You’ll probably agree when I say:
Finding the ideal gaming laptop can be REALLY hard.
Especially, if you want to find a gaming laptop for under $500.
But is it really?
In this guide, I’ll show you the gaming laptops I recommend after doing 20+ hours of initial research and almost 15 more hours since then.
So, without further ado, here are the best gaming notebook in the 500 dollar price range:
#1 Best Gaming Laptop under $500: Lenovo Ideapad 3 14″
The 14-inch Lenovo Ideapad is finally available for under 500 dollars. It has a sturdy design, powerful hardware, and the best graphics card you can find in any 500 dollar laptop.
The number one thing that makes the Lenovo Ideapad 3 the best gaming laptop under $500 is the 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 excellent 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.
With a beautiful abyss blue color and a brushed look, it has a pleasant look. It’s a portable laptop made of plastic with a sturdy build. 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 14-inch Full HD(1920 x 1080) display has a modern look with its thin-bezel design. 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 colors look dull and are nowhere near accurate. 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 CPU||The display has poor color coverage|
|Best laptop GPU under $500||Prone to fingerprints|
|Cool abyss blue color||Below-average battery life (less than 2 hours when gaming)|
#2 The Runner-up: HP 14″ Touchscreen Laptop
If you want to get the best overall gaming laptop 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 for 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 time 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 to 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 non-demanding games on lower graphics settings. If you have a look at the game 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 non-demanding 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 to run non-demanding games, 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|
#3 Best Lightweight Budget Gaming Laptop: Acer 5 Slim
If you want to save some money and get one of the best gaming laptops under $500, get the Acer 5 Slim.
With the lowest price on the list, you’ll get excellent bang for the buck. The Acer 5 Slim comes with the same CPU and graphics card combo as the HP above. This means you can play the latest non-demanding games without any lag.
Another huge advantage of the Acer 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 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 when it comes to 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 are on the lower range 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 illuminated 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 down the line.
|Lightweight||Low amount of memory (128GB)|
|Excellent display||Only 4GB RAM|
|Powerful AMD Ryzen CPU|
#4 The Budget Choice: Lenovo Ideapad 3 15″
If you don’t want to spend the whole 500 dollars and are looking for a reliable entry-level laptop that can handle some light gaming, then the Lenovo Ideapad 15 might be what you’re looking for.
It’s a sleek-looking laptop with a brushed blue all-plastic case. It has a nice look, but the exterior will attract fingerprints. This laptop lacks a CD/DVD drive and has no fingerprint reader, but it has 3 USB ports, an SD card reader, and a webcam and microphone. The webcam has a physical shutter for better privacy.
Typing and gaming on the Lenovo Ideapad feels great thanks to the surprisingly good keyboard. The keys have good key travel and clicky feedback. The biggest downside of the keyboard is that it lacks backlighting. Another thing to be aware of is the unconventional touchpad placement. Instead of a standard centered position, the touchpad is placed under the alt key of the keyboard.
Another thing that makes the Lenovo Ideapad 3 15″ look great is the thin screen bezels. The screen is a 15.6-inch TN display with a resolution of 1366 x 768. With a brightness of only 200 nits, it’s one of the dimmest screens on the list. Another issue with the screen is its poor viewing angles.
The fans do a good job of keeping the laptop cool, and you can adjust for maximum cooling by turning on “Max mode” or get less noise and better battery life by turning on battery saving mode. The battery life is good for the price, and you can get around 6 hours of light usage but considerably less when gaming.
Gaming on the Lenovo Ideapad 3 is alright if you have the right expectations. Don’t expect to run the latest games on medium or higher settings. The Radeon Vega 3 graphics card and the AMD Ryzen 3 3250U processor makes it able to run non-demanding games without lag. It has only 4GB RAM, so it will have some trouble with multitasking.
Summary: The Lenovo Ideapad 15 is a good budget option. It has decent performance and nice, adjustable fans, but the screen is a bit dim.
|Affordable||Wierd touchpad placement|
|Good cooling system||Dim screen|
|Runs non-demanding games with ease||Poor viewing angles|
#5 Easiest to Upgrade: Asus Vivobook F510QA
The Asus Vivobook F512QA is a great budget laptop ideal for office use, but you can also do some occasional light gaming.
With an AMD R7 integrated graphics card, it can handle some light gaming. However, it will struggle with modern games on medium or higher graphics settings, as you see on these gaming benchmarks.
When it comes to performance, it lags a bit behind the top options. The AMD Quad-Core A12-9720P has slightly worse performance than an i3 processor. The SSD and the fast DDR4 RAM reduces the load times significantly when opening up programs. It has only 4GB RAM, something you’ll notice if you do any heavy multitasking.
The screen is a full HD15.6″ widescreen with an 80% screen-to-body ratio. The thin bezels make it look modern, and it’s always nice with more screen estate. With a brightness of 200 nits, it’s not suitable to take outside. The colors are also inaccurate, but it’s still a decent screen for gaming.
