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These laptops are under $500 and totally worth it

In the market for a new laptop ahead of back-to-school season? Don't sacrifice quality for price with these top laptops under $500.
Written by Josh Slate, Contributor on
Reviewed by Nina Raemont

Parents are pulling back on tech spending ahead of back-to-school season as they grapple with the lasting impacts of inflation, according to a recent survey conducted by Deloitte. Opting for a sub-$500 laptop instead of that $1,000-plus device will stretch you or your family's dollar even further--and no, you won't be sacrificing quality for a lower price point. 

Also: The best cheap laptops under $350

Through extensive research, ZDNET considered functionality, use case, and of course, price point, to compile this list of laptops under $500 that are still capable of all your essential productivity tasks, like answering emails, completing assignments, and of course, streaming your favorite TV shows. We found that the best laptop below $500 is the Asus VivoBook 15 for its thin and lightweight portability, memory, and touchscreen display. 

Best laptops under $500

Pros & Cons
  • 12GB DDR4 RAM
  • 15.6-inch touchscreen display
  • Ultra thin
  • No ethernet port
More Details

Display size: 15.6" | Display type: LED | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Touchscreen: Yes | RAM: 4GB DDR4 | Storage: 128GB PCIe SSD | CPU: Intel Core i3 | GPU: Intel UHD | Battery life: 60% in 49 minutes

With a 15.6-inch touchscreen and backlit keyboard, it's almost criminal how a laptop this versatile comes in a sub-$500 price tag. Packing in 4GB of  DDR4 RAM, an Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor, and 128GB of storage in its internal SSD, the Asus VivoBook 15 promises you won't face any storage shortages. This machine also totes Intel UHD graphics and a 60 Hz refresh rate, making for a vibrant work and play experience. Gaining up to 60% battery in 49 minutes, it's both powerful and efficient. 

Pros & Cons
  • Easily portable
  • Built-in antivirus and malware defense
  • Camera on front and back
  • "Real" keyboard isn't included
  • Only one USB port
More Details

Display size: 10.5" | Display type: LCD | Resolution: 1920 x 1280 | Touchscreen: Yes | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 615 | Battery life: 11 hours

Windows laptops that double as a tablet are arguably the future of the computer industry. This Microsoft Surface Go 3 is just that. Although this laptop only has a 10.5-inch screen, the capabilities of this laptop are great for professional and academic work.

Also: Microsoft Surface Go 3 review 

This Surface Go laptop features a battery life of 11 hours with fast-charging capabilities to make sure you stay in the loop during your busy days. 

With quick loading speeds due in part to the Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y processor, which is optimal for web browsing, complete homework assignments, and plan your vacation with the money you will save on this laptop.

Pros & Cons
  • Two USB 3.0 ports
  • Large 17.3-inch display
  • 256GB SSD in budget laptop
  • No USB-C port
More Details

Display size: 17.3-inch | Display type: HD Plus | Refresh rate: 60 Hz | Resolution: 1600 x 900 | Touchscreen: No | RAM: 4 GB | GPU: ‎Intel UHD Graphics | CPU: Intel Core i3 | Storage: 256GB SSD  | Battery life: 8 hours

This HP 17 laptop provides powerful performance, a generous display size, and plenty of storage for around $400. At 17.3 inches, this screen is one of the biggest you can have on a laptop, and with a 1600 x 900 HD Plus resolution, you can stream, game, and surf the web with pristine quality. 

An advanced, 256 GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD promises speeds that are 15x faster than a traditional hard drive. Additionally, the 4GB of DDR4 RAM with a higher bandwidth provides a boost in performance to an already stellar laptop. 

Lastly, this HP 17 laptop features a battery with up to eight hours of life and HP Fast Charge capabilities that can charge the device from 0 to 50% charge in about 45 minutes. 

Also: The best 17-inch laptops 

Pros & Cons
  • Full HD LED display
  • ComfortView Low Blue Light software
  • Unique and stable design
  • Wish it had an Intel i5 processor instead of i3
More Details

Display size: 15.6" | Display type: Full HD LED | Refresh rate: 60 Hz | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Touchscreen: No | RAM: 8GB | GPU: Intel UHD | CPU: Intel Core i3 | Storage: 256GB SSD  | Battery life: 80% in 60 minutes

With Intel UHD Graphics, a 15.6-inch screen, and a Full HD LED display, the Dell Inspiron 15 laptop promises a premium web-surfing experience. Another highlight is that despite it's bright display, the Dell incorporates ComfortView Low Blue Light software that helps reduce the blue light emissions from the screen to optimize eye comfort and reduce eye strain -- which is great for long study or work sessions. 

Dell constructs this computer with a lift hinge to raise the device to an angle that is more comfortable for the user to type on. Additionally, through the use of rubber feet and bumpers on the hinge, this computer will be stable even if the surface you sit it on isn't. 

