October 9, 2020

When you’re shopping in the market for a good gaming laptop under $600, there are a few things you need to look for. 

A good FHD display, proper storage in the form of an SSD, and features like backlit keyboards or Type C ports. Check this buying guide to learn further.

You won’t find much in the way of dedicated graphics cards, at least nothing above an MX150 or RX 460 at this price.

We’ve done the research, and concluded that for optimal gaming performance at this price nothing beats the Acer Aspire 5 A515-44G-R83X. Read on to find out why.

Here is our list of the 5 best gaming laptops under 600 dollars:

Acer’s Aspire 5 series of laptops is known to deliver excellent performance in a sleek form factor at a relatively affordable price.

The Aspire 5 series of laptops is built well; it consists of a tough polycarbonate chassis that is reinforced by an underlying aluminum frame which provides rigidity in important areas. There is ample ventilation on the bottom and sides to suck in fresh air for cooling and exhaust hot air.

The RX640 dedicated graphics chip comes with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM which isn’t ideal for 1080p gaming anymore, but 720p can be handled pretty well, even in modern AAA titles like Prey and Watchdogs 2 (if you have the settings on “low”).

The Ryzen 5 4500u 6-core chip is extremely efficient as it uses TSMC’s 7nm process, and AMD’s 2nd generation Ryzen microarchitecture. This chip outperforms Intel’s 10th generation i5s and even i7s in single threaded performance, while also bringing the heat in multithreaded tasks with 6 cores.

The FHD IPS display is decently color accurate, with great viewing angles. And thankfully it comes with an anti-reflective matte protective coating, so the screen won’t pick up and reflect ambient light.

Battery life is around 8hrs thanks to the new super efficient 4th gen Ryzen mobile chips, and thermals are always under control even though this laptop doesn’t get loud while gaming.

Which Games Can I Play On This Laptop?

  • Witcher 3
  • RUST
  • Valorant
  • Overwatch
  • Metro Exodus
  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Note: We recommend you play these games at 720p low settings to get 30+ FPS.

Pros

  • Superb 4th gen hexacore Ryzen 5 4500u processor, it has great single and multithreaded performance making it great for both gaming and productivity
  • Dedicated RX640 graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM can play modern AAA titles at 720p low
  • User upgradable RAM, Storage, and Wi-Fi card
  • Comes with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5
  • Reversible Type C connector can also be used for charging the laptop
  • HDMI output for connecting an external display
  • The LED backlit IPS display has good viewing angles and decent color accuracy

Cons

  • The 256GB of NVMe PCIe storage is extremely fast, but you’ll have a hard time storing all your photos, music, movies, games, etc. on this drive
  • Speaker quality is “okay”, but not ideal for movies or gaming so we recommend a nice pair of headphones
  • The 720p dual microphone webcam is decent, but you can do better by getting a cheap external webcam like this  Victure 1080p webcam.

Lenovo has nailed all the basics with this one- a good processor, a decent display, a keyboard that’s comfortable to type on and doesn’t feel cramped, a large and highly precise trackpad, good cooling ,and solid built quality.

That’s all included in the package when you purchase an IdeaPad 3, since this laptop was designed to be a no-nonsense, portable machine for office professionals and college students.

Nothing really stands out on the IdeaPad 3. It’s display is good with decent viewing angles, but the brightness and contrast are very unexceptional which makes it subpar for photo and video editing (although it’s still perfectly fine for gaming).

The Ryzen 5 3500U is an excellent 4 core, 8-thread processor but it falls short of the newer Ryzen 5 4500U in both single and multi-threaded workloads. The battery life of around 6hrs means you have to carry the power brick around with you in the backpack wherever you go.

Then again, there are no super obvious weak points on this laptop, everything is just so well-balanced. It’s sleek, light, well-built, and affordable. The keyboard is tenkeyless, which leaves plenty of space to include larger keycaps and more space between each key.

As a result, the layout doesn’t feel cramped and unless you really want to work on spreadsheets, the tenkeyless design won’t be an issue for most users. The side bezels are super slim. However, the chin is gigantic.

Which Games Can I Play On This Laptop?

