Best gaming laptops under $1500 in 2021

$1500 budget can net you an excellent gaming laptop, as long as you’re satisfied with (mostly high refresh rate) 1080p gaming. And today, we’re showing you the best gaming laptops under $1500. We have found a number of quality gaming devices that are more than capable of running current AAA games with high settings above 60fps. There are some really great deals bellow but before we dive into the list let’s talk about stuff like Nvidia Optimus and specs you can expect in a sub $1500 gaming notebook. And if $1500 is too steep a price for you, we also have a list featuring the best gaming laptops under $1000.

1. MSI GL66 : Gaming laptop under $1500 with best GPU

Screen
15.6-inch 1080p
CPU
Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU
RTX 3070
RAM
16 GB

The MSI GL66 is the best deal for those looking for the ultimate performance at this price point. The device packs an 85W version of the RTX 3070 along with the beast that is the Core i7-11800H. This combo results in excellent 1080p gaming performance. You should expect more than 60fps on average in AAA games with high settings.

On the flip side, the TGP of only 85W is a bit low. Still, the 85W RTX 3070 is faster than the 130W version of the RTX 3060 on average. Add a faster CPU (the ASUS TUF Gaming Dash F15 used in the RTX 3070 vs. RTX 3060 benchmark packs a noticeably less powerful Core i7-11370H) found on the GL66, and you should get better performance in all games compared to a 130W RTX 3060.

The screen on the MSI GL66 is pretty good. 72% NTSC coverage equals 100$ sRGB color gamut, precisely what you should expect at this price point. The IPS panel has a 144Hz refresh rate, but it isn’t the fastest around, resulting in ghosting when pushing the refresh rate to its upper limits. 16GB of dual-channel memory is just right for modern games, and you also get a 512GB SSD.

The GL66 comes with an extra M.2 slot, and the RTX 3060 version packs an empty 2.5″ SATA port, so we reckon the more powerful RTX 3070 version also comes with one. In other words, fantastic upgrade options. The downside is that you don’t get a MUX switch. This means you should gain extra 10-15% performance in games by hooking the device to an external monitor.

The keyboard on this device is good but not great, the touchpad is small but precise, the speakers are average, and the battery life is below par. Build quality of the GL66 is pretty good, with an aluminum lid and the rest of the body made of plastic. I/O includes three USB-A Ports (two are 5Gbps), one 5Gbps USB-C port, one full-sized HDMI 2.0, and one RJ45 (LAN) port. Finally, the cooling system is adequate, although some buyers noted that the laptop can get pretty hot, resulting in thermal throttling while playing games. Overall, this is a powerful gaming laptop that packs the best GPU in the Sub $1500 market. The RTX 3070 found on the GL66 is a bit underpowered at 85W but still faster than the most potent version of the RTX 3060 (130W).

2. ASUS ROG Strix G15: Best overall package in a $1500 gaming laptop

Screen
15.6-inch 1080p
CPU
AMD Ryzen 9-5900HX
GPU
RTX 3060 
RAM
16 GB

Our next pick offers a better overall package than the GL66, albeit with about 10 percent slower gaming performance. The 130W RTX 3060 (closer to 110W in real-world tests) is just below the 85W RTX 3070, while the Ryzen 9 5900HX is a bit faster than the 11800H. The Strix G15 also packs 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. Do note that some versions of the G15 (the all-AMD Advantage edition) have slower memory. With that said, this version of the G15 should come with regular memory.

The main point of difference between the G15 and GL66 is the screen. The ASUS machine has a 1080p IPS panel featuring a 300Hz refresh rate and 95% sRBG coverage. The screen has a relatively low response time (as featured on the all-AMD version of the G15 that comes with the same screen as the one featured here) and a max brightness of about 325 nits. Overall, pretty good at this price point and perfect for fast-paced multiplayer games.

The G15 comes with a chassis made of metal and plastic that has excellent build quality. The keyboard’s pleasant to type on, the touchpad is large and precise, speakers are loud and better than most Sub $1500 gaming laptops. The battery can give you almost 10 hours of usage in light loads. The cooling system is excellent, but that results in pretty loud fans at max RPM. With that said, the G15 is fairly quiet during lighter loads. Sadly, the device doesn’t come with a MUX switch. The I/O includes three 5Gbps USB-A ports, one 10Gbps USB-C Port, one full-sized HDMI, and an RJ45 port.

