A buyer’s guide to the best gaming laptop under 500

 

We’ll admit – you usually won’t find any budget gaming laptops under a price of $500 with an aggressive exterior, impressive internal components, or nifty gaming features such as a tactile keyboard or a fast display but there are some great notebooks on the market which can definitely hold their own in gaming scenarios. In the extensive comparison guide below, we’ve compiled the seven best gaming laptops under 500 dollars on the market right now.

Nowadays even the less expensive laptops can come equipped with a decent graphics card that will handle simple games without a sweat. And we’re not only talking about Minecraft or less graphically demanding titles, but decent and manageable gameplay for AAA titles as well.

As you probably might’ve noticed, there is an astonishing number of different notebooks available, but certainly not every device was built with gaming in mind. Some notebooks might offer a fantastic battery life or a better screen for watching movies, but when it comes to gaming, it’s mostly a nice balance of the internal components that matters. If you don’t really know where to jump in, no worries – we’ve got this covered. We’ll be discussing some of the major factors such as processor choice, internal memory and storage, display and last but certainly not least – the GPU.

These budget gaming laptops are becoming increasingly popular and most of them don’t really aim for the gaming market but are all-around notebooks that can handle gaming on the side. Granted, you’re not going to be getting the most fantastic gaming experience on a sub-$500 mobile device, but for the casual gamer and the less demanding users out there, these are definitely valid options.

Our full buyer’s guide with our seven top picks for best budget gaming laptops under $500 can be found right below.

 

The best gaming laptop under 500 (our top picks)

  • Best overall budget gaming laptop – Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-53VG: Packed with an impressive Full HD screen, great internals and a speedy 940MX GPU, this E 15 gives others a run for their money.
  • Runner-up – Acer Aspire E 15 E5-57533BM: A relative to the best gaming laptop, but at even more affordable price point.
  • Acer Aspire F5-573G-56CG: Misses some fluidity to the lack of an SSD, but does have a large 1TB hard drive. Identical to the more expensive E 15.
  • Acer Aspire E5-774G-52W1: For people who want the best possible experience on a large 17.3” device. Has the same components of the E 15 E5-575G-53VG.
  • Lenovo IdeaPad 110: Large, yet elegant. Relatively portable 17.3-inch laptop.
  • HP ProBook 430 G4 Y9G09UT: A great choice in the smaller 13.3-inch segment with a remarkably good exterior.
  • Lenovo IdeaPad 310: One of the more portable and slim 15.6-inch notebooks currently on the market with a bunch of storage, but lacks in connectivity.

 

 

The TVGB buyer’s guide to finding the best gaming laptop under 500

 

The 15” sweet spot: Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-53VG

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01 best gaming laptop under 500 - Acer Aspire E15 with 940MX E5-575G-53VG review

This particular model in the Acer Aspire E series definitely does its best to tick all of the right boxes. The design of the E5-575G-53VG is simple, yet very elegant. The all-black brushed aluminum feel gives the notebook quite a nice high-end look and although most of the enclosure is made out of durable plastic instead of metal, the build quality is very decent.

Let’s talk a bit about this notebook’s other components. The display is 15.6-inches, which is considered to be the sweet spot between portability and the right amount of space needed to provide plenty of horsepower. The display has a sharp Full HD resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. As expected in this price range, it’s a standard TN-panel. It does have above-average performance, however, with good image quality and a remarkably good color reproduction of 94% of the NTSC color gamut.

What’s nice (and surprising) to see here is that Acer has built-in its own blue light filter, similar to the way Flux operates. You can activate it when you’re working at night to avoid sleeping issues or just if you want to reduce eye fatigue altogether.

In terms of performance, we’re dealing with an Intel Core i5 6200U as the heart and processor of this laptop. The Core i5 is definitely up for some medium-intensity gaming and won’t form a bottleneck at all. It’s quick and speedy and will run most other intensive applications just fine. Coupled with the CPU is a total of eight gigabytes of fast internal DDR4 memory.

You’ll notice the U-affix on the processor, which indicates that the CPU is more focused on providing decent and efficient performance instead of delivering the best possible speeds. Although a non-U processor would be preferred by gamers, it doesn’t affect gaming much in these cases and it’s greatly beneficial to the battery life.

The most important component of the Acer Aspire E5 for gaming is of course the graphics chip. The laptop uses a speedy variant of the NVIDIA GeForce 940MX. The 940MX is the best available chip in this price range and is extremely popular due to its lower price point but ability to play recent games with medium settings and a slightly lower resolution. You won’t be able to max out all visual ‘eye candy’, but the 940MX can deliver a satisfying gaming experience.

