Best laptop under $500 for 2021

High demand for cheap 

and Chrome OS laptops (also known as

Due to supply shortages, finding the best laptop under $500 has become more difficult. Below, you’ll find some simple buying advice based on our years of testing and review experience to help you understand what to expect from a laptop under $500, as well as what to look for if you want to continue your budget laptop search on your own. ) sparked by the pandemic and parts-replacement We recommend that you use these picks to help you sort through the competition, and that you don’t make hasty purchases because there are a lot of cheap laptops that aren’t worth it.

Are laptops under $500 any good?

Even for a laptop, $500 is a lot of money, and if the statistics Intel and PC manufacturers throw at us are correct, you’ll be keeping it for at least three years. As a general rule, avoid buying out of desperation — for example, don’t spend $500 because you can’t find a cheaper laptop deal. Purchasing a need-it-now laptop can be akin to going grocery shopping while hungry.

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Attempt to extend the life of your current laptop.

If you don’t, you’ll be sorry. Also, if you have a specific feature in mind, such as a touchscreen, backlit keyboard, or HDMI port, double-check the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure it’s included. If you need something to tide you over for a few months, look into buying refurbished machines and seeing if you qualify for nonprofit or educational discounts. ..

If you think you’ll keep your new laptop for a while, see if you can stretch your budget to get a slightly more expensive laptop with more memory or a processor with more cores than you were considering before. If you haven’t already, consider AMD Ryzen processors as a Windows laptop alternative to Intel Core or a Chromebook alternative to Intel Celeron and Pentium.

Furthermore, while you may be working from home right now, Consider an affordable laptop with a replaceable battery (if you can find one), upgradable memory, graphics card, and storage, or all of the above, if you’re comfortable with it. won’t be stuck at home forever.. Remember to think about whether a lighter-weight laptop with a longer battery life is something you’ll want in the future.

Read more: Right now, the best monitors under $200 are

If necessary, you can frequently set a system to boot from an external solid-state drive. You can always add an external drive or two (or five, if you’re like me) later on. Fast external storage, on the other hand, is unlikely to help speed up the loading of Windows or applications if your internal storage is the type of slow-spinning hard drive found in many low-cost laptop models.

It makes a difference, but not as much as an SSD drive. Intel Optane is a fast solid-state memory that acts as a temporary storage space for frequently accessed files on the hard drive to speed things up. You may see references to Intel Optane in conjunction with slow (5,400rpm) spinning hard drives; Optane is a fast solid-state memory that acts as a temporary storage space for frequently accessed files on the hard drive to speed things up.

Finally, if you’re replacing an old Windows laptop that is no longer capable of running Windows, consider turning it into a Chromebook.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of laptops under $500?

You can still get a lot out of a budget laptop model if you manage your expectations when it comes to options and specs, such as good battery life and a relatively lightweight laptop body.

You don’t have to settle for a traditional clamshell laptop with a fixed display and keyboard, which is a plus. A convertible laptop (also known as a two-in-one) is another option., which has a screen that flips around to transform it into a tablet, allowing it to be used for comfortable streaming or presenting. Remember that all convertibles have a touchscreen, which is required for tablet operation, and that many of them support styluses (also known as “pens”) for handwritten and sketched input. However, don’t expect a stylus to be included.

At these prices, there’s one thing you won’t find: aMacBook or any other Apple laptop. An iPadA+ will set you back more than $500 once you add the optional keyboard (though you might be able to get it for less if you look for tablet or keyboard sales), which is out of our price range. base-model iPad With an inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard and a cheap iPad stand, you might be able to get by.

Read more: Which portable computer is better in 2021: a laptop or a Chromebook? 

Many low-cost laptops are advertised as including.Windows 10 SIt only lets you install apps from the Windows Store, and it forces you to use it. , a version of the operating system that has been stripped down and locked down for use in schools — Microsoft’s Edge browser and consists of a subset of the administrative tools found in Windows 10 Pro.. However, you can upgrade to the full version for free.

