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 60 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.
The best laptop under $500 we've tested is the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021), a thin and light Windows laptop with a sturdy build and a battery that lasts over nine hours of light use. At around $500, you can get this AMD Ryzen 5 5500U model with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage. The Ryzen 5 5500U is plenty fast and can easily handle 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.
Its 15.6-inch screen gives you plenty of space for multitasking, gets bright enough for use in most settings, and is flicker-free, which helps reduce eye strain on long school or workdays. The keyboard feels spacious and tactile, but the keys require a fair amount of force to actuate, so it may be a little tiring to type on for extended periods. It has a good webcam for video calls, and it has a physical privacy cover. Its decent port selection includes two USB-As, a full-size HDMI, and a USB-C port. However, you can't use the USB-C to charge the laptop or output a video signal to an external display.
Our best Chromebook pick is the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020), a 2-in-1 convertible with a 360-degree hinge. It feels well-built, especially for a device in its price range, and it's easy to carry around, thanks to its compact design. The battery lasts a little over 12 hours of light use and charges over USB-C, so you don't have to lug around a proprietary power adapter. You get a keyboard that feels comfortable to type on, and while the touchpad is on the smaller side, it's responsive to all movements and gestures.
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 some 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.
For media consumption, we recommend the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021), a Chrome OS tablet with a kickstand and detachable keyboard. You can detach the keyboard to make the device easier to hold as a tablet and simply 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 the Duet 5 stand out as a multimedia device is its 13-inch OLED panel. It displays saturated, vibrant colors, and like all OLEDs, it produces deep, inky blacks, making it a fantastic option for dark room viewing. The speakers are just okay; they get reasonably loud but sound slightly unnatural and lack bass. If you want to use headphones, know that it doesn't have a 3.5mm headphone jack, so it's best to go wireless. As for the keyboard, 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.
If you're looking for something compact that you can use for media consumption or web browsing on the go, get the Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021), a Windows tablet with a built-in kickstand and a detachable type cover keyboard. You have to buy the keyboard separately, but it's worth it, as Windows isn't the most touch-friendly operating system, and it helps protect the display from scratches. As for the display itself, it's 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 an IR camera for quick logins via Windows Hello facial recognition.
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 a 4k video or play AAA games. If you can stretch your budget slightly over $500, it's worth getting a model with 8GB of memory, as it'll provide a 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 by.
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.
Dec 23, 2022: Minor text changes to improve clarity. No change in recommendations.
Dec 02, 2022: Replaced the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020) with the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2020) because the Acer is better.
Oct 03, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks; no change in recommendations.
Aug 30, 2022: Replaced the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2020) with the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020) because the Acer is discontinued and hard to find.
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.