Best Laptop Under $500 – Must Have

November 1, 2022
The Aspire 5 (A514-54)
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HP 15z? Choosing a cheap Chromebook vs. a cheap Windows laptop

These models are ideal for those who don’t have the budget or cannot spend more than $500 to buy a laptop.

These models are great for people who only need to surf the internet, students, or those who do not work from home often. You may need a faster laptop. Check out our guide to the best laptops.

Chromebooks are cheaper than Windows laptops at this price because they can do the same things that a laptop is used for faster.

Chromebooks are also more durable, have a longer battery life, and have better screens, keyboards, and trackpads. Chromebooks do not require antivirus software.

They also don’t have bloatware, which is unnecessary software that slows down the computer. Chrome OS is sufficient if you use Chrome OS to check email, use Google Docs, watch Netflix, make Zoom calls, and other browsing activities.

Windows is better if your needs are specific to Windows

such as if it’s necessary to run Windows-specific software or to be able to work offline.

Although a great Windows laptop can handle web browsing and video calls, they are rare. Many cheap Windows laptops fail when running more than one app at a time.

A bad laptop will cost you more long-term. It will feel worse than an $800 laptop in daily use, and you’ll have to replace it sooner. If you have the money, $550 will get you a faster, more reliable computer that will last for longer.

An iPad with a keyboard is a good option if you don’t use Windows or prefer Apple’s platforms. This combo works faster than a cheaper Windows laptop.

You can also find thousands of iPad-optimized games and apps, whereas a Chromebook requires you to use web apps or Android apps. An iPad-and-keyboard combination is not an ideal replacement for a laptop.

Our pick

lex 5i Chromebook

The lex 5i Chromebook is the best Chromebook. It offers excellent performance, a great trackpad, and a keyboard, and the Lenovo Fis is compact and light.

Configuration recommended

  • Processor:
  • Intel Core i3-1115G4
  • Screen:
  • Touchscreen 13.3 inches 1920×1080
  • Memory:
  • 8GB
  • Weight:
  • 2.97 pounds
  • Storage:
  • 64 GB or 128GB SSD
  • Battery life tested:
  • 8 hours

This is why we love it: We recommend the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook 13” over other comparable Windows laptops.

The Flex 5i Chromebook is a great Chromebook. It offers exceptional performance, has a good keyboard and trackpad, is small and lightweight, and is bright and vivid with its 1080p touchscreen.

The Chromebook performs faster than Windows laptops in most tasks, such as browsing the internet, making video calls, creating documents, and spreadsheets, and watching movies.

The Flex 5i is also lighter than cheaper Windows laptops and doesn’t have the bloatware that slows down them.

The Flex 5i’s weaknesses: Other than the limitations of ChromeOS, there are no major problems with the Flex 5i. Although it can last for a whole day of classes or work, the Flex 5i’s battery was a little short in our tests.

If you don’t have a chance to plug your laptop in, it might be tight at the end. The lid can also be difficult; I found myself often needing to use two hands to open my Flex 5i.

The Flip C536 is a 15.6-inch-screen device with a number pad and built-in number pad. However, it’s too heavy and large to be carried around often.

Configuration recommended

  • Processor:
  • Intel Core i3-1115G4
  • Screen:
  • Touch 15.6 inch 1920×1080
  • Memory:
  • 8GB
  • Weight:
  • 4.3 pounds
  • Storage:
  • 128 GB SSD
  • Battery life tested:
  • 11.5 hours

This is why we love it: The Asus Chromebook Flip 536 (C536EA–BI3T3) has a larger screen and a number pad. The bright 15.6-inch touchscreen gives you more space to work or play media.

The number pad is also useful for inputs of large amounts of data. The Flip C536’s extra-wide trackpad and backlit keys feel responsive and satisfying. The C536 is too heavy and bulky to be carried around every day, even though it will last for a while.

It falls short in one area: The Flip C536’s 15-inch screen makes it heavier and bulkier than other choices.

We don’t recommend it if the Flip C536 is your only choice for a laptop you want to take to class, work, or to a coffee shop.

The C536’s 360-degree hinge is a design choice, but it’s too heavy to be able to turn around and use in other modes.

The Aspire 5 (A514-54)

The Aspire 5 (A514-54) is faster, more compact, and lighter than most Windows laptops. It also has a decent 1080p screen and good battery life.

