Many computers cost less than $500, but finding one that isn’t completely useless is difficult. Over the years, we’ve researched and tested hundreds of low-cost Windows laptops and Chromebooks to uncover decent models Consolidationnow cash. We also offer tips to help you shop wisely when prices fluctuate, and our best recommendations sell out.
Good budget laptops are scarce regularly, but higher-than-normal demand, rising prices, and a chip shortage have compounded the problem, particularly for low-end models. We’ve got some recommendations for Chromebooks and Windows laptops under $500, as well as some suggestions for what you can acquire if you can spend a little more. Stock notifications can be set up at retailers that offer them on sites like Nowinstock.net or through browser extensions like Keepa. If you can’t locate our suggestions elsewhere, see our guide to buying a cheap laptop or try buying a used laptop.
Choosing between a low-cost Chromebook and a low-cost Windows laptop
Our recommendations are for those who do not want or cannot spend more than $500 on a laptop. These models are suitable for anyone who only wants to surf the internet, students who do not require specific software, and people who only work from home occasionally. If you need a more powerful laptop, see our list of the best laptops.
Laptops that are the best
We’ve spent hundreds of hours researching the best laptops for most individuals, from budget-friendly alternatives to thin-and-light ultrabooks to powerful gaming laptops.
Chromebooks are superior to Windows laptops at this price because they are faster at the tasks that most people use a computer for. They also have superior screens, keyboards, trackpads, excellent build quality, and longer battery life. Antivirus software isn’t required, and Chromebooks don’t come with any bloatware (unnecessary, manufacturer-loaded software that clutters the computer and slows it down). Chrome OS is all you need if you spend your computing time in a browser—checking email, using Google Docs, watching Netflix, or making Zoom calls. You’re better off with Windows if you need specialized software for work or education, if you want to play Windows-specific games, or if you need to work offline.
Basic web browsing, modest app use, and media consumption are all possible on a Windows laptop under $500, but not much more. It sags under the strain of running three or four lightweight apps simultaneously, so it’s not ideal for multitasking. Furthermore, a low-cost laptop may end up costing you more in the long run: In two years, it will feel worse in everyday usage than an $800 laptop, and you will need to replace it sooner. If you have $550 to spare, you can get a quicker, longer-lasting PC.
Consider an iPad with a keyboard if you don’t require Windows, prefer Apple’s platforms, or generally watch movies and play games. This combination is faster than a cheap Windows laptop for typing emails, watching movies, or taking notes, and unlike a Chromebook, which forces you to rely on web apps and Android apps meant for phones, you can find thousands of iPad-optimized apps and games. However, an iPad with a keyboard is not a complete substitute for a laptop.
- Intel Core i3-10110U or i3-1115G4 processor
- 13.3-inch 1920×1080 touch screen
- 4 GB of memory
- 2.97-pound weight
- 64 GB SSD storage
- Battery life was tested at 10 hours.
Why we like it: We recommend the nearly identical Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 (13′′) and the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook (13′′) over any similarly priced Windows laptop if you want a cheap laptop that’s pleasurable to use. The Flex 5 and 5i are outstanding Chromebooks, with rapid speed and good keyboards and trackpads on both variants. Their 1080p touchscreens are colorful and bright, and they’re both tiny and light. The Flex 5 and 5i outperform Windows laptops at tasks like browsing the web (even with many tabs open), making video calls, working in documents and spreadsheets, and watching movies. Both models are far more portable than low-cost Windows alternatives and are free of software that slows them down.
The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is a 5-inch
Where it falls short: Apart from the aforementioned ChromeOS constraints, the Flex 5 and Flex 5i have no significant problems. Their battery will last a full day of work or classes, but in our tests, both models fell a few hours short of our other Chromebook favorites, so if you don’t have a chance to plug in your laptop before the end of the day, it may be a tight squeeze. We also discovered that the lid was difficult to open; I frequently needed two hands to open the Flex 5 and Flex 5i.
- Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor
- Touchscreen 15.6-inch 1920×1080
- 8 GB of memory
- 4.3-pound weight
- 128 GB SSD storage
- 11.5 hours of battery life was teste
Why we like it: The Asus Chromebook Flip C536 is an excellent option if you want a larger screen and a number pad (C536EA-BI3T3). The 15.6-inch touchscreen gives you extra area to work or watch videos, and the number pad comes in handy if you have a lot of data to enter. The illuminated buttons and extra-wide trackpad of the Flip C536 feel gratifying and responsive. However, even though the C536 will last longer when not connected to a power source, it is too bulky and hefty to carry around regularly.
