The 8 Best Gaming Laptops under $500 - 2020 Review

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IN THIS POST

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1. Best Overall: Lenovo IdeaPad 3

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2. Best Design: ASUS Vivobook 15

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3. Best for Kids: HP 14

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4. Best Budget: Acer Aspire 5

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5. Best Intel Powered: HP 14 Intel

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6. ASUS Vivobook 15 Intel

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7. Best Business: Lenovo IdeaPad

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8. Most Storage: MOTILE 14

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BUYING GUIDE TIPS

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Conclusion

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Finding a gaming laptop that will run all of the latest games for under $500 is no easy feat. The truth is, you are going to have to make some sacrifices on both resolution and overall game quality to get most games to be playable. 

 

However, there are options out there that can handle gaming in most titles with a few tweaks. We have rounded up 8 of the best gaming laptops under 500 Dollars on the market, and put them below for you to browse. 

 

Let’s jump right in and see what makes these computers great choices for gaming on a tight budget!

                  Lenovo IdeaPad 3

Best Overall

PERFORMANCE

Packing the best processor you can get in this price bracket in the AMD Ryzen 5 3500U, this computer comes out of the gates very strong. The quad core processor is very fast in computing both simple and complicated tasks, from opening emails to photo editing and more. 

This processor also features AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics, giving you the best gaming performance of any laptop in this price range. This integrated graphics solution can pump out frames at a decent rate even in the newest games. That definitely can not be said for many of the competitors on this list.

DISPLAY

The 14-inch 1080p display on this laptop is adequate. It doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but it doesn’t falter either. For this price range, it is a decent option with okay colors and black levels.

This display is not touchscreen enabled, so don’t expect to use your finger to scroll or swipe through your programs. Not a deal breaker for a gaming laptop, but it would have been a nice inclusion.

BATTERY LIFE

The battery in the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is actually one of its strong points. Doing normal daily activities this laptop can last for a whopping 12 hours! That is double what most laptops in this range can handle, so if you need the juice, this is the laptop for you.

Gaming will obviously reduce the battery performance drastically, but you can still expect well over an hour of playing your favorite game. Not bad at all!

Key Features

  • AMD Ryzen 5 3500U Quad Core Processor
  • AMD Radeon Vega 8 Graphics Card
  • 14” with 1920×1080 pixels

Specifications

  • Screen Size: 14-inch
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Battery Life: 12 hours
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Weight: 3.3lbs
Pros
  • Great Processor
  • Very Good GPU Performance
  • Fast SSD
Cons
  • Underwhelming screen

        ASUS Vivobook 15

                            Best Design

PERFORMANCE

The 3rd generation Ryzen processors from AMD have been hailed for their performance since their release. This laptop features the bottom tier Ryzen 3 processor, but the performance for the price is still very good. While the lack of more cores is definitely a negative, the overall performance with the Radeon Vega 3 graphics is still good.

The SSD is fast, but only having 128GB is not ideal. It could be a really good idea to get an external drive for the majority of your games if you have a large library.

DISPLAY

The display on this computer is actually fantastic. While most screens on laptops in this price range will be quite underwhelming, this one features a screen with exceptional colors and decent brightness.

At 15.6-inches, it is plenty large enough to allow you to have an enjoyable experience in both games and watching videos. While it is only 60Hz, it makes up for the lack of refresh rate in the overall vibrance.

BATTERY LIFE

Battery life on the ASUS VivoBook 15 is pretty average overall, but given how thin and light this laptop is, that makes it a bit more impressive. Under normal use you will get up to 6 hours of screen on time, which is plenty for a day’s use.

If you want more battery life, buying a more thick/larger laptop is the way to go generally. This gorgeously designed laptop has plenty of good looks, so sacrificing a bit of battery life for that is a decent trade off.

Key Features

  • AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual Core Processor
  • AMD Radeon Vega 3 Graphics Card
  • 15.6″ Display with 1920×1080 pixels

Specifications

  • Screen Size: 15.6-inch
  • RAM: 4GB DDR4
  • Battery Life: 6 hours
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Weight: 3.75lbs
Pros
  • Great Design
  • AMD Radeon GPU
Cons
  • Processor is Only Dual Core
  • Small Storage Space

PERFORMANCE

The AMD processor in this laptop, though only a dual core, is plenty good enough for daily use. It, combined with the Radeon graphics, make for a good budget gaming option. While it would be nice to have four full cores, they decided to add in the lower spec to keep cost down.

