Welcome to the recommendations of gaming laptops under $1000, which is currently the sweat spot for gaming laptops with high performance/price ratio. I didn’t include all the laptops I walked through, but only those that are recommended and their direct competitors. The laptops shown here chosen by several parameters, mainly gaming performance (for this price point), screen quality, build quality, temperatures and noise level and additional value (like a larger HDD). The recommendations are divided into three main categories: 15.6″ (which is the most used standard form factor), 17.3″ for larger laptops and sub-14.0″ or thin & light laptops, for laptops with higher portability / mobility. Again, I didn’t include all the laptops that were considered and compared. For example, I didn’t include the old MSI GE60 that some might ask about it, because there are much better choices than it. Some laptops that I do not recommend are included here, however, like the Asus G46VW, because some laptops catch the eyes of many and should be mentioned explicitly. If you have any question, please ask. Quick ‘table of contents’:
15.6″: In the 15.6″ gaming laptops division, the most powerful laptops are equipped with a GTX 765M / GT 750M SLI level GPUs. In practice, this means you could run almost any game on highest settings including AA filters. Some games will require more powerful GPU like Crysis 3 but you’ll be able to run it on very high graphics too. Note that I didn’t include laptops that have a much lower gaming performance, like the Asus Q550LF (GT 745M, touchscreen).
1. Lenovo Y510p (Amazon, Newegg) – $1000 with I7 currently $900 (it will get lower) for the newer I5 version (review). Equipped with Haswell I7 / I5, GT 755M SLI GDDR5, 6/8GB DDR3, 1TB SSHD (8GB SSD) and a matte 1080p screen. Includes also a Windows OS and a backlit keyboard. Best gaming performance + value for the price with the GT 750M SLI that provides around GTX 770M performance that usually comes for around 1200$-1300$. Thermals are ok generally, but under some circumstances the Y510p can get really hot. The Y510p also looks good and is very responsive, also thanks to the SSHD. The matte 1080p screen is a very welcomed change over the Y500 which has a glossy screen. Sound is relatively very good for a laptop. Battery performance is around 3.5-4.5 hours of light web browsing tops. Currently, the price difference between the I5 and I7 is not big enough to justify the I5 version
I5-4200M / I7-4700MQ, GT 750M SLI (=~ GTX 770M) good 1080p matte screen, 1TB, good sound, touchpad could be better
Gaming performance2 out of 10
2. Sager NP7355 or Eurocom Shark 2.0 (similar, based on the w350st): I7-4700MQ (Haswell), GTX 765M GDDR5 GPU, 8GB DDR3, 500GB SSHD / 750GB 7200RPM HDD, matte 1080p, no OS included in the base price. A new level of gaming performance with the GTX 765M for under 1000$. The GTX 765M should be about the same level of the GT 650M SLI in most cases but outpaced by the 750M SLI, but as a single-chip solution it has less problem and drivers bugs. A recommendation is to upgrade the screen for 50$ to the higher quality one. It has two HDD bays and plugging an SSD in should be easy. Sound quality is unknown at this point, but previous model sound quality was not good. Battery performance should be not that good compared to other laptops, with 3-4 hours surfing the web, tops, but it remains to be checked (though do not count on a surprise). Thermals are quite good for such hardware. The Eurocom is sold for $770 including shipping which is quite good if you can install your own OS.
I7-4700MQ, GTX 765M (60%-70% of the GT 750M SLI performance), good 1080p matte screen, 1TB, good sound, lousy touchpad
Gaming performance2 out of 10
3. Asus N56JR 15.6″ gaming laptop (Microcenter, Newegg), $1000-$1100: I7-4700HQ, GTX 760M, 8GB DDR3, 750GB 7200RPM HDD, matte 1080p screen with wide horizontal viewing angles. This is a continuation of the previous generation N56 series, only with refreshed hardware. The temperatures should be good and the screen bright and colorful, though I wouldn’t say it is great (and it’s a non-IPS one). GTX 760M + I7 performance should be good and very close to the GTX 765M equipped laptops in the same price range.
It is hard for me to recommend this one, because it doesn’t really have any advantage over the others, like the Y510p above which is faster, has a relatively good 1080p screen, SSHD and a better sound quality. However, it is a good option for those who like Asus.
I7-4700HQ, GTX 760M (60%-70% of the GT 750M SLI performance), good 1080p matte screen, 750GB 7200 RPM, very good keyboard.
