Best Laptops Under $500

Let’s face it; most of us aren’t using our laptops for Photoshop or rocket science. If you need a laptop that can do all the basics and then perhaps a little more, you don’t need to spend top dollar on a high-end powerhouse. Just because many of the best laptops can cost well over $1,000, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a great laptop for half that—or less. The best laptops under $500 can handle routine tasks and do them quite well. You can even get one of the best gaming laptops for under $500 to play casual games.

Of course, laptops under $500 tend to make some compromises in processor speed, system memory, storage, display resolution and other features as compared with mid-priced, affordable laptops that cost twice as much. But you can get much more machine for your dollar now as compared to just a few years ago, and make fewer compromises than ever when it comes to everyday tasks like web browsing, streaming video and working with documents and spreadsheets.

Picking the best laptops under $500 is no mean feat, though. We combined extensive first hand experience with some of the top branded budget laptops, with robust research, to find the laptops that offer great value for money.

Best Laptop Under $500 Overall

Good Performance At An Affordable Price

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5500U| RAM: 8GB | Graphics: AMD Vega | Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD | Display: 14-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Battery: Up to 10 hours | Weight: 3.2 pounds

Best for: Office work, web browsing and light gaming.

The HP 14 Laptop is an older model, but it still delivers incredible value for the money, and is the best laptop under $500 you can buy today. It has the mid-range AMD Ryen 5500U mobile CPU, offering impressive six-core performance for heavy web browsing and office work. It even has enough power for a little light gaming thanks to its onboard Vega graphics, though don’t expect this model to give you high frame rates in AAA games.

At 3.2 pounds, the HP 14 Laptop is light enough to tote to a coffee shop or library, and in this relatively compact form-factor it is more portable than many more expensive designs. With up to 10 hours of mixed-use battery life, it should get you through a full day of work or school, making it a great laptop for college students, too. The display has a limited brightness of 250 nits, so don’t try using this laptop in bright sunlight, but the 14-inch 1080p display still looks crisp at this size, and its bezels are thin enough that the design feels relatively modern.

Pros:

  • Great value for money
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Not suited for demanding tasks

Best Chromebook Laptop Under $500

Premium Performance And A Big Display

CPU: Intel Pentium Silver N6000| RAM: 8GB | Graphics: Intel UHD | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Display: 17.3-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Battery: Up to 10 hours | Weight: 4.9 pounds

Best for: A desktop replacement for cloud-based productivity and watching movies.

The Acer Chromebook 317 is a big and chunky Chrome OS laptop. But what it lacks in portability, this model more than makes up for in premium features. Its large 17.3-inch 1080p display is a rare find at this sort of price, and makes this a great laptop for watching movies and TV shows. It’s also useful as a desktop replacement for handling cloud-based work from within the Chrome browser environment, with all of that screen space aiding productivity. Another productivity boost comes from this model’s full-size board, which includes a number pad and gives buyers plenty of space for typing and data entry.

The laptop’s 10-hour battery life rating is more than enough for a full work day, but with this laptop being rather big and heavy, it’s not really suited for use on the go. Still, with that much battery you won’t be tied to your desk, either. Storage is somewhat limited at 64GB, but you do get 100GB of free Google Drive storage with every Chromebook, and with both USB Type-A and USB Type-C ports on the Acer Chromebook 317, adding external storage is easy.

Pros:

  • Large display for a Chromebook
  • Decent battery life
  • Good port selection

Cons:

  • Limited storage space
  • Heavy

Best 17-inch Laptop Under $500

Impressive Performance With A Big Screen

CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7 | RAM: 8GB | Graphics: Intel Iris Xe | Storage: 256GB SSD | Display: 17.3-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Battery: Up to 7 hours | Weight: 5.5 pounds

Best for: A desktop replacement and watching movies.

The Acer Aspire 3 is a big and heavy laptop, but with its large 17-inch display, it’s an excellent desktop replacement. This configuration at Walmart is an older version from 2020, and ships with Windows 10; but we like this config for its mix of components, particularly its 1,920 x 1,080 pixel display. (A newer version of the Aspire 3 at Best Buy downgrades the processor to Core i3, and the display to 1,600 x 900 pixels.) Performance on this config should be good enough for everyday tasks, though it’s not suited for more demanding computing tasks. The Intel Iris Xe graphics on this 11th-generation CPU can handle entry-level gaming, but stick to casual games and esports to maintain steady performance. Whether you’re playing or working, though, the large display will help you see everything clearly and in full high-definition detail.

With good internal hardware and a big screen, battery life is below average, at seven hours. The system has two USB 2.0 Type-A ports and only one USB 3.0 Type-A port, and it has no USB Type-C ports (the newer Best Buy config of the Aspire 3 still lacks Type-C, but flips the complement of USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports). It has the increasingly-uncommon gigabit ethernet port, which you won’t often find on more compact and portable laptop designs, and Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5 for wireless connectivity.

