The Best Budget Gaming Laptops Under $500 of 2018 (Top 10 Choices)

As a solid in-between price point, notebooks in the $400 – $499 range start to feature higher end specs and extra features. Below we break down eight different models perfect for nearly any gamer.

For dedicated WoW or DOTA 2 players, you can get everything you need without emptying your bank account. These computers won’t let you play AAA shooters on high settings, but they will get most games up and running at a stable frame rate.

Ready to see what’s available? Let’s get started finding the best gaming laptop under 500!

Picking the best gaming laptop under 500

The main draw of going to this price range is avoiding the need to pick a refurbished model. You can find great machines for work / school or casual gaming without having to buy something that was previously used.

A portable computer with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD will be pretty standard when staying in the $400 – $499 range. The major differences between models will be in processor speed, screen types, number of ports, and keyboard layout.

Do you prefer a touch screen over a standard display? Want a laptop with an off-center touchpad instead of directly beneath the keyboard? Need an HDMI port for an external monitor?

These questions will help you narrow down the contenders to find your perfect gaming laptop. What’s perfect for a Sims player may not be as helpful for someone who prefers graphics-intensive RTS games, for instance.

Keep in mind you still won’t start to see quality graphics cards for serious gaming until moving up to the next price bracket.

Want a smoother graphical experience on higher settings? Check out our roundups of the best gaming laptops under $600, under $700 or under $1,000 instead.

Monkey’s  cheat sheet

Top pick

2018 Lenovo 330

The current best gaming laptop available for under five hundred is easily the 2018 Lenovo 330. With an 8th gen processor, 8GB of system memory, and an Intel 620 graphics chip, you won’t find better specs for casual gaming.

Although you miss out on a faster booting solid state drive, the 330 also comes with a spacious 17 inch display. You won’t find many other laptops in this price range that will serve as a full desktop replacement.

The contenders for best cheap gaming laptops under $500

1. 2018 Lenovo 330

  • Bigger screen
  • Better resolution
  • Best processor at this price range
  • Heavier model
  • Slower booting with no SSD
  • No touch screen

Should this be your choice?

Want the biggest screen and best processor for a stunning visual experience without spending more than $500? This should be your pick for the best gaming laptop!

Right now, Lenovo’s got the top of the line specs when it comes to best budget laptops for games and school.

The 8th gen i5-8250U processor simply blows away the competition. That’s particularly important for a notebook where you can’t upgrade the processor in a few  years.

8GB of RAM and the Intel 620 graphics chip are standard for this price point, but there is another major upside here. At a full 17.3 inches, this is one the biggest screens you’ll find for a cheap gaming laptop.

The Lenovo 300 is also significantly lighter and thinner than many other 17” models. Keep in mind that it’s still heavier than your average 15” notebook though, so portability may be a problem.

Other than potential issues with the size and weight, there’s really only one single downside here. The 5400RPM SATA hard drive just can’t match the speeds of the newer solid state drives.

For gamers who bought this model, the key feature is the processor speed and low power consumption. The compact keyboard that doesn’t sacrifice the 10 key setup is another major feature.

Reviewers also frequently mention that the up and down arrows are compacted into one space to save room. If you frequently use those keys, that may make for awkward typing and retraining your fingers.

Hardware specifications for 2018 Lenovo 330
Processor(Intel Core i5-8250U Processor 1.6 – 3.40GHz)
RAM8RB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620
Display17.3-Inch HD Display, 1600 x 900 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight6.61 lbs

2. 2018 Flagship Dell Inspiron 15.6″

  • Touch screen
  • Faster booting with SSD
  • Smaller storage capacity
  • Weaker graphics capability

Should this be your choice?

Are you willing to give up a chunk of storage space in order to get the fastest performance? This laptop should be your pick, especially if you want a touch screen display!

Dell’s 2018 flagship model has a less powerful processor and a lower end integrated graphics chip than the previous contender. So why would you ever go with this model over the Lenovo 330?

You do get a touch screen here, but plenty of other models at this price tier offer the same functionality. For this contender, it’s all about the blazing fast solid state drive.

