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The 4 Best Laptops Under $500 - Spring 2022 Reviews

Best Laptops Under $500

If you're shopping for a laptop on a budget, you can find some great options for under $500. Many laptops in this price range are available with the same CPUs that we see in more premium models, but they compromise on a few features to bring the price down. The recommendations in this article consist mainly of productivity and media consumption devices like Chromebooks and Windows laptops because gaming laptops and Apple MacBooks are typically much more expensive. The list is short for now, but it'll grow as we review more laptops.

We've just started reviewing laptops and have tested more than 45. Below you'll find our recommendations for the best laptops you can get for under $500. See our recommendations for the best laptops under $300, and the best laptops under $400, or you can check out all our laptop reviews.

  1. Best Chromebook Under $500: Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2020)

    Although Chromebooks have a reputation for being cheap, plasticky laptops, you can find some high-quality options these days without breaking the bank. The best laptop under $500 with Chrome OS that we've tested is the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2020). It's a well-built 2-in-1 convertible laptop with a 360-hinge, meaning you can flip the screen all the way around and use it as a tablet. It feels well-built, with a thin and light design that makes it easy to carry around. The power adapter is compact, but you likely won't need it as the battery lasts over 12 hours of light productivity.

    The 13.5 inch screen is very sharp and gets bright enough for use in well-lit settings. Its reflection handling is good overall, but it's best to avoid bright lights shining directly at the screen as it has a glossy finish. The keyboard doesn't cause fatigue over extended periods, and the touchpad has decent tracking. The Core i3 model with 4GB of RAM can handle most general productivity tasks like text formatting, web browsing, and video playback. If you tend to have many applications running simultaneously, it's best to opt for an i5 or i7 model with more memory but expect to pay more.

    If you're new to Chromebooks, keep in mind that Chrome OS doesn't support x86 applications. If you're in a field that requires third-party programs, like video editing or engineering software, you're better off with a more powerful Windows or Apple laptop. Unfortunately, you can't use a stylus to take notes because the display doesn't support pen input. Nonetheless, if you're looking for a high-quality Chromebook that isn't too expensive, this is one to consider.

    See our review

  2. Best Windows Laptop Under $500: Lenovo Ideapad 3 15 (2021)

    If you need or prefer a Windows laptop over a Chromebook, the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021) might be the one for you. It's a simple-looking laptop that fits well in a professional business environment, and it feels well built, with a thin and light design that makes it easy to carry around. Its port selection is decent as it includes two USB-As, a full-size HDMI, and a USB-C port, although you can't use the latter for video output or to charge the laptop.

    As for the user experience, it has a decently sharp 15.6 inch display that provides enough space for light multitasking and gets bright enough for use in most settings. The keyboard is reasonably spacious and includes a Numpad on the right side, but it feels a bit tiring to type on for extended periods as the keys require a fair amount of force to actuate. Its webcam's video quality is decent as it captures a good amount of fine details, though the microphone sounds quiet and slightly staticky.

    Its AMD Ryzen CPU is more than capable of handling most productivity tasks like web browsing, text formatting, spreadsheets, and presentations. The battery lasts over nine hours of light productivity, so you can comfortably get through a typical workday on a full charge. Last but not least, it has a fingerprint sensor built into the power button so that you can log in quickly and get right to work. All in all, it's a well-rounded Windows laptop that's easy on the wallet.

    See our review

  3. Best Laptop Under $500 For Multimedia: Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021)

    Tired of looking at dim and washed-out displays on budget laptops? Check out the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021). It's a Chrome OS tablet with a kickstand and detachable keyboard, similar to the very popular Lenovo Chromebook Duet (2020). However, this model has a larger 13 inch OLED panel that provides a much better viewing experience. It's still compact and lightweight, and it comes with the keyboard included in the box. The stylus isn't, though, so you'll have to get that separately if you want to take notes or draw.

    As for the viewing experience, this OLED panel is a significant upgrade over the older Duet. It produces inky blacks and punchy colors, and it gets bright enough for use in most indoor settings, albeit not quite outdoors in broad daylight. If you need to get some work done, it's doable but not the best experience because the keyboard feels cramped, and the touchpad doesn't track all that well. It has a great 1080p webcam, though, good enough to put some more premium laptops to shame.