It’s worth nothing that not all devices with the 940MX perform similarly. There are two main variants of the GPU: one which uses the older DDR3 memory and a more recent variant with an upgrade to DDR5. As you’d expect, the latter version performs better – a hefty 20% even. Luckily for us, the Acer E5 uses the new model with better performance.

Storage-wise, Acer has equipped this notebook with a speedy 256 GB Solid State Drive. It’s installed into the laptop’s M.2 slot and there’s an empty 2.5-inch hard drive bay so you can install a regular hard drive at any time. The keyboard has white LED’s underneath for optional illumination.

Connectivity is more than excellent. There are two USB 3.0 ports available, including one that can charge mobile devices even when turned off. There’s also an additional legacy USB 2.0 port, and a brand-new USB 3.1 Type-C connector as well which will replace the regular USB-ports in the near future. There’s also support for the fast Wi-Fi ac standard, and Acer has even included support for MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output), a technique that greatly improves the connection stability and speed of a wireless connection if you have a MIMO-compatible router.

Pros

  • Decent, sharp display
  • Great design
  • Illuminated keyboard
  • Fast 940MX and Core i5
  • Excellent connectivity options
  • USB 3.1 Type-C
  • Comes with an SSD pre-installed…

Cons

  • … but you’ll need to install a hard drive if you want more storage
  • Plastic enclosure attracts dust and fingerprints

 

Its 17-inch larger brother: Acer Aspire E5-774G-52W1

02 best gaming laptop under 500 17 inches - Acer Aspire E15 E5-774G-52W1

 

 

Technically, this Acer Aspire E5 breaks the 500-dollar spending limit by just a couple of tens but we strongly felt it should be in this list. The reason is quite simple: it’s a larger version of the excellent Acer E 15 we’ve just discussed above, with the same internal specifications and greatness in a larger 17.3-inch package.

The only difference you’ll notice is the weight of the device which is an even heftier 6.83 pounds and a maximum thickness of 1.3 inches, but other components are identical.

We can be quite short about it: The Acer Aspire E5-744G is the most affordable 17 inch laptop on the market with a 940 MX GPU and solid state drive. There’s no need to detail all the other components and benefits and caveats, just take a look at our analysis above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of power, lots of storage: Acer Aspire F 15 F5-573G-56CG

03 power and storage under 500 - Acer Aspire F15 review

One quick glance at the Acer Aspire F series and you’ll notice that its exterior is identical to that of the more popular Aspire E series, such as the one we’ve detailed above. As it turns out, it’s not only the exterior that’s the same, because the insides are almost exactly the same as well.

To recap shortly, we’re dealing with a Core i5 6200U, fast 940MX GPU, a 15.6-inch Full HD display and 8 gigabytes of DDR4 memory? What’s the difference, you ask? Simple: The F-series simply switches one of the pros and one of the cons of the E-series by using a 1TB hard drive instead of a 256 GB SSD.

More storage for the same price, but it’s a traditional (and slow) hard drive. You can however always install a M.2 SSD in the future. For most people, we’d recommend purchasing the E 15 as Windows comes pre-installed on the fast SSD. However, if you want a lot of storage from the get-go and don’t mind longer load times, the F5-573G-56CG is definitely a great contender.

Note: this model is also available in an identical configuration but with the slightly faster and more recent Core i5 7200U processor over here. It is twenty dollars above the 500-dollar limit, but worth mentioning nonetheless if you want slightly better processor performance.

 

 

 

An elegant 17.3” option: Lenovo IdeaPad 110 17.3” 80VK000DUS

 

04 elegant 17.3 inch - IdeaPad 110 reviewThe market for 17.3-inch laptops is certainly smaller than it used to be, as most tend to favor the more portable 15-inch displays, but some gamers prefer having a bigger screen and workspace. If you’re one of those people, the Lenovo IdeaPad 110 might be worth considering.

The design is fairly straightforward and Lenovo has aimed more for the business market with its all-black design. It is a little bulky with a weight of 6.1 pounds and a maximum thickness of just over an inch, but makes up for it with decent build quality.

As we’ve mentioned above the screen has a diagonal of 17.3″, but unfortunately doesn’t use a Full HD resolution. It has instead opted for 1600 x 900 pixels. In normal use, it’s a noticeable step-down compared to Full HD. However, laptops under $500 have issues gaming at Full HD resolution anyway – so if you’re purely looking to buy a laptop for budget gaming you may not mind as much.

Processing power is pretty good as the Lenovo IdeaPad 110 packs an Intel Core i5 7200U processor. It’s a more updated version of the CPU used in the Acer above and will definitely hold up for gaming and other more intensive scenarios. It’s energy-friendly which means it will sacrifice performance for battery life, but won’t form a bottleneck in games.

