With dozens of brands and hundreds of different models available at any given time, picking the best laptops under $500 in 2021 can be a monumental task.
Rather than wasting your time comparing all the options across the web, we’ve done all the heavy lifting for you already!
Each of contenders are intended as multi-use options for students, educators, employees, or just regular users who don’t intend to do any heavy gaming. No matter what size or style you prefer, we’ve got a laptop pick that will work for you.
Recommendations for January 2021
best laptops under $500 In 2021
Lenovo Chromebook C330 – College Pick
You may have noticed we haven’t listed a chromebook yet in our roundup. That’s because devices at this price point are typically full laptops with Windows 10.
Unfortunately, the 2-in-1 Windows options aren’t fabulous if you plan to stick under the $500 threshold.
Do you prefer to stick with the sleeker, more streamlined Chrome OS? That’s a much better option in the price range with this Asus model.
As a full hybrid flip model, the C330 is extremely thin and lightweight. When you need portability and do more web browsing than using Windows programs, this can be a great option.
The main downside to keep in mind here is the storage space of 64GB. With Chrome that isn’t a huge problem though, as most of your data will be stored in the cloud anyway.
If you want to stick with Android apps and the speed of the Chrome OS but need more space, you can always just use a USB hard drive or SD card for extra storage.
Recommended Configuration For Lenovo Chromebook C330
CPU: MediaTek MT8173C| Graphics: PowerVR SGX543| RAM: 4GB RAM | Screen: 11.6-inch 1366×768 Full HD IPS display| Storage: 64GB eMMC| Operating System: Chrome OS| Battery Life: up to 10 hours | Weight: 2.64 lbs
HP Pavilion 14 – Business Pick
If you’ve spent any time browsing new laptops, you probably know your options for laptops with a professional aesthetic are limited.You’ll have to be ready to make some big trade offs to get a full Windows 10 laptop with a touch screen while staying under $500.
Most notably, this business laptop has a lower end processor with the AMD Ryzen 3 3200U and it comes with a solid state drive. Sadly you won’t get other hot new features like keyboard backlighting which is a good thing because those things are distracting during business meetings!
That being said, there’s plenty of reason to pick this model over our other contenders.
Aside from the reliable design, you get a little bit of everything here that combines the best features of newer and older tech.
Despite having an overall thin and lightweight design, you still get a DVD-RW drive. For some buyers, that’s a must-have feature.
Note that if you don’t need Windows 10 and want faster booting and data transfer, you may be better served going with a touch screen Chromebook at this price range. The Asus listed above in particular is a great option.
Recommended configuration for HP Pavilion 14
CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Processor | Graphics: Radeon Vega 3 Graphics| RAM: 4 GB | Screen: 14.0-inch diagonal HD SVA BrightView micro-edge WLED-backlit (1366 x 768) | Storage: 128 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 S | Battery Life: 8 hours | Weight: 3.25 lbs
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 – Most Powerful
The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is no doubt the most powerful laptop on this list. It has a powerful AMD Ryzen 5 3500U processor which is in a league of its own when you compare it to the laptops on this list. This quad core CPU is able to go up to 3.7 GHz with each of its cores which is simply insane!
And to top it off, its other specs are no joke either. It has a AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics card for all of your rendering needs and it has over 8 GB of RAM which allows for multitasking. Its very crazy to think that a laptop like the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is just under $500.
Recommended configuration for Lenovo IdeaPad 3
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500U Processor | Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 8 Graphics | RAM: 8 GB RAM | Screen: 14.0″ FHD (1920 x 1080) Display | Storage: 256 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 | Battery Life: 8 hours | Weight: 3.3 lbs
Acer Swift 3 – Very Secure
Business buyers don’t have much wiggle room to lose out on features, but not all small businesses can afford top of the line machines.
For the best cost to price ratio, we recommend picking a refurbished Acer Swift 3 if you need to stay under $700. Yes it’s above $500 which is why it didn’t make the award for “most powerful laptop” on this list.
