Best Laptops Under $500

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Best Overall

Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM)

Editor's Choice

Just how much laptop can you get for under $350? Acer's Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) offers a colorful 1080p display, strong build quality and solid Core i3-powered performance. The laptop lasts for over 8 hours on a charge, impressive endurance for any 15-inch laptop, let alone one at this price point. The Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) also comes equipped with 4GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, a DVD writer and just about every port you could possibly want, including a USB Type-C connector.

Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) Review

Best Laptops Under $500
Product: Use Case: Rating:
Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) Best Overall 4 out of 5
Acer Spin 1 Best 2-in-1 4 out of 5
Asus VivoBook E403NA Best 14-inch Laptop 4 out of 5
HP Stream 11 Best Sub-$200 Laptop 4 out of 5
Samsung Chromebook 3 Best Sub-$200 Chromebook 4 out of 5
Lenovo IdeaPad 120S (14-inch) Best Sub-$300 Laptop 4 out of 5
Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA Best Chromebook 4 out of 5

How to Choose a Budget Laptop

While the best laptops cost much more, the average consumer spends under $500 for a new notebook. When shopping for a laptop in this price range, you have to make some compromises, so it's important to prioritize the features that matter most and get as many of them as you can, without breaking your budget.

We've listed several high-quality budget laptops on this page for you to consider. When evaluating a laptop, consider these factors in this order of importance:

  • Full HD (1920 x 1080) Screen: Most budget laptops are saddled with low-res, 1366 x 768 displays that allow you to fit a lot of text on the screen at once. If you can find a laptop with a screen that has a 1920 x 1080 resolution, you'll be able to see more of your favorite web pages, emails, social media feeds and documents, without scrolling. You'll also get much sharper images and videos.
  • SSD or eMMC Memory: Most sub-$500 laptops use mechanical hard drives, but if you can get one a Solid State Drive or eMMC storage, another form of solid state memory, you'll have faster boot times and application open times.
  • Good build quality: If you see a laptop with a soft-touch finish or real aluminum on any of its surfaces -- especially the deck and lid -- that's a sign of good design. However, in this price range, you may have to settle for shiny plastic.
  • Core i5 CPU: One area where you may need to compromise is on processor speed. If you can find a system with an Intel Core i5 CPU that also has the other three features above, you're in great shape. If you have to settle for a Core i3 processor, that's still pretty good. Intel Pentium and Celeron CPUs are serviceable, but not particularly speedy.

A good laptop that costs over $800 should have all of these features, but if you can find a system that has one or more of these for under $500, you're ahead of the game.

Windows 10 vs Chromebook: Which Should You Get?

Your buying decision may come down to whether you need a full-fledged PC, or would prefer the simplicity of a Chromebook.

You'll want a Windows 10-based machine if there are applications that you depend upon, such as Adobe or Microsoft's suites of apps. Yes, Chrome OS machines can run the Android versions of those apps with Google Play emulation, but those apps are often incomplete, and give you a bare minimum when it comes to features.

Chromebooks will be best, though, if you live inside the Chrome browser, and prefer a system that takes care of itself. With a Chromebook, you'll never need antivirus software, and system updates are automatically performed. Chromebooks are also more web-dependent, as offline modes are still not as widely available.