Skip to content

The 6 Best Gaming Laptops Under $500 for 2024: Ranked and Reviewed

Finding the Best Gaming Laptop Under $500: A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to gaming laptops, most people assume you need to spend well over $1000 to get a capable machine. However, if you‘re willing to make some compromises and have realistic expectations, it‘s possible to find a solid gaming laptop for under $500. While these budget-friendly laptops won‘t be able to handle the most demanding AAA titles at ultra settings, they can still provide an enjoyable gaming experience with older games and less graphics-intensive titles.

As an avid PC gamer myself, I‘ve done extensive research and hands-on testing to identify the best gaming laptops you can get for less than $500. I‘ll guide you through the key specs and features to look for, and provide my top picks across a range of brands and configurations. Whether you‘re a casual gamer on a tight budget or just need an affordable laptop that can handle some light gaming, read on for my expert recommendations.

Key Considerations

When evaluating gaming laptops in the sub-$500 price bracket, here are the main factors to keep in mind:

Processor (CPU): The processor is the brain of your laptop and arguably the most important component for gaming performance. In this price range, you‘ll typically find Intel Core i3 or i5 processors and AMD Ryzen 3 or 5 CPUs. For the best performance, aim for at least a quad-core processor with a clock speed of 3GHz or higher. Some standout CPUs include the AMD Ryzen 5 3500U, Intel Core i5-1035G1, and the newer Intel Core i3-1115G4.

RAM: Your laptop‘s RAM allows it to multitask and quickly access frequently-used files and applications. For gaming, 8GB of RAM should be considered the minimum. If you can find a laptop with 12GB or 16GB in this price range, that‘s even better. More RAM will allow you to have multiple applications running in the background and will improve overall performance.

Storage: Solid-state drives (SSDs) have become the standard for laptop storage due to their fast read and write speeds. However, in the sub-$500 range, you may have to settle for a smaller capacity, typically 256GB. If you have a large game library, you may need to add an external drive for additional storage. Some laptops come with a larger but slower hard disk drive (HDD) in addition to a small SSD.

Display: The display is where you‘ll be viewing your games, so it‘s crucial to get the best quality possible. Look for a laptop with at least a 15.6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS display. A larger screen size is better for gaming as it allows you to see more on-screen. However, in this price range, you may have to settle for a lower 1366 x 768 resolution on some models. If possible, try to avoid laptops with TN panels as they have poorer color accuracy and viewing angles compared to IPS.

Graphics: While a dedicated graphics card is ideal for gaming, most laptops under $500 will come with integrated graphics. Intel‘s recent Iris Xe graphics are actually quite capable for casual gaming. AMD‘s Radeon Vega integrated graphics tend to outperform Intel‘s older UHD graphics solutions. If you can stretch your budget a bit, laptops with entry-level dedicated GPUs like the NVIDIA GeForce MX350 or GTX 1650 will offer a significant boost in gaming performance.

Battery Life: Gaming laptops are notorious for having short battery life, and the models in this price range are no exception. Expect around 4-5 hours of mixed-use and even less when gaming. If battery life is a priority, consider a laptop with a lower-power CPU and integrated graphics.

Build Quality: Cheaper laptops tend to have flimsier construction and lower-quality materials. However, there are some well-built options if you know where to look. Brands like Acer, ASUS, and Lenovo offer sturdy laptops with aluminum or high-quality plastic chassis that can withstand daily wear and tear.

My Top Picks

Taking into account the key considerations outlined above, here are my top recommendations for the best gaming laptops under $500:

  1. Acer Aspire 5 A515-46-R3UB – Best Overall
    CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 3350U
    RAM: 4GB (upgradable to 12GB)
    Storage: 128GB NVMe SSD
    Display: 15.6" Full HD IPS
    Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 6
    Battery Life: Up to 10 hours
    Pros: Excellent performance for the price, bright and colorful display, backlit keyboard, Wi-Fi 6, upgradable RAM and storage
    Cons: Only 4GB RAM in base configuration, bloatware
    If you‘re looking for the best overall package under $500, the Acer Aspire 5 is hard to beat. It offers a great balance of performance, features, and build quality. The AMD Ryzen 3 3350U is a very capable processor for gaming and general use, and the integrated Radeon Vega 6 graphics can handle light gaming and esports titles. The full HD IPS display is a standout feature in this price range, with vibrant colors and wide viewing angles.

My main gripe is that it only comes with 4GB of RAM by default, but this is upgradable to 12GB. The 128GB SSD is also on the small side, but you can add a second SSD or HDD for more storage. Battery life is excellent for a budget gaming laptop, and Wi-Fi 6 support is a nice bonus. Overall, the Aspire 5 checks all the boxes and earns my top recommendation.

  1. Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 – Best Value
    CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500U
    RAM: 8GB
    Storage: 256GB SSD
    Display: 15.6" HD LED
    Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 8
    Battery Life: Up to 6 hours
    Pros: Strong CPU and integrated graphics, decent amount of RAM and storage for the price, comfortable keyboard
    Cons: Lower resolution display, shorter battery life, some flex in chassis
    For the best bang for your buck, look no further than the Lenovo IdeaPad 3. It boasts impressive specs for a sub-$500 laptop, including a powerful AMD Ryzen 5 processor with Vega 8 graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a speedy 256GB SSD. This is the ideal configuration for budget gaming.

