Highest gaming performance:
However, the problem is usually the lower end display quality, in my opinion. Better 1080p screens start to appear in the $600 range and you should consider adding $50-$100 and getting one of gaming laptops under $600 options (check here to see recommendations).
Sometimes you can find the new Lenovo Y40-80 for around $600, consider that.
1. [Price has jumped up] The new Acer E5-573G 15.6″ (Review) with GT 940M, I5-5200U, 8GB RAM, 1TB SSHD and a lousy 768p display (replaceable though). Keyboard is not good, but thermals are ok and it’s the fastest for 3D under $500 currently.
2. Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14 14.0″, with GT 840M, I5-4210U, 1080p IPS display, 1TB SSHD for $450, pre-owned
3. [Refurbished] Refurbished Acer/Asus laptops with a GT 840M and an I5 CPU (like I5-4200U or I5-5200U). Usually good deals.
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.
If you are restricted to $500 tops, I would wait for some deal on the Acer V5 (was selling for $470-$500 for a week or two) or on the HP 15z-j100. The laptops in this list, however, are the fastest you’ll get for such a price.
(???) What can you do with such a configuration? Most games on medium settings at least and too few on high settings – CS:GO, Torchlight 2, F1 2012, CoD: Modern Warfare 3, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Dirt 3 and more. See how the Radeon 7660G manages Skyrim and or how the 7670M handles Skyrim too on high setting. Note: You could get some 20%-30% higher performance with the 600$ gaming laptops offers currently.
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.