Picture the scene. You’ve been waiting for months for the new installment of your favorite game to be released. It’s been on pre-order ever since the title was announced, and you’ve blocked out a week on your calendar for a marathon session. You’ve spent the whole day waiting for the post to arrive. It took half an hour to install it, but you’re finally ready to boot it up.
But as soon as you get past the title screen, your laptop runs so slowly that the game is unplayable.
As nightmarish as this scene is, it’s surprisingly common. Thanks to Moore’s law, machines grow exponentially more powerful as time goes on, and games developers need to tread the thin line between taking advantage of new computing power whilst still staying accessible to people with older devices.
There’s a perception that dedicated gaming laptops are prohibitively expensive, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
Why? Because it all comes down to your expectations.
The reality is that there are hundreds of different gaming rigs on the market that you can scoop up for $500 while still pocketing a bunch of change.
Yes, you can easily pay upwards of $3000 for a gaming laptop that can play the latest games on the highest settings, but if you dial down the game settings you’d be suprised what you can squeeze out of a relatively inexpensive laptop.
Sometimes the sheer number of choices can be a distraction, and many would-be gamers are paralyzed by choice. That’s why we’ve done the hard work, scouring ratings and review sites, testing out different machines, analyzing the specs and crunching the numbers to create the definitive list of gaming laptops that you can buy for less than $500.
Setting your Expectations
So, in getting a sub $500 laptop, what should your expectations be? Whilst you cannot expect to play the latest games, let alone on the highest settings, you’d be surprised what you can squeeze out of affordable gaming laptop these days.
When it comes to gaming, the most limiting factor in these types of laptops is the graphics. We haven’t been able to find a laptop that comes with dedicated graphics meaning you will have to make a compromise when it comes to your gaming choice. These are the types of games you can expect to run on the laptops we’ve mentioned:
- Casual games. Think of games that you play on your phone. They are not that demanding and you can easily run them on your laptop (or notebook) without any issues.
- Games that are older than 3+ years. Yes, you will be able to run games like Counter-Strike, World of Warcraft, Diablo III and The Sims without issue. Though you will have to lower the settings down in some cases.
- Recent games. For the most part, you won’t be able to run more recent games like Doom or the latest iteration of the Call of Duty franchise without severe stuttering or having to significantly reduce the graphical settings of the game. Despite this, you can expect to run some modern games like Fifa 17 and Overwatch that don’t require much to get going and are very well optimized.
Apart from gaming, things like word processing, using an internet browser (with multiple tabs open) and just doing everyday things like watching movies and listening to music will not be a problem for laptops under $500.
So you can see, as long as your expectations are in check, you won’t be disappointed. However; If you are looking to play the latest releases on at least medium settings, you need to increase your budget to at least $800.
10 Best Gaming Laptops Under $500: 2020 Roundup
The market for gaming laptops is enormous, and there’s a huge variety in terms of the types of machines that are available. Even when you narrow it down to only include machines that cost less than $500, there are still hundreds to choose from.
On top of that, there are a huge range of factors to consider, from price and portability to the innards that power the machines and give them their impressive performances.
After all, while we’ve got our reasons for the order in which we ranked these machines, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all recommendation and you need to pick the machine that’s right for you.
