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?
There is one simple thing that you need to look for. The thing that will help you find the perfect gaming laptop for the price.
In this post, I’ll show you exactly what this hidden thing you need to look for really is. And then I’ll show you the gaming laptops I personally recommend after doing 20+ hours of initial research and almost 15 more hours since then.
So, without further ado, let’s find out what the number #1 thing you need in your next gaming laptop:
What is the one thing you need in a gaming laptop for under $500?
There is one thing that will make or break your next gaming notebook for less than 500 USD:
The thing you need is a dedicated graphics card
And here is why:
This is the difference between playing your favorite game on low with lag vs. a smooth gaming experience.
And this is not some really powerful high-end graphics card, this is the graphics card you find in the laptops I recommend below.
This is one of the cheapest dedicated graphics cards on the market vs a standard integrated graphics card, based on thousands of real users benchmarks found here over at Userbenchmark.com.
But here is the problem…
I would love to be able to now tell you about a good gaming laptop for less than 500 dollars with a dedicated graphics card. But there simply is none. And I don’t say that because I haven’t looked good enough. I have looked at pretty much every gaming laptop available on Amazon in this price range and not a single one fits the bill. For under $500 and for gaming, the laptops are simply too weak. So this leaves you with 3 options:
- Go slightly over budget: If you still want to have a good gaming experience but don’t want to spend too much then just read on. My recommended laptops below is just what you need.
- Go for a gaming laptop for demanding games: If you want to 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.
- Ignore my advice: Or you can just ignore my advice. I can’t stop you. But from one gamer to another: if you want a decent gaming experience even at non-demanding games such as MOBAs, Sims and older games, get a gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card.
Now that you know what to do, let’s find out what gaming laptops I recommend with a dedicated graphics card for around $500:
#1 Good gaming laptop for light gaming but a dull screen: Acer Aspire E5-576G-5762
If you want a good combo of affordable hardware, decent gaming performance, and a pleasing design, then the Acer Aspire E5-576G-5762 might be the ideal laptop for you. Just be aware that you need to spend 100 dollars more than your $500 budget.
This laptop has the recently released Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card. It is a considerable upgrade compared to the 940MX, the old standard in the best gaming laptops under $500. As you can see on the benchmark at the end of this article, it’s good enough to run non-demanding games like Dota 2, Fifa, Counter-Strike: GO and WoW with 60+ FPS on ultra settings. It can also handle most modern demanding games at low-medium settings at acceptable frame rates.
The processor is also of the latest generation. The Intel Core i5-8250U is from the 8th generation of Intel’s laptop processors and handles both games and applications with ease.
The only storage you get on this laptop is a 256GB M.2 SATA SSD. It’s a fast solid state drive, but with only 256GB storage, you might need to buy additional storage if you’re going to save lots of files on your laptop.
The design of the laptop is rather ordinary. It has a black plastic case with a brushed texture on the lid and silver accents. It is a bit heavier than it’s competition, but with a weight of 5 pounds, it’s still fairly lightweight and easy to bring with you. A big plus is that it contains an optical drive, something fewer and fewer laptops feature these days.
The keyboard is comfortable, and the speakers produce accurate sound. The Acer Aspire E5-576G-5762 has one of the best batteries on the market. It has a battery life of almost 10 hours when using it for day to day tasks.
The biggest weakness of this notebook is the dull display. The colors look too faded. The screen does an ok job, but it’s darker than it’s competition so if you want a high-quality screen, I would recommend another laptop.
Summary: The Acer Aspire E5-576G-5762 has the best graphics card you can get for under $600. It also features a powerful Intel Core i5 processor and fast RAM from the latest generation of RAM, DDR4. The display is a bit dull, but that’s a sacrifice you’ll have to be willing to make if you want a gaming laptop for this cheap. Because if you want a good budget gaming laptop, then this is the one to get.
|Best graphics for the price||Dull display|
|Strong 8th generation Intel i5 CPU||Only 256GB storage|
|The latest generation of RAM, DDR4||Ordinary looking design|
#2 Better graphics but higher price Dell Inspiron 5000
You might have to go a bit over the $500 budget, but the Dell Inspiron 500 is still a good deal with hardware stronger than you usually get for the price.
The chassis is made of plastic and has nice silver paint finish. It has a comfortable palm rest, and the keyboard is alright. The display is a weak 1366×768 panel with bland colors. The screen only covers 58.9 percent of the sRBG color gamut. But even if the display is the weakest point of the notebook, the hardware makes up for it.
The Dell Inspiron 5000 has 8 GB RAM a 1TB HDD and an AMD a-10 Quad Core CPU. In other words, more than enough to handle both work and gaming. The graphics card is the Radeon RX 460, a graphics card more powerful than the standard in the price range, the Nvidia GeForce 940MX. The frame rates are smooth on some of the latest games as you can see in this video.
Another great thing about the Dell Inspiron 5000 is the battery. It has a long battery life compared to its competition and can handle a couple of hours of web surfing or gaming.