Where it falls short: The Flip C536’s 15-inch display makes it heavier and bulkier than our other recommendations, making it far less portable—we don’t recommend it if you need a laptop to take to work, class or even a coffee shop. The C536 has a 360-degree hinge for whatever reason, but it’s far too heavy to flip around and use in other modes comfortably.
The best Windows laptops for less than $500
HP 14t-dq200 Laptop
- Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor
- 14-inch 1920×1080 non-touch screen
- 8 GB of memory
- 3.24-pound weight
- 256 GB SSD storage
- 7.5 hours of battery life was tested.
Why we like it: The HP Laptop 14t-dq200 is a good choice if you need to run Windows software or games or if you prefer to work offline. Its processor, memory, and storage are all fast enough to meet the computing needs of most individuals for many years. Many low-cost Windows laptops have little memory, allowing them to run only a few apps and a few browser tabs at a time.
Of the cheap Windows laptops we’ve tested, the 14t is the most portable. It’s smaller and lighter than other Windows laptops in this price range, and its battery life in our tests was roughly 7.5 hours. Its 1920×1080 screen is sharp and colorful, but you must select this upgrade after checkout, or you will be left with a subpar display. Most Windows laptops in this price range feature lower-resolution screens that appear pixelated or dreadful TN panels that are harsh and blown out and reverse colors at the display’s edge when viewed from the front.
It falls short: The HP Laptop 14t’s chassis seems hollow and flexes with light pressure, indicating poor build quality. Its keyboard and trackpad are similarly cheap, and when tapped, they rattle. However, both inputs are accurate, and if you can’t take typing or browsing with the built-in alternatives, an external keyboard and mouse are affordable extras.
The 14t also lacks a fingerprint reader, as seen on many of our other recommendations. It’s also tough to open to update the memory or storage later, but this isn’t a deal-breaker because it comes with enough storage to last most people for years, and you can always use an external drive if you need more.
- Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor
- 15-inch 1920×1080 non-touch screen
- 8 GB of memory
- 4.0-pound weight
- 256 GB SSD storage
- 7.5 hours of battery life was tested.
Why we like it: If you have Sam’s Club membership, the Asus VivoBook 15 F515EA-SB34 is an excellent option. Non-Club Sam’s members can still purchase it for an additional $50. It has our recommended specifications and will keep you going for years, and its 1080p screen, backlit keyboard, and trackpad are on par with our other selections. This Vivobook also boasts a dependable fingerprint scanner in the upper right corner of the trackpad, as well as a single USB-C connector that can’t be used to charge devices. This model lasted a little longer in battery tests than typical Windows laptops in this price category, lasting 7 hours 20 minutes.
Where it falls short: This model is only available at Sam’s Club, and you’ll need to sign up for a membership to keep the price under $500. It costs around $550 without a membership. The VivoBook 15 F515 is big and hefty, like most affordable Windows laptops—and all of our selections. We also recommend using Microsoft’s Refresh Windows application to eliminate any unneeded programs when you receive the computer. This laptop comes with Windows 10 in S mode, which only permits programs from the Microsoft Store and restricts web browsing to Microsoft Edge. It’s free to upgrade to Windows 10 Home, which you’ll need if you utilize tools like Zoom.
F513EA-OS36 Asus VivoBook 15
The VivoBook 15 F513 offers steady performance, an excellent 1080p display, a comfortable keyboard, and a trackpad. However, as of this writing, the street price has above $500.
Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor
15-inch 1920×1080 non-touch screen
8 GB of memory
256 GB SSD storage
6.5 hours of battery life was tested.
Why do we like it: The Asus VivoBook 15 F513EA-OS36 is another fantastic budget Windows laptop, but it’s now on sale for roughly $550, which is about $100 more than its suggested retail price. It’s quick enough for daily use, and it’s a well-made, durable laptop that should endure for years. This VivoBook boasts an excellent 1080p display, a backlit keyboard with a full number pad, and a fast trackpad with a trustworthy built-in fingerprint reader. It also includes one USB-C connector (though it can’t charge from it), and in our battery tests, it lasted 6 hours 25 minutes—not quite as long as our top recommendations, but about typical for this category.
