Best Gaming Laptops Under $500

When you’re looking for a gaming laptop under $500 it can be a very difficult task. These laptops are almost as cheap as you can get, and the hardware inside is going to be at least a few years old in most cases.

It can take a long time to find the right kind of gaming laptop within this price range that will do all that you need it to. So we have done the research for you to help you along the way. So check out these gaming rigs below.

 

Want to upgrade to a new price range? Check out:

  • Performance in Games 55%
  • Features 76%
  • Quality & Design 62%
  • Total 64%

 

Why is this the Editor’s pick?

This Dell Inspiron model gives you the most comprehensive performance for a gamer under the $500 price point.

Some other systems have stronger specifications but overall, the i5555 will give you smoother performance and allow you to play more graphically intensive games on higher settings.

The hardware inside a laptop is what makes it more or less expensive and the i5555 has the right mix of processing power, graphical rendering power, hard drive space, and RAM.

How do the Specs shape up?

Most games recommend having 8GB of RAM to ensure your computer doesn’t choke. You won’t always use the full 8GB of RAM – but it’s there if you need it.

The resolution of 1366*768 is the best possible trade off between performance and quality and the manufacturer recommends it to be the maximum resolution used.

Fallout 4 is a fairly recent title and it’s well known for being hard to run on lower spec systems. This video will show you how the i5555 fairs using the AMD Quad Core A10-8700 and the AMD Radeon R6.

As you can see, there’s a fairly steady 30 FPS, which drops in areas that have a lot more to render, or with more going on. A lot of gaming laptops with a similar price range will struggle to match that level of performance.

Gaming Performance

$500 is a small budget to work with to spend on a laptop, especially one geared towards your favorite hobby. But you get a lot for your money with the i5555.

Shadow of Mordor will give you around 28-34 FPS on average, which is indicative of the types of games you’ll be able to play.

You can expect to be able to play a lot of single player games with nice graphics and you’ll usually have to settle for an average of 30 FPS for any game similar to Shadow of Mordor.

I would stay away from any competitive first person shooter games because you’ll probably experience more frustration than fun due to the hardware limitations.

The Bottom Line

You can run some very recent high-end games with a fair performance, especially if you’re happy to use lower settings. You might think that a maximum resolution of 1366*768 is a little low, but it’s a perfect match for the laptops gaming power. You will still be able to play games like DOTA 2, which run fairly well on low settings.

  • Performance in Games 47%
  • Features 70%
  • Quality & Design 58%
  • Total 58%

 

Why is this the Alternative pick?

This is not far behind the i5555. The graphics card is actually better than the Editor’s pick, but overall it falls just short of the finish line.

The 6GB of RAM is probably one of the most limiting factors here. With most games now recommending 8GB as a baseline, you might find that your laptop is unable to cope when more stress is placed on the system.

The fact that it’s missing 2GB doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s still a good gaming laptop for this price range though.

How do the Specs shape up?

You’ll find it hard to discover a laptop under $500 that has a better processor and graphics card. I personally love to have a larger screen. With most gaming laptops being equipped with the smaller 15.6″, the Premium’s 17.3″ outshines them all.

There’s plenty of hard drive space and the higher resolution of 1600*900 will make older games look better.

The 6GB of RAM is sufficient for a lot of games, but it falls short of the 8GB RAM which most newer games require to run smoothly. You can avoid this issue partly by not multi tasking. If your RAM only has one thing to worry about, you will be able get the most out of it.

Gaming Performance

You might be surprised to find out that this machine runs GTA V at 23-34 FPS on medium settings. This will give you an enjoyable experience, for the most part.

You can run newer games like Battlefield 1, WatchDogs 2 and Tom Clancy’s Wildlands at around 20-30 FPS, with varying degrees of success, but with a lower resolution than 1600*900.

You’ll get the most enjoyment out of sticking with older games where you can play on medium to high settings with your maximum resolution.

The Bottom Line

The larger resolution is nice to have, but that also increases the burden on rendering graphics. You’ll want to avoid dropping the resolution so you can take advantage of the 17.3″ screen size but that’s the only way to make some of the newer games playable. If you stick to what this model is good at, then you can enjoy older games in all of its 1600*900 glory!

  • Performance in Games 60%
  • Features 72%
  • Quality & Design 59%
  • Total 64%

Why is this the Budget pick?

There’s some great hardware inside Acer’s Aspire, especially when you consider the price. A couple of years ago, this may well have been the Editor’s pick but the 4GB RAM means you’ll have to be selective in terms of the newer games you play.

How do the Specs shape up?

If you stick to older games, you’ll have a blast with the Aspire’s 1920*1080 resolution and Intel’s HD Graphics 620 card. The processor isn’t as fast as some of the other models listed here but you won’t need that power for the older games it plays well.

There’s plenty of hard drive space and I imagine you’ll find it hard to fill up due to the older games taking a lot less space than newer games.

