Best Laptops Under $500

Mark Spoonauer ·
Editor in Chief
Updated

You don't have to feel like you're settling when shopping for a laptop under $500. There are value-priced notebooks that include full-HD displays, solid performance and long battery life, plus all the ports you need. You can even get a 2-in-1 with a touch screen in this price range, though it will be on the smaller side.

After reviewing dozens of value-priced systems, the most well-rounded Windows laptop under $500 is the 15-inch Acer Aspire E15. Our favorite low-cost Chromebook is the 11-inch Samsung Chromebook 3. But we have plenty of other recommendations. Here's all of our top picks.

Latest News and Updates (October 2018)

  • Our top overall sub-$500 laptop, the Acer Aspire E 15, is currently 5 percent off on Amazon, dropping the price from $379 to $359.
  • We reviewed the Chuwi LapBook SE 13.3 inch, and while it had decent overall performance, its dim display and poor battery life stopped us from recommending it.
  • While they didn't make the cut, we just reviewed the HP Chromebook x360 G1 and the Acer Aspire 1, which are solid, affordable laptops.

For just under $400, the Acer Aspire E 15 can rock your world with a powerful 8th Gen Core i3 processor, plenty of ports and a subtle premium aesthetic.

Despite the upgrade in power, the battery life actually lasts a bit longer than last year’s model at just under 9 hours. The 2018 Aspire E 15 is outfitted with a beefier 6GB of RAM, and still retains its DVD writer and USB Type-C port. The keyboard is comfortable to type on due to how springy and well-spaced the keys are. For what you get, the Aspire E 15 is as premium as a sub-$500 laptop can get.


Key Specs: CPU: 8th-Gen Intel Core i3 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 1TB hard drive (5,400-rpm) | Screen: 15.6 inches (1920 x 1080) | Battery Life: 8:48 (hrs:min) | Weight: 5 pounds

Pros
  • Strong performance
  • Lots of ports
  • Good battery life
  • Very affordable
Cons
  • Bulky design
  • Filled with bloatware
$379.99Amazon Warehouse
Read the full review

The Stream 11 is a great choice for kids or adults who need a lightweight PC that can last over 8 hours on a charge. Available in colorful blue or purple, the Stream offers solid performance, thanks to a Celeron CPU and 4GB of RAM. Even better, the Stream 11 comes with a free, one-year subscription to Office 365. 

While the design is attractive and feels solid, we found the front lip to be a bit sharp. The 11-inch, 1366 x 768 display offers accurate colors, even if the panel isn't super-bright. The most pleasant surprise is the dual speakers on this notebook, which produce loud and dynamic audio. Add in a keyboard with snappy feedback and you have a winner.


Key Specs: CPU: Intel Celeron | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB | Screen: 11.6 inches (1366 x 768) | Battery Life: 8:23(hrs:min) | Weight: 2.5 pounds

Pros
  • Excellent audio
  • Solid performance
  • Attractive, colorful design
Cons
  • Narrow viewing angles
  • Warm temps
  • Sharp front lip
$6.51Fry's Electronics
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For under $300, the IdeaPad 120S offers an attractive design, good performance and the ability to charge over USB Type-C. This 14-inch system also delivers a brighter display than most budget laptops and solid audio quality for the money. 

Despite having a somewhat shallow 1.2mm of travel, the keyboard proved comfortable in our testing; the buttonless touchpad is plenty roomy, too. Regarding performance, this Celeron-powered system proved responsive even with several tabs open in Chrome. On our web surfing battery test, the IdeaPad 120S lasted a pretty good 7.5 hours on a charge, which should get you through most of the day. Just don't expect a sharp webcam.


Key Specs: CPU: Intel Celeron | RAM: 4GB| Storage: 64GB | Screen: 14 inches (1366 x 768) | Battery Life: 7:43 (hrs:min) | Weight: 3.2 pounds

Pros
  • Stylish design
  • USB Type-C charging
  • Solid performance
Cons
  • Washed-out screen
  • Poor webcam
$279.99Lenovo
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The best lightweight laptop you can get in this price range, Asus' VivoBook E403NA has a sharp, 1080p screen and an aluminum lid, two premium features you rarely find on laptop that costs less than $400.