Overall, the ASUS ROG Strix G15 is an excellent gaming laptop. If you don’t care about having the absolute best GPU you can find below $1500, this is the device to get. You can upgrade the G15 to a 130W RTX 3070 for about 20 percent more cash. The RTX 3070 is a much better solution for users playing AAA games who need maximum performance. Just don’t forget that the G15 doesn’t have a webcam. If you want an alternative that has a comparably fast display, there’s the Gigabyte Aorus 15P. This one is a bit pricier while packing a Core i7-11800H CPU and a 240Hz IPS screen.

3. MSI Crosshair17: Best 17-Inch $1500 gaming laptop

Screen
15.6-inch 1080p
CPU
Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU
RTX 3060
RAM
16 GB

Those looking for a 17-inch gaming laptop below $1500 should strongly consider the MSI Crosshair17. This device packs the Core i7-11800H CPU and an 85W version of the RTX 3060 mobile GPU. Overall, not a bad package, but we are disappointed with the 85W GPU TGP. Still, this should be enough for 1080p 60fps gaming with high settings in most games, including the latest AAA titles. 16GB of memory is the sweet spot for modern games, and the SSD storage caps at 512GB.

The Crosshair17 has a 1080p 144Hz IPS screen that has nearly 100% coverage of the sRGB color space. The keyboard’s fine, as are the speakers and the webcam. You should expect lower battery life than on 15-inch devices, which should translate to about 8 hours of moderate usage. As for the Optimus version and MUX switch, it looks like the device comes with the regular Optimus and without a MUX switch. Ports include two USB-A 5Gbps, one USB-A 2.0, one USB-C 5Gbps, one full-sized HDMI port, and the RJ45 port.

Overall, the MSI Crosshair17 looks like a reasonably good 17-inch sub $1500 gaming laptop. It packs relatively powerful hardware, but we would like to see a more powerful version of the RTX 3060. As for the alternatives, you can get the Crosshair17 with the RTX 3050 Ti or RTX 3050 under the hood; both are noticeably cheaper than the RTX 3060 version. Next, we have the Acer Nitro 5 with a slower Ryzen 5800H CPU but also a bit faster, 95W RTX 3060. On the flip side, the Nitro 5 has a lower build quality and a worse screen. Finally, we have the ASUS TUF Gaming F17 with the same CPU and a bit more powerful GPU (95W RTX 3060). 

4. Acer Predator Helios 300: Best bang for buck gaming laptop under $1500

Screen
15.6-inch 1080p
CPU
Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU
RTX 3060
RAM
16 GB

If you want the best possible specs for the least cash, the Acer Predator Helios 300 looks like the way to go. The price of this SKU is lower than most other devices shown here. But looking at the specs, you would think the device is much pricier. This version of the Helios 300 features the excellent Core i7-11800H and a 105W version of the RTX 3060. Other specs include 16GB of dual-channel memory and 512GB of SSD storage. These specs translate to excellent 1080p gaming performance.

The screen is an IPS panel with a 1080p resolution and 144Hz refresh rate. There’s some ghosting that you can remove by turning on the screen overdrive function, but then you’ll experience inverse ghosting. In the end, it’s better to leave overdrive off and get used to the less-than-ideal response time. The keyboard on this device is rather pleasant to type on. The touchpad is rather small but usable if you don’t have a mouse available.  The webcam is passable, as are the speakers. The cooling system keeps both the CPU and GPU at bay at the cost of increased noise.

The upgradability here is excellent. You have two M.2 slots, two SO-DIMM slots, even one 2.5″ SATA port. The I/O includes two USB-A 5Gbps ports, one USB-A 10Gbps, one USB-C with Thunderbolt 4 support, a full-sized HDMI, and an RJ45 port. Sadly, the Helios 300 doesn’t have a MUX switch. Another downside is a disappointing battery life of fewer than 4 hours of video playback. Still, even with the negatives, the Acer Predator Helios 300 is an excellent device for the price that offers the best bang for the buck in the Sub $1500 gaming laptop market.

The MSI GF65 is about $100 cheaper while coming with a noticeably slower Core i7-10750H CPU and a worse screen with 65% coverage of the sRGB color space. Another alternative is the Gigabyte G5. This one has an even slower Core i5-10500H CPU while costing the same as the GF65. In the end, we strongly recommend the Predator Helios 300 over both the GF65 and G5.