Pros:

  • Big display for movies and working
  • Good mix of components for the price

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Limited battery life
  • No USB Type-C port

Best Gaming Laptop Under $500

Powerful Onboard Graphics

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5500U | RAM: 8GB | Graphics: AMD Vega | Storage: 256GB SSD | Display: 15.6-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Refresh Rate: 60Hz | Battery: Up to 11 hours | Weight: 3.9 pounds

Best for: Lightweight gaming on the go.

The Acer Aspire 5 might not have a dedicated GPU, but its onboard AMD Vega graphics are powerful enough to make this the best gaming laptop under $500. It’ll handle esports games as well as casual, retro or indie games all very well at comfortable frame rates. Its six core AMD Ryzen 5500U processor delivers impressive multi-threaded performance when working, too, letting you run many web browser tabs at a time, or even dabble in photo and video editing if you keep the resolution down.

The 15-inch display on the Acer Aspire 5 is 1080p, with a 60Hz refresh rate—detailed enough at this screen size to still look pleasingly clear. At around 250 nits it’s not the brightest screen out there, but it still outstrips most of the other gaming laptops under $500, and that’s more than enough to play your favorite games in well lit rooms. Don’t try to game outside though, since sunlight will defeat this laptop quicker than your opponents can. That lower brightness does help extend the battery, however, with battery life rated at up to 11 hours of mixed use.

Pros:

  • Capable CPU and onboard graphics
  • Good 1080p 15-inch display
  • Above average battery life at this price

Cons:

  • Lacks dedicated GPU
  • Limited to 60Hz refresh rate

Best Touchscreen Laptop Under $500

An Affordable Touchscreen Laptop With Fast Wi-Fi

CPU: Intel Core i3-1115G4 | RAM: 8GB | Graphics: Intel Xe | Storage: 256GB SSD | Display: 15.6-inch touchscreen| Resolution: 1,366 x 768 | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Battery: Up to 9 hours | Weight: 4.1 pounds

Best for: Creative and productive work where a touchscreen is important.

The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 incorporates a touchscreen in a very affordable device, offering baseline general performance and enough battery life for a full day of work. It’s not particularly fast, and the the inclusion of the touchscreen at this kind of price does mean putting up with a screen that isn’t full high-definition 1080p, but if you want the ability to use touch input on a very affordable device, this is the best laptop for the job. (If you want a better touch display, expect to pay $100 more).

Despite the Intel Core i3 CPU being a little underpowered with just two cores, you still get 256GB of SSD storage, so this laptop will start up fast and remain responsive as long as you don’t overload it with too much multi-tasking. That’s not much of a sacrifice to make when you’re getting this device for well under $500 at its current discounted price, and even at $500 a 15.6-inch touchscreen is a real rarity. Combine those details with a full-size keyboard including a number pad and support for the super-fast Wi-Fi 6, and you get a solid all-round touchscreen laptop at a very affordable price.

Pros:

  • Very affordable price
  • Fast Wi-Fi 6 support
  • Plenty of fast storage for a responsive system

Cons:

  • Sub-1080p resolution screen
  • Underpowered CPU

Cheapest Windows Laptop Under $500

Light And Portable At An Incredibly Low Price

CPU: Intel Celeron N5100 | RAM: 4GB DDR4 | Graphics: Intel UHD | Storage: 128GB eMMC | Display: 14-inch | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080| Refresh rate: 60Hz | Battery: Up to 8 hours | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Best for: Writing, answering emails, and web browsing on the go.

The Lenovo IdeaPad 1i is aggressively affordable, competing directly with some of the best Chromebooks for providing the ultimate value in a laptop form. Although this model makes some big concessions to get its price down this low, it does have some strengths of its own. At 3.1 pounds and 0.7-inch tall, it is surprisingly thin and light. Throw this model in a backpack or messenger bag, and you’ll barely know it’s there. You get a good size keyboard too, despite the trim design of the chassis, making this a great laptop for web browsing or answering emails while on a plane or train.

You will have to make do with an underpowered Celeron processor and just 4GB of RAM. Another concession: This model uses Windows 11 Home S Mode 64, which means it is optimized to run apps from the Windows app store. (Other apps would require entering a different mode.) This model has a large 14-inch display at full high-definition resolution—a noteworthy combo at this low price. It also has a USB Type-C, USB 3.1 Type-A and USB 2.0 Type-A ports, and and SD Card slot to boot. Battery life is rated at 8 hours, below average these days but enough to get through much of a day without plugging in.