Other specifications include six gigabytes of fast DDR4 RAM, which is a nice compromise between 4 GB that generally isn’t sufficient and the more generous eight gigabytes. Lenovo has chosen for a 1TB internal hard drive and no pre-installed SSD, which is great if you want to be able to store a ton of games, but the operating system won’t load and interact very fluently. You can however upgrade the device with an SSD of your choosing.

We’ve saved the most important component for last, the graphics card. The IdeaPad 110 actually doesn’t have a dedicated GPU but uses the graphics component of the Intel processor. Integrated GPU’s generally are quite horrendous, but luckily Intel has made some improvements over the past years.

It is slower than a 940MX, but not by a large margin. This Lenovo IdeaPad 110 can handle most recent games in 720p resolution and low to medium settings just fine. But if you really want the best bang for your buck, you’re better off choosing for a device with a 940MX.

Connectivity-wise this laptop supports the fast 5 GHz Wi-Fi ac standard, but to our surprise there’s only a single USB 3.0 port on the machine and another USB 2.0 connection – fairly limited, especially for a larger 17-inch chassis.

Pros

  • Nice business-style design and build quality
  • Speedy CPU for this price range
  • Lots of storage for your games
  • Easily upgradeable

Cons

  • GPU isn’t as fast as a 940MX
  • Only two USB ports in total
  • No Full HD display
  • Doesn’t come with an SSD

 

 

Compact and sleek: HP ProBook 430 G4 Y9G09UT

 

05 compact and sleek - HP ProBook 430 reviewThe ProBook series is HP’s line of business-class laptops with a great-looking exterior, decent components, and they usually sport a smaller form factor, too.

Let’s talk a bit about the design first, as that’s one of the factors where this laptop stands out compared to the rest. The ProBook 430 uses a 13.3” display and can definitely be considered a very portable device. The screen resolution is unfortunately limited to 1366 x 768, which isn’t great, but will provide the best resolution to game on due to its limited graphical horsepower. HP has used an anti-glare panel so you won’t be bothered by reflections.

With a weight of only 3.28 lbs and a maximum thickness of 0.78 inches, you can truly use the ProBook 430 anywhere you’d like.

Now that we’re talking about power, this notebook uses Intel’s latest Core i5 7200U processor, which is quite fast for a laptop in this price range. Gaming won’t be an issue at all and the dual-core chip can definitely handle more intensive stuff as well as long as you don’t expect groundbreaking performance. It comes with Intel’s 620 graphics, the same integrated solution found in the Lenovo IdeaPad 110 above.

This isn’t a great chip for gaming by all means, but is capable of delivering playable performance with lower settings and a low resolution. You’ll be able to run games natively on the 768p resolution display.

Connectivity is quite decent with support for Wi-Fi ac, a single USB 2.0 port which is charging-friendly, a faster USB 3.0 port and also a USB 3.0 Type C connector for use with more recent USB-devices and smartphones.

In terms of storage HP has used 4 GB of DDR4 memory which is a bit on the lower side and a fast 500 GB hard drive which operates at a fast 7200 rounds per minute, in comparison to the more commonly used 5400 RPM. This results in slightly faster loading times.

Because this is a ProBook, you’ll have the added benefits of some unique features that you won’t find on other devices. Security plays a major factor and HP includes drive encryption software and many different authentication options. A fingerprint reader is also embedded into the device.

Note: a slightly bigger version of this laptop is also available, the ProBook 440. The only differences are a larger 14-inch display and a slighty lower clocked 7100 processor.

Pros

  • Great design and build-quality
  • Portable
  • Fast processor
  • Support for USB 3.0 Type C
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Lots of useful security options
  • Fast hard drive

Cons

  • Lower-resolution (768p) display
  • Only two regular USB ports
  • No SSD
  • Only 4 gigabytes of internal memory

 

 

Affordable and sleek: Lenovo IdeaPad 310 15 (80TV00BJUS)

 

06 affordable and sleek - IdeaPad 310 reviewJust like some of the cheaper laptops in this comparison list, the Lenovo IdeaPad 310 15 comes with Intel’s integrated HD 620 Graphics chip for a decent and very affordable entry-level gaming experience. Its average price is quite a bit cheaper than most other devices with this chip, so let’s see what the IdeaPad 310 is all about.

The design of Lenovo’s IdeaPad series is usually excellent, and the 310 15 luckily isn’t an exception. The laptop has a completely black and stylish, streamlined look. The majority of the building material used is durable plastic, but doesn’t really attract fingerprints due to the matte finish. Lenovo did its best regarding portability, which is fairly good for a 15.6-inch device. Weight is only 4.85 pounds and the laptop measures 0.9 inches at its thickest point.

The display unfortunately isn’t fantastic. Image quality and color reproduction are okay, but the low resolution of 1366 x 768 is definitely noticeable – especially on a regularly-sized screen. It’s not really a pleasure to work with in a normal desktop environment, but the low-end GPU wouldn’t be able to handle higher resolutions in gaming anyway.

