Video games on the computer are as prevalent now as they ever have been. Even with consoles becoming more advanced and capable, computer games still push the boundaries of what is possible. To play these games, you need a laptop that can handle the demands.
For the most part, if you plan to play the most cutting edge and modern games, you will need a laptop that costs quite a bit of money. What if we told you that you could find ways to play those same games and spend half? The best laptops under $500 may not have the best specs, but they will surprise you.
Note: Some of the products reviewed vary in price and sometimes go over the $500 price point. All products reviewed are close to the $500 price point.
AMD Radeon Integrated
AMD Radeon Vega 3
Intel UHD Integrated
Intel UHD Graphics 620
Intel UHD graphics 620
Intel UHD 620
Expectations of Gaming Laptops Under 500 Dollars
While the $500 and under price range of laptops isn’t going to outperform the higher-end models, there are enough specs to share that make cheap gaming possible. Let’s be clear up front, though. If you are looking to play PUBG or Far Cry 5, you're going to need to spend a little bit more money.
In this price range you can expect to find a decent CPU, with the Intel Core i3 and i5 being the most common. You can also expect some corners to be cut in the graphics front with lower-end dedicated cards or mid-tier integrated cards.
The sound quality will be okay but not the best in most cases as well. For office work, internet games, and scrolling social media, these laptops will far exceed requirements. When it comes to games, expect lower frames per second (FPS) and a little lag in feedback and display qualities.
For serious gamers, you will want to look at high-end models that can easily cost $1000, $2000, or even more. With additional peripherals, accessories, or features, high-end gaming laptops are not the focus of this article.
What to Look for in Gaming Laptops Under $500
When budget is concerned, you need to know where you can shave a few bucks and where to spend a little more. There is a laptop out there in your price range that does exactly what you need it to do. The following factors will help you decide what is essential and what is optional.
To run most modern games, you need a powerful multi-core processor. However, this doesn’t mean you must have the Ryzen 7 or Intel Core i9. Even the lower speed processors such as the i3, i5, and Ryzen 3 or Ryzen 5 can handle most game requests.
Still, if you have the choice, always choose the better CPU. You will get more use out of a faster, high thread count processor than you will a better graphics card.
Having a dedicated GPU isn’t unheard of in this price range. However, integrated graphics are more common. You can get decent refresh rates and colors with integrated graphics, but most won’t be able to keep up with graphic-intensive games.
Nvidia GTX models 1050 and 1060 are relatively inexpensive when added to a laptop and if you can find a model with one of these installed, take it. Anything higher and you will want to buy 2 of them, as that will be rare.
RAM & Storage Space
The key to RAM is knowing what you must have and then trying to do better. The operating system will require a certain amount of RAM, and your games will need some as well. In most cases, you can get away with 4GB of RAM. However, 8GB or more is recommended, and this small jump from 4 to 8 GB isn’t going to add too much to the price tag.
What may be cut instead is the storage space. Higher priced models will have solid state drives (SSD) in the 256 GB to 1TB range. However sub-$500 will most likely see 128 GB SSD with a few 256 GB options in the mix. You may also find 512 GB HDD instead of an SSD.
Battery Type & Life
Batteries are known to be a crutch for many gaming laptops, and the better the battery, the more you will pay. However, not all is lost. Because most laptops remain plugged in during a gaming session, you can afford to go with a 3 or 4-cell battery to save some money.
While you may only get 4 to 6 hours of battery life (idle), it is worth upgrading the CPU or graphics card.
Screen Size & Display
Screen size is also at a premium, and most gaming laptops try to give you as much screen as possible. However, every added inch costs more and more. Expect to find 14 and 15-inch screens with HD or FHD displays.
Touch and Ultra-HD are available, but not overly common. If you find a large display with 4k quality in this price range, you can bet your other specs will take a hit.
Let’s be straight here. Lightweight and extremely portable laptops like Ultrabooks and Chromebooks aren’t going to cut it as a gaming rig. Hardware, good hardware, takes up space and has some weight to it.
While a gaming rig doesn’t need to weigh more than 4 or 5 pounds, you aren't going to find extra-thin, super lightweight (less than 2 pounds) with enough guts to push gaming rigs out of the way.
You will also need to factor in other costs, such as accessories and components—external hard drives, for example, or wireless mice and keyboards and headsets. Since trackpads aren’t going to be useful in most games, you will need to spend the extra money to get good ones for your games.
