Long gone are the days that you have to spend north of a thousand dollars on a laptop to get something that can really stand up to your day-to-day needs. Today, you can find some really outstanding laptops for under $500 and while there might be some tradeoffs, you’re still likely to get everything you want at a price that doesn’t make you sweat.
You won’t find the most stylish laptop or something that offers enough power for AAA games but for web browsing, Microsoft Office, and day-to-day purposes, you’ll find everything you need. Let’s take a look at the best laptops under $500 you can buy today.
- Best Overall: ASUS VivoBook 15 F515
- Best Value: Acer Aspire 3
- Best Chromebook: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5
- Best for School: Microsoft Surface Go 3
- Best for Gaming: Acer Aspire 5
Best Overall: ASUS VivoBook 15 F515
- 11th Generation Intel Core i3-1115G4, 8GB RAM, and 128GB of storage
- 15.6-inch Full HD NanoEdge vIPS display featuring a stunning 83% screen-to-body ratio and an anti-glare coating to reduce unwanted distractions
- Carefully constructed to protect internal components, strengthen the hinge joint, and provide a stable platform when using the laptop
- Comes with a full-size backlit keyboard that is perfect for working in dim environments and is ergonomically designed to provide a comfortable typing experience
- Only 3.97 lbs and 0.7 inches thin
When it comes to choosing a really great laptop under $500, you have to expect a few compromises, but the ASUS VivoBook 15 F515 is a great mix of compromise and performance. It regularly goes on sale for well under $500, making it even more of an attractive option.
Powered by an 11th-generation Intel Core i3 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage, there’s plenty of power under the hood for everyday work. All of that work will take place on the 1080p 15.6” IPS display with anti-glare coating and 178 degrees worth of viewing angles. Typing is one of the best parts of any ASUS laptop with a full-size backlit keyboard that makes it easy to work or play even at night.
As an added bonus, there’s a fingerprint reader in the corner to help facilitate logging in and making purchases through the Microsoft store. The hardware, which weighs just under four pounds, adds a metal reinforced plate underneath the keyboard for added strength which means it will last longer and help your money go further. Last but not least are multiple inputs including USB-C 3.2, USB-A 3.2, and USB 2.0 plus an HDMI input for connecting to a monitor.
Grab the ASUS VivoBook 15 F515 from Amazon today.
Best Value: Acer Aspire 3
- Thin, lightweight, and purposeful design
- Powerful AMD Ryzen processor for light gaming and tasks
- Stunning 15" display with sharp details and clear colors
- 8GB onboard memory and 128GB SSD storage
- Front-facing HD camera, AI noise reduction filters.
Acer has long been a staple of value computers and the Acer Aspire 3 is no different thanks to its sub $500 price tag.
Complete with a 15.6” 1080p IPS display, the Aspire 3 is the perfect value computer that hits below the $500 price tag but still provides enough features and power that will work well into the future.
Powered by an AMD Ryzen 3 processor, the Acer can absolutely handle spreadsheets or PowerPoints as well as casual browsing. The front-facing HD camera is plenty functional for both Zoom calls with co-workers and keeping up with friends and family around the world. Plus, with Aspire AMD’s Radeon graphics built-in, there’s a little extra power for light gaming.
As a bonus, the Aspire 3 includes Wi-Fi 6 with 802.11ax and 2×2 MIMO technology which speaks to future-proofing. At 3.9 pounds, the Aspire 3 is not lightweight but remains plenty thin for travel at 0.74 inches thin. Even with its thin size, the Acer Aspire 3 can still pump out up to 11 hours of battery life on a single charge which puts it at or near the top of the battery life chart on this list.
Pick up the Acer Aspire 3 from Amazon.
Best Chromebook: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5
Any list of best laptops under $500 is bound to include at least one if not many Chromebooks, and that’s why the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 is such a strong choice.
One of the more popular Chromebook options, the Lenovo has stood out thanks to its dual purpose as a 2-in-1 device with its easily disconnected keyboard. With up to 15 hours of battery life, there’s plenty of power for all-day work and a little bit of streaming to help close the day out.
The IdeaPad’s central focus is its beautiful 13.3 1920 x 1080 (1080p) OLED display that puts out 400 nits of brightness, making it ideal for use even in very bright environments. Colors on the display are also very accurate thanks to a 100% DCI-P3 color gamut so its display is definitely a major highlight. Add in excellent audio from the four built-in speakers with smart amplifier technology and movies not only look great on the display, but they sound great too.
Video calls make great use of speakers with the two included microphones which help you sound great to your colleagues or family thanks to the eight-megapixel rear camera and five-megapixel front-facing camera.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 is available on Amazon.
Best for School: Microsoft Surface Go 3
- 2-in-1 touchscreen
- Weighs 1.2 pounds
- Up to 11 hours of on-the-go power
- Windows 11
- USB-C port, headphone jack, Bluetooth 5.0, and MicroSDXC Card Reader
Microsoft’s Surface lineup has quickly grown to become some of the most prominent laptop models available and the Surface Go 3 is no exception.
