You’ll probably agree when I say:
Finding the perfect gaming laptop can be REALLY hard.
Especially if you want to find the best gaming laptop under $500.
But is it really?
In this guide, I’ll show you the products I recommend after researching and analyzing every recently released laptop in the last three years.
So, without further ado, here are the best budget gaming laptops in December 2021:
|Best Overall Laptop||The Runner-up||Best Lightweight Laptop|
|Laptop||Lenovo Ideapad 3||2021 Hp 15||Acer 5 Slim|
|Graphics Card||AMD Radeon RX Vega 8||AMD Radeon RX Vega 8||AMD Radeon RX Vega 3|
|Storage||256GB SSD||256GB SSD||128GB SSD|
|Review||Read review||Read review||Read review|
|Price (Amazon)||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
Best Gaming Laptops Under 500 Reviewed
Best Gaming Laptop under $500: Lenovo Ideapad 3
The Lenovo Ideapad 3 has a the best graphics card in the price range. It also comes with a fast SSD and 8GB RAM.
The main thing that makes the Lenovo Ideapad 3 stand out is the AMD Radeon Vega 8 GPU. If you compare it against the Vega 3, another common GPU in the price range, you’ll see the Vega 8 has 137% higher effective speed. If you look at the Vega 8 gaming benchmarks in the middle of this article, you’ll see it will run non-demanding games such as League of Legends and Fifa 20 on ultra settings with acceptable frame rates. Moderately demanding games such a The Sims 4, Dota 2, and World of Warcraft will run smoothly on medium settings. You can even play some modern demanding games at low settings.
To match the great GPU, you’ll get a 256GB SSD, 8GB DDR4 RAM, and a powerful AMD Ryzen 5 3500U Quad-Core Processor. The AMD 5 3500U is an great processor with a 7150 CPU mark score (the Intel Core i3-8145U has only around half that score). The SSD is not the quickest SSD on the list, but it’s still faster than an HDD.
The cherry red color scheme gives the laptop a unique look that stands out. The case is made of plastic and is sturdy without any flex. This gaming laptop has almost every port you’ll need. The only thing that’s missing is a USB-C port. The downside of the design is that the material tends to attract fingerprints.
This laptop has a keyboard with good key travel, and the keys have a nice texture that makes for a great gaming experience. If you like typing in the dark, it’s not suitable since it has no backlight. The touchpad is decent, but some users had issues with its drivers. The speakers are good and have a crisp sound.
The 15-inch display has a modern look with its thin-bezel design and full HD(1920 x 1080) screen resolution. The brightness of 250 nits is about average for a gaming notebook under $500. The screen’s biggest weakness is the color coverage of just 52% of the sRBG color space. The poor color coverage is acceptable when gaming, but it’s not ideal for watching movies.
Summary: The Lenovo Ideapad 3 is a gaming laptop with an excellent bang for the buck. It has a powerful AMD Ryzen 5 CPU, a reliable design, and the best graphics card you can get in any gaming laptop under $500.
|Excellent AMD Ryzen 5 processor||The display has poor color coverage|
|Best laptop graphics card under $500||Prone to fingerprints|
|Cool cherry red color||Below-average battery life (less than 2 hours when gaming)|
The Runner-up: 2021 HP 15
This AMD-based HP budget gaming laptop weighs 3 pounds (1,36 kg) and has a nice silver chassis. It’s easy to carry but make sure you’re careful with the laptop since it isn’t the most sturdy laptop on the list.
The AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor is one of the stronger CPUs on the list, and it’s more than capable of handling most office and everyday applications.
The graphics card is the best graphics card you can find in any gaming laptop under $500. With the Vega 8 GPU, you can expect to run non-demanding games such as Dota 2 smoothly on high – ultra settings and demanding games smoothly on low graphics settings. Have a look at some gaming benchmarks of the Vega 8 at the end of this article.
Another thing that makes this budget notebook stand out is the battery. It has a longer battery life than its competition, and it can handle a full day of web surfing on a single charge.
Summary: The HP 15 is another excellent gaming laptop under $500. It has longer battery life than the Dell Inspiron 15 above, but it lags behind when it comes to the screen. That’s why it’s the runner-up of this list.
|AMD Ryzen 5 CPU||Not the most sturdy case|
|Fast 256GB SSD||Dim display|
|Full HD IPS Screen|
Best Lightweight Budget Gaming Laptop: Acer Aspire 5 Slim
If you want to save some money and get one of the best gaming laptops under $500, get the Acer Aspire 5 Slim.
