The Definitive Budget Gaming Laptop Buying Guide (Under $500 category)
You love gaming, but don’t have the privilege of owning one of those super high end gaming PC’s that can roll over any of the latest AAA titles at ultra-high settings, and pump out 60+ fps at 1440p without even breaking a sweat. Owning such a beastly machine is the dream of every PC gamer (once you get your hands on such a machine, sunlight is something you’ll rarely see…), but let’s face the truth- not everyone has over 1500 dollars lying around to spend on a gaming desktop or laptop. And if we are talking gaming laptops, you should know that you need to spend at least 30-35% more than you would on a desktop to get a similar gaming experience. So, the 1500 bucks becomes approximately 2000, and unless you have a job or have been saving up your pocket money for the last 100 years, there is no way you can afford one of those luxury laptops.
In this guide, we’ve included everything that you need to know in your quest for a budget gaming laptop under 500 bucks. We understand that buying the right gaming laptop is paramount to your success and it’s more important if you’re on a tight budget. Below, we’ve listed some of our favorites in this price range. Keep reading and we guarantee that one of these laptops will fit your needs.
Here we’ll try to answer some of the general queries that every first time buyer has when looking for a gaming laptop.
What is a Gaming Laptop?
A gaming laptop is basically any laptop that can be used for playing games. It doesn’t have to be a certain type of laptop and you don’t need to install certain type of hardware in it. It is just a very fast standard laptop with some very special extra-features on board such as- illuminated and fully customizable keyboards, improved audio, etc.
You can buy gaming laptops in all price ranges, and even laptops that are not gaming laptops can be used as gaming laptops. It all depends on the game that you plan on playing, the graphical fidelity that you require in your games, and whether you want to use said laptop for more than just gaming.
Different Categories of Gaming Laptops (By Price)
Gaming laptops are available in three different price ranges- Low, Medium, and High-end. An example of a low-end gaming laptop would be something like a regular notebook (starting at 350 and going all the way up to 600/ 700 dollars), any 14” or 15.6” notebook with a dedicated graphics chip can be a low-end gaming laptop, since it is technically capable of running games despite its weaker configuration. You can also upgrade the RAM and storage of a low-end laptop to make it slightly more suitable for gaming. Granted, the CPU and GPU are what really count since RAM upgrades don’t increase game performance by much if your CPU or graphics chip is bottlenecking the entire system.
A medium range gaming laptop is anything past the 800-dollar mark. These gaming laptops come with more powerful processors and graphics chips- typically the latest 6th and 7th gen Intel Core i7 processors, along with an NVIDIA GTX series graphics chip with its own dedicated GDDR3 or GDDR5 memory (anything with GDDR3 graphics memory these days just doesn’t cut it, GDDR5 is the standard).
High-end gaming laptops typically start at 1100-1200 dollars and can go all the way up to 2500 or in some cases beyond 3000 bucks. There is a certain point where it is just better to skip the idea of a gaming laptop and get a gaming desktop instead, since the amount of increase in performance that you get a after a certain price point (2500- 3000 dollars) is not worth the additional money that you spend, or in simple words the price to performance ratio gets dangerously low.
But hey, not all things expensive are overpriced. Some laptops like the Razer Blade series are genuinely worth the extra price because a stupid amount of engineering goes into each one of them. It is not a joke, cramming all that powerful hardware inside a tiny body that weighs less than 4-5 pounds. Think about it- if you can get the performance of a gaming desktop inside the form factor of a 15.6” laptop that weighs 4.5 pounds and is only 1.2” thick, isn’t that marvelous? You can think of a laptop as a desktop PC + monitor + keyboard + mouse + UPS + webcam + speakers all crammed into one small unit through the marvel of modern engineering. Appreciate a gaming laptop for what it is, don’t compare apples to oranges by saying “my desktop provides better performance per dollar than your laptop”.
Who Needs a Gaming Laptop?
Well, if you are a gamer (as in you play games either casually for fun or competitively to beat other people) and if you need a portable platform to be able to play all the games that you love, then a gaming laptop might be the choice for you. In short, we are referring to college students, LAN party enthusiasts, people who tend to travel a lot, etc.
Gaming laptops have always been the weapon of choice for LAN parties. Let’s say you and your buddies in the college hostel decide one evening to get together as group of 10-20 and play some counterstrike or DOTA 2 on LAN- all of you in one or two big rooms yelling and screaming while having some fun playing video games. Can you imagine putting 20 desktops together in a matter of minutes inside one or two college dorm rooms? Nah, us neither (assuming any of you own a desktop in the first place).
