When we think of cheap products, we think of compromises. It’s true that most budget laptops have to cut some corners to keep prices down. However, there are always a couple of models who are more better equipped than others for the challenges of everyday computing. We’ve looked at more than 30 devices currently on sale and came up with this short list of the best laptops under $500 you can buy right now.
If you’re interested in finding out what to realistically expect from a laptop under $500, be sure to check the article section where we explain in detail what to look for when buying a budget laptop.
7 Best laptops under $500 you can buy in 2019
Best value for money: ASUS Vivobook 15
Processor: Intel Core i3-8145U | Memory: 8GB RAM | Storage: 128GB SSD | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | Display: 15.6″ FHD | Weight: 3.5 lbs | Battery Life: 7-8 hours
The 15-inch ASUS Vivobook 15 F512FA-AB34 is the best affordable all-rounder to surface this year. When it comes to performance, there’s simply not much competition from other manufacturers. This model ticks all the boxes that make a cheap laptop great.
For less than $500 you get a speedy Intel Core i3 processor alongside 8 gigs of system memory, a rarity in this price bracket. Also, somehow it weighs less than a couple of mid range laptops, just 3.5 pounds. Battery life has exceeded my expectations as well.
Sure, the Vivobook 15 is all-plastic. It feels like a cheaper laptop, but it isn’t cheaply made, as it benefits from the latest innovations from ASUS, like thin bezels, new hinge design and competitive interface options.
There’s only one drawback: display quality. It simply isn’t that great. However, considering its price and specs, I can’t complain about it not having a really engaging display.
The Vivobook 15 is a fantastic laptop as far as affordability is concerned, perfect for college students on a tight budget.
Best under $350: Acer Aspire 5
Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 3200U | Memory: 4GB RAM | Storage: 128GB SSD | Graphics: AMD Vega 3 Graphics | Display: 15.6″ FHD | Weight: 4 lbs | Battery Life: 6-8 hours
The Acer Aspire 5 is even cheaper than the Vivobook 15, but features slightly less impressive specs. There are two available models for under $500. An Intel-powered Aspire 5 and an AMD-powered one. I’ve selected the latter, since it offers a more balanced performance profile for its cost. Plus, it’s around $50 less than the Intel model.
If I’d want to find a flaw, I would say that system memory is modest, at best. The Acer Aspire 5 A515-43-R19L model features just 4 gigabytes of it. At times performance seems rigid, especially when editing photos, or multitasking between several open apps.
Also, it’s not as portable as the ASUS. Commuters, be warned: this notebook weighs around 4 pounds, making it cumbersome to carry around all day.
Other than that, if all you need is everyday computing, the Aspire is a good bet. For a little more than $300 you shouldn’t encounter any problems browsing the internet, editing documents, sending emails or streaming online media content.
Best under $250: Acer Aspire 1
Processor: Intel Celeron N4000 | Memory: 4GB RAM | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600 | Display: 14″ FHD | Weight: 3.65 lbs | Battery Life: 6 hours
Unsurprisingly, the best laptop you can buy for less than $250 is also an Acer. The company has a history of producing decent quality and affordable notebooks. The 14-inch Acer Aspire 1 dominates the ultra-cheap market this year.
However, don’t expect much from the Aspire 1 in terms of performance. Its entry-level Intel Celeron won’t take you far. Thus, you should limit yourself to the most basic of tasks when working on it. Think browsing, emails, some document editing.
That being said, you get a full HD display, USB 3.0 (but no Type-C yet), HDMI, fast wireless and an ethernet port. Furthermore, it’s almost as portable as the ASUS Vivobook 15 we mentioned above, weighing around 3.6 pounds, but is falling behind on battery life.
Best 2-in-1: Lenovo Flex 14
Processor: Intel Core i3-8145U | Memory: 4GB RAM | Storage: 128GB SSD | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | Display: 14″ HD | Weight: 3.5 lbs | Battery Life: 8 hours
The Lenovo Flex 14 is your best bet If you want a convertible, Windows powered laptop for less than $500. A 2-in-1 is usually half-laptop, half-tablet. However, the Lenovo is more of a laptop than it is tablet.
Compromise is typically unavoidable when searching for budget 2-in-1 notebooks, and the Flex 14 makes no exception. Unlike more expensive options, this budget model comes with a 1366 x 768 display, not to mention only 4 gigabytes of system memory.
But if you’re after an affordable 2-in-1, there aren’t many viable alternatives. The Lenovo does offer adequate performance for your daily tasks. If you’re interested in this model, you’ll want to add another 4GB of RAM further down the road.
Portability is respectable, as well as touch responsiveness.
Most portable: ASUS Chromebook Flip C302
Processor: Intel Core m3-6Y30 | Memory: 4GB RAM | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | Display: 12.5″ FHD | Weight: 2.6 lbs | Battery Life: 8-10 hours
Elegant and understated, the ASUS Chromebook Flip C302 is a fantastic 2-in-1 Chromebook, perfect for frequent commuters or travelers. It’s lightweight and has enough battery life to last for more than a day’s worth of work.