With the lowest price on the list, you’ll get excellent bang for the buck. The Acer Aspire laptop comes with the same CPU and graphics card combo as the HP above. This means you can play the most older games without any lag.
Another huge advantage of the Acer Aspire 5 Slim is the display. It’s a 15-6-inch 1920 x 1080 (full HD) screen with vivid colors. With a thin bezel design, you’ll get the most of your games.
This laptop is an excellent laptop currently rated as the winner on the list of the best laptops under $400. With the best display on the list and a powerful graphics card for the price, why isn’t the Acer Aspire 5 Slim our winner? Two reasons:
- Small hard drive: The included SSD is fast and makes booting up the included Windows 10 a breeze, but with only 128GB of storage, you’ll find yourself low on space quickly.
- Only 4GB RAM: 4GB ram is on the lower end for gaming laptops under $500. It’s possible to upgrade the RAM, but make sure to upgrade it to a DDR4 compatible RAM if that’s something you plan to do.
Even if the hard drive and RAM size are on the lower side for the price, it’s still a lightweight, quality budget gaming laptop. With a weight of 3.97 lbs (1.8 kg), it’s quite light for being a 15-inch gaming laptop. The battery life can handle 7.5 hours, but if you are gaming, expect lower total battery life.
Summary: The Acer 15 Slim is a lightweight gaming laptop with a backlit keyboard. It has the best screen on the list and powerful hardware for the price. However, you won’t get much RAM or storage, so you might need to upgrade it down the line.
|Lightweight||Low amount of memory (128GB)|
|Excellent display||Only 4GB RAM|
|Powerful AMD Ryzen CPU|
Go Slightly Over Budget: Dell Inspiron 15 2021
The best gaming laptop for under 500 dollars in December 2021 is the Dell Inspiron 15. This budget laptop has excellent gaming performance for the price and it’s lightning fast.
The AMD Ryzen 5-3450U processor can handle everything from internet browsing to demanding games. It boots up fast, and the load times on games are short thanks to the fast 256GB SSD and the 8GB RAM.
This laptop has a rather ordinary-looking design, but it’s a sturdy machine with a good selection of ports for plugging in external devices such as a gaming mouse, an external screen, or a gaming headset. The black charcoal color looks nice, but the exterior is prone to fingerprints.
Even if this is a great affordable gaming laptop, it has two drawbacks to consider. The full HD screen is good enough for most gamers, but the colors are not very accurate so it’s not suitable for work that requires 100% true-to-life colors. Another drawback is that the webcam is a bit blurry.
If you are okay with these cons, you’re going to have an excellent time gaming on this laptop. The Vega 8 graphics card can handle most games smoothly on medium or higher settings. Have a look at some gaming benchmarks of the Vega 8 at the end of this Notebookcheck article.
The keyboard has a NumPad, and each key has good key spacing and good feedback. However, after a long gaming session, you can sometimes feel the keyboard get a bit hot, so you might want to consider getting a cooling pad or an external laptop fan.
Summary: The Dell Inspiron 15 has excellent gaming performance, a sturdy design and fast boot and load times. That’s why it’s the best gaming laptop to get for under $500!
|Powerful AMD Ryzen 5 CPU||Exterior prone to fingerprints|
|Good gaming performance||Can get hot after long gaming sessions|
|Fast||A bit blurry webcam|
Most Reliable Option: HP 14″ Touchscreen Laptop
If you want a reliable under $500, you’re most likely looking for the HP 14. This 14-inch gaming laptop is fast, portable, and can run most non-demanding games smoothly.
Inside of the HP 14, you’ll find the AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor. It’s aimed at thin mid-range laptops and has good performance to run most games and programs without any lag.
Another factor that increases the speed of the Hp 14 is the 256GB SSD. With an SSD, you don’t have to wait for long load times from games, applications, and Windows itself. The downside of the SSD is that it has only 256GB of storage, so it can fill up quickly if you install many games.
The HP 14 comes with Windows 10 S. Windows 10 S is designed to increase performance and be easier to use, but the big drawback of WIndows 10 S is that you can only install apps from the Windows Store. If that isn’t for you, you can quickly get out of S mode by following one of the many guides there is online.
