Best Gaming Laptop under 500: Going this low may be pushing it, but here’s how you can get some great entertainment on a budget
Authored by: Christopher Ridgeway | UPDATED: 9/18/2018
Best Gaming Laptop under 500: Lenovo Built High Performance 15.6 inch HD Laptop
It’s ALL about Frames. The quest for a seamless experience
So you want the best gaming laptop under 500. Some insist this feat is virtually impossible. I’m going to give it to you straight. Generally speaking, going below $500 for a gaming laptop is not the wisest decision, but that is OK. You’re on a budget and we get that, so we’re going to cover everything you need to know about diving into the world of gaming for less than half-a-grand. Because yes it can be done. You may need to adjust a few wants and needs and perhaps how and even what you play, but it can and will be done. So follow along as we go on this journey together. Because that is what this is, a journey. It’s going to take some finesse and maybe even a few hacks to protect your wallet; and in order to procure this knowledge we’re going to have to do things and go places.
What the heck makes a good gaming experience ? It’s not just beautiful imagery and cinematics; it’s making sure that those images and cinematics aren’t skipping, lagging, jolting and doing the Macarena. There is of course sound… but let’s get real we want visuals here. You can have the crappiest 8-bit audio on the planet, but if you have gorgeous visuals you shan’t shed a tear. (But seriously though, we’re not going to give you 8-bit audio.)
I’m going to give it to you straight. Generally speaking, going below $500 for a gaming laptop is not the wisest decision, but that is OK. You’re on a budget and we get that…
Graphics. Ah – yes. Graphical content is the prize we’re after. So what makes fantastic graphical content ? Well computer horsepower. But like, scientifically or whatever, what is really going on that determines whether or not your graphics experience is the creme de la creme ? If you’ve ever drawn a stick figure on the corner of each page of a notebook, you understand the concept of animation. You likely also understand intuitively that the faster you flip those pages, the smoother of an animation you’re going to get. In a nutshell, that is what it all comes down to is smoothness. There’s generally two different times during gameplay where you want things to be smooth. Number one is.. well.. always. When you’re cruising downtown L.A. or checking out the peaks of the Himalayas you want smooth beautiful graphics at all times. This is first and foremost. But there is another time when graphics are given a serious test and that is when you are battling 25 NPCs all at once or if you’re witnessing several simultaneous explosions. These are the moments when the computer has to both calculate multiple simultaneous animations and do it essentially in an instant, and in many cases even with high-end gaming computers you’re going to occasionally get some stuttering during these moments which really dampens the realism of the moment. That’s no fun. Not at all. So we’re going to take that into account too.
A lot has changed with DVDs, Blu-Rays, and the Cinema in the past few years, but in general the bare minimum cinematic experience is going to be 24 frames per second. Any drop below this is going to be very noticeable. And depending on what you’re maximum average framerate is, a drop to 30 could even be noticeable, if say, you’re averaging 60+ Our goal is going to be to take a look at laptops that play specific games at a not-so-shabby 25 frames and up.
Integrated Graphics vs. Independent Graphics
CPUs and GPUs are quite different. They are designed for very different applications. Although it is true that GPUs have advanced incredibly and their prices have come down relatively there is still a pretty serious premium to pay to get a dedicated graphics card (i.e. a processor that is dedicated specifically to processing graphics only) especially when we’re talking about miniaturized components which come installed in laptops. Just for example, I bought a Lenovo Y50 in 2015 for $1,499.99 and it was about middle-of-the-road performance packing a GTX 960M GPU with 3 gigabytes of dedicated video memory. I played games like GTA: V and Portal 2 which to be honest weren’t really that all graphically intensive, however, I was not able to play in stable fashion GTA: V on Ultra Graphics settings for instance. That being said GTA: V will play on High graphics with almost no lag in all situations on that particular laptop which was great and I loved it. But that’s a seriously pretty penny for a gaming laptop when you’re on the web searching for articles like this talking about spending less than $500 – so let me assist with removing your head from the clouds where mine was temporarily and let’s move on.
The best gaming laptop under $500
|Processor||2.3Ghz Intel i3|
|Graphics||Intel HD 520|
|Operating System||Windows 10|
|Storage||1 TB HDD|
|Battery Life||4.9 Hours|
What are the best games to play with integrated graphics ?
Having Fun on a Budget. The top 10 games for Integrated Graphics
Tweaking your setup to squeeze out even more frames per second
The first thing you are going to want to do is ensure that your Windows drivers are up-to-date. If you choose to keep your computer updated manually you can do that, however it is a good idea to keep Windows Automatic Updates turned on. In Power Settings, make sure that your power profile is set to Maximum Performance; you’ll likely want to also make sure that your laptop is plugged in when playing and in this power mode, if possible. Also, check the Intel website for driver updates for your specific graphics chipset, which in this case would be the Intel 520 HD Integrated Graphics Chipset. In the Graphics Properties Control Panel there are also a few settings options that you can tweak to increase performance:
- Set application “Optimal” Mode to “Enabled”
- Set Multi-sample anti-aliasing to “Turn-Off”
- Set Conservative Morphological Anti-Aliasing to “Override Application Settings.”
- Set General Settings to “Performance.”