Looking for the best laptops under $500 can be a tricky process. There are a lot of these units on the market, and even a basic search on Amazon can produce a ton of results with a near-infinite number of configurations. Is this device worth the money? Am I purchasing out-of-date hardware? Will it end up moving slower than the smartphone in my pocket? Luckily for you, we did the investigative work.
Unfortunately, finding a laptop based on the most recent components priced under $500 is highly unlikely. You’re even lucky to discover a good deal based on previous-generation technology. For instance, Intel just unleashed its eighth-generation family of CPUs for laptops, but most of what you’ll find for under $500 are products based on older chips dating back to Intel’s third-generation lineup.
That said, buying a laptop with a processor launched at the end of 2015 isn’t exactly horrible (for now), and you’ll find a few scattered below sporting these sixth-generation chips. The clue to their age is in the CPU’s model number, such as the Core i3-7100U. The “7” indicates that it’s a seventh-generation chip, whereas the new Core i5-8250U is an eighth-generation model.
For our roundup, we split the laptop gold mine into two sections: Windows 10 and Chrome OS. There’s a huge fan base for each, and you’ll find models under $500 served up by popular manufacturers Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung. First, let’s start with the best laptops under $500 packing Windows 10!
Acer Aspire E 15 ($480)
With this model, Acer is using Intel’s seventh-generation Core i3-7100U processor, but there’s also a version made available relying on the sixth-generation Core i5-6200U chip. The latter Core i5 CPU actually provides slightly better performance, but it’s a two-year-old chip whereas the Core i3 processor arrived last year. The performance difference between the two isn’t drastic, so you may want to weigh performance versus age when choosing this laptop.
Outside the processor aspect, this Core i3-based model consists of a 15.6-inch screen with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, 8GB of system memory (DDR4), and 1TB of storage via a 5,200RPM hard drive. The graphics are handled by Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 620 component, and can be exported through the built-in HDMI port. Other connectivity aspects include Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1, wired gigabit Ethernet networking, and four USB ports.
The laptop weighs 5.27 pounds, and measures 15 x 10 x 1.1 inches. It also includes an 8x SuperMulti optical drive.
This Windows 10-based VivoBook from Asus relies on Intel’s latest eighth-generation Core i5-8250U processor. It’s a quad-core chip with a base speed of 1.60GHz, and a boost speed of 3.40GHz. It includes Intel’s integrated UHD Graphics 620 component supporting 4K visuals, but that’s only supported through the laptop’s HDMI output. The built-in 15.6-inch screen can only handle a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080.
As for other hardware goodies, this laptop includes 8GB of system memory (DDR4), 1TB of storage on a 5,400RPM hard drive, and an SD card reader for additional storage. Networking is only handled by Wireless AC connectivity, and the remaining connectivity options are provided through three USB ports. This laptop even ships with a fingerprint scanner for password-free access to Windows 10.
The VivoBook weighs 3.7 pounds, and measures 14.2 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches.
Dell’s Inspiron-branded notebook is based on Intel’s seventh-generation Core i3-7100U dual-core processor clocked at 2.4GHz. The graphics are handled by the chip’s integrated HD Graphics 620 component capable of 4K visuals, but the 15.6-inch touch-enabled screen only supports a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. Anything higher will need to be outsourced through the built-in HDMI port.
Based on the specs, the laptop includes 8GB of system memory (DDR4), and a 1TB 5,400RPM hard drive. There’s no wired Ethernet connectivity, but the laptop supports Wireless AC networking (433Mbps), and Bluetooth 4.1. Other features consist of an SD card reader, three USB ports, and a cool “orchid” purple exterior. The speakers are fine-tuned with MaxxAudio by Waves.
Dell’s laptop weighs 5.1 pounds, and measures 10.2 x 15.3 x 0.9 inches.
This Pavilion-branded laptop sports a 17.3-inch screen with a 1,600 x 900 resolution. It’s powered by Intel’s seventh-generation Core i5-7200U processor, and the chip’s integrated HD Graphics 620 component. It’s capable of 4K visuals only through a supported external display connected to the laptop’s HDMI port.
Other ingredients thrown into the Pavilion mix include a mere 4GB of system memory (DDR4), 1TB of storage on a 5,200RPM hard drive, and a SuperMuti DVD/CD burner. There are three USB ports to handle your external devices, and an Ethernet port for wired networking. There’s no mention of wireless connectivity on the product page, but HP’s Pavilion 17 laptops typically include Wireless AC (867Mbps) and Bluetooth 4.2.
This laptop weighs 7.2 pounds and measures 17.3 x 1.0 x 10.1 inches.
Here’s another 17.3-inch laptop for under $500, only it’s by Lenovo. This IdeaPad-branded model is based on Intel’s seventh-generation Core i3-7100U processor, and the chip’s integrated HD Graphics 620 component. The screen supports a maximum resolution of 1,600 x 900, which isn’t surprising given the targeted price point. There’s no touch-based input, but for the price, you get the added benefit of a fingerprint reader for password-free entry into Windows 10.