To this end, you need to make sure you have at least 1 UBS 3.1 port and an HDMI port. Ethernet may or may not be available, but you can get by with WiFi 5 instead of Ethernet without much loss.
You also want to check the warranty. For the most part, you can expect 12 month warranties to be the most common. Very rarely will you find a gaming laptop with a 2 or more year warranty.
However, you can purchase warranty extensions or, better yet, laptop insurance. The insurance will cover things the warranty doesn’t, such as spilled soda on the keyboard or a cracked screen from a physical rage quit.
6 Best Gaming Laptops Under $500 Reviewed
1. HP 2021
- AMD Athlon Mobile Processor with Radeon...
- 14-inch diagonal HD, SVA, anti-glare,...
- RAM is upgraded to 8GB DDR4 SDRAM for...
- Up to 10 Hours of battery life means you can...
Our Top Pick!
AMD Radeon Integrated
AMD Athlon Silver 3050U
Hewlett-Packard (also known as HP) uses the best available parts and accessories each year to create stunning laptops for all budget ranges. The HP 2021 model combines AMD architecture with its durable and reliable chipsets and hardware to give you an affordable, powerful laptop.
This model, easily our top pick, is not only under $500, but it performs just as well as higher-end models using the Intel i5. With the AMD Athelon Silver, benchmarks are comparable to the i5 in almost every category, and it costs a third less.
The upgrade to 8GB of RAM helps the multi-core processor keep the laptop at top speed and loading your games and programs with ease. The battery is rated to last 10 hours, which may be a bit misleading.
The 3-cell battery pack can keep the laptop on for 10 hours, as long as you don’t move the mouse, open a program and turn off the screen saver. In idle most, 8 to 10 hours is typical. However, if you are going to play a game, expect closer to 4 hours of runtime before you need to plug it in.
As with most computers in this day and age, you get a 1-year warranty. It is highly advised to extend this warranty or purchase laptop insurance to help protect your investment if you are able.
Also Recommended: Best Gaming Laptops Under $600
2. Acer Aspire 5 Slim
- AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual Core Processor (Up to...
- 15.6 inches full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen...
- 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, 2 USB 2.0 ports & 1...
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Backlit Keyboard; Up to 7.5...
Best Gaming Laptop For Minecraft Under $500
AMD Radeon Vega 3
AMD Ryzen 3 3200U
Some games have a lot of requirements, and others are fun to play no matter what. The best laptop for Minecraft, for example, doesn’t need a lot of high-end hardware. There are minimum requirements for the game, of course, but the Acer Aspire 5 meets them with ease.
The large display features slim bezels, so you get the most of the 15.6 inch screen for viewing as possible. The Vega 3 integrated graphics card isn’t the best, and no one will ever convince you it is. However, it gets the job done and can produce vivid colors and a decent frame rate.
The 4GB of RAM is a little light for gaming, but luckily it is an easy upgrade on this machine. For the time being, though, the 4 GB will power the Windows 10 install, Minecraft, office software, and your social media without any problems.
The battery life is impressive for this price, though. While you may not truly see the full 7+ hours of battery life, you can get close, even in an intense gaming session. Unlike most other models that will tap out at 3 or 4 hours, running the Aspire 5 for 6 hours isn’t uncommon.
Still, you only get a 1-year warranty, which is disappointing. It is the industry standard, but we would like to see a lot more from some brands.
Also Recommended: Best Laptops for Minecraft Under $300
3. ASUS VivoBook 15
- 15.6 inch Full HD (1920x1080) 4-way NanoEdge...
- Compatible with Google Classroom; run Google...
- Latest 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 CPU (4M...
- 8 GB DDR4 RAM and 128 GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
Best Laptop For Gaming And School Under $500
Intel UHD Integrated
Asus builds a lot of different laptops for different budgets, functions, or groups. The Vivobook 15 was designed as a school laptop, and in that regard, it does very well. However, it has also grown in the gamer circle as an affordable option with a lot of potentials.
This computer features a high definition screen with a low bezel for up to 88% screen width. The compact design is also lightweight. At under 4 pounds, it is less of a gaming rig and more of an office computer. However, that can be deceiving.
While the integrated Intel UHD graphics aren’t the most stunning, they will produce a high definition image with dark blacks and vivid colors. The frame rates aren’t the best, but it holds up for casual gaming and some modern game playtime.
The Intel Core i3 may not be the most powerful either, but it will meet minimum processor speed specs for many games. While a lot of gamers are spending more than three times the amount on their rigs, you can hold your own on a budget.
