The best laptops under $500: Great notebooks on a budget

Looking for the best laptops under $500? Browse these great value, budget laptops

best laptops under $500 2021
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(Image credit: Asus)

As this best laptops under $500 guide proves, you don't need to spend a fortune to get a great device. Every laptop in this ranking punches well above its price tag, delivering a great computing experience, without cutting any crucial corners. 

There are laptops to suit every kind of person and every type of environment. Whether you’re looking for a laptop for the kids’ schoolwork, help you work efficiently from home, or just to use to tune in to a Zoom exercise class, there’s a laptop under $500 for you. (Note: A few of the models in our list are Chromebooks. These often offer excellent value for money, and it's worth heading to our best Chromebooks guide if you think that's a good option for you.)

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 most basic use cases, a sub-$500 will do the job just fine.

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.

We've also got great dedicated laptop guides to the best lightweight laptops, which are great for busy professionals who commute with their system every day, as well as the best student laptops, which offer affordable, compact systems that are ideal for study.

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

Best cheap laptop: Asus VivoBook 15T3 Best Buy badge

The Asus VivoBook 15 is the best laptop under $500 for most people.

(Image credit: Asus)

1. Asus VivoBook 15

The best laptop under $500 for most people

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i3 1005G1
GPU: Intel UHD 620
Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD
RAM: 4GB
SSD: 256GB SSD NVMe
OS: Windows 10
Reasons to buy
+Spacious, tiny bezel screen+Strong internal hardware+Full fat Windows 10 OS+Webcam included

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. 

Best value laptop under $500: Acer Aspire 5 A1515-44T3 Approved Badge

The Acer Aspire 5 is the best premium laptop under $500 you can buy today.

(Image credit: Acer)

2. Acer Aspire 5

The best premium laptop under $500

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U Processor
GPU: Intel UHD 620
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 512GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080
Dimensions: 17.9 x 363.4 x 250.5 mm (H x W x D)
Weight: 1.9 kg
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Strong hardware spec+Good battery life+Webcam included

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. 

Best laptops under $500: Lenovo IdeaPad 3T3 Approved Badge

(Image credit: Lenovo)

3. Lenovo IdeaPad 3

For portability and affordability, the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is a great cheap laptop

Specifications
CPU: Intel Celeron 1.1GHz
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 11.6 Inches
Storage: 32GB
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly affordable+Light and compact

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?

Head to our full Lenovo IdeaPad 3 review for more info, or see how it matches up against our #1 pick in our Asus Vivobook 15 vs Lenovo IdeaPad 3 showdown.

Best laptops under $500: Surface Go 2

In terms of flexibility and hybrid functionality, the Microsoft Surface Go 2 delivers and fantastic package.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

3. Microsoft Surface Go 2

The best 2-in-1 laptop under $500 for hybrid functionality

Specifications
CPU: 8th-gen Intel Core m3
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 10.5-inch 1920 x 1280 pixels (220 ppi)
Storage: 64GB / 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Feels much more expensive+Great hardware package+Compact and lightweight

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.

Best laptops under $500: Asus C433

If you are happy using Chrome OS, then the Asus C433 is a great laptop that costs under $500.

(Image credit: Asus)

4. Asus C433 Chromebook

The best sub-$500 laptop for mixing Chrome OS and style

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core M3 8100Y
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 14-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution
Storage: 64GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Great design+Aluminium-alloy finish+Android app support

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.

Best cheap laptop: 2021 HP Stream 14

The HP Stream 14 offers a compact system for basic computing at a very low price point.

(Image credit: HP)

5. HP Stream 14

A thin and stylish laptop with huge cloud storage included

Specifications
CPU: AMD A4-9125 Dual Core
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 14-inch, 1366 x 768 pixel resolution
Storage: 64GB eMMC | 1TB OneDrive
OS: Windows 10 S
Reasons to buy
+Thin and light design+1TB OneDrive storage+MicroSD card slot+Webcam and MicroSD card slot

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.

Best laptops under $500: Acer CB3-431 Chromebook

The Acer CB3-431 Chromebook is not just insanely light and portable, but it is also one of the best laptops under $500 going. 

6. Acer CB3-431 Chromebook

Stunningly light, this is the best laptop under $500 for portability

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

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.

Best cheap laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad S145

(Image credit: Lenovo)

7. Lenovo IdeaPad S145

The best laptop under $500 for affordable, big-screen Windows 10

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i3-1005G1
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution
Storage: 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Large 15.6-inch display+Respectable specs+Lightweight, quality build

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.

Best laptops under $500: Apple iPad

The iPad is something we all know and love at this point and its definitely worth considering as a laptop.

(Image credit: Apple)

8. Apple iPad

While it's not technically a laptop, for light computing users it is worth considering

Specifications
CPU: Apple A10 Fusion Chip
Screen: 9.7-inch 2048x1536 Retina Display
Storage: 32GB or 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Great portability+Enormous app selection+Long battery life

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).

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!