|Model||Type||Operating System||Battery Life||Screen||Weight||CPU||RAM||Graphics||Hard Drive||Disk Drive||Shop|
|1. ASUS P-Series P2540UA-AB51 Laptop||Hardcore||Windows 10||9 hours||15.6”||5.2 lbs||2.5 GHz Intel Core i5-4430||8 GB||Integrated Intel HD 620||1 TB||DVD+RW||Check Price|
|2. Dell Inspiron i5555 Laptop (2016 Model)||Hardcore||Windows 10||Unknown||15.6”||7 lbs||2.2 GHz AMD A8-7410||6 GB||Radeon R5||500 GB||DVD+RW||Check Price|
|3. Signature Edition Lenovo Laptop (2016 Model)||Hardcore||Windows 10||5 hours||15.6”||5.15 lbs||Quad-Core AMD FX-7500 APU 2.1 GHz||16 GB||Radeon R7||1 TB||DVD+RW||Check Price|
|4. Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM Laptop||Hardcore||Windows 10||12 hours||15.6”||5.27 lbs||2.4 GHz Intel Core i3||4 GB||Integrated Intel HD 620||1 TB||8x DVD Double Layer||Check Price|
|5. HP Pavilion 17 Laptop||Hardcore||Windows 10||Unknown||17.3”||6 lbs||2.5 GHz Intel i5-7200U||4 GB||Integrated Intel HD 620||1 TB||CD/DVD Burner||Check Price|
|6. ASUS F556UA-AB32 Laptop||Hardcore||Windows 10||5 hours||15.6”||5.1 lbs||2.3 GHz Core i3 6100U||4 GB||Integrated Intel HD 520||1 TB||None||Check Price|
|7. Samsung Notebook NP110S1K-K01US Laptop||Portable||Windows 10||7.3 hours||11.6”||2.65 lbs||1.6 GHz Intel Celeron||4 GB||Integrated Intel HD 400||128 GB SSD||None||Check Price|
|8. HP Notebook 15-ay011nr Laptop||Casual||Windows 10||7.25 hours||15.6”||4.7 lbs||2.3 GHz Intel Celeron||8 GB||Integrated Intel HD 520||1 TB||DVD+RW||Check Price|
|9. HP Stream 14-ax010nr Laptop||Portable||Windows 10||10.75 hours||14”||3.2 lbs||1.6 GHz Intel Celeron||4 GB||Integrated Intel HD 400||32 GB eMMC||None||Check Price|
|10. ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 Laptop||Portable||Chrome OS||10 hours||11.6”||2.2 lbs||1.6 GHz Intel Celeron||4 GB||Integrated Intel HD 400||16 GB flash storage||None||Check Price|
You can compare machines based on what type of gaming they’re designed for and how long their battery lasts, as well as portability metrics such as their weights and screen sizes. The second table focuses on hardware capabilities and performance metrics, including CPU power and memory availability.
To help you to make your decision, both tables also include pricing information and the average rating from their Amazon reviews. But if you’re still struggling to make a decision, don’t worry – we’ll also talk you through the pros and cons for each model, and we’ll take a deeper look at their capabilities and what they’re most suited for.
At the end of this article we’ll also take you through the winners and losers in a whole heap of different categories, from best value for money to strongest processor and longest battery life. We’ve also included an extensive buyer’s guide to step you through the process of selecting your perfect gaming laptop.
Note: Typing in ‘best gaming laptops under $500’ will generate many results in Google. However; the issue we have found with these results is that they show laptops that are actually above $500. Some are only $50 above whilst others are a couple of hundred! You can rest assured that all laptops on this list are strictly under $500 as of writing this article.
We will be continually updating this list as better laptops under $500 become available, so be sure to come back.
And now, without further ado, let’s get into it. Here are ten of the best gaming laptops that you can buy for $500 or under.
1. ASUS P-Series P2540UA-AB51 Laptop – Good for all work and play
Don’t let the name of this machine fool you – it may be billed as a business laptop, but it also has the kit you need to run many games without a noticeable drop in performance.
That’s due in part to the 7th generation Intel Core i5 7200U dual core processor, which runs at 2.5 GHz and can be boosted up to 3.1 GHz using Turbo Boost Technology. It doesn’t skip on RAM, either – it comes with 8 GB, but you can upgrade at any time if you need more of it.
Meanwhile, the inbuilt 1 TB hard drive spins at 5400 RPM, and the battery can easily be removed and replaced – so if you plan to use it on the move, it’s a good idea to carry a spare. You should be able to get nine hours of usage from the initial charge, but it sometimes lasts only five or six if you’re using resource-heavy software.
You’ll also get the benefits of a multi-touch touchpad and ergonomic design will make gaming a breeze. The 15.6″ LCD screen is scratch-resistant and anti-glare, so you can carry it around and game on the go without damaging either your eyes or your laptop. And it also comes with four USB ports and both an HDMI and a VGA port, so you can hook up accessories and plug it into a monitor for a more immersive gaming experience.
Considering the price, we were surprised to find an inclusion of a fingerprint scanner, which is sure to make you feel like you’re in a movie. It make logging into your desktop extremely easy and quick. The sensors are unaffected by dry, calloused or oil skin, and it’s a perfect compliment if you want quick access to applications and top security.