1. Toshiba Qosmio X70 (review), usually around $900-$1100: I7-4700MQ, GTX 770M, 4-8GB DDR3, (glossy) 1080p screen, 750GB 5400RPM HDD, Windows 8. The gaming performance for price ratio is excellent with the coupons that are usually available. The keyboard is very comfortable and under low and medium loads it is also quite quiet. The default HDD is not fast, but it is easily replaceable, plus you have the option to simply add another HDD/SSD/mSata drive. Under full load the CPU might get overheated in a hot environment, but it is in rather rare cases and averagly you’ll get the typical I7 + GTX 770M performance. You might want to use programs like ThrottleStop 6.00 to lower the CPU clocks a bit to keep it cooler under load. I’ve seen no overheating problems in BF4, Bioshock Infinite or Borderlands 2. Crysis 3 will be more problematic and will require a bit of underclocking if you the days are hot. Anyway, I’ll recommend this laptop for those who look for a 17.3″ gaming laptop in this price range .
2. [OOS] Acer V3-772G, $1040, I7-4702QM, GTX 760M, 2x4GB DDR3, 120GB SSD + 750GB HDD, 1080p screen, Windows 8. The screen is nice, the performance is good, thermals are ok and noise is relatively low. The GTX 760M delivers good gaming performance and for $1040 with a nice SSD, the performance+value/price ratio is good for a 17.3″ laptop. I would consider seriously going with the NP7370 above, though, as the performance difference is significant.
3. Sager NP7370 (w370st): I7-4700MQ, GTX 765M, 8GB DDR3, matte 1080p, 750GB 7200RPM HDD, no OS. Same as the NP7350 above, only larger. Currently the fastest 17.3″, under $1000 for cash w/o Windows OS, around $1080 including Windows OS for a non-cash payment. Thermals are quite good for such hardware.
These laptops are for those who look for more compact or ultraportable gaming laptop. In the past there weren’t too much choices but currently the variety start to be more appealing with laptops having good 1080p screen, good battery performance and reasonable gaming performance. Currently, my suggestion would easily be the Acer V7-482PG for those who seek higher battery performance and good screen over higher performance. For $900 you’ll get just that with excellent IPS touchscreen and 6-7 hours of light use. Other option with more horsepower (yes, there are small horses inside) are available too:
1. The Clevo W230ST / Sager NP7330 - $900-$1000 13.3″ gaming laptop which is an excellent gaming laptop with a very good 1080p IPS screen and GTX 765M + I7-4700MQ performance. This is truly an excellent sub-14.0″ gaming laptop with the highest performance in the section and an the best screen for this price. This is one of the two laptops in the category that I’d recommend.read review
2. Acer V7-482PG-6629 / 6662 (14.0″) – $900$800!, GT 750M, 8GB DDR3, 1080p IPS, I5-4200U, 2.1kg. This new Acer model offers a good gaming performance with the GT 750M (DDR3), thin measures (22.9mm top). For $820-$900 you get quite a value. The screen is an excellent 1080p IPS screen with over 80% adobeRGB color pallete coverage, which is not a common thing even for high end laptops with an IPS screen. The contrast is very high too. Good gaming performance, though not the fastest for its price (the Lenovo Y410p and especially Y510p take the crown). Good battery performance with around 6-7 hours of light web surfing. Compared to competition for the same price like the Y410p, the V7-482PG has the advantage of the IPS screen which makes it, in my opinion, a much better choice. I would recommend this laptop easily if you want to save money and still get an ultraportable gaming laptop with a reasonable performance.read review of its bigger brother
3. Lenovo Y410p (14.0″) – Excellent gaming performance per money ratio with the new GT 755M GDDR5 GPU + Haswell I7 CPU. The new GT 750M should be faster than the GTX 660M and even have some 15-20% performance advantage, top. This specific model of the new Lenovo Y410p has a 900p screen and 24GB SSD cache drive with it, making it much more interesting than the Y400. Weight is 4.85lbs (~2.5kg) which is ok and much better than the Y400. I would not recommend this model due to the screen’s quality and the fact the the Acer V7 above has almost the same performance with an excellent screen.
4. MSI GE40-2oc008us (14.0″) – I7-4700MQ, GTX 760M, 8GB DDR3, matte 900p screen (actual quality still unknown), 4.4lbs. Currently, the fastest 14.0″, but expect reply from Alienware and Asus. The battery performance is excellent with 8-9 hours of light use. A direct competitor in performance is the Razer Blade Pro 14.0″ gaming laptop, but it currently priced about 1800$-2000$, so not really in the same price range. UPDATE: New Model with an 1080p screen is available now, more details soon.
5. Asus G46VW (14.0″) – With GTX 660M and an I5, good build quality, low noise levels and very good thermals. Including Windows OS and an above the average 768p screen. I would not recommend this laptop, since the competitors simply offer more. The Acer V7 above has the same performance or close, but a much better IPS screen and a much better battery.
I5-3230M, GTX 660M (= GT 750M), mediocre 720p/900p screen, 750GB HDD, relatively good cooling system