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Laptops that cost less than $500 don’t have to be low-powered. For evidence, just look at our top pick, the HP Pavilion x360. It offers a 13-inch touchscreen, an Intel Core i3 processor, and a hefty 6GB of RAM for less than $500.
The laptop is largely considered to be the hub of our digital lives, and while many suggest that the smartphone is changing that, the fact is, there’s still plenty that’s far easier to do on a laptop than on anything else. That’s especially true if you’re getting a laptop for work or for school, and with the new school year right around the corner that may well be the case.
While you may see headlines about devices like the latest MacBook Pro, it turns out you don’t need to spend thousands to get a decent computer — especially if you’re using it for things like word processing, web browsing, and emailing.
Of course, there are quite a few things to consider in purchasing a new laptop. After all, they’re pretty complex machines. Here’s a quick rundown of the features to look for when you make your choice.
- Operating System: There are a few major computer operating systems out there. You’re probably most familiar with Windows, as its by far the most popular operating system, but there’s also Apple’s macOS, which is also very capable. Finally, there’s Google’s Chrome OS, which is a little more targeted to those with basic computer needs who like the idea of being able to use some Android apps on their computer and are plugged into Google’s ecosystem and web apps. We’re not including any computers with macOS on this list because there aren’t any that would fall under the “budget laptop” distinction of costing $500 or less.
- Specs: Some computers are more powerful than others. Things like the processor and amount of RAM will dictate how quickly your computer runs, while the amount of storage indicates how many files you can keep on your computer at once.
- Size: Laptops come in a range of different sizes, however, the smaller ones generally sit in the 10- to 11-inch range, while the larger ones can get as big as 17-inches. That’s handy for watching movies, but it comes at the cost of portability.
Then, of course, there’s cost. For this guide, we consider a “budget” laptop to be a laptop that costs less than $500. However, if you can afford to spend more than that, you will be able to get something more powerful and arguably better than the computers on this list.
Stay tuned for our official list of the best high-end laptops. You can also check out our guide to the best Chromebooks on Insider Picks.
Although the HP Pavilion x360 is our top pick, for various reasons laid out in the slides below, you should also consider the Asus Chrome Flip, the Dell Inspiron 15 5000, the Microsoft Surface 3, and the Lenovo 110-15IBR.
The best budget laptop overall
Why you’ll love it: The HP Pavilion x360 is versatile thanks to its ability to work in tablet mode, and it offers above-par performance for the price and plenty of ports.
If you’re looking for the best laptop you can possibly get in your $500 budget, then the HP Pavilion x360 is for you, specifically the 13-inch variant with the touchscreen.
As you might assume, the x360 is actually more of a two-in-one than a straight up laptop, so you can actually flip the screen all the way around to use the device as a tablet if you so choose. But the tablet/laptop combo isn’t the only great thing about this computer. It also boasts an Intel Core i3-6100U, which is coupled with 6GB of RAM. The result? A very capable computer that should be powerful enough for any businessperson, student, or just the average Joe who wants a web-browsing and emailing machine.
You’ll also get a 500GB hard drive, which is a disk drive. That’s an important aspect to consider here. The drive is not a solid-state-drive, so you’ll need to be careful when moving it while it’s on.
When it comes to input and outputs, this computer will give you two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, one headphone jack, and a HDMI port, so you’ll have plenty of room for your peripherals.
This Windows 10 computer didn’t just catch our attention. Laptop Mag gave it 4/5 stars, and it’s sitting with an average of 4.1/5 stars on Amazon. The downsides? The display on the computer isn’t all that great, and the aforementioned disk drive isn’t as nice as a solid disk drive, but it is pretty common for computers in this price range.
Pros: Excellent performance for the price, plenty of ports, Windows 10
Cons: Disk drive, slightly under-par display
Buy the HP Pavilion x360 13 on Amazon for $476.98
The best budget laptop that’s a Chromebook
Why you’ll love it: The Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA is sleek and stylish, it runs Android apps, has a touchscreen, and tops the charts as the best Chromebook you can buy.
Asus has long offered a number of great laptops at a reasonable price, and it was pretty quick to jump onto the Chromebook train when Google launched Chrome OS. In particular, the Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA-DHM4 is an excellent computer, offering great value for money. We named it the best Chromebook in our buying guide.
For starters, the raw specs are really quite good. The laptop has an Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor, coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of flash storage. Now, that might not sound like much compared to other computers on this list, but Chromebooks are a little different. For example, they largely use web-based apps rather than local apps, meaning a lot of storage isn’t all that necessary, and the computer doesn’t really need to process intensive apps.
