The best gaming laptops under $500 of 2022

The best gaming laptops under $500 of 2022

We may earn revenue from products on this page. Learn more>


Updated Dec 9, 2022 10: 15 AM

Gaming laptops have powerful specs, high resolution displays, and fast refresh rates. The most expensive gaming laptops can cost thousands of dollars. If money is not an issue, you can spend a lot of money to get a great machine. However, most of us have to think more pragmatically and that’s where the best gaming laptops under $500 come in.

Many of us don’t have the means to spend a lot on a new laptop. Gaming laptops are more affordable than ever. You can play AAA games at high resolutions for a shorter time before you need to upgrade. If you’re willing to put concerns about fidelity aside, though, you can get a perfectly good laptop that should play a decent number of PC games for as little as $500. They will all look great and work well. They won’t all look great, but they are still fun to use. The best gaming laptops under $500 give you the most gaming power possible on a shoestring budget.

How we chose the best gaming laptops under $500

I’ve been booting up games on Steam for as long as I can remember, and have written about computers for more than a decade on sites like Popular Science, Gear Patrol, and CNN Underscored. To find the best laptops, I have tested many different types of computers and laptops. To find the best gaming laptops under $500, a challenging task, I researched what kind of hardware you may be able to purchase with such a budget. I had this information and was able to select the best gaming laptops under $08.

The best gaming laptops under $500: Reviews & Recommendations

Finding a good laptop for under $500, let alone one capable of playing games, is a serious challenge. You’ll see that most of our choices fall below the minimum standards for gaming laptops. These are compromise picks that will help you make the most of a less-than-ideal situation. With $500, we’d recommend people purchase a console for gaming, an iPad for general computing, or hold out for a major sale like Prime Day or Black Friday in the hopes of getting a rare deal on a more expensive gaming laptop.

Best overall: Acer Aspire 5 Slim

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Aspire 5 Slim’s Ryzen 3 3350U will ensure you can play many of the industry’s most popular games on low settings.

Specs

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 3350U
  • GPU: Radeon Vega 6
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Screen size: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080)
  • Dimensions: 14. 31 x 9. 74 x 0. 71 inches
  • Weight: 3. 97 pounds
  • Connectivity: USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 x 2; HDMI 1.4b, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1

Pros

  • Expansive 15.6-inch FHD display
  • Decent port selection
  • 8GB of RAM

Cons

  • Plastic build

The newest version of the Acer Aspire 5 Slim features an expansive 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display, AMD Ryzen 3 3350U quad-core processor, and 8GB of RAM. (For $40 more, you can bump that up to 12GB of RAM.) The laptop also features Radeon Vega 6 graphics and a 256GB SSD, so games should run and load quickly. The laptop also features a large trackpad and a full keyboard with number keys on the left and a numeric keypad to the right.

Acer Aspire also features a USB-C Gen 1 port, an HDMI port that supports HDCP, Wi-Fi 6, as well as a USB-C 3.0 Gen 1 port. It’s a good mix of specs, battery life, and price–and should be enough to run games like Fortnite and Minecraft.

Best for video editing: Asus Vivobook 15

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Vivobook 15’s combination of the Intel i3, UHD graphics, and 8GB is enough to edit memorable family vacation videos.

Specs

  • Processor: Intel i3-10054G1
  • GPU: Intel UHD
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Screen size: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080)
  • Dimensions: 14.1 x 9.1 x 0. 78 inches
  • Weight: 3. 75 pounds
  • Connectivity: USB-C 3.2, USB-A 3.2, USB-A 2.0 x 2, HDMI, microSD, WiFi, Bluetooth

Pros

  • Decent port selection
  • 8GB of RAM
  • Fingerprint sensor

Cons

  • Small trackpad

Video editing on an affordable laptop isn’t ideal, but the Asus Vivobook 15 provides users with a decently-powerful experience. The laptop features a 15.6-inch Full HD display, an Intel Core i3-1005G1 processor, an Intel UHD GPU, and 8GB of RAM. This laptop is good enough to do basic video editing and color correction for short clips for social media.

The Asus Vivobook 15 also features a 128GB SSD, a touchpad and keyboard, and USB-C 3.2, so you can quickly transfer video files to and from external devices. For connecting additional peripherals, you also get an HDMI port and USB-A 3.2 ports.

Best for school: Dell Inspiron 15

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Dell Inspiron 15’s simple design is great for schoolwork, and can play a game or two between study sessions.

Specs

  • Processor: Intel i3-1115G4
  • GPU: Intel UHD
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Screen size: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080)
  • Dimensions: 14. 11 x 9. 27 x 0. 74 inches
  • Weight: 3. 82 pounds
  • Connectivity: USB-A 3.0 x 2, USB-A 2.0, HDMI, SD card, WiFi, Bluetooth

Pros

  • Big, comfortable 15.6-inch display
  • Decent size SSD
  • SD card slot

Cons

  • Limited port selection

If you need something simple to power through note-taking, research papers, and presentations, the Dell Inspiron 15 (3511) is an excellent option. You’ll need to take breaks, and there are no better ways to relax than with video games. The Dell Inspiron is an affordable laptop that features an Intel Core i3 processor, UHD graphic and 8GB RAM to power games like Counter-Strike and Rocket League . The Inspiron 15 also features a 256SSD, giving you plenty of storage to save those vital school projects and download your favorite titles from Steam.