There doesn’t appear to be much to look forward to in the coming months. Windows 11 It’s a must-have upgrade, but if it’s critical to you for some reason, double-check that the laptop can handle it. meet the requirementsThese low-cost models are especially vulnerable to not making the cut.

It’s easier to find inexpensive ChromebooksChromebooks are more popular in the $500-to-$1,000 range than Windows laptops, making them one of the most popular budget laptops on the market. Because Google’s Chrome OS (check the specs) isn’t nearly as power-hungry as Windows, you can get away with a lower-end processor, slower storage, and lower screen resolution or memory — just a few of the components that make a laptop expensive.

Read more: What’s the difference between a laptop and a Chromebook, and which is better for you?

On the other hand, Chrome and Google apps use more memory than you might think, and if you go too low on the processor or memory, the system will still feel slow. Chrome OS is also very different from Windows; make sure the applications you need have a Chrome OS version. Chrome appBefore taking the plunge, consider developing an iOS, Android, or Linux app.

The Lenovo Duet Chromebook is a hybrid of a laptop and an Android tablet.

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However, because these are cloud-first devices, they don’t require a lot of storage. Make sure you get a touchscreen Chromebook if you want to play Android games. That means they’re a good fit if you spend the majority of your time surfing the web, writing, streaming video, or playing Android games.

Read more: Are Chromebooks worth it? Why I recommended them

The cheapest budget laptops with decent gaming performance — those with moderately powerful discrete graphics processors — will set you back around $700. Here are the results of our research. However, if you want to play most games on a cheap gaming laptop, you’ll need to spend more than $500. If you’re looking for the best gaming laptop, here are some suggestions. under $1,000. 

However, if you prefer to be on the cutting edge, cloud gaming services like Google Stadia and Microsoft Xbox Game Pass UltimateGame Streaming from will allow you to play games on laptops with specs under $500.

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What to look for in laptops under $500

Many of these laptops have 4GB or 6GB of RAM, which when combined with a spinning hard disk can result in a frustratingly slow Windows experience. While Chromebooks can run Chrome OS and Android apps, some people require the full Windows operating system to run larger applications like video editing suites. However, as the demand for Chromebooks grows, you should consider paying more for more memory and a faster processor if your Chromebook requires more than the basics. That necessitates a faster processor with more cores, more memory (at a minimum of 8GB), and more storage for applications and the operating system itself.

  • To keep costs down, many Windows laptops in this price range use AMD Athlon and lower-end A series processors or Intel Celeron and Pentium processors. I wouldn’t recommend using an Athlon instead of a Ryzen or a Celeron/Pentium instead of a Core: Windows is too demanding for them, and combined with the 4GB of memory that many of them have, you might find them sluggish at best.
  • However, except for the youngest students, we do not recommend that size. And if you’ll both be looking at the screen a lot for remote learning, 11 inches can get a little tight. 11.6-inch Chromebooks are appealing due to their low prices.
  • So, if you have a little extra cash and want more storage, you might want to consider upgrading from the base storage options to a 128GB SSD. When compared to a spinning hard disk, SSDs can make a significant difference in how fast Windows performs, but they also raise the price.
  • On the plus side, the surge in 14-inch laptops has trickled down to this price point, allowing for more FHD options. When it comes to specs in the budget price range, keep an eye out for screen terminology: Because “Full HD” refers to displays with a resolution of 1,920×1,080 pixels, marketers can refer to lower-resolution displays (1,280×720 pixels) as HD. HD refers to a screen with a resolution of 1,366×768 pixels in Chromebooks. An “HD” display isn’t always a true high-definition display.
  • Unfortunately, one of the trade-offs is this: A common complaint I hear is about displays that appear “washed out” and have poor viewing angles. Many of these rely on TN (twisted nematic) screen technology, which is inexpensive but unsatisfactory.
  • Models with older chipsets that are less expensive may only support Wi-Fi 3 (or 802.11b/g/n). Wi-Fi 3 is limited to 2.4GHz channels, which are slower than Wi-Fi 4 (also known as 802.11ac) chipsets, which include a 5GHz channel. I haven’t seen any laptops in this price range that have Wi-Fi 6, the most recent version; however, you’re unlikely to have any Wi-Fi 6 access points to connect to, so you won’t notice. Remember that Chromebooks are designed to be used primarily online, so Wi-Fi speed and reliability are critical. Pay attention to how you network. The specifications on shopping sites aren’t always accurate, so if you see a model that doesn’t appear to have Wi-Fi 4, double-check on the manufacturer’s website before dismissing it.

