The sound is just as important as the visuals when it comes to gaming. Yes, you probably have a headset that you'll use most of the time. But sometimes you just want to let your laptop's speakers work. The MSI-exclusive, Nahimic audio software is one of our favorites since it offers some of the best surround sound in both headphones and speakers. It also provides several handy presets, Bass Boost and Voice Clarification software. Alienware's Dell Audio software is a close second, while Dolby Home Theater v4, available in Lenovo notebooks, rounds out our top three.
G-Sync or FreeSync: Several gaming laptops come with panels that support Nvidia's G-Sync or AMD's FreeSync technologies, both of which are designed to eliminate unsightly graphical tears and ghosting 0n monitors ranging from 1080p to 4K. While 60Hz is the current minimum refresh rate, there are an increasing number of monitors that offer 120Hz, which offers even faster rendering without introducing stutter.
After picking our hardware criteria (see above), we scoured the websites of major gaming-laptop manufacturers like Alienware, MSI, Asus, Razer, Samsung, Acer, HP, and Lenovo, and we browsed boutiques like Xotic PC, iBuyPower, Clevo, iBuypower, Origin PC, Digital Storm, and others. Then we put together a list of the laptops that fit our requirements and have positive reviews from trusted sources like CNET, AnandTech, Engadget, Laptop Mag, PCMag, and Notebookcheck, and eliminated those that didn’t.
Almost all gaming laptops have a backlit keyboard in order to allow users to game in low-light conditions. Entry-level gaming PCs tend to offer variable intensity red or white backlighting while more expensive computers are generally equipped with RGB keyboards. An RGB keyboard gives greater control over the color of its keys (which can usually be adjusted via an application). For example, the Asus ROG Zephyrus allows users to assign different colors to different keyboard zones whereas some MSI computers and the Gigabyte Aorus X7 allow users to set a different color for each individual key.
Most gamers prefer one or two of those three game genres. Some might like to play every genre and pick up every game that hits the market. A gaming mouse like Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum would do well for all type of games. Contrariwise Logitech G502 does extremely well at MMO games. For instance, you may never get enough of games like League of legends, when you don’t have this mouse.
The laptop features a powerful combination of an Intel Core i5 processor and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M GPU. It's a great hardware combination which ensures that you can play most games on medium to high settings. These specs also offer great online multimedia performance. We also really liked the high-quality, secondary features of the laptop: It has a backlit keyboard, very good built-in speakers, and fast 802.11ac WiFi.
I've noticed more companies are starting to embrace the loud, clicky joy that is the mechanical keyboard. Known for their marvelous springy feedback and trademark clicking sound, these keyboards offer some of the best typing you're going to get on a laptop. In addition to the MSI GT83VR Titan, you can also get a mechanical keyboard on the Lenovo Ideapad Y900.
We put the contenders through much of the same rigorous testing as we do with our best gaming laptops. We tested each by playing half an hour of Overwatch on high settings—a popular game, but not too taxing—and then tested our finalists with a more graphically demanding game by playing 30 minutes of The Witcher 3 on ultra with VSync off. We also played Overwatch and Doom extensively to test how our finalists held up during longer gaming sessions.
The 15-inch 60 Hz 1920×1080 IPS display, the blue-backlit keyboard, and the trackpad are all solid performers. The Dell G7 15 Gaming has impressive battery life for a gaming laptop, but it’s a bit heavier than the competition and its fans get distractingly loud during gaming sessions. We recommend the model with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics processor with 6 GB of dedicated memory, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB solid-state drive for around $1,200.
Less-expensive mice tend to have optical sensors, which offer good tracking sensitivity and tend to map well on a variety of surfaces, including textured ones such as cloth. Laser sensors, on the other hand, map onto the same or more kinds of surfaces (including some smooth or glossy ones that may give optical sensors fits), but they can be more finicky about rough surface textures. That said, we wouldn't let one kind or the other be the main reason you choose a mouse. Likewise, some vendors market branded versions of sensors that track, say, on glass or reflective surfaces. Don't take them too seriously, as you can solve any challenging mousing surface with...a $2 mousepad.
It’s no secret that dedicated graphics cards offer far better performance than integrated graphics, however, this doesn’t mean that you can’t game on laptops without dedicated GPUs. This is due to the fact that Intel has come a long way with their integrated graphics and Blizzard have even mentioned that almost 25% of all Overwatch players are playing the game on a system with integrated graphics. While Overwatch is a newer title, don’t expect to play titles such as Mass Effect: Andromeda or Battlefield 1 on high settings or with great frame rates.