The ASUS P-Series is a beast of a machine that’s well-suited to most users, from hardworking professionals to hardcore gamers. It’s a little weightier than other devices, but that’s a small price to pay for a rugged machine that can run a whole range of classic (and more recent) titles without missing a beat.
2. Dell Inspiron i5555 Laptop (2016 Model) – Good for all round reliability and performance
The 2016 Dell Inspiron i5555 loses out to Lenovo’s counterpart when it comes to RAM and raw processing power, but it still performs well even when you’re running resource intensive games and software. And, unlike the Lenovo machines, it’s super reliable and costs over a hundred dollars less.
Fitted with 6 GB of RAM and an AMD A8-7410 2.5 GHz processor, Dell’s Inspiron i5555 features a 15.6″ high resolution display that can display at up to 1376 x 768. The hard drive is a little smaller than some others, but at 500 GB it’ll still give you plenty of space for both your games and your media files.
Of course, the machine isn’t perfect, and it’s on the heavier end of the spectrum at 7 lbs. But on the plus side, it comes with a one year warranty and Windows 10 Home, and you’ll be able to run games like Overwatch and Counter-Strike, albiet on lower settings.
Overall, the Dell Inspiron i5555 is a decent enough laptop for everything from gaming and working to studying and browsing. It’s a particular favorite among high-performance desktop owners who need a second, more portable machine.
3. Signature Edition Lenovo Laptop (2016 Model) – Great for heavy duty gaming
Lenova’s entry into this list is a cracking machine for business, gaming and more. Okay, we might be talking about last year’s model, but that’s only because the latest version costs more than $500 and falls outside of the remit of this article.
You needn’t worry, though. The 2016 Signature Edition Lenovo is built with performance in mind, using a Quad-Core AMD FX-7500 APU 2.1 GHz processor that boosts up to a hefty 3.3 GHz. This is augmented with a huge 16 GB of RAM and a 64-bit Windows 10 installation with no bloatware or additional software.
You also get an HD 720p webcam, which comes in handy if you’re filming gaming videos and you want to appear in the frame. It’s also perfect if you’re a frequent user of Skype.
Reviewers have praised its performance when it comes to games like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Mortal Combat X at their highest settings. Whilst this laptop has a solid CPU and amazing amount of RAM as well as some premium features we would expect at higher prices, we can’t justify putting it up any higher due to the occasional performance hiccups and stability issues.
Regardless, it’s still an impressive machine with a lot of hardware under its belt for a relatively low price.
4. Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM Laptop – The best gaming laptop for the money
Acer’s Aspire range is synonymous with both value and quality, which is why it’s an Amazon #1 Best Seller.
Featuring a 7th Generation Intel Core i3-7100U Processor which runs at 2.4 GHz, it runs reasonably well for a budget machine and should satisfy most casual gamers. Even more serious gamers will be impressed with its performance thanks to its integrated Intel HD 620 Graphics and its 1 TB 5400 RPM internal hard drive. Its specs are excellent considering the price tag, and it also boasts up to 12 hours of battery life.
You should have no issue playing games like Counter-Strike, League of Legends or World of Warcraft. Even newer games could run on this laptop, but with lowered settings.
But don’t worry, Acer have you covered in this regard. If you want to upgrade your components in the future, a removable compartment door gives you easy access to the hard drive and the RAM. If you choose to upgrade, the laptop supports two memory sticks of up to 16 GB for a total of 32 GB of RAM – almost ten times as much as it comes with.
This is also one of the best machines to go for if you’re big on aesthetics. Acer’s machines look and feel great, and they’re carefully designed for a smooth, clean façade and a powerful interior. This model is an all plastic construction with a polished black finish that gives off a premium shiny look.
It’s also loaded with Windows 10 Home and features an SD card reader, high definition audio, built-in Bluetooth and an internal HD (1280 x 720) webcam. And despite the internal hardware, the battery will run for up to 12 hours, making this one of the most attractive laptops on the market.
It may not be the absolute best gaming laptop under $500, but it certainly is the best you can get for the money. Hey, don’t take it from us – take it from “Honest”, an Amazon reviewer who “spent about 20 working hours comparing over 400 laptops from all major brands” and identified the Acer Aspire E series as ”the most computer for the money”.
