To play the latest generation video games, many users prefer to focus on traditional desktop PCs, where it is possible to personally choose the internal components and the video card on which to focus to get the most out of each game. Laptops dedicated to work or study rarely have the performance to be able to withstand the latest generation games, since they are designed to respond to other characteristics (very low weight, total silence and long-lasting battery), so special gaming laptops were born. .
In this article you will find our selection of the best gaming laptops of 2021 chosen from the most powerful and innovative models available on the market, created to satisfy even the most demanding gamers.
As a rule, gaming laptops are extreme in weight, size and consumption, but in our ranking we have also included more versatile models that are better suited to a mixed use game / study / work. If we want to play our favorite video games when we are away from home and cannot access the desktop computer, it is possible to consider purchasing a gaming notebook. These laptops can replace any computer in an excellent way for other activities: we can use them to study, to make video calls or to open very heavy programs (just think of CAD programs, photo editing programs or video editing programs), which they hardly get the power they need from laptops labeled ultrathin.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for a laptop to play but don’t want to give up the compactness factor, we recommend that you take a look at our guide dedicated to the best gaming laptops
Best Gaming Laptop Under $ 500
In the list you will find models that have the latest generation motherboards and SSDs. Inside you can find Intel Comet Lake refresh CPUs
Today it is no longer necessary to opt for a gaming PC to obtain valid performance, as some of the best laptops in our ranking can easily replace them, also offering a good mix of components, appearance and size.
Among the models present in the ranking, some are characterized by a purely “game” design, while other models, albeit very powerful, retain a sober appearance that makes them excellent also for the workplace or for mixed use.
In the following guide you can find a complete overview of the best gaming laptop models , so you can play at any time of the day even when the desktop computer in the room or bedroom is busy and we need to complete the multiplayer gaming session. with friends or a particularly demanding job from the point of view of hardware resources.
Best Gaming Laptop Under $ 500 | Comparison Table 2021
|2021 Acer Aspire 1 15.6" FHD Laptop Computer, Intel Celeron N4020 Processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC, 1 Year Office 365, Intel UHD Graphics 600, Webcam, HDMI, Win 10 S, Black, 128GB SnowBell USB Card||Acer||Check Price|
|Newest_Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 inch FHD Touch Convertible 2 in 1 Laptop PC, AMD Ryzen 3 4300U (Beat Intel Core i3-8145U), 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Webcam, WiFi, Bluetooth, 1-Week Shoxlab Support, Win10 S||SHOXLAB||Check Price|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 15 15.6" Laptop, 15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080) Display, AMD Ryzen 5 5600H Processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, 8GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB SSD Storage, Windows 10H, 82K20015US, Shadow Black||Lenovo||Check Price|
|HP 14 Laptop, AMD Ryzen 5 5500U, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD Storage, 14-inch Full HD Display, Windows 10 Home, Thin & Portable, Micro-Edge & Anti-Glare Screen, Long Battery Life (14-fq1021nr, 2021)||HP||Check Price|
|DERE Laptop with Fingerprint Reader 15.6" Laptop Computer with Full-Size Backlit Keyboard Intel Celeron N5095 Processor 12GB DDR4+256GB SSD, 1920x1080 FHD Windows 10, 5G WiFi, USB 3.0 MBook M11 Red||DERE||Check Price|
|Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14" Laptop, 14.0" FHD 1920 x 1080 Display, AMD Ryzen 5 3500U Processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB SSD, AMD Radeon Vega 8 Graphics, Narrow Bezel, Windows 10, 81W0003QUS, Abyss Blue||Lenovo||Check Price|
|2021 Newest HP Stream 14-inch HD Laptop, Intel N4020 up to 2.8 G, 4G RAM, 128G Space(64G eMMC+64G NorthTech SD), WiFi, Webcam, Bluetooth, HDMI, Windows 10 S, Office 365 Personal 1 Year, Indigo Blue||HP||Check Price|
|Newest Flagship ASUS VivoBook E12, 11.6" HD (1366 x 768), Intel Celeron N3060, 4 GB LPDDR4, 64GB eMMC, Intel HD Graphics 500, Windows 10 Home in S Mode, L203NADS04, with KWALICABLE Accessory Bundle||ASUS||Check Price|
|2020 ASUS VivoBook 15 15.6 Inch FHD 1080P Laptop (AMD Ryzen 3 3200U up to 3.5GHz, 16GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB SSD, AMD Radeon Vega 3, Backlit Keyboard, FP Reader, WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI, Windows 10) (Grey)||ASUS||Check Price|
Best Gaming Laptop Under $ 500 | 2021 Products Overview And Guide
Laptops intended for gaming have decidedly different characteristics compared to laptops intended for other uses: first of all they almost never have a design devoted to aesthetics (they are not ugly, but they do not have the sinuous lines of ultra-light laptops or MacBooks) and this is also due to the high power they must release: since the processors and video chips integrated inside require space and a much more powerful ventilation system (to avoid dangerous overheating).