Pros & Cons
  • Foldable, touchscreen display
  • Great for day-to-day tasks like streaming, video calls, and online content creation
  • Can't handle heavy duty video edits or other strenuous tasks
  • Small trackpad
More Details

Display size: 12.2-inch | Display type: LCD | Refresh rate: 60 Hz | Resolution: 1920 x 1200 | Touchscreen: Yes | RAM: 4GB | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics | CPU: Intel Processor N100 | Storage: 64GB | Battery life: 12 hours

When ZDNET Reviews Editor June Wan reviewed this touchscreen Chromebook, he said he was envious of college students who get to own this incredibly affordable but competent computing machine. Once laptops fall into the sub-$350 range, the quality of the device can be sacrificed for its inexpensive price point. But not this Lenovo Flex 3i. 

Also: This Lenovo Chromebook will change your mind about cheap laptops

This is one lightweight Chromebook that you can move backwards into tablet or tent mode--it also has a built-in privacy shutter for your camera. At just less than three pounds, the laptop's portability is a major highlight as well as its ability to handle streaming, video calls, and usual office responsibilities with ease. 

Keep in mind, however, that this may not be the best computer for video-editing. But overall, the Lenovo Flex 3i is one of the best laptops on the market for both its affordable price point and functionality.  

Pros & Cons
  • 256GB of storage in internal SSD
  • Full HD LED-backlit IPS display
  • Thin design makes it easily portable
  • 15.6" screen is a little small for gaming
  • Most expensive laptop on this list
More Details

Display size: 15.6-inch  | Display type: LED | Refresh rate: 60 Hz  | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Touchscreen: No | RAM: 8GB | GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics| CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5500U | Storage: 256 GB  | Battery life: 11 Hours

You may often see Twitch streamers gaming with their enormous PC towers, RGB lights, and advanced keyboards. But, you don't need to pump thousands of dollars into your setup to get a high-quality gaming experience. This Acer Aspire 5 laptop is an incredible gaming laptop powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor.

With a 15.6-inch full HD LED-backlit IPS display, the colors will look more vivid when you play your favorite games. While the games you play will look great, they will also run just as well due to the 8GB of DDR4 RAM within this laptop.

But, this laptop can do more than just run your favorite games -- it's also a great laptop for school and professional work as well. With two built-in microphones and an HD webcam, you can get your meetings done in high quality. Additionally, you can plug in all your accessories with three USB ports, an HDMI port, an ethernet port, and a USB-C port.

What is the best laptop under $500?

At this point, having a laptop that you use for your work responsibilities and school tasks is practically a necessity. But you don't have to break the bank on laptops anymore with so many great devices selling for less than $500. 

Screen size and RAM storage are just a few of the key factors explored when purchasing laptops. So, here is how the six laptops in this list stack up when it comes to those two factors.

LaptopPriceScreen sizeRAM
Lenovo Flex 31$27912.2"4GB 
Asus VivoBook 15$28915.6"8GB DDR4
Microsoft Surface Go 3$38010.5"4GB
HP 17 Laptop$41617.3"4GB DDR4
Dell Inspiron 15 3511$43015.6"8GB DDR4
Acer Aspire 5$48415.6"8GB DDR4

Which is the right laptop under $500 for you?

We know that buyers weigh a lot of factors into which laptop they end up purchasing. But, with so many different uses for laptops today, finding the perfect one for you can be hard to find.

Consider this table before selecting which laptop under $500 you want to buy.

Choose this laptop under $500…If you want...
Lenovo Flex 3iOne of the most affordable laptops for everyday work and school
Asus VivoBook 15The best laptop under $500 that can handle anything you need to do
Microsoft Surface Go 3An advanced tablet/laptop combination
HP 17 LaptopA laptop that won't break your bank account
Dell Inspiron 15 3511A great laptop for college students to stream your favorite shows
Acer Aspire 5A cheap gaming laptop that provides great specs

How did we choose these laptops under $500?

As a computer gamer myself, I'm very picky about which computers I use, and more importantly, purchase. That being said, I chose these laptops based on what I think are the best laptops for each category after extensive research through the tech specs and product reviews. 

After I chose which units were the best laptops within this price range, I took the five and categorized them based on which would be the best for the following categories: best overall, for picture quality, for gaming, for work and school, and of course, the price.

What is the best 2-in-1 laptop under $500?

The best 2-in-1 laptop under $500 is the Microsoft Surface Go 3. Although the accessories to make it a laptop are typically sold separate, this still remains the best one for the price.

Also: The best 2-in-1 laptops

Are laptops under $500 worth it?

As with everything else, you get what you pay for. If you want a laptop with all the bells and whistles and advanced specs, you will likely have to pay at least $700. But there are plenty of laptops that are incredibly capable of doing anything you need it to do for less than that price. 

Who makes the best laptops under $500?

With so many tech companies able to produce entry-level laptops like this at a relatively low cost, there is a lot of competition. You can't go wrong with the established brands like Microsoft, HP, and Dell; but give the other brands a try as they offer great product at such a low price.

Are there any alternatives to consider?

Like I mentioned above, at such a low price for laptops there is an abundance of competition so narrowing this list down to just six was tough. The above laptops are the best on the market in terms of price and functionality, but if you're looking for more options, here are some noteworthy alternatives to consider.

HP 15 Laptop against a gray background

Best laptop alternative

HP 15 Laptop

This thin and portable laptop with a 15.6-inch screen offers up 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. 

View at Amazon
Microsoft Surface Laptop against a gray background

Best laptop alternative

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

This touchscreen laptop 

View at Amazon
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