5. MSI Stealth 15M: Best thin and light gaming laptop under $1500

Screen
15.6-inch 1080p
CPU
Intel Core i7-11375H
GPU
RTX 3060
RAM
16 GB

Now, thin and light gaming notebooks usually pack low-power CPUs and GPUs that have the lowest TGP available. This is the case with the MSI Stealth 15M, which comes with a four-core Core i7-11375H that’s basically a low-power CPU made for in-between laptop designs and a 65W RTX 3060. Still, even with these relatively humble specs, the Stealth 15M is faster than other thin, and light gaming devices found at this price point. Other hardware specs include 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. Finally, this is yet another laptop that doesn’t come with a MUX switch.

The gaming performance isn’t great, but it isn’t disappointing either. You can expect about 60fps in newer AAA games with high settings enabled. The display is, along with the CPU, the weakest part of the Stealth 15M. It covers way less than 100% of the sRGB color gamut, and it’s also pretty dim. With that said, we picked this laptop for its performance. If you’re looking for a thin and light device to use for color-critical work, we would recommend something like the Acer Swift X, Razer Blade 15, or the MSI Prestige 14. Each one of the devices mentioned above has a better screen than the Stealth 15M. Finally, you should also check out the Gigabyte Aero 15 with OLED screen found below.

Back to the Stealth 15M. The device has excellent build quality, a keyboard that’s pleasant to type on, a small but precise touchpad, and below-average speakers. The webcam is also below par, but it’s at least usable. I/O includes two USB-A 5Gbps ports, one USB-C 5Gbps, and one USB-C with Thunderbolt 4 support. Next, we have a full-sized HDMI and a MicroSD card reader. Overall, pretty good I/O that only lacks an RJ45 port.

The cooling system is good when it comes to the GPU. On the CPU side, thermals are much worse. The battery is another negative, achieving shorter life than competitors. Overall, the Stealth 15M is a pretty good thin and light device, but only if we look at the gaming performance. If you want a portable laptop that has both great specs and a great screen, look elsewhere.

6. Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED: Gaming laptop under $1500 with best screen

Screen
15.6-inch 1080p
CPU
Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU
RTX 3060
RAM
16 GB

If you want the best possible screen when it comes to color performance on a sub $1500 gaming laptop (when on sale at least), look no further than the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED. As is stated in its name, this device comes with an OLED panel made by Samsung. This is a 60Hz 4K OLED panel with superb colors and a peak brightness of almost 450 nits. Hardware specs include the excellent Core i7-11800H CPU and a 105W version of the RTX 3060. There’s also 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. Overall, excellent specs that are great both for gaming and productivity. If you’re a content creator who also likes to game, this is the convertible for you. Yes, it only has a 60Hz panel. But 4K resolution, color performance, and high peak brightness are worth it for users who need a color-accurate panel.

As for the other specs, the Aero 15 comes with a decent keyboard, usable trackpad, below-par webcam placed below the screen, and serviceable speakers. Ports found on the Aero 15 include three USB-A 5Gbps, one Thunderbolt 4, a mini-DisplayPort, a full-sized HDMI, RJ45, and a full-sized SD card reader. As for the cooling system, it’s not great. The Aero 15 can get pretty hot while also being pretty loud. Not the greatest combo.

The battery offers around eight and a half hours of moderate use. As for the upgradability, you get an extra M.2 slot along with two SO-DIMM slots. Overall, the Aero 15 has a superb display, excellent performance, solid battery life, and a subpar cooling system. But even with its flaws, this is the gaming laptop to get if you need a color-accurate and bright screen and don’t mind a 60hz refresh rate. Yes, it’s pricier than $1500 unless it’s on sale. But the fantastic OLED screen is worth going over the budget.

RTX 3000 TDP and Nvidia Optimus – what you should know

RTX 3000 Series TDP

Before the RTX 3000 mobile GPU lineup came out Nvidia used Max-Q and Max-P brandings for their mobile GPUs. Nvidia designed the former for ultrabook devices that don’t pack cooling solutions powerful enough to cool the power-hungry Max-P (P for performance) GPUs. Finding out which GPU version you could find on a laptop you planned on getting was relatively easy and simple. Models equipped with Max-Q GPUs were usually clearly labeled on manufacturers’ sites, allowing users to quickly find out which GPU they would get if they bought a particular laptop. This changed with the arrival of the RTX 3000 mobile GPU series.

Nvidia dropped Max-P branding and instead allowed laptop manufacturers to freely scale the power and frequency of the RTX 3000 GPUs, which created massive confusion among consumers. For instance, after the launch of the mobile versions of RTX 3060, 3070, and 3080 GPUs instead of six SKUs (Max-Q and Max-P flavor for each GPU) we received 28(!) GPU versions, with massive differences in TGP (total graphics power) and frequencies. Luckily, most manufacturers started to clearly label the wattage of GPUs found in different laptop models after many tech sites talked about the issue. But still, if you aren’t careful, you might get a device with a less powerful graphics chip without knowing.