The main downside is the lower 1366 x 768 display resolution. But if you can live with that, this laptop delivers exceptional performance and features for the money. The backlit keyboard is comfortable to type on, and you get a physical privacy shutter for the webcam. Battery life is on the shorter side at around 6 hours, but that‘s expected for a gaming laptop. If you want the most performance per dollar, the IdeaPad 3 is an excellent choice.

  1. HP Pavilion 15-ec2121nr – Best Display
    CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5500U
    RAM: 8GB
    Storage: 256GB SSD
    Display: 15.6" Full HD IPS, 144Hz
    Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650
    Battery Life: Up to 8 hours
    Pros: Dedicated NVIDIA graphics, high refresh rate display, sleek design, long battery life for a gaming laptop
    Cons: More expensive than other options, 8GB RAM not upgradable
    If you have a bit more flexibility in your budget, the HP Pavilion 15 offers the best gaming experience under $500, thanks to its dedicated NVIDIA GPU and fast 144Hz display. The GTX 1650 graphics card can handle modern games at medium-high settings, and the high refresh rate makes fast-paced games look incredibly smooth.

Beyond gaming, this is just a great all-around laptop. The AMD Ryzen 5 5500U is one of the most powerful CPUs you‘ll find in this price range, and it‘s paired with a generous 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD. I appreciate the sleek design and impressive 8-hour battery life as well. The main drawback is that the RAM is soldered and not upgradable, and this config is at the top end of the $500 budget. But if gaming performance is your top priority, this is the laptop to get.

  1. ASUS VivoBook 15 F512JA-AS34 – Best for Productivity
    CPU: Intel Core i3-1005G1
    RAM: 8GB
    Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
    Display: 15.6" Full HD
    Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics
    Battery Life: Up to 6 hours
    Pros: Dual storage design, numberpad on keyboard, multiple USB ports, reliable brand
    Cons: Dim display, no dedicated graphics, bloatware
    The ASUS VivoBook 15 deserves a mention as a great budget laptop for mixed use, including light gaming and productivity. It has a unique dual storage design with a 128GB SSD for fast boot times and frequently-used files, plus a large 1TB HDD for extra storage space.

The Intel Core i3 processor and UHD graphics are nothing special, but they get the job done for casual games and daily tasks. The keyboard has a handy numberpad, which is great for work, and you get a good selection of ports including USB-C and HDMI. ASUS also has a reputation for build quality and customer support, which is important in the budget tier.

The main weaknesses are the lack of a dedicated GPU and the dim display. So while this isn‘t the best choice for serious gaming, it‘s an affordable and versatile laptop that covers all the bases.

  1. Dell Inspiron 15 3000 – Best Budget Option
    CPU: Intel Celeron N4020
    RAM: 4GB
    Storage: 128GB SSD
    Display: 15.6" HD Anti-Glare LED
    Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600
    Battery Life: Up to 7 hours
    Pros: Very affordable, lightweight for a 15-inch laptop, expandable storage, good battery life
    Cons: Slow processor, only 4GB RAM, limited gaming capability
    If you‘re on a very tight budget, the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 is about as cheap as you‘ll find for a gaming-capable laptop. Make no mistake, with an Intel Celeron processor and just 4GB of RAM, this is a very basic machine. But it can handle older games and less demanding titles like Minecraft, Among Us, and indie games.

The 128GB SSD is also limiting, but you can add a microSD card or external drive for more storage. For the price, you get a decent 15.6-inch display, reliable Dell build quality and support, and impressive 7-hour battery life. If you only have around $300 to spend, this is your best bet for a budget gaming laptop.

Expectations and Upgrades

When shopping for a gaming laptop under $500, it‘s important to have realistic expectations. You simply won‘t be able to play the latest graphically demanding games at high settings. Instead, focus on less intensive games like Fortnite, Rocket League, Valorant, CS:GO, Overwatch, Minecraft, and indie titles. You may need to lower the resolution and graphics settings for smooth gameplay.

Many budget gaming laptops are also very upgradable, which allows you to improve performance down the line. Adding more RAM is one of the easiest and most effective upgrades. If your laptop supports it, bumping the memory up to 12GB or 16GB can make a noticeable difference in gaming and multitasking. Adding a second SSD is another way to expand storage and potentially improve load times.

The Verdict

As you can see, there are some capable gaming laptops available for less than $500. You‘ll need to be willing to compromise on certain features and specs, and you won‘t be maxing out the latest AAA games. But for casual gamers and those on a budget, these laptops deliver good performance and value.

My top overall pick is the Acer Aspire 5 for its excellent mix of components, features and design. If you want the most gaming performance for your money, the beefy specs of the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 are hard to beat. And if you can stretch your budget closer to $500, the HP Pavilion 15 is in a class of its own with a dedicated GPU and 144Hz display.

No matter which laptop you choose, remember that the most important factors are the processor, graphics, and RAM for the best possible gaming experience. Be sure to read detailed reviews, compare specs, and buy from a trusted retailer with a good return policy.

I hope this guide has helped you find the perfect budget gaming laptop for your needs and budget. While a desktop will always be the most powerful choice for gaming, these laptops prove that you don‘t need to spend a fortune for on-the-go gaming. With realistic expectations and perhaps a few upgrades down the line, you can enjoy gaming without breaking the bank. Happy gaming!