The graphics card of the HP 14 is the AMD Radeon Vega 3. It’s an integrated graphics card with great gaming performance, at least if you play games on lower graphics settings. If you look at the gaming benchmarks on this Notebookcheck article, you’ll see two things. Some modern games will not run smoothly on this laptop. If you want to run demanding games, look for something with a better graphics card, for example, one of the best gaming laptops under $1000.
The other thing you’ll notice if you check the benchmarks is that games such as Fifa, Rocket League, Team Fortress, Dota 2, and Sims 4 will run without any problems on low-medium graphics settings.
Summary: If you want an affordable gaming laptop for online gaming, the best choice is the HP 14. It has excellent performance for the price, but you might need to get more memory down the line.
|Excellent performance for the price||Small storage capacity|
|Fast with SSD and 8GB DDR4 RAM||No advertised fingerprint reader|
|Can run non-demanding games without lag||A few users had issues with the laptop freezing|
The Budget Choice: BriteCool NesBook
If you’re looking for a cheap gaming laptop for light gaming, then you need to know about the BriteCool Nesbook.
With a 256GB M.2 SSD, 8GB RAM, and a solid quad core CPU, it has snappy performance but with the weakest graphics on the list, it can only handle light gaming. The benchmark of the integrated Intel UHD 600 will show that it will struggle running any of the latest AAA games but it’s capable of running online games such as LoL and TF2, Dota 2, and WoW on low settings. BriteCool claims that the CPU is faster than the i7-7y75. It might sound impressive that it beats an i7 processor, but the reality is that the i7-7Y75 has considerably worse performance than a modern i3 processor.
For many laptop gamers portability is a must, and on that part, the NesBook won’t disappoint. This 15.6 inch gaming machine weighs just 3.4 pounds and is less than 0.6″ at its thickest part. Another advantage of this budget laptop is the included micro SD card slot and the two USB 3.0 ports. Unfortunately, it has no USB-C port or CD/DVD drive.
A feature that makes the BriteCool Nesbook stand out against other affordable gaming laptops is the unique keyboard. The lifted design makes it more ergonomic and you can feel it if you’re a writer or student that types on the laptop for longer writing sessions. It’s a full-size keyboard with an included NumPad. The only drawback is that it’s not a backlit keyboard so it’s not the best for late-night gaming.
When you put it to the test by multitasking or gaming, it runs quietly but it draws the battery tends to drain quickly.
Summary: The BriteCool Nesbook is one of the best budget gaming laptops thanks to its sleek design and fast performance. It’s not suitable for the latest games, but it’s a good deal if you want a fast budget laptop for some occasional light gaming.
|Very affordable laptop||Lags behind in gaming performance|
|Easy to bring with you||Lacks a backlit keyboard|
|Fast||Below-average battery life|
Best 2-in-1 Gaming Laptop Under $500: Lenovo Flex 5
2-in-1 laptops are often really convenient and portable, but they usually lack the specs to run games smoothly. The Lenovo Flex 5 is both a good 2-in-1 laptop and a gaming laptop under $500 capable of running non-demanding games.
The case of the Lenovo Flex is simple but clean looking. It’s made of gray plastic and has an island-style keyboard. The keyboard is comfortable with its slight concave keys. However, it’s not backlit, and the keys have short key travel. This laptop weighs 3.5 pounds, so it’s quite light for gaming but quite heavy if you compare it to other 2-in-1 laptops.
Inside the Lenovo Flex 5, you’ll find the Intel UHD 620 graphics card. If you look at the UHD 620 benchmarks, you’ll see that it can run some games such as Valorant, Fifa 20, and Fall Guys at 30+ fps on low settings. It’s not, however, suitable for some of the latest AAA games.
The screen of the Lenovo Flex is an IPS touchscreen HD display that responds well to gestures. It’s alright for indoor use with a brightness of around 220 nits but a bit dim in sunlight.
Like most of the laptops on this list, it has an SSD for memory. It’s a fast PCIe NVMe solid-state drive with 128GB of storage. It also comes with a reliable 8th generation Intel Core i3-8145U processor and 4GB RAM.
