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. Click here to go to our gaming desktop PC buying guide article.
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 Counter-Strike 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. Read our gaming graphics card buying guide here.
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
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.
4. Lenovo Z50
With an ample amount of RAM, a large hard disk drive, and a capable quad-core CPU from AMD, this Lenovo laptop is definitely an excellent choice for gamers on a budget. It is well- built, and has a decent battery life despite sporting one of the older AMD processors which is not very power efficient. The Radeon R7 integrated graphics isn’t as powerful as a dedicated GPU, but still beats any Intel HD graphics option at comparable prices.
The display resolution is a bit on the lower side, but that is made up for by the fact that this laptop sports all the necessary I/O ports and still measures just 0.98” in thickness with a weight of only 5 pounds, making it an amazingly portable machine that you can carry around anywhere with you.
The Lenovo Z50 series of laptops are designed for casual gamers and students who want satisfactory performance at a reasonable price. It is slim at just 0.98” in thickness, and weighs only 5.15 pounds with the 4-cell Lithium-ion battery loaded. The laptop will last up to 5 hours with light-moderate usage (gaming will take that number down to about 2 hours), and the display resolution is a bit on the lower side at just 1366 x 768.
But that doesn’t bother us because you don’t expect to play games at 1080p resolution with a configuration such as this anyways. The processor is an AMD FX 7500 (quad-core), it has a Radeon R7 GPU built into the die, and this integrated GPU shares memory with the rest of the system.
Thankfully, the R7 integrated GPU doesn’t wear down the rest of the system because there is a massive 12 GB of DDR3L RAM to share from. Also, tests have shown that the Radeon R7 is fairly capable of running certain current titles on low settings and 768p resolution at smooth framerates. It is more powerful than the Intel HD counterparts, and is almost as fast as an old NVIDIA GT 630M mobile GPU.
Games like Witcher 3, Battlefield 1, Call of Duty World War 2, etc. will not run smoothly on this laptop since they are very demanding on the hardware. But you will easily be able to play all the esports titles such as CS GO, DOTA 2, LOL, Overwatch, WoW, StarCraft, etc. Games released before 2014 should run absolutely fine on the Radeon R7 graphics, and the four threads of processing power provided by the AMD FX 7500 APU is more than enough for light multitasking/ productivity workloads.
There is an ample amount of storage onboard in the form of a 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD, it is preloaded with a genuine copy of Windows 10 Home Premium. There are all types of I/O options available- a 2-in-1 card reader (SD/ MMC), 802.11 b/g/n WIFI, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, Headphone in/ out with microphone port, VGA, HDMI, LAN, etc.
A 720p webcam takes care of all your video calling needs, and the chiclet keyboard is one of the better ones that we have tested at this price point. The AMD processor has a base clock of 2.1 GHz, but can boost itself up to 3.3 GHz whenever the program demands extra power.
AMD FX 7500 quad-core APU, base 2.1 GHz with a boost of up to 3.3 GHz
Radeon R7 integrated graphics
12 GB of DDR3L RAM and a 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD
Windows 10 Home
Lots of I/O options
Only 0.98” thick, weighs 5 pounds with battery
Resolution of display is just 1366 x 768
Touchpad isn’t very responsive
Designed to be portable, lightweight, and affordable while also packing a significant amount of power- the Lenovo Ideapad 310 is the perfect choice for students, budget gamers, and office work. It is affordable enough for everyone, while also packing all the features that you find in a fully-fledged 15.6” laptop. There are plenty of I/O options, and the display + keyboard is really good for a laptop in this price range. It comes with Windows 10 preloaded, and features plenty of RAM for effortless multitasking and light gaming.
With an AMD A10 – 9600P quad core APU under the hood, this laptop is more than capable of handling everyday tasks such as document processing, web browsing, programming, movies, casual gaming, multimedia, etc. It is also ready to tackle light photo editing, and has ample onboard storage in the form of a 1 TB SATA HDD so you can actually use it as a portable photo editing and processing station whenever you are traveling.
The 15.6” WLED backlit HD display is one of the best in this price range, it features good color handling and contrast. The quad core AMD APU integrates a processor and graphics chip into one module, resulting in lowered production costs as well as simplified power management. This helps make the laptop cheaper, which is why you are able to purchase one of these for less than 500 dollars.