Another scenario would be a person with a job that requires him or her to travel a lot, but he/ she also happens to be a gamer at heart and just can’t stop playing computer games in their spare time. Well guess what- you can play with a laptop during your flights, you can also play games in an online party with your friends while relaxing in your hotel room, and you can play games on a laptop while away from home at your office (not while working of course!).
Can I Use a Normal Laptop for Gaming?
Absolutely, yes you can. If you don’t need to play the latest and greatest AAA titles in maximum graphical glory, you will do just fine with an average laptop. There are millions of people across the world who enjoy some good old Counter Strike and DOTA 2, as well as games from over 5-6 years ago. Some of these games are extremely light so they don’t require the best hardware to run on, while other games are just old and people play them because they are still amazing after all these years and bring back memories. So yes, you can use a laptop with an AMD quad core APU that costs less than 500 dollars to play video games, if you run the right games on it.
If you have anything that costs between 600-800 dollars with a dedicated graphics chip from the NVIDIA GTX series on it, you will most likely be able to run 90%+ of all games currently on the market with some reduced graphics settings. We believe that framerate matters more than fps. We will take 60 fps and medium graphics over 30 fps and high or ultra-graphics. So yes, any laptop with a Core i5 or quad core AMD APU and 8GB or more of RAM with a slightly decent graphics chip can serve as a very viable gaming laptop.
Things to Look for When Buying a Gaming Laptop:
There is a list that you need to go through when buying a gaming laptop, here is that list in the order of most relevant to least relevant:
1. GPU- The most important part of any gaming laptop or even desktop is obviously the graphics card. This is the “muscle” that runs all your games for you. It is imperative that you look for a laptop with the latest NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX series graphics chips if you have a budget greater than 700-800 dollars. If you are looking for a mid-range or budget gaming laptop then the AMD R5 and R7 series of mobile graphics as well as the NVIDIA GT series (GT 700, GT 800, etc.) will do just fine.
2. CPU- This is the brain of a laptop. Not only does a good CPU increase game performance, but it also increases multitasking ability, having something like a Core i7 allows you to run all the latest games without any bottlenecking or fps drops. Anything less than an i3 is not even considered for gaming these days, in fact the i5 is the minimum that you should strive for. If you are on the AMD side of things, look for an A9 or A10 series APU. Having a good CPU also means that you will be able to do more than just gaming on your laptop. You can use it for video and photo editing, database work, coding, and much more.
3. RAM- It is a clever idea to have at least 4 GB of RAM in the laptop if you plan on playing games of any sort. The OS alone needs 2 GB to function smoothly, the rest is used up by the game. Having 8 GB of RAM puts you in the safe zone, i.e. you are cleared to install and run almost any game. But 16 GB is where the fun starts- with that much RAM to play with, you can run games and background applications at the same time. You could also do video editing and 3D model rendering with more RAM. If your graphics card is inbuilt (Intel HD or an AMD APU) instead of dedicated, try boosting your RAM quantity since onboard graphics shares RAM with the CPU as video memory.
4. Display- We recommend a 14” display as the bare minimum for laptop gaming, although some people find that they can also game on a 13” display. Since 1080p is the standard gaming resolution these days, look for a display that is at least 1080p and 15.6” if you want to have a good gaming experience. IPS panels provide superior color response and contrast as opposed to TN panels. NVIDIA G-Sync is found on higher end gaming laptops, along with panels that have refresh rates exceeding 60 Hz.
5. Storage- This is typically in the form of a single hard drive (5400 rpm on low -mid end models and 7200 rpm on higher end models), or a SSD + HDD combo in which you use the SSD for storing Windows and games, and the HDD for larger files such as movie collections, game setups, photo libraries etc. Most mid to high end gaming laptops come with Windows 10 64-bit preinstalled.
Is it Possible to Get a Gaming Laptop on a Budget?
Yes, it is very much possible to do so. Just look for a 14” or 15.6” notebook with an Intel Pentium or Core i3 CPU and a display resolution of 1366 x 768. If they come with DOS preinstalled, the total cost should be less than 400-450 bucks. Intel HD graphics will manage light games such as CS GO, Dota 2, LoL, Warcraft, and even AAA titles from 5-6 years ago.
