The best laptops under $500 in 2021

The best laptops under $500 in 2021

The best laptops under $500 won’t leave you unsettled because you didn’t pay a premium price. There are value-priced notebooks that include full-HD displays, solid performance and long battery life, plus all the ports you need. You can even get a laptop with a touch screen in this price range, though it will be on the smaller side. Some of these even made it on our best laptops page.

After reviewing dozens of value-priced systems, the best laptops under $500 with a Windows 10 operating system are the 15-inch Acer Aspire E 15 and the Acer Aspire 5. We even wrote a face-off to help you choose between the two. Meanwhile, the best Chromebooks under $500 that you’ll find are the HP Chromebook 15 and HP Chromebook x2. We recently reviewed the new Acer Swift 3, which starts at $499, but it didn’t perform well enough to make this list due its mediocre battery life. We also reviewed the HP Pavilion 14 (2020), which is just under $500. Check out our best cheap laptop deals or even the best back-to-school laptop deals.

Keep in mind that you’re still going to have to make some compromises when you’re looking for a laptop at this price. But, if you’re okay with that and you want an even cheaper laptop, take a look at our selection of the best laptops under $300. If you’re looking for something for your kid, check our best kids tablets page. Also see our recent Gateway 14.1-inch Ultra Slim Notebook review.

What are the best laptops under $500? 

If you’re looking at the top of the best laptops under $500 list, you’ll find the Acer Aspire E 15 and the Acer Aspire 5. Why? Well, Acer is pretty good at making affordable laptops and giving you the most bang for your buck, which is why you’ll see Intel Core i3 CPUs in its laptops even at under $500. The Aspire 5 even sports a premium aesthetic, with a silver, aluminum hood. And both laptops feature a wide variety of ports.

However, if you prefer working on a Chromebook, the best ones around right now are the HP Chromebook 15, HP Chromebook x2 and Samsung Chromebook 4. The HP Chromebook 15 is the best all-rounder. Most Chromebooks look tragically boring, but the HP Chromebook 15’s two-toned design (Ceramic White and Cloud Blue) caught my eye. If you want something more versatile, the HP Chromebook x2 offers a detachable 2-in-1 design. And if you want to prioritize battery life, go with the Samsung Chromebook 4, which lasted 10 hours and 36 minutes on our tests.

Some of the other best laptops under $500 include the HP Stream 11 and Acer Swift 1. The former is by far the cheapest Windows 10 laptop that you’ll find, so you should expect some major compromises in performance. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something that’s a good size and lightweight, then the Acer Swift 1 would be the best laptop for you.

The best laptops under $500 you can buy today

  1. Acer Aspire 5
  2. Acer Aspire E 15
  3. HP Stream 11
  4. Lenovo Chromebook Duet
  5. HP Chromebook x2
  6. Acer Swift 1
  7. HP Chromebook 15
  8. Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook
  9. Samsung Chromebook 4

Acer Aspire 5 best laptops under $500

Thanks to the Acer Aspire 5’s strong performance and long battery life, it’s the top of the best laptops under $500 that you can buy.

1. Acer Aspire 5

The best overall laptop under $500 you can buy

CPU: Intel Core i3-8145U | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 128GB SSD | Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 | Size: 14.3 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 3.76 pounds

Strong performance

Long battery life

Bright, 1080p display

Middling graphics

Questionable build quality

The Acer Aspire 5 earns its place at the top spot of the best laptops under $500 page due to its strong 8th Gen Core i3 performance, bright 1080p display and long battery life, all for an affordable price. Although the Aspire 5 is much thinner than its sibling, the Aspire E 15, the Aspire 5 boasts enough room for a battery that lasts nearly 9 hours on a charge.

It doesn’t feature a DVD writer, but it still has a decent number of ports. The display emits an impressive 276 nits of brightness, which gives the screen some decent contrast. It even has an aluminum hood. To top it off, the bezels on the display are surprisingly narrow for a laptop this cheap. The Aspire 5 is one of the best cheapest laptops currently available.