Best for streaming: Lenovo IdeaPad 3i

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Lenovo IdeaPad 3i features Intel Iris Xe graphics, 512GB SSD, and 8GB of RAM, making it a powerful option for gaming and streaming.

Specs

  • Processor: Intel i3-1115G4
  • GPU: Intel Iris Xe
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Screen size: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080)
  • Dimensions: 14. 26 x 9. 98 x 0. 78 inches
  • Weight: 3. 75 pounds
  • Connectivity: USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 x 2, USB-A 2.0, HDMI 1.4, SD card, WiFi 5, Bluetooth

Pros

  • Screen can fold flat
  • 512GB SSD
  • Intel Iris Xe

Cons

  • Thick bezels

While the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i may not be the best gaming laptop, it offers impressive performance for a very affordable price. It comes with an Intel Core i3 processor and Intel Iris Xe graphics. You also get 8GB RAM. This gives you all the necessary components to broadcast your games around the world. Although it may not be the most smooth experience, it is possible to start somewhere. The IdeaPad 3i also features a 512GB SSD, HDMI, two USB-A 3.2, and a 45Wh battery, which should get you through a full day of usage with light to medium use.

Best 2-in-1: Dell Inspiron 14

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: Dell’s Inspiron 14 packs in decently powerful specs for the price in an attractive 2-in-1 design.

Specs

  • Processor: Intel i3-1115G4
  • GPU: Intel UHD
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Screen size: 14-inch FHD (1366 x 768)
  • Dimensions: 12. 77 x 8. 77 x 0. 75 inches
  • Weight: 3. 58 pounds
  • Connectivity: USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 x 2, USB-C 3.2 Gen 1, HDMI 1.4b, SD card, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1

Pros

  • 2-in-1 design
  • Small, portable design
  • USB-C and SD card

Cons

  • Lower resolution display

For just a smidge over our $500 budget, the Inspiron 14 2-in-1 features a 14-inch HD touchscreen display, an Intel Core i3 processor, Intel UHD graphics, and 8GB of RAM. This gives you enough power to run multiple browser tabs and applications smoothly. More importantly, it’s good enough to give us our gaming fix–and the 256GB SSD is plenty big to download free-to-play and other popular titles. The Inspiron 14 also features a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port for power delivery and data transfer and two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports. It also has an SD card slot, making it one of our more advanced options.

The fact of the matter is, you can’t really get a new dedicated gaming laptop for $500. For reference, our list of the best cheap gaming laptops highlights strong systems that cost less than $1,000, and it often features models that are 1-2 years old. Our picks include budget productivity laptops that offer decent processing power for the price. Few laptops, if any, have a dedicated graphics card that you would need to play the most popular games. The ones that work will only run at low or medium settings.

If you are purchasing this device specifically for gaming, there are many other devices that will offer you a much better experience for that same $500. Though they can be hard to find, we would recommend any of the current game consoles over these laptops, including the PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and Nintendo Switch. You might also consider the 2022 iPad Air, which provides access to an increasingly large library of games thanks to game streaming services like Xbox Game Pass. In the realm of PCs, you may be able to build a budget desktop gaming PC for around $500 using older and/or used parts. It may be more difficult due to shortages in pandemic-era parts, but it is possible.

If you are looking for a laptop or a more comprehensive device, these are the basics to help you make your decision:

Processor

The central processing unit (or CPU) is the heartbeat of any computer. It is responsible for all the computations that your computer does, such as word processing and photo editing. The true performance of a computer depends on many factors. However, the clock speed and the computing cores of the chip are the best ways to determine its power. The clock speed, measured in Hz, is the number of computations (or “cycles”) that a processor can perform each second. A CPU running at 2.8Ghz can execute 2.8 billion cycles per second.

Compute cores allow your processor to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Multitasking is easier when there are more cores, especially for more complex tasks such as encoding video.

When discussing the best, we expect modern Windows laptops to feature an 11th or 12th Generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor with 6-8 processor cores, or an AMD Ryzen 5 processor with 6-8 cores. Since we’re looking at laptops with the tightest of cost constraints, you’re more likely to see the older version of the most basic processors available, such as a 10th-Generation Intel Core i3 processor, or something from AMD’s Ryzen 3000 series. If you are forced to make a choice, it is worth giving up some bells and whistles in exchange for a basic laptop with an excellent CPU. Your laptop’s performance will be determined by its processor more than any other component.

Graphics

The graphics processing unit (or GPU) is an essential component of any gaming laptop. It allows you to render graphics in both 2D and 3D. A GPU is a great option for rendering high-resolution video and artwork. It takes some of the load off the CPU and renders everything much faster.

