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 reduce the price. 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 will grow as we review more laptops.
We've tested over 105 laptops; below, you'll find our recommendations for the best laptops below $500 you can get. See our recommendations for the best laptops under $300, the best laptops under $400, and the best budget and cheap laptops.
The best laptop under $500 we've tested is the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021), a 15.6-inch Windows ultraportable. For around $500, you can get a model with an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U CPU, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of storage. The Ryzen 5 CPU isn't the latest or fastest processor on the market; however, it's still plenty fast for general productivity tasks like web browsing, text processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. Most people can get by with 8GB of memory. If not, you can always add more later since it's user-replaceable, and the same goes for the storage drive.
This model feels pretty sturdily built. It has a decent keyboard, a reasonably responsive touchpad, and a 720p webcam with a privacy cover. Ports include two USB-As, a full-size HDMI, and a USB-C. Unfortunately, the latter doesn't support charging or video output. As for the display, this Ryzen 5 model comes with a 1080p TN panel. It looks decently sharp and gets bright enough for use in most indoor settings; it just looks a tad washed out due to its narrow color gamut. There are models with an IPS panel if you don't mind paying more.
If you can stretch your budget slightly, get the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) instead. It has a nicer IPS display with full sRGB coverage, significantly longer battery life, and Thunderbolt 4 support. The latter allows you to transfer files quickly at up to 40Gbps and connect two 4k displays at 60Hz with a single cable. However, the webcam isn't as good, and you also lose the numpad.
Our best under-$500 Chromebook pick is the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 (2023). This 14-inch model is a great option for younger students and anyone needing a simple device for light productivity tasks. The Core i3 configuration (paired with an FHD touch-sensitive display, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage) is often sold for $400 to $500 USD on Lenovo's website. There are cheaper models with an N100/N200 CPU and/or 4GB of RAM, but we don't recommend them unless you have an extremely light workload, as they'll get bogged down quickly when multitasking or running more intensive applications.
The Core i3 model's 1080p touch-sensitive display looks sharp and gets bright enough to combat glare in well-lit settings. If you're often on video calls, you'd be happy to know this laptop has an excellent 1080p webcam and clear-sounding microphones. Despite its relatively small 56Wh battery, a full charge gets you around 13 hours of light use or 12 hours of video playback, so you don't have to worry about bringing a charger. Unfortunately, the keyboard feels a little mushy, and the touchpad is small and not always responsive.
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021) is the best laptop for media consumption under $500. It's a Chrome OS tablet with a kickstand and detachable keyboard, similar to the popular Microsoft Surface Pro line. 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, which is 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 the blacks look amazing, like on all OLEDs. The speakers are just okay; they get reasonably loud but sound slightly unnatural and lack bass. If you want to use headphones, know the laptop doesn't have a 3.5 mm headphone jack, so it's best to go wireless. The keyboard 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 better options exist for typing a long essay.
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 must buy the keyboard separately. The type cover keyboard has a lot of tactility and backlighting; it's just a little cramped. That said, it's worth getting because Windows isn't very touch-friendly, and the cover helps protect the screen against scratches during transport. As for the display, it's a sharp 10.5-inch IPS panel. It gets bright enough for use in most settings and supports pen input. Again, the pen is a separate purchase.
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, we recommend upgrading the RAM to 8GB, as you'll get a much smoother experience. The battery lasts about seven hours of light productivity, which is short compared to most clamshell laptops but not bad for a tablet. Port selection is atrocious; there's only one USB-C, a MicroSD card reader, a headphone jack, and a proprietary Surface charging port. Its 1080p webcam is surprisingly good, though, and there's also a facial recognition IR camera to log in quickly.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best laptops under $500 you can get. 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.