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 basic computing needs, you can find a highly capable Windows or ChromeOS-based laptop computer for less than $500.
That’s right: Companies like Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, HP and Microsoft all offer lower-cost options that can handle word processing, web surfing, streaming video, email management or crunching numbers in a spreadsheet. Some of these lower-priced laptops even offer a 2-in-1 design (so they can serve as a tablet or a laptop computer), or are decently suited for 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.
Best laptops under $500 in 2023 for business, school or personal productivity
While you won’t find any current model Apple MacBooks in this roundup, you will discover plenty of Windows or ChromeOS-based options. Keep in mind, while ChromeOS computers are inexpensive, they do rely heavily on cloud-based applications and online storage for your data and content. So, if you don’t have continuous access to Wi-Fi, one of the Chromebooks or lower-end Windows computers with minimal onboard storage is probably not the right fit for you. Keep reading to explore the best laptops under $500 available right now.
Best Windows laptop under $500: Lenovo IdeaPad 3i
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 no touchscreen. It also comes equipped with three USB Type-A ports, an HDMI port, 35mm 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, or during a video call, the internal stereo speakers support Dolby Audio. During normal use, expect to get up to 14 hours of battery life per charge. For a bit more money, you can upgrade the RAM and SSD storage capacity at the time of purchase. The Lenovo IdeaPad 3i is ready to handle your everyday computing, but it’s not a top choice for gaming.
- This Lenovo laptop runs Windows 11 Pro.
- It’s lightweight, portable and easy to travel with.
- The 14-inch LCD display offers decent quality resolution, especially considering this computer’s low price.
- The processor is rather slow, but adequate for basic computing needs.
- There are no USB Type-C ports available.
Best gaming laptop under $500: Acer Aspire 5
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 comes a scaled-down (and affordable) price for this 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 (which is 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 integrated fingerprint scanner that can unlock the computer and quickly approve online 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 to use wired or wireless headphones (or wireless earbuds). For wireless connectivity, it supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth.
- This laptop is powered using an AMD Ryzen 3 3350U Quad Core processor (up to 3.50Ghz) and AMD Radeon Vega 6 mobile graphics processor.
- It weighs in at just 3.79 pounds and is well under an inch thick.
- The keyboard is backlit and includes a numeric keypad.
- Basic laptop computer design.
Best laptop under $500 for students: HP 14-inch Ultra Light
Design: Traditional laptop | Operating system: Windows 11 Home | Display Size: 14 inches | Processor: Intel Celeron N4120 | RAM: 8GB | Internal Storage: 192GB
For a Windows-based laptop that does not cost more $300, 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. It’s not well suited for photo editing, video editing or gaming, however. 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 is a very affordable laptop with a decent configuration that can handle basic computing tasks.
- The computer weighs 3.24 pounds and is just 0.71 inches thick, so it’s easy to transport.
- The up to 11 hour battery life is decent, but will vary based on how the computer is used.
- The built in webcam offers 720p resolution and uses dual array microphones
- The screen resolution (1,366 x 768 pixels) is rather low, so this computer is not ideal for streaming video.
Best touchscreen Chromebook under $500: Acer Chromebook 514
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-based applications and the online storage of data, documents, photos and files. So a mere 4GB RAM and 64GB SSD for internal storage is adequate for running applications like Google Docs, Sheets, Chrome and Gmail.
The 14 inch LCD touchscreen display offers 1,920 x 1,080p resolution and the computer 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 (or classes).
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 of usage per battery charge. In addition to interacting with the computer using its touchscreen display, the touchpad located below the backlit keyboard’s keys is a rather generous size.
- The 14 inch touchscreen display offers 1,920 x 1080 pixel resolution.
- The computer weighs less than three pounds and is very thin.
- You get a total of four USB ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
- Millions of compatible Android apps are available from the Google Play Store.
- The processor will handle basic computing tasks, but is not suitable for gaming or any graphic-intensive projects, like photo or video editing.
- The 64GB SSD is only suitable if you plan on using almost exclusively cloud-based applications.
Best 2-in-1 laptop under $500: Asus Vivobook Go 14 Flip
Design: 2-in-1 | Operating system: Windows 11 S | Display Size: 14 inch touchscreen | Processor: Intel Celeron N4500 | RAM: 4GB | Internal Storage: 64GB eMMC
For someone who wants the benefit of a laptop computer and tablet bundled into one device, the Asus Vivobook Go 14 Flip offers a truly inexpensive option. With the low price, however, comes a rather basic hardware configuration that starts with an Intel Celeron processor and a 14-inch touchscreen display with 720p (1,366 x 768 pixel) resolution and a 64Hz refresh rate. On the plus side, you do get stylus support for easier navigation and/or writing and drawing directly on the screen.