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Apex Legends
  • Fortnite
  • PUBG
  • CS: GO
  • Dota 2
  • League of Legends
  • Valorant
  • Total War Warhammer II

Pros

  • Ryzen 5 3500u 4 core, 8-thread chip built on the 12nm process offers good multithreading for casual Premier Pro and Blender usage
  • Vega 8 iGPU with a maximum clock of 1200MHz performs well in games, as long as you play at low settings and 720p resolution
  • Great keyboard and trackpad, for the price
  • Speakers are loud and are tuned well for mids and highs (forget about bass on laptop speakers, especially ones that are this cheap)
  • Despite being constructed almost exclusively from ABS plastic, the laptop feels very rigid. The palmrest and display don’t bend or creak when you use them.
  • Full size SD card slot

Cons

  • Slow DDR4 memory holds back the iGPU from hitting its true potential
  • Out of the 8GB RAM that comes preinstalled in this laptop, only 4GB is user upgradable as the other 4GB is soldered to the mainboard
  • Mediocre webcam
  • Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.1

When you visualize the words “budget laptop”, this is exactly what comes to mind- a plain looking white HP 15” notebook. It doesn’t stand out in way whatsoever, and is the ideal choice for people looking to maintain a low profile while also packing enough muscle to go through almost everything an average user throws at it.

The Ryzen 7 3700U is a bit on the older side, since it’s a 3rd generation Ryzen chip and it doesn’t have the single threaded performance of a Ryzen 4000 series mobile chip. However, 8 threads should still be more than plenty for anyone looking to work on word docs, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. while doing some light gaming on the side.

You can even edit photos and videos if you want, although the display on this laptop isn’t the most color accurate. It does have a HDMI output, so you can hook up an external monitor for such tasks.

Battery life is between 6 to 7hrs with moderate usage and low brightness. Gaming performance isn’t half bad either despite the lack of a dedicated GPU, thanks to the Vega 10 iGPU which clocks up to 1200MHz and has 10 Vega CUs.

The keyboard has some good feedback with clear, crisp keypresses and it even has a numpad for all you spreadsheet warriors out there. The trackpad supports Windows precision drivers and isn’t nearly as good as what you’d find on a premium laptop, but it will get the job done.

Which Games Can I Play On This Laptop?

  • Yakuza 0
  • Hunt: Showdown
  • Witcher 3
  • Sekiro
  • Tomb Raider (2013)
  • Mortal Kombat 11
  • Call of Duty Warzone

Pros

  • Good processor with 4 cores and 8 threads for everything from light gaming and browsing to photo and video editing
  • Vega 10 iGPU can handle games such as Call of Duty, PUBG, etc. on low settings and 720p resolution
  • Bootup and program load times are short, thanks to the 256GB NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Full size backlit keyboard
  • Loud top firing stereo speakers

Cons

  • Display resolution is just 768p
  • 2400MHz RAM speed holds back the Vega 10 iGPU’s performance
  • Non upgradable RAM

This is a refreshing departure from the norm at this sub 600 dollar price range where pretty much every laptop comes with a relatively similar configuration.

Unlike most of the competition, the CHUWI AeroBook Plus actually packs a 4K IPS display with 340 nits peak brightness and decent color accuracy. It uses a BOE06CE 4k panel that is calibrated well.

Color accuracy values are 74% for AdobeRGB,  69% for NTSC, and 95% for sRGB. The entire laptop is built from metal and it feels very premium. The only issue on its exterior is the rather weird choice of a glossy display finish that attracts dust, fingerprints, etc. and reflects ambient light.

The keyboard is backlit, and you can upgrade internal storage quite easily by popping a couple screws to access the M.2 drive bay.

The laptop uses a 6th generation Intel Core i5-6287u which is honestly a bit too weak for just gaming. Hence, we recommend you look at the other laptops if you’re primarily purchasing a sub 600 dollar machine for gaming.

The I5-6287u is a 2 core 4-thread part based on the 14nm lithography process. If you’re doing normal everyday tasks like working on word documents, browsing the web, and editing spreadsheets, this processor will handle it just fine.

Which Games Can I Play On This Laptop?

