We all know the story: it’s the Steam sale, we buy way too many games that we may never play (but the DEALS though), and now we need to eat ramen for two months. Okay, maybe that’s just me. But the great thing about getting an affordable laptop is that you will have so much extra money for the actual games– and if playing more games isn’t your dream, what is?
A lot of us are on a budget, and we may not be able to drop 4 figures on a gaming laptop. Luckily, you don’t have to. You can still enjoy gaming at a fraction of the price of a typical gaming laptop if you look hard enough…except you don’t have to do anything. We did all the looking for you!
To help you find the perfect gaming laptop under a $500 budget, we’ve rounded up five of our favorites that emphasize memory space, run speed, FPS capabilities, display/resolution quality, and, of course, how cool they look. 💻 🎮
Top 5 Gaming Laptops Under $500
When choosing the best gaming laptops under $500, there’s a lot to consider. Honestly, it’s a little difficult to find if you don’t put the time in. However, we found five great gaming laptops at an even greater price. To give you the best selection, we varied price, speed, appearance, and more so that any gamer on a budget will find the laptop of their dreams here.
Below, we have chosen laptops for each of the following categories: the overall best choice, the highest quality, the best value, and two runners-up that may fit the bill as well. Without further ado, here are the best laptops on the market for gamers on a budget.
Best Choice: HP High-Performance Touchscreen Laptop
Pros & Cons
- Great memory and RAM capacity
- Runs fast (especially for price)
- Touchscreen works well
- I3 processor
- Comes with a lot of “accessories” worth disabling
- 15.6” Touchscreen Display, 1366 x 768 HD resolution
- Intel i3-7100u Dual-Core Processor
- 8GB RAM
- Storage 1 TB HDD
- Weight: 4.41 lbs
- Dimensions: 20.5 x 12 x 2.8 in
HP High-Performance Touchscreen Laptop Review
HP is generally a good choice when you’re looking for a laptop for less money, and this touchscreen beauty is no exception. This laptop has great memory and RAM capacity so you can play as many games as your Steam library has to offer.
Further, the HP High-Performance Touchscreen runs like a dream, especially considering the price, and the touchscreen is responsive and effective. However, it does have the older i3 processor, which means it won’t be as fast as a more expensive computer– though, at the price, it’s to be expected.
Also, there are a lot of “accessory programs” that may get frustrating if you don’t turn them off right away, such as voice commands and the typical bug prevention programs that may not be what you need. In conclusion, this laptop is a solid choice for a gamer on a budget. It’s smooth, sleek, and ready for your next gaming session.
Premium Pick: HP Intel Core i3
Pros & Cons
- Most recent 8th gen intel core processor
- Full keyboard
- Ethernet and HDMI port
- Speedy and smooth
- Unnecessary bloatware
- Better for simple games; struggles with high FPS
- 14” display, 1366 x 768 HD resolution
- Intel i3-8130U dual-core four-way processor
- 8GB RAM
- Storage 1 TB HDD
- Weight: 4.03 lbs
- Dimensions: 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.8 in
HP Intel Core i3 Review
Honestly, I’m surprised most of these are under $500, but this one really took the cake for the cinematic, melodramatic jaw-drop a la 80’s movie makeover reveal. I honestly love the look of this laptop– the pale gold and ash silver are striking separately and, more importantly, together.
However, this laptop is more than just a pretty screen! It has the most recent 8th gen intel core processor, and while it’s an i3, it will still beat an i5-7200U in speed at up to 4GHz. While the display is only 14”, the laptop still features a full-sized keyboard, along with handy ethernet and HDMI ports on the side. It runs great, to boot!
While this can be a gaming computer, a lot of it depends on the visual complexity of your game. This laptop will struggle at the higher frame rates. There’s also quite a bit of unnecessary bloatware that isn’t harmful but is a little annoying. Luckily, you can just uninstall it and move on with your life.
This laptop is beautiful and sleek but has the speed and storage to back it up. However, if you play games that take a lot of frame speed to run effectively, this may not be the one for you. For laptops that can handle higher FPS, check out these gaming laptops under $1,000.
Best Value: Acer Aspire E15
Pros & Cons
- Great selection of ports
- 1080p resolution for under $500 is rare
- Good performance
- A little bulky
- Slow HDD
- 8th Gen Intel Core i3-8130U Processor
- 15.6” Full HD LED Display: 1920 x 1080 resolution
- 6GB Dual-Channel Memory, 1TB HDD
- 13.5 hours of battery life
- Weight: 5.27 lbs
- Dimensions: 15.02 x 10.2 x 1.19 in
Acer Aspire E15 Review
Let’s start with the obvious– $353 is about the lowest a true laptop can get price-wise. Plus, this laptop has plenty of other positives to make it the best value.