There is plenty of RAM- 12 GB of DDR3L memory ensures seamless gaming as well as multitasking. You can have 12 browser tabs opened at the same time, with multiple videos playing in the background along with spreadsheets, mail, and other documents opened at the same time, and still not notice any lag while switching between windows or working.
This is because of the quad core processor from AMD which can boost up to 3.2 GHz (base clock speed 2.3 GHz), and the Radeon R5 integrated graphics ensures a smooth gaming experience at low resolutions and low graphics settings. It is better than Intel HD graphics, although we recommend a laptop with dedicated graphics if you a serious gamer.
There are plenty of I/O options onboard- USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, Ethernet 802.11 ac (latest standards) WIFI, Bluetooth 4.1, HDMI output, VGA for projector output (or older monitors), 4-in-1 card reader, DVD burner, and a 3.5mm headphone/ mic jack.
Windows 10 Home is preloaded on the 1 TB 5400 rpm hard drive, and the keyboard feels tactile as well as sturdy enough for heavy typing workloads. The cooling system works fine, the laptop rarely gets hot or slows down even after 10-12 hours of gaming. Battery life is around 4-5 hours on average, less while gaming.
AMD A10 9600 quad core APU with Radeon R5 graphics (2.2 GHz base, 3.2 GHz turbo)
12 GB DDR3L RAM
1 TB 5400 rpm HDD
Windows 10 Home preloaded
802.11 ac WIFI, Bluetooth 4.1, gigabit ethernet
Well-built, with a good chiclet keyboard and bright WLED backlit display
Battery life drops significantly while gaming
Probably one of the most well-designed student notebook computers currently available on the market, the CUK HP 15z is also equipped with the power necessary to play games on low- medium settings, making it a very viable choice as a budget gaming laptop.
Despite sporting a 1366 x 768 display, this laptop is definitely one of the better affordable gaming machines out there, primarily because of its processor and integrated graphics which give it an edge over similarly priced 15.6” notebooks that use Intel HD graphics and come with fewer connectivity options.
The CUK HP 15z is powered by an AMD A10 9620P APU, which is essentially a CPU + GPU in one single chip. Not only does this design reduce the cost of production, but it also reduces the amount of space taken up by the CPU + GPU as a whole and lowers cooling costs. That results in a cheaper laptop, this one costs less than 500 dollars and can do everything that a costlier machine does, including gaming and multimedia.
Equipped with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, the 15z laptop is more than ready to tackle multitasking/ productivity workloads such as photo or video editing, programming, office work, etc. The AMD A10 9620P APU has a base clock of 2.5 GHz and a boost speed of up to 3.4 GHz.
In terms of gaming performance, this laptop beats most budget laptops that use Intel HD graphics, thanks to the Radeon R5 integrated GPU which is almost as fast as older low- mid range dedicated mobile GPUs such as the NVIDIA GT 630M or GT 720M.
The laptop will easily run esports titles such as League, CS GO, DOTA 2, WOW, Quake, etc. on 768p resolution and 60+ fps at low to medium graphics settings. You should get up to 5 hours of battery life while browsing the web or watching movies, although gaming on battery power will take that number down to about 2 hours.
There is ample storage onboard in the form of a 1TB 5400 rpm SSHD (upgrade by CUK so you experience faster loading times than you would have with a standard HDD). Wireless connectivity is handled by an adapter that combines 802.11 ac WIFI with Bluetooth 4.2 for seamless productivity/ content streaming on the go.
The 15.6” HD SVA BrightView WLED-backlit display is both bright as well as accurate in its depiction of colors, although it still doesn’t come close to an IPS display in terms of color handling or contrast. But for the money, it is one of the best screens on a 15.6” laptop. The laptop measures just 0.9” in thickness, and weighs only 4.5 pounds. Windows 10 Home is preloaded, so you just have to turn it on and load your games.
AMD A10 9620P APU (quad core, 2.5 GHz base with 3.4 GHz boost)
Radeon R5 graphics
Bright and vibrant display, along with a smooth and premium looking metallic silver finish
Only 0.9” thick, weighs 4.5 pounds
802.11 ac WIFI and Bluetooth 4.2
Windows 10 preloaded
Speakers could have been better
Webcam isn’t the best
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!