Best budget laptops: 7 cheap laptops under $500

best laptops under $500
(Image credit: Future)

The best laptops under $500 are cheap laptops that shouldn't leave you feeling like you dug them out of the bargain bin. There are value-priced notebooks that include full-HD displays, solid performance, and long battery life. 

Whether you are looking for a typical clamshell laptop or you want a 2-in-1 convertible laptop that can walk the line between a tablet and a laptop, we've got some great affordable options for you. Our top pick even managed to find its way onto our best laptops page.

After reviewing dozens of value-priced systems, the best laptop under $500 is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5. This outstanding 2-in-1 Chromebook earned 4.5 out of 5 stars and an Editor's Choice award from us on the strength of its gorgeous OLED display and over 13 hours of battery life. If Chrome OS isn't your thing, we have some cheap Windows laptops to recommend as well. The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 and Acer Aspire 5 are strong choices.

With Cyber Monday laptop deals underway this is one of the best times to find a laptop under $500, whether it's a more expensive laptop falling below the $500 mark or a typically sub-$500 laptop falling even further.

The best laptops under $500 you can buy today

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Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook best laptops under $500

The Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook on a coffee table in its clamshell laptop mode. It earns its spot as the best laptop under $500 thanks to its excellent portability, long battery life , and bright, vivid OLED display. (Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)
The best laptop under $500

Specifications

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2
GPU: Adreno 618 GPU
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB eMMC
Display: 13.3-inch, 1920x1080, OLED
Size: 12 x 7.4 x 0.28 inches
Weight: 2.2 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent battery life
+
Detachable 2-in-1 design
+
Bright, vivid OLED display
+
Keyboard and cover included

Reasons to avoid

-
Stylus not included

The Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook is a significant departure from the original Chromebook Duet, which you'll find later on this list. Although the higher price tag may drive some away, the considerable hardware upgrades make this 2-in-1 just as compelling. 

The Duet 5 still features a fabric rear case and keyboard cover like the previous model, but open it up and the 13.3-inch OLED display will make you check that sub-$500 price again. The changes run deeper than that with a dramatically improved Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 processor, while also delivering over 13 hours on a single charge.

While it may not be the scrappy budget champ that the original Chromebook Duet was, the Duet 5 has bulked up and is ready to take on some heavyweight competition, making it the best laptop under $500.

See our full Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook review.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 walks the middle ground between price and power (Image credit: Laptop Mag)
The best Windows laptop under $500

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core m3-7Y30
GPU: Intel HD 615
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 32GB eMMC
Display: 12.3-inch, 2400 x 1600
Size: 11.5 x 8.3 x 0.3 inches
Weight: 3.1 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Solid performance
+
Good audio quality
+
Responsive keyboard
+
Long battery life
+
Competitively priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Pen not included
-
Dim and dull display
-
Only one USB-C port

As far as affordable laptops go, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 is a good choice. While the dim display is disappointing, our reviewer found this sub-$500 Windows laptop to be a joy. Surfing the web is smooth no matter how many tabs were open, and you can rely on the long battery life (14 hours and 16 minutes in our testing) to keep you entertained and powered up throughout the day. And while it’s made mostly of plastic, the Flex 5 still looks and feels like a sleek, sturdy device that’s well worth the investment.

When we first reviewed the IdeaPad Flex 5 it hovered around $500-$650 depending on the configuration, but you can now find it for under $500 or even $400 for the base model, making it an even better value and easily the best Windows laptop under $500.

See our full Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 (Intel) review.

Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 best laptops under $500

The Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 isn’t the most powerful Chromebook, but its diminutive size, long battery life, versatile 2-in-1 form factor, and stylish looks may win you over. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)
The lightest Chromebook

Specifications

CPU: MediaTek MTK 8183
GPU: Integrated Arm Mali-G72 MP3
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 128GB eMMC
Display: 10.5-inch, 1900x1200, touchscreen
Size: 12.7 x 8.9 x 0.68 inches
Weight: 2 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent battery life
+
Detachable 2-in-1 design
+
Durable
+
Built-in stylus

Reasons to avoid

-
Weak performance for the price

The Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 cloaks itself in the guise of a tweed-bound journal. However, lift the cover and you’ve unlocked a versatile 2-in-1 laptop that happens to include a stylus in case you did want to do some journaling. 

While the Detachable CM3 isn’t the most powerful of Chromebooks, its vibrant display and convenient form factor make it an excellent content consumption and web browsing device that can easily slip into any bag. While it’s pricey for having a MediaTek processor inside, the CM3 makes up for it with nearly 12 hours of battery life and a durable chassis. It's easily one of the best laptops under $500.

See our full Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 review.

Acer Chromebook 317 best laptops under $500

The Acer Chromebook 317 is a record-setter, but served up middling performance scores in our testing. (Image credit: Future)
The best 17-inch budget laptop

Specifications

CPU: Intel Pentium Silver N6000
GPU: Intel UHD
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 64GB eMMC
Display: 17.3-inch, 1920x1080
Size: 15.8 x 10.5 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 5.3 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Massive display
+
Spacious keyboard and touchpad
+
Decent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Dim display
-
Middling performance

The Acer Chromebook 317 is the world’s first-ever 17.3-inch Chrome OS laptop. When I first heard this, I thought, “Why?” Is there a target audience of Chromebook lovers who’ve been beseeching the gods for an unwieldy, clunky laptop? Don’t most Chromebook owners want a mobile, easy-to-carry, travel-friendly device? However, after spending some time with this laptop, there is a method to Acer’s madness.