  • CS: GO
  • League of Legends
  • Dota 2
  • Indie games

Pros

  • Excellent 4K 15.6” IPS display, ideal for viewing movies and light editing of photos
  • Solid build quality with an all metal build, palmrest feels cool to the touch and there is no perceivable flex in the body panels
  • Keyboard feels nice to type on, there is ample spacing between keys with decent feedback and 1.5mm of travel
  • The Iris 550 integrated graphics can play light games and 4K content without issue
  • Really good speakers for the price
  • Upgrading SSD storage is really easy, and there’s a free M.2 2280 slot for SATA III or NVMe drives
  • Only 16mm thick and weighs 1.66 kilos or 3.65lbs
  • No thermal throttling, laptops stays fairly cool

Cons

  • Glossy display panel is really reflective (you can fix it with an anti-glare screen protector), lowest brightness level is still a bit too bright
  • Underpowered processor
  • Poor webcam quality
  • Battery life is between 5 to 6 hours only
  • Non upgradable RAM and Wi-Fi card

The Lenovo V14 is designed and advertised as a laptop for serious professionals who need to manage spreadsheets, handle conference calls, work with files, etc.

It even has a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 security chip built into the mainboard for hardware level security that encrypts your data and detects unwanted intrusions.

However, who said professionals can’t have some fun on the side when they are not working? The V14 does pack quite a punch after all, with its 4th generation Ryzen 5 mobile chip. The 4500u will handle everything from spreadsheets and browsing to a quick session of CS: GO when you feel like pawning some noobs.

Battery life is around 6hrs which isn’t bad but not too good either. The 14 inch display gets up to 220cd/m2 and has decent viewing angles with okay colors. You definitely wouldn’t want to use this laptop outdoors or edit photos/ videos on it. The V14 is only 0.78” thick, and weighs 3.53lbs, making it extremely portable and ideal for business trips.

Which Games Can I Play On This Laptop?

  • Forza Horizon 4
  • Rainbow Six Siege
  • PUBG
  • Anno 1800
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Witcher 3
  • Kingdom Come Deliverance

Pros

  • The Ryzen 5 4500u is an extremely capable 6 core chip and we are lucky to get something this fast under 600 dollars
  • Ryzen 4000 Vega 6 iGPU performance lies somewhere between a GeForce MX130 and MX230, it can play games such as Forza Horizon 4 and Kingdom Come Deliverance on 720p low at 30+ fps
  • The Lenovo V14 has a really good keyboard plus trackpad
  • Cooling is executed well, the trackpad and palmrest don’t get uncomfortably warm even when the laptop is under heavy sustained load for extended periods of time
  • Webcam has a privacy shutter
  • You get a full sized SD card slot, most other laptops have a microSD slot instead
  • Screen swivels up to 180°
  • Comes with Windows 10 Pro 64-bit edition

Cons

  • No Wi-Fi 6
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Low screen brightness means you can’t use it outdoors

THINGS TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION


Differentiating Between A Regular And Gaming Laptop

Unless you’re shopping in the 800+ dollar range, most laptops are going to be standard designs without the fancy features found in dedicated gaming models.

But does that mean you aren’t going to get the proper gaming experience with a regular laptop?

Not really, since all that matters for gaming is the hardware within your laptop.

As long as you get the best possible CPU + GPU combo at a given price, you should be good.

But gaming does put sustained stress on the processor and graphics card, making both of them run at high load levels for several hours at a time.

This is why dedicated gaming laptops like the ASUS ROG and Acer Predator series have optimized cooling solutions in the form of dual fan setups with dedicated copper heat pipes for both the CPU and GPU.

Gaming laptops are also equipped with keyboards that are better designed to meet the needs of gamers- quicker key presses, tactile feedback, and customizable RGB lighting.

One of the most important things you can do is purchase a laptop based on the types of games that you play.

If you’re interested in esports titles like Dota 2, CS GO, Overwatch, etc. the CPU will be more important than the graphics card.

For AAA gaming, the graphics card is a bigger determining factor.

What Type Of Work Are You Looking To Do?

Some people only game on their laptops, while others do a bit of everything- movies, photo editing, social media, etc.

Each application has a different set of hardware requirements. For instance, if you want to play Deus Ex: Mankind Divided at 1080p 60 fps it is going to require a beefy graphics card like a GTX 1060 or above.

On the other hand, Photoshop and Premiere Pro are more reliant on the processor and RAM.

A Core i7 or Ryzen 7 2700u is what you need for editing videos on your laptop, along with 8+ GB of RAM and a fast SSD.

For streaming Netflix shows and watching movies, you need a 1080p IPS display. A higher resolution IPS display is also preferable for content creators.

A high refresh rate display on the other hand, is preferred for gaming even though it might not have the best colors or resolution.

Portability and battery life are extremely important for back to school laptops, where you don’t need the most powerful hardware.