Try to get a laptop with at least 4 GB of RAM, since most models can be upgraded with an additional 4 GB of RAM later down the line. You also don’t need to get a model with an SSD, any laptop with a 512GB+ 5400 rpm HDD can run games just fine. If you know what to look for, you can get it. Just remember to run older or lighter games such as indie games or free to play games on these laptops, as they are not designed for anything more than that.
Do I Have to Spend a Fortune on Gaming Laptop?
Not at all. There is a way to game without spending a ton of money on a top of the line machine- you can easily play games on a sub 500-dollar laptop and still enjoy a smooth 45-60 frames per second by tinkering with some of the visual settings. We highly prefer gameplay and framerate over eye candy- and you probably feel the same way about games too. You just need a machine that packs the most value for price in a certain budget, the most CPU and GPU that you can cram into less than 500 bucks. Backlit keyboards, premium audio, battery life and display resolution take a backseat when we are talking about laptops that cost less than 500 bucks.
What Should I Expect at this Price Range? (Under 500 dollars)
Don’t expect a laptop with brushed aluminum finish, built-in subwoofers, a 4k display, and other luxuries at this price range. Instead, you need to look at the important parts- the processor, graphics chip, and RAM. Forget all else- build quality will be similar among models from various manufacturers at this price range (everyone uses the same type of plastic, all that differs is the finish and looks), and you should get Windows 10 home preinstalled.
Which Processor To Go With?
If you primarily play games that are CPU-intensive such as MOBA’s and Counter Strike (or games that use the Source Engine), then we suggest getting an Intel i5 or even i3 over a comparable AMD A-series APU even though the AMD one will have more physical cores. This is primarily because of the higher IPC performance of Intel CPU’s as compared to the AMD APU’s that sport older architecture and lower RAM speed support (right now, Intel 6th gen or 7th gen processor equipped laptops are the only ones with DDR4 RAM in them, AMD laptops still run on DDR3 which is slower and less power efficient).
However, if you must choose between two laptops that both lack dedicated graphics and you know that you’ll depend on the integrated graphics to play games, we will pick AMD over Intel any day of the year. Their APU’s are equipped with Radeon R5 and R6 series graphics chips that handily outclass even the Intel HD 600 series graphics, the latest Intel HD graphics solutions that are found in their 6th gen mobile CPU’s. Expect 4, 6, or in some rare cases 8 GB of DDR3/DDR4 RAM. Four is a little on the low side, but if you are not planning on playing heavy AAA titles such as GTA or Witcher, then you will be perfectly fine. Just don’t run any other software in the background while playing the game (no, not even the browser!). Without any further ado, let’s look at some of the finest gaming capable laptops that are currently available on the market for less than $500.
Here Are The Six Best And Affordable Gaming Laptops Under 500 For Serious Gamers
The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM offers amazing value for money if you are a college student looking to buy a new laptop, or a programmer who needs a portable computer in order to work on the go. It is also a very attractive option for casual gamers on a tight budget who want a laptop on which they can game and watch movies. If you are in doubt about whether or not you should purchase the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM, don’t worry- in the forthcoming sections of this article we shall examine the hardware inside this budget 15.6” notebook, and take a look at the overall design as well as build quality. One thing is for sure though, it certainly looks and feels better than similarly priced competitors from Dell or HP. Acer has always been renowned for delivering quality products at low prices, that is the main reason why they are one of the bestselling notebook brands in the world.
In the next section, we will talk about the processor, RAM, storage, display, keyboard, audio, and battery life of the Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM laptop. Then we shall discuss its gaming potential, even though this laptop was never intended to be a gaming machine. It simply costs too less for the manufacturer to put any powerful hardware in it, but you can run older games on it, including some E-sports titles such as Dota 2, CS GO, etc.
First, let us talk about the brains of this laptop- the 7th generation Intel Core i3 7100U processor. This is a dual core, hyperthreaded processor belonging to the Kaby Lake family of CPUs that was recently released by Intel. It features their latest architecture and node process, and is optimized for efficiency. Sporting up to 10% more performance than its 6th generation Skylake counterpart, the Core i3 7100U is one of the best CPUs that you will find in a laptop at this price range. Most of the competition doesn’t even use Core i series processors, they stick with quad core AMD APUs or Pentium processors, both of those options are cheaper than installing a Core i3. But Acer doesn’t compromise on performance even though their product is cheap, and you should be excited to be getting one of the latest and most efficient processors in such a cheap laptop. This Core i3 cannot turbo boost, since that feature is exclusive to the i5 and i7 processors. But it still boasts a respectable 2.4GHz clock speed and is loaded with 3MB of L3 cache.