Among the outstanding features stand out a very powerful processor (with automatic overclocking), a video chip derived from a discrete video card (with dedicated video memory), a considerable amount of RAM (always greater than 8 GB), a FullHD screen with anti-glare technology and enhanced refresh rate, an SSD or an M.2 fast as storage space, dedicated cooling system (with copper heatsinks and larger fans) and Dual Band Wi-Fi connection (with support for the new Wi-Fi protocol -Fi 6, which guarantees greater performance).
Other minor features of these laptops are the presence of an HD webcam, a built-in microphone, an HDMI socket, a DisplayPort output, a backlit keyboard, an ultra-sensitive touchpad, numerous USB 3.1 ports (also Type-C), a Bluetooth connection module. and battery with a minimum autonomy of 5 hours. The minor features are not always available on all laptops, but if they are present they represent a plus that does not hurt, especially if it concerns expandability (always very limited on laptops).
Obviously when we focus on these notebook models we must forget some of the comforts we were used to with traditional laptops : the weight of these models is in fact much higher (even over 2 kg), making them unwieldy during transport; the general noise is much higher, given that the processor and the video chip work at high frequencies (similar to those seen on desktop PCs) and the fan is heard much more often to keep the “hot spirits” of all internal components.
On all computers there is Windows 10 as an operating system: it can be upgraded to Windows 11 without problems, since the new generation laptops fully comply with the technical characteristics required by Microsoft to carry out the update.
Choosing the best laptop for gaming: main features
- Screen. Size, resolution, and refresh rate are all things that can impact your gaming experience. Do you want to prioritize a high resolution or high refresh rate screen, or are you planning to use an external monitor?
- CPU and GPU. Compare component specifications such as number of cores and clock speed, and check out the benchmarks for a quick comparison between the different product lines.
- Memory and storage. Recognize the difference between SSD and HDD and decide how much RAM you need based on how you plan to use your system.
- Design. Lighter laptops allow for better travel, but more powerful hardware may be a priority when playing demanding games at home.
- Doors and entrances. Plan the number of devices you plan to use, including those dedicated to external storage and audio. Do you need more flexibility, more space or extra high-speed ports?
Let’s take a closer look at the features you’ll encounter when choosing a gaming laptop, starting with the first thing you see when you open it: the screen.
The right display can have a major impact on your gaming experience, but there are several factors to keep in mind besides screen size.
Laptop display: main features
- Resolution. The higher the resolution, the more pixels that can be displayed on the screen, resulting in a clearer image. Newer notebook PCs may have 1440p or 4K displays compared to standard 1080p, but the hardware required to support games at these resolutions may incur a higher cost.
- Refresh rate. A display with a higher refresh rate can contribute to a smoother and easier to follow screen image. This is achieved by playing the image several times per second. Many gaming laptop displays make use of this technology, and some boast refresh rates of 120Hz or 144Hz (or even higher).
- Screen size. The form factor and display size of laptops can vary, and 13, 15, and 17-inch displays are the most popular configurations. Thinner bezels (the edges of the screen) can help provide larger screens with smaller form factors.
- OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode). Available on some gaming laptops, these screens use pixels that produce their own light rather than relying on the backlight. This means they can achieve deeper black levels and higher contrast than most laptop screens, often LED-lit liquid crystal displays.
An easy way to enhance a laptop PC experience is to connect it to an external monitor. This allows you to have a portable PC with a portable form factor to use on the go and then go home and use a screen with a resolution in 4K, a refresh rate of 240 Hz or an ultra-wide aspect ratio.
When thinking about an external display with a high resolution or a high refresh rate, be sure to choose a CPU and graphics card that can take advantage of these features. Compare the components of the laptop you are thinking about with those recommended for the video games you want to play and prioritize the choice of components based on those factors.
The CPU, or central processing unit, acts as the “brain” of your laptop. It sends signals to the other components of the system and processes the instructions sent by the entire software running on your machine.
Your choice of CPU can have a significant impact on everything you do, from the frame rates you see in video games to application response times and even the battery life of your laptop.
Among the most commonly cited CPU specs are the number of cores and clock speed, however there are several other features that come into play, including its overclocking potential 3. The CPU features most important to you vary based on how you will use your laptop, so it’s worth knowing the basics.
CPU: main features
- Clock speed. Clock speed determines the number of cycles a CPU performs per second (measured in GHz). In general, a higher clock speed results in a faster CPU, but many other factors come into play.
- Number of cores. Multiple cores facilitate CPU multitasking, and each core acts as a single processing unit that can operate in parallel for greater results.