SSDs just simply outperform their older HDD counterparts in nearly every way. They are quieter, faster, and tend to last much longer before going out.

Keep in mind the reduced storage capacity of an SSD, however! A significant chunk of that 128GB of space is taken up by Windows 10, so you don’t have a ton of room to install large games.

You do have a couple of viable options to overcome that particular issue. Using a cloud-based data backup service helps with storing data, or you could spend a little more and upgrade to a 256GB SSD.

Although it has a smaller screen than the Lenovo, you get better battery life in exchange. This model is also nice and lightweight for easy carrying around campus or to and from work.

Buyers regularly noted that this laptop model runs quietly thanks to the SSD and discrete fan. Reviewers frequent brought up the reliably stable wireless connection, which is often a problem with budget notebooks.

Hardware specifications for 2018 Flagship Dell Inspiron 15.6″
ProcessorAMD A6-9200 (2.4GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4
Storage128GB SSD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R4
Display15.6-Inch HD Touch Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life7 hours
Weight4.85 lbs

3. 2018 HP 15.6″ Touch Screen Laptop

  • Low price
  • Touch screen
  • Slower HDD
  • No power indicator light

Should this be your choice?

Don’t care about getting a quieter SSD and just want more storage space without giving up the touch screen functionality? This laptop should easily be your pick!

HP’s touch screen model features very similar specs to the flagship Dell Inspiron, and even has slightly better graphics. There’s a trade off to be made in exchange for that Intel 620 graphics chip, however.

You get the older hardware of a 1TB HDD with this machine, which adds noise and reduces boot speed. If you want more storage space right of of the box though, then this is the way to go.

For a notebook at this low a price, you also don’t get any bloatware, which is a serious anomaly. Most laptops under $500 will come laden with “trial” software you don’t need or startup programs that cause slow downs.

While they love the features available at this price, buyers often bring up the lack of a power indicator light. It’s an odd oversight in the design, as many users end up pressing the power button repeatedly thinking it hasn’t started booting up.

Hardware specifications for 2018 HP 15.6″ Touch Screen Laptop
ProcessorIntel Core i3-7100U (2.40 GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 620
Display15.6-Inch HD Touch Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life7 hours
Weight4.6 lbs

4. Acer Aspire E15 High Performance

  • Higher screen resolution
  • Light weight with great processor speed
  • No touch screen
  • No optical drive
  • Odd power button placement

Should this be your choice?

Don’t care for touch screen models and just want the standard touchpad instead? This notebook should be your pick! If you don’t mind spending a bit more, the upgraded version of this model is easily the best option for gaming.

For gamers who don’t care about the extra functionality of a touch screen, this is an excellent contender to consider.

While you lose out on the touch screen, you actually get a higher resolution display. For the best visual fidelity in watching YouTube vids or playing League Of Legends, you can’t go wrong here.

This model also follows the modern trend of ditching the optical drive entirely to save space. For most gamers that’s not a problem, since USB flash drives are more helpful than single use CDs.

If you absolutely need a DVD-RW drive, you may want to check out one of the other notebooks in our roundup.

The most frequent complaint from buyers is that the power button is strangely placed in the top-right corner of the keyboard.

This placement shifts around the other keys, which means you have to get used to a non-standard layout. It’s also possible to accidentally turn off the laptop while trying to hit the 10 keys with your pinky.

For an extra $30, this same model is available with an SSD instead of an HDD. You also get a dedicated graphics card with 2GB of memory, rather than pulling from the system RAM.

You will need to go above the $500 limit to get those features, but the changes are well worth the price if you can afford the upgrade.

Hardware specifications for Acer Aspire E15 High Performance
ProcessorIntel Core i7-7500 (2.7GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics
Display15.6-Inch Full HD Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life6 hours
Weight4.92 lbs

5. Lenovo IdeaPad 15.6 Inch HD Laptop

  • More RAM
  • Good graphics for price range
  • Loud fans
  • Slower HDD
  • Off center touchpad

Should this be your choice?

Want to start with more RAM instead of needing to upgrade the memory later? This should be your pick for the best cheap gaming laptop!