The SSD has decent speed and storage capacity at 256GB, enough to put your favorite games on there. Combine that with the 8GB of memory inside, this laptop has the perfect specs for this $500 budget.

DISPLAY

The thin side bezels on this display make it look very nice and clean. The display is also a touchscreen, so kids that have become used to swiping around will have no problem using this computer.

The 1080p resolution looks nice here, and the colors are nice and vibrant. The backlight is also decent, giving you a good viewing experience in almost any situation.

BATTERY LIFE

The HP 14 has very good battery life, with normal usage getting you 8 hours of on time. That is one of the best in this test, and really good for any laptop in this price bracket.

With the lower tiered processor, and the optimized Windows 10 S in this laptop, it was bound to have very good battery performance. They picked a great size battery for this computer, giving you a light computer that still will last all day.

Key Features

  • AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual Core Processor
  • AMD Radeon Vega 3 Graphics Card
  • 14” Display with 1920x1080 resolution with touch

Specifications

  • Screen Size: 14-inch
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Battery Life: 8 hours
  • Operating System: Windows 10 S
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Weight: 3.25lbs
Pros
  • 8GB of Memory
  • AMD Vega 3 GPU
  • Adequate Storage Space
Cons
  • Processor is Dual Core

PERFORMANCE

So what kind of performance do you get from a laptop that is quite a bit cheaper than the $500 budget? Turns out, pretty good! Here you get a Ryzen 3 processor with the Radeon Vega 3 integrated graphics that we know and love. 

You only get 4GB of memory, which is unfortunate, but not a complete deal breaker if you are on an even tighter budget. This will not play the newest games on higher settings, but if you don’t mind putting your settings on the lowest and dropping your resolution, you will still get plenty of enjoyment here.

DISPLAY

For a budget machine, you shouldn’t be expecting much visual fidelity from this laptop. It is a nice large 15.6-inch display but overall it is very average. It is an IPS panel, which is nice so you can get decent color, as well as black levels.

The slim side bezels make the screen size look larger than it really is, which is nice when you are talking in terms of a laptop. The top to bottom ratio is much worse, but it is acceptable, especially given the price.

BATTERY LIFE

Battery life for this Acer Aspire budget option is actually very good. Acer has somehow managed to get 7 and a half hours of usage out of this laptop on a full charge. That makes it extremely competitive, even with the more expensive laptops in this range.

While having a beefy battery is great, it does add to the weight and overall size of the bottom of the laptop. This is nowhere near the smallest or lightest laptop on this list, and the overall design leaves a lot to be desired.

Key Features

  • AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual Core Processor
  • AMD Radeon Vega 3 Graphics Card
  • 15.6” Display with 1920x1080p resolution

Specifications

  • Screen Size: 15.6-inch
  • RAM: 4GB DDR4
  • Battery Life: 7.5 hours
  • Operating System: Windows 10 S
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Weight: 3.97lbs
Pros
  • Extremely Affordable
  • Decent AMD Graphics
Cons
  • Ryzen 3 is Only Dual Core
  • Small Storage Space

PERFORMANCE

Intel delivers great performance for the under $500 crowd with their i5-1035G4 quad core processor. This gives this laptop a huge boost in performance against the dual core systems on this list, and puts it in direct competition with the overall winner above.

The Intel Iris Plus Graphics are a big step up from Intel’s old architecture, but still not quite as capable as the AMD Ryzen 5 with Vega graphics. It comes much closer than its predecessors, but it is not quite there yet.

DISPLAY

The display on this laptop is nothing to write home about. It isn’t going to win any awards, but it will suffice for daily activities and playing some games. If you are looking for great colors and super bright backlighting, this screen is not going to work.

Though the display isn’t great, we don’t think it is bad enough to turn you away from this unit. The overall performance is great, and the display is adequate enough to get the job done.

BATTERY LIFE

This HP 14 laptop with it’s more powerful i5 processor does suffer from a bit lower battery life than others on this list. It is a trade off you pretty much always have to make when it comes to laptops, do you want more power or more efficiency.

While the battery life isn’t the best here, it is still decent enough to get you through a full day. You are looking at around 6 hours of use on a full charge, giving you time to do your homework or play a few rounds of your favorite game before needing a charge.

