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Most Popular: Acer Aspire E 15 at Amazon
"Offers a balance of modern hardware, performance headroom, features, and price."
Best Overall: ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6" at Amazon
"It passes the 3.9 feet drop test and has a spill-resistant keyboard."
Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Go at Amazon
"Add one of the available Microsoft Type Covers and the Go instantly becomes a highly capable desktop-like computer."
Best for College Students: 2018 Lenovo ideapad 320 15.6" at Amazon
"An excellent everyday laptop at a value price point."
Best Touchscreen: HP 15-BS013DX at Amazon
"This entry-level touchscreen from HP is an amazing value."
Best Budget: HP Notebook 15 at Amazon
"It will do the job for casual users that need to accomplish basic tasks in a timely fashion."
Best Value: HP Pavilion 15z at HP
"The design is sleek, with a simple yet polished look."
Runner-Up, Best Value: Dell Inspiron 15 3000 at Dell
"You'll definitely have enough power for multitasking and day-to-day computing tasks on Windows 10."
Best Visuals: Lenovo IdeaPad 330s at Amazon
"Expect decent performance out of this despite its budget price."
A solid laptop doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. The best laptops under $500 bring together a solid compromise of performance and price. Whether you need an ultraportable, a 2-in-1 or a glorified tablet, there are options available for wherever your work takes you.
If you're looking to save a bit on your next laptop purchase, many manufacturers offer multiple configurations for the same model of laptop that allow you to pick and choose the components most important to you without going overboard on your budget.
If you're willing to stretch your dollar just a little bit more, make sure to check out our guide to the absolute best laptops we've seen on Lifewire.
Full HD display
Fantastic battery life
Solid performance for the price
Optional discrete Nvidia card
Lots of bloatware
Heavy and thick
Design fails to impress
Acer's Aspire E 15 offers an excellent balance of modern hardware, performance headroom, and features—all at an affordable price. Although its design features a lot of plastic, some of it has been given a metallic appearance for a sleeker -look. It also has a 15.6-inch display (hitting Full HD resolution), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, an all-day battery life, a USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 3.0 ports, and an SD card reader.
Inside, the machine delivers an Intel Core i3-8130U processor, which is paired with 6GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory and a 1TB hard drive. Both the memory and hard drive are stored inside an easily accessible compartment, so if you want to upgrade them, you can. There’s even a DVD-RW drive included. "Anyone looking for a budget-priced laptop should take a long, hard look at this one," said our tester. "The performance is decent, it has a full HD display, and the battery life is great. The only reason not to buy it is if you absolutely need a touchscreen or a fingerprint reader."
"The full HD screen and snappy performance make productivity tasks a breeze." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Impressive battery life
Screen on the smaller side
Dropping hundreds of dollars on a laptop that’s bound to be dropped itself might seem a bit stressful, but a rugged model like this ASUS Chromebook is designed to put you at ease. It houses an Intel Celeron N3060 Processor with 2M Cache, up to 2.48 GHz, plus 16GB of flash storage. (You’ll also get 100GB of free Google Drive storage for the first two years.) Its 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 anti-glare display tilts back 180 degrees for viewing at all angles.
Being a Chromebook, it’s not as powerful as other machines on this list, but what it lacks in brains it makes up for in brawn. It has 3 millimeters of reinforced rubber around its edges, which passes the 3.9 feet drop test, and a spill-resistant keyboard that can endure about a quarter-cup spill. On top of that, its durable and modular design makes it easy to swap in and out parts, should it need repair.
This laptop received good ratings from our tester because it's capable and dependable: “This is a great option for everything you need: online access, writing accessibility, and some extras," he said. The battery life was another plus: "For school, I'm positive this computer would last a full day and likely still have time for homework back at home.”
"The C202SA has a unique enough look while not crossing the line into looking like a child’s toy." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Plenty of ports
No keyboard included
It’s hard to argue against the success of Microsoft’s Surface lineup, and the Go is no exception. When in tablet mode, the 10-inch PixelSense touchscreen display is ideal for reading, writing, and games. With 1800 x 1200 resolution, text is crisp and clear. Add one of the available Microsoft Type Covers and the Go instantly becomes a highly capable desktop-like computer. Running Windows 10 S, the Go has complete access to Microsoft’s Marketplace for downloading thousands of applications. For business users, Microsoft’s entire suite of Office products runs superbly.
Weighing a mere 1.3 pounds, the Go is easily the most portable Surface yet. Our tester agreed: “There were times when I completely forgot it was in my bag,” she said. “Even with the Keyboard Type Cover attached (which is sold separately), the Surface Go remains light and svelte.” It also has plenty of built-in protection: Microsoft Defender protects against malware attacks while parental controls offer parents peace of mind. One downside, according to our tester, was that its performance could be “sluggish,” even when performing more basic tasks.
Beautiful unibody design
Light and thin
Poor battery life
No HD display
Lenovo delivers an excellent everyday laptop at a value price point, combining the latest generation of Intel processing with a high-definition 15.6-inch screen. The computer is powered by an Intel Celeron N3350 dual-core processor with 4GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive. The computer also includes a DVD drive, a 4-in-1 memory card reader for easy transfer of files, as well as Bluetooth 4.1 and USB 3.0 port.
The computer is especially great for college students looking to watch movies in their dorm room, with an anti-glare screen that looks great from every angle. “I think it's the perfect computer to use when curled in bed watching Netflix or a DVD,” our tester said. “I could see my teenage cousin enjoying it—it's attractive and has a 'cool factor.'"