At 3.1 pounds and with over 8 hours of battery life, this 14-inch notebook can go anywhere while you leave its plug at home. A fingerprint reader helps you log into Windows 10 without entering a password. In our testing, the Pentium processor juggled multiple open tabs in Chrome with ease. With 1.4mm of travel, the keyboard provides speedy typing with no flex. This Asus has all the ports you need, including USB Type-C, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and an SD Card reader.


Key Specs: CPU: Intel Pentium | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 128GB | Screen: 14 inches (1920 x 1080) | Battery Life: 8:04 (hrs:min) | Weight: 3.13 pounds

Pros
  • Lightweight design with aluminum lid
  • Good port selection
  • Sharp 1080p display
Cons
  • Slippery touchpad
  • Low-res webcam
$397.32Newegg
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At first glance, you might mistake the Acer Spin 1 for a much more expensive laptop. This 11.6-inch convertible sports a premium, all-aluminum chassis and one of the brightest and most colorful screens you'll find on any system, even those that cost over $1,000.

For good measure, the Spin 1 also includes an active stylus, something that costs extra on many 2-in-1s, so you can draw on the screen using 1,024 levels of pressure. Powered by a Celeron CPU and 4GB of RAM, the Spin 1 proved fairly swift in everyday use. The only real drawback? The battery life on this 2-in-1 could be better, as it didn't quite last 7 hours on our web-surfing test.


Key Specs: CPU: Intel Celeron N3350 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB | Screen:11.6 inches (1920 x 1080) | Battery Life: 6:44 (hrs:min) | Weight: 2.65 pounds

Pros
  • Sharp, colorful display
  • Attractive metal chassis
  • Comfortable keyboard
Cons
  • Below-average battery life
  • Small storage drive
$332.6Amazon
Read the full review

Lenovo’s Flex 6 11 offers strong performance packed in a slim 0.7-inch chassis. This 11-inch 2-in-1 can last more than 9 hours on a charge, perfect for getting you through your workday and then some.

For $329, you get a quality Windows 10 laptop with a solid Intel Celeron processor and a modest 64GB of eMMC storage all built into a sleek two-tone black design with silver accents. The Flex 6 offers a comfortable keyboard with lovely shield-shaped keys as well as a touch screen capable of tracking your finger accurately. The Flex 6 also provides a solid amount of ports including USB Type-C, HDMI and 4-in-1 card reader.


Pros
  • Great battery life
  • Sleek design
  • Solid performance
  • Solid keyboard
Cons
  • Poor display
  • Harsh audio
$279.99Lenovo
Read the full review

How to Choose a Budget Laptop

Although the best laptops cost much more, the average consumer spends under $500 for a new notebook. When shopping for a laptop in this price range, you have to make some compromises, so it's important to prioritize the features that matter most and get as many of them as you can, without breaking your budget.

We've listed several high-quality budget laptops on this page for you to consider. When evaluating a laptop, consider these factors in this order of importance:

  • Full-HD (1920 x 1080) Screen: Most budget laptops are saddled with low-res, 1366 x 768 displays that allow you to fit a lot of text on the screen at once. If you can find a laptop with a screen that has a 1920 x 1080 resolution, you'll be able to see more of your favorite web pages, emails, social media feeds and documents, without scrolling. You'll also get much sharper images and videos.

  • SSD or eMMC Memory: Most sub-$500 laptops use mechanical hard drives, but if you can get one with a solid-state drive or eMMC storage, another form of solid-state memory, you'll speed up your  boot and application open times.

  • Good build quality: If you see a laptop with a soft-touch finish or real aluminum on any of its surfaces especially the deck and lid that's a sign of good design. However, in this price range, you'll likely have to settle for plastic.

  • Pick the right CPU: A Core i3 processor is pretty good for this price range. Intel Pentium and Celeron CPUs are serviceable, but not particularly speedy. A Chromebook generally requires less processing power than a Windows machine.

Your buying decision may come down to whether you need a full-fledged PC, or would prefer the simplicity of a Chromebook.

You'll want a Windows 10-based machine if there are applications  you depend upon, such as Adobe or Microsoft's suites of apps. Yes, Chrome OS machines can run the Android versions of those apps with Google Play emulation, but those apps are often incomplete, and give you a bare minimum when it comes to features.

Chromebooks will be best, though, if you live inside the Chrome browser, and prefer a system that takes care of itself. With a Chromebook, you'll never need antivirus software, and system updates are automatically performed. Chromebooks are also more web-dependent, as offline modes are still not as widely available.