We've rated and reviewed the best gaming laptops under $500. These aren't great long-term solutions, but if you need a cheap gaming laptop that can run non-demanding games, these budget laptops should do the trick.
Here's the cold, honest truth: you won't find a great gaming laptop for under 500. If you need a more serious gaming machine and can't afford to spend more than $500, you'd be much better off getting a desktop for games (check out this $500 gaming PC build). If you really need a laptop that serves you well for gaming, you're going to want to spend a little more.
What is the best gaming laptop under $500?
A gaming laptop is a powerful portable computer designed to handle the demanding needs of gamers. These machines are equipped with high-end components that can deliver smooth gameplay and high frame rates. Browse the list of the best gaming laptops under $500 below, along with associated reviews and opinions.
An exclusive list of the best gaming laptops under $500 with specs, price, pros, cons, and comparison. As video games become more and more popular, so do gaming laptops which tend to focus on graphics processing power more than anything else.
In this tutorial, we'll be looking at the best gaming laptops under 500. Although all laptops perform differently, they can all run a variety of games helping everyone from the casual gamer to the more committed gamer get a solid rig on a budget.
This HP 14 is our pick for the best sub-$500 gaming laptop currently available. The laptop is equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor with integrated Vega 7 graphics, 8 GB of DDR4 memory and a 256 GB SSD. It also comes with a 14-inch 1080P display and Windows 11. And it weighs just under 3.5 pounds.
An example is the runner-up Lenovo IdeaPad 3 below as it essentially offers the same specs as this HP laptop, with the only difference being that the IdeaPad 3 is equipped with an Intel Core i3-1115G4 and 15.6 -inch screen.
So if you prefer a big screen and/or an Intel processor, the IdeaPad listed below might be your best bet. However, the better GPU on the Ryzen 5 5500U and the lower price makes the HP 14 the best option for under $500 at the moment.
In terms of gaming performance, with a Ryzen 5 5500U processor and integrated Vega 7 graphics, this laptop can easily handle light esports games (such as Fortnite, League of Legends, Dota 2, Rocket League, etc.). on medium to high settings with a high frame rate.
Acer Nitro 5 AN515-42-R5ED
As one of the more expensive options on the list, Nitro5 is great value for money. Not many compromises are made here, with the high-end specs included in a low-end price. The lack of SSD may be a stumbling block for some, however, that can't be argued with the price.
- Backlit keyboard
- 4 GB of dedicated VRAM
- Full HD screen
- No SSD drives
- Thick frames
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15.6″
Our runner-up pick is as good as a gaming laptop that's under $ 500. As we indicated above, the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 has essentially the same specs as the HP 14. It comes with an Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor with integrated Intel UHD graphics. It also has a 15.6 inch 1080P display. Like the HP 14, it also comes with a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM.
However, if gaming is your main concern, the Ryzen 5 5500U integrated graphics on the HP 14 will be more powerful than the Intel-based integrated graphics on this Lenovo laptop. And with the HP 14 being around $ 50 cheaper, we figured it was the better option for gamers now.
Ultimately, this Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is a solid under $ 500 laptop that will perform well for playing undemanding games. However, if you're looking for a better overall gaming option, the HP 14 is probably your best bet.
Acer Aspire 5 Slim
Best for users who want a decent screen and the ability to work and play in a variety of environments. Acer Aspire 5 Slim provides some of the best features at an affordable price. With a full HD screen and backlit keyboard, these aren't features typically found in cheap laptops. 4GB of RAM might make you want more, but it offers a good compromise when you consider everything.
- Backlit keyboard
- Full HD screen
- Acer TrueHarmony
- 4 GB of RAM
Acer Aspire 3 15.6″
If you're looking for an even more affordable laptop, consider the Acer Aspire 5. The Aspire 5 comes with an AMD Ryzen 3 3350U processor with integrated Vega 6 graphics. It also comes with a 128GB SSD and 4GB of DDR4 RAM.
Although the performance of this Acer laptop will lag behind the options listed above, it comes at a significantly lower price point. In fact, you can buy this laptop for just over $350.
Of course, the downside to this option is the fact that it only has 4GB of RAM. It hurts a little, even in undemanding titles. However, with the settings turned off, this laptop will still be able to run games like League of Legends. And if you're willing to install an additional 4GB of RAM (~$20), you can mitigate that performance loss.
The bottom line is, if you're looking for a minimal laptop that will let you play some undemanding games, this Acer Aspire laptop is for you.