See our full Acer Aspire 5 review.

Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-576-392H) best laptops under $500

If you need ports, then the Acer Aspire E 15 is the best laptop under $500 for you. Oh, did we mention it also has a DVD drive? Yeah, that many ports.

2. Acer Aspire E 15

The laptop with the most ports

CPU: Intel Core i3-8130U | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 1TB 5,400-rpm HDD | Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 | Size: 15 x 10.2 x 1.2 inches | Weight: 5 pounds

Strong performance

Lots of ports

Good battery life

Bulky design

Filled with bloatware

For just under $400, the Acer Aspire E 15 can rock your world with a powerful 8th Gen Core i3 processor and plenty of ports. Despite the upgrade in power, the battery life actually lasts a bit longer than last year’s model at just under 9 hours. The laptop’s smooth black deck is made of chunky plastic, but a brushed metal texture gives it a deceivingly premium appearance.

The 2018 Aspire E 15 is outfitted with a beefier 6GB of RAM, and still retains its DVD writer and USB Type-C port. The laptop had enough oomph to load 10 Firefox tabs with ease, even when I played a YouTube video at 1080p. The keyboard is comfortable to type on due to how springy, and well-spaced, the keys are. For what you get, the Aspire E 15 is as premium as one of the best laptops under $500 can get.

See our full Acer Aspire E 15 review.

HP Stream 11 best laptops under $500

If you’re looking for the cheapest Windows laptop you could possibly buy, then the HP Stream 11 will satisfy you with its long battery life and solid performance. It’s easily one of the best laptops under $500.

3. HP Stream 11

The cheapest Windows laptop you can buy

CPU: Intel Celeron N4000 | GPU: Intel UHD 600 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB eMMC | Display: 11-inch, 1366 x 768 | Size: 11.8 x 8.1 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.5 pounds

Long battery life

Better performance than competitors

Insanely cheap

Washed out low-res display

Awful webcam

Depending on which model you go for, for under $200, you won’t find a better Windows laptop than the HP Stream 11. The Stream boasts a portable, 11-inch chassis, weighing in at 2.5 pounds and measuring just 0.7 inches thick. While our particular model sports a dull, black paint job, the HP Stream 11 is still adorable given its petite size.

For the price, you shouldn’t expect much out of the Stream 11, but its Intel Celeron N4000 processor with 4GB of RAM was able to handle 10 Microsoft Edge tabs as well as a 1080p YouTube video. The system also lasted a solid 9 hours and 19 minutes on our battery test. While its keyboard can be a little cramped, it offers decent key travel. If you’re on a tight budget, the HP Stream 11 is one of the best cheapest laptops to go with.

See our full HP Stream 11 (2018) review.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a budget-friendly miniature 2-in-1 laptop with nearly 13 hours of battery life. (Image credit: Future)

4. Lenovo Chromebook Duet

The best Chromebook under $300

CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T | GPU: ARM G72 MP3 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Display: 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 | Size: 9.6 x 6.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2 pounds

Lasts long on a charge

Comes with keyboard/kickstand

Colorful display

Decent performance

Cramped keyboard

At first glance, The Lenovo Chromebook Duet (reviewed at $279) looks like an innocuous journal, but open that bad boy up, and it’s a small laptop with a colorful 10.1-inch display. 

But this device’s transformative capability isn’t its only alluring feature — the Lenovo Chromebook Duet lasted almost 13 hours on our battery test, which beats the 10-hour average runtime for Chromebooks. The price is another big selling point of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. For under $300, you can own a lightweight machine that can endure all your intensive web multitasking.

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet sports a 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 display that’s impressively colorful. However, the tablet’s screen has chunky bezels that might turn you off if you’re seeking a more modern look. But the Duet is a budget-friendly Chromebook, so we can concede the lack of slim bezels as a reasonable trade off.

See our full Lenovo Chromebook Duet review.

HP Chromebook x2 best laptops under $500

The HP Chromebook x2 is not only a great 2-in-1, but it’s also a great Chromebook and among the best laptops under $500 thanks to its bright, high-res display and long battery life.

