Cheap gaming laptops are as mythical as unicorns in the eyes of most gamers and finding them online can be a real chore. We spend hours of research every week scouring the web for the best gaming laptops under $500 and list them right here for anyone on the hunt for a new mobile machine. Our top level guide to the best gaming laptops of 2017 /2018 also offers an overview of all budget netbook hardware if you need to compare specs for any laptop.
With that said, it should be obvious that this laptop will appeal to those who want a beefy GPU at a fairly approachable price. But of course, no laptop is without drawbacks – the laptop is on the heavy side, weighing over six pounds (almost 3 kg), so it’s not the most portable gaming laptop available. In addition to that, the battery life is not stellar here either and some users may find the SSD a tad too small for their needs.
But we assume you want to do more than harvest potato mines and pea-shooters—you have a Steam account, and you ache to play some of the latest AAA titles: the newest rev of the Battlefield series, the latest Tom Clancy-fest, the newest iteration of Tomb Raider or Far Cry. That's where a dedicated graphics chip comes in. It's the starting point for getting serious about gaming on a notebook.
If money is no object, set your sights on the Acer Predator 21 X (if you can find one!). The madman's ultimate gaming rig comes with a pair of GTX 1080 SLI graphics cards, 64GB of RAM, a 21" curved screen, and an integrated eye tracker. There's even three hard drives — a 1TB platter drive and dual 512GB SSDs. Even better, you'll get a full complement of Cherry MX Brown keyboard switches and a custom Pelican rolling case.
John is PCMag's executive editor for hardware. A veteran of the popular tech site and magazine Computer Shopper from 1993 to 2017, he has covered just about every kind of computer gear—from the 386SX to 18-core processors—in his long tenure as an editor, a writer, and an advice columnist. He served as Computer Shopper’s editor in chief from 2008 to... See Full Bio
The laptop is powered by an 8th generation i7-8750H CPU that comes with a base clock speed of 2.2 GHz, although the turbo clock is a much more impressive 4.1 GHz. On the memory front, it combines an ample 16 GB of DDR4 RAM with a snappy 256 GB SSD. It is worth noting that there is also an empty 2.5-inch drive slot, in case that the SSD alone doesn’t offer enough storage for your needs.
The subtle graphics of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 3GB is being based on the latest Pascal-architecture, providing desktop performances to a laptop. Testing the FPS (Frames per Second) on titles such as Hitman (49 FPS); Rise of the Tomb Raider (48 FPS); Shadow of Mordor (87 FPS) and, Grand Theft Auto V (59.2 FPS), have shown no difficulties in achieving well enough FPS. Even though the FX502VM is not placed on the market with Gsync support, it does not use Optimus.
Though, as with most budget laptops, you will get a slower 5400rpm hard drive. However, seeing as more and more of us are moving over to digital copies of our games it makes sense to remove the DVD drive and replace it with a HDD caddy and a good SDD. This will allow you to reap all the major benefits that an SSD offers for gaming and day-to-day use.
Look for Intel Core i5 processors in midrange systems, with Core i7 U, HQ, and HK processors in higher-end gaming laptops. The H-series processors are higher-power, and tend to show up in bigger, thicker laptop models, while the low-power U-series chips are designed for thinner, more portable machines. They are quite different, in terms of thermal profile, as well as overall performance potential; a U-series Core i7 processor may not even have the same number of processing cores as an H-series Core i7 chip.
The large 5400 RPM mechanical hard drive is slow, but with 1TB of storage space you will be able to save tons of movies, music and files. It comes with two USB 3.1 ports and one USB 2.0 port, and it has a moderate battery life of around 6 hours. The keyboard is not backlit, but most have noted that it is comfortable to use at least. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the touchpad, with many stating a mouse is a must.
The 256GB M.2 SSD is slightly small, and it is bound to fill up soon if you have large game library, but it is blazing fast, meaning your load and boot up times will be quick. The battery life is disappointing, however, running out of juice after about 3 hours of heavy use. You will need to remain plugged in most of the time, but this shouldn’t come at much of a surprise considering its energy-sapping components.
That Owl Eye optical sensor peaks at 12,000 DPI, with the ability to fine tune until it’s just as sensitive as you like. You get plenty of buttons which can be customised to your heart’s content, while the overall responsiveness and performance definitely won our approval. As long as you don’t have dinky hands, chances are you’ll get on spiffingly with the Kone Aimo.
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.
And for those who have heard about Nvidia’s headline-grabbing “Turing” RTX graphics cards, the bad news is that the company hasn’t yet released any mobile versions of cards like the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070. For now you’ll have to stick with 10-series graphics options, though we do expect to see 20-series laptops in (hopefully early) 2019. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a deal on a current-generation gaming laptop, keep an eye on our Best Tech Deals page. As new Nvidia laptops get closer to reality, the prices of existing models are sure to fall.
A gaming laptop is constrained by its graphics processor; that’s the component that has the biggest impact on gaming performance, and you can’t upgrade it. Many cheap gaming laptops also lack either a solid-state drive or a roomy hard drive for storage, so you may have to pay extra to upgrade that later. You’ll need to put more money into keeping a budget laptop relevant in the long run—through storage and memory upgrades—than you would for a high-end gaming laptop that already has a solid-state drive and at least 16 GB of RAM (not to mention better graphics). A cheap gaming laptop is a temporary fix for a couple of years if you can’t invest in a desktop or a more expensive laptop (or if you need something that’s moderately portable).