Configuration recommended

Processor:

  • Intel Core i3-1115G4 and i5-1135G7
  • Screen:
  • 14-inch 1920×1080 non-touch
  • Memory:
  • 8GB
  • Weight:
  • 3.2 pounds
  • Storage:
  • 256 GB SSD
  • Battery life tested:
  • 8.5 hours

We like this model: This one is recommended if you are looking for Windows apps and games. It can also be used offline in the following configurations: A514-54, 35LK, or 395V.

The processor, memory, and storage of the Acer Aspire 5 (A514-54) are fast enough for most computing needs over the next few years.

Many low-end Windows laptops are limited to only running a few apps and a few tabs at once, or have poor processors.

The Aspire 5 (A514-54) Windows laptop is portable and affordable. It is lighter and smaller than other Windows laptops in this price range. The battery life was 8 hours and 35 mins, which is above average when compared with the other models tested in mid-2022.

The Aspire 5’s trackpad and keyboard are reliable and accurate, unlike cheap laptops that have sloppy keyboards.

The Aspire 5’s 14-inch 1920×1080 screen is crisp but slightly yellowish. The majority of Windows laptops within this price range have lower-resolution screens.

It falls short in this: Some configurations of Aspire 5 (A514-54) come with Windows 11 S mode by default. hp 15z  This allows you to only use apps from the Microsoft Store and restricts your access to Microsoft Edge for web surfing.

You can change it to Windows 11 Home to get any program that you want. Our pick has a lot of unnecessary bloatware, which slows down performance and takes up space like other cheap Windows laptops.

These steps will help you get rid of unnecessary bloatware and make your computer faster and more secure.

A fingerprint reader is not available on the Aspire 5 (A514-54), unlike some of our other picks.

The Asus VivoBook F515EA is the best choice if you need a screen size of 15 inches. This model is extremely fast and has a good 1080p screen. It also has a reliable keyboard trackpad and keyboard.

Configuration recommended

  • Processor:
  • Intel Core i3-1115G4
  • Screen:
  • 15-inch 1920×1080 non-touch
  • Memory:
  • 8GB
  • Weight:
  • 4.0 pounds
  • Storage:
  • 128 GB SSD
  • Battery life tested:
  • 7 hours

This is why we love it: The Asus VivoBook 15 F515EA is a Windows laptop with a large 15-inch screen. It can be either the F515EA AH34 or F515EA OS33 models. hp 15z  Both models have our recommended specs. They will meet most computer users’ computing needs for many years.

The F515EA’s 1080p display, backlit keyboard, and trackpad are comparable to those on our other picks. The trackpad has a reliable fingerprint reader and one USB-C port. However, it cannot be used to charge.

It falls short in one area: The VivoBook 15 F515’s battery-life test for 2022 showed that it lasted 6 hours 46 minutes. This is not enough time to complete a day of classes or work, but it is about average for this type.

This model, like many other Windows laptops at a low price, is heavy and bulky. To remove any pre-installed programs, we recommend that you follow these steps when you receive the laptop.

The laptop ships with Windows 11 in S mode. However, you can easily switch to Windows 11 Home if you wish to use Zoom.

Another good laptop

The VivoBook 15 F513 is a solid laptop with a good 1080p display and a reliable trackpad. However, the battery won’t last for a whole day of classes or work.

Configuration recommended

Processor:

  • Intel Core i3-1115G4
  • Screen:
  • 15-inch 1920×1080 non-touch
  • Memory:
  • 8GB
  • Weight:
  • 3.97 pounds
  • Storage:
  • 256 GB SSD
  • Battery life tested:
  • 6 hours

We like this laptop: The Asus VivoBook 15 EA-OS36 Windows laptop is another budget option. It is fast enough to be used for daily work, and the laptop is well-built.

This should last many years. hp 15z The VivoBook features a 1080p display and a comfortable backlit keyboard. It also has a full number pad and a trackpad that responds to your touch.

The VivoBook also features a USB-C port, though it cannot charge via this port.

It falls short in this area: Our battery-life tests showed that the Vivobook 15F513 lasted for 5 hours and 47 mins. This is not as long as some of our other picks, but it’s still long enough to get through a day of class or work.

The VivoBook 15 F513, like all our picks, is heavy and large. These instructions will help you to get rid of unnecessary programs.