There’s a great selection of ports, and the resolution is 1080p, which is essentially unheard of for a laptop at this price. You can also upgrade to a 250 GB WD Blue SSD for an affordable price, or add Microsoft Home Office, while still getting the Prime shipping.
While this laptop isn’t as sturdy or compact as other options, it’s really reliable, has fantastic battery life, and has an 8th gen intel core processor– the same as other options in much higher price brackets.
It’s a little bulky compared to the other choices listed here, but depending on your living situation, bulky may be a positive if it is more in the open and in the middle of chaos from kids or pets. Ultimately, this is a good choice at a great price, but you’ll need to keep in mind that this laptop has slow HDD at 5400 rpm, so you may want to install an SD to make up for it.
If you’re interested in seeing more cheaper options, check out our guide on the best budget gaming laptops.
Best HD LED-Backlit: Dell Inspiron i3567
Pros & Cons
- Powerful for price range
- Amazon’s Choice
- Plain design
- Low resolution
- 7th Gen Core i5-7200U Processor
- 15.6-inch HD LED-Backlit Display: 1366 x 768
- Storage: 1TB HDD
- RAM: 8GB
- Weight: 4.85 lbs
- Dimensions: 0.9 x 10.2 x 14.9 in
Dell Inspiron i3567 Review
While this laptop isn’t as powerful as the top three, it definitely has some features that make it worth your consideration for an affordable gaming laptop. Firstly, Dell is a brand a lot of techies swear by, and for good reason. They’re typically speedy, consistent, and reliable, with reasonable pricing for the product you’re getting.
The display, while not 1080p, is still pretty nice, especially since it’s HD LED-Backlit. Plus, you’re getting a 7th gen core processor, which is fantastic for a gaming laptop under $500. Honestly, this laptop is really powerful for the range here– though you probably could’ve assumed that.
As far as negatives, this is definitely not a trophy computer. It’s not ugly, but it’s about as plain as you can make a computer. (Though if you type notes when you people-watch at the mall, it’s perfect. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.)
Next is the resolution, which is comparatively low, and may not make your PC games look as pretty as they could be. However, overall, this is a sturdy computer that gets the job done for a reasonable price.
Best Design: Lenovo Ideapad 330
Pros & Cons
- Comfortable keyboard
- Good performance for value
- 8th gen core processor
- Slow HDD
- No backlight on keyboard
- Low battery life
- 8th Gen Intel Core i3-8120U
- Intel UHD Graphics 620
- 15.6” LED backlight display
- Storage: 1TB HDD
- Connection: 2x USB 3.0 Type A, 1x USB 3.0 Type C, 1 HDMI output, 1 headphone jack
- Weight: 4.85 lbs
- Dimensions: 14.9 x 10.2 x 0.9 in
Lenovo Ideapad 330 Review
I love the look of this cute little laptop. Maybe it’s because I’m partial to the simple design and the platinum color, but I honestly think any laptop that isn’t black is eye-catching just by standing out of the crowd….and it does exactly that.
The keyboard is really comfortable to use if you are more of a key-controller than a mouse-controller. However, if you prefer to use a mouse, here’s a list of some of the best gaming mouse options to pair with any gaming laptop. Naturally, this laptop performs well, too– I don’t recommend anything that doesn’t, let’s be honest.
Another really fun thing about the Ideapad is the 8th gen processor, considering the price (currently $390 or so on Amazon with free Prime shipping). Honestly, this one really tempted me for the best value spot, and I think it can go head to head with the Acer Aspire– it’s just a matter of your personal preference.
Like some of the other laptops on this list, and understandably so, the HDD speed isn’t up to par on this computer. Also similar to a few other options, the keyboard isn’t backlit.
The main difference here is that this laptop has a lower battery life— up to 5 hours or so. However, if you’re a gamer, you probably have a plugged-in setup anyway, so it may or may not be much of an issue for you.
Gaming Laptops Under $500: Buying Guide
If you’re ready to take the plunge to get a budget gaming laptop, congratulations! Shopping and getting new things for a deal is so much fun. Just look at my drunk Amazon purchases…actually don’t do that.
However, there’s a lot of tech jargon that you’re going to want to know when you’re hunting, so you can make the best decision possible for your next gaming laptop. To make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for, this buying guide lays out some critical definitions to understand what to look for when you’re shopping.
CPU/GPU: The Brains and Soul of Your PC
CPU and GPU are both incredibly important to understand if you’re shopping for a computer for any reason, and especially when you’re a gamer on a budget.
CPU stands for ‘central processing unit’ and is usually called ‘the brains of the operation.’ After all, the CPU determines what your computer can do. If your computer is able to do XYZ, it’s because the handy dandy central processing unit says it can, due to a long integrated code programmed into it.
