Despite discouragements from time to time by hardcore gamers, it is possible to acquire a wallet friendly gaming computer. There are some great value mobile computers which you can obtain for under $500. They may not be able to fully serve the demanding needs of sophisticated RPG and FSP games released over the last two years, but a few gaming laptops under $500 can still provide enough muscle to play many of them at their lowest game settings.
What you should consider.
Being aware of what you need is very essential if you are to satisfy your gaming need. Your desktop gaming computer defines what games you play and having a laptop can be a back-up or alternative gaming station that you can bring with you on a camping trip or a visit to your friend. If you want an exact duplicate, nothing less than a high end gaming laptop will do. But if you just do casual gaming while on the road, are budget-constrained, or don’t mind using the lowest game setting for your favorite game, a more affordable laptop like those in the sub-$500 range will do.
Having said that, there is not a perfect machine in existence. Various laptops even in the same price point have different features and it is not unlikely that one has a feature the other does not have. This is just how the brands spread the appeal of their products to as wide a market as possible for a given demographics. Do you want the largest laptop screen for your money? The most powerful CPU and GPU? The largest hard disk capacity? The largest RAM? The longest battery life? Or the lightest and slimmest? You can’t have all of these unless you’re prepared to go into the $2000 plus price points. You will have to juggle them towards a compromised mix that will give you the gaming experience under $500.
Today’s dual and quad core engines can play all the games released to date with the higher clock speeds doing a better job than others. Unfortunately, for most practical purposes, manufacturers of general use laptops leave out the graphics engine or GPU since it is not as important as the CPU in most computing tasks. It is the GPU that distinguishes gaming laptops from the rest. In fact, the most expensive top of the line or flagship laptop from any consumer computer maker is almost always a gaming laptop. That’s because apart from video editing, the most resource-intensive consumer application for a computer comes from games. Not just any game, but games like Battlefield 3, Crysis 3 Metro 2033, Alan Wake or Max Payne 3.
A screen which is 15” should serve you well but a 17” would be better. Just be aware that prices go up with the screen size with all things equal. Nearly all laptop screens sport a widescreen (16:9) aspect ratio and high definition starting at 1366 x 768 to full 1920 x 1080, with 1600 x 900 as the most common among 17-inch screens. Also be aware that your laptop’s gaming muscle will also depend on the resolution.
Indeed the limiting factor for a laptop to be a gaming laptop is GPU. They provide the computational processing muscle that renders the polygonal shapes and colors that paint the images frame by frame on your monitor. The higher the screen resolution, the more computing demands are placed on the GPU. A good GPU should at least be able to paint at around 30 frames per second (fps) so that no image judder or puttering can get you to miss the action and fail in your scoring.
It is unlikely you will find midrange GPU cards under $500. Our threshold is the Intel HD Graphics 4000 which is quite common at this price point and lower but still has enough juice to satisfy a casual gamer who don’t mind using a lower game setting for some of the more demanding games released since 2011/2012.
Hard disk storage is another area to consider. Solid state drives are great for a diminished weight and slimmer body but you rarely will find them at this price point. A 500GB capacity is quite common in the SATA standard, followed by 750 GB drives. In addition, there is now an increasing trend to forego with optical drives but gamers who download games or use USB drives shouldn’t worry.
Just like at any price point, there are good and not-so-good laptops. Finding a gaming laptop at the sub-$500 point can be a real challenge. But guided by our threshold GPU, here are few great value laptops at this price point that can satisfy a casual gamer.
HP Pavilion G7-2238nr
At $478.31, the HP Pavilion G7-2238nr sports a large 17.3” LED-backlit display with 1600 x 900 resolution that makes for a superlative HD video watching experience. Powered by the AMD Dual core A6-4400M clocked at 2.7 GHz and supported by a 4 GB DDR RAM, this laptop comes with its own separate AMD Radeon HD 7520G graphic engine which is about 11% faster than the Intel HD Graphics 4000 – our minimum threshold to be considered a gaming laptop. It provides above average gaming abilities for some of the sophisticated FPS games and RPGs on the market at low to medium setting while some like Fifa 12/13, Diablo 3 and Counter Strike: Go can be played in their highest game settings..
Discounted to $489.99 from its $549.99 regular price, the HP Pavilion G7-2220us sports a 17.3-inch LED-backlit LCD display driven by a discrete AMD Radeon HD 7520 GPU with its own 2GB graphic memory. Best recommended for the casual gamer who don’t mind playing some of the most demanding games released in 2010-12 in low to medium game settings, this pavilion is powered by the AMD dual core A6-4400M clocked at 2.7GHz and a system RAM of 4 GB DDR3. It comes with a 500GB SATA drive and DVD writer/readers housed in a 6.6-lb body.
Slightly more able than the Pavilion G7-222us is the Acer Aspire V3-551-8469 thanks to a 10% beefier AMD Radeon HD 7640G graphics engine with its own 512MB video RAM that drives its 15.6-inch LED backlit screen with 1366 x 768 HD resolution. Despite a cheaper $439.91, it is powered by a more muscled AMD quad core A8-4500M clocked at 1.9GHz and a 4GB SDRAM. It is likewise recommended for casual PC gamers who don’t mind playing RPG and FSP games released 2010 onwards at low to medium game settings that will not maximize its HD screen resolution. Read our in depth review on Acer Aspire V3-551-8469 best gaming laptop under 500.