Just because you have a smaller budget doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to game on a laptop. There are several great options when it come to buying a gaming laptop under $500. In this roundup the ValueGamers crew reviews the 5 best gaming laptops under $500.
|Laptop||Processor||Ram||Drive Type||Why it’s Good||Price|
|Acer Aspire E 15
|Intel Core i3-7100U 2.4ghz||4GB||HDD||Best value||Buy on Amazon|
|Lenovo Idea Pad
|1.1 GHz Intel Celeron||4GB||HDD||Cheapest||Buy on Amazon|
|Dell Business Laptop
|Intel Core i3-7100U 2.4ghz||6GB||HDD||Comes with 6GB Ram||Buy on Amazon|
|Intel Core i5-7200U||8GB||HDD||2 TB Hard drive||Buy on Amazon|
|2018 HP 15.6″ Touchscreen
|i5-7200U||8GB||HDD||Best all around, most expensive||Buy on Amazon|
Best Value: Acer Aspiration 15.6 Inch
We believe the Acer Aspiration has the best value as a gaming laptop under $500. Usually listed at $350, the Aspiration comes with a handful of built in features that can get you started with gaming right off the bat. With factory settings, you should have no issues playing older PC games through Steam and other gaming platforms. The main feature is the I3 intel processor. Intel CPUs are considered the best for gaming. While the I3 it is not the best of the Intel family (there’s the I5 and I7) for under $500 you are getting one of the best CPUs.
Admittedly, if you want to play newer games that are more graphics intensive, you will likely need to upgrade the RAM to at least 8GB. Luckily, the Acer is fully upgradeble to 32GB. You can pick up an 8GB card for about $80; at $350 for the laptop + $80 for the extra RAM you’re still under your $500 budget. You can also upgrade the HDD to an SDD. Upgrading both the hard drive and RAM will likely set you over $500 total however.
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Cheapest: Lenovo IdeaPad 320
If you are set on finding the absolute cheapest gaming laptop (one that can actually play games) then the Lenovo IdeaPad is your best bet. The Lenovo is usually priced at $270, nearly half of the $500 budget. Again, we only recommend this gaming laptop if you are on a very tight budget. While about $80 cheaper than the Acer, it is less upgradeable (and the factory settings aren’t great). You can only get the Lenovo up to 8GB of RAM vs 32 on the Acer. Furthermore, the Intel Celeron CPU is also inferior to the Acer’s I3 CPU.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 320 can be a great buy for a child or student who may want to game – but not intensely. This laptop will be able to play old computer games and any internet flash game. We do not recommend buying it though if you want to play anything released after 2015.
Most Hard Drive Memory: Dell Inspiron 15.6 inch
This version of the Dell Insipiron is just a hair under $500, coming in at $496 on Amazon. As opposed to the two computers above however, this one already comes with 8GB of RAM, which should be ample enough to play most games without upgrading. The Inspiron also comes with the most hard drive space – a full 2 TB vs 1 TB and 0.5TB for the two laptops above. You will have double the space to download more games than you would on the laptops above.
The Inspiron also comes with an I5 processor, which is a bit better than the I3 than comes with the Acer. Of course, you are going to have to pay an extra $150 for it. If you are willing to spend $500 however, the Inspiron may be your best choice.
2017 Dell Business Flagship Laptop
The 2017 Dell Business laptop is also amongst the best gaming laptops under $500. This 15.6in laptop comes with 6GB of RAM built in as well as a 1TB HDD. We consider this to essentially be a mix of the laptops we describe above, except it doesn’t excel in anyone factor. Essentially this laptop blends a decent amount of RAM, hard drive space and processor speed to produce a respectable gaming laptop. You should be able to game with the classics and some newer games, but most likely not be able to play games from after 2016.
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Best All Around: 2018 HP 15.6″ Touchscreen
This HP is the best overall laptop, coming with an I5 processor, 8GB and a 2TB hard drive. Unfortunately, this laptop is only available under $500 on Amazon Prime. It goes for about $700 otherwise. If you can spend the money on this laptop, it will be the best one you can buy at this price range. The HP also comes with an added feature in a DVD-RW.
Essentially, if you need a laptop to play high end and newer games right out of the box, this is the laptop to go with. If you do not need to play the newest, most taxing games, then the cheaper laptops we review above will likely be better for you.Buy on Amazon
How to Buy a Gaming Laptop on a Budget
When you’re on a budget, you usually have to compromise some aspect of the thing you are buying. At under $500, you will likely need to compromise between processor speed, hard drive space, RAM, video/audio quality, and other factors. Here’s what you should consider when deciding between which budget gaming laptop is best for you.
RAM or random access memory is arguably the most important thing to consider when buying a laptop for gaming. In simplest terms, more RAM equals more speed, thus a smoother gaming experience. You will generally want at least 8GB of RAM to have a good gaming experience. For any sort of streaming, you’re going to want even more.
One thing to consider with RAM however is whether you can update your current device. There may be some laptops(like the Acer Aspire) which comes with low RAM but has other good features. You can buy more RAM however and install it on the device.
You have likely heard of Intel and AMD. These two are the biggest players when it comes to processors. Consensus is that Intels are generally better than AMDs in this regard. The i3,i5 and i7 are considered the best CPUs for gaming.
Hard Drive: SDD vs HDD
When it comes to hard drives you have soft disk drives (SDD) and hard disk drives (HDD). Generally SDDs are much better for gaming as they minimize download times on your computer. For under $500 however, you are most likely going to need to settle for an HDD. Luckily, it is easy to upgrade your HDD to a SDD in the future.
How We Made Our Picks
ValueGamers does the research so you don’t have to. We scoured the web for the best gaming laptops under $500 and compiled this list based on the following criteria:
- If there were multiple reviews of the product online
- It was Amazon Prime eligible
- It had at least 20 reviews on Amazon
After meeting our criteria, we got to dissecting every aspect of our master list and bucketing each device into what each is best for. A laptop may be great but it may not be great for your situation, and that is where we are trying to find the most value for you, our reader.