Tablets stole the spotlight from laptops when they first burst onto the scene, but ultrabooks and hybrids have helped turn the tide in recent years. Cheap laptops are also a popular alternative, and there are plenty of options on the table if you’re looking for the best laptop under $500.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Laptop Under $500
When you’re shopping in the budget range, there are some things you just won’t get when dipping down below $500. Want a UHD display or 16GB of RAM? You won’t find a laptop with those specifications in this class, but you may be surprised by how many affordable 15.6-inch machines are available.
Before we get to the areas, you should consider, take a few minutes and think about your needs. If you’re a student, you’ll want a laptop with great battery life and reliable connectivity while gamers will want to go straight for the PC with the most RAM and largest processor.
While you may think you’re stuck choosing between machines with large bezels at this range, you’d be mistaken. There are actually two styles you can choose from although both have their drawbacks.
The Classic Laptop – Any laptop we refer to as a “classic” has a normal form factor with a clamshell design. While the shell can be made from aluminum, you generally have to deal with a lot of plastic.
Hybrids – A hybrid laptop is any machine that’s considered a 2-in-1 or convertible. These PCs have hinges which allow you to use the computer in “tablet” mode or set it up like a tent. Typically, these hybrids range from 11 to 13-inches in size and some even allow you to detach the display entirely.
RAM is arguably the most important factor when choosing a budget-friendly laptop, but only if the machine isn’t easy to upgrade. Thankfully, modern technology allows us to upgrade RAM on certain laptops which makes a huge difference when you can quickly go from to 16GB without breaking the bank.
In other cases, you’re stuck with what you get out of the box. Every PC on our list has a minimum of 4GB of RAM, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a laptop with more than 8GB for under $500. If you plan to run high-end programs, be sure to check out the system requirements beforehand or you may be in for a rude surprise.
Storage & Speed
Speed or horsepower is where things get tricky with budget laptops as you won’t find any running a Core-i7 and only a handful will have an i5 processor. AMD chips and Core-i3 chips are the most popular options. While on the lower end of the power spectrum, most will still provide enough pop to handle applications as long as you have enough RAM. The generation of the chip makes a huge difference as well, so go for the newest model if given the option.
As for storage, thankfully things are quite simple with cheap laptops. Solid-state drives have come down in price so if you need speed, opt for a PC with an SSD. You won’t get as much space but can expand through the usual means. HDD’s will provide you with more storage initially but are considerably slower than their solid-state counterparts.
8 Best Laptops Under $500 You Can Buy in 2018
Powerful Laptop With Fingerprint Sensor
When it comes to laptops in the budget-friendly range, ASUS is a brand that tends to pop up. Our first choice from the company is the F510UA from their VivoBook lineup, and it’s ideal if you want an affordable yet powerful machine.
While it’s hard to find a good 15.6-inch FHD display at this price point, it’s far from the only highlight with the F510UA. It has an Intel Core i5-8250U under the hood which is backed by 8GB of RAM. The storage capacity comes courtesy of a 1TB HDD. We also love the fact this laptop has a USB 3.1 port and a fingerprint scanner for additional security.
This is one of the few Windows-based machines with features typically reserved for pricier PCs. If you like what the ASUS VivoBook brings to the table, but prefer more physical storage, a variant with an extra 128GB SSD is available as well.
- 8GB of RAM
- 1TB HDD
- Fingerprint Scanner
- USB Type-C
- The keyboard could use some work
- Build quality
The Best Dell Laptop Under $500
The Dell Inspiron 15 3567 is another affordable option in the 15-inch range. While it doesn’t have the same array of features as our top choice, you’ll have enough money left over to buy a few upgrades for this PC.
Dell decided to keep things simple with the 3567, so you’ll get a 15.6-inch LED panel with a resolution of 1,366 x 768. It runs Windows 10, but you’ll only have 4GB of RAM to work with initially. Other tech specs of interest include a speedy 128GB solid-state drive, an Intel Core i3-7130U, and a DVD drive which is hard to find on any laptop these days.
One of the drawbacks of this laptop aside from the i3 chip is the fact it’s heavy. At close to 5 lbs., we wouldn’t want to lug it around all day although it’s hard to argue with the price. Consumers that are AMD fans will be thrilled to know they can get the A6-9200 in place of the Intel chip on this model as well.
- Removable battery
- DVD Drive
- X2 USB 3.1 ports
- Cheaper than other budget models
- No quick charging
- Lots of bloatware
Nimble With Excellent Battery Life
A lot of oddballs appear when you break the $500 range, and Acer has been responsible for plenty of them. That’s not to say they aren’t without a certain amount of charm however like the Acer Aspire E5 which sports a newer Intel chip.
Looking for an affordable machine with long battery life? The Acer Aspire holds up better than others in that department although you may not hit the 13.5-hours the company claims. That depends on your usage, but the 8th gen Core i3-8130U certainly helps in that regard. This laptop also has 6GB of dual channel RAM, a 1TB HDD, and an 8x DVD drive. The LED display clocks in at 15.6-inches with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080.