Are two processing cores enough for everyday tasks such as web browsing, programming, working on office documents, or watching movies? The answer is yes, absolutely. In fact, when you think about it, 2 cores are more than enough for carrying out light tasks such as document work and web browsing. But since the Core i3 7100U features hyperthreading, the number of threads it can process simultaneously is 4- since there are 4 logical cores in total.
Hyperthreading doubles the amount of instructions a single core can process by implementing efficient task scheduling. Hyperthreading is an Intel exclusive feature, and no AMD FX series processor is capable of it. AMD are changing that with their Ryzen series of processors, those support AMDs own version of hyperthreading, aka simultaneous multi-threading. But none of the Ryzen CPUs have made their way into the laptop market yet, and it will be a while before you see a Ryzen laptop in your nearby store.
We have carried out testing on the laptop, and it was able to smoothly run 2 or more applications at the same time without lagging. We were able to switch between multiple tabs and windows with ease, thanks to the 4GB of high speed DDR4 memory. You can upgrade the RAM by adding a second DDR4 4GB stick, that will greatly increase the multitasking potential of this laptop. Even with 20 browser tabs opened in Chrome, a 1080p movie playing in media player, and an update running in the background, the Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM showed no signs of stuttering or lagging. It is the ideal companion for office workers, programmers, college students, and casual gamers.
In terms of gaming performance, there really isn’t much to be said. The graphics is handled by an Intel HD 620 onboard graphics solution. It is comparable to a NVIDIA GT610 desktop video card, and that is an ancient model. This laptop can run some games on low settings, but cannot run newer AAA titles such as GTA V, Prey, Battlefield 1, or COD Infinite Warfare. Don’t expect a sub 400-dollar laptop to do what a 1000-dollar laptop does. It was not designed for gaming, although you still can play less demanding games such as CS GO, DOTA 2, Hearthstone, LoL, etc. on it.
The 1080p LED backlit display is a pleasant surprise, we were expecting a 1366 x 768 display at this price. There is a 1TB 5400 rpm HDD for mass storage, and Windows 10 Home comes preinstalled. The battery life is very good, at nearly 12 hours. If you run demanding software or watch high resolution videos, the battery life will average at almost 5-6 hours. But that is still better than 70% of laptops on the market. The secret behind such amazing battery life is the ultra-efficient Intel Core i3 7100U processor, and the powerful 3-cell Lithium Ion battery.
Moving on to the design and build quality- it feels really well put together despite having a completely plastic frame. The polished black finish around the backlit keyboard gives the illusion of brushed metal from a distance, and looks premium. The matte display doesn’t reflect too much and the bezels are very good at repelling oil and dust. The touchpad is well positioned and large enough for comfortable usage, the buttons on the keyboard feel a little mushy but what more can you expect from the built-in keyboard of a super cheap laptop. Hey, at least it is backlit.
We can’t remember the last time we saw a laptop at this price with a Core i3 processor, backlit keyboard and 1080p screen. Guess it’s our lucky day- and yours too, if you are reading this. Oh, and did we mention it comes with 802.11 ac WIFI, a DVD drive, and USB Type C? This laptop is just full of surprises.
- Intel Core i3 7100U processor at such a cheap price
- Great multitasking ability
- USB Type C connector along with 802.11 ac WIFI
- Backlit keyboard
- Full HD display
- 12-hour battery life
- Weighs just 5.3 pounds and is 1.3” thick
- Keyboard feels slightly mushy
- Webcam is pretty bad
2. Lenovo Z50
The Z50 from Lenovo represents the middle line between budget 15.6” notebooks and high-performance gaming oriented machines that cost upwards of a thousand bucks. It packs a somewhat mediocre display, typical of budget notebooks at this price range. What is not typical about it however, is the graphics chip- an AMD Radeon R7 that is part of the AMD FX 7500 quad core APU package.
