Believe it or not, you can enjoy PC games on a laptop for less than $500. You don’t need a high-end machine to play your favorite games. And if you’re lucky and stumble upon a sale of a laptop with a dedicated graphics card, you won’t even be limited to casual games.
Laptops have gotten pretty advanced today, featuring high-end hardware and long-lasting batteries that can keep you gaming all day long. Not sure what the best ones are that are under $500? Follow along below, where we have many of our favorites listed.
Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4
Costing a little over $500 when it’s not on sale (which it often is), the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4 is the best gaming laptop in the ultra-budget category. While most laptops in this price range feature an integrated graphics card and a slow hard drive, the E 15 has the Nvidia GeForce 940MX with 2 GB of dedicated video memory and 256 GB SSD.
Aside from the dedicated graphics card and the fast storage, the laptop also offers the reliable performance of the Intel Core i5-7200U processor and 8 GB of DDR4 memory. Specifications like this are something that even twice-as-expensive laptops wouldn’t have to be ashamed of.
So, why’s the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-57D4 so affordable? Because it’s entirely plastic and comes with a TN display with the Full HD resolution, instead of an IPS display.
But apart from the budget exterior, this gaming laptop has all the bells and whistles that you might want, including a USB 3.1 Type-C port, 12-hour-long battery life, the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi featuring MU-MIMO technology, and Acer’s TrueHarmony
Lenovo Ideapad 510 80SR002SUS
The Lenovo Ideapad 510 is available in multiple configurations, but we recommend the one with the Nvidia GeForce 940MX discrete graphics card and an Intel Core i5 processor. Unlike many other budget gaming laptops, the Lenovo Ideapad 510 is a sleek machine with a beautiful silver finish and a metal palm rest that is smooth and cool to touch.
The laptop’s Full HD IPS display delivers an immersive visual experience, and the pair of speakers by Harman Audio brings the action on the screen to life even without headphones. The Lenovo Ideapad 510 has a durable display hinge with 180 degrees of adjustability for comfortable gaming from the bed.
There’s a couple of downsides to this laptop that you should be aware of, though. Instead of a fast SSD, you get a large but slow 1TB hard drive. And because Lenovo expects this laptop to stay mostly indoors, it lasts only around 5 hours on a charge.
Acer Aspire 5 Slim
If you’re looking for something that can play games and meet your portability needs, the Acer Aspire 5 Slim will be right up your alley. Featuring Vega 3 graphics, you should have no trouble playing many games on the market today. It’s not a dedicated graphics card, and is more integrated graphics, so you won’t be playing anything on “High” or “Extreme” settings, unfortunately.
It’s very thin, so it’s easy to travel with. You get a 15.6-inch Full HD display, a Ryzen 3 dual-core processor, a 128GB SSD, and 4GB of RAM. It’s modest, but keeps up better than many machines today.
It might not have the most easy to mouth name, but this one is still an excellent choice today. Games look good on the 15.6-inch Full HD display. But, you get an AMD A12 quad-core processor and AMD Radeon R7 dedicated graphics.
On top of that, there’s 8GB of RAM here, a 128GB SSD hard drive, and then plenty of integrated accessories to keep things running smooth. It’s a couple years old now, but it still runs all of the latest software, like Windows 10, no problem.
ASUS P-Series P2540UA-AB51
Designed with the needs of business users in mind but ready even for some light gaming, the ASUS P-Series P2540UA-AB51 is affordable, powerful, and built to last. Perhaps the most important thing that sets it apart from other laptops is how easily it can be upgraded.
The P2540UA-AB51 has been designed to swap memory in and out in seconds by simply opening the handy memory door located on the bottom side of the laptop. You can also easily swap the removable battery pack for an optional extended-life battery pack, which can greatly extend the already impressive 9-hour battery life well past 12 hours.
Because this is, first and foremost, a business laptop, it comes with all the security and productivity features that one expects a business laptop to have. The embedded TPM Security Chip provides protection on a deep hardware level, and the fingerprint scanner simplifies and enhances data access authorization and protection.
As a gamer, you’re going to appreciate the ergonomically designed keyboard with individually calibrated keys, the reliable Wi-Fi connectivity with support for Wake-on-LAN (WOL), the Full HD display, and the performance of the 7th Gen Intel Core i5 processor with 8 GB of RAM.
Because the laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, most AAA games are not going to run smoothly or at all, but casual games should run without any issues.
ASUS VivoBook 14
The ASUS VivoBook 14 is the only laptop on this list with AMD hardware. More specifically, it comes with the AMD dual-core A9-9420 processor and the AMD Radeon R5 entry-level DirectX 12 graphics card. The performance of the R5 is placed slightly below the GeForce 820M.
It can run nearly all AAA games at the lowest settings, and it has no problems running virtually all competitive games at a higher resolution at 60 frames per second. The performance of the AMD hardware is made even better thanks to the presence of a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM for fast boot time and instant application startup.
The ASUS VivoBook 14 has a 14-inch display and weighs only 3.6 pounds, making it the most portable laptop on this list. Despite its budget price, the premium finish gives the laptop a luxurious appearance, and the laptop’s streamlined curves make it very comfortable to use. The presence of a USB 3.1 Type-C connector makes the ASUS VivoBook 14 future-proof, and the same can be said about the presence of a dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi module.
HP Notebook 15-ay011nr
The HP Notebook 15-ay011nr has the Intel HD Graphics 520 integrated graphics card with up to 4169 MB of total graphics memory. As such, the laptop is destined to be used only for casual gaming and very light competitive gaming, which means games such as League of Legends, The Sims 4, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Rocket League, CS:GO, and others.
But the beauty of the HP Notebook 15-ay011nr lies in its reliability and versatility. The Intel Core i5-6200U processor is more than powerful enough for work and school, the included 1TB hard drive can store many hours of video content and thousands of images and songs.
The Full HD 15.6-inch display is vibrant and crisp, and the high-fidelity speakers provide an immersive listening experience regardless of whether playing games or enjoying multimedia content on the web.
As you can see, there are a lot of excellent gaming laptops that you can pick up for under $500. Most of these will play all of the latest games on the market, even if you can’t necessarily play them on “High” or “Extreme.” You might get the most reliability out of something from, say, ASUS, since they’re heavily focused on the gaming market.