Where it falls short: Even though the suggested retail price for this laptop is $440, the street price has risen from $530 to $550 since we wrote this guide. We don’t expect the price to decrease below $500 due to continuous chip shortages that disproportionately affect low-end models and continued high demand for low-cost laptops. However, if you can stretch your budget or wait for a discount, this is an excellent laptop for the money. The VivoBook 15 F513, like our previous picks, is large and heavy. We also recommend utilizing Microsoft’s Refresh Windows utility to uninstall unwanted apps. The VivoBook comes preinstalled with Windows 10 S, but you may upgrade to Windows 10 Home for free.
Aspire 5 A515-45-R9YK by Acer – A long-lasting battery alternative
The Aspire 5 boasts a good display, a short trackpad, and a long battery life. However, it is large and heavy, and the keyboard is barely adequate.
- AMD Ryzen 3 5300U processor
- 15-inch 1920×1080 non-touch screen
- 8 GB of memory
- 3.97-pound weight
- 256 GB SSD storage
- 9.5 hours of battery life was tested.
Why do we like it: The Acer Aspire 5 A515-45-R9YK is another great 15-inch Windows laptop if the other options are unavailable or cost more than $500. It’s fast enough to do most tasks, and its 15-inch 1920×1080 screen is bright and vibrant, which is a feat compared to many Windows laptops at this price range. It boasts a short trackpad, a decent—but not great—keyboard with a built-in number pad, and one USB-C connector. The Aspire 5 boasts a few long hours of battery life than our other Windows laptops; it lasted 9 hours and 41 minutes in our tests.
The Acer Aspire 5 opened up like a book.
Where it falls short: The Aspire 5 is large and hefty, making it inconvenient to use on the go despite its long battery life. It also comes with a lot of useless software, which takes up space and slows down performance, just like most cheap Windows laptops. Removing those unwanted programs makes your computer seem faster and more secure. We recommend using Microsoft’s Refresh Windows utility. It also doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner, and the keyboard isn’t as good as the Asus VivoBook versions above.
What about a tablet computer?
Apple’s iPad is a tablet computer that is (8th generation, 32 GB)
It’s more portable and simple to use.
If portability is more important to you than screen size, the iPad is a good choice for online browsing and light note-taking or writing. However, it is ineffective for more complex tasks.
Apple’s price is $330.
Why we like it: Depending on how you use a computer, a laptop may not be necessary. Any of our picks is lighter and more portable than an Apple iPad (8th generation, 32 GB) with a Bluetooth keyboard or a keyboard case. An iPad gives a smoother, less uncomfortable experience than the Windows options in this price range if you primarily browse the web, conduct video chats, write, and take notes.
Where it falls short: Because an iPad can’t run typical desktop software and has limited multitasking capabilities, it’s not a viable laptop replacement. An iPad won’t work for you if you need to run more than two apps simultaneously, work with specialized software, or demand a large screen.
In our guide to the top tablets, you can learn more about the iPad.
What can you acquire with a little more cash?
If you have an extra $500 to spend, you should do so—you’ll get a far more excellent laptop that feels better to use and will last years longer.
The Acer Swift 3 SF314-42-R0HP and SF314-42-R7LH are excellent laptops for their $580 to $630 price tags. The Swift 3 is small and light, weighing only 2.65 pounds. In our tests, the battery lasted roughly 10.5 hours. The Swift 3 feels cheap compared to most thin-and-light ultrabooks. Still, unlike practically every other laptop in this price range, it meets our performance, battery life, and weight requirements and has no dealbreaker problems.
Another good value alternative is the Lenovo Ideapad Flex 5 14ITL053. We only recommend it if it’s on sale for less than the Swift 3 because it has a flat-screen with a yellowish tinge. Otherwise, you’d be better off saving up for the Yoga 7i (14″), which is lighter and more compact, and has a better display.
The Lenovo Yoga 7i (14′′), which costs a few hundred dollars more but has the features and build quality to last you a few years and the battery life to operate all day, is the next step up from this category.
The iPad is powerful enough for most people, but the iPad Air is a good option if you want a larger screen for multitasking and a speedier processor. However, it starts at $600, and you’ll have to add on a keyboard and a case to complete the package.
