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CNET: Best cheap gaming laptops under $1,000

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Published in Science & Technology News

Trying to find a good deal on a gaming laptop isn't easy right now with the increased demand for inexpensive laptops for working from home during coronavirus closures. They're out there still, you'll just have to look harder and act faster. You might also consider refurbished or open-box gaming laptops from Best Buy, Micro Center, Woot and others.

Older laptops with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 10-series GPUs are still around, but the deals aren't as good as they once were. Laptops with an entry-level GTX 1050 Ti card normally start around $700 if you can find them. That chip gives you enough graphics performance to play the newest demanding games at low-to-medium settings. Spending between $800 and $1,000 (or a little more) will get you a laptop with a newer GTX 1650 or 1660 Ti or an older upper-midrange Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 for a great gaming experience. Plus, with the 6GB version of the 1060, you can experience a little of the ray-tracing effects available with the pricier RTX cards. CNET's recommendations to help you find your ideal gaming experience based on our reviews and testing are below.

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Dell G5 15

CNET TAKE: Dell's G-series gaming laptops are cheaper than those from its Alienware division, but still capable of playing the latest AAA titles. There are three separate models - the G3, G5 and G7 - available in 15- and 17-inch sizes. The 2018 G3 15 was slimmer in design than the G5 and G7, which were styled more like a gaming laptop. The 2019 G3 leans more toward the G5 and G7 design, too. The midrange G5 15 (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/dell-g5-15-5590-review/#ftag=CAD187281f)hits the mark with an excellent price-to-performance ratio, build quality and design.

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Lenovo Legion Y545

CNET TAKE: The Legion Y545 (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/lenovo-legion-y545-review/#ftag=CAD187281f)currently starts at $860, but depending on the deals Lenovo has for it, the price can be as low as $800 for a good middle-of-the-road configuration. Our system performed really well with its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti and ninth-gen Core i7 hitting more than 70fps for Far Cry 5 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider tests. However, it does look a little more like a traditional gaming laptop. Lenovo's Legion Y540 is more streamlined in appearance and is available in both 15- and 17-inch sizes and start at less than $950.

 

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Acer Nitro 5

CNET TAKE: The 17.3-inch Acer Nitro 5 (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/acer-nitro-5-17-3-inch-review/#ftag=CAD187281f) brings something extra to entry-level gaming laptops, and not just a larger display. The screen is certainly a big part of its appeal, though: Most sub-$1,000 gaming laptops have 15.6-inch displays, and the Acer's larger screen lets you sink in and get lost in whatever world you're in.

That said, if you're looking for a bit more oomph, but still at reasonable prices, check out the redesigned Predator Helios 300 with ninth-gen Intel processors and Nvidia RTX graphics and a smaller, thinner body. The previous iteration is available with a 15.6-inch full-HD IPS display with a 144Hz refresh rate, an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of memory, 16GB of system RAM and a 256GB NVMe SSD on Amazon for $1,089.

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The following CNET staff contributed to this story: Senior Editor Joshua Goldman, Copy Editor Jim Hoffman and Senior Editor Laura K. Cucullu. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com.

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