Other ingredients baked into this laptop include a weird 6GB system memory configuration, indicating that it may include two memory slots packed with 2GB and 4GB sticks. For storage, you get a slow 5,200RPM hard drive with a 1TB capacity that’s complemented by an SD card reader. Other features include three USB ports, an Ethernet port, HDMI output, Wireless AC networking (867Mbps), and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity.
Lenovo’s IdeaPad is the heaviest of the group, weighing 7.1 pounds and measuring 16.5 x 11.5 x 1.0 inches.
For starters, Acer has a newer version of its 15.6-inch Chromebook listed on its site for $400, but you can find this one for a wide range of prices on the internet. The older 2015 model we’re listing here is based on a fifth-generation Core i5-5200U dual-core processor backed by an integrated HD Graphics 5500 component capable of 4K visuals. But the Chromebook’s built-in screen only supports a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080.
Acer’s Chromebook includes 4GB of system memory, and a built-in SSD providing 32GB of storage. Other goodies include Wireless AC (867Mbps) and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, two USB ports, HDMI output, and a microSD card reader for storing your files, music, and videos. Note that this Chromebook provides upward-facing speakers in the keyboard area, so the audio isn’t muffled, distorted, or pushed away from your ears.
This Chromebook weighs a mere 4.8 pounds, and measures 15.1 x 9.7 x 1.0 inches.
This Chromebook from Asus has a smaller screen at 12.5-inches, and a smaller price tag in the process. This screen supports touch input and a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, backed by Intel’s Core m3-6Y30 processor with a meager base speed of 900MHz and a boost speed of 2.2GHz. While that doesn’t sound very “speedy” for any laptop, there’s a version based on Intel’s Core m5-6Y54 with faster base and boost speeds for $220 more.
With this Chromebook, you’re buying into the “flip” design, meaning the 12.5-inch screen sits on a 360-degree hinge to enable four form factors: Laptop, Stand, Tent, and Tablet. The screen has full touch support, and a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. Other ingredients consist of 4GB of system memory, a whopping 64GB of storage (another cost factor), Wireless AC connectivity, and a handful of ports. The battery promises an average uptime of 10 hours.
The Chromebook Flip weighs 2.6 pounds, and measures 8.3 x 12 x 0.5 inches.
HP’s Chromebook is based on Intel’s sixth-generation Pentium 4405Y processor speeding along at 1.5GHz. It powers a 13.3-inch screen with a crazy resolution of 3,200 x 1,800, taking full advantage of the Pentium chip’s HD Graphics 515 integrated graphics. This is unusually high for a Chromebook, and a great deal for what you’re paying. There’s no dedicated video output, so you’ll need to use a USB adapter to pipe those visuals to an external display.
The screen and processor are backed by 4GB of system memory (DDR3), and 32GB of storage. Other components include Wireless AC networking (867Mbps), Bluetooth 4.2, three USB ports, an HP TrueVision HD camera, and a battery promising around 8.25 of average up-time. It even includes a TPM 1.2 embedded security chip for the workplace.
HP’s Chromebook weighs 2.7 pounds, and measures 8.6 x 12.6 x 1.0 inches.
This Chromebook manufactured by Lenovo features a 13.3-inch screen with a lackluster 1,366 x 768 resolution. The selling point appears to be the device’s battery promising up to 13 hours on a single charge. It relies on a sixth-generation Intel Core i3-6100U processor along with an integrated HD Graphics 520 component capable of outputting an 4K resolution.
As for the other items on the Chromebook menu, the device includes 4GB of system memory (LPDDR3), 16GB of storage, and wireless connectivity via Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.0. It provides four USB ports and an SD card slot, but you won’t find wired Ethernet-based networking or video output. It’s MIL-STD 810G certified, meaning it can withstand the harsh handling of kids and soldiers alike.
Lenovo’s Chromebook weighs 3.1 pounds, and measures 8.8 x 12.7 x 0.8 inches.
Samsung Chromebook Plus ($449)
Finally, this Chromebook is based on a special processor optimized for Chrome OS, and is the only unit in the batch not based on an Intel chip. The processor is Rockchip’s RK3399, which consists of two “big” cores for the heavy lifting, and four “little” cores for general stuff like file editing and web browsing. This processor falls under Google’s “OP1” umbrella, which is short for “optimized first generation” for processors optimized for Chrome OS.
Outside the special chip, Samsung’s Chromebook sports a 12.3-inch touch-enabled screen with a hefty 2,400 x 1,600 resolution. It includes a 360-degree hinge enabling you to configure the Chromebook in four positions: Laptop, Tent, Stand, and Tablet. Other features include 4GB of system memory (DDR3L), 32GB of storage, an SD card reader, and several USB ports. Networking is provided via Wireless AC connectivity.
The Chromebook Plus weighs 2.4 pounds, and measures 11 x 8.7 x 0.5 inches. It also ships with a pen for on-screen note taking, illustrations, and more.