If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
A new laptop that packs all the bells and whistles will usually command a high price. But, not all of us want to drop upwards of $500 on a good, functional laptop. Lucky for you, it’s possible to get high-performing, sleek laptops well below $500 that can easily work for a day at the office, a secondary device for when you’re traveling, or a device for a student on a budget.
Since there are so many options for laptops below $500, it can be hard to weed out the decent laptops from other low-performing picks. To make it easier for you, we’ve listed our top recommendations for laptops under $500 below, plus what to look for when you purchase one.
Best laptops Under $500 Buying Guide: What to Look for
Screen: Screen size may matter to you if you plan on streaming or gaming on your new budget laptop. We’ve recommended laptops under $500 with a wide range of screen sizes, from 10-inch to 15-inch.
As for screen resolution, each laptop we recommend has at least an HD display. This means whether you’re working or streaming, your visuals will look clear and vivid. Some of these laptops even feature a touchscreen, allowing you to take notes or create on the go.
RAM: In layman’s terms, RAM is what determines how well your laptop can multitask, or how many applications you can have open at once without your budget laptop lagging or freezing. Every gadget we’ve recommended comes with 4GB of RAM. This means you can have multiple browser tabs open while you work and still be able to use other light applications like your email or any note-taking app. You may be able to casually game as well. For hardcore gamers or creators who need to use demanding apps like Adobe Photoshop, a higher RAM is recommended. That said for everyday use, 4GB is more than enough.
Operating System: Every budget laptop we recommend uses either a Windows or Chrome OS, and each operating system runs its own set of apps for productivity purposes. That said, both these operating systems can run your generic everyday use apps like Microsoft Office or Adobe apps.
Storage: These laptops under $500 have at least 64GB of storage which is enough to download all your base apps, emails and documents. While you may not be able to store tons of games or movies on your new laptop, it should easily suffice for your productivity needs.
Battery Life: You want a laptop that can last through an entire workday — meaning about eight hours of battery life on a single charge. Luckily for you, these budget laptops all deliver on that aspect, with some options even showcasing extended battery life running up to 15 hours.
Extra Features: Other features you might want to look for are the number of ports available and whether or not your laptop has a webcam for video meetings. Generally, as long as a budget laptop has a set of USB-style ports, a headphone jack and an HDMI port, you’re good to go.
As for webcams, we recommend your new laptop have at least an HD webcam for clear visuals during your meetings.
1. Lenovo Ideapad Duet 5 Chromebook
If you’re looking for a Chromebook that brings the power, choose the Lenovo Ideapad Duet 5 Chromebook — one of the most well-priced options on our list.
It’s got a 13.3-inch Full HD OLED display coupled with 400 nits of brightness for bright, balanced and vivid visuals. There is also a 1080p front-facing camera for work meetings or video calls and a rear 8MP camera if you’re looking to take pictures.
Chromebook’s OS comes installed along with 4GB of RAM for productivity purposes. Battery life runs a whopping 15 hours, according to the brand, meaning it will last you through an entire day — and more — with no issues.
Extra features include laptop to tablet functionality (you’ll get a keyboard and case included) and a blue-light reducing display for reduced strain on your eyes.
2. Microsoft Surface Go 3.
For a convertible 2-in-1 laptop designed for people on the go, choose the Microsoft Surface Go 3.
This 2-in-1 budget laptop features a 10.5-inch touchscreen with a 1920 x 1280 resolution. Its got 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM, allowing you to download any essential productivity apps you need and run them without lag.
Battery life runs about 11 hours, according to the brand and there are fast-charging features as well if you’re ever in a rush.
It’s also super light, weighing just about one pound — ideal for travel. Just make sure you purchase the Surface Go Type keyboard separately for full laptop to tablet functionality. Even with the keyboard included your total cost should still be below $500.
3. HP Chromebook x360
For fans of Chromebooks, this one from HP is worth your buck.
Its got a 14-inch HD screen (1366 x 768)) and Intel UHD graphics so all your movies, TV shows and presentations will look gorgeous in every lighting. There’s 4GB of RAM too, along with Chromebook’s OS allowing you to download and use all the apps you need.
Battery life runs a little over 13 hours, meaning you can use this laptop all day long without springing for a recharge. There is also an HD camera plus dual-array microphones, helping you look good as well as allowing you to hear your colleagues clearly.
Other features include USB-A and USB-C type ports and a 360-degree hinge design, allowing you to set this laptop in tablet mode or tabletop mode while you’re streaming.
4. Acer Aspire 5
Acer’s Aspire 5 has the widest screen of all our recommended budget laptops at 15.6-inches — displaying all your videos and work-related presentations in vivid clarity.
You’ll get a Full HD LED-backlit display coupled with Acer’s BlueLightShield allowing you to transition from work to play with ease. You’ll also get Windows 10 pre-installed and 4GB of RAM, meaning you’ll be able to multitask on light productivity apps like mail and Microsoft Word with ease.
As for ports, you’ve got USB and HDMI ports so you can add this laptop to your already existing at-home setup. Battery life is its only real con, running for about 7.5 hours on a single charge. That said, this is the only budget laptop under $500 on this list that offers 128GB of storage. Plus, it also comes with Alexa built-in for hands-free control.