Hearing this though shows you that this laptop has some pretty amazing specs. You get an excellentAMD Ryzen 7-4700U CPU, a full 8GB of RAM, and a solid state drive for far less money than if you picked a new device.
Best of all?
This model comes standard with a fingerprint scanner, which is a critical security feature for nearly any kind of business.
With a Corning Gorilla Glass screen, you also get a sturdy, high quality display that can withstand regular daily use.
Recommended Configuration For Acer Swift 3
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7-4700U| Graphics: AMD Radeon Graphics| RAM: 8GB RAM | Screen: 14-inch 1920×1080 FHD IPS display| Storage: 512GB SSD| Operating System: Windows 10| Battery Life: up to 11.5 hours | Weight: 2.65 lbs
HP 15 – 10th Gen Processor
The HP 15 is a lower end laptop that features decent specs. Its most powerful and notable specs however is its 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 processor.
Being 10th gen, expect this i3 processor to run faster than some i5s as well as handle some heavy duty programs and application.Now granted its an i3 so it’s not very powerful in the end, but for a budget laptop, it’s a catch!
Its other specs are pretty decent as well with its Intel UHD Graphics and 4 GB of RAM. It doesn’t have a very high resolution with only 1366 x 768 pixels on the display. And it more than makes up for this with its BrightView and WLED-backlit display that makes the screen easy to see even at daytime. And this is without anti-glare properties.
Overall, the HP 15 is a reliable budget laptop with a very powerful processor compared to other laptops of the same price range.
Recommended configuration for HP 15
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics| RAM: 4 GB RAM | Screen: 15.6″ diagonal HD SVA BrightView micro-edge WLED-backlit, 220 nits, 45% NTSC (1366 x 768)| Storage: 128GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 6 hours | Weight: 3.7 pounds
Acer Aspire 5 – For Video Editing
If you’re looking for a much cheaper alternative to the Lenovo IdeaPad 3, then take a look at the Acer Aspire 5. This is the second most powerful laptop on this list since it has the same processor as the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 and with slightly downgraded specs in other areas.
It has a reliable integrated AMD Radeon Vega 3 graphics card that makes it easy to render files and edit videos. It also has a FHD display which helps enhance your editing experience as you’re able to spot mistakes quite easily without having to zoom in.
The only issue we have with the laptop is its 128 GB SSD storage which is honestly small and lacking when it comes to editing large video files. Thankfully storage space is upgradable and you can simply replace it with a much larger SSD in the future.
If you’re really on a budget but still want a reliable and powerful laptop for video editing and doing other resource intensive activities, then why not give the Acer Aspire 5 a try.
Recommended configuration for Acer Aspire 5
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500U| Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 3| RAM: 4GB RAM | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display| Storage: 128 GB SSD| Operating System: Windows 10| Battery Life: up to 7.5 hours | Weight: 3.97 lbs
Lenovo 100E Chromebook – Extremely Cheap
Laptops come in a huge array of sizes and weights, and some are better for transporting to different locations than others.
With a 2-in-1 hinge and weighing in at well under 4 pounds, the Lenovo 100E Chromebook is our top pick for a lightweight, portable device at this price range.
By shedding an inch off the display size and dropping down to a smaller solid state drive, you get an extremely light machine that’s easy to carry around.
If you like to switch between laptop and tablet mode, this model also has a stylus included, so you won’t need to buy one separately.
Recommended configuration for Lenovo 100E Chromebook
CPU: Mediatek MT8173c | Graphics: Imagination PowerVR GX6250| RAM: 4 GB| Screen: 11.6”, HD (1366 x 768), TN| Storage: 16 GB SSD | Operating System: Chrome OS| Battery Life: 10 hours | Weight: 2.66 lbs
Dell Inspiron 14 – Touchscreen Pick
Looking for the best of the best? We’re starting with our top-of-the-line pick that offers a ton of power under the hood for a very affordable price.