Key Features

  • Intel i5-1035G4 Quad Core Processor
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics Card
  • 14.0” Display with 1920×1080 pixel resolution

Specifications

  • Screen Size: 14-inch
  • RAM: 4GB DDR4
  • Battery Life: 5 hours
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Weight: 4.3lbs
Pros
  • Fast Processor
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Cons
  • Only 4GB of RAM
  • Small Storage Space

PERFORMANCE

The 10th generation of Intel processors are an impressive lineup, all the way down to the i3’s, which this laptop contains. While it is only a dual core part, it is still very capable for everyday use and even some gaming.

The thing that really holds this laptop back in comparison to others is the Intel UHD Graphics. This integrated graphics solution is far behind AMD and even the Iris Pro solution used in the i5 laptop above. It is the weakest GPU of this entire lineup, but still capable of doing some light gaming.

DISPLAY

ASUS puts great screens in their VivoBook lineup, and this one is no different. Colors really pop off the screen, and the sharpness of the 1080p display is fantastic. It, along with the other VivoBook above, has some of the best screens we have seen in this price range.

The tiny bezels on this laptop make the screen seem very large, and the overall aesthetic looks very good. Your eyes are drawn into the middle of the screen, and there isn’t much in the way of distractions around thanks to the minimalist design.

BATTERY LIFE

You would think the battery life in a low power system like this would be quite good, but you would be sadly mistaken. This laptop only manages around 6 hours of power on time, which is on the lower end of all the laptops here. 

That has more to do with the high brightness screen and backlit keyboard than the overall hardware. The laptop is also thin and light, making the battery smaller in size than some of the competitors. A trade off that you will have to decide if it is something you are okay with or not.

Key Features

  • Intel i3-1005G1 Dual Core Processor
  • Intel UHD Graphics Card
  • 15.6” Display with 1920x1080p resolution

Specifications

  • Screen Size: 15.6-inch
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Battery Life: 6 hours
  • Operating System: Windows 10 S
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Weight: 3.75lbs
Pros
  • Newest Generation Intel Processor
  • 8GB of RAM
  • Great Design - thin & light
Cons
  • Small Storage Space
  • Battery Life only 6 hours

PERFORMANCE

As with all the other Ryzen 3 laptops above, this Lenovo laptop performs as well as a dual core CPU powered machine can. Luckily they have packed in 8GB of RAM here, so you are not bottle-necked by inadequate memory. 

The laptop also features a fast SSD, which is a decent size so you can save your work and favorite game on the same drive. Windows 10 S runs great here, but if you are gaming you probably will be changing over to the normal version of Windows.

DISPLAY

The 15.6-inch display is touted as “energy efficient,” which is great, except it means that the brightness is going to be lower than some other models. That may not be a deal breaker, but it does mean that if you are in direct sunlight you are going to have a less than optimal experience.

The colors on this screen are actually quite good, and the anti-glare coating on it does help a bit with that pesky sunlight. Overall, the screen is decent enough, and won’t disappoint you too much.

BATTERY LIFE

Surprisingly, this Lenovo IdeaPad laptop is not great in terms of battery life. With only a 4 and a half hour battery life on a full charge, it is the worst on this list. It doesn’t make much sense as to why it is so low, other than they used a very bad battery here.

If you are using this for work and will have it plugged in while you sit at a desk, you will not have a problem with this at all. However, if you work from home and like to do your work outside so you can make sure your vitamin D levels up, this is not the most ideal choice.

Key Features

  • AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual Core Processor
  • AMD Radeon Vega 3 Graphics Card
  • 15.6″ Display with 1920x1080p resolution

Specifications

  • Screen Size: 15.6-inch
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Battery Life: 4.5 hours
  • Operating System: Windows 10 S
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Weight: 4.1lbs
Pros
  • Basic Business Look
  • 8GB of Memory
  • AMD Radeon Vega Graphics
Cons
  • Processor is Not Great for Multitasking

PERFORMANCE

The fast SSD combined with 8GB of RAM and the Ryzen 3 processor make it a very good laptop stuffed into a thin chassis. The Radeon Vega 3 graphics are good enough to play most games at low settings, so you can game on the go with this laptop without a problem.

