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 set unrealistic expectations, though, as the laptops listed here are functional but basic gaming rigs. If you can stretch your budget, we have a list of gaming laptops up to $1000 which will handle the latest games easily.
Note: the below prices are subject to change and may increase or (hopefully) decrease before we update this list again. At the time of writing, all the options were under $500.
1. Lenovo IdeaPad 3
Specs: full HD 15.6″ Display, 8GB Memory, AMD Ryzen 5 4500U CPU, Radeon Graphics, 1TB HDD
Sporting AMD’s latest budget CPU, this laptop has a clear advantage over all the competitors on this list. The 4500U is a significantly faster process than the 3500U or 2500U and also packs AMD’s latest integrated GPU, which drops the “Vega” tag and is just called “Radeon Graphics.”
The name may be simple, but you can expect 50 percent better performance than the other iGPUs in this list. Games like The Witcher 3 and GTA V you can comfortably play at around 50fps on low settings. This may not sound spectacular, but it’s as good as you can get at this price range.
The 1TB hard drive offers a lot more capacity at the expense of speed, and while the TN panel isn’t much to look at, it’s at least full HD ,so you can enjoy those crisp resolutions.
2. 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.
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.
3. ASUS VivoBook 15
Specs: Full HD 15.6″ Display, 8GB Memory, AMD Ryzen 5 3500U CPU, RX Vega 8 Graphics, 256GB SSD
This has almost identical specs to the HP offering except for 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, 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.
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.