Even if the case is made of plastic, it feels surprisingly sturdy, and with a weight of 3.7 pounds, it’s also a reasonably light 15.6-inch laptop. It has an HDMI port, USB Type-C, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 ports. There’s no CD/DVD drive, and you won’t get an ethernet port for plugging in an internet cable.
The keyboard has good key spacing and a quiet keypress, but the short key travel makes it unsuitable for long typing sessions. The touchpad is responsive and has a soft click.
Some customers had issues with the wifi signal dropping after some time. An Amazon reviewer got it working after rolling back the wifi drivers. Another common complaint was that the speakers had poor audio.
One of the things that make the Asus Vivobook F510QA stand out is the upgradability. You can upgrade the RAM, and you’ll find both an empty SATA slot and an empty M.2 slot if you want to upgrade the storage. As with most gaming laptops, it’s not possible to upgrade the processor or the graphics card.
Summary: The Asus Vivobook F510QA is a budget laptop that’s easy to upgrade and can handle non-demanding gaming. There are laptops with better graphics cards on the list, but few can be upgraded as easily.
|Sturdy and lightweight design||Poor speakers|
|Easy to upgrade RAM and storage||Keyboard uncomfortable for longer typing sessions|
|128GB SSD||Some customers had issues with the wifi card|
#6 Best 2-in-1 Gaming Laptop Under $500: Lenovo Flex 14
2-in-1 laptops are often really convenient and portable, but they also 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 being a gaming laptop 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 non-demanding games at 30+ fps on low settings. It’s not, however, suitable for anything demanding.
The screen of the Lenovo Flex is a Full HD IPS touchscreen 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 laptops under $500. However, be aware that the screen is quite dim, and you can find gaming laptops 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)|
#7 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|
#8 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 non-demanding games smoothly and can even run some more demanding games on low settings. The processor is the AMD Ryzen 3 3200U, a reliable AMD CPU that’s great for playing games and running demanding 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 laptops with NVMe SSDs but still faster than a standard HDD.
Summary: The Asus Vivobook F512DA is a good gaming laptop for non-demanding games, but there are faster laptops on the 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|
#9 The reliable choice: 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 with a 10-number Numpad on the side. Some of the keys have weird key shapes, like the tiny up and down arrows. As with most gaming laptops under $500, the keyboard is not illuminated.
The display is quite dull with washed-out colors and poor viewing angles. If a good screen is one of the most important things you are looking for, I would recommend another gaming laptop.
It has an integrated graphics card, the Intel UHD Graphics 620. The Intel UHD 620 will run games like Fifa, Fortnite, Sims, and Dota on low settings without lag, but that’s about how much gaming power you get. If you try running demanding games or raise the graphics quality, you’ll quickly notice lag or crashes.
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 128GB of storage, and as a gamer, you might need additional storage.
Light and durable: It’s a thin laptop with a weight of 3.9 pounds (1.8kg). 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. To make it more durable, it has carbon fiber threads weaved into the plastic. 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 playing non-demanding games, 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|
#10 Longest Battery Life: Dell Inspiron 14 3000
The 2021 Dell 14 3000 comes with a 16% more powerful processor and a slightly better graphics card than the 2020 version.
The chassis is made of plastic and has a nice black finish. It has a comfortable palm rest, and the keyboard is alright. The display is a decent 1366×768 panel covering 62 percent of the sRBG color gamut, an acceptable percentage for a budget gaming laptop. The screen’s biggest downside is that it’s quite dim, and I wouldn’t recommend it in direct sunlight.
The Dell Inspiron 14 3000 has 8 GB RAM, a 128GB SSD, and an Intel i3-1005G1 CPU. In other words, more than enough to handle both work and light gaming. The graphics card is the Intel HD 620. This is one of the weakest graphics cards on the list, and it makes the laptop only suitable for non-demanding games on low graphics settings.
The thing that makes this budget notebook stand out is the battery. It has a long battery life compared to its competition, which can handle a full day of web surfing.
Summary: The Dell Inspiron 14 3000 is an all-around reliable laptop that’s great for work and can handle some occasional light gaming.
|Good cooling||Not suitable for demanding games|
|Great battery life|
Are Budget Gaming Laptops Worth It 2021?
Yes! Budget gaming laptops are 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 the Intel UHD graphics that will also run most games on low to medium graphics settings. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop and don’t want to break the bank, now is an excellent time to find the best budget gaming laptop. 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
In the best gaming laptops under $500, the most common processor 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.
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 5+ 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 or 1920 x 1080 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. This means you won’t be able to play the latest games with high frame rates. If you want to run demanding games at glorious 60 FPS, then a gaming laptop under 500 won’t be enough. For that, a gaming laptop under 1000 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 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.