Gaming PCs typically have dedicated graphics cards. This second processor is used to process visual processing for video encoding and other tasks that require a lot of graphics. Nvidia (AMD) and AMD make dedicated graphics cards for desktops, and smaller versions for laptops. Sometimes, you might find a large laptop with a “full size” desktop graphics card. These laptops are often heavier than you should be carrying around every day.

For the purposes of this list we will concentrate on integrated graphics. This is a small processor chip that is built into your laptop’s core CPU. Integrated graphics are used for basic graphics processing such as streaming video and web browsing. They are not designed to handle new games and other GPU-intensive tasks. There are many games that can run on integrated graphics in the current gaming environment. However, not all games will run as smoothly on integrated graphics.

Memory

Random Access Memory, or RAM, allows your applications to temporarily store data and then quickly access it again if needed. A laptop with more RAM is better if you use multiple applications at once. Manufacturers usually allow consumers to upgrade their RAM prior to purchasing a laptop, sometimes even after.

For gaming, we recommend 16GB on a new machine, since you often cannot add RAM to a laptop. This will allow you to run more demanding games and perform other tasks like streaming software. Again, though, for $500 or less you’ll likely have to settle for 4GB or 8GB.

Display

As with dedicated gaming monitors, the best gaming laptops can make games look great with sharp, vibrant displays. Gamers may prefer a larger screen because it creates immersion, especially in small spaces. If we had to highlight one size in particular, it would be 15 inches. This size screen is big enough to provide a comfortable gaming experience but not too large to be carried around all day. Some gaming laptops offer 17-inch displays, but that’s only a good size if your laptop spends most of its time on a desk.

Whatever size you land upon, chances are it will feature a 1080p (Full HD) screen. A 1080p display will make your games look sharp enough and ensure your computer doesn’t buckle under the strain. If you want a display that’s 1440p (Quad HD) or 4K (Ultra-High Definition) and offers a high refresh rate, you’ll have to look at a more expensive gaming laptop with a more powerful GPU.

Battery life

Gamers buy gaming laptops to play games wherever they are. However, the battery life of a gaming laptop can be limiting. Gaming laptops aren’t the most reliable in terms of battery life. Even the most expensive models won’t last a full day of heavy usage.

With our current picks, which do not have dedicated graphics cards you may see better battery life than a gaming laptop. This is a small bright spot. Your laptops will use more battery when you play games than any other task, so be careful about how much you play. Keep an eye on your battery indicator, and one eye on the outlet search.

FAQs

Q: Can a $500 laptop run Fortnite?

The easiest way to confirm your laptop can play Fortnite is to check the game’s minimum required specs. 071027

Here are the recommended and minimum system requirements for Fortnite:

Recommended System Requirements
Video Card: Nvidia GTX 960, AMD R9 280, or equivalent DX11 GPU
Video Memory: 2 GB VRAM
Processor: Core i5-7300U 3.5 GHz, AMD Ryzen 3 3300U, or equivalent
Memory: 8 GB RAM or higher
OS: Windows 10 64-bit

Minimum System Requirements
Video Card: Intel HD 4000 on PC; Intel Iris Pro 5200
Processor: Core i3-3225 3.3 GHz
Memory: 4GB RAM
OS: Windows 7/8/10 64-bit or Mac OS Mojave 10. 14.6

Q: Is a gaming laptop good for students?

While gaming laptops can handle everyday tasks, they aren’t necessarily the best option for students. Gaming laptops are heavier and heavier than laptops designed for work, making them more difficult to carry around campus. Students who carry their laptop from class to class might not have enough battery life to last a full day of school. They can also heat up quickly, so they may not be comfortable to be used on your lap in certain situations.

Q: Can you use a “normal” laptop for gaming?

Broadly speaking? Sure. It all depends on what game you are playing. A productivity laptop designed for work and general computing is usually capable of playing certain games with its discrete graphics chips. They can only play certain games and on lower settings.

Many AAA titles today require more powerful CPUs and GPUs as well as a greater amount of RAM. Your laptop may not meet the minimum requirements for that game if it is an older model. On a typical work laptop, you won’t have much fun playing Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed games. There are many great indie games that don’t require a lot of graphics processing power.

If gaming is something you do every day, we recommend purchasing a laptop designed for gaming. Gaming-specific laptops can also be used for word processing and web browsing, as we have already mentioned. Some laptops are not capable of running the latest games, especially those at the lower end.

Final thoughts on the best gaming laptops under $500

The good news is that processors with integrated GPUs have become more powerful, allowing you to play games such as Fortnite and Minecraft , on a wide variety of machines. That said, the best gaming hardware you can buy for $500 is not a laptop. It’s either a console or tablet. You will need to spend a lot more if you want a gaming laptop with great sound quality.

If you’d like to know more about buying a gaming laptop that delivers great performance and value, check out some of our other explainers on the topic, including the best gaming laptops and the best cheap gaming laptops. These laptops are more expensive but will last for five years or longer than a good one.

Read More