Dell Inspiron 15.6 Inch
Best for users looking for a solid, well-built, and fast laptop. The Dell Inspirion series has been around for a long time. It has amassed a follower, which makes it a bit basic when it comes to both budget and high-end laptops. This version offers an attractive proposition for those who want to buy a solid laptop.
- Intel Core i5 processor
- 8 GB RA
- No Full HD screen
- Integrated graphics.
Best gaming laptop under 500 buying guide
The coronavirus and the subsequent transition to remote work has prompted many people to take a compact device to solve problems. And this trend does not only apply to working models.
Gaming laptops are also becoming more and more popular. Hardware is in short supply today, and stores sometimes require no less money for the current RTX 3070 video card than for a laptop with the same video chip. In such circumstances, buying a laptop for games sounds more profitable - especially since many of them can be found on the open market at a not inflated retail price.
I switched to laptops from desktops about five years ago. During this time, I changed four models, tested several more devices, and also carefully studied the nuances of gaming laptops before buying my last PC.
In this article, I will tell you what to look for when choosing a gaming laptop and why the popular horror stories about overheating of such models are almost not relevant today.
What makes a gaming laptop different from others
It can be assumed that gaming laptops are any powerful models. This is usually the case, but not always. To run demanding games, hardware must be not only powerful, but also balanced. A weak processor or lack of RAM can easily become a "bottleneck" when the low performance of one component interferes with the potential of another, more powerful one.
In addition, some elements of the laptop may be too powerful even for the most “gluttonous” games, so there is a risk of seriously overpaying for the device.
It turns out that not every work laptop is optimal for gaming. But in the opposite direction, the rule works almost flawlessly. If the device copes well with modern games, then it will be enough for other tasks - for example, for editing or graphic design.
Fortunately, not all manufacturers today offer the fancifully angular “gamer” look of laptops with RGB backlighting, so there are plenty to choose from.
When choosing a gaming laptop, you should first of all pay attention to the video card and processor. They provide performance in games.
Video cards for computers and laptops are different
In the article, when describing and comparing different chips, mobile video cards are meant - models designed taking into account the form factors of gaming laptops. Their power is lower than similar versions for stationary PCs due to the limited cooling system.
At first glance, it may seem that the larger the number in the name, the better: it is logical that the RTX 3080 video chip is more powerful than the RTX 3070. Moreover, video card manufacturers, Nvidia and AMD, take into account the different financial capabilities of buyers, so they present several chips at once within the line - the more powerful, the more expensive.
However, it is important to understand that the old line of video cards is also outdated technology. The RTX 3060 may be weaker than the RTX 2080, but technically superior. And devices with RTX 2080 can easily be more expensive.
Secondly, in the case of laptops, it is not enough just to choose a device with a suitable graphics card. Often, manufacturers artificially limit the power of the video chip. This is not done out of malice: if engineers make a very thin laptop, then it will not work to fit a powerful cooling system inside it that can cope with all hot components.
You have to limit the maximum amount of electricity supplied to the video card. Thus, it generates less heat so that the fans can effectively expel excess heat from the device. This directly affects performance. To indicate how much energy the system gives to a particular component, the TDP value, calculated in watts, is used.
Until recently, Nvidia required all third-party manufacturers to specify what kind of video card is in the device. For this, the Max-Q marking was used - it denoted less powerful devices. Unfortunately, today there is no such requirement. This leads to the fact that two devices with identical hardware can show different performance in games.
What kind of performance you need
Now it is important to understand what kind of performance you need. How many frames per second (FPS) are you comfortable with? When will you be ready to replace the device with a new, more powerful one? These questions need to be kept in mind, because a laptop is a ready-made solution, and in most cases it will not work to replace a video card in it, as in a desktop PC.
If you're looking for maximum performance, look no further than laptops with the RTX 3070 (8GB) and RTX 3080 (16GB) - or models with their AMD counterpart, the Radeon RX 6800M (12GB). You will have to pay at least 130,000 R for them, but they will remain relevant for the next few years.
For example, the RTX 3070 in the recent Resident Evil: Village produces about 85-90 FPS at maximum graphics settings in FullHD. If we consider 60 FPS as a necessary minimum, then the RTX 3070 should now be enough with a margin.
The RTX 3070 is designed to play at 1440p (QHD) resolution - it should be enough to play modern releases at 60 FPS on high settings, but without ray tracing. The RTX 3080 will be able to run some projects at 2160p (4K). But that doesn't make sense, since most laptops come with a 1080p (FullHD) display, unless you're going to connect it to a TV or another monitor.
If you're willing to make some compromises, but want games to look good today, you can go down one notch: the RTX 3060 (6GB) or older versions of the previous generation lines like the RTX 2080 (8GB). In the case of video cards from previous years, be careful: as I said, it is easy to overpay for devices with them.
