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The 6 best laptops under $500 are more than enough for most of us


Sure, you can spend $2,000 to $5,000 on a souped-up laptop loaded with cutting-edge features. But if you're more budget-conscious and have just everyday computing needs, you can find a plenty-capable laptop that runs Windows or ChromeOS for less than $500. That's right: Companies like Acer, HP, Lenovo, HP and Microsoft all offer lower-cost options that can handle word processing, web surfing, video streaming, email management, number crunching and much more.

Some of these lower-priced laptops even offer a 2-in-1 design, so they can serve as a tablet or a laptop computer. And a few are even decently suited for casual gaming. So, before you drain your bank account buying a computer with power that you don't actually need, take a look at these options that are all priced below $500. 

As you shop for the perfect laptop, be sure to check out our coverage of the five best laptops for 2024, the six best laptops under $1,000, the six best gaming laptops for 2024, the five best laptops for college in 2024, the five best Chromebooks of 2024 and the five best budget laptops for 2024.

What is the best laptop under $500?

While you won't find any current-model Apple MacBooks in this roundup, you will discover plenty of Windows or ChromeOS options. Keep in mind, while ChromeOS computers are on the cheap side, they do rely heavily on cloud applications and online storage. So if you don't have continuous access to Wi-Fi, a Chromebook or lower-end Windows computer with minimal storage is probably not the right fit for you. 

Here are six of the best laptops under $500 that our in-house team of tech experts has selected for spring 2024.

Best Windows laptop under $500: Lenovo IdeaPad 3i

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i Amazon

Design: Traditional laptop | Operating system: Windows 11 Pro | Display Size: 14 inches | Processor: Intel Core i3-1115G4 | RAM: 12GB | Internal Storage: 512GB

No, this Lenovo IdeaPad 3i is not equipped with the newest and fastest processor on the market, but it does run Windows 11 Pro and comes configured with 12GB RAM and a 512GB SSD for storage. This means it stores plenty of apps and data and offers a decently powered processor.

The display is a 14-inch LCD that offers 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution, but isn't a touchscreen. This model also comes equipped with three USB Type-A ports, an HDMI port, 3.5mm audio jack and a four-in-one card reader. Plus you get support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth. This IdeaPad 3i weighs in at 3.3 pounds and measures 12.89 x 9.49 x 0.78 inches, so it's rather stealthy. 

When streaming video or music, the internal stereo speakers support Dolby Audio. During normal use, expect to get up to 14 hours of battery life per charge. The Lenovo IdeaPad 3i is ready to handle your everyday computing, but it's not a top choice for even casual gaming.

Best gaming laptop under $500: Acer Aspire 5

Acer Aspire 5 Amazon

Design: Traditional laptop | Operating system: Windows 11 S | Display Size: 15.6 inches | Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 | RAM: 12GB | Internal Storage: 512GB

With its scaled-down configuration, this is the 2023 version of the Acer Aspire 5 laptop computer. It comes bundled with a 15.6-inch, 1080p (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution display, along with 12GB RAM and a 512GB SSD for storage. You also get the benefits of a Radeon Vega 6 graphics processor and a numeric keypad -- part of the backlit keyboard. 

As a general-purpose computer, this laptop can easily handle tasks like web surfing, word processing, video streaming and video calling. It's also decently equipped for the average gamer. It measures 14.3 x 9.9 x 0.71 inches and weighs a mere 3.79 pounds. Another useful feature is the fingerprint scanner that can unlock the computer and quickly approve purchases. 

This computer comes equipped with a decent selection of USB Type-C and USB Type-A ports, an Ethernet port, an HDMI port and a 3.5mm audio jack. Dual stereo speakers are also integrated into the computer, but for the best quality sound, you'll want headphones or wireless earbuds. For wireless connectivity, it supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth.

Best laptop under $500 for students: HP 14-inch Ultra Light

HP 14-Inch Ultra Light Amazon

Design: Traditional laptop | Operating system: Windows 11 Home | Display Size: 14 inches | Processor: Intel Celeron N4120 | RAM: 8GB | Internal Storage: 192GB

For a Windows laptop under $250 (with a $50 off Amazon instant coupon), this HP computer offers a 14-inch (1,366 x 768 pixel) display. What's a bit unusual about its configuration is that, for storage, it uses a 64GB eMMC and a 128GB Micro SD. It also comes in a variety of colors. For computing power, this HP Ultra Light is nothing special, but it will handle basic computing. 

Keep in mind, it's not well suited for photo editing, video editing or gaming. The Intel Celeron N4120 processor runs at 1.10GHz, but has a "burst frequency" of up to 2.6GHz. The selection of ports is also rather basic and includes just one USB Type-C port, two USB Type-A ports, one HDMI port and a 3.5mm audio jack. There's also a microSD memory card slot.