Although similar in price to the other machines listed here, the IdeaPad has vastly different specs and design. With the change in hardware, this laptop may be more useful for your needs.

Another standard screen model without touch functionality, this Lenovo model starts with more RAM out of the box. When dealing with integrated graphics that draw on the system memory, that’s a boon for gamers that offers better performance.

Like with most of the other contenders in our roundup, you still get the slower HDD design here. Budgeting to upgrade to an SSD later on will give you even faster speeds, and reduce the noise levels.

That may not hurt the bank account as much as you’d expect. This notebook typically goes for a good deal less than the full $499 price, and frequently goes on sale.

Buyers most frequently mention the increased RAM for this price range and the addition of the full numeric keypad. There is an odd design choice to keep in mind, however, that could be a deal breaker.

For some reason the touchpad isn’t centered to the keyboard and is instead placed off to the left. That makes it very easy to accidentally click when you didn’t mean to, or to left click when you meant to right click.

The IdeaPad features internal Bluetooth for wireless devices though, so that’s not a problem if you want to use an external mouse.

Hardware specifications for Lenovo IdeaPad 15.6 Inch HD Laptop
ProcessorAMD A12-9720P (2.7GHz)
RAM12GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R7
Display15.6-Inch Widescreen HD Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5.5 hours
Weight4.85 lbs

6. Top Performance Dell Inspiron

  • Touch screen
  • DVD-RW Drive
  • Low price
  • Slower HDD
  • Off center touchpad

Should this be your choice?

Want to save yourself some serious cash while still getting a touch screen and decent graphical capability? This laptop should be your first pick!

When you need to save money instead of getting faster hardware, this Dell model has you covered.

You get a different configuration here than with the flagship Dell Inspiron model listed above. Rather than a smaller solid state drive, this Inspiron includes the standard 1TB HDD.

While the hard drive is louder and slower, the Intel 620 is essentially the best graphics chip you can get before jumping above $500.

If price is your biggest concern, this one features the lowest starting price at just over the $430 mark. For that price you still get a touchscreen, which can be worth giving up the SSD.

There is a potential issue to keep in mind here if you are using this for both work and gaming. The Inspiron is another model with the left-of-center touchpad placement, which is often cited as the main complaint by buyers.

With the touchpad off center from the keyboard, you may just end up using the touch screen more often than the pad.

Hardware specifications for Top Performance Dell Inspiron
ProcessorIntel Core i3-7100U (2.4GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 620
Display15.6-Inch HD Touch Screen Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5.5 hours
Weight5.07 lbs

7. Lenovo 15.6’’ Signature Laptop

  • DVD-RW drive
  • No bloatware
  • Highest price
  • Driver issues with wireless card

Should this be your choice?

Looking for a cheap gaming laptop with absolutely no bloatware and a DVD-RW drive? This should be your pick!

This particular Lenovo will run you the full $499 of your budget, although you can find it with free shipping pretty easily. What all do you get for that premium cost?

First off, this one still includes an optical drive, which are becoming increasingly rare at any price point.

This model is part of Lenovo’s signature edition line, which features absolutely no bloatware. That’s right, there are no 3rd party trial software or memory-eating startup programs at all!

Although it costs more, you can save quite a bit of time by going with a signature edition. You won’t have to spend the afternoon removing programs or immediately performing a clean install of Windows.

On the gaming front, the processor is slightly slower than with several other contenders. Between the 8GB of RAM and the Radeon R7 graphics though, you’ll be playing titles like Sims 4 or CS:GO without any problems.

Unfortunately you don’t get the full 1920 x 1080 screen resolution here. Lenovo’s signature edition instead features a 1366 x 768 pixel display that is typically found on lower resolution touch screen models.

Buyers often discuss liking the well designed keyboard with quiet keys, but nearly all of them mentioned frequent wi-fi connection issues. Be sure to update the wireless card driver as soon as you get through the Windows setup process to eliminate that issue.

Hardware specifications for Lenovo 15.6” Signature Laptop
ProcessorAMD FX-7500 (2.10 – 3.30 GHz)
RAM8GB DDR3 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R7
Display15.6-Inch HD Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight5.15 lbs

8. ASUS X541UA-WB51T-RD

  • Very lightweight
  • Red design
  • Touch screen
  • High price
  • No optical drive
  • No M.2 slot for upgrading to SSD

Should this be your choice?