The manufacturer of the video card
With such hardware, in order to achieve high FPS in games - from 60 frames per second or more - you will have to slightly lower the graphics settings, but in this case the picture will still be very decent.
It is also important to determine the manufacturer of the video card. Today the market is represented by two companies: Nvidia and AMD.
In the community of players, it is believed that the former do their job better than the latter - and performance indicators in benchmarks and games, as a rule, confirm this. In particular, Nvidia's most powerful mobile graphics card today, the RTX 3080, outperforms AMD's flagship Radeon 6800M chip in most recent games.
Another advantage of Nvidia's chips is separate processing cores for ray tracing and tensor computing. The former more efficiently calculate the movement of light in games using RTX technology. The latter are needed for the correct operation of another technology, DLSS, which allows you to run games at a lower resolution, but without losing visual quality. DLSS is only available on Nvidia's RTX line of chips.
This not only significantly increases the number of frames per second, but also helps games run at the desired resolution: for example, the laptop does not “pull” native 2160p, and thanks to DLSS it will cope with the load. So the technology has the potential to make any laptop relevant for a longer period of time. Previously, if the device ceased to maintain decent performance in games, it had to be changed. Today, it is enough to turn on DLSS so that even games that are too heavy for laptop hardware show a more comfortable number of frames per second.
But this does not mean that a laptop with an AMD chip is a bad choice in advance. The current models of the company have good performance. In addition, AMD has its own DLSS analogue called FidelityFX Super Resolution. It doesn't require separate tensor cores and still does the job almost as well as the competition.
The only important thing to remember is that it is advisable to buy an AMD video chip in conjunction with a processor from the same company. This will enable two AMD-exclusive technologies: Smart Access Memory and SmartShift. In short, they are aimed at ensuring that the components of the device work better in conjunction with each other.
Unfortunately, now they do not show great efficiency, but in the future this may change. If this happens, it will be a shame that you will not be able to use the full potential of iron due to the wrong selection of components.
To remember: how to choose a video card
The paragraph turned out to be voluminous - for consolidation, I listed all the main theses for choosing a video card:
- The laptop is a finished product. In most cases, it will not work to replace the video card over time, as on a PC.
- Not always the higher the number in the name, the better: video cards from last year's lines can be more powerful than the current ones, but models with them are also more expensive.
- Often, manufacturers limit the power of the video card in their models so that laptops do not overheat. Because of this, devices with similar chips may show different performance. It is advisable to know the TDP of the video chip in advance.
- Pay attention to the manufacturer of the video card and select the model that suits your needs.
- You can't rely on specs alone - see how the laptop performs in tests and reviews.
With the choice of a video card, there are the most nuances, and then it becomes much easier.
It is difficult to make a mistake with the choice of processor today for two reasons. Firstly, current models are often sold with current processors, so you don’t have to choose between generations.
Secondly, processors become obsolete more slowly than a video card. This means that any current model will show acceptable results and will serve the player well for many more years. This also applies to previous generation models.
Of course, more expensive flagship models will perform better, but the overpayment is not worth such a slight premium in performance.
What I described above is relevant only for games. If you are looking for a laptop for work tasks - rendering, graphics, you should pay attention to the older models of the current generation.
Processors for consumer laptops today are made by Intel and AMD. Many players believe that AMD solutions have been better in recent years, but this does not always correlate with tests: 11th generation Intel mobile processors, on average, are better at gaming than AMD Ryzen 5000 series. Therefore, if you are only interested in gaming performance, it makes sense to pay attention to Intel.
Comparison of the performance of Intel and AMD processors from video bloggers Linus Tech Tips and Jarrod's Tech
However, you need to remember that modern Intel processors are very demanding on energy. For maximum performance, they need a "fat" TDP, which not every cooling system can handle. Therefore, if you decide to buy a device with i7 or i9 - the flagship versions of the current 11th generation processors, you need to make sure that the laptop can adequately serve them.
To do this, you will again have to turn to reviews on the Internet. Ideally, find the results of a stress test that specifically loads the processor by 100%, such as AIDA64. If the device after a long test demonstrates stable performance and the core temperature does not rise above critical values - + 90 ... 95 ° C, everything is fine.
Otherwise, you will not be able to avoid "throttling" - a condition in which the components heat up so much that the system is forced to drastically limit performance in order to avoid overheating.
As for Ryzen, these are good processors that show decent performance. In addition, they have an important advantage for those who often use a laptop without being connected to a power source. AMD processors are more energy efficient than Intel: other things being equal, the charge of a laptop with Ryzen will last longer.
