The 8 Best Laptops to Buy in 2017 for Under $500

Find the best 2-in-1, design, portable laptop and more

It wasn’t long ago that the “under $500” batch of laptops were thought to cheaply made, with poor battery lives and underpowered processors. But in 2017, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and the current crop of fully loaded affordable laptops can make you wonder why you would even need to pay an arm and a leg for the latest gadget.

Over the past three years in particular, many people are now recognizing that the processing power on offer in modern budget laptops far exceeds their daily requirements. All of the laptops on our list can be used to browse the Internet, play high-definition movies and edit office documents without skipping a beat. For many consumers, this is more than enough.

From the sleek Asus F556UA-AB32 to the Asus Transformer Book T300CHI that will double as a tablet, here are the best laptops under $500. 

The Asus F556UA-AB32's sleek black matte finish feels much more premium than its price point would suggest. It runs on Windows 10 and includes a 2.3 GHz Intel Core i3 processor, a 15.6-inch screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution, one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port and one USB3.1 Type C port. The 802.11ac wireless capability means that you'll have super fast Internet connectivity, while the 4 GB of RAM and 1,000 GB hard drive will allow you to store plenty of files, songs and movies. One of the downsides is that the laptop weighs 5.1 pounds, but all things considered it delivers the oomph you're looking for in the under $500 space. Plus, the price includes a one-year international warranty with one-year accidental damage protection, just in case you drop it or spill something on it.

If our overall winner doesn’t strike your fancy, turning your eye to the HP Pavilion x360 might be a good idea. Released at the tail end of summer 2016, the newest generation of the X360 introduces a well-performing machine at a sub-$500 price point. The 13.3-inch HD IPS 1366 x 76-pixel display is paired with a 6th generation Intel Core i3 2.3GHz processor, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. At 3.6 pounds, the x360 is still portable even as it adds a full chassis to turn the display a full 360-degrees to enter tablet mode.

Featuring Windows 10, the x360 offers a full range of capabilities and power that you’d expect from a higher-priced machine. The combination of the processor and RAM provide plenty of horsepower to run multiple tabs in any browser alongside streaming music and Word processing. When it comes to all that work, the x360 offers just over 6.5 hours of battery life, which is lower than the ultraportable average, but a tradeoff for a 2-in-1 machine that offers above-average display and a solidly built frame.

The TrueVision HD webcam takes color-accurate photos while including digital microphones that are perfect for Skype phone calls. Additionally, HP has included multi-touch gesture support with the touchpad that pairs nicely with the keyboard, and it feels as sturdy as the computer itself. Unfortunately, Amazon’s write-up notes the x360 includes Ethernet support, but early reviews have said this is not accurate.

When it comes to creative work on a laptop, finding a machine that handles day-to-day work can be challenging until you find the Acer Aspire E-15. Powered by a 7th generation Intel Core i5 3.1GHz processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD drive, the Acer brings more than enough power to the table to handle applications such as Photoshop or video editing. Additionally, the inclusion of a NVIDIA GeForce 940MX graphics card with 2GB of independent memory will aid in both entertainment and productivity needs.  

All this work is done on a 15.6-inch full HD 1920 x 1080-pixel matte display which helps reduce glares and reflections. Utilizing an external mouse to aid in more fine-grain Photoshopping is welcomed thanks to a bevy of ports, including one USB 3.1 Type C, two USB 3.0 and an SD slot. As a bonus, you’ll even find a DVD drive, though it could have been removed to make the Acer slightly lighter. At 5.3 pounds, the Acer is no Ultrabook and even though it has a 12-hour battery life, there’s still a good chance this computer isn’t moving from a desk.

For the creative types that focus on editing video, the inclusion of Acer’s TrueHarmony speakers offers a rich audio experience that helps limit audio distortion and includes enough volume to fill a room. And if you’re working remotely, the HD webcam will help you jump on Skype and talk to your colleagues or clients anywhere in the world.

Competition in the Windows 10 2-in-1 space heats up more and more every day, but it’s the Asus Transformer Book T300CHI that steals the spotlight. The inclusion of a fan-less Intel Core M processor, full-size keyboard cover and 12.5-inch 1080p touchscreen display offers exceptional value. The T300 comes with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, as well as Windows 8.1. At 12.38" x 7.52" x .63" and 1.59 pounds, the T300 offers no additional ports save for the microUSB charging opening. When you attach the keyboard, the aluminum-based T300 build jumps to 3.2 pounds all while feeling far more expensive than its actual asking price.