With Dell’s Inspiron, you get the quality of a more expensive model with the cost of a budget device.
Besides the fast i3 processor, unquestionably the biggest draw to this pick is the 128 GB solid state drive.
While that offers less overall storage than the typical 1TB hard disk drives standard for this price range, trust us that speed boost is well worth the trade off.
4GB of RAM is the best you can expect while staying near the $500, but there’s a big upside here you might not have considered.
This model has room to expand to 16GB by adding in another 8GB stick down the line when you’ve got extra spending money available.
Dell even managed to put a touch screen on this Inspiron model, making it one of the top overall choices for any kind of buyer.
This model doesn’t include an optical drive, however. If you need a DVD-RW drive (or just want to save a little extra money), the HP Pavilion listed below is another solid touch screen option.
Recommended configuration for Dell Inspiron 14
CPU: 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8145u Processor | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4 GB RAM | Screen: 14.0-Inch HD (1366 x 768) LED-backlit Touch Display | Storage: 128 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 8.5 houes | Weight: 2.9 pounds
Apple MacBook Pro MD313LL – Cheap Macbook
At the under $500 price point, you will often find your options are quite limited for options like 13 inch or touch screen models.
For buyers who want a small, light machine that still packs a punch, you may want to consider going refurbished.
This version of an older MacBook Pro model has been restored to factory specs and repaired to still work as well as new.
For much less money than a newer MacBook, you get solid overall specs and some great extra features like a backlit keyboard and DVD burning drive.
While you won’t get the retina level display at this price range, you still get a hard working machine in a tiny, portable package.
Prefer a different operating system besides Mac? Our convertible 2-in-1 Asus machine has a similar size but offers the Chrome OS instead.
Recommended configuration for Apple MacBook Pro MD313LL
CPU: 2.4 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 Processor| Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000| RAM: 4 GB RAM | Screen: 13.3-Inch LED-backlit Display, 1280-by-800 Resolution| Storage: 500 GB HDD| Operating System: Mac OS X| Battery Life: 7 hours| Weight: 4.5 lbs
Acer Aspire E 15 – FHD Display
One area where laptop manufacturers cut corners to lower costs is on the display quality. Most portable devices at this price range will feature lower resolution screens.
You can buck that unfortunate trend with the Acer Aspire E 15, which offers a full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution for under $500.
Why does that matter?
This higher resolution lets you stream full HD quality video without any loss in quality. If you primarily watch movies or browse YouTube on your laptop, this is the machine to pick.
Best of all?
This model sports a low power 8th gen processor. That means you get huge battery life for binge watching your favorite Netflix or HBO shows all day long.
While it won’t beat out our other models in terms of raw performance, this is the best option in our list of contenders if you need crystal clear visuals.
Recommended configuration for Acer Aspire E 15
CPU: 8th Generation Intel Core i3 8130U Processor | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620| RAM: 6 GB RAM | Screen: 15.6 inches Full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen LED lit Display | Storage: 1 TB HDD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 13. 5 hours| Weight: 5.27 lbs
Picking The Best Laptops Under $500 In 2021
Even when picking the budget laptop, you have many options available in terms of high end designs to get the best possible mobile experience.
We recommend spending some time to decide which specific design features you want before looking at the hardware specs.
Do you prefer a laptop to be ultra portable with a tiny screen for easy carrying? Are you keen to pick up a bigger machine to serve as a desktop replacements?
Don’t forget that 2-in-1 models are also available in this price range that can be used as a laptop or a tablet.
Finally, be sure to take into account the types of ports and drives available, as sleeker designs don’t always have room for a DVD-RW or card reader.
While overall hardware specs are often similar between models, you should pay close attention to the extra features that set each contender apart.
While there aren’t many models at this price range with IPS panels, you can still find high end displays if you carefully compare your options.
Don’t forget to take into account the budding touch screen technology. Full size laptops are available with touch screens, or you can pick a hybrid unit that flips over like a tablet.