The default mode of the VivoBook is Windows 10 S, but you can change it to Windows 10 Home at no cost.

A long-lasting battery option

The Aspire 5 A515 45 has solid performance, a great touchscreen, a responsive trackpad, and long battery life. It’s heavy and bulky, and the keyboard is not very good.

Configuration recommended

Processor:

AMD Ryzen 3 5300U or Ryzen 5 5500U

Screen:

15-inch 1920×1080 non-touch

Memory:

8GB

Weight:

3.97 pounds

Storage:

256 GB SSD

Battery life tested:

9.5 hours

This is why we love it: The Acer Aspire 5 A515 45 (in the R74Z and R6PQ configurations), is another solid 15-inch Windows laptop. The laptop is fast enough to handle most tasks and the 15-inch 1920×1080 display looks bright and vivid, which is a feat compared to many Windows laptops at this price.

The keyboard is decent, but not exceptional, and it does not have a backlit keypad. It also has a number pad and a trackpad that responds to your input.hp 15z There’s one USB-C port. It also has a bit more battery life than other Windows choices; it lasted 9hrs 27 minutes in our tests.

It falls short in one area: The Aspire 5’s heavy and bulky design makes it difficult to carry around with you, despite its long battery life. It also comes with tons of unnecessary bloatware, which slows down performance and takes up space like many other Windows laptops.

These steps will help you make your laptop faster and more secure by removing unnecessary programs. The keyboard isn’t as responsive as the Asus VivoBook models.

Spend a little more than 500 dollars.

  • The Dell Inspiron 14 5410 (5410) is a remarkable laptop. This was our top choice, but Dell has discontinued the sub-$500 model that had an i3 CPU.
  • The Core i5-11300H processor and 8 GB memory are still available at $550. This is an unbeatable price for the performance. We haven’t tried the Core i5 model but it is identical to the Core i3 model.
  • The Inspiron 14 (5410) has a compact, lightweight design. hp 15z We tested the Core i3 model and it had a battery life of approximately 8.5 hours. However, we expect the Core i5 model to have a shorter battery life but not too much.
  • The display’s 14-inch 1920×1080 resolution is among the best we tested. It also has a comfortable backlit keyboard and sturdy build quality.
  • The Inspiron 14 (5410) comes with a reliable fingerprint reader integrated into the power button.
  • This laptop is my favorite value in almost a decade of testing laptops. If you have $500 to spend on a Windows laptop, this is it.
  • If our top pick is not available…

The HP Laptop 14t – dq200 was our previous top choice. The processor, memory, and storage are fast enough to do most computer work.

Its 1920×1080 screen is sharp and vivid with vivid colors. However, you must select this upgrade at checkout. Otherwise, you will be stuck with a poor display. In our mid-2022 battery test, the 14t lasted 6 hours 43 minutes.

This is about average for this type of device. The chassis is hollow and bends under light pressure. The trackpad and keyboard feel cheap and vibrate when tapped.

Both inputs work well and are the best choice if our top pick isn’t in stock.

Our 15-inch picks may not be available

Acer Aspire 3 A31558-35VZ or A31558-300D is the next best choice. The Aspire 3 (A315-55-85) models are our top picks. However, the hp 15z has a smaller display, no USB ports, and significantly lower battery life than the Acer Aspire 5.

The 300D model has a smaller battery, and it lasted 5 hours in our mid-2022 test of battery life. The 35VZ model took 6 hours and 11 mins.

If our 15-inch models are out of stock, this model is still a viable option and can perform most computer tasks.

Spend around $750 to get the best deal.

The Asus Zenbook 14 OLED is our budget choice for ultrabooks. It costs a little more, hp 15z but it has the quality and build to last at most five years, as well as the ability to run all day. It’s also available for purchase at $550 a few times. This is an incredible value.