Well if you don’t want to increase your budget and want to buy the gaming laptop within your 500 dollars budget then finding a laptop which is fit for your need and budget is no less than a herculean task. It also requires a lot of patience and skill to settle things up. To help you out, below are the best available gaming laptops in the market for under $500 which are handpicked by our team of experts.
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We didn’t test any gaming laptops that failed to meet our specs requirements (see the How we picked section for more details), and we didn’t test any that were too expensive, since this is a budget guide. As a result, we eliminated any laptops with a GTX 1060 or GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU above $1,400, as well as any laptops with a GTX 1050 Ti above $950—at that price, it’s worth getting a more powerful graphics processor instead. Here’s everything we tested against our picks in 2018:
Know that the presence or absence of a dedicated control utility is a big differentiator between low-end and high-end gaming mice. Some cheap gaming mice will come with no software of their own. Without such a utility, you'll be able to customize mouse commands only within a game (via its in-game menus) or in Windows' own mouse settings. That's not necessarily a bad thing; just know what you are getting, or not getting.
Targeting, slashing, hacking, attacking: The key actions you take in any PC game happen at the click of your mouse, so you can't skimp on your weapon if you want to win. Today, though, the quality bar is high for all but the cheapest gaming mice, so you can afford to be picky. Nowadays, you should expect reliable connectivity, smooth and responsive tracking, and crisp click and scroll functions. Those are the table stakes—it takes much more to elevate a "good" gaming mouse to "great."
In our tests, the G7’s WASD keys—the ones that control movement in most games, and the ones you touch the most—hit 103 °F (39 °C) after half an hour of Overwatch. Those temperatures felt warm and could induce sweating, but they weren’t uncomfortable to touch like the Acer Predator Helios 300’s too-toasty 110 °F (43 °C) in the same test. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GE, which we tested with less powerful GTX 1050 Ti graphics, was the only budget gaming laptop we tested this year that kept its WASD cluster comfortably cool at 94 °F (34 °C).
The Predator Helios 500 (PH517-51) employs a 17.3” Full HD or 4K display which is either G-Sync or Freesync compatible at 144 Hz. It also incorporates the following chips: Intel Core / Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or AMD Ryzen / AMD Vega (not yet available, but the first tests have already been conducted). Its Intel processor is either a Core i7-8750H (6 cores at 2.2 GHz) or i7-8950HK (6 cores at 2.9 GHz). The test recently performed by the Laptopmag website is conclusive: it praises the excellent quality of this computer’s speakers and the ability of this computer to maintain a reasonably low temperature when gaming.
Of course, this is an entry-level gaming laptop and you should expect that some games have to be played on medium settings. However, you can expand this laptop later. For example, it has a second RAM slot for additional memory and an m.2 slot for a solid-state drive. Overall, this is a very good budget laptop with plenty of features at a great price point.
The SteelSeries Rival is a very solid mouse, but it's also very specialized: I have a feeling if you need this mouse, you know about it already. The key feature of the Rival 500 is the sheer amount of programmable buttons this thing has. With 15 different buttons in tow, it's basically a keyboard replacement! This is a setup that's ideal for games with lots of macros of cooldown skills—think MMOs or even MOBAs.
The Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM has Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics and a high-refresh-rate 120 Hz display, and in our tests it kept its WASD keys cool enough. But we found that it suffered from a rattly trackpad, a poor three-hour battery life, and terrible speakers, and it’s much harder to upgrade than the Dell G7—you have to remove 11 screws and take off the whole underside of the chassis, as opposed to the G7’s single screw and convenient panel. The FX504GM also has poor build quality; the chassis felt hollow to us, and the keyboard deck and lid flexed easily under pressure. We also experienced some unexpectedly low performance across multiple games and benchmarks. We’ve reached out to Asus to investigate that issue, but for now, we can’t recommend the FX504GM.
Because they usually require dual GPUs for the smoothest gameplay at native resolution, 4K gaming laptops are still the exception, and still expensive. And keep this in mind: Only the most powerful graphics cards can render complex game animations at playable frame rates across the full screen at 4K, so a 1080p screen may actually be a better use of your money if all you do is play games.
Unfortunately, like a lot of gaming mouse out there, the Pro is a great starter pick, but doesn't have any overt strengths. It won't let you down, but it isn't specialized for a particular genre of game, nor is it particularly reliable-feeling or weighty and durable. Even still, if you just want something simple to get started, this is a good choice.
