A lightning-fast gaming laptop costs a pretty penny, especially if it’s the latest and greatest. Let’s face it: Not everyone has the bank account to purchase a gaming machine triple the cost of an industry-leading home console. That’s where budget gaming laptops come in.
You can grab a cheap gaming laptop for under $500 to run contemporary games at the lowest resolutions available (you can change this in the game menus), but they’re surprisingly reliable when playing or emulating classic games that were cutting-edge decades ago.
Sandbox games like Roblox and Minecraft also do well on cheap gaming laptops because of their simplistic graphics. If you’re looking for the best cheap gaming laptops under $500, consider these machines from ASUS, Acer, Lenovo, and more.
The Best Cheap Gaming Laptops Under $500
- Aspire 5 Slim Inexpensive Gaming Laptop
- 2Runner-UpHP Pavilion 15-dw1053dx Gaming Laptop$469 at AmazonRead more
- 3Most AffordableHP Notebook 15-dy1008CA Affordable Laptop for Video Games$389 at AmazonRead more
- 4Best Touch ScreenDell Inspiron 15 3511 Affordable Gaming Laptop$465 at AmazonRead more
What to Consider
“Any gaming laptop that retails for $500 is likely to play games at low settings if run them at all,” says Hunter Fenollol, Popular Mechanics tech editor. “On top of that, you can’t upgrade a laptop like you can a computer tower, so you can’t swap in a new GPU or CPU and make the most out of it.” Hunter says customization is executed better on a gaming desktop—but there’s still hope if you need a portable gaming machine on a budget.
Not many laptops are built for gaming under $500, if at all, so our list comprises the fastest, strongest devices available at this price point—computers that are just as good workhorses as they are gaming machines. Consider these key specs when browsing for a value-forward gaming machine.
It’s essential to consider the graphics processing unit, or GPU, when shopping for any computer. If you’re grabbing a laptop under $500, chances are it’ll come with an integrated graphics card, which is a GPU built directly into the processor of a laptop. This means you can’t swap them out like their better alternative, dedicated graphics cards. Dedicated graphics cards provide the computer with a separate memory bank for running graphics and video, while integrated cards use the machine’s existing processor, sharing the load with the central processing unit, or CPU.
Integrated graphics cards aren’t ideal for gaming, but they’re much cheaper. They also use less power, which increases the device’s battery life and generates less heat. You’ll likely need to scale back graphics settings while playing newer games to avoid laggy gameplay while using cheap laptops with integrated graphics cards.
If you’re curious about what games a device’s integrated graphics card can handle, plenty of videos on YouTube showcase specific cards running various games. This is a great way to check if a machine can run titles like Fortnite, Roblox, Counter-Strike: Source, and Minecraft.
Random-access memory, or RAM, is a computer’s short-term memory. The more gigabytes of RAM, the faster your device can process multiple tasks at once, such as browsing the web, streaming music via an app, and exporting a video. Skew toward higher RAM to ensure less lag and frame rate issues. We recommend at least 8 GB.
The CPU is the machine’s brain. The higher the CPU speed, the faster your computer can run tasks and programs. However, if your laptop has an integrated graphics card, your CPU also executes graphics calculations, slowing down your computer’s processing power.
A CPU’s speed is measured in gigahertz. While not always the case, the higher the gigahertz, the faster the computer processing speed. For gaming laptops that cost less than $500, it’ll be tough to find super speedy processors. One way to get around this is to only run one program at a time when you’re gaming.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cheap laptop with ample storage for the large save files from games like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, so you might find yourself deleting old games to make room for new ones. Opt for higher storage, ideally SSD storage, if you digitally hoard video games on your devices. Alternatively, you can purchase an external hard drive to expand your horizons.
How We Evaluated
The best cheap gaming laptops under $500 are reliable, budget-friendly, and capable of running most games, even if only at their lowest resolutions and frame rates. To find the top contenders, we consulted our tech editor, Hunter Fenollol, and our guides to the best laptops under $500 and the best cheap gaming laptops under $1,500.
We also checked out what trusted publications like Popular Science, Futurism, and Tech Guided have to say about cheap gaming laptops. We considered what options users love based on user ratings, reviews, and bestselling options at retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart, ultimately settling on this selection of the best budget-friendly laptops for playing video games.