What’s more, the ASUS features a more robust build quality than most laptops under $500, with an all-metal chassis, comfortable keyboard and solid hinges. Performance is on par with its price. The Chromebook Flip comes with an Intel Core m3 processor, 4 gigabytes of RAM and 64 gigabytes of storage space.
I’m happy to note that ASUS haven’t compromised that much with the Chromebook Flip C302. For a budget laptop, it’s well balanced on all key aspects. It shines as a travel companion: it’s lightweight, dependable, reasonably fast and versatile.
Since its launch, users have praised almost everything about this convertible laptop.
Best Chromebook: ASUS Chromebook C425
Processor: Intel Core m3-8100Y | Memory: 8GB RAM | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | Display: 14″ FHD | Weight: 2.8 lbs | Battery Life: 10-12 hours
The newly released ASUS Chromebook C425 is hands down the best Chromebook you can buy for less than $500. Unlike more budget friendly options, this laptop is slim and well made, with an all-metal body and premium design.
Performance is up there, as well. Its processor, while less powerful than an Intel Core i3, is well equipped to handle every daily task you can think of. System memory is also uncommonly large for a budget laptop: 8 gigabytes.
Display quality is more than reasonable, with a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, slim bezels all around and an IPS panel. Colors are rich enough for my eyes, especially considering its price.
Other features include USB Type-C support, 180-degree hinges, backlit keyboard and a wider than usual trackpad. The Chromebook C425 is lightweight and offers enough battery life to easily get you through an entire workday.
Honorable mention: Acer Aspire E
Processor: Intel Core i3-8130U | Memory: 6GB RAM | Storage: 1TB SSD | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | Display: 15″ FHD | Weight: 5.3 lbs | Battery Life: 4-6 hours
Normally, I wouldn’t have included the Acer Aspire E in this list. However, I think it deserves a shout for one single reason. It’s the only one on this list that can realistically work as a desktop replacement laptop.
While most others on this list are modern laptops through and through, the 15-inch Acer Aspire E has a different kind of appeal. Sure, it’s bulky, it weighs 5.3 pounds, doesn’t have much battery life, but that’s all right, honestly.
You shouldn’t buy this laptop for its portability. You should buy it if you need a desktop replacement notebook. One that will sit on your desk for the most part of its life. This budget model features an interesting combination of both modern and legacy components.
On one hand, it offers USB 3.1 support, a 720p front facing camera and a full HD display. On the other hand, you get a 1-terabyte hard disk drive and a DVD writer.
So, in contrast with other options presented on this list, the Acer Aspire E has good performance thanks to its Intel Core i3 CPU, 6GB of RAM (upgradeable to 16GB) and the most storage capacity.
What to look for in a budget laptop
Knowing what to expect from a laptop under $500 can save you money now, and headaches later. There are no perfect budget laptops. You’ll just have to make some sort of compromise somewhere.
According to our very own laptop buying guide, you can pick a maximum of 3 out of 4 important features when buying most laptops: build quality, performance, portability and price. The same general principle applies to budget laptops by removing build quality out of the picture. You’re left with choosing 2 out of the remaining 3 traits.
Performance: plan for the future
An affordable laptop will not take you very far if your expectations are sky high. Almost all models feature entry-level processors. The cheaper you go, the less performance you get. As a general rule of thumb, if your new laptop budget is less than $500, always aim for the most expensive models you can get for said budget.
With laptops, more affordable usually means cheaper. A laptop that barely keeps up today will surely underperform later on. Although not all notebooks are created equal, we recommend buying one with an Intel Core i3 processor or equivalent, 8 gigabytes of RAM and an SSD to keep up with increased software demands for a couple of years.
Performance-wise, such a laptop is not far away from a mid-range device. As much as everyday tasks are concerned, you’re unlikely to notice that much of a difference between it and a $700+ Core i5 laptop.
Portability: know when to compromise
As we mentioned earlier, you can’t have a perfect laptop for under $500. You’ll have to be honest with yourself and think what is it that you want your laptop to do best.
If it’s portability that you’re after, you’ll have to settle for a smaller screen size. Affordable laptops aren’t normally built with ultra light materials, so they use size as leverage. Also, some of these laptops sacrifice performance for battery life. Look for devices with low TDP processors, like the Intel Core M series or similar and for lower resolution displays (like 1366 x 768) which don’t drain the battery as fast as full HD ones.
Price: wait it out
Patience is usually the name of the game. You can get your hands on a laptop that exceeds your budget during important sale events, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and so on.
Keep an eye on aggressively priced notebooks. Especially on those who sell for $50 to $100 above your maximum budget. Take the popular Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-51DJ for example. This model usually goes for more than $500, yet during sales its price drops significantly lower, essentially making it a best buy for those on a tight budget.