There is an audience for the Chromebook 317, and it’s targeted at large-handed folks who are tired of feeling as if they’re typing with thick, meaty sausage links. This laptop is for consumers who live by the “go big or go home” maxim. However, in this case, you’ll have to do both: go big and go home. The Chromebook 317 isn’t particularly travel friendly, so you’d be better off leaving the laptop stationed in your home office.

No, the Chromebook 317 doesn’t have the brightest display, the most powerful processor, nor the longest battery life, but it’s adequate for those who’d sacrifice those perks for an intact bank account and a spacious Chromebook with a massive display.

See our full Acer Chromebook 317 review.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a budget-friendly miniature 2-in-1 laptop with nearly 13 hours of battery life. (Image credit: Future)
The best Chromebook under $300

Specifications

CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T
GPU: ARM G72 MP3
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB eMMC
Display: 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200
Size: 9.6 x 6.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 2 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Lasts long on a charge
+
Comes with keyboard/kickstand
+
Colorful display
+
Decent performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Cramped keyboard

At first glance, The Lenovo Chromebook Duet (reviewed at $279) looks like an innocuous journal, but open that bad boy up, and it’s a small laptop with a colorful 10.1-inch display. 

But this device’s transformative capability isn’t its only alluring feature — the Lenovo Chromebook Duet lasted almost 13 hours on our battery test, which beats the 10-hour average runtime for Chromebooks. The price is another big selling point of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. For under $300, you can own a lightweight machine that can endure all your intensive web multitasking.

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet sports a 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 display that’s impressively colorful. However, the tablet’s screen has chunky bezels that might turn you off if you’re seeking a more modern look. But the Duet is a budget-friendly Chromebook, so we can concede the lack of slim bezels as a reasonable trade off.

See our full Lenovo Chromebook Duet review.

Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook

The Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook is an affordable 2-in-1 with a fantastic keyboard, making it one of the best laptops under $500. (Image credit: Kimberly Gedeon/Future)
Laptop with the best typing experience

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i3-10110U
GPU: Intel UHD
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB eMMC
Display: 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080
Size: 12.2 x 8 3 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 2.9 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Flexible 2-in-1 design
+
Touchscreen with pen support
+
Exceptional keyboard

Reasons to avoid

-
Below-average battery life
-
Dim display

The Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook (reviewed at $409) is easy on the pockets, but let us tell you, it doesn’t feel, look or act cheap. This Chromebook may have “Flex '' in its name, but ironically, its solid metal chassis is stalwart with a premium-feeling, part-aluminum body. At first glance, you may dismiss the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook as another gray, clamshell laptop, but this shape-shifting device can also transform into a tablet thanks to its sturdy 360-degree hinge.

You’re going to love the Flex 5 Chromebook’s keyboard; it’s the laptop’s most standout feature next to its build quality. This backlit, island-style keyboard has one of the clickiest, bounciest keys we've ever had the pleasure of reviewing to date. The Flex 5 Chromebook is perfect for productivity work because the keyboard will have you flying through any word-processing tasks with rhythmic speediness.

See our full Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook review.

Acer Aspire 5 best laptops under $500

The Acer Aspire 5's solid performance and battery life paired with a sharp 1080p display make it the best Windows 11 laptop under $500 that you can buy.
The best clamshell Windows laptop under $500

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G4
GPU: Intel UHD
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080
Size: 12.9 x 8.8 x 0.71 inches
Weight: 3.2 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent collection of ports
+
Solid performance for the price
+
Decent battery life
+
Sharp 1080p display

Reasons to avoid

-
Dim display
-
Basic design
-
Weak audio

The Acer Aspire 5 isn't going to blow you away if you compare it to laptops for $1,000 and up, but for a Windows 11 laptop that you can find for under $500 it is a solid choice. The Intel 11th gen processor and Intel UHD graphics are enough to handle any productivity or web browsing tasks you toss its way and even some older games. 

Battery life is reasonable at just over 8 hours in our testing and the 1080p display is sharp, if not the brightest at 275 nits in our testing. The ample collection of ports will allow you to hook anything you need up to the Aspire 5 and at 3.2 pounds it isn't too much of a burden to toss in your bag.

You certainly need to set your expectations properly when picking the Acer Aspire 5, but it delivers a solid overall build and experience for the price if you are looking for a first Windows laptop or simply a laptop that can handle basic computing tasks without breaking the bank.

How to choose the best laptops under $500 for you 

Choosing the best laptop under $500 for you really depends on where you are at with your budget. Our top performers, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook and Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14, typically range around $300 to $500, so you may come in well below that $500 mark. Well it may be tempting to look at some options even lower, consider saving up for one of these top options if possible as the compromises start stacking up the lower you go.

Unless you have specific Windows software you know you need then don't let Chrome OS scare you off. Chrome is less processor intensive, which is great for some of these lower-powered laptops and delivers everything that most users need for typical computing tasks like web surfing, content consumption or light productivity work.

How we test the best laptops under $500 

We put each laptop through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world — before they end up in the hands of our reviewers. We evaluate each aspect of the laptop, including its performance, battery life, display, speakers and heat management.

In our benchmark testing, we use a Klein K10 colorimeter to detect the brightness and sRGB color gamut of the laptop's display. For performance testing, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 4.3 and 5.0 and 3DMark professional graphics tests. 

To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and to duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics test is the Dirt 3 benchmark with medium settings at 1080p resolution.

We also run heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video and measuring temperatures in different areas of the laptop. Last but not least, our battery test consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. For MacBooks and premium Windows 11 laptops, a runtime of over 10 hours is considered a good result whereas gaming laptops and workstations that can stay powered for longer than 5 hours deserve praise. 

These tests are complemented with extensive hands-on testing from our reviewers who critique everything from the laptop's materials to the feel of its touchpad.

Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.

With contributions from