5. HP Pavilion 17 Laptop – Good for gamers who need a bigger screen
When HP says this machine is high-performance, they mean it. The HP Pavilion 17 uses a 7th Gen Intel Core i5-7200U that runs at 2.5 GHz, and the inbuilt Turbo Boost technology can add a little extra power when you need it.
On the inside, the Intel i5-7200U Dual-Core Processor is augmented by 4 GB of RAM and a 1 TB 5400 RPM hard drive, as well as integrated Intel HD Graphics 620. It’s a pretty solid setup but we would have liked to see more something like 8 GB of RAM to see the laptop take full advantage of the integrated graphics. Considering the price however; the specifications still offer fantastic value.
The audio is pumped through built-in stereo speakers that can create a virtual surround sound whether you’re playing games or watching movies, and it comes with an inbuilt CD/DVD burner too.
Of course, the size of the screen has a knock on effect when it comes to weight, and this one clocks in at just under 6 lbs – which may take its toll if you’re planning on carrying it around.
You’ll also find all the essentials packed in, such as a HDMI output so you can connect it to an HDTV or use a second screen, as well as an SD card reader and high-speed wireless connectivity.
The HP laptop is a pretty solid choice if you’re determined to have a large screen, but it loses out to some of our other picks when it comes to processing power and battery life. It’s best suited to gamers who also want a machine that will double up as a media centre.
6. ASUS F556UA-AB32 Laptop – Solid specs for the price
If you’re looking for a stylish laptop that doesn’t sit too heavy when you’re using it, you won’t be able to do much better than the ASUS F556UA-AB32.
It features a sleek design with a 15.6″ full HD display, as well as a blue light filter to combat macular degeneration and retina damage that can result from extended usage. ASUS has developed an Eye Care mode that reduces blue light by up to a third, as well as Splendid Technology which reduces eye fatigue while simultaneously producing richer, deeper colors. You can take your pick from four different visual modes for the optimum experience.
Better still, ASUS have done their best to maximize the performance of the machine while keeping the costs down.
In regards to graphics, you get an integrated Intel HD 520 which is pretty decent considering the other commendable specifications and the low price tag. It’s about 10% slower than the HD 620 but you’ll still be able to play older games at low to medium settings.
The battery used is a long-lasting polymer battery, which gives the machine 2.5 times the lifespan of a regular lithium-ion battery. That said, a full charge will give you five hours, which is considerably less than some of the other machines on the list. That’s because the laptop is packed with power-hungry components like the ASUS SonicMaster audio which uses a mixture of software and hardware to give great audio at louder volumes, filtering out noise and improving clarity.
And ASUS haven’t skimped on comfort, either. They use their own proprietary IceCool technology to keep surface temperatures below body temperature, which means you can use it for hours at a time without it overheating. And, if it does overheat or fall victim to accidental damage, you’ll be covered by ASUS’s 1-year Accidental Damage Protection and their free 24/7 technical support line.
7. Samsung NP110S1K-K01US Notebook M SSD Laptop – Good for Macbook fans on a budget
No, you’re not going crazy – this laptop really does look a lot like a Macbook Air.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it has the same performance, but it also means that you’re not limited to running games that are compatible with Mac OS.
In fact, this machine has more in common with the Chromebook and the HP Stream than it does with a Macbook or a bespoke gaming machine.
Speaking of portability, this model features a compact 11.6″ display with a total weight of 2.65 lbs. The frost white paint job looks fantastic, and you don’t have to worry about keeping it clean – it’s easy to wipe down and sturdy enough to withstand scuffs and minor scratches.
The Samsung NP110S1K-K01US Notebook comes with an integrated Intel HD 400 making it a great option for casual gamers who want a machine hat looks great and can be easily carried around. Just don’t expect to play any graphically demanding games. Think of games that you play on your phone – those are the type of games that will run without a hitch on this laptop.
The battery is said to last up to 12 hours, but the average is listed as 7.3 and users report around 5-6 hours at most during heavy use.
This laptop is only suitable for a specific subsection of users, but it’s an interesting device that’s earned its place in the marketplace. If you enjoy the look of a Macbook Air but don’t enjoy the price tag, this laptop is a perfect substitute to wet your taste-buds with.