The battery life is probably among the best, too, which can be pretty important if you like to be mobile with your system.

Gaming Performance

If you stick to games like GTA IV, you’ll be very pleased with the Aspire. You can expect to get around 30-40 FPS using medium settings, which makes it perfectly playable. Especially for single player games.

Although the internal graphics card competes well with other laptops, the processor and RAM will stop you from enjoying newer titles, unless they have low minimum requirements.

There are many, many games that you will have a smooth experience though, even with 4GB RAM, as this was the recommended requirement a short time back.

You’ll be able to play games like Far Cry 3, Mafia 2, State of Decay and many more.

The Bottom Line

If you’re trying to save as much money as you can, the Acer Aspire packs a lot for the price. Most of the specifications are as good as or better than other gaming laptops under $500. A few key areas make it weaker overall, but that’s why it’s cheaper, too! It’s worth serious consideration if you enjoy games that are a couple of years old.

  • Performance in Games 64%
  • Features 75%
  • Quality & Design 65%
  • Total 68%

 

Why is this the Upgrade pick?

For a little more money, you get a better processor, better graphics card, and a lot more RAM. This significantly boosts the quality of graphics you can play with, whilst still retaining a good level of performance. The highest settings on the latest settings are still beyond your grasp, but older games will run really well on high and you can play newer games on medium settings.

How do the Specs shape up?

The other gaming laptops listed here would struggle to run Watchdogs 2 in double digit FPS. HP’s Pavilion actually gives around 25-30 FPS on low-medium settings, which is adequate for a single player experience.

The processor has a good amount of power and it was released in Jul 2015 so it’s far from being dated.

The 12GB RAM will ensure you don’t have any problems with your system slowing down because it can’t cope with what you’re running and while NVIDIA’s GeForce 940MX card is also a few years old, you’ll be able to play games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds on low-medium settings with a good level of performance.

Gaming Performance

It’s definitely a good system for gaming, even if you’re comparing it against pricier gaming laptops. The number of games that you’ll struggle to play on low settings becomes almost none-existent. You can expect a much higher rate of FPS than the other rigs listed here and you can enjoy playing them with better graphical quality.

You can play games like The Witcher 3 (30-40FPS), Rise of the Tomb Raider(30-38 FPS) and Battlefield 1(55-60 FPS) as shown by this YouTube video.

I’d highly recommend upgrading to this model if you have a little more money for your budget. Games more than 1-2 years old will run very well on this system and you won’t feel the need to upgrade for a long time.

The Bottom Line

If you can afford the money, it’s worth spending it on this gaming rig. A few years ago, this would have been a high-end model with all the latest hardware installed. The extra RAM means that even as games become more rigorous, your Pavilion will still be able to handle it, although whether you’ll be able to play those future games depends on their hardware requirements!

It does mean, however, that you’ll be to multitask as much as you want without overtaxing your computer.

  • Performance in Games 47%
  • Features 80%
  • Quality & Design 60%
  • Total 62%

 

Why is this the Niche pick?

Lenovo’s laptop can be used as a standard laptop or a large touchscreen tablet, due to its 360° swivel design. This opens up a lot of gaming doors, as well as creating a platform for digital artistry if that’s your thing. There’s a lot of bad mobile games, but there’s plenty of great ones too and you’ll be able to play them on a large 15.6″ screen which is awesome.

How do the Specs shape up?

If you’re using it as a normal gaming laptop, the specs are a little under the Editor’s/Alternative pick. The graphics card is among the higher tier ones for the pay-grade and there’s plenty of RAM, too. It’s really only the processor that makes it a little less powerful than some other machines.

There’s more than enough hard drive space, coming with the standard 1TB and the screen resolution is a whopping 1920*1080. You might find yourself changing this to a lower setting for the more graphically intensive games, though.

The battery life isn’t great, coming in at only 4 hours. You’ll need to be plugged in most of the time to be able to enjoy it, which isn’t a problem for me personally.

How good is it for gaming?

You’ll be able to get around 30 FPS playing GTA V and any game that’s a couple of years old should run fairly well on it. You’ll still have to use low-medium settings for most games but that won’t be an issue for any tablet games you’re playing.

It actually offers more scope for gaming than the other systems due to its 2-in-1 functionality.

The Bottom Line

If you like to game on laptops as well as tablets then this may be the perfect choice for you. It will run mobile games as well as any Android or iOS device and the size of the screen will let you enjoy two-player games, too.

You won’t be able to run newer games very well and you’ll have to stick to games older than a few years if you want to experience medium to high settings.

Conclusion

There are so many different specifications for computers that it can be confusing for most people. This list is geared towards making things easier for you to understand how these systems will perform as gaming machines and whether they’re worth your money or not.

These five models were chosen among dozens of others because they offer the best balance of power vs cost, while staying within the $500 limit. 

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