When used to run everyday applications, you should get around 11 hours of usage per battery change. It offers a fast-charge feature, taking battery power from 0% to 50% in about 45 minutes. The computer measures 12.76 x 8.86 x 0.71 inches and weighs 3.24 pounds. While it's an extremely affordable computer, the screen resolution is considerably lower than many competitors, and the processor's speed is OK at best. This computer is best suited for running cloud applications. 

Best touchscreen Chromebook under $500: Acer Chromebook 514

Acer Chromebook 514 Acer

Design: Traditional laptop | Operating system: ChromeOS | Display Size: 14 inches | Processor: MediaTek Kompanio 828 chipset with MediaTek M8192T processor | RAM: 4GB | Internal Storage: 64GB SSD

Looking at this laptop's basic configuration and low price, you may be wondering what this computer can actually do. Well, keep in mind, it's a Chromebook, so it relies heavily on cloud applications and the online storage. So a mere 4GB RAM and 64GB SSD for internal storage is adequate for applications like Google Docs, Sheets, Chrome and Gmail. In fact, it comes preinstalled with easy access to all of Google's most popular services.

The 14-inch LCD touchscreen offers 1,920 x 1,080p resolution. It has two internal speakers for stereo sound, so it's suitable for streaming videos, for example. It also includes a 1,280 x 720 pixel resolution webcam, so it can be used for video calling or participating in remote meetings.

This Acer Chromebook 514 measures 12.7 x 8.9 x 0.66 inches and weighs just 2.87 pounds, so it's lightweight and easy to transport. You also get up to 15 hours per battery charge. The touchpad located below the backlit keyboard's keys is a rather generous size. 

Best Microsoft Surface 2-in-1 under $500: Microsoft Surface Go 3

Microsoft Surface Go 3 Microsoft

Design: 2-in-1 | Operating system: Windows 11 | Display Size: 10.5 inch touchscreen | Processor: Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y or 10th Gen Intel Core i3-10100Y | RAM: 4GB or 8GB | Internal Storage: 64GB eMMC or 128GB SSD

Falling somewhere between a full-featured tablet with a detachable keyboard and a laptop computer with a 2-in-1 design comes the Microsoft Surface Go 3. This is one of the more affordable models in the Microsoft Surface lineup. While it has a starting price of just $350, you can configure the computer at the time of purchase and add certain "must have" accessories, like the Surface Go Type cover ($130), to your order.

Key features of the Surface Go 3 include Surface pen stylus support, up to an 11-hour battery life, face recognition and a built-in kickstand. It weighs just 1.2 pounds (without the detachable keyboard). 

The Surface Go 3 measures 9.95 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches. As for the touchscreen, it's about the same size as a typical tablet, offering 1,920 x 1,280 pixel resolution (220 pixels per inch), a 3:2 aspect ratio and a 1500:1 contrast ratio. In other words, it can do a decent job showcasing graphics, video and animations with plenty of detail and accurate colors. 

The display is made using Corning Gorilla Glass 3, so it's durable. And with the internal speakers, you can easily use the Surface Go 3 for video streaming and more. Thanks to the 5MP front and 8MP rear cameras, the Surface Go 3 can also be used for video calling or virtual meetings on the go. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are integrated into the computer.

Best super inexpensive Windows laptop: Acer Aspire 1

Acer Aspire 1 Acer

Design: Traditional laptop | Operating system: Windows 11 S | Display Size: 15.6 inches | Processor: Intel Celeron N4500 | RAM: 4GB | Internal Storage: 64GB SSD

It's truly amazing what just $200 can get you when it comes to a laptop these days. While you won't get a state-of-the-art computer, you can certainly find one that's more than capable of basic tasks like word processing, email, web surfing and video streaming. One example of this is the Aspire 1 laptop. It offers a 15.6 inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixel display.

The computer runs Windows 11 and comes with a one-year subscription for Microsoft 365, so you get full access to Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and other popular applications. Sure, it would be nice if this computer came with more internal storage, but if you rely on cloud storage via Microsoft OneDrive, plus take advantage of cloud apps, you should be all set.

This configuration of the Aspire 1 comes with three USB ports, an Ethernet and HDMI port, as well as a 3.5mm audio port. Battery life is up to eight hours. The computer meaures 14.3 x 9.4 x 0.78 inches and weighs 3.64 pounds.

How to find the best cheap laptop

Our computer experts have compiled this list of the top 11 things to consider.