8. HP Notebook 15-ay011nr Laptop – Good for all-round performance
Now we’re talking. HP’s second addition to our list is designed for dependable performance, with a stunning 1080p display, high-quality audio and Intel HD 520 graphics that allows you to play the demanding games of yesteryear.
Unlike many of the other devices on our list, the HP notebook comes with a built-in DVD writer and a 1 TB, 5400 RPM hard drive. It uses a 15.6″ display with full HD and antiglare technology, which makes it the ideal machine for everything from gaming to watching movies and browsing the web.
The performance of the machine is also boosted by its 8 GB of onboard RAM and, with inbuilt WiFi and an advanced HD camera, it’s a versatile machine that’s just as comfortable Skyping as it is running games like Counter-Strike or Dota, or doubling up as a media center. Better still, it offers DTS Studio Sound that enhances the sound.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a high-quality laptop that’s great at multitasking, you won’t find many better options on the market. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. And, as it’s one of the more expensive machines on our list, it’s unlikely that you’ll be disappointed.
9. HP Stream 14-ax010nr Laptop – A casual gamers companion
The HP Stream Laptop is billed as a homework/productivity machine, but it’s also a strong choice if you want something cheap and cheerful that’s a little bit like a Chromebook but with Windows 10 for a little extra customization.
Of course, being similar to a Chromebook means that it has a small, 32 GB eMMC drive – which doesn’t leave much space for extra software. Luckily, it comes with a year-long subscription to Office 365, which also includes 1 TB of storage on Microsoft’s OneDrive.
The HP Stream Laptop isn’t the most powerful laptop under $500, but it is an impressive device considering the cost of it. Because of the limited hard drive space, installing games with large installation sizes (think over 5 GB) is definitely not recommended.
On top of that, you can choose between two different screen sizes, and each option comes with its own advantages. The 11.6″ option uses an anti-glare panel which is designed for maximum performance when using it outside, while the 14″ screen uses a BrightView panel to create a bright, immersive experience when using it indoors.
But the good news is that the battery life clocks in at just under 11 hours, and the lightweight design with its bright blue paint job means that it’s perfectly portable and difficult to lose. Those two factors come in handy if you’re planning on travelling or gaming on the move. It’s not a perfect machine, but it’s a good budget option that will get the job done.
10. ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 Laptop – Excellent for users on the go
This laptop isn’t a high-spec gaming laptop and is more suitable for casual gaming on the go, but it makes up for those limitations with its ruggedized and water resistant design.
From the design to weighing only 2.2 lbs, this laptop is definitely meant for people on the go. That also means the specs are not up there with some of the other laptops we’ve mentioned, but if you know what to expect, you won’t be disappointed.
That said, it has its limitations.
As a Chromebook, it comes with only 16 GB of inbuilt flash storage, with no CD or DVD drive. It also has a smaller screen at just 11.6”, but at least the anti-glare display uses HD at a 1366×768 resolution. If you decide to double it up as a word processor, you’ll need to use QuickOffice editor, Google Docs or Microsoft Office Online, because the regular Office software can’t be installed.
Remember that Chromebooks don’t allow you to install external software, instead relying on web-based applications and extensions. That means that while you can use it to play Farmville and Angry Birds, you won’t be able to install PC games unless they’re also available in app form.
Still, it makes up for it with its impressive battery life, which will last up to ten hours on a full charge. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the nano-molding technology and reinforced rubber make it one of the most durable machines on the market. It’s used by everyone from extreme sports enthusiasts, cyclists and construction workers to children and students with clumsy fingers – but we’re yet to hear a report of someone actually damaging the thing.
It’s not a machine for hardcore gamers, but it does cater nicely to the casual crowd at a price that’s easy on the wallet. It’s particularly recommended for younger gamers, who can download educational games from the app store to augment their studies – although bigger kids find it helps to pass the time while travelling the world or commuting to and from work.
As you’ve already seen, there’s a huge variety of gaming laptops, and picking the best machine for you can be tricky. It’s usually a case of making trade-offs – for example, you can get more RAM if you need it, but it’ll push the cost up. Likewise, if you focus on hardware and performance then your machine will make sacrifices when it comes to weight and battery life.
