Best Laptops Under $500 of 2018

By Reviewed Staff

Buying a laptop is trickier than it seems, especially if you want to get a great one and you're on a tight budget. If you're trying to keep it under $500, we think most people should get the 2016 Acer Aspire E 15 (available at Amazon for $359.99), which has been our go-to budget pick for the past year. It's not very sexy, but it comes with a good screen, very good build quality, and creature comforts like a backlit keyboard that most sub-$500 laptops skip.

While this model doesn't have an SSD or that much RAM, it's also fully upgradeable and costs well under $500 on its own. That means you can easily pick up another 4GB of RAM and this excellent 250GB SSD while still staying around $500 total. If you'd rather not do the upgrading yourself, then Acer sells a step-up version for a little over $500 that is a bit more powerful and has a gaming-ready graphics card.

That said, we've gone hands-on with a ton of great laptops under $500, so you've got more options than you might think. Without further ado, these are the best laptops under $500 that have come through our labs.

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Updated April 30, 2018

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Acer Aspire E 15 (2016, Intel Core i3, 1TB, 4GB RAM)

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  • Editors' Choice

Acer Aspire E 15 (2016, Intel Core i3, 1TB, 4GB RAM)

Best Overall

One of the best bargain laptops of 2016, this Acer Aspire crams great battery life, a big 15-inch HD screen, competitive Intel chips and optional Nvidia graphics into a computer that rings the till at only $350 to start. 4 GB RAM and a 1 TB spinning hard drive also come along for the ride, offering you a good chunk of storage to start with.

While it's bulky and thick, this powerful notebook is also easily upgraded, ensuring years of capable performance when running modern programs. You also get a nice trackpad and a backlit keyboard, which is almost unheard-of at this price. We were blown away when we tried its slightly more expensive brother last year, and so we can heartily recommend this cheaper, slower Acer Aspire E15 as well.

Lenovo IdeaPad 120S

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Lenovo IdeaPad 120S

The cool thing about this Lenovo is that it looks more expensive than it actually is. Between the speckled lid and mineral grey color scheme, it's really sophsticated-looking for the price. In addition to the chic design, battery life is excellent too. It lasted about five hours on a single charge at 250 nits. You can probably squeeze another hour or two out of it if you dim the screen.

The only drawback is that it's not great for heavy tasks like gaming or photo editing. With its Intel Celeron N3350 processor and 64GB of eMMC storage space, it's just not built for power users. You're going to run out of space pretty quick if you're not careful. The one saving grace is the MicroSD card slot, which provides additional space.

Acer Swift 1 SF113-31-P5CK

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Acer Swift 1 SF113-31-P5CK

Weighing just a little under three pounds, this Acer is the perfect travel companion for frequent travelers. But despite the lightweight form factor, the all-metal body feels surprisingly strong. I didn't notice any flex or creaking when I applied some pressure to the lid and keyboard. It definitely feels like it can take the daily abuses of life.

My one complaint is that it's not a high-performance machine. It gets the job done, for sure, but it's just not as snappy as newer machines. It's fine for watching Netflix and chatting in Slack, but it's not the best option for power users or heavy multitaskers. Plus, it's short on storage too, so you'll want to avoid loading it up with apps.

Acer Switch 3 SW312-31-P946

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Acer Switch 3 SW312-31-P946

Not only does this 2-in-1 come with a keyboard cover and pressure-sensitive pen, the display is bright too. The viewing angles are good and colors are vivid and shadows don't lose definition. Given that it's a $439 machine, the image quality is shocking, as most budget-friendly laptops tend to cut corners with the display.

The U-shaped kickstand is a bit finicky. It's not the most intuitive thing in the world, as you have to pull it out from the back, but I wouldn't say it's a deal-breaker. Much to the amusement of my coworkers, I did end up fighting with it for a solid minute or two. When using it in laptop mode, it doesn't really balance on your lap either, as it's pretty wobbly.

Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA

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  • Best of Year 2017

Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA

The Flip is one of my personal favorites. With its sleek design, superb 1080p display, and zippy performance, there's a lot to love. It's also a convertible, meaning you can flip the lid around 360-degrees. If you're not married to Windows OS, you should really give Chromebooks a try, as they're known for their rugged builds and long battery life.

This Asus is a little expensive for a Chromebook, but we think it's well worth the money. While most Chromebooks fall somewhere in the range of $199 - $250, they're not ultra-powerful machines. With the Asus, you're getting 4GB of RAM, an Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor, and a 1080p display. That's a good amount of power right there.

Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook

Lenovo flex 11 chromebook

Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook

If you can look past the utalitarian design, this Lenovo laptop is one of the most resiliant Chromebooks money can buy. It has a spill-resisnt keyboard and trackpad, which is great if you're a bonafide klutz like me. There's also a 5 mm rubber ring surrounding the machine, protecting it from unexpected bumps and shocks.

It's seriously bulky, though, so if portability is at the top of your list, this may not be the best option. While I don't personally mind hauling this thing around, it could be too heavy for some folks. Despite the bulkiness and dated design, if you need an affordable laptop that's built to last, you can't get much better than this.

Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (i5568-0463GRY)

Dell inspiron 15 5000 i5568

Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (i5568-0463GRY)

We liked Dell's mid-range Inspiron 5000 2-in-1 laptop series, which is moderately priced and available with a wide array of the latest Intel chips. Shoppers will appreciate the comfy keyboard, pretty HD screens, and premium niceties like an optional IR face detection camera for Windows Hello logins.

If you want a 2-in-1 instead of just a regular laptop, Dell's put together a nice package in the Inspiron 5000 series. Even though the base-level Pentium chip might be a little pokey when paired with a spinning hard drive, there's no denying this Dell has solid essentials and a versatile design.

HP 14‑an013nr

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  • Editors' Choice

HP 14‑an013nr

This $200 HP took us by surprise, climbing up the Amazon sales charts quickly in 2016. There's no doubt about it—this is the $200 laptop to beat so far this year. HP's put together a great package here, giving users a quad-core AMD chip, 4 GB of RAM, and (best of all) a great 14-inch, 1080p screen.

With a simple screwdriver, you can easily add more RAM to the awkwardly-named 14-an013nr, unlike some competing models that have their RAM completely soldered down. There are plenty of ports, and a full-size SD card slot to boot. But the real draw here is big, high-quality display. For $200, you just can't find a 14-inch HD laptop that looks this good, but somehow HP has made it work.

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1

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Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1

Dell's adorable 11-inch 2-in-1 laptops are a colorful breath of fresh air in the laptop world. Available in three major configurations, you can get them with an Intel Pentium, Celeron, or Core m chips inside.

Whether you can get by on 32 GB of eMMC storage or wants big 500 GB hard drive, it's as flexible as its 2-in-1 form factor. The biggest drawback is its dim, washed-out looking 11-inch display. Other than that, this compact Dell is perfectly capable for light work tasks.

Asus VivoBook E403SA

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  • Editors' Choice

Asus VivoBook E403SA

The Asus VivoBook E403SA is an affordable, lightweight, capable, long-lasting laptop that we can't help but recommend. For around $400, you get a lot of features that really matter, including a 14-inch 1080P HD screen, a comfy keyboard, a quad-core processor, plenty of storage, and 4 GB RAM for multitasking.

Its biggest drawback is that it packs a low-powered Intel chip inside. While it's fine taken on its own, there are other laptops for under $400 that have way faster specs, and would be even nicer for day-to-day work.

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