Unlike traditional CPU’s, the AMD APU architecture merges the processor and graphics unit into one single chip. This has several benefits- firstly it helps to cut down on manufacturing costs, and allows AMD to sell a CPU+ GPU package for much less than its competitors. That in turn, results in cheaper and more affordable budget gaming laptops, such as the Lenovo Z50. The other benefit to having the CPU and GPU merged together is the fact that you only need to cool one chip instead of two separate chips- this brings down cooling requirements for the laptop, and also decreases overall power consumption, resulting in longer battery lives.
The Lenovo Z50 model featured here packs an AMD FX-7500 APU, this is a quad core advanced processing unit with a built in R7 graphics accelerator. The processor runs at a base clock speed of 2.1 GHz, but when the application demands extra power it will boost all the way up to 3.3 GHz. To make things even better, you are getting 4 physical CPU cores that excel at multitasking and running games, the performance of the FX-7500 can be compared to an Intel Core i5 6200U. The R7 GPU’s performance matches that of a NVIDIA GEFORCE GT 720M dedicated graphics chip, and is far more powerful than Intel’s onboard HD series graphics solutions.
To feed the FX 7500 APU, Lenovo has loaded the Z50 laptop with 8GB of DDR3L RAM running at 1600 MHz. This is way better than the 1266 or 1333 MHz DDR3 RAM, found on similarly priced notebooks from other brands. The RAM is fast enough for gaming, and the quantity is just perfect for multitasking.
Lenovo has included a generous amount of mass storage in the form of a 1TB 5400 rpm HDD. You can store all your movies, games, photos, documents, etc. on this without the need to buy an external hard drive anytime soon. Windows 10 Home comes preinstalled on the HDD, and there is a whole bunch of I/O options included in the laptop for you to transfer data onto and off the device.
There is a single HDMI 1.4 port, along with a VGA output for connecting older projectors, and a Gigabit LAN (10/100/1000) port. For USB connectivity, you have a single USB 3.0 port along with dual USB 2.0 ports for connecting a mouse + keyboard combo. There is a 3.5 mm mic-in/ headphone-out combo jack. For wireless connectivity, you are getting Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 b/g/n WIFI. There is also a 2-in-1 card reader and DVD R/W optical drive.
Despite its somewhat mediocre 1366 x 768 display, the Lenovo Y50 is a solid contender in the sub-$500 gaming laptop market. This is because of its amazing processing and graphics power (for the price of course). We really love the fact that it doesn’t get too hot even when you play games on it for up to 5-6 hours continuously.
The 8 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3L RAM is better than the standard DDR3 RAM that you get on most similarly priced budget laptops. Its power consumption is lower, and it runs cooler as well as faster than the 1266 or 1388 MHz RAM that you find in competing Dell or HP laptops. Not to mention the fact that 8GB of RAM is plenty for both gaming as well as multitasking, and you can add an additional 8 GB later.
Even though it packs a great display and a powerful APU, the battery life is not the best because the FX-7500 is based on an old architecture and consumes more power than its Intel Core series counterparts. The laptop will easily run out of juice in 2-3 hours if you don’t keep it plugged in, but you can extend the battery life up to 4-5 hours by watching movies and browsing the web in economy mode.
Unlike some of the more traditional gaming laptops in the sub-$500 range, this Ideapad from Lenovo might not seem like a very compelling choice at first, because of its lack of a dedicated graphics unit and a mediocre 1366 x 768 resolution display. But before you move on, take a look at the price of this laptop- and then try searching the internet for a laptop of this quality that comes with a 7th gen Intel Core i-series CPU. You simply cannot find another laptop like this one- it weighs just 4.84 pounds with the battery installed, comes with 4GB of DDR4 high speed RAM, and has a massive 1TB mechanical HDD installed within for mass storage.
To begin with, let us take a look at the brains of this super-affordable laptop from Lenovo. It is powered by an extremely efficient and highly capable 7th-generation Core i3 CPU from Intel, running at a base clock of 2.4 GHz. Unlike their desktop counterparts, laptop Core i3 processors are actually very similar to their more expensive Core i5 cousins. That is because just like a mobile Core -5, a mobile Core i3 CPU features 2 physical cores with hyperthreading, resulting in a total of 4 logical cores.
The only major difference between a laptop i3 and a laptop i5 CPU is the turbo boost feature. Laptop i3 processors are locked to a certain frequency and cannot boost higher than that, unlike a Core i5 which can boost itself automatically when the application demands extra power. This does not translate into an enormous difference while gaming, since games do not benefit that much from a 200-400 MHz bump in clock speeds. The gaming performance of a laptop is much more dependent on its graphics unit and RAM, rather than the processor clock speed, since all modern laptop CPUs run at approximately 2.5-3 GHz anyways.
