At the risk of being called a PC gaming heretic, I've chosen to highlight a discounted Lenovo IdeaPad 3 with integrated graphics. But hear me out, priced at $379 at Walmart (opens in new tab) (down from $499), this is about as affordable as it gets for a laptop that can play some games, either on its own hardware or through a service like Nvidia's GeForce Now.
Speaking to that latter point, you don't need a super powerful PC to stream games from the cloud, even the newest titles. In fact, Cyberpunk 2077 on GeForce Now is brilliant (opens in new tab) if you don't have a GeForce RTX GPU, which this laptop does not. So, what does this laptop have inside it?
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 | Ryzen 5 3500U | 8GB RAM | 256GB SSD |
$499 $379 at Walmart (save $120) (opens in new tab)
If you're looking to spend as little as possible on a gaming laptop and are fine to roll with integrated graphics, the IdeaPad 3 is a solid option. It pairs AMD's Zen+ CPU cores (four of them) with Vega GPU cores (eight of them) to handle lightweight gaming, or playing through a service like GeForce Now or Stadia.
The heart and soul of this affordable machine is AMD's Ryzen 5 3500U. Based on AMD's 12nm Zen+ architecture, the Ryzen 5 3500U is a quad-core chip with eight threads clocked at 2.1GHz to 3.7GHz, along with 4MB of L3 cache.
It also features AMD's Vega 8 graphics, with 8 graphics 'cores', or compute units, clocked at 1.2GHz. Being an integrated solution, you're not going to squeeze a lot of gaming performance out of the GPU portion of the 3500U. However, depending on the game, settings, and resolution, there are a bunch of titles that are playable (opens in new tab).
The caveat is that there are laptops that cost a little bit more with discrete graphics. And every so often, we see Gateway's Creator series with a GeForce RTX 2060 go on sale for $699 (opens in new tab) (down from $999) at Walmart, which in my opinion is the bargain to beat.
That's not on sale currently, though, and even when it is, the price is still nearly double of the Lenovo IdeaPad 3. This one is strictly for folks who want to spend as little as possible (less than $400) and are okay with integrated graphics.