It is also worth remembering that current Ryzen processors perform very well at low TDP. When the system is providing low power to components, whether running on battery power or in "quiet mode" that the user can turn on manually, AMD's solutions excel in both work and gaming.
The conclusion suggests itself: if compactness is important to you and you are going to use the laptop often in battery mode, you should take Ryzen. If only performance is important to you, it makes sense to look at the 11th generation of Intel processors.
Screen size and compactness
Choosing the right screen size is primarily a matter of preference. Most often, the choice of the buyer is limited to two options - 15.6 or 17 inches.
A 17-inch laptop has a larger screen, but it is unlikely to fit into a medium-sized backpack. Also, as a rule, 17-inch devices are more expensive.
On the other hand, if you plan to work on a laptop and take a model with a high screen resolution - QHD and higher, a large diagonal will help to place several "tracks" in the editing program in the visibility zone - it is much more comfortable to deal with large projects.
Separately, it is worth noting the different options for "chargers". Modern gaming laptops come by default with bulky power packs that often weigh more than a kilogram. This is a necessity: only such blocks can provide good power for powerful iron.
If compactness is important to you, you should look at laptops with an additional Type-C connector: it will save you from having to carry these large blocks with you everywhere, because a small charge from your smartphone will be enough.
The power from it will not be enough during the game, when the device is loaded at 100%: in this case, the laptop will either not work at full capacity, or will continue to be discharged. But Type-C is enough for office work.
For example, the Type-C connector was enough for me to work on a project in Unreal Engine 4 all day. And for office work, it may not be useful at all: the laptop will not run out quickly.
Do not ignore options with a large thickness. Of course, everyone would like to find a powerful laptop with the thickness of modern Macbooks, but these do not exist. Thickness tends to go hand in hand with the cooling system, so it's not uncommon for thin laptops to suffer from overheating - and as a result, give poor performance results. It is desirable that the thickness be at least 25 mm.
Not only the size of the matrix matters, but also its quality. First of all, you need to pay attention to the resolution. For players, this is an important aspect, since the number of pixels greatly affects the load on the video card.
In cases where the game strongly rests on the performance of the video chip, increasing the resolution can significantly reduce the number of frames. Therefore, buying a laptop with a resolution higher than FullHD is only in conjunction with a powerful video card.
Another important parameter for players is the refresh rate of the display. Three popular “hertz” frequencies are most common on the market today: 60, 144 and 240. 60 Hz is worth considering when the laptop is not very powerful. 144Hz is the new standard for gaming laptops, with displays on almost every modern model with RTX 3070 and 3080 graphics cards.
In many modern games, the number of frames per second rises above 60, so 144 Hz is useful. In addition, even outside of games in the system, 144 Hz feels smoother than the usual 60 Hz. Using a laptop with such a monitor for everyday tasks is very pleasant.
240Hz and above is usually overkill for a gamer. This value is only needed by cybersportsmen - in multiplayer games, reaction speed is important.
It is also very important to pay attention to the type of matrix. In laptops, you can find three options: TN, IPS or IPS-like, as well as OLED.
The first type is not so common today, and that's good. Nobody should recommend a TN-matrix because of poor color reproduction and a small viewing angle - if you look at such screens at an angle, the brightness and amount of detail disappear significantly. You have to sit behind such devices in a strictly defined position.
In IPS and OLED, there are no such shortcomings. IPS is the "classic" of modern displays, and most laptops offer just such a matrix. It combines good color reproduction and decent brightness.
OLED, on the other hand, is often criticized for its relatively low brightness, which will not allow you to comfortably use a laptop on the street. But at the same time, such matrices have a very high contrast ratio and good color reproduction, so watching content on them is a pleasure. Separately, OLED users note the reference black color, because of which contrasting scenes look very good. OLED displays are often installed in professional laptops for photo and video work.
Regardless of which type of matrix you like best, it will be useful to study more detailed screen characteristics before buying. In particular, we are interested in peak brightness and color gamut. They will allow you to understand how beautiful the picture on the monitor will be, as well as how comfortable it is to look at.
For example, if you plan to use your laptop outdoors, you might not be able to see anything on the device due to low brightness on a sunny day. In such cases, you need to find a laptop with a brightness of at least 450 nits. For home use, the requirements are less stringent: 250-300 nits will be enough. Unfortunately, these details are rarely specified in device specifications, so here we also have to turn to the tests of bloggers.
There are many different standards for measuring the color gamut of displays. Most often you can find sRGB - this abbreviation marks part of the entire visible spectrum of the human eye.