The Aspire E5-576-392H runs Windows 10 Home and has a USB Type-C port to go along with MU-MIMO wireless tech. It’s one of the better options if you’re looking for the best gaming laptop under $500 as well given the fact you can swap out the hard drive and add more RAM.
- RAM and HD are easy to upgrade
- 6GB of RAM
- Intel UHD graphics 620
- 15.6-inch FHD display
- Battery life
- Over 5 lbs.
- Poor viewing angles
- Display isn’t the most vivid
The Best 2-in-1 Laptop Under $500
Our first convertible laptop is the ASUS C302-DHM4, otherwise known as the Chromebook Flip. It’s an excellent choice for students of consumer that aren’t concerned about power, and we think you’ll be thrilled with several other features as well.
This machine walks a fine line between netbook and laptop as it’s quite small with a 12.5-inch FHD display. That panel has a 360-degree hinge and is of the touchscreen variety. You can use it as a tablet or in tent mode with ease. While the processor is the lowly Core m3, the boots speeds are snappy thanks to 64GB of flash storage and the Chrome OS.
The ASUS Chromebook Flip is light at only 2.65 lbs. and you can get “around” 10 hours of juice depending on your usage. It’s not quite 13-inches, but there should be more than enough glass on the panel to satisfy most consumers.
- Metal body
- USB Type-C
- 360-degree hinge
- Good battery life
- Quick boot times
- Not much power
- Chrome isn’t for everyone
- The trackpad isn’t the best
The Best Business Laptop under $500
Most of the machines on our best laptop under $500 list are powered by Intel chips. The Lenovo HD LED Signature laptop is one exception as you’ll get an AMD processor and more RAM than you’ll find on other models in this class.
The HD LED Signature is powered by a quad-core FX-7500 processor which is backed by 8GB of RAM. While the display is 15.6-inches, it’s only 720p although the graphics are solid thanks to the Radeon R7. It has a large 1TB hard drive and all the usual options you’d expect in the connectivity department with the exception of a USB Type-C port.
Like most modern machines, this laptop runs Windows 10 out of the box, and you won’t have to deal with an excess amount of bloatware. On the downside, it’s big, bulky and the battery life tops out at around 6 hours on a good day.
- DVD +/- drive
- Big 15.6-inch display
- 8GB of RAM
- 1TB hard drive
- Battery life
- 720p resolution
- Big bezels
An Excellent Choice for Media Lovers
If you’re in the market for a Chromebook, but prefer Samsung to ASUS, we have just the thing for you. The Chromebook Plus from Samsung is another slick 2-in-1 laptop that comes with a few extras and a display that tops the rest.
The pixels on this 12.3-inch touchscreen display pop as it’s QHD with a resolution of 2,400 x 1,600 whether you’re in tablet, standard or tent mode. It also has a sleek metal shell and comes with a stylus, but that’s where the highlights end. It only has 4GB of RAM, a 32GB flash drive, and an OP1 processor, so you’re power is limited. So is your app selection considering it runs Chrome…
On the flipside, you’re going to get 10 hours of battery life from this one, and the display is great if you’re a movie lover, even if the speakers could use a bit of work. We’re also fans of the design along with the built-in pen.
- QHD touchscreen display
- 2-in-1 design
- Excellent battery life
- Storage capacity
- Connectivity issues
- Limited uses
Large But Reliable Touchscreen Laptop Under $500
HP has been one of the more reliable manufacturers over the years in the world of affordable laptops. They cracked our list with this 15.6-inch machine which sports a touchscreen and enough RAM to handle most applications with ease.
From the DTS studio sound to the SuperMulti DVD burner, there’s a lot to like about the HP Notebook Premium laptop. It has 8GB of RAM under the hood and a 1TB hard drive along with the Intel HD graphics 620 chip. The resolution is a bit disappointing at 1,366 x 768, but the display is large, responsive and bright.
Other specifications of interest for this PC include Windows 10 Home, an i3-7100U processor, and a TrueVision HD webcam. The battery is listed at 31Wh and rated for around 5-6 hours which is par for the course given its size.
- Touchscreen display
- 8GB of RAM
- 1TB HDD
- SuperMulti DVD drive
- Battery life
- 720p display
Good things come in Small Packages
If you balk at the size of even a 13.3-inch machine, the Acer Spin 1 may be the best choice for your needs. It’s the smallest convertible to make the cut, but still capable enough to run most popular applications through Windows 10.
The Acer Spin 1 lives up to its namesake by allowing you to swivel the 11.6-inch panel to suit your needs. It has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and is powered by the Intel Celeron N3350 dual-core processor. Tha chip is backed by 3GB of DDR3L RAM, and you’ll have 32GB of storage to work with out of the box. The battery life doesn’t measure up to Chromebooks but is solid at around 8 hours.
While there are a few areas that could use some improvement, the Spin 1 is a reliable little laptop with a sweet price point which makes it an option for the best laptop under $500. We do wish there was a bit more memory and power, but if you need something for light-duty work, this one is an option.
- Convertible design
- Included Active Stylus
- FHD touchscreen display
- Good battery life
- Only 32GB of storage
- Underwhelming horsepower
- Maybe too small for some