaming performance, starting at around $1,224 from Amazon (opens in new tab).
Read: Acer Nitro 5 Review
The HP Victus 15 can get really cheap, partially because HP stocks a $799 base model with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650, which isn't the most recent GPU (which happens to be the one we tested). But for $799 when paired with an Intel Core i5-12450H and a 1920 x 1080, 144 Hz screen, you may be willing to turn the settings down on your favorite games. (You can, of course, scale up the specs for more money.)
Still, the Victus achieved playable scores on our demanding benchmarks in most games, faltering only in our hardest titles. Keep in mind that all of its competitors had much more powerful graphics cards but also cost quite a bit more.
The Victus also looks professional, and comes in three subtle colors. To some, it might be a surprise that this is a gaming laptop at all, at least from the looks of things. That might be good for those who want this to double as a productivity laptop, an area in which the Victus earned solid scores. The biggest issues are that HP has a lot of software preinstalled. Our review unit also had single-channel RAM. When shopping, if you go for 8GB, and see if you can find two 4GB sticks, which HP offers in its configurator.
Splurge Config: Amazon has a config of the Victus 15 with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for just $719 (opens in new tab).
Read: HP Victus 15 review
What to Expect From the Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,500
- GPU: Your gaming laptop’s graphics card has the single biggest impact on its ability to deliver smooth frame rates with sharp details. If you find a laptop with an RTX 3070 card on sale for less than $1,500, consider it a steal. However, barring extraordinary sales or closeouts, the best graphics cards you can normally find in this price range are the AMD Radeon RX 6800M or the Nvidia RTX 3060. Otherwise, the next level down is the Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti or Radeon RX 6700M. If you’re spending far less than $1,000, expect an RTX 3050 or even a GTX 1650.
Of all of the regular priced cards mentioned above, the RX 6800M is the best performer in most cases, followed by the RTX 3060. Both cards can deliver smooth 1080p gaming at high or ultra settings or solid frame rates with ray tracing enabled. The RTX 3050 Ti can provide reasonably smooth performance at 1080p, but we wouldn’t recommend it for ray tracing. For the RTX 3050 (non-Ti), expect to either play at less than the highest settings in 1080p, drop down to 720p resolution or settle for significantly lower frame rates.
- Screen: Gaming laptop screen sizes range between 14 and 17 inches, though 15 inches is the most common. Expect 1080p resolution and a refresh rate between 120 and 165 Hz on the best gaming laptops under $1,500. Those are all fine numbers since the system won’t be powerful enough to play at higher resolutions or frame rates that outpace those refresh rates. Look for subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences in color quality and brightness. If you see a laptop with a QHD (aka 2K) display, consider it a bonus, but you'll be hard pressed to find that screen resolution unless the model is on a big sale or closeout.
- CPU: Don’t be too picky about the CPU, as the GPU is much more important for gaming in this price range. You can usually find Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 6000 CPUs on sub-$1,500 systems, though you may find the best deals on laptops with chips that are a generation old – Intel 11th Gen Core or Ryzen 5000 series. You will also see some Core i5 and Ryzen 5 CPUs on cheaper systems, and those should be more than adequate for most people.
- RAM: Expect to find 16GB of DDR4 or DDR5 RAM, which is more than adequate for everyone, in the best gaming laptops under $1,500. As you drop down to less than $1,000, you will see some models selling with 8GB of RAM. If you buy an 8GB model to save money today, strongly consider upgrading the RAM on your laptop with after-market DIMMs, which should cost you $40 to $80.
- Storage: The best gaming laptops under $1,500 will likely come with 500GB NVMe SSDs that offer strong performance, but only enough storage space for a few games. If you can snag one with a 1TB drive, that's a huge plus.
Many sub-$1,000 models will have a mere 256GB drive, which is barely enough for the operating system and may not be enough for space-gulping AAA games. In either case, consider upgrading with a secondary drive or new primary SSD, either of which should cost less than $100 for 1TB.
Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,500: Bottom Line
There are noticeable differences even between gaming laptops with similar key specs. Two systems with the same graphics card and CPU may have some performance differences based on how good their cooling systems are, something you can’t tell just from reading a spec sheet or looking at the laptop in a store. A cooler-running system can jump up to and maintain higher clock speeds, which allow for higher frame rates.
Raw performance shouldn’t be the only factor in choosing the best gaming laptop under $1,500 for you. You also need to consider the design, feel of the keyboard and touchpad and screen quality. All of those things vary a fair amount between models, so it pays to do some research before pulling the trigger.
Discounts on the Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,500
Whether you're shopping for one of the best gaming laptops or another model that didn't quite make our list, you may find some savings by checking out our lists of Dell coupon codes, HP coupon codes, Lenovo coupon codes, Razer promo codes or Newegg promo codes.
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I've had a Medion Beast (yeah the name sucks) for a couple of years as my work / gaming laptop. My first venture into non-mainstream brands. It's fast, thin, light, performs excellently and is styled subtley enough that it passes off as my work machine with little to no comment in front of clients. It's also survived several hundred trips out to clients, many UK holidays and 4 trans-atlantic trips. I've dropped it a few times and other than a couple of scuffs on the (metal) chassis, still looks and performs perfectly. I7, 32GB RAM, 1x 1tb Sabrent rocket nvme and 1 x 2TB Sabrent nvme and a max-p RTX 2070. 17" 144hz screen, I think all in I paid about £1300 as the drives and RAM were extras - even has RGB keys and a bar across the front. Speakers are woeful though. Not cutting edge any more, but a good, solid machine.
I've asked this before - if you guys don't test machines like this, can you really say "Best for under x" and not "Best we've actually tested for x"?