So, to be sure, always check the manufacturer’s website for detailed specs of the laptop you’re interested in and, if possible, look for professional reviews. Further, to make the matters worse, Nvidia also has a feature known as Dynamic Boost that dynamically switches available power between the CPU and GPU. In theory, Dynamic Boost could further increase the GPU TGP/TDP in situations where the CPU isn’t at full load. But, in practice, this usually isn’t the case. For instance, while the RTX 3070 found on the Zephyrus M16 is rated at up to 100W with Dynamic Boost, reviews show that the GPU barely goes over its base 80W TDP.

Optimus, MUX Switch, and Advanced Optimus

Next, we have another technology by Nvidia called Optimus. Optimus allows laptops to use integrated GPUs found in mobile CPUs for tasks that aren’t GPU-heavy to prolong battery life. Once you start gaming, Optimus automatically switches to the discrete GPU to deliver full graphical power. The thing is, if a laptop doesn’t have something called the MUX switch the video signal always has to pass through the iGPU before it reaches the display. This increases latency and leads to slightly lower gaming performance.

With the MUX switch, you can disable the iGPU if you want, and remove it from the video signal pipeline. This increases gaming performance by six to almost twenty percent, depending on the game and visual settings used. The second way to pull the iGPU off the pipeline is a feature called Advanced Optimus. This feature automatically disables the iGPU once you start gaming or doing any other GPU-heavy task. In any case, when looking for a gaming laptop try getting a device that either has a MUX switch or Advanced Optimus feature.

Most manufacturers list Optimus-related features in detailed specs for their devices so you don’t have to scour the web for reviews to see whether the device you’re interested in can disable its iGPU. And if your laptop doesn’t have the MUX switch or Advanced Optimus, you can increase performance by connecting the laptop to an external monitor. In that case, the signal passes only through the discrete GPU.

What to expect from a Sub $1500 gaming laptop

$1500 gaming convertibles fall into the mid-range market, so you should expect mid-range specs, more or less. With that said, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than the RTX 3060 GPU. The RTX 3060 easily beats both the RTX 2060 and RTX 2070, so we recommend not opting for a last-gen device unless you, for instance, only play multiplayer shooters and want a 240Hz display.

CPUs featured on these devices are great. The majority of devices pack either the Core i7 11800H or Ryzen 7 5800H. Both of these CPUs are superb for gaming and productivity tasks. The 11800H is somewhat faster, but that shouldn’t be the deciding factor when pulling the trigger. If you find a Ryzen-equipped device with a more powerful GPU or other specs that trump the Intel version, go for it. Further, some devices are packing the Ryzen 5900H(X) CPU, which should be faster than both the 11800H and 5800H. Finally, even a last-gen Intel and AMD CPUs (Ryzen 7 4800H, Core i7-10750H) are good enough when paired with GPUs such as the RTX 3060.

When it comes to displays, 1080p 144Hz IPS panels are present in a vast majority of Sub $1500 portable gaming devices. With that said, they do differ when it comes to colors and brightness. 100% sRGB panels are relatively easy to find at this price point, as are 300 nit panels. In general, we would avoid laptops packing low-end Sub 100% sRGB panels, unless they offer great CPU+GPU combo and ultra-competitive pricing. Also, try avoiding screens that feature max brightness lower than 250 nits.

General build quality found on Sub $1500 gaming laptops is more than serviceable. Bodies are mostly made of plastic, though. For an-all metal chassis, you’ll have to shell out much more cash. Keyboards and touchpads are good to great. Webcams are of average quality, and speakers vary from trash to pretty good. Next, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than 16GB of dual-channel memory, coupled with at least 512GB of SSD storage.

The good news is that most of the devices found below have pretty good upgrade options that include at least one extra M.2 slot and two SO-DIMM ports. When it comes to the battery life, it’s average at best, but that shouldn’t bother anyone in the market for a gaming laptop. Now, you will notice that all of the devices shown below feature Nvidia GPUs. If you want an AMD GPU, the only Sub $1500 gaming laptop powered by an AMD GPU is the Dell G5 15 SE that features the Radeon RX 5600M. It’s not a great buy.

The 5600M is about 10 percent slower than the last-gen RTX 2060. Further, the G5 15 SE also packs a last-gen 4800H CPU along with an average screen. Still, if you’re looking for an all-AMD gaming laptop at this price point, this is the only choice.