Given that the market is awash with laptops priced much higher, you’d think that $1000 entails quite a few compromises to hardware, performance, and overall quality. In reality, $1000 stretches quite far, especially if you unearth the gems that punch well above their weight. The very best laptops under $1000 brim with value and even boast performance flirting with much pricier options.
With hundreds of potential options out there, sifting through them to find the right laptop is a daunting task. To that end, today’s product guide focuses on the best laptops a $1000 can buy. We’ve done the heavy lifting, so you don’t have to.
Whether you are looking for a portable productivity powerhouse, a decent gaming machine, or a compact device to stream movies and browse the web on the go, we sure you’ll find something that tickles your fancy.
How We Picked
When picking the best laptops under $1000, we assessed products based on several main factors – specifications, performance, battery life, design, and portability. Naturally, we set $1000 as the upper limit for price and stringently stuck to it.
After trawling through an exhausting number of devices, we settled on five laptops, which, in our estimation, are the best you can hope to buy for under $1000. These stood above the rest, striking a value-packed balance of the factors mentioned above. Conscious that laptops can serve lots of functions, our picks suit various uses, for example, gaming and work, and needs. We’ve also included alternative form factors, such as 2-in-1 devices and options from the most recognizable big name brands out there.
Below, you’ll find a brief review for each of the laptops alongside a list of pros and cons for those that prefer a bite-sized, TL;DR verdict. Without any further ado, let’s get into it.
Best Laptop Under $1000 in 2021
Portable and lightweight
Core i7-1165G7 CPU
No audio jack
A jack of all trades, but master of none, the Asus ZenBook 14 is perfect for anyone that wants a versatile laptop that can handle anything from intense productivity tasks to gaming. It’s not top of the class in any category, but similarly, there’s nothing it can’t do at a more than respectable level. The Asus ZenBook 14 is a versatility king.
Under the hood, the Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU does all the heavy lifting with admirable performance, whether that’s fast loading times when you’re browsing the internet, streaming video, good FPS counts when gaming, and reliable performance when editing video and photo. 8GB of LPDDR4X memory ensures the Asus ZenBook 14 can handle multitasking well.
Other specifications include a roomy 512 GB SSD, 400 nits brightness 14-inch display, 1920×1080 resolution, 65 W battery (up to 22 hours according to Asus), 90% screen-to-body ratio, Thunderbolt 4 USB Type-C ports, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, backlit keyboard, and a useful NumberPad that appears on the trackpad at the press of a button.
As for gaming, the Asus ZenBook 14 performs admirably in popular titles such as Overwatch, League of Legends, Rocket League, and Fortnite, even with settings on high and even ultra in some instances. The i7-1165G7’s integrated Iris Xe Graphics certainly pulls its weight and lives up to Intel’s promises with the new 11th Gen Tiger Lake chips.
The only real complaint we have is the absence of an audio jack, although Asus does supply a USB-C to audio jack adapter with the Asus ZenBook 14.
Solid performance across the board
Core i7-1165G7 CPU
For those eyeing up a portable workhorse, we have the 2020 refresh of the HP Envy range. The 2020 HP Envy x360 allies a sturdy and classy all-aluminum chassis, a compact design, and performance that belies its small 2-in-1 form factor.
It’s far more than looks that make the 2020 HP Envy x360 a key competitor in the sub $1000 market, though. The excellent 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU teams up with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512 GB SSD, integrated Iris Xe Graphics, Bang & Olufsen dual speakers, 13.3-inch IPS screen, FHD 1920×1080 resolution, and 65 W battery to offer a pleasant, responsive experience. The tablet-mode also works well with good touchscreen chops.
Performance is smooth, snappy even, whether that’s under heavy world loads with multiple apps, gaming, or video/photo editing. Much like the Asus ZenBook 14, which sports the same chip, the 2020 HP Envy x360 doesn’t knock it out of the park in any specific category but shows proficiency whatever the task. For those with a particular task in mind, a more specialized device may be a better use of your money, but for a well-rounded option, the 2020 HP Envy x360 is a generalist’s dream.
