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The 4 Best Laptops Under $500 - Spring 2023 Reviews

Updated
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 tested more than 70 laptops; 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 Laptop Under $500

    The best laptop under $500 we've tested is the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021), an ultraportable Windows laptop with a sturdy build and all-day battery life. At around $500, you can get a model with an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U CPU, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of storage. The Ryzen 5 5500U is two generations behind AMD's latest mobile CPUs, but it's still plenty fast for general productivity tasks like web browsing, video playback, text processing, and spreadsheets. Of course, you can get a better configuration with a faster CPU or more memory if you spend more, but for most people with a light workload, this Ryzen 5 model is more than adequate.

    As for the display, its 15.6-inch 1080p screen gives you tons of space for multitasking, and it gets bright enough for use in most settings. Unfortunately, the display is a TN panel with narrow viewing angles, which means the image will look inaccurate when viewed at an angle. There are models with an IPS panel, although they're more expensive. Port selection is decent; you get two USB-As, a full-size HDMI, and a USB-C port. The downside is that you can't use the USB-C to charge the laptop or output a video signal to an external display.

    See our review

  2. Best Chromebook Under $500

    Our best under-$500 Chromebook pick is the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020), a 2-in-1 convertible with a 360-degree hinge. It feels well-built and is easy to carry around. The battery lasts easily through a full day with plenty to spare, and it charges over USB-C, so you don't have to lug around a proprietary power adapter. The keyboard feels comfortable to type on, and while the touchpad is on the smaller side, it's responsive to all movements and gestures. You get a reasonable number of ports, including two USB-Cs that support video output and charging.

    Spec-wise, you can get this laptop with an Intel Pentium Gold or Core i3 processor. The Core i3 is faster, although both are powerful enough to provide a smooth experience on Chrome OS. The downside is that you can only get a maximum of 4GB of memory, meaning you might experience stutters and slowdowns if you run too many things simultaneously. Its 1080p display looks reasonably sharp and provides plenty of room for multitasking; however, it doesn't get very bright, meaning visibility can be an issue in very well-lit or sunny environments.

    See our review

  3. Best Multimedia Laptop Under $500

    We recommend the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021) for media consumption; it's a Chrome OS tablet with a kickstand and detachable keyboard. This form factor is very versatile, as you can detach the keyboard to make the device easier to hold as a tablet or to save space, and you can snap it back on when you need to type something. It's easy to carry around thanks to its compact size, and its battery lasts around eight hours of video playback, plenty of time for a couple of movies or TV show episodes.

    What makes this device great for multimedia is its gorgeous OLED screen. It produces vibrant colors, and like all OLEDs, the blacks look amazing. The speakers are just okay; they get reasonably loud but sound slightly unnatural and lack bass. If you want to use headphones, know it doesn't have a 3.5mm headphone jack, so it's best to go wireless. As for the keyboard, it comes with the device, so you don't need to buy it separately. However, it doesn't feel particularly comfortable to type on. It's fine for a couple of emails on the go but not the best option for typing out a long essay.

    See our review

  4. Best Compact Laptop Under $500

    If you're looking for something compact for media consumption or web browsing, get the Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021), a Windows tablet with a built-in kickstand and a detachable type cover keyboard. Unlike the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021) above, you buy the keyboard separately. It's a good keyboard, and it's worth it because Windows is not the most touch-friendly operating system; just know that you might have to spend a little over $500 with the keyboard included. The display is a sharp 10.5-inch IPS panel that gets bright enough for use in most settings. Above the display sits an excellent 1080p webcam, and there's also a facial recognition IR camera for quick logins.

    The Intel Pentium Gold model with 4GB of memory is fine for simple web browsing, emails, and video playback, but don't expect to edit 4k videos or play AAA games. If you can stretch your budget slightly over $500, it's worth getting a model with 8GB of memory, as you'll get a much smoother desktop experience with fewer slowdowns when multitasking. The battery 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. You can charge the device via its USB-C port, but you'd lose the only USB port available, which means you'll likely need a dock.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Acer Swift 3 14 (2020): If you can stretch your budget slightly, get the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) instead of the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021). The Acer has a nicer screen with full sRGB coverage, a more responsive touchpad, and better-sounding speakers. It also has longer battery life, and its USB-C supports Thunderbolt 4. The only downside is that it has a bad webcam. See our review
  • Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 (81X2000HUS): 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 Chromebook Spin 713 (2020): The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2020) is a great alternative to the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020). It's more portable as it's a smaller device, and it has a sharper and brighter display. It's also available with newer and faster CPUs. The only configuration under $500 is the Core i3 model with 4GB of memory, and it may be harder to find because it's discontinued. See our review
  • Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 (2022): The Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 (2022) is a good alternative to the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021) if you want a more compact device for on-the-go use. Its 10.9-inch display looks sharper because it has a higher pixel density, but its contrast ratio is much worse because it's an IPS panel, which means that blacks will look more like gray in dim settings. 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 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 05, 2023: Minor text changes to improve clarity and readability. No change in recommendations.

  2. Apr 14, 2023: Minor text changes. No change in recommendations. Added the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 (2022) as a Notable Mention.

  3. Mar 16, 2023: Verified accuracy of picks. No change in recommendations.

  4. Feb 15, 2023: Minor text changes to improve clarity. No change in recommendations.

  5. Jan 20, 2023: Minor text changes to improve clarity. Replaced the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2020) with the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020) because the Acer is hard to find.

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 the laptops we've tested under $500, 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.