When you’re shopping for gaming laptops, you’ll first need to ask yourself two questions:
- What type of games do I want to play?
- Do I want to focus on price and portability or performance?
With the answers to those questions in mind, along with our rundown of the ten best devices on the market, you should be well-placed to make a decision. But don’t worry if you’re still struggling, because this next section is all about the best choice to make based on a range of common criteria.
Picking the right laptop depends upon your priorities. Some people want the cheapest machine they can get their hands on, while others focus on battery life, storage space or processing speed. That’s why we’ve taken the time to list the best picks for a whole variety of choices.
Best for Price and Portability
If you’re only worried about getting the cheapest option on the market then you’re looking at the ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02. It has reasonable specs that will do the job for casual and portable gamers, but it also faces the same constraints that are unique to every Chromebook. It’s basically an augmented tablet computer and only just crept into the list thanks to its price. If it works for you then you can save a bundle, but more hardcore gamers will be left unsatisfied.
Longest Battery Life
The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM Laptop is your best bet if you’re worried about battery life. This laptop has decent specs and should last for up to twelve hours on a full charge – although if you’re a heavy user then you’ll have to plug in after 8-10 hours.
Smallest Screen Size
This one’s a tie between the ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 and the Samsung NP110S1K-K01US, which both clock in at 11.6″. That makes them both highly portable, but the Samsung has the edge thanks to its better specs and the lack of the constraints that the Chromebook has. But if you want to take advantage of that, you’ll have to pay almost twice as much for the Samsung.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two most lightweight devices are the two with the smallest screens. It’s the ASUS Chromebook that comes out on top, weighing in at 2.2 lbs versus the Samsung’s 2.65 lbs. It might interest you to know that the Chromebook also has a longer battery life, but we’d still go for the Samsung in most situations.
Best for Performance
Largest Screen Size
A few of the machines on our list measure in at 15.6″, but it’s only the HP Pavilion 17 that’s as high as 17.3″. It’s basically a portable screen with a keyboard attached, and it looks fantastic. It also has awesome inbuilt audio, which makes it great for both gaming and entertainment, although it’s a pain to carry it around.
This is one of the more difficult awards to judge, because a number of the machines on our list offer up 2.5 GHz. To make things more confusing, we’re going to give the award instead to the 2.1 GHz 2016 Lenovo. That may sound counter-intuitive, but the Lenovo uses a quad core AMD processor that boosts up to 3.3 GHz, so you’ll get significantly more than you think you’re paying for. All other things being equal, the Lenovo will run the fastest – it’s as simple as that.
We’re looking at the Lenovo again, which comes with an impressive 16 GB of RAM – possibly more than you’ll ever need. And if the Lenovo is not to your taste, the ASUS P-Series and the HP Notebook both come with 8 GB, which should be more than sufficient for most gamers.
Biggest Hard Drive
This one’s a tie between a number of machines, all of which clocked in at 1 TB. But the truth is that most of the machines can be upgraded, so even if 1 TB isn’t enough, you can usually pay more for a larger hard drive. Here are the 1 TB machines:
- HP Notebook 15-ay011nr 15.6-Inch Laptop
- ASUS F556UA-AB32 15.6-inch Full-HD Laptop
- HP Pavilion 17 Premium High Performance Laptop PC
- Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM 15.6-Inch Full HD Notebook
- 2016 NEW Signature Edition Lenovo 15.6″ High Performance Business and Gaming Laptop PC
- ASUS P-Series P2540UA-AB51 business standard Laptop
Overall, you just can’t beat the ASUS P-Series P2540UA-AB51 Laptop when it comes to performance and reliability. When you’re using it, you can tell that its designers had performance and user experience as their two top priorities, which makes it a pleasure to work and play on.
No matter what kind of gamer you are, you’re sure to be impressed. Amazon reviewers agree with us – that’s why it has an average of 4.1/5, coming in just behind the ASUS Chromebook in overall third. But the ASUS machine can do things that the Chromebook could never dream of, and it can do it much faster, too.
So if you’re looking for a decent, budget gaming machine, the search is over.
Gaming Laptops under $500 Buyers Guide
First things first. You need to actually decide if you want a gaming laptop before you even decide to look for one. Our guess is you’ve probably already answered ‘yes’ to this question since you’ve stumbled onto this article.