For schoolwork and office presentations, any 8th gen Core i5 coupled with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD should be enough.

The bottom-line? Choose the right laptop for your specific needs.

Finding The Right Balance Between Portability And Performance

We believe 2-in-1s with touchscreens provide a nice balance of portability and performance, allowing you to transition between laptop and tablet mode with ease.

You can write a lengthy 20-page thesis on a 2-in-1, or fold it up into tablet mode for browsing through your Twitter feed.

For school or college laptops, you need plenty of battery life and a nice keyboard. An SSD is also important for running CAD software or MATLAB.

Bulky gaming laptops aren’t the best choice for college, since they run out of juice within 5 to 6 hours and require you to carry a heavy power brick.

To Touch, Or Not To Touch

Touch laptops have been gaining popularity since the last 3 or 4 years. They aim to offer the productivity of a traditional laptop computer, combined with the convenience and streamlined user experience of a tablet.

We recommend that you purchase a 2-in-1 instead of a regular laptop that is just equipped with a touchscreen.

A 2-in-1 allows you to use the laptop in regular mode for tasks like gaming and work, or tablet mode for streaming movies and posting on social media.

Some laptops like the Microsoft Surface also have detachable keyboards, with all the processing hardware contained with the display unit itself.

This allows you to transition between tablet and laptop mode much more seamlessly, since 2-in-1s are typically much thicker and heavier than actual tablets.

While Windows 10 does support touch-based applications and was designed with touchscreen PCs in mind, not all of its features are touch friendly.

For example, the Windows file explorer is still hard to navigate and use with your fingers. However, the settings menu is quite touch friendly with its large sliders and buttons.

So there will always be this clash between touch friendly and regular applications that were designed for mouse and keyboard.

Chrome OS is much more uniform when it comes to support for touch devices.

Apple refuses to integrate touchscreens into the MacBook. Their Mac OS UI simply isn’t designed for touchscreens.

How To Upgrade A Laptop’s RAM And Storage

First of all, you need to check if your laptop model allows the memory to be upgraded.

Some laptops will have the DIMMs soldered onto the motherboard, so you have no way of upgrading them.

This is a common theme on extremely cheap notebooks, and even some high-end models like Macs and Razer laptops.

On laptops with upgradable memory, you simply have to look up the manufacturers guide on how to remove the bottom cover. This will give you access to both the memory and storage device.

Gaming laptops make this process extremely easy, by including a small “hatch” underneath the laptop which is usually removed by just unscrewing 2 or 4 screws.

And that gives you access  to the m.2 slot, SATA drive, and SODIMM slots.

Before purchasing RAM for your laptop, make sure it is compatible. Modern laptops use DDR4, typically 2400Mhz.

Look up the spec sheet if you’re not sure. Upgrading the storage is a similar process, you remove the old one and slot in the new one.

Or if there are 2 SATA slots for storage, add a second 2.5” drive.

Conclusion

All things considered, the Acer Aspire 5 A515-44G-R83X is truly a gaming laptop unlike most other models at this price range which don’t even come close in terms of graphics performance.

The RX640 handily beats any Intel HD or Iris iGPU in pretty much every gaming workload, and it is also better if you’re interested in compute based tasks. It even trounces AMD’s own integrated Vega 6 iGPU and can also beat higher end Vega iGPUs like the ones found on Ryzen 7 mobile chips.

What holds this otherwise amazing budget gaming laptop back, is its relatively limited 256GB storage capacity. You can remedy this shortcoming quite easily by purchasing a 1TB SATA III SSD.

All you have to do is pop off the bottom cover and slot in the SSD. You don’t have to remove the existing PCIe NVMe drive, as there is an additional SATA III drive bay which you can use for installing mass storage drives.

Or perhaps you want to upgrade the main high speed drive, in which case you can swap out the existing NVMe drive with one of your choice. We recommend the Samsung 970 EVO 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD.

If you’re more interested in photo and video editing instead of gaming, you can purchase the CHUWI AeroBook Plus. Its relatively color accurate and bright 4k IPS display is great for Photoshop, Premiere Pro, etc. The processor on this laptop is a bit on the weaker side for gaming and video editing, but it is good enough for basic content creation and watching 4K content.

The Lenovo V14 is a decent gaming machine, but functions much better as a business/ college laptop. It is ideal for professionals and college students who want something portable, yet powerful.

About the author 

Saurav Rath

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