The Dell Inspiron 5000 is an all-around solid gaming laptop that will play some of the latest games on decent frame rates, all for less than $600.
|Plays modern games smoothly||The screen has bland colors|
|Plenty of storage||Not the best keyboard|
|Great Battery Life||Price over $500|
#3 Best Nvidia GeForce 940MX laptop for $500: Acer Aspire A515-51G-5536
Let’s start with what matter. Inside this notebook, there is a powerful Intel i5 processor and fast 8GB 2133Mhz DDR4 ram memory. More on that in a minute. There is also a dedicated Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU. It’s the best graphics card you can find on any laptop for under 500 dollars. With it, you can play games such as Dota 2, CS: GO, Hearthstone, League of Legends and The Sims 4 at smooth fps on medium to high settings. You can even play demanding games such as Watch Dogs 2, Far Cry 4 and Battlefield 1 on low-medium settings! Take a look at the end of this NotebookCheck article for the fps the 940MX produce in your favorite games.
The design is rather unremarkable, but the build quality is good, and it feels sturdy. The plastic chassis is in a tone somewhere between shiny and matte black. It has all the ports you’ll need. But it lacks an optical drive, although there is space for you to install your own cd-drive. On the bottom of the laptop, there is a service lid. This means you can easily upgrade ram or storage without having to remove the whole bottom. The weight is slightly over 5 pounds (~2.3 kg), so a bit over what most 15-inch laptops weight. But this is a gaming laptop, so you should expect a bit more weight with the more powerful hardware.
The speakers have great treble but lack of bass. They are great for watching movies and gaming but not ideal for music with the weak bass.
The keyboard is alright. It is a chiclet keyboard with curved island keys with a decent keyboard experience. It has no backlight, but I guess that is a necessary move for Acer to stay in this very cheap price range. The trackpad is the weakest point of the laptop. It is sensitive and can at times be inconsistent.
The screen is a 1080p Full HD display that gets the job done. Sure, it is a bit dim, and the color accuracy is not perfect. But for only 500 bucks, you can’t both have a perfect screen and powerful hardware. Sure, there are some design flaws, like the so-so screen and the bad trackpad. But wait, there’s more…
The storage is a 1TB 5400 rpm HDD. One terabyte is enough storage for most people. The 5400 rpm, compared to the faster hard drives 7200 rpm, makes it a bit slow. But 8GB of the latest generation of the Ram, DDR4 and the powerful CPU Intel Core i5 7200U makes up for it. The battery life is good. It can handle around 5 hours of web surfing or around 3 hours of gaming before you need to plug it in.
Summary: The Acer A515 has an excellent price considering the great hardware. If you want a solid gaming laptop with a large hard drive for around $500 then the perfect laptop for you is the Acer Aspire A515-51G-5536.
|Great Price/Performance ratio||Too sensitive trackpad|
|Great gaming capabilities for the price||Dim screen|
|Fast DDR4 ram memory||Average speakers|
#4 The reliable alternative: Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-52RJ
The same hardware as the winner and some of the design flaws fixed. The Acer E5-575G-52RJ is another great option if you are willing to go slightly over the 500 dollar budget.
The case is made out of black plastic and feels smooth and looks attractive. It is not the most stylish laptop, but it has a solid build quality. It is a bit heavy at 5.3 pounds (2.4 kg), but it has a great overall feel.
The keyboard is comfortable with nice ergonomic keys. The trackpad is actually good and feels accurate with a good gliding surface, and a nice clicky feel when you press the buttons.
The screen is a TN-panel with full HD resolution. The colors are accurate but the brightness is a bit lower than what you should expect in this price range.
The hardware is the same as the hardware in the Acer Aspire A515-51G-5536 above. So, plenty of storage with the included 1 TB hard drive. 8GB DDR4 ram. With DDR4 you can enjoy a fast multitasking or browsing experience. And the Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics card that you can use for light gaming. You can even play even more demanding games smoothly. At least if you turn down the shadows and use a more simple AA. The CPU is the Intel Core i5-6200U, with 15% less power than the Intel Core i5-7200U (the CPU of our winner). However, both of these processors are good enough for gaming and everyday use.
The E 15 E5-575G-52RJ also got the best battery on the list. You can only play games on it for about 3 hours before you need to charge but for everyday use, it will often hold for the whole day.
Summary: The same powerful hardware but better design and battery. This laptop is in high demand and not always available but when it is, it is one of the best gaming laptops you can get in the 500 dollar gaming laptop price range.
|Great hardware for the price||Slightly over $500|
|Best graphics card you can get in the $500 price range||Keyboard is not backlit|
|Exceptional battery life||No optical drive|
Only 3 laptops on the list are on the short side. But the fact is, after analyzing all the laptops under $500 on the market, the only ones with a dedicated graphics card was the laptops above. And if you go with anything less, like an integrated graphics card like the Intel HD 5500 you simply won’t be able to play games smoothly. (see the bottom of this article for the bad framerates you get with an integrated GPU). Why go for a laptop with an integrated chip when you can go with one of the laptops with a dedicated GPU above?
Most of the laptops in the 500 dollar price range out there are not ideal for gaming. But there are some that will play your favorite games smoothly. And 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 laptop 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.