There has been huge advances in computer technology that has made it possible for laptops to become gaming laptops. Yes, there was a time not too long ago when playing any video game on a laptop was considered uncommon. Gaming was strictly reserved for consoles and desktop PC’s.
Nowadays, technology has sped up to the point where laptops are slowly creeping up to the performance of their desktop counterparts. So much so that a top of the line laptop can now play most, if not all the latest PC games turned up to the maximum settings. The bad news is that you’d be looking to spend over $2000 for a laptop with those type of specs.
The different types of gaming laptop
Before you start shopping, you’ll first need to decide what kind of laptop you’re looking for. Different machines are designed with different uses in mind, whether we’re talking about word processing, video creation or hardcore gaming.
As a general rule, most gaming laptops fit into one of the following three categories.
Casual gaming is big business. Whether we’re talking about Pokémon GO and Farmville or whether we’re talking about online flash games and MMORPGs, the odds are that most people you know are casual gamers of some sort or another. Because casual gamers are more…well, casual, they’re not too worried about staying up to date with the latest releases. That means that they can get away with lower specs and run old machines without too much of a problem.
You can find tons of lists on the internet listing casual games that you should check out…here is one such list.
Many such games are 2D or 3D and don’t require high specs to play. To give you an idea, think of the games you play on your phone. They are fun, simple and easy on the eyes. Some have cool special effects but for the most part, they are not pushing the graphical or processing capabilities of the modern laptop.
Perhaps one of the most popular casual games is the Sims. Even the latest interation in the series (the Sims 4) won’t have an issue playing on the laptops we’ve mentioned.
Hardcore gamers are the people that we usually think about when it comes to gaming. They love playing games, they’re good at them, and they expect their machine to be able to keep up with them whether they’re scoring goals or scoring headshots. These laptops tend to be the most expensive, thanks to the state-of-the-art equipment inside the case that helps them to power complex software without lag or latency.
Hardcore games can range from the Call of Duty franchise to Battlefield, GTA and BioShock, Starcraft, Counter-Strike and Diablo. Many of them push the capabilities of a gaming laptop to it’s limit.
The most important thing is to do your research to ensure that your CPU, RAM and graphics card (a big one!) meet the minimum specifications. For the most part, CPU and RAM is pretty affordable and usually not a concern for worry. It’s mainly the graphics card you need to worry about.
All the laptops we’ve mentioned all comes with integrated graphics, which is significantly weaker then their dedicated graphics counterparts. Still, you’ll be able to run older and less demanding games like Counter-Strike: Go, Diablo, Starcraft, World of Warcraft and Dota with the laptops we’ve mentioned. However; you’re best to go with the laptops with the more powerful graphics options (Intel HD 520 and 620 or the Radeon R7).
A great source is notebookcheck.net which will give you the expected performance levels of many graphics cards and laptops.
If you are likely to play these types of games, we recommend to stick to 15.6″ or higher screens which will give you enough display size to enjoy the game fully. Expect the battery life to be lower, but it’s not a problem as long as you sit near a plug socket.
All laptops are portable, but some are more portable than others. This subcategory of machines is designed to be used on the move, so they tend to be lightweight with smaller screens and cheaper hardware. Many are designed to be more rugged than other gaming machines, but no laptop is invincible and so you’ll still want to invest in a protective case.
Portable gaming machines, then, are usually the cheapest of the lot, although not by much. But with any laptop there’s a trade-off, and smaller machines have less space for hardware. Still, they tend to have the longest battery life, and they make for the ideal compromise if you want a reasonably priced machine that will get the job done.
What do the specs mean?
When it comes to gaming laptop, what’s under the hood is more important than ever, so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with some of the different specifications that set these devices apart from each other.
Over to you
We hope you enjoyed our top ten list on the best gaming laptops for under $500. By now, you should know everything you need to know about buying a budget gaming laptop. With a bit of luck, you’ll find yourself the perfect machine without breaking the bank – and you’ll get great performance from it for years to come.
Now it’s your turn. We want to know whether you agree with our picks and, if so, which gaming laptop you’d choose yourself. We’d also love to know which games you’re most looking forward to playing. Be sure to let us know with a comment!