Want a striking red design on your budget gaming laptop and still get a touch screen? This should be your pick!

Within this price range you aren’t going to find RGB backlit keyboards or flashy designs. You don’t have to get a boring laptop that looks more suited for work than gaming, however!

This ASUS model gets you a little closer to a gaming aesthetic with a red brushed metallic finish and chiclet-style keyboard.

There’s also both a VGA and an HDMI port on the side of the laptop. That means you get plenty of options for hooking up to external displays if you want a bigger viewing area.

If you intend to upgrade down the line, the X541UA only features a single 8GB stick of RAM. That’s actually a positive feature, because the motherboard has one completely open and free memory slot.

With a free slot, it’s cheaper to upgrade to 16GB of memory later by purchasing just one extra 8GB stick instead of two.

While you get plenty of room to upgrade and a touch screen, there is one design flaw to keep in mind. Several reviewers have mentioned issues with the lower-left section of the touch screen continuously tapping even when it isn’t directly touched.

The issue seems to be related to the raised keypad design. To overcome this problem, be prepared to use an thin sheet to protect the screen when the lid is closed, or instead tighten the screws on the screen bezel.

Hardware specifications for ASUS X541UA-WB51T-RD
ProcessorIntel i5-7200U (2.5 GHz – 3.1GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 620
Display15.6-Inch HD Touch Screen Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight4.4 lbs

What are the downsides to laptops in this price range?

When you go above $400, you are no longer scraping the bottom of the laptop barrel. You don’t need to sacrifice nearly as much on the hardware specs to save extra money.

That being said, manufacturers are still going to cut corners in some ways here. For the absolute cutting edge of hardware, you need to look at a higher price bracket.

While you can find a decent gaming rig at this price, you can’t expect to get all the features of more expensive notebooks.

Most notably, you generally won’t find backlit keyboards or any extra bells and whistles aimed at the gaming crowd. The multi-quadrant RGB lighting typical of gaming machines just aren’t available without increasing the price.

Don’t expect to get much in the way of overclocking support or high end speaker sound quality, either.

This is also the upper limit of the price range where you will see laptops without 1920 x 1080 screen resolutions. If you want the best HD visuals for streaming videos or playing games, you may need to bump up to a higher price tier.

What sort of graphics card should I expect for under $500?

All of the contenders listed here have respectable offerings in terms of RAM and processor speeds. Unfortunately, laptops at this price will still suffer on the graphics front.

You will have to deal with integrated motherboard graphics if you aren’t willing to go any higher on the price tag. Dedicated laptop graphics cards like the 940MX and MX150 won’t typically show up in this price range at all.

Because the graphics cards are on the lower end, it’s important to get the best you possibly can while staying within budget.

Unless you get something in return like an SSD, anything beneath the Intel HD 620 or Radeon R7 should be out of the running. The Radeon R4 or Intel 500 series just aren’t up to snuff for this price range.

You won’t be able to run newer games at high settings with laptops in this price range. With an HD 620 and 8GB of RAM you can expect to play CS:GO, GTA V, and League Of Legends, however.

Can I save even more money and still get a gaming laptop?

We scoured the web to find the best deals available and cover every possible range of specs in this price range. It is possible to get even lower prices if you are willing to play the waiting game.

In particular, be on the lookout for clearance models while browsing Amazon or manufacturer websites.

Previous year’s models tend to drop in price as new machines come out, so you can end up with higher specs for the same price. Previous year editions don’t stay at that price for long, but you can save a bundle if you keep an eye out for a deal.

That isn’t the only way to lower the price, either. In some cases you can save yourself $100 and still get the exact same specs by going with a refurbished model.

Want to see what’s available at that lower price range? Check out our list of best gaming laptops under $400 right here.

Great gaming at a low price

What did you think of our picks for the absolute best gaming laptops under $500? Let us know which of these machines you intend on buying!

Be sure to also drop a line if you find any other killer deals on gaming rigs we need to know about

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