We also recommend picking an option with a fingerprint reader whenever possible, as well as any model with keyboard backlighting.
When picking a cheap laptop, you may find the specs often aren’t as high end as more expensive models, which is why you need to always be on the lookout for specific hardware thresholds.
In the vast majority of cases, we strongly recommend picking a model with 8GB of RAM and an i5 CPU in this price range.
There’s some wiggle room there if you are trading off for other features, like a higher resolution screen or a 2-in-1 touch display.
In terms of drive types, we always recommend going with a solid state drive. While these drives have less storage space, the boot up and data transfer speeds are significantly faster than with hard disk drives.
Your specific battery needs may vary depending on how often you are away from an outlet, but there are some general guidelines to follow to get the most out of your mobile computer.
All other specs being equal, we generally recommend a laptop that lists at least a 7 – 8 hour battery life.
While the battery may drain faster than that based on your specific usage, it’s usually a better idea to have as much battery life as possible in case you can’t get to a wall plug.
Be on the lookout for high battery capacity models with 13 hour ratings, as these are the most likely to make it through a full work or school day without needing to recharge.
At this price range, laptops aren’t meant for heavy duty gaming, but you can still do some light gaming if you pick the right options.
Unfortunately you won’t find any dedicated graphics cards in this price range, but that doesn’t completely negate gaming opportunities.
Without a dedicated GPU, instead look for the most RAM and most powerful 8th gen CPUs if you intend to play games. A solid state drive is also highly recommended, as you’ll get much faster load times.
Finally, a full 1920 x 1080 resolution screen is preferable for gaming, so you get the best possible visuals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get an even better deal on these laptops?
It’s hard to find a functional laptop below the $500 mark and if there were laptops being sold at this price, then it’s most likely refurbished.
If you really want a cheap gadget that’s even cheaper than the ones on this list, then we advise going for tablets and phones. The specs of the laptops on this list are one of the best you can see on the below $500 price range.
We’ve done extensive research on each and every one of these products, so our answer would be “ probably not ” . But you can try, and if you try really hard enough you might find deals better than this one but it will probably still be slightly better than the ones listed here
What can a laptop under $500 do?
Laptops below $500 have the specs to do most everyday tasks like browsing the net, editing documents, and watching videos. However don’t expect them to run resource intensive apps and programs because they aren’t strong enough.
And since these laptops tend to have lower end processors, you might expect them to have longer than average battery lives than laptops that have stronger processors. This is because most high-end processors heat up faster and take up more power so they usually don’t have long battery lives.
This also explains why most gaming laptops need to be constantly charged even when doing mundane tasks. With great processing power comes great battery consumption as well.
However you can still play light end video games with the laptops on this list. But since they don’t have dedicated graphics cards, don’t expect you’ll be able to run graphic heavy games. So you’ll have to spend a little bit more money if you’re looking to play the really good video games.
Should I go for a high end Chromebook or a cheap Windows laptop?
It really depends on what you need since both of them have their advantages and disadvantages. Chromebooks can run really fast even with subpar specs, this is because their OS has a lighter build compared to windows.
On the other hand, cheap Windows laptops tend to have large storage space even reaching up to 512 SSD or even 1 TB HDD which is quite large. Chromebooks on the other hand have low storage and rely on the cloud to store their files.
In the end, it’s really up to you on what you prefer more.If you don’t mind the low storage space, go for a chromebook. But if you like better specs and prefer to store your files offline, then get a cheap windows laptop.
How long will these laptops last?
Don’t expect these cheap laptops to last longer than the pricier ones above $500. This is because technology keeps on improving and with the rise of the i9 and Ryzen 9 processors, expect programs to be more resource intensive in the future as well.
After a few years, you’ll notice that these laptops will have a hard time browsing the net and their mediocre storage and RAM won’t be able to handle heavier programs as well.
So long story short, the laptops on this list aren’t future proof.