6 Best Gaming Laptops under $500 in 2020

Searching for a good gaming laptop under 500 dollars isn’t easy. Looking over the options for budget-friendly gamers can feel a little like gazing over a field of potatoes. Unless you know what to look for, of course. Down below, we’ll not only give you our handpicked list of the best gaming laptops under $500 but also a short guide on how to evaluate the different specs of a machine to help make the decision yourself.

How to buy a Budget Gaming Laptop?

Remember that value under $500 is a zero-sum game. Every pro is bound to come with some sort of a con, and you won’t get the world in a laptop with a price tag hovering somewhere around half a new iPhone. So, measure your expectations and prioritize what you need according to what you want. 

If you ask us, your priorities for specs of a gaming laptop should be in the following order → Processor and Graphics > RAM > Storage > Screen > Battery Life, Weight, and Build Quality.

For gaming, your first priorities are graphic card and processor. These are the left and right hands of your gaming computer and will be performing the heavy lifting involved with processing the game itself and drawing it on the screen for you dozens of times per second.

The second most important spec is RAM, the temporary cache that holds information for frequent access. A decent amount of RAM essentially saves your processor the time needed to search for information across your machine every time it goes looking for it by keeping it readily at hand. Kind of like a cup holder as opposed to a cooler in the trunk.

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The third is the storage. A lot of budget-gamers discount the importance of onboard storage — only to regret it later. Many impressive specs in the sub-500 range come at the cost of bare-bones storage, which poses a unique problem for gamers. Games today are getting bigger, and older games come with a lot of expansions on top of their base game.

The storage needed for popular games like Fortnite or Elder Scrolls Online are starting to exceed the 100GB mark more and more. Even if you do find a laptop capable of running the game you want with decent performance, it’s all for naught if you can’t fit the game on your laptop in the first place.

Some gamers with certain games have had success booting from external drives, but this is not recommended for the numerous problems that can crop up should things go awry. Not to mention the unique performance issues some drives can create — defeating the purpose of better specs and necessitating extra cash that could’ve been invested into the machine directly.

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The screen is surprisingly low on the priority list for a gaming laptop because it simply doesn’t matter if you have a pretty screen but a turnip for a processor. A minimum resolution of 1080 is preferred, but anything above that is going to be balanced out by cost-cutting elsewhere on the machine — and what’s the point of a higher screen resolution if you can’t run the game anywhere close to it? And other values like color gambit really should be last on your list. Your sole priority when buying a budget laptop is playing the game at all.

Last on the lists are measures like battery life, weight, and build quality. Give up on these right now and take what you can get. You’d be out of your mind to take a cut in performance for a little extra battery life, or a sturdier shell, or half a pound less weight for your desk to hold. If you’re gaming, your laptop should be on a desk, plugged in, and safe from any steep drops. Duh.

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1. Acer Aspire 5

Acer Aspire 5

  • Price: $469
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor (3.5 GHz)
  • Graphics: Radeon Vega 3 Graphics
  • RAM: 4GB DDR4
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080

The Acer Aspire 5 currently sits atop most budget gaming laptop lists for its strong processor and the dedicated graphics card that helps make up for the comparatively low RAM. The decent screen size and the backlit keyboard is a bonus perk, but gamers should beware of the lower storage space.

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This will not fit some of the bigger games, so if you have a specific game in mind be sure to check storage requirements and account for any upcoming DLC or expansive updates in the future. Otherwise, the Acer Aspire 5 is a solid, well-rounded pick for budget gamers of all stripes.

Get it on Amazon

2. Asus Vivobook 15

Asus Vivobook 15

  • Price: $499.99
  • Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 CPU (3.4 GHz)
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 3
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080

The Vivobook sports the same dedicated AMD graphics card as the Acer Aspire 5 along with double the RAM and an equally strong processor– excellent specs for the sub-500 range. It does, however, come with the same issue of low storage space, so be sure to check the requirements of any specific games you have in mind before purchasing. Otherwise, gamers can appreciate the superfluous extras like its pleasing screen-to-body ratio and low weight.

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3. 2020 Dell Inspiron

2020 Dell Inspiron

  • Price: $449.99
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-1005G1 (1.2 – 3.4 GHz )
  • Graphics: Intel UHD
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 1TB HDD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768

The 2020 Dell Inspiron is a great choice for casual gamers who have other storage needs to account for besides gaming and don’t mind the lower resolution. The base speed of the processor is disgusting but it automatically overclocks to 3.4 GHz for gaming. People who just want to be able to participate in the latest gaming trend but aren’t concerned with optimizing every last pixel of online gaming performance will be more than happy with this solid generalist.

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4. Lenovo Ideapad 3

Lenovo Ideapad3

  • Price: $489.00
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-1005G1 Dual Core Processor (3 – 3.40 GHz)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080

The Ideapad 3 might not come with a dedicated graphics card, but it has a strong processor, sufficient amount of RAM and gives you double the SSD space you normally for this price range — affording you to store any modern game and run most of them at lower settings. It’s slightly heavier than some of the other laptops on this list, but that’s nitpicking — this laptop is capable of opening most of the playing field for modern games below 500 dollars and is a solid choice for any budget-gamer.

Get it on Amazon

5. HP 15.6 1W830UA

HP 15.6

  • Price: $445.88
  • Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 (1.2 – 3.4 GHz)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768

Not the most impressive of the laptops on this list, but a little cheaper and capable of running lower-end games competently. This laptop is best for casual gamers who aren’t as interested in exploring the latest leviathan of gaming but don’t mind killing time on Steam whenever they’re bored or playing their favorite MMO on lower settings. The lower storage capacity, RAM, and resolution make it a subpar choice for more serious gamers compared to the Vivobook or Acer Aspire 5.

Get it on Amazon

6. HP 14 DK0736MS

HP14

  • Price: $499
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 3200U  (2.6 – 3.5 GHz)
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 3 Graphics
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 14″
  • Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768

The HP 14 has our respect for making intelligent sacrifices in screen size and resolution for a solid 256GB SSD, a competent processor, and the same dedicated graphics card in the Acer Aspire 5 and Vivobook and with as much RAM as the latter. While it may not have the screen resolution of the other 2, the doubled storage size lets you use their specs on a wider variety of heavier games, making it an attractive choice for more serious budget-gamers who aren’t as affected by the slightly lower resolution.

Players in MMORPGs or single-player games should look no further than the HP 14 for a budget-friendly gaming laptop. Players more interested in PvP, especially shooters like PUBG, Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Modern Warfare where resolution is especially important should consider the Vivobook or Acer Aspire 5 and their storage requirements first.

Get it on Amazon


That’s our list of hand-picked favorites for budget-friendly laptops under 500 dollars. Shopping under the 500 mark for a cheap gaming laptop isn’t easy, but this buyer’s guide and the principles above should help you make the right decision.

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Posted by
Will

Will Heydecker is a writer, screenwriter and illustrator who still likes dragons. As part of his bitter war against adulthood, he likes to distill art, gaming, technology, and entertainment info into digestible topics people actually enjoy reading.

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