The speakers and battery life are the biggest gripes with this model. However, it has enough ports and audio jacks to enable headsets and UBS 3.1 devices to help up your game for just a little bit more of an investment.
Also Recommended: Best Laptops for High School Students
4. Lenovo IdeaPad S340
- Powerful and Smart - The IdeaPad S340 is...
- Visual and Auditory Enjoyment - The IdeaPad...
- Fit You the Most - If you're looking for...
- Complete Configuration - 2 x USB Type-A (USB...
Best Cheap Gaming Laptop
Intel UHD Graphics 620
Intel Core i3-8145U
Lenovo is known for making some of the most rugged and durable office laptops and field laptops around. The IdeaPad is just one of those in a long line of highly durable designs. However, for a gaming computer, this is the best cheap laptop you can find.
It doesn’t have outrageous specs by any means, but not many in this price range will. What it does have, though, is a component list that was built to work together. The Intel chipset sports the 9th generation Core i3 along with the UHD 620 graphics.
Not the best by themselves, but together they produce a sleek, fast computer. You can boot Windows 10 in less than 3 seconds and have your game on the login screen in less than 10. With an SD card reader, headphone input, and HDMI ports, you can expand your game to the next level without breaking the bank.
The full-sized 15.6-inch screen has high definition resolution without sacrificing speed. The 8GB of RAM is an upgrade and does push the cost slightly over the $500 mark for this article.
However, based on what you actually get, along with the constant sales you will find for this model when it comes time to buy, you should find yourself under the $500 cap.
5. HP Flagship
- 15.6" HD WLED-backlit Touchscreen Display...
- 7th Gen Intel Core i3-7100U 2.40 GHz
- 8GB DDR4 Memory; 1 TB HDD Hard Driver
- SuperMulti DVD burner, HDMI, HD Webcam,...
Best Laptop For Gaming And Business Under $500
Intel UHD graphics 620
Intel Core i3-7100u
HP is back on the list with the Flagship model. For those that need a business computer with a gaming edge, there isn’t much better. Of course, it is all business, at least until the boss clocks out.
This model doesn’t give you a 128 GB SSD for storage. Instead, you will find a standard hard disk drive (HDD) with a storage capacity or 1 TB. This should be plenty of room for all of your spreadsheets and documents, as well as any game installs you want to put on it.
For around $500, you won’t find a better laptop for gaming and business. The 7th generation Core i3 processors is good enough to get you in the field playing your favorite games, and with 8GB of RAM, you can easily switch back to work mode when needed.
One thing to note is that this laptop actually has a DVD drive. While most laptops are trying to save you money on the computer only to turn around and sell you an extra DVD drive, HP does both. Take advantage while you can. The Flagship model won’t be around long.
6. SAMSUNG Chromebook 4
- Large and immersive 15. 6” display in a...
- Military-grade durability
- Ultra-fast connectivity with Gigabit Wi-Fi
- Advanced security with multiple layers of...
Best Chromebook Option
Intel UHD 620
Intel Celeron N4000
When you think of PC gaming, you don’t think about Chromebooks. However, Samsung is out to change that. The Chromebook 4+ is a sleek, stylish, and lightning-fast Chromebook designed for busy people and casual social gamers.
With a full-sized 15-inch screen, you can bring your games to life with an affordable price tag and fast response CPU. The Intel Celeron N4000 may not be at the top of many build lists, but for a Chromebook, it is more speed than you might need.
Because it runs the Google OS, you get instant access to over 1 million apps and games from the Play Store. Now you can venture through June’s Journey, swim with Fishdom, and build to your heart’s content in Minecraft, all without busting your wallet.
The same 1-year warranty applies here, and even though it is Samsung, you may have some difficulty making a claim. It is highly advised you get a 2 or 4-year protection plan to go along with your purchase.
Though working on the laptop is a breeze. The near-instant startup, direct links to your Google Drive, and all of your documents and spreadsheets are there for you. You also get a subscription to the upgraded Google drive, which is a nice investment should you decide you need the storage space (and you will).
Additional Gaming Laptop Specs to Consider
While we have already covered the important specs that you need for proper gaming, there are others. While the CPU, GPU, and RAM are quite telling of the laptop's power and performance, the operating system will also play a significant role in your games.
Windows is still the leader in terms of gaming. Most games, especially the larger modern games, are based on Windows architecture. Mac OS systems do have games (and more than Linux) but aren’t on par with Windows yet. If you want to play the latest games, you’re going to need a Windows machine.
