Finding machines worthy of being considered the best laptops under $500 is a tricky business. For starters, there is not a vast selection of notebooks that come in at that price range. Spend a little more, and the number of options increases. But $500 is the budget we set here, so we stick to it. That does mean that some of the machines below are Chromebooks instead of Windows 10 machines.
Although the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is both a Windows 10 machine and a tablet, all for just under $500, so there are some excellent options. You will have to do it with few compromises when it comes to $500, the performance won’t be fast, and you won’t watch movies on the machine at resolutions above 1080p.
Best Laptops under $500
Whether you’re looking for a laptop for the kids, the best Chromebooks, a gaming laptop, or even an excellent 2-in-1 laptop, you’ve come to the right place. Finding the best laptops under $500 may not be as easy as you think, but with our help, it’s hardly impossible. Here are our best choices.
Acer Aspire 5
The best laptop under $500
The Acer Aspire 5 earns its place in the top of the best $500 laptops list with its strong AMD Ryzen 5 3500U performance, clear 1080p display, and long battery life, all at an affordable price. Though much thinner than its sibling, the Aspire E 15, the Aspire 5 offers plenty of room for a battery that lasts nearly 9 hours while charging. It doesn’t have a DVD writer, but it does have quite a few ports. The display gives an impressive brightness of 276 nits, which gives the screen a decent contrast. It even has an aluminum cover. To top it all off, the edges of the screen are surprisingly narrow for such a cheap laptop. Aspire 5 is one of the best and cheapest laptops currently available.
Acer Chromebook Spin 11
Work and play
If your kids have finally graduated from a good laptop for writing papers for class, but you still want them to get something that won’t break the first time it falls, then the Acer Chromebook Spin 11 might be the laptop for you. It’s powerful enough to tackle the kids’ daily schoolwork, and it’s a 2-in-1 so they can flip the comfortable keyboard to turn it into tablet mode for playing Android games or watching their favorite shows standstill. The display is a bit dim, and it won’t blow you away as far as performance, but it’s cheap, stable, and reliable. Overall, this is one of the best laptops under $500 right now.
Samsung Chromebook 4
The best budget Chromebook
The best Chromebook for people on a budget, the Samsung Chromebook 4 impresses with its battery life. This laptop lasted more than 10.5 hours surfing the web on a single charge. The aluminum lid of the Chromebook 4 makes it look like a much more expensive computer – although it has a plastic base. The performance of this Chromebook is another highlight, making multitasking much faster than I expected for this price.
The Chromebook 4 is also thinner and lighter than competing 11.6-inch Chromebooks, although we want the screen to be supported by a touch input and rotate. Its screen is acceptable for daily work, but don’t expect to see colors popping or much detail when watching movies or spending time on YouTube. The speakers are okay but recommend you use your headphones in a crowded place.
HP Chromebook x2
Another 2-in-1 Chromebook
With all-day battery life, a comfortable, detachable design, the HP Chromebook x2 is one of the best laptops under $500 for business users. It’s like a Microsoft Surface Pro running Chrome OS. The Chromebook x2 also offers a crisp, clear screen, quality sound, and a comfortable keyboard for rugged typing. The Core m3 processor isn’t great, but it’s oomph enough to work mostly in the cloud. Plus, HP includes the keyboard and pen in the price.
HP Chromebook 14
Striking optimal balance between value and design
The best Chromebooks balance spot price and efficient use of Chrome OS – and the HP Chromebook 14 is the perfect example. While similar in many ways to the Acer Chromebook 15, this 14-inch Chromebook is a little more compact and looks slightly better. Finished in a bright blue color and a screen made to shine, HP’s Chromebook 14 offers the best value of any Chromebook in this list. Even when battery life and performance are average, the HP Chromebook 14 is easily one of the best Chromebooks yet.
We were especially impressed by how slim and light this Chromebook is, which means the HP Chromebook 14 is an excellent device for anyone who wants a durable laptop that they can carry with them comfortably. If you want a device to work on while lying on the couch, this is also a great choice. Also, unlike some other Chromebooks, the Chromebook 14 comes with numerous ports, including HDMI-out, Type-A USB 3.0, and a microSD card slot, making this a very versatile Chromebook.
Lenovo Chromebook Duet
The best budget 2-in-1 Chromebook
Sometimes it’s incredible how much you can get for $300 or less. For example, the Chromebook Duet is a 2-in-1 Chromebook that offers something Microsoft’s Surfaces and Apple’s iPads don’t: the keyboard is included as standard. Not only do you get that value, but the tablet display of the Chromebook Duet is excellent in itself, with a surprising amount of color reproduction and a sharp 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution.
Smaller hands may find the Chromebook Duet’s keyboard a little on the tight side, but for this price, every keyboard is a surprise and a steal. The Chromebook Duet features ChromeOS tablet optimizations that are long overdue to take advantage of all the space on the screen. And all that? It took 12 hours and 47 minutes, almost 13 hours. Overall, this is one of the best laptops under $500 right now.
Dell Inspiron 11 Chromebook
Dell Inspiron 11 Chromebook
If your child needs a laptop, and they use it for the basics, the Dell Inspiron 11 Chromebook is the best one to buy. The spill-resistant keyboard is ideal for when your child is having a drink or when you’re pushing your coffee over when you’re trying to help him or her with his or her math homework – all for under $300. If your child has online lessons, the laptop’s loudspeaker becomes pretty loud to hear their teacher. And because the Inspiron 11 is a 2-in-1, it can easily be rotated to tablet mode to use the touchscreen. If you need more storage space, you can expand the internal capacity with a microSD card.
Microsoft Surface Go 2
The best 2-in-1 laptop for kids
College students searching for a portable 2-in-1 that can last for a while should take a closer look at Surface Go 2. Yes, the original Surface Go wasn’t a hit, but this model fixed almost everything wrong with the original. The thinner edges mean more screen space for your commands (and a more modern looking tablet). We would have ranked the Surface Go 2 slightly higher, but the 10.5-inch screen and keyboard may be small for some students.
Just as important, the battery life is more than 5 hours longer than the original Surface Go. Students will love the Microsoft Surface Go 2’s Zoom-ready webcam, a 5-megapixel 1080p front camera perfect for this era of online learning. Plus, you get Windows Hi biometric login to unlock the Surface Go 2 when you sit on it. If you get the 8th Gen Intel’s Core m3 version, you get the moderate multitasking capability you need to catch up on your course work (while streaming Spotify). Overall, this is one of the best laptops under $500.