- CPU options. There are CPUs specially designed for almost any use case, so it’s worth stalling and picking the one that best suits the way you’re going to use your system. If you are looking for higher core counts and higher clock speeds, the Intel® Core ™ H processor family may be the ideal solution. Unlocked CPUs . If you’re prioritizing portability, power-efficient CPUs like the U-series can help preserve battery life.
A laptop PC GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit, generates the pixels that form the images on the screen while gaming. Combined with the CPU, it is the key to enjoying smooth frame rates and a high-resolution gaming experience.
If you’re going to play in 1440p or 4K, you need a CPU and GPU to match. Higher resolutions result in more pixels on the screen – running a game at 4K resolution, for example, consumes four times more pixels than the standard 1080p.
GPU: main features
- Frame rate and resolution. Make sure your gaming laptop’s GPU and CPU can achieve consistent frame rates when rendering the correct screen resolution or external display. To get an idea of the execution performance, compare the CPU and GPU in the laptop you are thinking about with the system requirements of the video games you plan to play.
- Display update rate. If you’ve invested in a 144Hz screen, you’ll need a GPU capable of achieving a consistent 144 FPS (or higher) to make the most of the higher refresh rate.
- Raytracing. If you’re planning on enabling hardware-intensive rendering techniques, such as raytracing, check out the benchmarks to assess how they will affect performance in advance.
Solid state drives (SSDs) outperform older mechanical drives (HDDs) in most areas that impact gaming. SSDs use a type of flash memory (NAND) to electronically read and write blocks of data with no moving parts. HDDs, on the other hand, use mechanical platters that rotate by a motor, accessible via a movable disk head.
A key advantage of SSDs over HDDs is their fast random read / write speeds, which means they are able to quickly access data stored in different drive locations. They generally allow for faster loading of programs and files than a similarly sized HDD and can help reduce system startup times.
Since SSDs use no moving parts and have processes to even out wear across memory blocks, they also enjoy longer life than traditional HDDs.
Generally speaking, SSDs cost more per gigabyte than a similarly sized HDD due to higher manufacturing costs. For this reason, some systems have both SSDs and high-capacity HDDs for storing large files, although, increasingly, modern laptops rely solely on SSDs.
Random Access Memory, or RAM, is memory that stores data temporarily for quick retrieval via the CPU. Unlike an SSD or HDD, it does not store data permanently and recovers with every power failure, but it also makes data available faster than a storage drive.
The additional RAM allows a PC to run multiple processes at the same time and allows a system to switch between programs more quickly while managing the execution of services in the background.
The amount of RAM you need in your laptop depends on how you plan to use the system.
- 2 to 4GB of RAM can be enough to browse the Internet, use light business applications, or older games.
- 8GB of RAM may be enough for mid-range gaming and most business applications. Many modern PC games indicate 8GB of RAM or more as the minimum system requirement.
- 16GB of RAM allows a system to run newer and more resource-intensive video games at higher settings, handle various background applications (such as voice chat or recording video highlights), and streaming software.
- 32GB of RAM is the ideal amount for resource-intensive multitasking, including gaming, content creation, and anyone who frequently uses memory-intensive processes, such as video editing or rendering.
While the amount of RAM available in the system is probably the most important metric for the average user, there are other characteristics of RAM that are worth keeping in mind.
RAM: main features :
- Speed. Measured in MHz (or millions of cycles per second), RAM frequency measures the speed at which your RAM can access memory when it receives a request from the CPU.
- Possibility of upgrade. Some gaming laptop models allow access to the internal SO-DIMM slots in which RAM is installed. This is still quite unusual, so consider the amount of RAM you need for your favorite experience. Adding it later can be cumbersome.
- SO-DIMM. Note that laptop and desktop RAM are not interchangeable. Laptop RAM is often smaller, has a different contact configuration, and fits SO-DIMM (Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Module) slots rather than the DIMM slots you’ll find on most desktop motherboards .
Gaming laptops come in many different shapes and sizes. Entry-level options can help balance portability and performance, while more powerful gaming laptops generally take up more space. In recent years, however, this compromise has become less rigid. Premium laptops with advanced thermal models can remain relatively thin and light and use high-performance components.
When thinking about a laptop model, consider a trade-off between power, price, portability, available ports, and extra features that can optimize performance.
Design: main features
- Build quality. An aluminum case can allow for thinner and stronger models than traditional plastic ones.
- Frames. Opt for a thin display bezel to reduce the overall size of the device. By reducing the size of the screen edges, manufacturers are able to reduce the size of a laptop PC while preserving the screen size.
- Weight. A thinner and lighter design results in greater portability. However, thicker and heavier gaming notebook PCs, also known as “musclebooks,” often include features that are advantageous for a fixed home setup, such as more input and output (I / O) options. or particularly powerful cooling solutions.
