Think you need to fork over 1000’s of dollars in order to get a decent gaming laptop?
Think again. These days, mobile technology in laptops has improved so much that it’s actually possible to get a decent machine without digging into your life savings.
Now, don’t get us wrong. When looking at laptops under $500 (or thereabouts) you will have to make significant sacrifices on what games you can play.
Still, gaming is possible as well as other things you’d expect – multimedia usage, browsing, emailing. You name it.
The problem is there are so many different specifications to look at that it can be hard to make the right decision. Many would-be gamers are paralyzed by choice.
That’s why we’ve done the hard work, scouring ratings and review sites, analyzing the specs, and crunching the numbers to create the definitive list of gaming laptops that you can buy for less than $500.
The Best Gaming Laptops Under $500 In 2021
|Model||Operating System||Screen||Weight||CPU||RAM||Graphics||Hard Drive||Price||Price||Shop|
|1. HP 14″||Windows 10 64-bit||14″ FHD IPS Display @ 1920 * 1080||3.24 lbs||10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G4 (Quad Core 1.1 GHz to turbo 3.7 GHz)||8 GB||Intel Iris Plus Graphics G4||256 GB SSD||$584.99||$$|
|2. Acer Aspire 5 (Intel)||Windows 10 Home 64-bit||15.6″ FHD IPS Display @ 1920 * 1080||5.74 lbs||10th Gen Intel Core i5-10210U (Quad core 1.6 GHz to turbo 4.2 GHz)||8 GB||Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620||256 GB SSD||~$600||$$$|
|3. ASUS VivoBook 15||Windows 10 Home 64-bit||15.6″ FHD TN Display @ 1920 * 1080||3.53 lbs||AMD Quad Core Ryzen 7 3700U (Quad core 2.3 GHz – 4 GHz||8 GB||Integrated Radeon RX Vega 10||512 SSD||$549.99||$$|
|4. Acer Aspire 5 (AMD)||Windows 10 S 64-bit||15.6″ FHD IPS Display @ 1920 * 1080||3.97 lbs||AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual Core Processor (2.6 GHz to 3.5 GHz)||4 GB||Integrated AMD Radeon Vega 3 Mobile Graphics||128 GB SSD||$349||$|
|5. Lenovo Ideapad 330||Windows 10 Home 64-bit||15.6″ HD Display @ 1366 * 768||4.85 lbs||7th Generation AMD A9-9425 (Dual core 3.1 GHz to turbo 3.7 GHz)||8 GB||Integrated AMD Radeon R5 Graphics||256 GB SSD||$508.49||$$|
|6. Dell Inspiron 15||Windows 10 S 64-bit||15.6″ HD Display @ 1366 * 768||4.45 lbs||10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 (Dual core 1.2 GHz to turbo 3.4 GHz)||8 GB||Integrated Intel UHD Graphics G1||1 TB HDD + 128 GB SSD||$549.99||$$|
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 many show laptops that are $100’s of dollars over $500!
We’ve made sure that all of the laptops we’ve mentioned are around ($5xx) or below $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.
You can check a more detailed review of our selections further down this page.
All of these laptops are great choices as long as you set your expectations accordingly.
What do we mean by this?
Well, if you expect you can run the latest or most demanding games at the highest graphic levels (think The Witcher franchise, GTA, Call of Duty, or the ever so gruesome Doom: Eternal) you’ll be left disappointed. The game will either flat out won’t run or you’ll be left with such a stutter it will be unplayable.
See, the bottleneck when it comes to gaming is primarily the graphics card. RAM and CPU speeds are not so much an issue.
A good idea is to head over to notebookcheck and perform comparisons of the integrated graphics cards which will indicate the types of games you can play. We’ve got an example here but you can also Google other comparisons. Scroll down the page and you’ll see the type of performance you can expect for a select bunch of games.
So then, what games can you expect to play?
- For any graphically intense games that came out in the last 3 years or so, they either won’t run adequately or you’ll have to significantly dial back the settings to low. Think of Battlefield V, these laptops aren’t going to cut it.
- You’ll be able to run most games on the graphically lighter side. Optimized titles will also perform well. Examples include Fifa, League of Legends, Dirt Rally 2.0, Apex Legends, Dota 2, Fortnite, Team Fortress 2, Overwatch and Counter-Strike. Expect to dial the settings back in some cases. Some of these titles will run at medium settings at a native FHD resolution.