  • Design: There are traditional laptop computers, 2-in-1 computers (that serve as a laptop computer and tablet), laptops with a touchscreen, laptops that are extra thin and lightweight, and those designed to be extra rugged. So ask yourself: What will you be using the laptop for? And where will you typically be using it?
  • Operating system: Your two main options for laptops priced below $500 include those that run Windows or ChromeOS. Focus on the OS of the equipment you're already using. Also, make sure your laptop runs the very latest version that operating system. At the moment, this means either Windows 11 Home, Windows 11 Pro, or ChromeOS 124.
  • Display features: In addition to non-touch and touchscreen displays, the screens built into laptop computers vary in size, display type, resolution, brightness and refresh rate. Think about the level of detail, vibrance and color accuracy you want to see. In general, larger displays that offer high resolution, a higher than average brightness level and a faster refresh rate will increase the computer's price, as will choosing a higher-end display type, such as an OLED.
  • CPU and GPU: A computer's CPU (or central processing unit) affects processing power, while its GPU (graphics processing unit) determines how efficiently the computer generates graphics. The faster and more powerful a computer's CPU and GPU, the more expensive it will be.
  • RAM: Consider this the computer's short-term memory. Having more RAM determines how smoothly and efficiently a computer runs.
  • Internal storage: This determines how much content can be stored locally. This includes apps, data, documents, files, photos and other types of content. If you rely on cloud applications and storage, internal storage is less important. For the average user, we recommend a Windows laptop with at least 256GB or 512GB of internal storage, although you may find 1TB of storage better meets your needs. For Chromebooks, much less internal storage is required, since these computers rely so heavily on cloud services.
  • Battery life: If you'll often use your laptop on the go, a more powerful battery will keep the computer running longer. 
  • Wired and wireless connectivity: All laptops have built-in ports, such as USB Type-A and USB Type-C ports. Some also have an HDMI port, Ethernet port, 3.5mm headphone/audio jack, and even a memory card slot. The port array you need depends on what equipment you'll be connecting. You also want to pay attention to the computer's wireless connectivity. All offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but determine if the version of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that are offered are the most recent. At the moment, this means either Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7 (the latest Wi-Fi protocol) and Bluetooth 5.3. 
  • Speakers: If you plan to use the speakers built into your laptop, make sure your machine offers at least two. Some of the latest laptops offer four speakers and an integrated subwoofer to generate robust, room-filling audio. 
  • Keyboard layout: A computer's keyboard design and layout, along with the size and location of the touchpad, dictates how comfortable it is to type. Some laptop keyboards include a numeric keypad on the right side, a separate line of function keys along the top, or other specialty keys. Some laptops offer backlit keys (which makes it easier to type in the dark) or support customizable RGB lighting.
  • Dimensions and weight: Dimensions and weight impact how easy it is to carry and the size of the case you'll need.

What is a good price for a laptop? 

This varies based on your preferred operating system and what you plan to use the laptop for. A standard Windows productivity laptop will cost at between $1,000 and $3,000, but there are plenty of decent options for less than $500 that can handle everyday computing.

Some Chromebooks are priced as low as $200. These computers, however, typically have a slow processor, minimal RAM and a very low amount of internal storage. Instead, they rely on cloud applications and online storage. There are also Windows laptops in the sub-$500 price range that can handle basic computing and that offer enough internal storage for applications, data and files locally.   

How much storage and memory does a laptop need? 

If you plan to use your computer for email and web browsing, may only need between 4GB and 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage for a Windows laptop. If you're going with a Chromebook, 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage is adequate. Either of these options are also suitable for streaming TVs shows, movies, music and podcasts.

Gamers, video editors or anyone who frequently uses large files will need more computing power and a greater amount of RAM and storage. At the bare minimum, you want a decently powerful processor, 16GB RAM and at least a 256GB SSD for storage. 

What will I miss out on with a cheap laptop?

That's simple: A cutting-edge, powerful processor, a powerful GPU (for graphics), a decent amount of RAM and a large amount of SSD storage. Lower-priced computers also tend to skimp on ports and the resolution of the display. Meanwhile, the pricier laptop computers tend to offer a longer battery life.

How important is the computer's brand name?

Normally, hardware configuration and the type of processor running a computer are more important than its brand name. However, when shopping for a sub-$500 laptop, we strongly recommend choosing one from a well-known brand and buying it from a trusted vendor (like Amazon) or directly from the manufacturer. Make sure returns are accepted (without a restocking fee) in case you encounter a problem or the computer is not powerful enough to meet your needs. This roundup features low cost computers from Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, HP and Microsoft, which are among the best brand names to consider.

Whether you need to know about the very best laptop computers or any other types of tech, we're constantly expanding and updating our coverage to offer the most informative, timely and accurate information.

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