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.
But 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. 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.
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 6thgen 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
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.
The F555LA-AB31 is dirt cheap, packs a 5th generation Intel Core-i3 processor, and comes with Windows 10 Home preinstalled. For less than 400 dollars, we think this is a great deal, even though the RAM is limited to 4 GB, and you get a 500 GB hard drive. First of all, think to yourself- what purpose is this laptop going to serve? If the answer is gaming, then let’s get one thing out of the way- with a processor and graphics solution of this level, you won’t be able to get any advantage whatsoever if you had 8 gigs of RAM instead of 4. Honestly, you’re probably going to be playing at low- medium settings anyways, and most games, even the hardcore AAA titles will not use more than 4 GB of RAM if you play on low settings.
But let’s say you want to do some photo editing and lightweight video work, or you want to watch 1080p movies in your dorm room at night after a busy day at college. Well then, you can always insert a second 4 GB stick of RAM by removing the bottom panel on the laptop. It is super easy and if you can’t do it, just tell your roommate or any tech guy to do it for you, they will gratefully oblige. RAM sticks barely cost 10-15 dollars for a 4 GB module, and you can even upgrade the hard drive like you can upgrade the RAM.
With an i3-5010U, you should be easily getting 6+ hours of battery life in balanced mode, with 60-70% brightness. While playing games, don’t expect dramatic performance on the latest titles. However, this processor and its built-in Intel graphics should be more than enough for Minecraft, online games, League, DOTA 2, Counter Strike, and some last-gen titles. One of the best features of this 15.6” ultra-slim laptop is the fact that it comes with the latest 802.11 a/c Wi-Fi.
HP normally excels at offering super budget offerings, but falls behind in terms of build quality as their sub 500-dollar laptops are not particularly renowned for being provided with reliable cooling systems and sturdy bodies. However, it seems like HP has been listening to the complaints of their consumers and have finally come up with a model that costs less than 500 bucks, but is no worse in terms of reliability and build quality than say, a 1000 dollar HP model. In fact, the HP 15-ba052wm 15.6” laptop is one of the most feature packed as well as most well-built laptops that we have seen for under 500 bucks. Its plastic shell is sleek yet sturdy, while the 1366 x 768 touchscreen display is a true surprise because laptops in this price range don’t even pack a CD/DVD drive, let alone a touchscreen. And of course, it comes preloaded with Windows 10 home, because why else would you need a touchscreen on a laptop? There is even a super multi DVD burner built in, along with an Ethernet port, single HDMI port, combo headphone jack, dual USB 2.0 ports, single USB 3.0 port, a multi card reader, and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi along with Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity.
There is clearly an abundance of connectivity and I/O options, but how does it fare in terms of gaming power? Well, turns out it is not too shabby for the price. The AMD A10 9600P APU is a true quad core processor with single threaded physical cores and while the IPC does not match that of a 7th gen Intel mobile CPU such as the i3 7100, there is no doubt that this APU is probably one of the best chips that you can game on for this price. It is loaded with a quad core CPU and a Radeon R5 dedicated graphics chip that has 4GB of graphics memory- meaning that all your games will run at 60 fps on low to medium settings and a resolution of 768p. You can run older AAA titles from 2013-2014 at high or even ultra at the sacrifice of a few fps if you wish. The keyboard is an island style keyboard with a full numeric keypad, so this laptop is perfect for using software packages such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite. The 8GB of DDR3 RAM is great for multitasking and the 1tb HDD is enough for storing loads of movies and games without having to invest in external storage media.
Built for regular home and school usage the ASUS X540-LA is a super lightweight (4.4 pounds) and slim 15.6” laptop. It packs a dual core 2.2 GHz Intel Core-i3 5020U processor and 4 GB of DDR3 RAM. The 1 TB hard drive is actually quite good in terms of storage space, even though it is not very fast, as it is just a normal 5400 rpm laptop drive. You can store all your favorite albums, movies, and photos in the 1 TB drive, and still have plenty of space left over for software, games, e-books, documents, reports, etc. This laptop comes pre-loaded with Windows 10 Home, so you just need to power it up and enjoy.