How to Find a Low-Cost Laptop
Inconsistent pricing, dwindling inventory, and retailer-exclusive promotions make shopping for laptops under $500 tough. Even if you don’t know much about computers, you may still select a good Windows laptop by looking for the following features:
Processor: We recommend an Intel Core i5 or i3 processor from the 10th or 11th generation (model numbers begin with i5 or i3 and end with 10xxx or 11xxx) or an AMD Ryzen 3 or 5 processor from the 4000-series or 5000-series (those start with the Ryzen 3 or Ryzen 5 name and end with 4xxx or higher). Avoid AMD dual-core A9 CPUs and Intel Pentium and Celeron processors.
Avoid hard drives (abbreviated as “HDD” on some product sites) and opt for a 128 GB or bigger solid-state drive (SSD).
Memory: Purchase 8 GB of memory (commonly known as “RAM”). In a pinch, 4 GB will do, but you won’t be able to run numerous apps at once with that amount.
Screen: Look for a monitor with a 1080p resolution, which many sellers refer to as 19201080 or “FHD.” A PC that meets all of the other requirements but has a regular HD display (1366768) will suffice for basic jobs.
(Chromebooks have different system requirements than Windows laptops; they can get away with lesser processors and run faster than Windows laptops with 4 GB of memory.) More information on Chromebooks can be found in our guide.)
Stick to large stores with solid return policies, such as Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, or the manufacturer, while looking for an inexpensive laptop. Avoid companies like BuyDig that offer deals that seem too good to be true. Anotwitwitht way to save money is to purchase a refurbished model. When buying a refuanandlaptop, go for a model from the original manufacturer or an authorized dealer rather than a seller-refurbished model from Amazon.
A Windows notebook with 4 GB of memory and an SSD seemed more responsive to operate than one with more RAM but a hard drive or a slow processor.
When your laptop arrives, carefully open the package, keep all parts and accessories, and give it a thorough test drive. Check for a cumbersome trackpad, mushy and sluggish keys, or a dim, washed-out screen, and return the laptop as quickly as possible if you find anything you don’t like. If you wait too long, you may be stuck with it—some manufacturers only allow a two-week return period.
If you don’t need a laptop right now, you can get a decent deal on one if you wait—prices fluctuate, and a $700 laptop can drop below $500 for a short time. According to Wirecutter Deals editor Nathan Burrow, the finest laptop deals occur during the holiday season, which begins in November and ends in December.
How we chose
You won’t be able to get an outstanding laptop for less than $500—if it were, it wouldn’t be so expensive. Because you’re making substantial trade-offs at this pricing, it’s essential to understand how the system’s components affect your experience:
Storage: Most low-cost Windows laptops come with spinning hard drives or hybrid drives that are painfully slow—booting the computer, launching apps, and browsing files all take so long that you have time to drink coffee and stretch before you can do anything. In our testing, having flash storage (preferably an SSD, but an eMMC drive will suffice) instead of a standard hard drive significantly increased everyday performance, even more than a faster processor or additional memory. However, stay away from Windows laptops with less than 64 GB of flash storage—you won’t be able to install Windows updates without an external drive. You could buy a computer with a hard drive and then replace it with an SSD later to save money, but it’s more than most people are willing to do, so we focused on models that had flash storage.
Processor: We recommend an Intel Core i3 or Core i5 processor from the 10th or 11th generation, or an AMD Ryzen 3 or Ryzen 5 processor from the 4000- or 5000-series. The Core i3 and Ryzen 3 CPUs are fine for casual use and basic homework, but they’re not the best at multitasking; the Core i5 and Ryzen 5 processors are faster and better at multit in our tests asking, but they’re expensive. Avoid AMD dual-core A9 CPUs and Intel Pentium and Celeron processors like the N4200 and N5000. We observed that these CPUs were unusable with more than one open app in our tests.
RAM: You rarely get more than 4 GB of memory for less than $500 without compromising flash storage, a good processor, or a 1080p screen. Memory was the most significant attribute to compromise on if you absolutely must—a Windows laptop with 4 GB of memory and an SSD felt nicer to use than a laptop with more RAM but also a hard drive or a slow processor in our testing. 4 GB of memory can run around 10 to 15 active browser tabs (assuming no other apps are open) and is sufficient for essential document work with smaller files, according to Laptop Mag. Our studies found comparable results, but after you open another app, the number of tabs you can use drops to five to ten, and the number of tabs you can use drops with each subsequent program. If you frequently run multiple apps at the same time, you’ll need more memory, and 8 GB is a far better option for a computer you’ll use for years.