To feed a processor, you need memory. And for memory, the Lenovo Ideapad 320 80XL003HUS comes loaded with 4 GB of high speed 2133 MHz DDR4 RAM, that you can later upgrade to 8 GB by adding in a second 4GB RAM stick yourself. We recommend that you do so as soon as you receive the laptop, because it will bring about a noticeable change in your gaming experience, especially since the graphics chip on this laptop shares memory with the CPU.
Moving on to the graphics chip, this laptop features the latest Intel HD series graphics that is more powerful than a NVIDIA GT 720 or GT730, but less powerful than a GT930 or GT940. This inbuilt graphics chip shares memory with the CPU and that is why we recommend that you upgrade the RAM on this laptop by yourself, since 4GB might cause stuttering while playing games that are recent, such as CS GO, NFS Rivals, Metal Gear Solid 5, etc.
In terms of storage, the Lenovo Ideapad 320 80XL003HUS packs a massive 1 TB HDD running at a somewhat slow 5400rpm. We really love the fact that they did not throw in a small capacity SSD, since it would not have brought about much of a difference in performance when you are running games on a Core i3 7100U processors and Intel HD graphics. Instead, Lenovo have given us a lot of storage to work with. It is no SSD, but at least you can store all of your movies, games, songs, and photos in one place without needing to buy an external storage drive.
The Lenovo Ideapad 320 80XL003HUS is extremely cheap, yet built like a premium laptop. The body is tough and does not flex at all when you press down on it, while the cooling system keeps the interiors under critical temperature no matter how long you run it. The oversized island style keyboard feels much more tactile and better to type on, compared to the chiclet keyboards found on laptops that cost twice as much. Lenovo laptops are famous for their amazing keyboards, and this one is no different.
The massive 1TB mechanical HDD allows you to store all of your movies, games, songs, and photos in one place.
The laptop measures just 14.9” x 0.9” x 10.2”, and weighs only 4.8 pounds. It even includes a DVD+R/W optical drive so you can load and play CD-ROMS/ DVD’s. Comes with Windows 10 Home preinstalled.
The display has a resolution of 1366 x 768. While this is a non-issue for people who just want to work on office documents or browse the web, it can be slightly disappointing from a gamer’s perspective. We love graphical details, but Lenovo had to go with a lower resolution display because of the Intel HD graphics chip that is somewhat weak compared to its NVIDIA and AMD dedicated GPU counterparts. The Intel HD series graphics is best used at lower resolutions, and it will be able to run most games at 768p on low-medium graphics settings. We believe that a higher framerate is more important than slightly better visuals, and that is what you are getting when you decrease the resolution- higher framerates at the expense of visual quality.
Lenovo has made many amazing budget gaming laptops in the past, and that trend continues with the Lenovo 17-300. This is actually a 17.3” laptop, which is rather surprising considering its price. It features a 1600 x 900 resolution (900p) display with good color and contrast, along with an amazing island style full-size keyboard and a great audio system that features just the right amount of punch in the hushed tones, along with plenty of clarity on the high notes. The laptop is powered by an Intel Core i5 6200U processor and comes with Windows 10 Home 64-bit preinstalled.
With 8 GB of DDR3 RAM and a Core i5 6200U 6th gen processor, this laptop packs more than enough power under the hood to run most modern games on low-medium settings. The Intel HD 520 series onboard graphics is not the best in terms of power, but is extremely efficient and helps extend battery life by a great deal. You will find yourself multitasking effortlessly thanks to the combination of a dual-core hyperthreaded 6th gen Intel CPU running at 2.3 GHz (Turbo up to 2.8), and the 8GB of DDR3 RAM.
There is plenty of storage for you to keep all of your games, movies, documents, and videos- thanks to the 1TB 5400 rpm HDD onboard. The Intel HD Graphics 520 is not as powerful as dedicated solutions from both NVIDIA and AMD, but it can hold its own in older titles as well as MOBA’s or games such as Counter Strike and LoL. Don’t expect to run everything on max details though, this onboard graphics chip is not designed for that. It is built into the processor and shares memory with the CPU, so we recommend adding in an extra 8 GB of RAM to get optimal performance in your games.