As a 2-in-1, the 1920 x 1080 touchscreen display showcases clear and crisp text and offers a fantastic movie-viewing experience, while the included SonicMaster speakers are good enough for traditional use. The six hours of battery life means t’s a good idea to keep a charger nearby if you’re on the road.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best 2-in-1 laptops

If budget is your chief concern and you’re willing to make a few sacrifices, the Asus E402MA may be the laptop for you. It is one of the cheapest notebooks out there, yet it still sports a 14” display capable of a 1366 x 768 resolution, 64-bit Windows 10 operating system, full-size keyboard and a battery capable of running for around seven hours between charges.

The 32 GB hard drive is a bit tight, especially considering Windows 10 alone will take up nearly half of that space, and with only 2 GB of ram you’re not going to be able to run more than one or two applications concurrently without noticing a slowdown in responsiveness. Consider the E402MA just enough computer to get the job done, but excellent value for money.

Samsung has made many well-designed electronics in the past, including high-end laptops, TVs and smartphones. So we’re not entirely surprised to see a cool new entry from Samsung in the budget laptop arena. Say hello to the Samsung Chromebook Plus, a hybrid laptop/tablet that lets you use it in nearly any way you can imagine.

The Samsung Chromebook Plus measures 8.72 x 11.04 x .55 inches and weighs 2.4 pounds. It has a 12.3-inch LED screen that rotates 360 degrees and it is made with Gorilla Glass 3 to be more durable. On the inside, this machine has 4GB of DDR3 RAM and 32GB of flash memory storage, which will keep your apps and browser tabs running smoothly.

Chromebooks have gotten much more powerful and versatile in the last few years. They still run the Chrome OS and center around using the browser or Google Play Apps, but the experience is much more seamless now. This model is no exception and can do nearly anything a Windows PC can do, so we have no problem recommending it.

The latest edition of the HP Notebook 15 is a surprising Windows 10 laptop that packs a lot of features into a sub-$300 machine. This laptop may not impress power-hungry users, but it will do the job for casual users that need to accomplish basic tasks in a timely fashion.

The Notebook 15 has a 15.6-inch screen with 1366-by-768 resolution, a 500 GB hard drive, an SD media card reader, a DVD/CD burner, as well as a VGA webcam with a digital microphone. For ports, there’s one Ethernet, one HDMI, two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0 and a headphone/microphone combo jack. One of the standout features of this model is its 4GB of RAM, which is incredibly important for keeping your machine running smoothly and not something we often see on models in this price range. (Usually you’ll see models with a paltry 2GB of RAM, which is often not enough to keep things running at a fast clip.)

This machine measures 10 x 15.1 x .9 inches and is a little heavy at 4.74 pounds, so it’s probably not one you’ll want to carry around everywhere. It would make sense as a home or work laptop that’s mostly used in one place. Thankfully, it does offer 5.5-hour battery life, so if you do need to take it anywhere, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Microsoft’s Surface 3 has the perfect combination of power, portability and popularity. The magnesium-alloy body holds a 10.8-inch 1920 x 1280 display, Intel Atom Z8700 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 64GB flash storage drive. The Intel Atom processor can’t match up to the Pro’s Intel Core-series, but it offers more than enough speed to perform all the daily tasks you want and then some. With Windows 10 on board out of the box, it’s pretty much “touch” and go right when you receive the Surface 3 in the mail.  

Microsoft has positioned the Surface 3 as a tablet that can replace your laptop and portability is a central piece of that argument. At 1.37 pounds before the keyboard, the Surface 3 feels premium and now includes a more user-friendly Micro-USB charging port. The adjustable kickstand on the rear works at three separate angles. Perhaps the lone drawback of the Surface 3 is the separate purchase of the keyboard.

Portability aside, the Surface 3 retains a slew of ports to help you not miss a beat while traveling, including a microSD card reader for extra storage and MiniDisplay port for connection to a larger monitor. Microsoft includes a one-year subscription to Office 365 alongside a bevy of other applications that are must-haves. Additionally, with 10 hours of battery life, there’s enough juice for a full day at work and Netflix at night. 

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