This article was last updated by Digital Trends reviewer Mark Coppock on September 18, 2020.
The best laptop under $500 is the. Laptops at this price point often have significant compromises, whether that’s in performance, the screen quality, or battery life. The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5, though, manages to have almost everything you’d want in a modern laptop at an impressive price discount. That is — as long as you’re okay with a Chromebook.
Beyond that, we’ve also made selections for best Windows laptop under $500, best 2-in-1 under $500, and even the best laptop under $300.
The best laptops under $500 at a glance:
The best laptop under $500: Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 review
Finding a 13-inch laptop for under $500 is nearly impossible. That’s a shame, as it’s the most popular size for a laptop. But it’s not actually impossible thanks to Chrome OS, and the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 manages to come in under $500 and provide impressive performance, 2-in-1 flexibility, and great value. That places this Chromebook at the top of our list.
Impressively, there’s a 1oth-gen Intel Core i3-10110U CPU inside, which is plenty fast for Chrome OS. The 4GB of RAM is enough for good performance and moderate multitasking prowess, and 64GB of storage is sufficient if you make good use of the cloud.
It should be no surprise that it’s a Chromebook that occupies this category, and the Chromebook Flex 5 is a lot of computer for a little bit of money.
Read our in-depth Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 review
The best Windows laptop under $500: Acer Aspire 5
Acer’s Aspire 5 has improved significantly in its recent update, bringing better performance, build quality, and battery life. The latest model is priced slightly higher right now, but it often comes in at under $500 with a 10th-generation Core i3-1005G1U CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and a 15.6-inch Full HD display.
That’s a lot of computer for not a lot of money. Better yet, this is a well-built budget laptop that inspires confidence in hand, and its keyboard and touchpad punch way above its class. Battery life is also a plus, with the Aspire 5 competing with laptops costing far more money.
The 15-inch 1080p display is very good for the price as well, though you’ll have to jump just outside the $500 budget to add touch-screen functionality. Since this laptop isn’t a 2-in-1 though, that is less of a concern for this sort of money.
Read our in-depth Acer Aspire 5 review
The best 2-in-1 under $500: Microsoft Surface Go 2
Microsoft’s Surface Go 2, now in its second generation, is the baby of the Surface range — but that doesn’t mean it’s not a capable little machine. Starting at a price well under our $500 limit, you might think that this is a little too cheap, even for what we’re looking at, but you’d be mistaken. Borrowing many of the excellent features from its more costly siblings like the Surface Pro 7, the Surface Go 2 is a sturdy, well-built detachable 2-in-1 that works just as well in tablet mode as it does as a laptop.
You will need to shell out a little extra for the Type Cover and pen if you want the full laptop and tablet experience, but that does leave you with the option of upgrading later if you want to spread out your costs. And, although its screen isn’t quite as detailed as something you’d find on a dedicated tablet like the iPad, it’s still one of the best we’ve ever seen for a convertible laptop at this price point.
The Surface Go 2 isn’t the fastest device in the world either, but the tablet packs a decent battery life and at this price point, you aren’t going to find a Windows 2-in-1 that can better it.
Read our in-depth Surface Go 2 review
The best laptop under $300: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
If you’re on a budget and want a detachable tablet that can meet your web browsing and light productivity needs, look no further than Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet. It’s an attractively priced tablet at $279 ($299 with 128GB of storage), and best of all it includes a kickstand cover with a great keyboard with touchpad.
That makes the Chromebook Duet one of the best values we’ve seen, coming in at hundreds of dollars less than competitive tablets once you spend the money on a keyboard cover. Performance is mediocre, but it’s fast enough for the tasks you’ll ask it to perform, and the display is surprisingly good for the money. It’ll run your favorite Android apps, and offers one of the best browsing experiences on a tablet.
Read our in-depth Lenovo Chromebook Duet review
The best 15-inch laptop under $500: Samsung Chromebook 4+
Laptops under $500 aren’t often lookers — and hey, can you blame them? At such low prices, you’re better off paying for better performance and configurations than aesthetics. The Samsung Chromebook 4+, though, doesn’t make you choose.
It has a unibody, aluminum design that resembles a MacBook Pro, complete with a larger 15-inch screen if you need some extra screen real estate. That makes it a good option for students and at-home workers who might not have access to a secondary display.
The specs won’t blow your socks off, but with a 1080p screen and 4GB of RAM, it’ll get the job done.
Research and buying tips
Are laptops under $500 good?
They can be, though finding one that doesn’t make compromises in multiple areas is difficult. Try to avoid laptops with a screen resolution under 1080p, Windows 10 laptops with a Pentium processor, or laptops without a solid-state drive. There are always exceptions, but those are the types of components that make a significant difference to your experience with a laptop.
Regardless of which you choose, you shouldn’t expect your $500 laptop to do complicated tasks like video editing or gaming. These are for basic computing, word processing, and web browsing.
Should I buy a Chromebook?
Chromebooks don’t offer Windows, which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your opinion of Microsoft’s OS. As they’ve matured, Chromebooks have become viable alternatives to Windows PCs, especially in the lower price range. Because Chrome OS is a lighter OS with fewer features, Chromebooks often feel faster, and offer better battery life than their Windows counterparts (at a given price).
They even support Android apps through the Google Play Store, which gives you access to a huge portfolio of mobile apps and games. That said, the Android app experience can leave much to be desired, so you shouldn’t count on it.
The downside is that you can’t just go online and install any application. In fact, anything outside of what you can do in a web browser is off-limits.
Can you buy a gaming laptop for under $500?
For the most part, no. The cheapest gaming laptops. Those laptops are already fairly underpowered for modern games, though if you play lighter games and are willing to play at low settings, they’ll get by.
None of the laptops on this list are a good choice for 3D gaming.
What is missing from $500 laptops?
Most $500 laptops are made out of plastic, unlike aluminum and other premium materials used in expensive laptops. You’ll also find faster performance in these more expensive laptops. Quad-core processors and 8GB of RAM are the norm in mid-range laptops, while most of the options on this list have less.
Expensive laptops often specialize in either battery life or graphics performance. The Dell XPS 13 will provide you all-day battery life, while the Razer Blade will let you play modern games at high frame rates. When you’re shopping under $500, you should expect a bare-bones laptop. It can handle most day to day tasks with ease, but gaming, photo/video editing, and other more demanding tasks may require a higher budget.