On top of that, the battery life on this device is good, too. You’ll get more than 10 hours of use from the computer, which is more than many other computers on the market. It even boasts a backlit keyboard coupled with a touch-sensitive display, so you can use it like a tablet if you so choose. It also runs Android apps, so it can double as a tablet.
So what’s the downside? Well, the laptop is a little more expensive than other Chromebooks, and while we like the fact that it has two USB-C ports, it does mean that you might need to use some adapters until all your peripherals make use of the new connectivity options.
Pros: Light, usable as a tablet, powerful for a Chromebook
Cons: Pricey, may require adapters
Buy the Asus Chromebook Flip on Amazon for $469.00 (originally $499.00)
The best 15-inch budget laptop
Why you’ll love it: The Dell Inspiron 15 5000 has a giant 15-inch screen and decent specs for less than $500.
Looking for something with a slightly larger display than what your average sub-$500 laptop might offer? The Dell Inspiron 15 5000 has excellent specs under the hood, plus it boasts a large, 15-inch display, so you’ll have plenty of screen for those in-bed movie nights.
The laptop boasts an Intel Core i5 dual-core processor, which is coupled with a hefty 8GB of RAM, and that’s more than enough power for most use-cases. On top of that, you’ll get a 1TB hard drive, so you’ll have plenty of room to store all your media and files.
Unlike plenty of other computers on the market these days, the Dell Inspiron 15 5000 does indeed come with a disc drive, so you’ll still be able to watch your DVDs and listen to your CDs if you so choose. It can be a helpful addition. The laptop also offers a USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, HDMI, and a headphone jack.
So what are the downsides to this machine? Well, for starters the screen isn’t the best on the market, and a review from PCWorld noted that the trackpad could have been more accurate. However, the site did give it some praise and a respectable 3.5 rating. Laptop Mag gave it a decent review for a budget laptop.
Pros: Powerful, lots of storage, disc drive for DVDs and CDs
Cons: Mediocre display, somewhat expensive, trackpad isn’t overly accurate
Buy the Dell Inspiron 15 5000 on Amazon for $496.99 to $524.00 (price varies — originally $699.99)
The best portable budget laptop
Why you’ll love it: The Microsoft Surface 3 offers Microsoft’s great hardware look, along with a sleek profile and enough ports and storage to get you through most things.
Microsoft has come out with a number of great computers over the past few years, and the Microsoft Surface 3 has been hailed for its top-quality performance and its slim and portable design. While the Surface Pro lineup is perhaps the most notable, the company also has a few lower-cost devices, like the Microsoft Surface 3.
The Microsoft Surface 3 is perhaps more of a tablet than a laptop, but it boasts a desktop-class operating system in Windows 10 and is compatible with Microsoft’s self-built keyboard that you can use to type up your emails, papers, and Facebook posts.
The computer also has a number of ports built right into it, including a USB 3.0 port, a micro USB charging port, a microSD card slot, and even a Mini DisplayPort. It also boasts a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you’ll be able to listen to your music while you work. You’ll also get a 128GB flash drive, so you should have plenty of room to store your files.
Of course, there are a few downsides to consider. This laptop doesn’t necessarily have a desktop-class processor, so it might not work as well for those looking for a high-performance machine. Regardless, it has strong reviews from CNET, Engadget, and PC World.
Pros: Sleek, very thin, low-cost, portable
Cons: Not very powerful
Buy the Microsoft Surface 3 on Amazon for $389.99
The best budget laptop under $250
Why you’ll love it: The Lenovo 110-15IBR offers enough ports for most, a large display, and 500GB of storage – but the best thing about it is that it costs less than $250.
While $500 is a pretty reasonable budget for a new computer, sometimes it’s hard to reach even that. Luckily, there are still some great options in the sub-$250 range. Sure, you may not get the most powerful computer on the market, but you should get one that’s good enough for basic tasks. Case in point: the Lenovo 110-15IBR.
This laptop boasts a somewhat large 15.6-inch display, along with an Intel Celeron N3060 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a hefty 500GB of storage, which is plenty for almost all uses.
When it comes to ports, you’ll get a USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, HDMI port, and a headphone/microphone combo port. The computer also offers Microsoft’s latest and greatest operating system, Windows 10, which is largely considered the best Windows operating system ever.
There are a few trade-offs at this price. For example, you won’t be able to do too many processor-hungry tasks, and the computer may not last as long as some of the others on this list. The 5.5-hour battery life could also be a little better than it is, and the graphics won’t impress much. Still, for this price, it’s a bargain.
Pros: Ultra-affordable, large display, plenty of storage
Cons: Low performer, lackluster graphics, short battery life
Buy the Lenovo 110-15IBR on Amazon for $235
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