Computers in the GT series are very high-end; they are also exceedingly expensive, large, and heavy. Some of the computers in this series distinguish themselves from the competition by their mechanical keyboard and the very high quality of their display (120 Hz G-Sync compatible, for example – see LaptopMag’s test of the GT75 Titan). The MSI GT83 Titan features an enormous 18.4-inch display in addition to dual GeForce GTX 1080 graphics chips connected via SLI.
There are no longer any gaming laptops using an Intel Core i3 processor. These days, many entry-level computers come equipped with a 4-core Core i5 processor. However, the most commonly found processor in this type of laptop is the Core i7. The 4-core Core i7-7700HQ processor is slowly being phased out in favor of the Core i7-8750H (6 cores at 2.2/4.1 GHz) and the Core i9-8950HK (6 cores at 2.9/4.8 GHz).
These budget systems typically won't include a lot of gamer bling like customizable RGBs and multi-zone keyboard lighting. Many will cut necessary cost corners by using a plastic chassis instead of aluminum, and you won't see sexy thin bezels like those on the MateBook Pro or Dell XPS 13. You'll also get, at minimum, 3 USB ports, an HDMI output and standard headphone jacks.
The HP pavilion 17 1BQ14UA 17.3-inch has not received much criticism about its touchpad or keyboard, but one user did point out that the there is no light indicating when the Numpad is on, and their is no light indicating that the laptop is on, which one usually finds on the actual power button. The battery life of around 5 hours is average, so you will need to be near an outlet if you plan on using your laptop away from home. The speakers are also positioned at the bottom of the laptop, which is said to dull down the overall audio quality.
We also liked HP's updated battery optimization technology, which offered more than five hours of excellent performance on medium to high brightness. Best of all, this laptop is lightweight and slim. It's actually one of the lightest (4.68 lbs) and thinnest (0.6 inches) affordable gaming laptops we've seen! There's really a lot to like about this machine. It's powerful, light, slim, cheap, and looks great.
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
Many found that replacing it with an M.2 SSD helped solve this problem. It comes with two USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, and a compact USB-C 3.1 connector, as well as an HDMI and VGA video output for connecting multiple screens, and there is also a multi-format memory card reader. The full-size keyboard is sadly not backlit, but many noted that its key travel and feedback are great, and the touchpad is said to be good overall, but compared to higher-end laptops, it is not as responsive.
The Legion Y530 has plenty of ports, but they’re placed unconventionally. It has one USB 3.0 Type-A port and a headphone/microphone combo jack on the left side, and one USB 3.0 Type-A port on the right side. At the back, the Y530 has a USB-C port that can carry data and a video signal but can’t charge the laptop; there you’ll also find one Mini DisplayPort 1.4 port, a third USB 3.0 Type-A port, an HDMI 2.0 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a charging port, and a Kensington Lock slot. Lenovo includes a one-year limited warranty.
Gabe Carey is a Junior Analyst at PCMag specializing in peripherals, storage and the systems that power them. Prior to joining this website, he was an ardent freelance reporter for Digital Trends and TechRadar, though his most noteworthy accomplishment was racking up over 15,000 signatures on a petition to change the national anthem to Sonic Advent... See Full Bio
The entry-level TUF Gaming FX computers (which have recently replaced the old FX product line) have the particularity of being available in four different configurations; each configuration features a rather sober-looking chassis and a display operating at a frequency of up to 120 Hz. Laptopmag’s test confirms the good performance characteristics of this computer and the good quality of its speakers which deliver powerful, high-def sound. However, it also mentions its disappointment with this computer’s display (a 60 Hz model) as well as with the performance of its SSHD.
Solid-state drive: A solid-state drive speeds up boot times and reduces loading times in games, so all of our recommendations have SSDs. Some gaming laptops in this price range have 1 TB of hard drive storage and no SSD, but in those cases we recommend adding one yourself. We prefer at least a 250 GB solid-state drive because 128 GB won’t hold more than your operating system and a couple of games.
And thanks to Nvidia's 1050 Ti GPUs, you can hook up an Oculus Rift and jump into the virtual realm. However, some companies like Dell and Gigabyte are outfitting their rigs with Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q GPUs so fans of the HTC Vive can also get in on the fun. Or if you're not ready to make such a big financial or space commitment, you can hook up one of Microsoft's new MR headsets like the Acer Windows Mixed Reality AH101 headset, which has the added bonus of working with either discrete or integrated graphics. Best of all, you can use all that money you just saved to splurge on a top-notching gaming keyboard or mouse.