Screen: Most low-cost laptops have 1366×768-pixel screens. Models with a 1080p display (a resolution of 1920×1080) provided a more precise image and more screen real estate. We suggest in-plane switching (IPS) displays over TN (twisted nematic) panels because they feature more accurate color and greater viewing angles. You’ll notice the advantages if you view many videos on your laptop.
Keyboard and trackpad: Both the keyboard and trackpad should be comfortable and responsive, and neither input device should irritate you to the point where you need an external keyboard and mouse. Backlit keyboards are a nice feature, but they’re not expected at this price range.
Build quality: While no budget laptop can claim to be a workhorse of industrial design, a computer should not feel fragile. Many computers in this price range are enormous 15-inch monsters with thin plastic shells, squeaky keys, and squeaky trackpads. A good laptop should be robust, not flex under your fingers while typing, and not creak when you hit the spacebar or click the trackpad.
Bloatware: Bloatware is standard on low-cost Windows laptops, and it’s especially troublesome on laptops with weaker CPUs, fewer RAM, and limited storage. We recommend removing unnecessary applications when you unpack the computer by downloading and executing Microsoft’s Refresh Windows tool. This will speed up startup time, close security flaws, and remove distracting notifications. After uninstalling the bloatware, we noticed some minor performance improvements.
You don’t influence aspects we evaluate when evaluating more costly laptops for $500, such as size, battery life, or ports. While knowing these details is useful, they didn’t make or break any of our recommendations. We just aimed to identify viable laptops in this category.
How did we do our research?
We first examined three Windows laptops to see which components had the most influence on general use:
- one with an Intel Celeron processor, 4 GB of RAM, and eMMC storage
- a computer with an Intel Core i3 processor, a hard disk, and 8Weth a Core i3 processor, a solid-state drive,
Then we put the Windows laptops and Chromebooks that fulfilled our requirements to the test by using them for at least a day of regular work and video chats to get a feel for how well they performed, as well as their screens, keyboards, and trackpads. We had at least 20 browser tabs open on Chromebooks, including Google Docs, Google Sheets, streaming music, Slack, and several other sites. We had five to ten tabs open at a time on Windows and the Spotify and Slack apps. We also put the laptops to the test by opening 200-page PDF files, 100-page Excel spreadsheets, and 100-page Word documents.
The competition is fierce.
Most Windows laptops under $500 are terrible, and just a few with our required requirements exist—we looked at hundreds of machines on manufacturer and merchant websites and only identified a few that looked promising. Our top picks were laptops with current-generation Intel Core i3 or Ryzen 3 processors, 4 GB of RAM, and flash storage. (Although previous-generation processors will likely feel exactly as fast as current-generation models—and we recommend them if you can find a good laptop that uses one—stock of such computers is much more iffy.)
The Acer Aspire 5 A515-56-34A3 is fast enough; however, it has a terrible TN screen with poor viewing angles and a rugged appearance. Its keyboard is likewise rigid and cheap-feeling. It’s an inexpensive computer that’ll do the job if our top options aren’t available, but you’ll have to put up with that horrible screen for the rest of the laptop’s life.
We previously recommended the Asus VivoBook 15 F512JA-AS34, but it, too, has a poor display. We only recommend it if none of our current favorites are available.
The 15.6-inch Gateway “Although the Ultra Slim Notebook (GWTN156) fits our performance standards, it has a comparable poor screen, fragile build quality, and some of the worst speakers I’ve ever heard.
LIKE THE GATEWAY, the HP Laptop 15z-ef2000 is quick enough but has a terrible screen and build quality. Its keyboard and trackpad are also uncomfortable to operate and generate a rattling noise when in use.
The 14.1 Gateway “Because the Ultra Slim Notebook (GWTN141) only has 4GB of memory, it struggles to run more than a few apps at once and won’t last as long as our top picks. In addition, the build quality is poor, and the speakers are terrible.
For the same reasons, we don’t recommend the 15-inch Gateway GWTN156 or the 14-inch Gateway GWTN141 from last year.
Dell initially recommended the Dell Inspiron 14 5000 (5493) and Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (5593); however, both versions have been discontinued. Both are still good choices if you discover them at a different retailer.
The Intel Pentium N5030 processor in the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 (11′′) is barely fast enough on a Chromebook but too slow on Windows. We tried a Zoom call while simultaneously using a couple of open browser tabs, and we experienced connection outages and audio delays of more than 30 seconds, making discussion impossible.