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':
- Recommended 15.6″ gaming laptops
- Recommended 17.3″ gaming laptops
- Ultraportable / small gaming laptops
15.6″: In the 15.6″ gaming laptops division, the most powerful laptops are equipped with a GT 750M SLI or GTX 860M 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 Y50 (I7) and I5 version (eBay, Amazon, Newegg) – around $1000 with I7 and ~$950 for the newer I5 version (review). The Y50 is the next iteration of Lenovos’ popular Y510p gaming laptop (w/ GT 755M SLI). The Y50 sports a GTX 860M GDDR5 (2/4GB versions), I5 or I7 CPUs, 8GB RAM for base model and 1080p/UHD display.
The 1080p display is not good but can be easily replaced with another eDP panel which makes it also an advantage and a big one, over the Y510p (and many others). I would seriously suggest replacing the panel – getting a high 3D performance gaming machine just to play with it (or do some 3D/video/photo editing work) with a lousy screen negates the benefits to a significant extent, in my opinion.
Touchpad has been vastly improved compared to the Y510p and keyboard remains more or less the same (though my experience was not good, people say it’s ok). The screen quality is a disadvantage and an advantage at once, since the Y510p display couldn’t be replaced to an IPS panel.
Now, the GTX 860M performance does not surpass the Y510p’s GT 755M SLI performance, but it costs considerably less energy and it’s free of the SLI bugs and issues. That allows the Y50 to be quieter under load and it consumes less energy. The battery is smaller (for now), so you won’t see longer running times and you can expect around 3.5-4.5 hours under light use.
Speakers are an advantage of the Y50 which is loaded with one of the best 2.1 built-in laptop speakers – you can enjoy gaming AND music with them (though they don’t match not-so-expensive desktop speakers or headphones).
Last point – it looks good, gamer laptop, but also slick and modern.
Disadvantages are the lack of another mSata/M.2 port for some SSD (though it does come with an SSHD which is sufficient), the not so low weight and – at least in my instance – the keyboard (but again, people report a different experience)
Finally, it’s the most interesting and cost effective 15.6″ gaming laptop under/around $1000 for those who are looking for the highest 3D power. Though some other machines can match the 3D performance (like the clevo below), the lack of other features like good speakers, the optional IPS display, backlit keyboard, and even the looks.
Currently I would suggest looking for an I5 model – if you can find one for $900, go for it. Otherwise, the I7 model for $1000 is more cost effective.
I5-4200H/I7-4710HQ, 8GB RAM, lousy but replaceable 1080p display, very good 3D performance for the money, backlit keyboard, very good speakers and touchpad, slick looks/
The new level of gaming performance with the GTX 860M for $1000. The GTX 860M delivers around the same performance of the old GTX 770M, meaning most heavy games on some very high settings to highest (BL2, Bioshock, BF4 and more). A recommendation is to upgrade the screen for 50$ to the higher quality one. It has two HDD bays and plugging an SSD in should be easy. Sound quality is average at best. Battery performance should be around 3.5-5 hours surfing the web, tops, depends on the configuration and way of use. Thermals are OK for such hardware and generally you can expect the W350SS to handle the heat in most cases.
Note that if you do not need an OS, you can buy it for less (first link)
I7-4700MQ, GTX 860M, ok 1080p matte screen, variable HDD, ok touchpad
3. Asus N550JK 15.6″ gaming laptop (Amazon, ExcaliberPC), $1000-$1100: I7-4700HQ, GTX 850M DDR3, 8GB DDR3, 1TB HDD, a very good IPS 1080p touchscreen. The N550JK is the new Asus ‘multimedia’ series top model.
The new N550JK comes with a GTX 850M DDR3 which delivers around the same gaming performance as the older GTX 760M/765M GPUs, which is quite good and means you’d be able to play games on very high settings usually, many on highest settings. The N550JK, as the N550JV before it, sports the 1080p IPS display which is a big plus.
Currently the price is high for around $1100 -
I guess it will get lower with time. Overall, currently the N550JK is an interesting option. While not the fastest for gaming in its price range (GTX 860M laptops are available in this price range), it does have the IPS advantage, along with a very good keyboard and good looks. UPDATE: I would wait with it – the new Acer Aspire V15 Nitro seems more promising than this one.
I7-4700HQ, GTX 850M DDR3, good 1080p IPS screen, 1TB HDD (SSHD?), very good keyboard.
Battery performance, according to retailers and Acer is not good – around 2.5-3.5 hours, so don’t count on that one. Bottom line, if you are looking for a cost effective 17.3″ gaming laptop under $1000, this is a very good option for you, and my favorite, since you’d save around $200 compared to other laptops with the same performance and 1080p display.
I5-4210M, GTX 850M GDDR5, average 1080p matte screen, 1TB HDD
I7-4200H, GTX 860M, average 1080p matte screen, 1TB HDD
I7-4700MQ, GTX 860M, good 1080p matte screen, 750GB 7200RPM, 3-5 hours battery
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.
Not long ago, my suggestion would have easily been the Acer V7-482PG for those who seek higher battery performance and good screen over higher performance. For $800-$900 you’ll get just that with excellent IPS touchscreen and 6-7 hours of light use. However, now I’d suggest waiting for the new models. Even a simple update of the same V7-482PG with a GTX 850M will result in close to twice the gaming performance while having the same power requirements. Other options with more horsepower (yes, there are small horses inside) are available too:
1. The Clevo W230SS / Sager NP7338 (Amazon w/OS, XoticPC, Eurocom M4 – $900-$1000 13.3″ gaming laptop which is an excellent gaming laptop with a very good matte 1080p IPS screen (3200×1800 optional, wouldn’t recommend), GTX 860M GDDR5 + I5-4200M/I7-4700MQ performance.
This is truly an excellent sub-14.0″ gaming laptop with the highest gaming performance in the section and an the best screen for this price. For those who want an OS coupled with it, I would recommend getting it from Amazon as it is more cost effective and safe. For $1100 you can get it with an I7, GTX 860M, 1080p IPS display. 750GB 7200RPM HDD and Windows OS. I would recommend getting some cheap mSata drive later on. You can also get it with an I5 and no OS to save some money. Eurocom also have 10% off for students. read previous generation W230ST review
I7-4700MQ and up, GTX 860M, 8GB RAM, excellent IPS 1080p matte screen, variety of SSHDs, HDDs, additional mSata port
I7-4700MQ, GT 850M GDDR5, good 1080p AHVA screen excellent battery (8-9 hours light use)
I5-4200M, GTX 850M, excellent IPS 1080p matte screen, 500GB SSHD
I5-4200U, GT 750M DDR3 (50%-80% the GTX 765M performance) excellent IPS 1080p matte screen, excellent battery, 1TB HDD
3. Lenovo Y40 (14.0″) at Lenovo / Amazon, review. Well, the summary says it all more or less. The Y40, as a gaming laptop, can’t do a lot. The Radeon M275X with a good potential, is coupled with a DDR3 memory which greatly limiting it and performance is lower even than the slower M265X ( Radeon 8850M) or GT 750M. So no miracles here.However, the sound is good enough, keyboard and touchpad are above average, battery performance is very good for such a laptop, looks are also slick (like the Y50 looks) and price is around $700-$750. The 1080p display is not good, but can be replaced (see here) to a good 14.0″ IPS level display.
Finally, I can’t really recommend it, since other <=14.0″ laptops do have more features, even the older V7-482PG.
I7-4710U (4 cores), Radeon M275X GDDR3, mediocre 1080p screen, 500GB SSHD, good enough sound, good touchpad / keyboard, very good battery (5-9 hours under light use)