The display is large and great for gaming, it is almost like a desktop replacement if you tend to travel a lot or love in a college dorm.
The battery life is surprisingly good for the size of this laptop. Powering a 900p 17.3” display takes a lot of energy, and the 4-cell Li-Ion battery in this Lenovo laptop can keep the machine running for up to 5 hours on light loads and 2-3 hours under heavy usage.
Full sized keyboard with great tactile feedback and satisfying key travel that makes it better than any other keyboard on competing models from various other brands. The trackpad is a joy to use, it is accurate and responsive to even the lightest of touches.
Plenty of I/O options- Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 ac WIFI, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI and VGA out, 3.5mm audio in/out jack, multi card reader, USB 2.0 and 3.0, DVD +/- RW drive, and a 720p webcam + mic.
The laptop is heavy at 6.61 pounds, and measures 16.5 x 11.5 x 1 inches. Not the best laptop to carry around in your hands, and on frequent short trips.
A budget gaming laptop from Dell might not sound too interesting at first, since Dell doesn’t exactly make budget gaming laptops. However, even though some laptops are not branded as gaming-oriented, the smart gamers know how to search and find the best deals for themselves. You don’t need a GTX 10 series graphics card or an Intel Core i7 processor to play games. You can play games on a Core i3 and Intel HD graphics, except the visual fidelity needs to be turned down through the graphics settings in-game, so that your system can run the game at a decent framerate.
The Dell Inspiron I3558-5501BLK has a pretty boring official name, but happens to be a really interesting little 15.6” budget laptop for the smart buyers out there who know what they are looking for. Let us take a look inside and see what Dell has provided for such a low price.
Firstly, you have the “brain” of the laptop, aka the processor. This is an Intel 5th generation Core i5-5500 processor. You might be thinking, “well, why did they not use a 6th or 7th-generation i5 instead?” Well, here is the deal- whenever a new processor architecture launches, the previous generation can be bought for cheaper. And when it comes to low or medium range laptop processors from Intel, the performance jump from one generation to another is between 5-7% at max.
Intel has not been innovating a whole lot in the processor market, their main focus has been on reducing die size and making the process more efficient with each successive generation. This is partly because of AMD’s current state, that company has not released anything that can compete with Intel in the laptop CPU market, and Intel feels no need to release CPU’s with better performance.
The 5th generation Core i5-5500 is actually almost as powerful as a Core i5 7500, but is not as efficient. This means you are trading battery life for a cheaper laptop, and we will take that trade any day of the year since no real gamer plays games on the laptop without connecting the power supply. Even the best laptops can’t sustain gaming for more than 2-3 hours on battery power alone.
So, you have a dual core hyperthreaded CPU with a base clock of 2.2 GHz and a turbo of 2.7 GHz, along with 3 MB of cache. All that is cool, but what about the memory? Well, there is a whole 8GB of DDR3L 1600 MHz RAM to feed the processor with all the information that it needs. Multitasking is a breeze with 8GB of RAM, you can watch movies, listen to music, and play videos, all at the same time. Of course, you can also upgrade the 8GB of RAM to 16 GB by adding an extra 8 GB stick later down the road.
For the graphics department, you are getting an onboard graphics solution in the form of the Intel HD 5500 Graphics system. It is almost as powerful as a NVIDIA GT 610 desktop GPU or a GT 620M laptop GPU. Nothing to fret about though, it will run games such as CS GO, DOTA 2, LOL, and WOW just fine at low-medium graphics settings. So, if you are into MOBA’s and Counter Strike, or even World of Warcraft, this laptop will suffice your needs. And you can play older AA titles on it such as Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 2 and 3, etc.
The Dell Inspiron I3558-5501BLK packs a good processor, decent onboard graphics, and 8 GB of DDR3L 1600 MHz RAM. This makes it a great machine for work and play, the overall weight is just 4.85 pounds, and it comes with Windows 10 Home 64-bit preinstalled.
Its battery life is decent, although not the best. This laptop comes with a 4-cell Li-Ion battery and is loaded with an ample amount of mass storage in the form of a 1TB 5400 rpm HDD where you can store all your games, movies, photos, songs, etc.
Plenty of I/O options- 802.11 a/c WIFI, Built-in multi card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC), dual USB 2.0, single USB 3.0, HDMI and VGA out, Bluetooth 4.0, 10/100 Ethernet, and Full-size keyboard with numpad.