Unfortunately, this computer comes equipped with just 64GB of eMMC flash storage. So unless you use a memory card with a high capacity for additional storage, you’ll need to rely heavily on cloud-based applications and file storage.
This 2022 version of the Vivobook Go 14 Flip is equipped with two USB Type-C and two USB Type-A ports, along with a media card reader. It measures 12.72 x 9.02 x 0.64 inches and weighs in at 3.2 pounds. Versions of this 2-in-1 computer with better specifications can be found on Asus’ website, but not at this low price.
- Enjoy the benefits of a laptop computer and tablet in one device.
- The 14-inch touchscreen offers 720p resolution.
- Weighs just 3.2 pounds.
- This computer can handle everyday computing tasks.
- You don’t get a lot of internal storage, unless you upgrade at the time of purchase from Asus’ website.
Best Microsoft Surface 2-in-1 under $500: Microsoft Surface Go 3
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 $400, you’re able to configure the computer at the time of purchase and certain “must have” accessories, like the Surface Go Type Cover, are sold separately.
Key features of the Surface Go 3 include its Surface Pen stylus support, up to an 11 hour battery life, face recognition and a built in kickstand. It weighs just 1.2 pound (without the detachable keyboard), the the Surface Go Type Cover. This accessory serves as a keyboard and protective cover for the display during transport.
The Surface Go 3 measures 9.95 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches. As for the touchscreen display, it’s about the same size as a typical tablet, offers 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 pretty 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, for example. Thanks to the 5MP front and 8MP rear cameras, the Surface Go 3 can also be used for video calling or participating in virtual meetings while on the go. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are in integrated into the computer, but LTE cellular data is an option thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 LTE modem.
- Take advantage of a 2-in-1 computer designed by Microsoft, the company that created the Windows OS.
- The Surface Go 3 is extremely portable and lightweight.
- The keyboard is detachable, but can also be used as a cover for the device during transport.
- This is a lower-end model in the Microsoft Surface lineup, but it’s very affordable.
- The Surface Go Type Cover ($129) and Surface Pen stylus ($100) are sold separately.
Best super inexpensive Windows laptop: Acer Aspire 1
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 less than $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 a 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-based storage via Microsoft OneDrive, for example, plus take advantage of cloud-based 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.
- Take advantage of this very affordable computer for your everyday computing tasks.
- It weighs 3.64 pounds.
- You get a decent selection of ports.
- The internal storage space is very limited.
- There’s no memory card slot built in.
What you should know when buying a budget laptop computer
If you’re not sure how to choose the best laptop computer for your needs and budget, here are some quick answers to popular budget laptop shopping questions.
What is a good price for a laptop?
That 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 tasks, and that don’t need a ton of processing power.
Some Chromebooks, for example, come 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-based applications and online storage for your data, documents, photos and files. There are also Windows-based laptop computers in the sub-$500 price range that can handle basic computing tasks and that offer enough internal storage to store your applications, data and files locally.
How much storage and memory does your laptop need?
Users planning to use their laptop computer for email and web browsing, for example, may only need between 4GB and 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage for a Windows-based laptop computer. If you’re going with a Chromebook, 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage is adaqute (again, because you will be relying primarily on cloud-based applications and storage). Either of these options are also suitable for streaming TVs shows, movies, music and podcasts, for example.
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. However, the faster and more powerful the processor and the more RAM and storage you require, the higher the price of the laptop computer will be. Keep in mind, if you’re an Apple user, you won’t find a new MacBook for less than $1,000.
What will I miss out on with a cheap laptop?
One of the top concerns with purchasing a budget laptop is what features you may miss out on. There are plenty of good laptop computers priced below $500, but what you’ll likely miss out on a cutting-edge, powerful processor, a powerful GPU (for graphics), decent RAM and a large amount of SSD storage. The lower-priced computers also tend to skimp on the selection of 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 type of processor are more important. However, when shopping for a sub-$500 laptop, we strongly recommend choosing a name-brand computer and buying it from a trusted vendor (like Amazon or Best Buy) 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 featured low cost computers from Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, HP and Microsoft, which are among the best brand names to consider.
Related content from CBS Essentials
(This article is generated through the syndicated feed sources, Financetin neither support nor own any part of this article)