Gaming laptops come in many forms and in many variations when it comes to the power they pack. You can get one for $2000 or as low as $500, and of course the quality of the graphics and how well games will run will be largely dictated by that price. Check out some of the best gaming laptops under $500 below.
For this price, you can realistically get a laptop perfectly capable of playing less-demanding games and indie games, as well as maxing out the graphics on games that were blockbusters back in the day (such as more than 10 years ago).
Don’t get unrealistic expectations, though, as the laptops listed here are functional but basic gaming rigs. If you can stretch your budget, then we have a list of gaming laptops up to $1000 which will handle the latest games easily.
1. HP Touch-Screen Laptop
Specs: Full HD 15.6″ Touch Screen, 12GB Memory, AMD Ryzen 5 2500U CPU, RX Vega 8 Graphics, 256GB SSD
In an unusually good deal for this price bracket, HP is offering a touchscreen laptop with one of the best integrated graphics chips you’ll find at this price. The 12GB memory is a very rare find for gaming laptops under $500, too.
So what can you expect to be able to play with the integrated RX Vega 8 graphics chip? Indie games made up mostly of pixel art or low-poly graphics won’t be a problem, nor will games released before the last decade or so (Skyrim runs fine on high settings, for instance). Online games like DOTA and Counter-Strike: GO will be okay, but don’t expect to run modern graphically-demanding games anywhere above the lowest settings.
2. ASUS VivoBook 15
Specs: Full HD 15.6″ Display, 8GB Memory, AMD Ryzen 5 3500U CPU, RX Vega 8 Graphics, 256GB SSD
Almost identical specs to the HP offering except with a newer and somewhat faster Ryzen 5 3500U CPU. You’re trading 4GB of RAM here, but if you’re looking for faster laptop performance, then you’ll get it here rather than the HP.
The 3500U CPU technically contains the same RX Vega 8 graphics chip as the 2500U, but expect to get a few extra frames of performance out of games over the HP. In terms of raw gaming firepower on a tight budget, this is about as good as things get.
3. Lenovo IdeaPad S340
Specs: Full HD 15.6″ Display, 8GB Memory, Intel Core i5-8265U CPU, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 128GB SSD
Giving up a bit of graphical firepower for a faster CPU might make sense if you’re mostly going to be sticking with indie and retro gaming, and you want your gaming laptop to be fast for day-to-day tasks, too. The Intel i5-8265U works around 10 to 15 percent faster than the Ryzen 5 3500U in most cases.
Forget about modern graphically-intense games, but well-optimized games like FIFA 20, Rocket League, Civilization VI and others should be playable on low settings and resolutions. This will run emulators, pixel-based games, retro games and many indies without a problem.
Honorable Mention: Cloud Gaming
There aren’t many choices for good gaming laptops under $500, and the fact is you’re not going to be doing any high-end gaming for under $500 (though the good thing about PC is that you can play games from any era without worrying about backward compatibility).
With that said, services like GeForce Now, Google Stadia and Shadow (and a comparison of their services) let you play the latest games on just about any computer so long as you have a speedy Internet connection (Ethernet cable strongly recommended). These services work by streaming games from powerful gaming machines in their respective companies’ data centers.
They charge monthly subscription fees, though with GeForce Now there’s actually a free tier that has some limitations but essentially lets you play hundreds of games as long as you already own them.
At that point, as long as you have a semi-decent CPU and a sizeable screen (we recommend 15.6″ and up), you can turn basically any laptop into a powerful gaming rig.