The bundled in 500 GB external hard drive is a great addition, as it will allow you to load a large portion of your game library on it without using up your internal drive. The internal SSD is only 128GB, so you will definitely need that extra space.

DISPLAY

The screen on the MOTILE laptop is surprisingly good. It is 14-inch diagonal, with a very clean 1080p image. While the brand may not be as well known as others on this list, the panel in this laptop holds up to any of them.

This display also has a THX mode which MOTILE says emulates Hollywood movie color profiles, giving you a much more cinematic and enjoyable viewing experience. A nice extra to have on top of an already really good screen.

BATTERY LIFE

The MOTILE laptop comes in with a battery life of 6.5 hours, which puts it about on the average of these devices. It is a decent result, given the small form factor of this laptop and overall specs contained within.

The display here is above average as well which does drain the battery a bit, as does the backlit keyboard. Overall, a 6.5 hour battery life is a good score for this laptop and should get you through an entire day.

Key Features

  • AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual Core Processor
  • AMD Radeon Vega 3 Graphics Card
  • 14” Display with 1920x1080p resolution

Specifications

  • Screen Size: 11.6-inch
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Battery Life: 6.5 hours
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Storage: 128SSD + 500GB External HDD
  • Weight: 2.55lbs
Pros
  • External Storage Included in Bundle
  • Decent GPU
  • Nice Screen
Cons
  • Only a Dual Core Processor
  • Internal Storage is Small

Buying Guide Tips for Gaming Laptops under $500

 

If you are still not sure after looking at this list of gaming laptops which to decide on, here are some great buying guide tips for gaming laptops that you can use when shopping for one even when they aren’t on this list:

1. GRAPHICS CARD

For under $500, you are simply not going to find a laptop with a dedicated GPU on the new market. Your best option is to pick up a AMD Ryzen 5 3500U powered laptop, as their Radeon Vega 8 integrated graphics can handle old games brilliantly, and even let you play new games on lower settings.

Intel’s integrated graphics, while better than they once were, still can not compete with AMD’s graphics performance. While there are some decent Intel options in this price range, we still recommend going with something powered by AMD.

2. PROCESSOR

AMD and Intel both offer very competitive processors in this price range. Your best bet is to pick up a quad core processor for the added threads so you can multitask with ease. The dual core options, while okay for gaming, will make the computer seem slower when doing other tasks.

Remember, the CPU is handling both the main processing and the graphics processing in these chips. Make sure you get a computer with adequate cooling that will allow them to run at their fastest boost speeds without thermal throttling.

3. RAM

Every program seems to eat up memory these days, so upping your minimum to at least 8 GB will save you some headaches. While 4GB is technically enough for basic activities, we highly suggest you double that.

The good news is, even if you purchase one of the laptops with only 4GB that is in your budget, you can generally upgrade it with another stick later on down the road. Just check the manufacturers website to ensure the laptop is upgradeable should you want to.

4. HARD DRIVE

Having a fast SSD will increase your load times in games quite substantially. The bigger problem here is the size of games has increased dramatically in recent years. Games that would have only been a couple of gigabytes a few years ago can surpass 20 GB and more with ease now. That is bad news for your storage space, but something you need to take into consideration.

You can always purchase an external hard drive for your games. Many people load their entire Steam library on their external drive and just play games like that, which would instantly solve your storage space problems.

5. BATTERY LIFE

Gaming on a laptop is going to eat the battery very quickly. While the ratings you see for laptops is for “everyday use,” that definitely doesn’t include hardcore gaming sessions. Don’t expect more than an hour and a half or so if you are gaming while your computer is not plugged into a power source.

Plugging your power connector in and gaming is the absolute best way, as you don’t have to worry about it going dead, and you will be able to run your computer in the highest performance mode possible.

Conclusion - Best Gaming Laptops under $500

Setting a budget of only $500 is going to narrow down your laptop choices for gaming tremendously. The options we listed above are all capable of playing games, some better than others, but the experience is going to be far from optimal. If you can save up a bit more for a laptop with a dedicated GPU, you will get far superior performance than anything listed here.

If you are stuck in this budget, don’t worry, any of the choices above will provide you with a decent gaming experience on the go. 

Do you know about a great gaming laptop under $500 that wasn’t mentioned on our list? If so, we’d love for you to share with our audience by contacting us!

Happy laptop hunting!

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