Mediocre graphics performance, mediocre trackpad. Nothing truly bad about this laptop- it does what it is supposed to do, and nothing more.
Thanks to its AMD A10-8700P quad core processor, this little 15.6” laptop packs quite a bit of punch in terms of graphics horsepower. It has one of the best graphics solutions that you will find on a laptop for less than 500 bucks, and the quad core processing unit ensures reliable and versatile performance across a multitude of applications, including content creation and gaming. If you’re a fan of games such as Counter Strike, League of Legends, Dota 2, or Team Fortress, then the A10-8700P APU should be more than enough to deliver a smooth and highly playable experience at 1080p on medium settings.
Yes, you definitely can build a budget PC for the same price that will perform better in games, but you can’t exactly carry a 20 pound box on your back around the college campus, neither can you take it with you over to your friend’s house or even the room next to you in your dorm in case you and your buddies want to have as little LAN party.
The A10 8700P runs on a base clock of 1.8 GHz, and can turbo boost up to an impressive 3.2 GHz in times of need, capable of matching the performance of an Intel core i3 quite easily. In games, the Radeon R6 built-in graphics chip that is a part of the APU itself, and can perform at the level of a low-end NVIDIA GT 600 (610-630, 630+ will beat it) series dedicated graphics chip, and should even be able to run some last gen AAA titles on minimal settings at 1080p.
Talking of resolution, the display on this little laptop is a full HD 1080p LED backlit LCD. This is not an IPS panel, and you shouldn’t expect anything more than a TN unless you’re willing to shell out 1000+ dollars. It comes with 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 1 TB hard drive, as well as the usual assortment of USB ports, SD card readers, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. Battery life while gaming is rather low, around 1-1.5 hours depending on the type of game. While watching movies, or browsing the net, this laptop will easily run up to 3+ hours on the battery even on max brightness.
Few Things to Consider:
The fact that gaming laptops cost more than normal laptops doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy playing games if you have a small budget. If you do your homework well, it is possible to find a good laptop that will let you enjoy your game with no abandon. The above laptops are the best you can ever find for a budget of $400-$500.
You Need to Keep Your Expectations Grounded
You get what you pay for. On a price below 500, you should expect some weakness these cheap gaming laptops show so that you know what you’re dealing with. First, the processor contained in these laptops is often the bare minimum (or close to it) for what is needed to run the operating system on it. So, multi-tasking and gaming becomes pretty complicated. You want to run the smallest number of programs at one time, for sure. Then, the graphic card in these cheap laptops is often one that we could consider “on-board”, meaning that it’s meant to fulfill everyday graphical needs – browse, watch video content, etc. Pretty much anytime you will be running a game, you will be testing the laptop’s limits.
So anyway you can, lower the settings and resolution of your games. You can also go in your computer configuration panel, select the graphic card (you might need to be the administrator to do this) and notice the different tabs in front of you.
Several of them might allow you to reduce the quality of your graphics even more (to in consequence improve the speed you notice in your games) and get even more value out of your purchase. Of course, experts can also try to overclock their computer, although that sometimes involves a little more risks.
In the case of the mini-laptops that are found in most stores, those have processors that are actually below the performance needed to run the operating system optimally, so take that in consideration before you pick the cheapest machine off the shelf. That being said, the options under $500 are pretty impressive and range from a pretty wide selection of companies.
You should remember that an extended warranty really represents an extra expense that you shouldn’t really take in most instances, simply because replacing your investment (in the event of a break past the included one-year warranty) could prove to cost an amount pretty close to the warranty itself… or at least the ratio probably won’t be worth it.
Sometimes you can even negotiate your warranty when it comes to theses cheaper laptops – it’s obvious that you’re on a budget when you buy these models and the seller should take that into account when he makes his best offer to you. Also, the great thing about buying a gaming laptop under 500 dollar is that it’s not because the laptop is cheap that it won’t last as long. Your small investment could last several years and if you play simple games it could be all you need to game for a very long time.
Surely, the guy at the store won’t tell you to buy a laptop of under $500 for gaming, but the reviews on these products say otherwise. Don’t forget that you can (and should in fact) lower your graphic settings and resolution to get more frames-per-second in your more demanding games. Playing with the settings is key to playing great computer games on a cheaper laptop. Happy shopping and have fun gaming on the go!