The picture shows how many colors sRGB covers: the large figure filled with color is all the colors that a person can see, and the triangles inside are various standards that limit the spectrum.
sRGB does not cover the entire spectrum of visible colors, but it is enough to comfortably watch visual content. Try to look for models with coverage close to 100% sRGB. If you need a laptop, including for color correction and photo processing, you will have to look at other, more stringent standards. For example, on aRGB or Rec 2020.
Well, the most important point - do not forget to look at the laptop live before buying. Check if you are satisfied with the screen and color reproduction, if you have enough contrast. For example, the display may turn out to be dull and faded, although a good IPS matrix is declared at first glance.
RAM and ROM
Another important element of a gaming laptop is RAM. In general, she has quite a few characteristics, but the main thing to keep in mind is the size and standard.
The amount of memory also plays an important role. Today, for games, the optimal amount is 16 GB. If the "RAM" is less, this will not be enough not only for games, but also for busy office use.
But if you use a laptop for work tasks - rendering, graphic design, ideally you should look for a device with 32 GB of memory. This is especially true for those who run several resource-intensive programs at the same time.
With permanent memory, everything is quite simple. The current standard is fast SSD drives. Nevertheless, many manufacturers continue to insert slow "hard drives" such as HDDs into their laptops. As a rule, this only affects the speed of loading games and OS, but this may change in the near future.
The latest game consoles, the PS5 and Xbox Series X, are equipped with fast SSD drives, which means that game studios will increasingly consider them as a consumer standard. What's more, some developers have started listing SSDs as part of the recommended system requirements.
And the SSD greatly simplifies the daily use of a laptop outside of games: programs run and run faster, updates are installed faster, and the operating system itself turns on instantly.
Separately, it is worth noting that RAM and a hard drive are the only components of a laptop that can often be replaced independently. To do this, it is only necessary that these components are not soldered on the laptop motherboard.
Thus, if you do not want to overpay for a laptop with 32 GB of RAM, but assume that it will come in handy in the future, you should clarify in advance whether a particular model has an upgrade option. Some manufacturers even create separate covers on the back panel (such as the Acer Nitro range) so that you don't have to remove the entire back panel to replace components.
Keyboard, touchpad and ports
The last thing you need to decide when choosing a laptop is the keyboard and the number of ports. In both cases, it all depends on your preferences.
To understand whether this or that keyboard suits you, it is advisable to test it personally - other people's advice here can only do harm. Some people like soft keys, some don't. However, there are a couple of technicalities to keep in mind.
First, the uniformity of pressing long buttons, such as space or Shift. In some low-quality laptops, the membrane that fixes the pressure is located so that pressing the very edge of the long key does not work. The problem seems to be minor, but it will be very annoying if you type a lot.
Secondly, the presence of a dedicated Numpad. Many users find the separate digital block on the right handy. It can be found on almost any laptop with a diagonal of 17 inches, and not all manufacturers fit Numpad in more compact models. Pay attention to this.
It is also worth testing the quality of the touchpad. Of course, you will not use it for the game, but it can come in handy for office work. The most important criterion when choosing a touchpad is how comfortable it is to press. It should be accompanied by a clear, pronounced click. Otherwise, it will not be so pleasant to use it, and after long-term operation, the clicks themselves may cease to be fixed at the edges. It is also important to make sure that you are comfortable pressing the right side of the touchpad: I have repeatedly come across models in which the right click was activated only once.
With ports, everything is easier. Consider in advance how many external devices you are going to connect to your computer. If you're going to occasionally use your laptop as a full desktop replacement, you'll probably need to connect an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor to it. In this case, make sure the laptop has an HDMI port to connect a separate display.
As I noted earlier, a Type-C port would also be useful for using small charges when working outside the home. If you are taking pictures or just using SD cards, then some models have separate slots for them.
As a rule, today ports are located on the sides of the computer. However, in recent years, alternative placement has become more popular - behind the monitor. In my opinion, this option is much more convenient if you connect several devices at once: the wires “hide” behind the display cover and do not clog the workspace.
- Most attention should be paid to the choice of video card. Look at how it performs in tests: in benchmarks and in the games themselves.
- With the choice of processor, things are simpler: they become obsolete more slowly.
- Do not skimp on RAM, otherwise the laptop runs the risk of quickly losing relevance. Well, when the model implies an independent upgrade.
- A laptop may have good hardware, but everything else seems to have been saved - poor build quality, poor-quality matrix. These are compromises worth making when the budget for the purchase is not so much.
- Be sure to watch reviews with tests: from there you can often find out information that the manufacturer does not tell about.