Meanwhile, the GPU, or ‘graphics processing unit,’ is a massive component to modern gaming, as it does the equations necessary to produce the 3D imaging you see on your laptop screen when you play a game. Naturally, when you’re looking for gaming laptops, you’re going to want a good CPU, but a good GPU is really the ticket if your games of choice are 3D and/or visually complex. If you’re able to break the bank, we recommend looking at the best GTX 1080 laptops before anything else.
RAM: Temporary Memory that Enhances Gameplay
You might get sick of hearing the term ‘RAM’ when shopping for new tech, but it’s a crucial term to know to make the right purchase. RAM stands for ‘random access memory,’ which is the bits in your laptop that store temporary information.
While a lot of people may refer to RAM as just ‘memory,’ that’s not really accurate, as it may (and does) get confused with storage on your hard drive. RAM is especially important for gamers because you’re going to want to ensure that your laptop has enough RAM to support the games you want to play.
Games almost always have a recommended RAM for optimal speed and ease of play. If some of your most-played games have higher RAM, this should be a priority for you when you’re shopping for an affordable PC.
Screen Quality: Getting Crisp and Clean Graphics When You Game
While there are quite a few different facets to understanding the totality of screen quality, the most important factor for gamers is the resolution. The resolution of a laptop determines how crisp and clear your screen content looks. While regular 15-inch laptops are more than enough, the screen size/quality of high-grade 17-inch gaming laptops is something every gamer would love.
The ideal base resolution is 1920 x 1080, though most people refer to it by its slang term, 1080p. It’s difficult to find cheap gaming laptops with 1080p resolution; however, it’s definitely possible, as illustrated in the top five picks above. For many gamers, aesthetics can make or break the enjoyability of gaming, so the resolution is an important factor to look at when you’re choosing the right laptop for you.
Battery Life: The Bottom Line for the Gaming Nomad
Battery life is important for a lot of people who use a laptop. Portability is really the name of the game if you’re buying a laptop anyway, and your battery life will determine how long your laptop can function when it isn’t plugged into an electrical outlet.
For many, 8 or more hours is the goal, but the standard for many laptops is anywhere from 1 to 6 hours of battery life. However, this can be conserved and occasionally extended, depending on your settings. In particular, gaming takes a lot of battery life, so it’s prudent to look for a laptop that has a high battery life as well as a battery that functions well when the PC is running a game.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Difference Between a Gaming Laptop and a Regular Laptop?
You’re likely to see differing answers on this question, but in general, a gaming laptop prioritizes features that improve gameplay, while a ‘regular’ laptop focuses on more basic functions, like web surfing and word processing.
Ultimately, as a gamer, you can make any laptop a gaming laptop if it is capable of running the games you want to play, or if you can modify it to do so. A ‘regular’ laptop can be a gaming laptop if it follows this pattern.
How Do I Choose a Laptop for Gaming?
When choosing the best laptop for gaming, the first thing you need to do is look at your budget, and the second step is to look at your needs.
How much storage do you need to fit your games on the laptop? What resolution does the laptop have? Which factors are a priority, and which aren’t as important? Choosing a gaming laptop is a highly personal experience because it’s all based on your goals.
Are Gaming Laptops Good for School?
Gaming laptops are perfectly fine options for school, especially since gaming laptops have become increasingly light to provide portability. In fact, if you game and go to school, it makes more sense to buy a gaming laptop outright, because it will be able to run your Steam library as easily as it will let you study and write papers the night before they’re due.
Related: How to share your steam library
Plus, there are plenty of educational resources, like videos and games, that is going to be more effective on a gaming laptop than on a basic, run-of-the-mill laptop.
How Long Do Gaming Laptops Last?
This is a difficult question to answer; however, gaming laptops can last anywhere from 2 days to upwards of 10 years– though after 10 years, your hardware would almost certainly be too outdated for newer games.
Physically, though, if you take care of your laptop externally and internally, it can last as long as you let it. Products have been made to make laptop care even easier as well, including things like laptop cooling pads and laptop backpacks, which keep the hardware inside safe (especially if you’re overclocking your PC).
Luckily for gamers, there are plenty of affordable options for gaming laptops under $500 that gets you a ton of bang for your buck. However, if you are willing to go a little further, gunning for an excellent gaming laptop under $800 is the next best thing. While there are plenty of things to look out for, there are only a few things you really need to focus on when buying a gaming laptop.
Remember to prioritize what you need based on your specific gaming goals, and finding the right laptop for you will be a dream. In particular, remember the importance of CPU and GPU, RAM, screen quality and resolution, and battery life.
Above all else, you might as well have fun shopping, so don’t stress about it. Pick what has the right specs, features, and reviews to back it up, and you’ll have no problem getting a great gaming laptop. Game on!