You want a tablet that has a larger screen…

  • Although the iPad is powerful enough for most users, you may want to upgrade to the iPad Air if you need a larger screen for multitasking or a faster processor. It starts at $600 and includes a keyboard and case.
  • Laptops below $500 can be difficult to shop for because of inconsistent pricing, disappearing inventory, and retailer-exclusive deals. Even if you don’t know much about computer specifications, these are the features that will help you find a good Windows laptop.
  • Processor: We recommend an 11th or 12th-generation Intel Core i5/i3 processor. hp 15z processors have model numbers starting with i5/i3 and ending with 11xxx/12xxx, or a 5000 series or 6000-series AMD Ryzen 3/5 processor. (Those processors start with Ryzen 3/Ryzen 5 names and end with 5xxx. AMD processors, such as the dual-core A9 and Intel Pentium/Celeron processors, should be avoided.
  • Storage: Use a solid-state drive (SSD), 128 GB or more, and avoid hard drives (sometimes called “HDD” in some product pages).
  • Memory: 8GB (also known as RAM) is the recommended memory. You can run multiple programs simultaneously with 4GB of memory, but it won’t work in a pinch.
  • Screen: Many sellers will list a 1080p resolution display as “FHD”, or 1920×1080. Basic tasks will be accomplished by a computer that meets the requirements but has a standard HD screen (1366×768).
  • Chromebooks require different hardware to function well. They run faster than Windows laptops with 4GB memory and can run with slower processors. Learn more about Chromebooks in our guide.
  • If you are looking for a cheap laptop to buy, make sure you only shop at major retailers that have good return policies. Avoid websites that offer too good to be true such as BuyDig. Another great way to save money is to buy a refurbished model.
  • If you are looking for a used laptop, make sure to buy directly from the manufacturer or authorized dealer. Avoid selling refurbished laptops on sites like Amazon.
  • A Windows laptop with 4GB memory and an SSD felt more comfortable to use than one that had less RAM but had a slower processor or hard drive.
  • Open the box as soon as it arrives. Keep hp 15z  all parts and accessories in the box and give the laptop a thorough test drive.
  • You should inspect the computer for any problems such as a slow trackpad, unresponsive keys, or dimming screens. If you find anything that isn’t right, you need to return it as soon as you can.
  • You won’t be able to return the laptop if you wait too long. Some manufacturers offer a two-week return window.
  • Even if you don’t require a laptop immediately, there are great deals on good laptops. However, prices can fluctuate and laptops as low as $700 can drop below $500 temporarily.
  • Nathan Burrow,hp 15z Wirecutter Deals editor, told us that laptops at their best are available during the holiday season. This means deals start in November and continue through Christmas.
  • A perfect laptop is not possible to buy for less than $500 – even if it were, it wouldn’t be affordable. You have to make some compromises at this price, so it is worth learning how the components impact your experience.
  • Storage: Many cheap Windows laptops still come with spinning hard drives or hybrid drives. These slow speeds can make it difficult to boot the computer, launch apps, browse files, or do any other tasks.
  • Our testing showed that flash storage, ideally an SSD but also an eMMC drive, significantly improved everyday performance. This is even more than a faster processor and more memory.
  • Avoid Windows laptops that have less than 64GB flash storage. Without an external drive, you can’t run Windows updates on them.
  • To save money, hp 15z you could purchase a laptop with a hard disk and then replace it with an SSD later. However, this is more work than most people are comfortable with so we focused on models with flash storage.
  • Processor: We recommend an 11th-, 12th-generation Intel Core i3 processor or Core i5 CPU or a 5000/6000-series AMD Ryzen 3 and Ryzen 5 processor. Core i3 or Ryzen 3 processors can be used for casual work and schoolwork, but they are not the best for multitasking.
  • The Core i5 or Ryzen 5 processors are more efficient and faster at multitasking but are rare in this price range. Avoid AMD processors such as the dual-core AMD A9, and stay away from Intel Pentium or Celeron processors such as the N4200 and N5000. These processors were not usable with more than one open app in our tests.
  • Memory: It’s possible to get an hp 15z with more than 4GB of memory for less than $500. This is without having to sacrifice flash storage, a decent processor, or a 1080p display.
  • We found that 4GB memory was the best specification to compromise on unless you absolutely have to. A Windows laptop with 4GB memory and an SSD felt more comfortable than one that had more RAM but also had a slower processor or hard drive.
  • Laptop Mag discovered that 4GB of memory is sufficient to run 10 browser tabs, provided you do not have any other applications open. It’s also good for basic document work and small files. Similar results were found in our tests.
  • However, once you open another application, the number of tabs available drops and decreases. You’ll need more memory if you run multiple apps at once. 8GB is the better choice for a computer that you will be using for many years.
  • Screen: Most laptops come with 1366×768 screen options. Models with 1080p displays (a resolution of 1920×1080) are preferred. This provides a clearer image and more screen space.
  • In-plane switching screens (IPS) are better than TN panels. They have more accurate colors and offer better viewing angles. You’ll see the benefits if you watch many videos on your laptop.
  • Trackpad and keyboard: You should find an external keyboard or mouse that is more comfortable and user-friendly. Although they are rare, backlit keyboards can be a nice bonus.