- Any super casual games (or retro style games), should run comfortably. Think of the Sims, Limbo, Bejeweled, or Stardew Valley.
- Games from 5+ years ago may also run, even if they were graphically intense back then. Think GTA V (released 2013), Bioshock Infinite, and Tomb Raider.
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 an affordable gaming laptop these days.
While a laptop for gaming is probably why you are here, rest assured that the laptops we’ve mentioned are also great for word processing, internet browsing (with multiple tabs), and just doing everyday things like watching movies and listening to music.
However; you’re best sticking to a laptop with a quad-core CPU if you’re more inclined to use heavier applications for tasks like video or photo editing.
Our Top Picks For The Best Gaming Laptops Under $500
You’ve seen our choices, but you might be wondering why we chose those laptops.
Well, a lot of consideration goes into determining our list. There is a huge range of factors to consider including price, portability, screen quality, port selection, and the power of the internal components, namely CPU, GPU, and RAM. We’ve considered it all.
Let’s just say a lot of coffee was consumed and words exchanged in finally deciding the final rankings of our list.
And now, without further ado, let’s get into it.
1. HP 14″ – The Best Gaming Laptop Under $500
It may look inconspicuous on the outside, but this laptop from HP has some pretty beefy hardware under the hood.
To tell you the truth, it’s under-priced. There are laptops out there that cost a couple hundred more that sport similar specifications.
That’s why it is our number 1 pick.
What’s not to love? You get a quad-core 10th generation Intel CPU that can go up to 3.7 GHz, 8 GB of RAM, and solid integrated graphics that uses Intel’s Sunny Cove microarchitecture.
The result? The best performing laptop on our list.
It’ll chew through all your multitasking quirks with room to spare. You will even be able to run more demanding games like Fortnite, Team Fortress 2, and Overwatch (albeit at reduced settings).
If there was one thing we had to nitpick on, it would be the smaller 14″ screen. Even so, it is still a gorgeous IPS display at FHD resolution. So we can’t really complain.
It’s worth mentioning as well that the base clock speed is only 1 GHz, but this will bump up depending on the application you are running. Some users have reported a bit of a loud fan because of this, but what laptop fan doesn’t get louder under stress?
All in all, this is the best laptop you can get given this price range. It represents excellent value for money and you’d be hard pressed to find something better.
2. Acer Aspire 5 (Intel) – Great for Multi-Tasking
This budget variety laptop from Acer represents one of the best all-round picks on our list.
The Aspire 5 is one of the highest-rated laptops on Amazon. And it’s easy to see why.
If the HP 14″ is too small for you then the Aspire 5 is right up your alley.
Sporting 8 GB of RAM with a 10th generation Intel Core i5-10210U (which turns out to be one of the best CPUs in its class), the Aspire 5 is a safe choice for reliable computing. For day to day use, it can’t be beat. Have multiple browser tabs, Microsoft Excel open, and listening to Spotify? No problem. The Aspire 5 will chew through it without much of a hiccup.
When it comes to gaming, the Intel UHD Graphics 620 is not too shabby as far as integrated graphics go. It can play most older games from 5 years ago and even some more recent titles, though expect to reduce settings to low or medium.
Our best suggestion is to use the Aspire 5 on a desk unless you are using it for light tasks like browsing.
In line with these design quirks, there is also no indicators for caps lock, num lock, or touchpad lock. Certainly not a deal-breaker but it does make us think why Acer decided to leave out such productivity boosters for a productivity orientated laptop.
In any case, if you are looking for a budget laptop that can pretty much do it all we’d recommend this beauty. It’s slim, well built, and has all the features you’d expect, and performs at a level of laptops that are twice the price.
3. ASUS VivoBook 15 – Best Value For The Money and Most Powerful Graphics
This laptop from ASUS represents great value because it packs a lot of features at a very modest price tag.
It has a 15.6″ FHD screen (that’s 1920 * 1080) which is impressive enough. Even better, the thin bezel design – which they call a 4 – way NanoEdge bezel – allows the screen to really pop and gives a premium look that is more typical of more expensive laptops. The backlit keyboard is great for use in dim environments and the fingerprint scanner via Windows Hello allows access to your laptop without even typing a password.
The secret sauce in keeping the VivoBook 15 as cost-efficient as possible lies with two factors.