    The speakers are just okay; they get reasonably loud but sound slightly unnatural and lack bass, so it's best to grab a pair of wireless headphones. Why wireless? Because it doesn't have a 3.5mm headphone jack, and there isn't a USB-C adapter in the box. The battery lasts about 8 hours of video playback, enough time to get through a couple of full-length movies. On the whole, this is a great media consumption device worth considering.

    See our review

  4. Best Mini Laptop Under $500: Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021)

    If you're looking for something super compact that you can use for media consumption or web browsing on the go, the Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021) might tickle your fancy. It's essentially a mini Surface Pro, a 2-in-1 Windows tablet with a built-in kickstand and a detachable type cover keyboard. The keyboard is a separate purchase because Microsoft considers it an accessory, though, in Microsoft's defense, it's a pretty good keyboard and even has backlighting.

    The 10.5 inch screen is very sharp even though it's 1080p, with a squarish 3:2 aspect ratio. The bezels are pretty thick by current standards; however, they provide a place to hold onto in tablet mode, and they house a shockingly good webcam that captures a detailed and well-exposed image for video calls. Like most Microsoft devices, you also get a Windows Hello IR camera for quick logins through facial recognition. There's support for pen input if you want to draw or take notes, but again, you have to buy the stylus separately.

    Now, let's touch on what we feel needs to be improved - performance and battery life. The Intel Pentium Gold and Core i3 processors can handle simple web browsing, emails, and video playback just fine, but don't expect to edit a 4k video or play AAA games. As for the battery, it lasts about seven hours of light productivity or a little over three hours of video playback, so you'll likely need to keep the charger close by. Overall, there are some downsides, but this is still a great option if you're looking for something that fits into small bags.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Google Pixelbook Go (2019): The Google Pixelbook Go is a great Chromebook. However, it isn't worth getting over the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 because it's more expensive and uses an older and less powerful CPU. See our review
  • Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 (2020): The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 (2020) has a better keyboard and longer battery life than the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021). However, it has a smaller and dimmer screen, and its webcam's video quality is much worse. It's also typically more expensive, and the only configuration below $500 has 4GB of memory, which is severely limiting on Windows. See our review
  • Acer Aspire 5 15 (2020): The Acer Aspire 5 15 (2020) is a decent productivity laptop, but it has short battery life, and the only configurations under $500 have 4GB of memory. It's also an older model that may be harder to find. See our review
  • Dell Inspiron 15 3000 (2020): The Dell Inspiron 15 3000 (2020) is a decent alternative to the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021). However, it has shorter battery life, its display doesn't get as bright to combat glare, and its keyboard isn't as comfortable to type on. See our review
  • Lenovo Chromebook Duet (2020): The Lenovo Chromebook Duet (2020) is a smaller and cheaper alternative to the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021). It has a very sharp display, but it can't produce deep blacks like the Duet 5 because it uses an IPS panel. Also, its smaller size makes the keyboard feel more cramped and harder to type on. See our review
  • Microsoft Surface Go 2 (2020): The Microsoft Surface Go 2 (2020) is nearly identical to the Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021). It's an older model that you can find for cheaper, but its CPU doesn't perform as well. It isn't much of an issue if you only use it for media consumption, but it isn't ideal if you need to get some work done or multitask. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. May 13, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks; no change in recommendations.

  2. Apr 15, 2022: Minor change to structure and categories. Added Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021) as 'Best Mini Laptop Under $500'. Moved Microsoft Surface Go 2 (2020) to Notable Mentions.

  3. Mar 25, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks; no change in recommendations. Changed 'Alternative With Better Speakers' category to 'More Compact Alternative'.

  4. Mar 04, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks; no change in recommendations. Added Lenovo Chromebook Duet (2020) to Notable Mentions.

  5. Feb 11, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks. Replaced Lenovo Chromebook Duet (2020) with Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021) as its OLED screen is better for media consumption. Replaced Dell Inspiron 15 3000 (2020) with Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021) because the IdeaPad provides a better user experience overall, its Ryzen CPUs have better multi-thread performance, and its battery lasts longer.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best laptops you can get for under $500. We factor in the price (a cheaper laptop wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no laptops that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

If you prefer to make your own decision, here’s the list of all of our laptop reviews, sorted by price from low to high. Keep in mind that most laptops are available in various configurations, and the table only shows the results of the model we tested, so it’s best to see the full review for information about other variants.