These are a few of our top picks for 2021’s best Windows laptops and Chromebooks under $500, along with their pros and cons, based on all specs and options — battery life, storage space, screen resolution, screen size, core processor performance, general machine and battery performance.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This Lenovo IdeaPad is essentially a Chrome version of the original Lenovo IdeaPad.Microsoft Surface Go.. This Lenovo laptop is also significantly less expensive than the Microsoft Surface Go (including taxes). The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard and touchpad, similar to the Go. Lenovo, unlike Microsoft, includes the keyboard. the Microsoft Surface Go 2), with prices starting at $249 for a 64GB model and $299 for a 128GB model. The Lenovo IdeaPad is essentially a smaller, but less powerful, version of the Lenovo IdeaPad.Pixel SlateWith a price that’s more in line with what people expect a Chromebook to cost, this makes more sense for more people.

However, because the screen is small, we recommend using it at a desk with an external monitor. external monitor You’ll almost certainly want to connect. to the USB-C port on the device a wireless keyboard and mouse, too. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

You won’t be able to open many programs or browser tabs at once because of the 4GB RAM and 128GB solid-state drive storage, but you can expand both later. It even has a backlit keyboard and a fingerprint reader for quick sign-ins, both of which are uncommon at this price point. This sub-4-pound Windows laptop includes an AMD Ryzen 3 3350U processor with Vega graphics processing for less than $400. A USB 3.2 Gen 1 USB-C port, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 USB port options, Ethernet, and an HDMI port are also included. The Acer Aspire 5 15-inch clamshell laptop remains one of the best deals on the market.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Because of its dim display, the Lenovo Flex is not a good choice for outdoor use. With a 13-inch full HD display and an Intel Core i3-10110U processor, 4GB of memory, and 64GB of SSD storage, this Lenovo laptop provides convertible laptop convenience as well as excellent performance and battery life for the money. A 8GB model with a 128GB SSD is also available for just under $500.

Josh Goldman/CNET

In the 1990s, Gateway was best known for its low-cost desktops and laptops. The previous year,For a new line of laptops and tablets sold exclusively through Walmart, the brand was resurrected.Both of these models were recently updated with Intel 11th-generation processors, and we put them to the test. .. 15.6-14.1-inch models are also available. The latter receives our vote as a cost-effective way to complete schoolwork while remaining light enough to carry around campus for the day.

Nonetheless, it has a lot of ports, so connecting a mouse or an external display isn’t a problem, and the full-HD display is adequate for the price. In addition, the battery lasted just over 10 hours in our streaming video test. In addition, the fingerprint reader is hit-or-miss. The Intel Core i5 processor is the focus of attention, as it delivers consistent performance despite being paired with less expensive components. The touchpad isn’t the most precise, and the keyboard isn’t backlit.


You’ll also see 4GB RAM listings, but that’s far too little memory for Windows, which barely manages 8GB. An older Core i3 8GB model is currently available on Amazon for around $400, which is a reasonable price for a Windows laptop with an Intel Core processor. It’s not to be confused with the Asus VivoBook S15, which is thinner, lighter, and more expensive.

You are able to Newer models are on the way (but not yet in stock), and there’s a 2020 Asus VivoBook model with a higher-end Ryzen 5 processor and more storage that just squeaks in under $500. check the stock at B&H if you’re interested.


However, it has a full HD screen that is larger than the Chromebook model. The Flex two-in-one’s Windows version has the beefed-up specs (at least over a Chromebook) required to run Windows, though it’s unlikely to be very fast; the low price is due to the dual-core Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM.

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