- Aesthetics. Premium laptops may have a satin metal finish, user-controlled RGB lighting, and other eye-catching design features that are worth considering.
- Extra luxury factors. While less popular, high-end gaming laptops can include smaller screens, ultrawide aspect ratios, overclockable designs, upgradeable hardware, or even keyboards with mechanical switches.
- Wireless connectivity. Most portable PCs incorporate wireless cards that allow connection to hotspots and home routers in the 2 GHz or 5 GHz band. To access super-fast internet speeds, look for WiFi 6 ready components. A common wireless to consider is Bluetooth, which uses the 2 GHz band to connect with peripherals such as headphones or control units to a system.
More ports mean more options for expanding the functionality of a laptop. Some gaming laptops may reduce the number of available ports in order to achieve a smaller form factor, so consider this tradeoff when making a comparison.
Ports for laptop: main features
- Screen. Connect external monitors or HDTVs via these ports, including HDMI and DisplayPort.
- Thunderbolt ™ 3 technology . This versatile connection technology can transmit video and audio information to monitors using the DisplayPort standard. It can also transfer data at four times the speed of a USB 3.1 port and even the power supply. This connection can be particularly useful for multiple monitor configurations or for transferring large amounts of data to external drives. Not all laptops support Thunderbolt ™ 3 technology, so check back if you want to take advantage of it.
- USB. The USB ports can be used to connect mice, headphones, external physical drives and many other peripherals. Revision numbers such as 2.0, 3.0, or 3.1 reflect the data transfer rate of the port, while ratings such as “Type-A” and “Type-C” refer to the shape of the connector.
- Audio. Most laptops have a 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as USB ports for compatible headphones and speakers.
- Ethernet. An RJ-45 Ethernet jack can provide a fast and stable connection for your system and can be a great alternative to Wi-Fi when at home. If your laptop does not have an Ethernet port, you can use a USB to Ethernet adapter.
- SD. An SD card slot allows you to conveniently expand your SDXC card storage and offers fast data transfer between devices that support this form factor. It can be particularly useful in areas that require frequent transfer of multimedia files, such as photography and videography.
If the laptop you want has a limited number of ports, consider using a multiport USB hub or docking station. If you’re having trouble connecting a mouse, headphones, webcam, external hard drive, or other peripheral to a slim laptop that only has two USB ports, these options can provide new connectivity possibilities.
For more ideas on how to build a laptop-centric gaming station, check out our Guide to Setting Up a State-of-the-Art Laptop.
Cooling for laptops
The improvements made to the cooling system have allowed laptop manufacturers to disprove the old stereotype of thick and bulky gaming laptops. Today, some of the most powerful systems on the market are slim laptops with meticulously designed cooling systems.
Although their internal activities are complex, the core components of cooling systems in mobile PCs are still largely made up of air vents, fans, cooling pipes, and heatsinks. That said, tremendous progress has been made in the way these cooling tools are designed and implemented and this allows for the smallest form factors we see in modern gaming laptops.
Comparing one cooling system to another can be difficult judging by the manufacturer’s description alone, so it is useful to check reviews in order to learn about real-world performance and find out how it might be related to usage needs.
By taking full advantage of the input and output options of a laptop PC, you can achieve a gaming experience similar to that of a home desktop PC. Connect a gaming mouse, more responsive keyboard or premium audio to create a fully functional gaming station with a laptop in the center.
Inputs for laptop: main features
- Mechanical keyboard. While most gaming laptops don’t use mechanical switches, you can conveniently connect an external keyboard via USB to enjoy a full-sized keyboard setup with the switches and aesthetics of your choice.
- Gaming mouse. Touchpads for laptops have made a lot of progress and are specifically designed for comfortable everyday use. However, when gaming it may be preferable to connect a mouse with additional input options for more precise and customizable movement.
- Headphones and audio. By providing a built-in microphone and adjustable balance between game audio and voice chat, a gaming headset can be very useful for modern multiplayer games. Many headphones are equipped with audio in both stereo and digital surround configurations. They usually connect via a USB, Bluetooth, or 3.5mm audio jack.
- Loudspeakers. Upgrade from your laptop’s built-in speakers and create a full-bodied sound scene with desktop speakers or a SoundBar. Connect traditional speakers via USB or audio cable, or use a lightweight Bluetooth speaker or SoundBar for a more immersive audio experience.
Which Laptop PC Is Right For You
When choosing a laptop, what matters most is how you intend to use it.
If you’re going to play games on an external monitor, it might make sense to prioritize the CPU and GPU rather than a feature-rich integrated display. If you’re into video editing or content creation, 32GB of RAM, a solid CPU, and a high-resolution display may be more important than the newer GPU architecture.
It’s not just about comparing the components of a gaming laptop or form factor to another – it’s about identifying the features you value most and finding the machine with everything you need.