As far as storage is concerned, hard drive prices have come down compared with solid-state drives, so finding large capacities isn't too much trouble. 1TB of storage and maybe even a small SSD alongside are common in budget laptops. The display will almost certainly be 1080p (1,920-by-1,080 resolution), as 720p is now reserved only for cheap non-gaming systems and increasingly uncommon. The RAM will likely top off at 8GB in budget laptops, but you will find some (more ideal) 16GB laptops in this range.
RAM: Gaming can be RAM intensive, and 8GB is what we recommend for even average productivity tasks. If you can, you should go for 16GB on a gaming PC. A laptop with a GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti usually comes with 8GB. Once you get to a GTX 1060 or higher, some will come with 16GB of RAM. If you can’t get your laptop with 16GB of RAM now, consider upgrading it in the near future. Memory is upgradeable in many gaming laptops, so this is an area that you can consider boosting later if you’re handy with a screwdriver.
Matthew Buzzi is a Hardware Analyst at PCMag, focusing on laptops and desktops with a specialty in gaming systems and games. Matthew earned a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism and interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming before turning it into part of his career. He spends entirely too much time on Twitter (find him @M... See Full Bio
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.
Last but not least, if you're a professional gamer looking to buy a gaming laptop that can keep you competitive, be prepared to brown-bag your lunches for a while. That kind of high-end performance can only come from top-of-the-line components, especially in a portable package, and they don't come cheap. Plus, an emerging trend among high-end machines is a high-refresh-rate screen built into the laptop, which allows for display of lofty frame rates in full to smooth out the perceived gameplay. Note, though, that you'll need a powerful graphics chip to leverage the benefits of a high-refresh panel with demanding games. You'll be able to identify machines like these by marketing lingo touting, say, a 120Hz or 144Hz screen. (A typical display on a laptop is a 60Hz panel.)
This brings our list of the top cheap gaming laptops under $500 to a close. For those with a few more dollars to spend be sure to head over to our other guides covering the best gaming laptops for more powerful machines that will up the ante and take your gaming experience to the next level. If you’re looking for some new games to download in wait for your new machine our guides to the best free MMORPGs and best paid MMORPGs might help kill the time, or if you are an action lover our guide to the best FPS games for some trigger relaxation. Check back soon for more awesome laptop deals and gaming glory.
Most gaming laptops—including budget machines—have comfortable, deep-travel keyboards that cushion your fingers during long gaming sessions. This Dell model’s blue-backlit keyboard felt crisp, snappy, and responsive but a bit shallow to us, so it was not as comfortable after a few hours of gaming or typing as some of the other laptops we tested. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but we do prefer the feel of the keyboards on the Lenovo Y530 and Asus TUF Gaming FX504GM.
I have big hands (though I am a lady), so I am always looking for a comfortable mouse. For the past few years, I have used an expensive Logitech Performance MX. I was growing tired of having to recharge it every 2-3, and when the scroll function began misfiring, I went in search of something as comfortable, but cheaper and not quite so high-maintenance. Even though I am not a gamer, I gave this mouse a try and was majorly disappointed when I could not get my computer to fully accept this plug-and-play for some reason. Everything but the cursor worked. Otherwise, I loved the feel of this mouse in my hands and its other features. I spent literally HOURS trying to get this mouse to work and finally looked up an e-mail address for Afunta customer service. All I had to do was send a copy of my Amazon ... full review
Dell Home, via its Member Purchase Program, offers its Dell 15.6" Laptop Gaming Backpack in Black/Red for $28.49 with free shipping. That's tied with our expired mention from four days ago as the lowest price we've seen for this bag. (It's the best deal we could find now by $20.) It accommodates laptops with up to 15.6" screens and features a shock-absorbent EVA molded front shield, adjustable shoulder straps, and a deployable rain cover.