5. HP Chromebook x2

CPU: Intel Core m3-7Y30 | GPU: Intel HD 615 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB eMMC | Display: 12.3-inch, 2400 x 1600 | Size: 11.5 x 8.3 x 0.3 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Bright, high-res display

All-day battery life

Comfortable typing experience

A bit heavier than other convertibles

Core m3 CPU isn’t the fastest

Previously, the HP Chromebook x2 wouldn’t be anywhere near this page, but the detachable Chromebook has since landed below the $500 price range. The HP Chromebook x2 offers quite a few things that other budget laptops don’t, such as a colorful 2400 x 1600 display and a solid pair of speakers. As I watched the Captain Marvel trailer on the HP Chromebook x2, I admired its 2400 x 1600-pixel panel. Colors looked great on the x2’s display, from the jade of Captain Marvel’s uniform to the rich, inky black of a dark corridor she walked through.

Additionally, the Chromebook x2 offers a comfortable keyboard and a battery that lasts nearly 9 hours on a single charge. But the cherry on top is that it comes included with HP’s Active Pen, which kept up with even our fastest drawings. The HP Chromebook x2 is one of the best Chromebooks around for the price.

See our full HP Chromebook x2 review.

Acer Swift 1 best laptops under $500

Need something superportable? The Acer Swift 1 is crazy light and it’s one of the best laptops under $500 thanks to long battery life and premium aluminum chassis.

6. Acer Swift 1

The best lightweight laptop

CPU: Intel Pentium Silver N5000 | GPU: Intel UHD 605 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 | Size: 12.7 x 9.0 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Lightweight aluminum chassis

Long battery life

Wide range of ports

Dim, dull display

A few build-quality quirks

The Acer Swift 1 is a sleek and lightweight 14-inch laptop with a full aluminum chassis featuring a healthy amount of ports all for less than $400. Now combine that great price with a battery that can last 10 hours and 14 minutes on a charge and a 14-inch display that ditches the mediocre 768p resolution for a full 1080p. 

The Acer Swift 1 is packed with Intel Pentium Silver N5000, 4GB and 64GB of eMMC storage, which is strong enough to let you manage at least 10 Google Chrome tabs before succumbing to the usual slowdown. The Swift 1 also comes with a decent 720p webcam, which is surprising for a laptop this cheap. Overall, the Acer Swift 1 is one of the best laptops under $500 if you need something lightweight.

See our full Acer Swift 1 review.

HP Chromebook 15 best laptops under $500

The best Chromebook you can buy for a cheap price is without a doubt the HP Chromebook 15, thanks to its refreshing design and good battery life. It quickly made rank as one of the best laptops under $500.

7. HP Chromebook 15

CPU: Intel Core i3-8130U | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 128GB eMMC | Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 | Size: 14.11 x 9.69 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 4 pounds

Refreshing design

Good battery life

Strong overall performance

Warm screen

Tiny audio

If you’re itching for a Chromebook with a bigger, sharper display for an affordable price, then your best best is the HP Chromebook 15. For just $469, you get a Chromebook with Core i3 performance and a comfortable keyboard packed into a refreshing design. The white, metal hood bears a glossy, silver HP logo and a blacked-out Chrome logo in the top left corner. The HP Chromebook 15 also has a round, circular hinge that curves inward on each end, giving the machine a more elegant, softer look.

On top of that, you get a battery life that’ll last you for 9 hours and 51 minutes. It also packs a decent number of ports as well, including two USB Type-C ports, a USB Type-A port and a microSD card slot. While the display isn’t that colorful, it offers great real-estate, it’s sharp and relatively bright as well. It’s easily one of the best cheapest laptops around.

See our full HP Chromebook 15 review.

Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook

The Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook is an affordable 2-in-1 with a fantastic keyboard, making it one of the best laptops under $500. (Image credit: Kimberly Gedeon/Future)

8. Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5

Laptop with the best typing experience

CPU: Intel Core i3-10110U | GPU: Intel UHD | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Display: 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 | Size: 12.2 x 8 3 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Flexible 2-in-1 design

Touchscreen with pen support

Exceptional keyboard

Below-average battery life

Dim display

The Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook (reviewed at $409) is easy on the pockets, but let us tell you, it doesn’t feel, look or act cheap. This Chromebook may have “Flex ” in its name, but ironically, its solid metal chassis is stalwart with a premium-feeling, part-aluminum body. At first glance, you may dismiss the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook as another gray, clamshell laptop, but this shape-shifting device can also transform into a tablet thanks to its sturdy 360-degree hinge.

You’re going to love the Flex 5 Chromebook’s keyboard; it’s the laptop’s most standout feature next to its build quality. This backlit, island-style keyboard has one of the clickiest, bounciest keys we’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing to date. The Flex 5 Chromebook is perfect for productivity work because the keyboard will have you flying through any word-processing tasks with rhythmic speediness.

See our full Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook review.

Samsung Chromebook 4 best laptops under $500

If your priority is battery life, then the Samsung Chromebook 4 is king as the best laptop under $500. Top that off with a superthin design and a good keyboard. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

9. Samsung Chromebook 4

The laptop with the best battery life

CPU: Intel Celeron 3000N | GPU: Intel UHD 600 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB eMMC | Display: 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 | Size: 11.33 x 7.96 x 0.66 inches | Weight: 2.6 pounds

Long battery life

Thinner and lighter than competitors

Decent performance

Dim display without touch

Chunky bezels

If you’re looking for a ridiculously cheap Chromebook, you won’t find anything better than the Samsung Chromebook 4 ($229). It survived a whole 10 hours and 36 minutes against our battery test, making it the best laptop under $500 with the longest battery life. With curved edges and a silver hue, the Samsung Chromebook 4 looks a lot like the many MacBook copycats we’ve seen over the years. Its aluminum top feels a little nicer than I expected, but the laptop’s price shows in the plastic body.

The Intel Celeron 3000N processor and 4GB of RAM driving the Samsung Chromebook 4 provides decent power for multitasking, especially at this price. This machine is best for people who really only need to use a laptop to type, especially because it has a good keyboard, but also, the screen and audio aren’t up to par. But thanks to how light it is, and its decent performance, it’s a solid ultraportable laptop.

See our full Samsung Chromebook 4 review.

How to choose the best laptops under $500 for you 

Choosing the best laptop under $500 for you really depends on where you are at with your budget. Our top performers, the Acer Aspire E 15 and the Acer Aspire 5, typically range around $300 to $400, so you won’t even need to expand your budget to $500. Even if these laptops are slightly out of budget right now, you should consider saving if you can, as they boast Intel Core i3 processors, which you won’t find in most laptops under $500.

However, if you don’t mind using the ChromeOS, it might be best for you to use a Chromebook. Here me out. It’s cheap, and since the operating system is stripped down, it will perform better than your average Windows 10 laptop for the same price. Laptops like the HP Chromebook 15, HP Chromebook x2 and Samsung Chromebook 4 are examples of great chromebooks you can buy under $500.

How we test the best laptops under $500 

We put each laptop through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world — before they end up in the hands of our reviewers. We evaluate each aspect of the laptop, including its performance, battery life, display, speakers and heat management.

In our benchmark testing, we use a Klein K10 colorimeter to detect the brightness and sRGB color gamut of the laptop’s display. For performance testing, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 4.3 and 5.0 and 3DMark professional graphics tests. 

To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and to duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics test is the Dirt 3 benchmark with medium settings at 1080p resolution.

We also run heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video and measuring temperatures in different areas of the laptop. Last but not least, our battery test consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. For MacBooks and premium Windows 10 laptops, a runtime of over 9 hours is considered a good result whereas gaming laptops and workstations that can stay powered for longer than 5 hours deserve praise. 

These tests are complemented with extensive hands-on testing from our reviewers who critique everything from the laptop’s materials to the feel of its touchpad.

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