This article was last updated by Mark Coppock, an employee of Digital Trends, on June 4, 2020.
The best laptop under $ 500 is the one. Laptops at this price often make significant compromises, whether that is in terms of performance, screen quality, or battery life. However, the Aspire 5 offers almost everything you could want in a modern laptop at an impressive discount.
We also made a selection for the best Chromebook under $ 500, the best 13-inch notebook under $ 500, and even the best notebook under $ 200.
The best laptops under $ 500 at a glance:
The best laptop for under $ 500: Acer Aspire 5
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends
The Aspire 5 from Acer has improved significantly in its last update and offers better performance, build quality and battery life. The latest model costs $ 350 with an 8th generation Core i3-8145U CPU, 4 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SSD, and a 15.6-inch Full HD display.
When you're ready to spend a little more, get Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and a discrete Nvidia MX250 GPU for an additional $ 260.
That's a lot of computers for not a lot of money. Better still, this is a well-built, affordable laptop that builds trust in your hand and its keyboard and touchpad are well above its class. The battery life is also an advantage because the Aspire 5 competes with laptops that cost a lot more money.
The 15-inch 1080p display is also very good for the price, though you'll need to jump just over the $ 500 budget to add touchscreen features. However, since this laptop is not a 2-in-1 device, this is less important for this type of money.
Read our in-depth review of Acer Aspire 5
The best 14-inch laptop under $ 500: Acer Swift 3
It's almost impossible to find a 13-inch laptop for under $ 500. This is a shame as it is the most popular size for a laptop. Fortunately, there are a couple of decent 14-inch laptops that barely sneak below the $ 500 mark. The best is the Acer Swift 3.
Instead of compromising on a 720p display or a slow hard drive, the Swift 3 has the current components you expect from a modern laptop. With a dual-core i3 processor and 4 GB RAM, the performance is also up to date.
It's not what I would call a powerful laptop, but outside of the Acer Aspire 5, it's one of the faster Windows laptops you can get at this price.
You'll have to dig a little to find this under $ 500, but if you can get it for that price, it's a killer deal. For a few dollars more, I would recommend putting it on the Core i5, which also works wonders for multitasking and running heavier applications.
Read our detailed Acer Swift 3 review
The best 2-in-1 under $ 500: Microsoft Surface Go 2
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends
Microsoft Surface Go 2, now in its second generation, is the baby of the Surface range – but that doesn't mean that it's not a powerful little machine. Starting at a price well below our $ 500 limit, you may think that this is a little too cheap even for what we're looking at, but you'd be wrong. The Surface Go 2 is a sturdy, well-built, detachable 2-in-1 device that works just as well in tablet mode as it does as a laptop.
You'll have to pay a little more for the type cover and pen if you want to take full advantage of the laptop and tablet experience. However, you have the option to upgrade later if you want to share your costs. And while the screen isn't quite as detailed as on a dedicated tablet like the iPad, at this price it's still one of the best we've seen for a convertible laptop.
The Surface Go 2 isn't the fastest device in the world either, but the tablet does offer decent battery life. There's no Windows 2-in-1 device at this price that can improve it.
Read our detailed Surface Go 2 review
The best Chromebook under $ 500: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet
If you're on a budget and looking for a removable tablet that meets your Internet browsing and low productivity needs, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is for you. It is a tablet at an attractive price of $ 279 ($ 299 with 128 GB of storage). The best thing is that it includes a stand cover with a great keyboard with a touchpad.
That makes the duet one of the best values we have ever seen. It costs hundreds of dollars less than competitive tablets if you spend the money on a key cover. Performance is mediocre, but fast enough for the tasks you need to do, and the display is surprisingly good for the money. It runs your favorite Android apps and offers one of the best browsing experiences on a tablet.
Read our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet
The best laptop under $ 200: Lenovo Chromebook S340
The Samsung Chromebook 4+ may be prettier, but the Lenovo Chromebook S340 sells for an incredible price. Despite the same components as Samsung (Intel Celeron N4000, 4 GB RAM, 32 GB storage), the S340 is a whopping $ 300 cheaper. The S340 even has a touchscreen for booting.
The screen is an important compromise. It measures a solid 14 inches, but only has a screen resolution of 1,366 x 768 with a maximum of 220 nits. It's not overly impressive or spicy, but you can handle a $ 200 Chromebook. It's hard for you to find a laptop with more value than the Lenovo Chromebook S340.
Research and buying tips
Are Laptops Under $ 500 Good?
This can be the case, although it is difficult to find one that does not compromise in multiple areas. Avoid laptops with a screen resolution below 1080p, Windows 10 laptops with a Pentium processor or laptops without a solid-state drive. There are always exceptions, but these types of components make a significant difference to your laptop experience.
Whichever you choose, you shouldn't expect your $ 500 laptop to do complicated tasks like video editing or gaming. These are used for basic arithmetic, word processing and surfing the Internet.
Should I buy a Chromebook?
Chromebooks don't offer Windows, which, depending on your opinion of the Microsoft operating system, can be a blessing or a curse. Over time, Chromebooks have become viable alternatives to Windows PCs, especially in the lower price range. Since Chrome OS is a lighter operating system with fewer features, Chromebooks often feel faster and offer better battery life than their Windows counterparts (at a certain price).
They even support Android apps through the Google Play Store, which gives you access to a huge portfolio of mobile apps and games. However, the Android app experience leaves something to be desired, so you shouldn't rely on it.
The downside is that you can't just go online and install an application. In fact, anything that is beyond the scope of a web browser is prohibited.
Can you buy a gaming laptop for under $ 500?
For the most part, no. The cheapest gaming laptops. These laptops are already pretty weak for modern games. However, if you play lighter games and are ready to play at low settings, they'll get along.
None of the laptops on this list is a good choice for 3D games.
What is missing from $ 500 laptops?
Most $ 500 laptops are made of plastic, unlike aluminum and other high-quality materials used in expensive laptops. These more expensive laptops also offer faster performance. Quad-core processors and 8 GB of RAM are the norm for mid-range laptops, while most of the options on this list offer less.
Expensive laptops often specialize in either battery life or graphics performance. The Dell XPS 13 gives you all-day battery life, while the Razer Blade lets you play modern games at high frame rates. If you shop under $ 500, you should expect a bare laptop. It can do most everyday tasks with ease, but gaming, photo / video editing, and other more demanding tasks may require a larger budget.