The best laptops under £500: where to get the most value

You don't have to pay much for a fantastic laptop

TODO alt text

Choosing a laptop isn't always easy, and many a potential buyer has got lost in a swirl of specs, colours and sizes. We're here to remove some of the mystery of picking up a laptop that won't break the bank – these are our current top picks for notebooks under £500.

Just because you're keeping an eye on your budget doesn't mean you have to settle for subpar components. Advances in technology, and the appearance of cheap Chromebooks, mean that you can pick up some very good deals for laptops under our £500 ceiling.

How to choose the best sub-£500 laptop

Every laptop is a compromise between price, size and power – the most powerful machines are also typically the biggest and most expensive. If you're going to limit yourself to £500 then you won't be getting top-end specs.

However you can still look for laptops with (in order of importance) decent processors, a good amount of RAM, and enough storage space to store everything you want to save. With streaming services like Netflix and Spotify now popular, having loads of local storage is no longer as important as it once was.

MacBooks are out of the question at this sort of price, but fortunately Windows 10 has evolved to run very well indeed on less high-end hardware. We've also included one of our favourite Chromebooks in the list – but remember Chrome OS requires everything to be done on the web, and you won't be able to run traditional desktop programs.

Down at this end of the market, prices can fluctuate quite regularly, and retailers will often throw in special deals to tempt buyers, so don't be surprised if some of the these prices go up and down – just make sure you shop around to work out who's got the best laptop for you at the best price.

Dell Inspiron 15 5570

Dell Inspiron 15 5570

1. Dell Inspiron 15 5570

The maximum bang for your buck

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i3-7130U (1.5GHz/2.7GHz dual-core)
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution
Storage: 1TB HDD
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of local storage available+Expansive, high-res screen
Reasons to avoid
-On the larger and heavier side

If you want to get as much for your money as you possibly can, then we'd point you towards the Inspiron 15 5570 from Dell – a company that knows what it's doing with laptops. For your cash you get a very generous 15.6-inch screen, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage space, so there's plenty of room for storing photos, music and movies locally.

The laptop looks the part too, and could pass for something much more expensive, though you only have one colour choice: platinum silver. USB ports abound, and there's also a HDMI connector for hooking up another screen, and an SD card reader. You'd be hard pressed to find a laptop that had such good looks and such high specs for less than £500.

HP Pavilion 14-bk052sa

HP Pavilion 14-bk052sa

2. HP Pavilion 14-bk052sa

A champion of the all-rounders

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i3-7100U (2.4GHz dual-core)
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 14-inch, 1366 x 768 pixel resolution
Storage: 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of RAM for applications+Larger screen than many budget models
Reasons to avoid
-Not much local storage available

You're going to see a lot of very good HP laptops under the £500 bracket, all with slightly different and vaguely confusing codenames, like the Pavilion 14-bk052sa. What we like about this particular model is the way it combines a generous amount of RAM with a good-sized screen – more room for your movies and websites to stretch out on.

Also to the laptop's credit is the B&O audio system (again useful for watching films on the go) and the generous number of ports, including HDMI out and USB-C. Last but not least, it's quite a looker too, with silver and white your colour choices. One to consider if you're after an all-rounder that can deal very happily with your everyday computing tasks.

Asus VivoBook 14 X405

Asus VivoBook 14 X405

3. Asus VivoBook 14 X405

Style meets performance

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i3-7100U (2.4GHz dual-core)
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 14-inch, 1366 x 768 pixel resolution
Storage: 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Stand-out screen for the price+Super-speedy SSD storage on board
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most powerful of options

Asus has been churning out great-value laptops for years, and you know where you are with the VivoBook 14 X405. For a computer at this price, the screen offers little in the way of bezels and plenty in the way of viewing angles, making it a great choice for watching shows and movies (something the HDMI out port is likely to come in handy with as well).

You get an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of speedy SSD storage under the hood, so this isn't going to cope well for the most demanding tasks, but will breeze through all the emailing, word processing, and social networking you do every day. We also rather like the brushed metal effect that Asus has put on the back of the laptop lid.

Lenovo Yoga 520-14IKB

Lenovo Yoga 520-14IKB

4. Lenovo Yoga 520-14IKB

Take the 2-in-1 route

Specifications
CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4415U (2.2GHz dual-core)
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 14-inch, 1366 x 768 pixel resolution
Storage: 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Rotating hinge for the 14-inch display+Pick a colour to match your style
Reasons to avoid
-Not suitable for demanding tasks

Just because you're restricting yourself to a budget of less than £500 doesn't mean you have to miss out on a 2-in-1 device with a rotating touchscreen that can double up as a tablet. Use it in the conventional way, put it up in a tent position for movies, fold it over and doodle on the screen... the choice is yours with the Lenovo Yoga 520-14IKB laptop.

The other specs – Intel Pentium Gold 4415U, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of SSD storage – aren't quite so impressive, but they'll handle all the usual computing tasks with aplomb, so it's perfect for students or for anyone who just needs to get stuff done and doesn't do any video editing or high-end gaming. You get to pick from black, gold, and silver colours too.

Acer CB3-431 Chromebook

Acer CB3-431 Chromebook

5. Acer CB3-431 Chromebook

Lightweight computing at a lightweight price

Specifications
CPU: Intel Celeron N3160 (1.6GHz quad-core)
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution
Storage: 32GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Speedy, secure, low-maintenance OS+Big, high-resolution display
Reasons to avoid
-Everything is run from and stored on the web

If you can do all your computing on the web – watching Netflix, working in online office apps and email clients, checking social networks – then Chromebooks represent excellent value for money. You can't install desktop programs on them, but you don't need to worry about large software updates, or antivirus software, or your system slowing over time.

The 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage you get with this Acer laptop should be enough for Chrome OS, as all you're doing is running a web browser. Meanwhile, the screen is relatively large, and offers a higher resolution than many other laptops at this price point.