June 5, 2022

Best Laptops Under $500

If you’re working with a budget of under $500, you’re going to have to make some compromises when it comes to a laptop. Thankfully, there are many more models in this price range than there once were. The popularity of Chromebooks and tablets has opened this category into a versatile selection of 2-in-1s and laptops.

In this price bracket, you need to keep your eye on the RAM, screen size, display resolution, and build quality. You also have to decide if you want a Windows laptop or a Chromebook. Then, of course, there are the convertible models that act as a laptop or a tablet. Some decisions come down to personal preference, and others depend on your budget. Our list of the best laptops under $500 includes (but isn’t limited to) models for gaming, students, and a super budget-friendly low price option.

— Best Overall: Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15.6-Inch
— Best for Gaming: Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series 3595 Laptop
— Best Battery Life: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
— Best for Students: ASUS VivoBook 15 Laptop
— Best Budget: Acer Chromebook Spin 311

How We Picked the Best Laptops Under $500 

When you’re looking at laptops under $500, you have to make compromises. What you really have to decide is where you want to make those compromises. Consequently, we included a variety of options to fit users who might be looking in this category. We made our picks based on RAM and boot drive capacity, build quality, available ports, and display and keyboard performance. 

RAM and Boot Drive Capacity: Ideally, a budget laptop would have at least 8 GB (gigabytes) of RAM and 256 GB SSD boot drive. However, depending on how the laptops use, you can get away with 4 GB RAM and 128 GB boot drive if you’re only doing browsing and light work.

Build Quality: Most chassis are plastic in the under $500 category. But we looked for accents in metal and other features that added durability to the overall design.

Available Ports: USB-C ports are more standard than they once were, so models with this and microSD slots got bonus points. From there, the laptop needed to have a good number of available USB ports to connect to other devices.

Display and Keyboard Performance: We prefer laptops with a 1080p resolution display. However, there are a few on our list that have good performance but only have 720p resolution. Keyboards can get small and cramped on smaller models, so we focused on responsiveness.

Best Laptops Under $500: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15.6-Inch 

All-Around Performance. Lenovo

Why It Made The Cut: The IdeaPad 3’s mix of battery life, solid performance, and responsive keyboard that includes a number pad make it the best overall for laptops under $500. 

Specs: 

Screen Size: 15.6 inches
RAM: 8 GB
Weight: 4.07 pounds

Pros:

— Nine-hour battery life
— 256 GB SSD
— Decent webcam

Cons: 

— 720p resolution
— Staticky microphone

The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15.6-Inch is an all-around performer at a budget price for a Windows laptop. It has the 8 GB of RAM you need for smoothly running Windows and a 256 GB SSD. You just have to make sure that the model you get has both of those specifications because there is a model with only 4 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD. Those extra gigabytes make a big difference in performance.

It also comes with the Windows 11 S operating system, which includes extra security features that are nice at this price. We like the 15.6-inch screen, but we’d like it even more if it had a higher resolution. You have to make a bit of a compromise with the 720p res display.

At the top of our favorites list is this model’s long nine-hour battery life. The IdeaPad also has a decent WebCam if you need to do online conferences or classes. However, the microphone has some static.

Best for Gaming: Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series 3595 Laptop

Build Quality. Dell

Why It Made The Cut: The quality build and long battery life make this a decent (and good looking) gaming laptop for the price. 

Specs: 

Screen Size: 15.6 inches
RAM: 8 GB
Weight: 4.84 pounds

Pros:

— Build quality
— Plenty of legacy ports
— 256 GB SSD
— Battery life

Cons: 

— 720p resolution

The Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series 3595 Laptop has a host of legacy ports, and RJ-45 connector, stereo speakers, and a backlit keyboard. And the looks far outweigh the price. The 15.6-inch screen is also a big bonus when it comes to gaming.

Dell includes anti-glare support to go easy on the eyes for those long gaming sessions. It also has an impressive battery life at ten hours. A graphics-optimized chipset works alongside UHD graphics coprocessors that can take on most online games and general casual gaming. Where you have to compromise with this one is the 720p resolution display. It doesn’t have quite the colors and detail some gamers prefer. The best gaming laptops run much higher than $500, so you’re getting quite a bargain with this model.

Best Battery Life: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet

Extended Hours. Lenovo

Why It Made The Cut: This Lenovo can last up to 24 hours when fully charged, making it the best laptop under $500 for battery life.

Specs: 

Screen Size: 10.1 inch
RAM: 4 GB
Weight: 2 pounds

Pros:

— Compact and lightweight
— Long battery life (up to 24 hours)
— Access to a large host of software

Cons: 

— Small keyboard
— Limited memory

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is a Chromebook that can go the distance and beyond. (If we’re getting technical, it’s actually a 2-in-1 tablet-laptop hybrid.) The Duet gets the prize for battery life thanks to its nearly 24 hours of operation when fully charged. 

While we don’t love its tiny keyboard, we do love the tiny price and access to a huge library of software. It comes with full access to all Android apps, as well as the Google apps built into its ChromeOS. Where this model goes the extra mile is that you can download a beta version of Linux software, which lets you use an actual terminal interface. 

But it’s limited to only 4 GB of RAM, so as usual in this category, there are some compromises.

