Trying to find a good deal on a gaming laptop for less than $1,200 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.
Here are CNET’s recommendations to help you find your ideal gaming experience based on our reviews and testing are below.
WHAT Dell G5 15
THE COST $859.99-$1,149.99
AVAILABLE FROM dell.com
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 hits the mark with an excellent price-to-performance ratio, build quality and design.
Lenovo Legion Y545
THE COST $1,199.99
AVAILABLE FROM lenovo.com
The Legion Y545 performed really well with its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti and ninth-generation Core i7 hitting more than 70 frames per second for Far Cry 5 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider tests. However, it does look a little more like a traditional gaming laptop. The Legion Y540 is more streamlined in appearance and is available in both 15- and 17-inch sizes.
Acer Nitro 5
THE COST $774.99
AVAILABLE FROM bestbuy.com
The 17.3-inch Acer Nitro 5 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 Acer Predator Helios 300 with ninth-generation 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 144-hertz refresh rate, an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU with 6 gigabytes of memory, 16 gigabytes of system RAM and a 256-gigabyte NVMe SSD on Amazon starting at $1,129.
The following CNET staff contributed to this story: senior editors Joshua Goldman and Laura K. Cucullu and copy editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, visit cnet.com.