Summary: The Lenovo Flex is on the top when it comes to the hardware. The lightweight design, combined with the 2-in-1 feature, makes it one of the best gaming notebooks under $500. However, be aware that the screen is quite dim, and you can find gaming notebooks with better graphics cards in the price range.
|Fast solid state drive||Shallow keyboard|
|Can be used both as a laptop and tablet||Dim display|
|Good looking design||Short charger cable (6 feet / 1,8m)|
Quiet and Well-designed: Lenovo Ideapad 15
The Lenovo Ideapad 15 is another good budget gaming option. It has Windows 10 in S mode as the operating system, so you might want to use one of the many guides online to get out of it if you wish to use any apps not on the Windows store.
It has a sturdy plastic case with a nice platinum grey color. It has good connectivity with 3 USB-A ports, an HDMI output, and an SD card reader that can read both SD, SDHC, SCXC, and MMC cards. It’s also reasonably lightweight with a weight of 3.3 pounds (1,5 kg).
When you type on the Lenovo Ideapad, you’ll notice it’s a quiet keyboard but with a firm key press. The touchpad is smooth and responsive, but it’s quite loud when clicking the mouse buttons.
The 15.6-inch screen has a 1920×1080 (Full HD) resolution and has decent color coverage. It can’t be used outdoors since the screen has a max brightness of 200 nits.
This notebook has good specs for the price. It has an AMD Ryzen 3 CPU, 8GB DDR4 RAM, a 256GB SSD, and the Vega 3 integrated graphics card. This means it can handle some multitasking and can run most games on low-medium graphics settings.
The biggest reason this laptop is our #9 is the subpar battery life. Expect less than 3 hours of battery life before you need to plug it in again.
Summary: The Lenovo 15 has the hardware you should expect in a gaming laptop under $500. Unfortunately, it has a dim screen and a short battery runtime.
|4-in-1 SD card reader||Short battery life|
|Good keyboard||Poor screen brightness|
|Runs quietly||Loud touchpad|
Sturdy and Light: Asus Vivobook F512DA
The Asus Vivobook F512DA has the specs you’ll find in any laptop on the top of the list. However, the hard drive is one of the slowest of the best gaming laptops under $500.
This Windows gaming laptop runs Windows in S mode straight out of the box, but you can easily change to Windows 10 Pro with a few clicks.
The exterior of this 15.6-inch laptop has a smooth matte texture made of plastic. It has a compact and sturdy design and weighs 3.86 lbs (1.8 kg).
Thanks to the ErgoLift hinge, the keyboard has a 2° angle for a more natural typing position. Asus tried to squeeze in everything onto the keyboard, including a NumPad. This makes the keyboard feel cramped. Some keys, such as the arrow keys, are too small and feel mushy.
The Full HD screen is a NanoEdge display with 5.7mm bezels for a 88% screen-to-body ratio. It has poor viewing angles, and it covers only 58% of the sRBG color space, so it’s not suitable for anything that requires accurate colors. Another minor complaint about the screen is that the otherwise good brightness drops when you’re on battery power.
Like many of the other best gaming laptops under $500, it has AMD Radeon Vega 3 Graphics. This graphics card will run online games such as League of Legends and Dota 2 smoothly but will have trouble running the latest RPGs such as Cyberpunk and Red Dead Redemption 2. The AMD Ryzen 3 3200U is a reliable AMD CPU that’s great for playing games and running CPU-intensive applications such as 3D editing software.
The storage is a 256GB SSD. Even if Asus claims it’s an NVMe SSD, it’s actuallý an M.2 SATA SSD with a read of 560 MBps and a write speed of 480MBps. This is considerably slower than other gaming notebooks with NVMe SSDs but still faster than a standard HDD.
Summary: The Asus Vivobook F512DA is a decent gaming laptop, but faster laptops are on this list.
|Compact and sturdy design||Screen has washed out colors|
|Good CPU and GPU combo||Cramped keyboard|
|Light for being a gaming laptop||Slow SSD|
Fast, light and with a long battery life: 2021 Lenovo Ideapad S340
The Lenovo Ideapad S340 might not be the best gaming laptop under $500, but it’s certainly one of the most reliable budget gaming laptops.
You’ll get a high-quality keyboard, however Lenovo decided to skip out on the numeric pad on this 2021 model. Some of the keys have weird key shapes, like the tiny up and down arrows. As with most affordable laptops, the keyboard is not illuminated.
