T3's best laptops under $500 guide proves that you can get a really great notebook without breaking the bank. Every laptop in this guide punches well above its price tag, delivering a reliable, solid computing experience, without cutting any crucial corners.
While it’s never a bad idea to spend as much as you can afford on a new laptop, the truth is that for most people and the majority of general use cases, a sub-$500 will meet your needs just fine. For a cheaper price, you'll have to make some sacrifices somewhere, but it's just a case of figuring out which features aren't important to you.
Our top pick right now is the excellent Asus VivoBook 15, but that might not be the best cheap laptop for everyone. For that reason, we've covered a range of options in this guide to suit every kind of person and every type of environment.
Whether you’re looking for a laptop to help you work efficiently from home, or just to use to tune in to a Zoom chat, there’s a laptop under £500 for you. (Note: Chromebooks are often very low priced, and it's worth heading to our best Chromebooks guide if you think that might be a good option for you.)
All of these machines offer great value for money and will cope comfortably with web browsing, Office applications, Zoom calls and online shopping. If you need your PC to do some seriously heavy lifting – such as playing the most demanding games at their maximum settings or making your own animated movies – head to our general best laptops and best gaming laptops guide instead.
Dell is one of the biggest laptop makers in the world and has a suite of systems that retail at affordable price points. Be sure to scope them out in our best Dell laptops if you like the brand.
Buying an affordable laptop doesn’t mean being stuck with dull design from no-name brands either. All the big players are here: Microsoft, HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Asus and more. So with all that covered, let's kick off our list of the best laptops under $500.
The best laptops under $500 you can buy today
The best cheap laptop for most people, right now, is the stunning Asus VivoBook 15. Not only does this laptop come with a capacious display that, thanks to tiny bezels, seems far bigger than it actually is, but backs up those looks with a strong all-round hardware and software showing. You get a full-fat version of Windows 10, of course, and that is powered by a combination of Intel Core i3 CPU, Intel UHD 620 GPU, 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD NVMe. Oh, and for those who find themselves taking more video calls and meetings than before, the VivoBook 15 also delivers an integrated webcam.
Solid battery life, a decent selection of ports, and an included 1-year warranty complete the package. For the money, this is a great system, and in T3's eyes one of the very best laptops under $500 on the market today. See how it compares to our number 2 pick in our Asus Vivobook 15 vs Acer Aspire 5 head-to-head.
There's plenty of reasons why the Acer Aspire 5 sits so high in our best laptop under $500 buying guide, and its affordable cost is just the first. It also delivers a really strong and capable all-round specification, including an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U, Intel UHD 620 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. This is combined to deliver zippy performance in all light and medium computing tasks, and when combined with the Aspire 5's 15.6-inch, 1080p IPS LCD screen, delivers plenty in terms of entertainment and gaming clout, too.
Battery life tops out at a respectable 10 hours, too, and it has a strong selection of ports as well, meaning you can hook it up to a larger monitor or TV. You also get an integrated HD webcam, which is perfect for video meetings. Overall, the Acer Aspire 5 is a really strong all-round laptop that delivers great value.
If you really don't want to spend much money at all but do want to land a stylish, lightweight laptop under $500, then you should definitely consider the HP Stream 14, which retails for a bargain price point. You get a solid all-round spec for your money, with an AMD 2.3GHz CPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB eMMC storage, and 14-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution screen partnered with a Windows 10 S operating system. The HP Stream 14 also comes with a 1-year subscription to Office 365 and a 1TB OneDrive account, too, so you're set for office and study. The system also features a built-in webcam, meaning video meetings and calls are sorted, as well as MicroSD card reader.
If you are looking for a cheap laptop for light computing experiences and don't need a large screen, then the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is a great choice. It's compact 11.6-inch screen makes it incredibly bag-friendly, as it's one of the best lightweight laptops around too, weighing only 1.12 kilograms.
This system is a Chromebook, meaning that it runs Google's online-focussed operating system, which is designed to be used while online. Google's G-Suite of services like Google Calendar, Google Docs and GMAIL are perfect partners. Despite its budget spec, this OS means that it runs very fast and with built-in HD Audio and a crisp 11.6-inch screen, it still offers plenty when it comes round to web-browsing, video streaming and basic image editing. Overall, the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is a basic system for lightweight computing needs, but that's precisely what many people need. After all, what's the point in spending £700 on a system when you're not going to use its full power?
Microsoft’s Surface laptops are consistently excellent, and the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is one of the best 2-in-1 laptops right now, as well as being an excellent laptop under $500 in general. It takes everything that was good about the original – its sleek design, its excellent build quality, its go-anywhere do-anything versatility – and makes it even better.
The screen is bigger and has a higher resolution than before, and the specification has been improved for better performance. The bigger screen doesn’t mean a bigger device, though: the bezels around the display are smaller so Microsoft has been able to make the screen bigger without also making the Surface Go bigger. As with its predecessor, it looks and feels like a much more expensive machine.