For less than $350, you get a processor that can run most modern MOBA’s and MMO’s at low-medium settings, and the 4GB of RAM should be enough for all your daily multimedia and entry level gaming needs. Hyperthreading assists with multitasking, so you can browse the web, listen to songs, and work on a spreadsheet, while downloading a new movie to watch on the 15.6” 768p screen. Battery life is phenomenal, and is around 7-8 hours on regular usage (web browsing, movies, songs, etc.). It comes with USB 3.0 ports, and Wi-fi.
This is probably one of the most underrated sub 500-dollar laptops currently available on the market. It is an Acer, and a budget one at that- meaning that it is often looked over in favor of similarly priced HP and Dell models even though Acer makes perfectly good budget laptops, in fact that is what they are famous for. Acer machines are stereotyped to be boring in looks and design, although this one blows that notion out of the water with its stunning styling and sleek looks (for a machine that costs less than 400 bucks, it is styled marvelously). The plastic body is firm and doesn’t show any signs of flexing or deformation no matter how hard you press your fingers on it. You will notice that there is a nice brushed metal look going on with the area around the keyboard, the entire touchpad section, as well as the portion where the speakers are housed. This makes the laptop look premium even though it is super cheap.
In terms of gaming performance, the Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM does not disappoint at all- even though the CPU is an i3, the fact that it is a 7th gen Intel processor means that the optimizations in terms of power, efficiency, as intelligent task scheduling are second to none. No other generation of mobile computer processors is as advanced and efficient as the 7th gen laptop CPU’s from Intel, and the fact that this dual core processor is hyperthreaded means that your games will run fine despite the presence of only two physical cores- there are a total of 4 threads running at a time, and the only difference between a laptop i3 and laptop i5 is that a laptop i5 can turbo boost. This CPU comes equipped with the latest in Intel HD graphics, and is loaded with 6 MB of L3 cache, while the clock is 2.6 GHz on each physical core. Windows 10 home is preloaded so you just boot your machine up after you take out of the packaging- no need to install any OS and even the drivers will be automatically downloaded by Windows 10 if you are connected to the internet. You can store tons of games and movies and photos right on board the laptop thanks to the 1 TB HDD. RAM is just 4GB, but it is DDR4 and you can easily upgrade the RAM by adding in another stick. Or, you can remove the 4GB stick and throw in a couple of 8 GB modules if you’re into productivity work such as photo and video editing.
Of all the laptops on this list, this is the one that you should get if you want the absolute best performance and visuals that you can get for under 500 bucks. It is one of the most expensive of the lot, very close to that 500-dollar line. But the hardware underneath its plastic shell will leave you surprised- there is an Intel 6th gen Core i5 CPU within (the 6200U) that can turbo to speeds beyond 3GHz, with a base clock of 2.3 GHz. This CPU is a dual core, 4-thread part and is perfectly equipped to handle modern multitasking workloads as well as just about any game you decide to throw at it. The graphics chip is even more fascinating, while you would normally expect an AMD APU or Intel HD graphics at this price point, you instead are getting a dedicated NVIDIA GEFORCE GT 940MX chip with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. This is going to run modern AAA titles at low to medium, and the other great thing about this laptop is the 1080p anti-glare display.
If you are tired of 768p and want to step up to true HD, then we highly recommend buying this model as it will offer greatly improved visual fidelity and an enhanced gaming experience when compared to just about any other 768p display on the market. The 1366 x 768 display resolution is commonplace among budget laptops, but Acer went ahead and upped the game, setting the bar as far as display fidelity and graphical performance goes in the sub 500-dollar laptop market. They even threw in 8GB of super-fast 2400 MHz DDR4 RAM, along with a 1TB 5400 RPM hard drive. Wi-Fi is 802.11 A/C, which is the latest standard and the successor of 802.11 b/g/n. There are 3 USB 2.0 ports, along with a single USB 3.0 port and multi-format card reader.
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 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!