While the 2020 HP Envy x360 handled everything we threw at its way, it’s worth noting that it does run hot – not to the point of damaging the innards, but the heat emanating from the keyboard is certainly noticeable. This, coupled with a less efficient battery than the Asus ZenBook 14, pushed the 2020 HP Envy x360 to the runner-up spot on our guide to the best laptops under $1000.
Excellent specifications for the price
Gaming on a budget can all too often feel like hitting your head against a brick wall, especially with the demand for ever more powerful specifications emerging with each new big-budget title (Cyberpunk 2077, anyone?). The Dell G5 15 5500 aims to plug the gap between an on-point gaming experience and affordability.
Designed through-and-through for gaming, it sources most of its power from an Intel Core i7-10750H CPU, 8 GB of DDR4 2933MHz RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB GDDR6 GPU. It’s worth noting that the Dell G5 15 5500 can be customized to feature up to an RTX 2060 and 16 GB of RAM, but doing so pushes the price tag beyond the $1000 threshold.
Other specs include a 15.6-inch FHD display with a 120 Hz refresh rate, 1920×1080 resolution, 250 nits brightness, Anti-Glare tech, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, a 51 W battery, and 256 GB SSD. Storage is definitely on the small size, but compromises are needed to pack in a dedicated GPU.
Performance in games as varied as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, PUBG, Control, and Metro Exodus surges comfortably past the 60 FPS mark, although mileage varies based on your chosen graphical settings. Overall, we were impressed with just how well the Dell G5 15 5500 performed across the board.
A minor gripe, that doesn’t detract from the quality innards, is the laptop’s underwhelming build quality. The bulky, plastic shell won’t suit those accustomed to a more premium feel. The chunky bezels feel a little outdated as well. Similarly, while the battery is serviceable, don’t expect a day-long gaming marathon unhooked from the power supply.
Great for work
Versatile 2-in-1 design
Battery life could be better
The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 has established itself as the premier 2-in-1 laptop for work productivity and with good reason. The compact, lightweight design and laptop/tablet orientations suit professionals always on the move that need a reliable device. The attractive price also helps prop up Microsoft’s proposition with a laptop that boasts performance usually reserved for more expensive options.
The spec sheet reads 10th-gen Intel Core i5-1035G4 (i3-1005G1 and i7-1065G7 also available), 8 GB of RAM (4GB and 8GB available), 256 SSD (128 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB available), 12.3-inch touch screen, 2736 x1 824 resolution, Iris Plus Graphics, USB-C, USB-A, audio jack, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.0. As above, more powerful models are available, but with the $1000 budget in mind, this iteration proves the most well-rounded.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 comes into its own for work and productivity tasks with smooth operation even when jumping between multiple apps, web browsing, and the like. Gaming performance lags behind other laptops on our list, but you can expect a decent casual game experience.
One point that does detract from the overall quality of the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is middling battery life, partly due to the power-hungry Intel chip. Still, you can expect six hours of fairly intensive use per full charge and more for less-demanding tasks.
Excellent battery life
Rounding off our pick of the best laptops under $1000 is the Acer Swift 3. Acer has succeeded in packing lots of value into the Acer Swift 3 with excellent performance, long battery life, and a compact, ultra-lightweight design.
Tapping into the power of an AMD Ryzen 7 4700U chip with Radeon Graphics, 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and a 512 GB SSD, the Acer Swift 3 sports excellent specs for the price. Switching out Intel for AMD pays dividends here with equivalent, if not better, performance at a more affordable price. Other features include a 14-inch display, 1080p FHD resolution, Wi-Fi 6, and 56 W battery.
A real pleasure to use, the Acer Swift 3 laptop is responsive and nippy, churning through casual use, productivity, and even a spot of gaming with ease. Battery life is nothing short of excellent with a full day’s use part and parcel of owning the Acer Swift 3. Fast charging also helps in that respect. It’s also incredibly lightweight at 2.6 lbs and boasts a sturdy but slim aluminum-magnesium body.
