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Best Gaming Laptop under $500 in 2013

Updated on March 4, 2013
aa lite profile image

aa lite is a self-confessed geek and gamer fanatic who has put together her own gaming rigs for the past 15 years.

This Samsung Series 5 laptop is an amazing bargain at Amazon.com
This Samsung Series 5 laptop is an amazing bargain at Amazon.com | Source

Find a Cheap Gaming Laptop

Until recently playing modern computer games on a PC was not really worth the effort. The problems with fitting the powerful processors and graphics cards into a laptop frame, and of getting rid of the generated heat, meant that only beasts like alienware laptops, with a hefty price to match their size, were up to the job.

Options for Gaming Laptops under $500, Intel HD 4000 or Dedicated Graphics Card?

However laptops have come a long way. With more efficient Ivy Bridge processors and better cooling solutions, laptop gaming is no longer restricted to the undemanding rich. A major development was the appearance of Intel HD 4000 graphics. Before that an integrated graphics processor was anathema to gaming. In games such as Battlefield 3 or StarCraft2 the HD 4000 graphics processor produced a 30% improvement in framerates over the previous Intel HD 3000 processor, although it performed 30% less well than the Nvidia GT 630M card.

One of the problems with integrated graphics, is that their performance depends a lot on other components, the processor and the RAM, You will not find a budget laptop with the top i7-core processor, but it is possible to find gaming laptops under $500 for with the newest Ivy Bridge i5-core processors. An alternative is to buy computers powered by the cheaper AMD with Radeon graphic cards.

500 dollars will not buy you a computer capable of playing graphics intensive FPS games on the highest settings, but if you are happy to play less intensive games, such as Skyrim or CoD Modern Warfare 3, Dirt 3 or Deus Ex on medium settings there is quite a lot of choice of gaming laptops under $500.

Below are some examples of the best budget gaming computers.

Acer Aspire V3-571G-6407 15.6-Inch Laptop (Black)
Acer Aspire V3-571G-6407 15.6-Inch Laptop (Black)

- Processor: Ivy Bridge Core i5-3210M 2.5 GHz

- Graphics: Nvidia 630M

- Ram: 4 GB DDR3

-Storage: 500 GB SATA 5400 RPM Hard Drive

-Screen: 15.6" 1366x768 pixels

 

Budget Gaming Laptop with Nvidia 630M Graphics

This Acer Aspire laptop has a dedicated Nvidia 630M graphics card matched with the newest generation Core i5-3210M 2.5 GHz processor and 4 MB of RAM. These impressive (for its price) specs allow it to cope admirably with games such as, Dirt 3, Diablo3 and Battlefield 3, although more demanding games are only playable at low settings.

Performance in non-gaming applications is also excellent. On the negative side, many users were not impressed with the quality build of the computer. It might not be the best laptop if you plan to cart it around with you all the time. The black top is also a serious fingerprint magnet, although that can be solved by covering it with a nice laptop skin.

The computer comes with windows 8 pre-installed, which some people really like, but others totally hate.

Samsung Series 5 NP500P4C-S02US 14-Inch Laptop
Samsung Series 5 NP500P4C-S02US 14-Inch Laptop

-Processor: Core i5-3210M 2.5 GHz

-Graphics Card: Nvidia GT 630M

-RAM: 4GB DDR3

-Storage: 500GB SATA (5400 rpm)

-Screen 14" 1366x768 pixels

 

A Samsung Series 5 Nvidia GT 630M Laptop Under 500

The price of this Samsung laptop varies over time at Amazon. I have seen it occasionally sold for under $500, which is a great bargain for a computer powered by the newest generation Ivy Bridge Core-i5 processor and dedicated Nvidia GT 630M graphics. However this low price is not constant, so you have to be willing to wait to bag yourself a bargain.

The GT630 M is one of Nvidia's mid-range laptop GPUs, it has no problems running older games such as Starcraft II or CoD Black Ops on high detail, but more demanding games such as Skyrim will require medium or low settings to achieve fluent frame rates.

The smaller 14" 1366x768 pixels screen of the Samsung might put off some players who would like HD displays, but it is easier to get good performance from graphics cards on smaller screens and it makes the Samsung more portable.

Be aware that the Samsung Series 5 NP500P4C-S02US comes with a lot of bloatware (useless startup programs that manufactures sadly like to saddle laptops with), which makes its initial startup times annoyingly slow. A ruthless cull of the software at the beginning will save you from frustrating waits later on.

The installed operating system is Windows 8, which seems to elicit extreme reactions in people, some love it but others hate with a passion.

Acer Aspire V3-551-8469 15.6-Inch Laptop (Midnight Black)
Acer Aspire V3-551-8469 15.6-Inch Laptop (Midnight Black)

-ProcessorA-Series Quad-Core A8-4500M 1.9 GHz

-Graphics Radeon HD 7640G

-15.6" screen 1366x768

-RAM: 4 GB SDRAM

-Storage:500 GB SATA (5400 rpm)

 

Best AMD-Based Budget Gaming Laptop

AMD processors and graphics are often considered the budget gamer's best friends. True, most people consider Intel processors to be more powerful than AMD, and Nvidia graphic cards to perform better than Radeon, but because the latter components are very competitively priced, you can end up with a more powerful machine if you are on a very tight budget.

The Acer Aspire V3-551-8469 runs on a A sees Quad Core A8 1.9 Ghz processor and an HD 7640G graphics card. The GPU doesn't have its dedicated memory, but uses the 4 GB system RAM. Upgrading the memory to a faster 8 GB is one quick way to improve its performance. But even out of the box, it will run games with playable FPS.

A reviewer on Amazon.com notes that it played every game from his steam collection, and only Star Wars The Old Republic required him to turn down the graphic detail.

Some reviewers have noticed a problem with the touchpad on these laptops, with one user saying he was forced to disable it and use a mouse, which you would do anyway for gaming, but might be a problem when surfing the web or using it for non-gaming work.

Of course the Acer Aspire comes with Windows8 pre-installed, and requires removal of bloatware before use.

Acer Aspire V5-571-6806 an Intel HD 4000 Graphics Laptop

If you don't really like playing graphics intensive games, then you might consider a laptop with integrated Intel HD4000 graphics. the HD 4000 is a big improvement over the previous HD 3000 chip, it is DirectX 11 capable, and fully capable of playing the less demanding games.

The Acer V5-571-6806 is a very good desktop replacement laptop for this price range. It comes with a 3rd generation Intel Core i5 processor, 6 GB of DDR3 RAM and a 750 HDD. The screen is a spacious 15.6" running at a resolution of 1366×768, although full HD movies will have to be shrunk, the lower resolution will not challenge the graphics chip as much, allowing for smoother gameplay.

This Acer Aspire was the Editor's Choice at PC Magazine for budget laptops.

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    • aa lite profile image
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      aa lite 4 years ago from London

      For gaming I would definitely go with a desktop PC as my first choice.....but people sometimes really want a laptop for non-gaming reasons. I actually have a macbook air laptop, and really like it, but if I was choosing a computer, primarily for gaming I would go for a windows machine. And you will always get more bang for your buck with a desktop so..........

    • aa lite profile image
      Author

      aa lite 4 years ago from London

      Thanks, to be honest it was difficult to find good examples. I guess it really matters what games you like to play, if you want to play not very demanding ones, and don't mind not having the settings at ultra (the ultra settings don't make that much of a difference anyway), these laptops would be a good choice.

    • angelinaward profile image

      angelinaward 4 years ago

      Great review - thanks for such covering so many options