"The sleek unibody construction looks like it belongs on a much more expensive machine." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Decent battery life
Big hard drive
Touchscreen doesn’t feel great to use
If you're a tactile learner, a touchscreen computer can come in handy. This entry-level model from HP is an amazing value at just under $500. It has an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1 TB hard drive. The BrightView glossy 15.6-inch screen is powered by WLED backlight and shows movies and photos in 1366 x 768 HD. The 2 SuperSpeed USB 3.1 ports make transferring media a breeze, while built-in Bluetooth makes it easy to sync with mobile devices. Finally, an Intel HD Graphics 620 card can handle photo editing and even some basic gaming. Our tester also noted that its "brushed metal finish is a nice touch."
Although our tester liked that this laptop had a responsive touchscreen, he observed it wasn't always very pleasant to use: "Something about the glossy screen causes the finger to stick and skid across instead of sliding smoothly," he said.
"The HP 15-BS013DX is suited to regular daily use like word processing … and other basic productivity tasks." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Decent stereo sound
Display isn’t full HD
Mediocre battery life
The latest edition of the HP Notebook 15 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. Our tester also noted that its "sound is surprisingly good for such an inexpensive laptop."
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 the most sense as a home or work laptop that’s mostly used in one place.
"The matte finish of the shell has a pleasant texture and gives a nice visual flare to what could have been an unremarkable design." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
No full HD display
Display is slightly washed out
Entire case flexes when using keyboard
If you're looking for speed, capacity, design, features, and price, HP’s Pavilion 15z Touch pretty much delivers on all counts. The design is sleek, with a simple yet polished look complemented by an all-metal finish. The base model includes a 15.6-inch HD touch display, an AMD Ryzen 3 2200U processor with Vega 3 Graphics, 8GB of DDR4 memory, and 1TB of storage on a hard drive. For a budget computer, these specs are quite impressive.
Our tester agreed: "This model has enough muscle to perform all of your basic productivity tasks without a snag," he said, "including word processing, email, and web browsing. It’s even capable of more difficult tasks like image and video editing, although professionals who work with images or video every day will most likely find it to be too sluggish." Just keep in mind that the price of this laptop can fluctuate, so keep an eye out for sales to get the best price possible.
"The two-tone metallic case is available in a variety of colors, and it looks great." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester
Good specs for the price
No backlit keyboard
Display could be better
Dell’s Inspiron 15 3000 is a solid, dependable laptop with decent specs for a device under $500. Running with a 7th-gen Intel i3-7020U processor—Intel’s mid-range chip—and 8GB of RAM, you’ll definitely have enough power for multitasking and day-to-day computing tasks on Windows 10. There’s even enough capacity for 16GB of RAM.
It’s heavier than other budget laptops at 4.95 pounds, so it isn’t the most portable. But if you value a sturdy build, a touchscreen, plenty of ports, and a DVD drive, the extra weight is worth it. Ports include two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, an SD card slot reader, and a headphone jack. The DVD drive is optional. The downsides: a less-than-stellar display, mid-range processing power, and no backlit keyboard. But for a budget laptop, the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 is more than suitable for basic everyday use.
Reduced bezels around screen
Short battery life
The Lenovo IdeaPad 330s doesn’t come in at the bottom of the budget barrel, but it hits a sweet spot between price and solid specs. With this model, you’ll be getting a decently sized 15.6-inch display while the laptop itself stays slim thanks to reduced bezels around the screen. Plus, the display is a Full HD IPS panel, offering clear visuals and great viewing angles.
Inside, the IdeaPad 330s packs a modern Intel Core i3-8130U dual-core processor paired with 6GB of DDR4 memory and a large 1TB hard drive. You should expect decent performance out of this despite its budget price. As a bonus, this laptop will be good for interfacing with external hardware as well.
As for connectivity, 801.11ac Wi-Fi is a good, recent protocol for connecting to wireless networks, and you’ll get Bluetooth 4.1. For fast USB connections, the IdeaPad 330s offers USB 3.1 and USB-C ports. And, if you’re doing work with any media, the 4-in-1 media card reader will come in handy. Some reviewers said its battery life was too short.
The Acer Aspire E 15 hits almost all the right notes while keeping the price way, way down. If you have a little room in your budget, it’s worth investing in the more expensive configuration of this laptop, which comes with a discrete NVIDIA graphics card for gaming, extra RAM, and a speedy SSD.
Jeremy Laukkonen attributes his success in writing about technology to his past experiences that taught him the importance of breaking down complex technical subjects in understandable ways.
Screen size - Laptops come in all configurations and sizes, ranging from as small as 10 inches up to 20 inches (measured diagonally on the screen). If you’re often dashing between meetings or classes, you’ll need a laptop that’s small and light enough to tote around with you. If, on the other hand, you’ll be doing most of your work at home or are a designer, you may want to opt for something larger.
Operating system - Are you an Apple fan or a diehard PC user? While it’s pretty easy to adjust to a new operating system these days, people tend to stick to what they’re familiar with. Both operating systems have their merits—with Mac being more intuitive and design-friendly and Windows being more secure and business savvy—but the choice is truly up to you.
Processor - If you need a PC that can handle heavy-duty work, pay close attention to its processor, or CPU. The battle between the manufacturers AMD and Intel gets fiercer every day, but AMD’s CPUs tend to be a bit cheaper. If money is no obstacle, look at the number of cores it has. More cores equal a faster and more efficient processor, and the high-end options out there pack up to 8 cores.