Pros:

  • Incredibly low price
  • Super compact and lightweight
  • Good sized keyboard

Cons:

  • Uses Windows Home S Mode
  • Underpowered processor

How We Chose The Best $500 Laptops

The best $500 laptops are never going to be powerhouse performers. But they do provide enough processing power to handle lightweight tasks like web browsing, answering emails, scrolling social media and watching movies. Some models have enough oomph to handle entry-level gaming. These laptops need to be functional, even at the very low-end of the scale, so while you can expect modest CPU performance, the processors on these laptops should be able to handle basic everyday computing tasks.

As for everything else, higher resolution displays, gaming power, longer battery lives are all nice to haves, but they aren’t the baseline for the basics. Good overall performance must come first, and after that, the winners in each of the above categories bring something else to the table.


What To Consider When Buying A $500 Laptop

When you’re buying a laptop that costs less than $500, you are going to have to make some sacrifices. But knowing where to make them is important. Here are the things you don’t want to scrimp on, and where you can save a few dollars.

Processor

The CPU is the heart of your PC, and though you aren’t going to get a flagship model at this price, your CPU choice is going to have the biggest impact on general PC performance, so you don’t want to go low-end or too old.

At the least you want a recent generation CPU, so Intel 11th or 12th gen, or AMD Ryzen 4000, 5000, or 6000. You might want to consider Intel Celeron and AMD Athlon CPUs for the most affordable designs, but know that that will bring with it weaker performance. Try to opt for a Ryzen 5 or Intel Core i5 design or better if you can find it at this price.

You want at least a dual-core CPU, but a quad-core CPU is preferable as it provides much better multitasking performance.

RAM

For RAM, or system memory, 8GB is the minimum you should really be targeting. But to achieve a sub-$500 price, many manufacturers provide just 4GB of RAM. Just know that the less RAM in the system, the slower and less responsive the system overall.

Graphics

Graphics only really matter if you’re looking to do some gaming, and though you aren’t likely to find a gaming laptop under $500 that has a dedicated GPU, that’s the holy grail if you can find it. None of the models recommended above do, though, it’s just so hard to find at this kind of price.

Instead, you want capable onboard graphics. You’ll get the best out of AMD’s Vega and RDNA2 onboard GPUs, but Intel’s 11th and 12th generation processors can have Iris Xe graphics, which is a reasonable alternative. Intel’s older UHD graphics is fine for the oldest of esport and indie games, but performance won’t be as strong as on newer models.

Storage

For storage, SSDs are the gold standard, delivering fast boot times and responsive applications when up and running. While 256GB of storage is generous at this price, it gives you plenty of room for the operating system, all your applications and a few videos and games too. Most under $500 laptops have 128GB of storage, which fills up fast. A few really low-cost systems—including Chromebooks—use slower eMMC flash storage.

Display

Optimal display size depends upon what you want to use the laptop for. Bigger screens are better for work and enjoying movies, but a larger display saps battery life faster and typically carries a higher price tag—meaning you’ll make greater sacrifices in a laptop under $500, especially in a gaming laptop under $500.

Smaller sizes like 15.6-inch and 14-inch are a great compromise, typically leading to better pricing, battery life, and even performance thanks to greater budget focused on components rather than display.

As for resolution, 1080p is the target at this price point, though in smaller displays you can get away with 720p without sacrificing too much visual quality.

Battery Life

Most of the best laptops under $500 will give you around 10 hours of battery life. More than that is nice, while less can start to feel constricting, especially if you want to use the laptop on the go. Just ensure that whatever laptop you pick can manage the number of hours you’d expect to be away from a power socket, so you aren’t constantly hunting for somewhere to plug it in.

Weight

Bigger laptops weigh more, which won’t be a problem if you’re looking to use it as a desktop replacement or in relatively static locations, but might be an issue if you plan to carry the laptop around all day. Most laptops under $500 weigh around three to four pounds, making them portable enough to carry with you.


What To Expect From The Best Laptops Under $500

What’s offered at the sub-$500 price point typically only gets you enough computing power to handle the most basic of tasks—like email, web surfing, word processing or music and video streaming.

While one of these ultra low-cost computers might be able to handle simple photo or video editing, or even gaming, expect sluggish performance limited by the processing power, graphics capabilities and system memory available.

In other words, anything that requires significant processing power will either function incredibly slowly on a low-cost laptop computer, or the system requirements won’t be sufficient to what’s required to run certain applications. If you choose to go with one of these laptops under $500, make sure your expectations are realistic for what it can actually handle.

A laptop designed to handle all of the most processing-intensive computing tasks—including image editing—will typically cost at least $700 to $1,000. In fact, if you’re interested in a MacOS-based computer that runs using Apple’s M1 processor (as opposed to one that runs Windows), the lowest priced MacBook Air currently starts at $999.

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