Quality: A budget laptop should not feel cheap. However, it shouldn’t feel fragile. Laptops in this price range can be 15-inch monsters, with large plastic cases and loose keys. A good laptop should not flex under your fingers while you type and shouldn’t creak when you tap the spacebar or click the trackpad.

Bloatware: Cheap Windows laptops often come with a lot of bloatware. This is especially true for laptops with slower processors and less storage.

To speed up the boot time, eliminate annoying notifications, and close security holes, we recommend that you get rid of all unnecessary applications as soon as your laptop is unpacked. After removing bloatware, we experienced slight performance improvements.

You don’t have much control over the features we evaluate when evaluating higher-priced laptops. This includes size, battery life, and ports. However, these details were not essential to our selections. We were only looking for usable laptops in this category.

We first tested three Windows laptops to determine which components had the most impact on general usage.

One with an Intel Celeron processor and eMMC storage.

One with a Core i3 CPU, a hard drive, and 8 GB memory

One with a Core i3 CPU, SSD, and 4 GB memory

Each configuration was used for a full day of work. hp 15z We had four to five open applications and a browser with 10-15 tabs. Each laptop was benchmarked using PCMark 8’s Home and Work tests.

These tests revealed that flash storage was the most critical component. Then came a decent processor. We found that 4GB of memory is the best compromise.

It is still better to have more memory and Windows will continue to run well for many years.

We then tested the Windows laptops as well as Chromebooks that met our criteria. Each was used for at least one day of normal work and video calls to gain a feel for its performance, screens, keyboards, and trackpads. Chromebooks had at least 20 tabs open in Chromebooks.

This included Google Docs and Google Sheets as well as streaming music and Slack. Windows had between five and ten tabs open at once, along with the Spotify or Slack apps. We also tried the laptops out by opening large Excel spreadsheets and Word documents of 100 pages each.

The majority of Windows laptops below $500 are terrible and very few have our recommended specs. We combed through hundreds upon hundreds of model websites from both manufacturers and retailers and only found a handful that looked promising.

Laptops that have at least 4 GB RAM and flash storage were our top picks. (Older-generation processors may feel faster than current-generation processors, and we recommend them if you can find a good laptop with one of these.

However, stock for such laptops is less plentiful than that for current-generation models.

Although the Acer Aspire 5 A515 56-34A3 is fast, it has a terrible TN screen. It looks harsh and has poor view angles. The keyboard is also stiff and cheap.

The computer is cheap enough to work if we have them in stock but it will be a terrible laptop screen for its entire life.

hp 15z Although the Asus VivoBook 15 F512JAA-AS34 was one of our prior picks, it also has a terrible display. It is only recommended if we don’t have any current options in stock.

Although the Gateway 15.6 inch Ultra Slim Notebook (GWTN156), meets our performance requirements, it has a similar terrible screen, flimsy construction quality, and some of the worst speakers I have ever heard.

The HP Laptop 15z ef2000, like the Gateway, is fast but has poor screen quality and build quality.

The trackpad and keyboard feel spongy and make a loud rattling sound when they are used.

The Gateway Ultra Slim 14.1 inch Notebook (GWTN141), has 4GB of memory. This means that it can’t run more than a few apps at once and won’t last as long as our picks. It has terrible speakers and poor build quality.

The Intel Pentium N5030 processor is used in the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3, which runs at a mere 1.6 GHz on Chromebooks and 1.7 GHz on Windows. We tried a Zoom call with a few open tabs.

The connection dropped out and audio delays of over 30 seconds made it impossible to have a conversation.

About your guide

Kimber Streams, a senior staff writer, has been covering keyboards, storage, gaming gear, laptops, and other topics for Wirecutter since 2014. They have tested hundreds of laptops, and thousands of peripherals and made way too many keyboards to keep up with their personal collections.

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