With a very respectable five hours of active use between charges it’s good for on-the-go computing, but remember that the sticker price doesn’t include the Type Cover keyboard, which you'll need if you’re going to be doing a lot of typing (at time of writing, that’ll set you back just under $100).
To see how this system compares to our number one choice of best laptop under $500, be sure to check out T3's Asus Vivobook 15 vs Microsoft Surface Go 2 comparison feature.
Dell is making some excellent budget laptops at the moment, with the Inspiron 14 3000 a case in point: fair enough, you're not going to be doing much video editing or gaming on this, but it'll take care of all the computing basics for you very capably indeed. This being a Dell machine, it's extremely well built and should last you a long time. The 14-inch display gives you plenty of room for spreadsheets and movies alike, while you get three USB ports and an HDMI out port for connecting up peripherals. It's also very portable, perfect for throwing in a backpack.
Windows 10 S Home is on board – that's the stripped-down, super-secure version of Windows 10 that limits app installs but keeps you very well protected. If you're not a fan then you can unlock the laptop to get the full version of Windows 10 at any point.
Simply one of the best Chromebooks we've ever laid eyes on (look at that display, for instance), the Asus C433 will get you around the web and run Android apps with aplomb. You don't need to worry about being disappointed if you pick this as the best cheap laptop for you.
Chrome OS is the same here as it is on any other Chromebook, and it's getting better all the time, as are the web apps that run in your browser. Now that Android apps are supported as well, you can run the mobile versions of programs like Spotify and Microsoft Word as well. With a big, bright 14-inch screen and enough power to do everything you need to do, the Asus C433 is a fine choice. The display can flip over into tent and tablet modes as well, making this laptop even more appealing.
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, and this one is a worthy entrant in our best laptops under $500 list. 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.
Be prepared for some looks of disbelief when you tell people that the Lenovo IdeaPad S145 can be had for under $500 – it looks like a laptop that costs double the price, with sleek lines, thin display bezels and a rather nice black granite finish. There's a lot to like here – the 15.6-inch display, an abundance of ports, Windows 10, the Intel Core i3 processor that's on board. We like the lightweight construction as well, and the audio performance is decent. Whether you need to get some work done on the go, or you want to kick back and watch some movies, the Lenovo IdeaPad S145 has you covered. This is one of the best value laptops around right now; you'll struggle to get more bang for your buck.
Now... this starts with the obvious caveat that, unlike the others on this list, the iPad is not actually a laptop in the true sense of the term. However, for some people – especially those who only need to perform lighter tasks – it might just suffice. Apple also sells larger iPads (like the Pro) but those are more expensive.
The base-level iPad starts at $329 for the 32GB model and goes up to $429 for the 128GB model (both WiFi-enabled). The rub is that, to get any actual work done, you'll need a third-party keyboard, which adds $50+ to the overall price. The Apple Pencil, which is useful for drawing, is another $99. So it's all about tradeoffs.
At the end of the day, if your needs are more geared towards light text editing, drawing, emails, browsing the web, and watching Netflix, it's worth considering an iPad (and if we've sold you on that idea, it's worth checking out our pick of the best tablets around).
Like the Switch 3 above, the Swift 3 – somewhat confusing, we admit – offers a larger display and slightly improved specs for about the same price, minus the 2-in-1 form factor and touch screen. The i3 CPU, combined with the SSD, offer good performance for a cheap machine, crunching less processor-intensive tasks with ease while providing good battery life.
Unlike some other cheaper laptops, the touchpad on the Swift 3 is actually nice to use, offering smooth scrolling and mouse movements, which is important due to the lack of touchscreen. The port selection is good, too, boasting an HDMI, three USB-A, one USB-C, and more. All in all, this is a good budget pick.
Buying advice: how to choose the best laptop under $500 for you
Buying a new laptop can be a daunting task – even more so when you're trying to shop under a specific price limit, as we are here. A lower price range often means less powerful components, but it doesn't mean you have to settle for a cheap, throwaway product.
With very decent components continuing to drop in price, affordable laptops are boasting far more powerful specs, so your money goes further. It's not going to be a portable gaming beast or a media powerhouse, but you'll have enough grunt under the hood for surfing, editing documents and video streaming.
Apple 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 a couple of our favorite Chromebooks in the list (just remember Chrome OS requires everything to be done on the web).
Down at this end of the market, prices fluctuate regularly, and retailers will often throw in special deals to tempt buyers, so don't be surprised if some of these prices go up and down – spend some time comparing prices to figure out who's offering the best cheap laptop for you.
Bear in mind that you're not going to be getting the most powerful or the most feature-rich of laptops, but we think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you can bag at an affordable price point.
From vibrant displays to surprisingly robust CPUs, our list of the best laptops under $500 for 2021 has plenty of choices to offer buyers with less money to spend. Design and build continue to get better and better as well.
So as you browse around the various deals and offers that retailers have made available, take a look at some of our helpful tips and advice on buying a new laptop, then dive straight into our very best picks. Enjoy browsing!