Firstly, the internal components are from AMD which means they are more affordable than Intel’s. The Ryzen 7 quad-core processor can peak up to 4 GHz. What’s more impressive is the Radeon Vega 10 graphics.
It’s more powerful than the other graphics solutions on our list. In fact, it actually outperforms the previously mentioned Intel UHD 620 by more than 50% in some cases. That means you’ll squeeze more frames out for those extra demanding games.
And now on to the second factor…
Furthermore; the speakers are not too loud, but who would want to really use laptops speakers anyway? Especially at this price range. You’re better off using headphones or earbuds.
If all you care about is gaming, go with this laptop. However; if you also want to use your laptop for multimedia and general usage (and you want your games to look more vibrant), you’re probably better off with the HP 14″ or Acer Aspire 5, which both come with superior screens.
4. Acer Aspire 5 (AMD) – The Best Budget ‘Budget’ Gaming Laptop
Truly a budget model, this is our second showing of the Acer Aspire 5 laptop. The main difference between the other model we mentioned is that this version swaps intel components for AMD.
AMD is known to be more affordable than Intel (or Nvidia when it comes to the graphics card) whilst offering similar levels of performance.
It’s why this laptop costs substantially less without sacrificing too much performance.
You also only get 4GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. That’s pretty much a given at this price point but easily upgradeable although you’d lose some of the savings if you do decide to buy another stick of RAM or hard drive.
The Windows 10 S operating system comes already loaded. It’s a limited and more streamlined version of Windows 10 so we’d recommend toggling it off if you want a fuller set of features.
It’s not surprising thousands of customers have fallen in love with the Aspire 5. It’s light, performs well, and offers excellent value for money at a price point that is hard to beat. It’s got a nice screen which is perfect for viewing media or light gaming. Whether you’re a student or professional, this laptop is a good choice.
5. Lenovo Ideapad 330 – Solid All-Rounder With Great Colorways
Similar to our number 3 and 4 picks, the Lenovo Ideapad 330 also comes with AMD components and packs a mean punch.
Lenovo are known for offering great value laptops. And we’d venture to say that the Ideapad 330 fits this bill.
The less popular AMD brand (combined with Lenovo’s mission of offering the best bang for buck laptops) means the price stays reasonably low, even for a budget choice.
As for the integrated graphics, it’s about the same performance as the other Intel graphics options we’ve mentioned. You’ll still be able to play retro or optimized games but at a lower frame rate. The good news is that the GPU supports two displays up to a 4K resolution at 30 Hz each. Not too shabby if you want to watch some videos on one screen and do work on the other.
The best thing about the Ideapad is the build. It’s solid aluminum and doesn’t buckle under the pressure when you carry it around. You’ll notice it comes in two colorways, making it look a lot more premium. The other one can be seen here. For many people, that can be the biggest appeal and sure adds some flavor to an otherwise market filled with grey and black models.
This entry from Lenovo is decent for the price and will get the job done if you don’t intend on heavily multitasking.
6. Dell Inspiron 15 – Largest Storage Space With Touchscreen
The Inspiron product line up from Dell features a huge selection of laptops for pretty much any budget and use.
Out of all those selections, we’ve decided that the Dell Inspiron 15 is one of the better picks for gaming on a very tight budget. Here’s why.
The main downfall comes with two specifications – the CPU and screen.
All in all, this laptop is solid. It does a couple of things brilliantly whilst other aspects fall short. The touchscreen and huge storage space are awesome but the limited resolution and dual-core option will lead some customers to look elsewhere.
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 a better CPU 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?
As we mentioned near the beginning of this article, the games you can play will be based on your budget. At a price range of $500 or less, you’ll mainly be limited to older games or graphically light titles. You will also have to reduce settings.
The further you extend your budget, generally the more games you will be able to run.
- Does my next laptop require any specific features?
For example, you may need a laptop that is super light, touchscreen or has a certain screen size or resolution. Make sure you have these deciding factors in mind before committing to buy one.
With the answers to those questions in mind, along with our rundown of the devices on the market, you should be well-placed to make a decision.
In any case, it can still be quite challenging to choose which laptop is right, especially if you don’t know what all those technical specifications mean. If you don’t that’s OK. Our list doesn’t require such knowledge. For those who are still interested, read on.
What Do The Specs Mean?
When it comes to a 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 list of 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!