A guide to getting the best gaming laptop under $500 can be a little tricky because of the budget constraint. But thanks to our team of experts, it’s finally here. Irrespective of whether you are a student, a household, an employee, or a developer, there is one common aspect which everyone uses their laptop for. Any guesses? Well, it is undoubtedly the gaming caliber of a laptop of which every user aspires about. Not all the laptops out in the market can be justified as a gaming machine, and not everyone can afford the expensive gaming laptops. Therefore, we have brought you the best available budget laptops in the market which are ideal for gaming along with all other day-to-day activities.
If you're looking for a cheap gaming laptop to buy, the Ideapad Y700 should be at the very top of your list. It has an amazing price-to-performance balance, one of the best of all budget laptops we've found. The Ideapad features the very fast Intel Core i7-6700HQ at 2.6 GHz, which clocks in at over 10,000 points on Geekbench. This ensures that you have plenty of CPU power to multi-task and play games on high settings. The CPU is cleverly paired with the popular NVIDIA GeForce 960M. It's currently the best mobile graphics card for people on a budget.
Traditionally gaming laptops have been three things: big, heavy, and expensive. That isn't always the case any longer, as components have gotten smaller and more portable, and increased competition has caused prices to fall quite a bit as well. You still generally get what you pay for in terms of performance and portability, but you can get a great portable 1080p machine these days for less than $1,000 — sometimes way less — which was rarely the case just one generation of hardware ago.
Of the GTX 1050 or 1050 Ti-powered laptops, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is the best-built we’ve seen so far, and it has the best battery life. It stands out in these important areas, and puts in decent gaming performances as well. It’ll manage the latest AAA games at Full HD at Medium settings, and older titles at High. Playing eSports games such as Overwatch? It won’t even break a sweat.
It’s great in all other applications, too, with smooth and reliable tracking across the board, and a shape that fit in our hands very nicely indeed. You can even adjust an array of weights for a more tailored experience. There are three zones of RGB lighting that shine bright and vividly, with effects that can be synced across the vast library of Corsair peripherals.
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.
Maintain meticulous control while gaming with this CORSAIR HARPOON mouse. This lightweight, contoured navigation device fits naturally in your hand, reducing fatigue over long periods, and the 6000 dpi optical sensor is ideal for precise movements. Preconfigured for optimum performance, this CORSAIR HARPOON mouse requires no additional software or drivers.
The processor is the heart of a PC, and in many current gaming laptops you'll find a quad-core 7th Generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU based on the Kaby Lake chipset. Intel's new 8th-generation "Coffee Lake" CPUs launched a few months back in laptops, however, so you can expect them to become the norm going forward. Many of the Coffee Lake chips you'll see in gaming laptops include two more cores (six, instead of four), bringing more overall speed and much-improved performance on multithreaded tasks, but the upside for gaming is relatively minimal.
Measuring 14.4 by 10.2 by 1 inches and weighing just 5.1 pounds, the Legion Y530 is one of the lightest and most compact gaming laptops we tested this year; it weighs more than a pound less than the Dell G7. The thin bezels surrounding the screen allow for a smaller laptop overall, and the Y530 is by far the most convenient model to slip into a bag and use on the go of all the options we considered. We also appreciate its all-black, understated design—no flashy colors, edgy angles, or ugly prints—and the comfortable matte-black material covering the palm rest.
But if you want to play new games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on ultra settings, you’re better off with a desktop or a gaming laptop with more powerful graphics. A $1,200 desktop is much more powerful, and you can easily upgrade it in the future. And if you opt for a higher-end gaming laptop, you’ll be able to crank up those graphics settings for years—rather than months—to come.
Nvidia Max-Q Design - Nvidia has teamed with laptop manufacturers to create Max-Q, a new design specification which focuses on efficiency rather than performance. Essentially downclocking Nvidia GPUs can place a powerful 1080 GPU into the 0.5-inch thick Asus ROG Zephyrus. With less power being consumed, the system is producing less heat, which means the fans aren't being used as much. That means you get a system that's cooler and quieter than your typical gaming laptop and nearly as powerful. Max-Q designed GPUs will include the 1060, 1070 and 1080 GPUs.
After picking our hardware criteria, we scoured the websites of major gaming laptop manufacturers like Acer, Alienware, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, and Samsung. We also browsed boutique makers such as Clevo, Digital Storm, iBuypower, Origin PC, and Xotic PC, but few of those sell configurations that meet our hardware criteria and budget; selecting every component can get very expensive very fast, so customizing isn’t ideal for buyers on a tight budget.
Corsair didn’t just release a product range suited for every budget oriented, as well as well high-end gamers, but they made sure that all the products don’t share a drastic difference between the price they have and the features they give. That means that whether you are buying their mid-high range K70, or their enthusiast range K95, you won’t be sacrificing on the features a lot. That is something really good, and something a lot of other companies don’t follow.