Lenovo has opted for a Core i3 7100U processor and four gigabytes of internal DDR4 memory. The Core i3 is noticeably slower than a corresponding i5 or i7 processor from the same Kaby Lake family, but is still fast enough for gaming and generally won’t hold other components back. The Lenovo IdeaPad 310 sacrifices a bit of processing power for a lower price point and that’s a consideration you’ll have to make.

Storage is fairly generous for a device carrying this price tag with a 1 terabyte hard drive. As expected, no SSD is included. A small caveat is the lack of USB 3.0 ports: there’s only one and a duo of regular USB 2.0 ports.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • One of the cheapest devices with Intel HD 620
  • Looks great
  • Hefty 1TB of storage
  • Slim and portable

Cons

  • Low screen resolution
  • CPU isn’t as fast as most similarly priced competitors
  • Only one USB 3.0 port
  • No SSD

 

 

The cheapest gaming laptop: Acer Aspire E 15 E5-57533BM

 

07 cheapest gaming laptop - Acer Aspire E15 E5-57533BM reviewAcer makes another entry into this list with a device that’s seemingly similar to the E 15 laptop above. Some of the components are quite similar, but the very low price point and other processor makes this a very different product, and is worth discussing.

How Acer has managed to prop so much value into a laptop with a low-price tag is almost beyond our comprehension. Performance-wise, it matches the Lenovo IdeaPad 310 but unfortunately retains a quite bulky exterior. The laptop is quite thick at an imposing 1.2 inches of maximum height and a hefty weight of 5.27 lbs.

Luckily, that’s about the only caveat that this laptop has. It’s packing a Core i3 7100U processor which isn’t particularly fast generally speaking, but offers a good amount of performance for a laptop of this price range. It’s coupled with 4 gigabytes of internal DDR4 memory and the graphics chip used is the Intel HD 620. Again, nothing groundbreaking here – but it gets the job done.

The display is beautifully sharp with a Full HD resolution, and you’ll also get to enjoy the plethora of connectivity benefits found in the other Acer E 15 device we’ve discussed: lots of USB 3.0 ports including a Type-C variant and support for Wi-Fi ac with MIMO.

Storage is handled by the 1TB hard drive, with the possibility of expanding with an M.2 SSD after purchase.

Pros

  • Unrivaled value
  • Great Full HD display
  • Large 1TB hard drive
  • Excellent connectivity options
  • Support for MIMO

Cons

  • Bulky for a 15.6-inch device
  • No SSD pre-installed

 

 

The best gaming laptops under $500: a buyer’s guide

We’ve taken a look and reviewed the seven most popular sub-$500 laptops currently on the market, with some casual gaming in mind. In other words, performance is essential and all these devices are equipped with either a 940MX GPU or the slower, but generally more affordable Intel HD 620 graphics. Both of these are considered low-end graphics cards and aren’t aimed towards hardcore gamers, but you’ll be able to play recently released titles at low to medium settings and a limited resolution of 720p.

Laptops with the 940MX are faster, but are also bulkier and have poorer battery life, while devices with the 620 are sleeker and more elegant products with better autonomy. Both Lenovo IdeaPads are a good example of this.

We do want to emphasize that 500 dollars generally isn’t sufficient to deliver a great gaming experience. Ideally, you’d want to spend at least 200 dollars more if you find graphics or a stable framerate important. There are some incredible gaming laptops available with a surprising amount of value in that price category, and we also did compilations of the best sub-$1,500sub-$1000 notebooks, and even one for the best gaming laptop under 800, which you can read up on if you’d like to do further research.

Alright, so let’s wrap-up all the different devices above.

The first major choice you’re going to have to make is form factor. If you’d appreciate having a smaller device, definitely check out the ProBook 430 with its small 13-inch display or its slightly bigger variant, the ProBook 440. In both 15.6- and 17.3- inch categories, there are multiple choices available.

We have to admit that we’re incredibly impressed by the laptops by Acer, which provide an incredible amount of value. To get that amount of horsepower for such a reasonable price definitely is a feat, and we can recommend all variants of the E-series we’ve discussed above wholeheartedly. Looking for something bigger? The 17-inch version is a great choice. And if you prefer having more storage in the beginning, take a look at the Aspire F.

Conclusion

That wraps up our thoughts on the best gaming laptops under $500. It’s quite remarkable to see how much power manufacturers are willing to place in cheaper devices and it’s great that gaming on the go doesn’t have to be expensive – as long as you don’t get your hopes up too high.

Any additional thoughts or remarks? Or perhaps you’d like to share a great affordable gaming laptop that you’d recommend? Go ahead and shoot them in the comments below.

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