The number of USB ports isn’t as important as it used to be. With USB 3.1, you can connect multiple devices through a single port (with a hub) and not lose performance. However, not all laptops come with USB 3.1. It may also be wise to look for USB-C ports to connect your phones or other devices without taking up the USB 3.1 space.
Most laptops are getting away from the Ethernet port and going for a stronger wireless connection. Look for the latest wireless connectivity through WiFi 5 (801.1ac) or WiFI 6 (801.1ax) for the strongest and most secure connections.
Gaming Laptop Care, Maintenance & Troubleshooting
Care and maintenance of your new laptop isn’t the most difficult process, but it is one of the most important ones. Like most appliances, the electronics inside, along with the airflow, will attract and collect dust and debris.
A good care routine will keep the machine clean, including the screen, keyboard, and case. But you should go deeper. Keeping the vents exhaust free of dust build-up will help maintain the temperature of the components inside. As with all electronics, the cooler they are, the better they run.
Sometimes, though, things will go wrong. And while keeping food and drink away from the laptop are great steps, it doesn’t take much to find your laptop not working properly.
The most common problems with laptops are the computer not turning on at all or having issues booting into the operating system.
For the power issues, you will want to check the power supply. Make sure the battery pack is firmly mounted in its spot in the laptop case and that it is fully charged. A bad battery usually won’t just go bad overnight.
If you notice that the computer is hotter, takes longer to boot, and the battery dies faster than expected, it could signal that the battery is starting to go bad. Replacement is the only option.
For a laptop that won’t boot, there are many reasons that could be the issue. However, most of the time, it is due to a corrupt boot file. This happens a lot as these files are read and written to more often than any other file.
Using a startup disk, or the recovery partition of the hard drive, you can repair these files, create new ones, and boot into the system. If that fails, you may have a virus or a problem with other operational files. Deeper investigation or repair specialists may be needed.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
How long do gaming laptops within this price point typically last?
Laptops with proper care, maintenance, and upkeep can last quite a while. Depending on how much wear and tear you put on the machine as well as the conditions it is used in, a laptop in the sub-$500 price range can last several years. For the most part, the hardware will become outdated before it stops working.
Is it okay to buy refurbished or renewed gaming laptops?
Refurbished laptops go through a rigid testing process. The broken components aren’t all that is looked at. While the broken or worn parts are replaced, the entire machine is tested to ensure everything works properly.
Buying a refurbished model may not last as long as a brand new version, but it will work perfectly fine and still comes with a 90-day warranty to make sure it is working properly.
Is Core-i5 processor good for gaming, or should I go with i7?
This will depend a lot on the games you intend to play. Many games will work better with an Intel Core i7 CPU, but that doesn’t mean they won't work fine with a Core i5. Ensure you understand the minimum and recommended requirements for the specific game you wish to play and see where the i5 falls on those lists.
How do I upgrade RAM and storage on a laptop for gaming?
Upgrading your RAM is a simple process. Laptops that can be upgraded will usually have removable panels to access the RAM slots. After you purchase the new RAM, you can pull the old RAM out and put the new RAM in.
For storage, the process is generally the same. The difference is that before you make the swap, you will want to back up your current hard drive and ensure all your programs and files are installed on the new storage device after install.
Do gaming brands such as MSI & Razer make laptops at this price range?
During seasonal sales or with refurbished models, you may find the rare MSI laptop in this price range, but that is not going to happen very often. Razer laptops rarely fall below $1000, even on sale, so you will unlikely find a decent model in this price range.
Where is the best place to start browsing for good gaming laptops under $500?
One of the best places to start your search (aside from this article) is through Amazon. There you will find the latest models, year-old models, and other sale options. You also have the opportunity to purchase laptop insurance, extended warranties, and get shipping discounts through the 3rd party online sales giant.
Finding a gaming laptop under $500 can be a challenge. Hopefully, this article helped you understand where you can afford to make cuts and which components need to be the best possible for the greatest experience.
If you don’t know which laptop to go with, take another look at the top pick. The HP 2021 is a decent model for a great price. With enough speed, RAM, and storage for most modern games, you can upgrade most of the components as needed to keep the laptop modern and relevant.
Holly Curell is a US-based freelance writer & editor extraordinaire. With over a decade of writing technical manuals, blog articles, & even company communications, Holly has a passion for providing value to readers on everything she knows about tech-related topics. When she’s not writing, Holly enjoys reading, hiking, wine, & wandering the aisles of Trader Joe’s. Holly is currently based out of North Carolina, where she lives with her husband Ken & their three children.