Highest gaming performance:
Good gaming laptops under $500 are not abundant, but there are some laptops that are more suitable for gaming and have some advantages over others. Currently, the highest gaming performance for this price range is with an I5 and a GT 940M or Radeon M370 (you’ll find the DDR3 version only). This means low-midrange gaming performance, usually more adequate for 1366×768 resolution than 1080p, but it depends on the game ofcourse.
Sometimes, however, refurbished or pre-owned laptops are available for such a price with a significantly higher gaming performance. For example, the Lenovo Y50 was selling for $500 pre-owned from Cowboom, with no warranties but with free return policy.
However, the problem is usually the lower end display quality, in my opinion. Models with a higher grade display are starting to show up.
- The new Acer E5-575G 15.6″ via Amazon (link) or Newegg (link, HDD, not SSD) for $550. New Acer’s budget gaming laptop, upgraded from previous models with a GT 940MX GPU (GDDR5), 256GB SSD, I5-6200U CPU and 1080p display (TN). It also includes a USB 3.1 type-C port (3.1 gen1). In comparison to the GT 940M competitors, the 940MX GDDR5 performs considerably faster for gaming, up to 50% faster than a 940M.
- HP Pavilion 15, (15.6″, $500-$550) is now offered with the new Skylake I5-6200U CPU, Nvidia GT 940M 2GB GPU, 6GB RAM, 1080p IPS display an 1TB HDD for $520 before taxes. Keyboard quality should be OK and so is the sound quality.
newAcer E5-573G 15.6″ (Review) via Newegg or Amazon with GT 940M, I5-5200U, 8GB RAM, 1TB SSHD and a mediocre 1080p display. Keyboard is not good, but thermals are ok and it’s the fastest for 3D under $500 currently.
- Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga (14.0″, $400-$450) 14.0″, with GT 840M, I5-4210U, 1080p IPS display, 1TB SSHD for $450, pre-owned, for those who want to give it try and get a slim and lightweight laptop like this. That’s a small bet to take and it is possible that you’ll have to send it back.
The two best options are above $500, so I would suggest waiting for some other deal or bite it and get another $50-$100 for one of the $500-$600 gaming laptops and getting one of the more interesting options.
Well, as you see, you can usually expect an average FPS of around 20-25FPS for very high settings@768p with a GPU like the GT 940M and even on medium settings in a game like World of Tanks, the system will struggle. So, the suitable graphics settings will be probably low-midrage@768p.
Saving money – 400$ gaming laptop
There are many options refurbished or used with warranty on eBay – link. The links will lead you to search with laptops with an A8-4500M/A10-4600M or A10-5750M. The last two come with a pretty good integrated GPU. If you can snatch those for like $300, then it’s a good deal for very light gamers. The A10s come with an integrated GPU that comes close to ome $500-$600 current offerings, that’s why I’m suggesting those.