Don’t let the diminutive size fool you as this 10.5” model is a powerhouse in a small package. As a 2-in-1, it’s a wonderful combination of a full-scale Windows 11 computer as well as a quick shift into tablet mode.
The display offers 220 PPI which is crisp for its size, and with the adjustable kickstand on the back, you can position it at a multitude of angles. Add in the separately purchased keyboard and Surface pen and you have a full-scale portable computer that can power through your entire day with 11 hours of battery life. Fast charging ensures that should you somehow run out of battery, you can quickly juice up to finish the day.
The hardware is powered by Intel’s Pentium Gold processor with 4GB of RAM and a 64 eMMC which works well with Windows 11 low-powered “S” mode. At only 1.18 pounds, the Surface Go 3 quickly tucks itself away in any sized backpack or day bag.
The Microsoft Surface Go 3 is available on Amazon.
Best for Gaming: Acer Aspire 5
- 15.6" widescreen with LED-backlight
- 8GB DDR4 Onboard Memory and 256GB NVMe SSD
- Multiple ports (USB 3.2 (Type-C), USB 3.2 Gen, USB 2.0 Port, HDMI 2.0)
- Impressive battery life (up to 11 hours)
- Windows 11 Home comes pre-installed
Finding a laptop under $500 with a dedicated GPU is unlikely to yield any results, but the Acer Aspire 5 comes close to the best you can find for the price point.
Boosted by integrated AMD Vega Graphics, you should have no issue playing games like Roblox, which is good news for families looking for a budget-friendly laptop the whole family can share. Games will look great on the 15.6” 1080p display which pushes out 250 nits, making it the brightest screen over any other gaming laptop at this price point.
The rest of the internals focus on the AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor which powers the Windows 11 “S” software. That the Acer Aspire 5 comes complete with Wi-Fi 6 is a huge bonus for future-proofing the computer for years to come.
Battery life is rated up to 11 hours and while most games will help reduce that amount, it’s more than enough to power through the day when performing non-gaming tasks like web browsing or light productivity work.
Pick up the Acer Aspire 5 from Amazon.
How to Pick the Best Laptop Under $500: A Step-by-Step Guide
Picking any laptop, below $500 or otherwise, offers the same level of discussion around a few central considerations:
- Display Size
- Battery Life
Understanding the size you want with a computer is rather important before making a purchase. The smaller the size display, the more portable a computer will be. The larger display, the more windows you will be able to display plus you will have larger text to make reading easier. Overall, a 15.6” display is fairly standard for most computers with the next most popular being the more portable 13” display size.
All-day battery life is the ideal amount for any computer purchase under $500. That likely means you shouldn’t go any lower than eight hours for a computer with an emphasis on nine hours and above. Not every computer will offer such battery life but a good number of options on this list will give you at least eight hours.
The amount of RAM you have is important as it will help you run multiple applications at once without stuttering or crashing. For most Windows 11 computers, 8GB should be the bare minimum while 4GB is good enough for most people looking to use a Chromebook. RAM is definitely one of those computer hardware items that can easily be defined as “the more the merrier.”
The processor or CPU of your laptop determines how fast your computer can complete the tasks you are asking it to perform. You want to start by looking for a laptop that has the most up-to-date processor so it not only performs better but lasts longer.
At under $500, you won’t get super powerful processors, so have the right expectations, but anything Intel i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 and above is a pretty good baseline for Windows 11. Chromebooks are a little different so you want to look more at Chromebooks made within the last year or so as those are most likely to have recent processors.
Graphics are generally specific to gaming or applications like Photoshop so the more powerful the better. At under $500, gaming is going to be considered “playable” as most of these computers only offer integrated graphics which is good enough for lightweight gaming. To get more into gaming, you would want a computer with a dedicated graphics card or GPU. Look for AMD Radeon or AMD Vega graphics to get you enough power to play games like Roblox.
Storage helps with making sure you have enough space to install applications, download files for work or photos for family, and overall ensure the computer has enough room to operate. At the bare minimum, for a Windows 11 computer, 256GB would be the ideal solution, though 128GB is acceptable for the right price. On a Chromebook, because you are unlikely to download as frequently, anything above 64GB of storage is acceptable but 128GB or higher is ideal.
Using the Best Laptop Under $500: What It’s Like
While there are a lot of laptops under $500, only a few really stand out and that’s especially true for Windows computers. As much as Microsoft has done to help design Windows 11 to be functional across laptops of all price points, it’s still software that demands more RAM, more storage, and a great display. What really helps drive a list like this is looking at different categories and figuring out which laptop is the best in that category.
As a gamer, how well these laptops game is important, so including a computer like the Acer Aspire 5 was a must. The same goes for looking at what students might need, especially those on a budget who are looking for a computer that can handle a host of school-related tasks. That’s why a computer like the Surface Go 3 is included because it’s a great combination of portability yet enough power for documents, PowerPoints, note-taking, and more.
Expecting any computer on this list to handle graphically intensive applications like Photoshop is probably asking too much. Simple photo or video editing is definitely possible but they will be limited by the available graphics capabilities and processing power at the sub $500 price point. The most important aspect of using any computer is to make sure you have the right expectations.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©fizkes/Shutterstock.com.