The display is the only real feature where the Acer Swift 3 stutters. It’s entirely decent but lacks the vibrant, crisp pop of other sub-$1000 options. The excellent specifications soften the blow, but those that need clear, consistent colors for video or photo work may want to look elsewhere.
Things To Consider
Without delving too deep into technicalities, keep a close eye on the CPU, RAM, and SSD size when assessing a laptop’s potential.
There’s a certain amount of leeway for the CPU, depending on how you’ll use the device. In general, we’d suggest either a Core i5 or i7 for Intel processors and Ryzen 5/7 for AMD CPUs. These should put you in good stead for more demanding tasks such as photo/video editing. For basic web browsing and entertainment, it’s acceptable to skimp on the CPU – i3 and Ryzen 3 are budget options that more than suffice.
As for RAM, we’d suggest at least 8GB. Not only will this be enough for multitasking, but it offers a degree of future-proofing as well. Finally, SSD storage should tally up to at least 256 GB, and ideally 512 GB or more. With these, you’ll have plenty of space for videos, photos, applications, and even a few games with room to spare.
The importance of battery life varies from person to person. As a general rule, we suggest opting for laptops that provide between 6 to 10 hours of use without having to rush for the charger at the sight of the first demanding task.
Those that intend to use the laptop on the go and in situations where power sockets aren’t readily available should consider laptops with the most efficient batteries. It’s also worth noting that the battery life advertised by manufacturers may not translate to the real world too well, especially for more demanding tasks and uses, making it even more vital to choose a laptop with plenty of battery life to mitigate this.
If you plan to use the laptop at a desk where it will be plugged in most of the time, you can sacrifice some battery life and efficiency for better performance elsewhere. After all, it’s worth putting those $1000 to work on features that matter to you.
Form Factor and Use
Laptops come in many shapes and sizes – Ultrabooks, Chromebooks, MacBooks, 2-in-1 tablet-like hybrids, etc.
Ultrabooks adopt the classic laptop format condensed down into a thin and light design. They tend to favor long battery life, sleek looks, and well-rounded performance. For those looking for versatility on a budget, these are the go-to option.
Chromebooks cost considerably less than other form factors but come with compromises as a consequence. They are essentially a hardware browser using Google ChromeOS and suit those already invested in apps such as Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube, and the like. Less power-hungry than alternative form factors, they offer some of the best battery efficiency around. Still, functionality is limited to browsing, light productivity, and the least demanding, casual games.
Apple and its MacBook range need little introduction. Generally boasting top specifications, excellent performance for creative tasks, and a fluid interface, they tend to involve quite the premium. The entry-level MacBook Air is worth a gander if you don’t mind being limited to MacOS and associated apps.
Finally, an increasingly common form factor is the 2-in-1 that sits somewhere between a tablet and laptop. Not quite one or the other, the form factor tries to offer the best of both worlds – performance, portability, and ease of use.
For a versatile laptop that can handle anything from work to gaming, we recommend the Asus ZenBook 14. Excellent specifications allied to good battery life and impressive performance mean it punches well above its monetary weight.
Equally attractive in the sub-$1000 range is the 2020 HP Envy x360 with a sturdy all-metal design, almost identical specs to Asus’ device, and smooth, responsive performance. There’s little here to dislike, which is why it deserved the spot as our runner-up pick for the best laptops under $1000.
For those looking for a portable gaming laptop that won’t break the bank, we have the Dell G5 15 5500. Designed for gaming, it has excellent components for the price, including a dedicated GPU in the shape of an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 deserves its reputation as a compact, portable productivity workhorse, which is why it’s our pick for those that want a 2-in-1 laptop. Finally, for well-rounded value, the Acer Swift 3 is certainly worth considering.
We’ll now wrap up our guide to the best laptops under $1000. We hope the above helps to narrow down your search. Don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section below if you have any questions. We’d be happy to help.