A new laptop is usually a big-ticket item — but it doesn’t have to be. With the advent of Chromebooks and less expensive storage, there are many high-quality laptops for under $500 that don’t necessarily skimp on power, memory or screen size. In addition, many of these models are fairly lightweight and compact. Low-priced laptops vary in their operating system, memory, processing power and other factors, so it’s important to find a computer that meets your needs. Our top choice by HP provides enough processing power for work as well as for entertainment. To learn more about laptops under $500, continue reading our shopping guide.
When searching for the right laptop, you should keep in mind what tasks you will use your computer for most often.
Most laptops under $500 come with either Windows 10 or Chrome OS. Windows is a highly versatile operating system that works well for gaming, video editing, and a variety of other tasks. Chrome OS is a browser-based operating system installed on Chromebooks that is a good choice for anyone who needs a basic computer for browsing and using cloud-based services. Linux is an open-source operating system that does not come installed on most laptops but can be installed for free.
The processor of a laptop, also called the CPU, determines its speed and ability to multitask.
Battery life is crucial if you plan to work on the go—and with a laptop, there’s a good chance you do. Even inexpensive laptops may offer up to 12 hours of battery life, while some may last as little as four hours.
The storage space of a laptop determines how many files and applications you can house onboard. With a Chromebook, most of your data is stored online, so this is less of a concern. If storage is important to you, consider whether a faster solid state drive (SSD) is worth the price—or perhaps opt for a cheaper traditional hard drive (HDD).
If your work involves fine details, gaming, or video editing, screen size may be an important factor. This is the measurement of a laptop’s screen diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner, with most models maxing out around 17 inches.
Like any computer, laptops under $500 vary in their features and design. Some common features include:
This allows you to use your laptop like a tablet. Some models even fold backward for a streamlined tablet experience. These are sometimes referred to as two-in-one machines.
The number and type of ports determine what peripheral devices you can connect.
Most laptops have a webcam and microphone built in, but this is not always the case.
The least-expensive laptops come in around $150, and are usually Chromebooks. For $300-$500, there are a variety of Chromebooks and Windows 10 laptops that may offer features such as touchscreen functionality, SSD storage, large screens, and small form factors.
A. This depends on how often you use it and whether you plan to play the latest games or use up-to-date programs. With new program updates, your computer may become outdated in five to eight years.
A. This depends on the model. However, most newer Chromebooks can access Google Play apps, while all Chromebooks can use Chrome extensions.
Our take: If you are looking for a powerful and reliable machine, this is your best option.
What we like: The battery has a life of up to 13.5h, enough for a whole day of work and more.
What we dislike: Some users have really strong feelings about the design of the keyboard.
Where to buy: Sold by HP
Our take: A great laptop for everyday use for an unbeatable price.
What we like: Acer's Purified.Voice technology makes the audio for video-conferences more clear by cancelling background noise. The screen only is worth the price on its own.
What we dislike: With only 4GB of RAM it might not be the best option if you plan to use very demanding software.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Our take: A two-in-one Chromebook that stands out for its lightweight design.
What we like: The compact screen and slim form factor make this a great laptop for working on the go. In addition, the 4GB memory and 2 GHz processor make this a snappy little machine.
What we dislike: The small storage size means you will have to resort primarily to cloud storage.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
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Peter McPherson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.