Best Affordable Gaming Laptops Of 2021

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Gaming laptops have become more affordable over time, enabling consumers to enjoy PC gaming without breaking the bank. Manufacturers do make some trade-offs to keep these machines within a budget, but new graphics hardware has brought the industry to the point where modern games can run well on lower-cost laptops. Avid gamers and students are poised to benefit the most from budget-tier gaming machines as they're often on the move and cannot carry their high-end rigs along.

The most powerful gaming laptops still come with a hefty price tag, however, a new gaming market with laptops priced under $1,000 is flourishing. Most of these machines have middling graphics, but certain laptops offer more firepower — and it's these same models that are suitable for the PC gaming lifestyle. Have a look at the best 15-inch options below.

Acer Nitro 5

Acer's Nitro family has a range of impressive and effective options for gamers on a budget, including the Nitro 5 AN515-55, a new model in the midrange gaming laptop market. There's no real change in this model's aesthetics compared to its predecessors as it is made of the same matte black plastic, though its angular design is notable. The black and red accents are instantly recognizable on this laptop, which weighs 2.3kg, making it one of the heaviest on this list.

What we like

- Great performance for its price

- Decent battery life at up to 9 hours

What we don't like

- Slightly dated design in comparison to competitors

- Bulky for buyers seeking on-the-go gaming

The 15.6-inch Acer Nitro 5 comes with a native display resolution of 1920x1080 and a 144Hz screen refresh rate, which is good enough for gaming. The laptop is powered by a mid-range Intel Core i5 CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card, 16GB of DDR4 dual-channel RAM, and it sports a decent 512GB NVMe SSD. The selection of ports may not have you jumping with joy, but they're good enough for the $950 price tag (around $800 on Amazon).

Lenovo Legion 5

Considering it's an entry-level gaming laptop, you'd be surprised what Lenovo has to offer with this plasticky but durable device. The Legion 5 deviates from the heavy and bulky design commonly found on middling gaming laptops to instead offer a thin and lightweight alternative, one that sports a decent combination of black and Lenovo's Phantom Blue.

What we like

- Durable hinge and sturdy build quality

- Plenty of inputs for its price range

- Excellent performance and battery backup is decent

What we don't like

- Screen colors may feel lacking to some buyers

- Subpar audio quality, according to some customer reviews

The model's 15.6-inch 1920×1080 IPS display offers a 165Hz refresh rate and has reasonably small bezels. Like other 15-inch models, Lenovo offers this with a large trackpad and full-size keyboard, which should be good for gamers. The Legion 5 is powered by an AMD Ryzen 7 5600H 3.2GHz – 4.4GHz octa-core processor and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 graphics chip with 4GB of VRAM. Other features include 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, a bunch of ports alongside the side and rear edges, and a decent $800 price tag.

Dell G5 15

Dell has exceptional high-end gaming laptops in its repertoire, and though its G5 15 isn't part of that category, it is a solid, well-rounded variant for the entry-level gaming laptop market. Like the other models in this list, the Dell G5 15 doesn't boast high-end materials, instead utilizing plastic as a core part of its design. This model sports a 15.6-inch display with a 1920x1080 FHD resolution and 120Hz refresh rate.

What we like

- Great performance

- Long battery life at up to nearly 10 hours

- Well balanced design

What we don't like

- Somewhat lackluster display

- Bulky design

Of course, the 120Hz panel won't give you the same response time as the 144Hz or 165Hz screens available with some of the other models on this list, but the AMD Ryzen 7 5800H 8-core processor and NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti GPU make this model worth considering. Starting at $880, the Dell G5 15 gaming laptop comes with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, as well as a host of ports for connecting peripherals and more.

MSI GF65 Thin

The GF65 Thin, as its name suggests, sports a sleek and portable design. This model weighs around 1.9kg and is quite slim at only 0.9-inches at the thickest point. In addition to the highly portable design, this MSI gaming PC has a Full HD 1920 x 1080 display with a 144Hz refresh rate for smoother graphics on the go.

What we like

- Sleek and portable design

- Great hardware for its price

- Multiple display output options

What we don't like

- Some reviews suggest the model can get warm and loud while gaming

- One of the pricier models on this list

The MSI GF65 Thin features an NVIDIA RTX 3060 GPU with 6GB of dedicated video memory and it is powered by the Intel Core i7 10th-Gen 10750H clocked to 2.60GHz. Other key specs include 8GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe SSD. Ports, meanwhile, are extensive with HDMI, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C ports, and a pair of USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports. Though it costs a bit more than some alternatives, this $999 laptop is ready to handle your next gaming session.

HP Pavilion 15

Take your gaming anywhere with the thin and powerful HP Pavilion Gaming Laptop 15z-ec200. This model sports a 15.6-inch Full HD 144Hz display surrounded by a micro-edge bezel to offer smooth gameplay visuals. Even better, the laptop is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 CPU.

What we like

- Notable hardware for its price

- Has a backup battery

- Good build quality

What we don't like

- Storage capacity may be too low for some gamers

- Sound and cooling are a letdown, according to some customer reviews

The HP Pavilion 15 is built with a black plastic body, and though it may not be the most attractive design, the chassis is durable and comparatively lightweight at 2kg. This model features an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of video memory, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600H 3.3GHz – 4.2GHz processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD storage. The HP Pavilion 15 has a decent set of ports and a comfortable price at $800.

Final thoughts

It's a good idea for gamers to go ahead and configure their own machines with the specifications and features they prefer. For consumers who are just starting out or looking for a budget-friendly gaming laptop that performs well right out of the box, the five options featured in this list are worth considering. The differences between these models largely boil down to what you're willing to spend, as the features and graphics are more or less on par.