Best for Students: ASUS VivoBook 15 Laptop

Lightweight and Portable. Asus

Why It Made The Cut: Students get a relatively lightweight Windows laptop with a good number of ports to connect extra devices.

Specs:

Screen Size: 15.6 inches
RAM: 8 GB
Weight: 3.75 pounds

Pros:

— Great port selection, including microSD and USB-C
— Decent battery life (eight hours)
— Above-average performance for the price

Cons: 

— 1080p screen is dim and lackluster

The ASUS VivoBook 15 Laptop is a solid all-around performer that’s relatively lightweight, making it a good choice for students on a budget. There’s nothing flashy about the appearance or the specs, but it offers 8 GB of RAM. The boot drive’s 128 GB SSD is a little on the small side, but it will do for browsing, research, word processing, and presentations.

At 3.75 pounds, it’s not the lightest laptop on the market, it’s light enough that carrying it around all day won’t feel like a burden. We also like that it includes good port selection, including a USB-C port and microSD slot. Students can also get a decent amount of battery life at eight hours. Overall, it offers above-average speed and performance when compared to similarly priced laptops.

However, though it has a 1080p resolution display, that display is dim.

Best Budget: Acer Chromebook Spin 311

Budget Shopper’s Dream. Acer

Why It Made The Cut: The Spin 311 has a versatile 2-in-1 design, pleasant keyboard, and a rotatable touchscreen.

Specs: 

Screen Size: 11.6 inches
RAM: 4 GB
Weight: 2.6 pounds

Pros:

— 360-degree rotatable touchscreen
— Lightweight and compact
— Responsive keyboard that’s perfect for small hands

Cons: 

— 32 GB boot drive
— Battery life

The Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is the budget of the budget laptops. In truth, it’s a 2-in-1 hybrid that’s the right size for kids with the right specs for adults who do light browsing or online shopping. At this price, you’re making serious compromises, but for the right user, this compact, lightweight laptop is perfect.

A favorite feature on this model is the 360-degree rotatable touchscreen. That added versatility lets kids do schoolwork in Google Classroom or you do a little shopping in a comfortable position. The keyboard, though small, has good responsiveness.

Keep in mind that this laptop isn’t a powerhouse with only 4 GB RAM and a 32 GB boot drive. The battery life also isn’t something to brag about, so make sure an outlet is nearby. For more options, check out our guide to the best cheap laptops.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Laptop Under $500

Windows or Chrome

When you’re in the under $500 category, you have to decide between a Windows laptop or a Chromebook. Most people are at least familiar with Windows, but if you’re not familiar with a Chromebook, rest assured they’re fairly intuitive and user-friendly.

Chromebooks require an internet connection to connect to Google Drive, where you can access all of the Google apps. You can also use them for browsing, streaming media, and most other online interactions.

Windows laptops have a familiar interface and let you download other software like Microsoft office. They’re a bit more versatile than a Chromebook. However, in the under $500 category they’re often slow with poor performance, except for a few standouts (that are on our list). 

Memory

Anything with a memory under 4 GB will have trouble running Windows. A Chromebook can offer decent performance for browsing and online shopping with 4 GB, but you’re better off with 8 GB whenever possible. The boot drive or long-term storage should be at least 128 GB, but you’ll get much better performance if you can splurge for 256 GB. Finally, if you have the option, opt for a solid-state drive (SSD) because they’re faster and last longer.

Display

There’s a lot of compromise on the screen’s display quality in the under $500 bracket. Many models have a 720p resolution, which will be grainy even for word processing. If you plan to do any gaming or streaming, look for a model that’s 1080p resolution.

Clamshell or Convertible

Do you want a traditional laptop feel, or do you want a model that can convert to a tablet? One isn’t better than the other. It’s more a matter of personal preference. Clamshell models cost less, but convertibles often include a touchscreen display, which may or may not be something you want. 

FAQs

Q. How much do laptops under $500 cost?

Laptops under $500 typically range between $150 to $500. There’s also a subset of models that cost less than $300. If you’re on a tight budget, one of these stripped-down models may be perfect for you.

Q. Which laptop brand is the cheapest?

Many reputable brands carry a line of entry-level laptops that are less than $500. Lenovo and ASUS are two of the more well-known brands that appear on our list and are known for making quality budget laptops.

Q. Which size laptop is best?

The size of laptop that is best for you depends on how you want to use it. Students and business people who travel a lot may want a small 10- to 13-inch convertible model. However, if you do any gaming or spend a lot of time on your laptop, you might want to get a 15.6-inch to 17-inch model.

Q. How long do laptops last?

A laptop’s life depends on how it’s used. One that’s used every day for six to eight hours may only last two or three years. However, one that’s only used for an hour or two a day may last up to four or five years. After that, you’re on borrowed time. You may also find that the laptop becomes incompatible with software updates after four or five years. When you’re ready to upgrade, check out our guide to how to recycle electronics.

Final Thoughts

As the best laptop under $500 the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15.6-Inch offers an excellent balance of performance for the price. It also has a solid build and looks good for a budget laptop. If your budget is under $300, the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is a great choice for kids or adults who only do light browsing and online shopping. Its 360-degree rotating touchscreen creates a versatile interface. There are other great cheap laptops out there, but some of them might run for just over $500. However, one of these models might have the speed, display, and look that better fit your needs. 

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.

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