If a good screen is one of the most important things you are looking for, I would recommend another gaming laptop. The display is quite dull with washed-out colors and poor viewing angles.
Even if the integrated GPU can only handle light gaming, there are a few things that make it one of the best gaming laptops under $500:
The battery life is excellent: Expect around 8 hours of battery life from standard usage and as usual less when gaming
Fast: The 8GB DDR4 RAM combined with a fast solid state drive makes for short boot and load times. The SSD does only come with 256GB of storage, and as a gamer, you might need additional storage.
Light and durable: It’s a thin laptop with a weight of 4.1 pounds (1.9kg). This weight is about what to expect for gaming laptops under $500. The exterior of the Ideapad S340 is mostly made of plastic, but it has an aluminum finish on the lid. Over the 15.6-inch screen, you’ll find a webcam with a privacy shutter so you can block it when you’re not using it.
Summary: If you just need something reliable for light gaming, the Lenovo Ideapad S340 is a good option. Just be aware that it does not come with CD/DVD drive, and the small 128GB SSD means you might need to buy more storage.
|Long battery life||Can only handle non-demanding gaming|
|Light and durable||Dull screen|
Are Budget Gaming Laptops Worth It 2021?
Yes! Getting a budget gaming laptop is definitely worth it in 2021. There are now more laptops under 500 dollars that can run the latest games than ever before! Since AMD released their Vega integrated GPU line, cheap gaming laptops have gone down in price, and there are more options to choose from. There are also many products with Intel UHD graphics that will run most games on low to medium graphics settings.
To find the best gaming laptop under $500, you’ll need to know what to look for. That’s what I’ll explain next:
What Can You Expect in a Gaming Laptop for Under $500?
AMD Ryzen CPU
The most common processor in the best gaming laptops under $500 is the AMD Ryzen 3 CPU. Another common alternative to the AMD Ryzen 3 is the 8th generation Intel Core i3-8145U. If you compare the performance between the two, you’ll see that the Intel has around 27% higher effective speed.
These days a solid state drive (SSD) is the standard storage option in the best gaming laptops under $500. Compared to a standard hard drive (HDD), an SSD will give you much faster performance. Another advantage of having a solid state drive instead of a regular hard drive is that it will consume less power, which leads to longer battery life.
The best gaming laptop under 500 dollars has at least 256GB of storage
Almost all of the best cheap gaming laptops under $500 have 8GB RAM (random access memory). 4GB RAM is acceptable for some games, but I would recommend at least 8GB RAM to get the best gaming performance. More RAM will also help with multitasking so you can for example both listen to music and play games.
Since most of the best gaming laptops under $500 focus on energy-efficient components, such as integrated graphics cards, they will generally have better battery life than more high-end gaming laptops. More expensive gaming laptops often have just around 2 hours of battery life on high load. Gaming laptops under $500 will usually handle 4+ hours before you need to plug it in.
Full HD Display
In a gaming notebook for around 500 dollars, you should expect a full HD display. Full HD (also known as 1920 x 1080 screen resolution) will make a big difference both when playing games and for productivity.
When it comes to size, the most common screen size is a 15.6-inch display. However, you can often find laptops with smaller screen sizes in the 500 dollar price range.
The right GPU
There is one thing that will make or break your next gaming notebook for less than 500 USD:
The graphics card. The graphics card is the difference between playing your favorite game on low with lag vs. a smooth gaming experience.
Gaming laptops under $500 have an integrated GPU (graphics processing unit). This means you won’t be able to play all the newest games with high frame rates. If you want to run all games at glorious 60 FPS, then a gaming laptop under 500 won’t be enough. For that, a good gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card is your best choice.
There is a massive difference between low-end integrated graphics cards and the GPUs you’ll find in the laptops on this list. We have specifically selected laptops that can run games smoothly.
You are now just a few clicks away from your new gaming laptop under $500 so, if you haven’t already click on check price after any of the summaries to see more about the notebook on Amazon.
Sure, you won’t be able to play the latest AAA games on 60 fps on high settings with these budget laptops.
But if you want to enjoy some less demanding games or are happy with playing the demanding games on low, then one of the gaming laptops under $500 above is just for you.
Enjoy your new gaming laptop under $500!