In search of one of the best laptop computer below $500 for Home windows or Chrome OS (aka a Chromebook)? The provision of low-cost notebooks is drying up once more. It seems to be prefer it’s hitting mother and father that their youngsters aren’t going again to high school, so low-cost laptop computer provides are starting to look as unstable as they did on the peak of the preliminary coronavirus-induced work-from-home rush, when PC and accent gross sales spiked. The grim actuality of unprecedented job losses retains the demand for a finances laptop computer and different ultracheap {hardware} robust. 

Costs have additionally gone up for laptops which can be in inventory, and worth gouging stays a difficulty.

Here is an inventory of laptops which can be obtainable for below $500 and that ought to ship inside at the least 10 days. I am going to attempt to hold this listing present, however please do not hate me if it will get old-fashioned. Some on-line procuring websites make it not possible to determine what’s in inventory and what’s not — not only for tech, however for all the pieces — in addition to what could be shipped to you in an inexpensive period of time. Be mindful, although, that availability and transport occasions might rely upon the place you reside. I dwell in New York, so my suggestions could also be primarily based on a best- (or worst) case situation. 

Suppose long-term

As a rule of thumb, resist shopping for out of desperation — do not spend $500 on a laptop computer as a result of there are not any cheaper ones obtainable, for instance. Shopping for a need-it-now laptop computer could be like meals procuring when you’re hungry. Even for a laptop computer, $500 could be some huge cash, and you may seemingly be holding onto it for at the least three years, if the statistics Intel and PC producers hurl at us are right. You too can attempt to make your present laptop computer final just a little longer. Should you simply want one thing to tide you over for a number of months, dig into attainable locations to purchase refurbished, and discover nonprofit or instructional reductions when you’re eligible. Additionally, if there’s one thing you really need in a laptop computer, like a contact display screen, backlit keyboard, HDMI port or another {hardware} specification, search for one thing with that characteristic. You will remorse it when you do not.

Should you suspect you may be holding onto your new laptop computer some time, although, see when you can stretch your finances to purchase a barely costlier laptop computer to accommodate just a little extra reminiscence or a processor with extra cores than you had been in any other case contemplating. If you have not considered it, take a look at AMD Ryzen processors as options to Intel Core.

Even higher, when you’re snug with it, take into consideration an inexpensive laptop computer with a replaceable battery, upgradable reminiscence, graphics card and storage or all the above. Moreover, you (hopefully) will not be caught at dwelling eternally. Keep in mind to contemplate whether or not you may need one thing extra moveable (hi there, light-weight laptop computer), with first rate battery life, sooner or later.

Learn extra: Greatest displays below $200 you will get proper now

You will all the time be capable of add an exterior drive or two (or 5, when you’re me) sooner or later down the street. But when your inner storage is a slow-spinning laborious drive that is available in numerous low-cost laptops, even quick exterior storage is unlikely to assist velocity up loading Home windows or functions. (You possibly can continuously set a system as well from a quick exterior solid-state drive if mandatory.)

You might even see references to “Intel Optane” along with sluggish (5,400rpm) spinning laborious drives; Optane is quick solid-state reminiscence that acts as a short lived space for storing for continuously accessed recordsdata on the laborious drive to hurry issues up. It helps, however not as a lot as an SSD drive.

And at last, when you’re changing an previous Home windows laptop computer that is simply lower than operating Home windows anymore, think about turning it right into a Chromebook.

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So long as you handle your expectations in terms of choices and specs, you may nonetheless get fairly a bit with a finances mannequin, together with good battery life and a fairly light-weight physique. 

A vibrant spot is you do not have to accept a conventional clamshell laptop computer with a set show and keyboard. You too can get a convertible laptop computer (in any other case often known as a two-in-one), which has a display screen that flips round to show the display screen right into a pill, to place it for snug streaming or to do a presentation. Needless to say all convertibles have a contact display screen, which is a prerequisite for pill operation, and plenty of help styluses (aka “pens”) for handwritten and sketched enter. Do not assume a stylus is included with it, although.

One factor you will not discover: a MacBook or another Apple laptop computer. Even an iPad Air pill will run you greater than $500 as soon as you purchase the elective keyboard (although when you search for gross sales on the pill or keyboard it’d work out to much less), which is above our finances right here. A base-model iPad with a reasonable Bluetooth keyboard and low-cost stand for the iPad may suffice, although.

Learn extra: Laptop computer vs. Chromebook: Which moveable pc is finest in 2020 

You will see numerous low-cost laptops listed as coming with Home windows 10 S, a stripped-down and locked-down model of the working system supposed to be used by colleges — it solely permits you to set up functions from the Home windows Retailer, forces you to make use of Microsoft’s Edge browser and features a subset of the executive instruments in Home windows 10 Professional. You possibly can improve to the complete model without spending a dime, although.  

It is simpler to search out cheap Chromebooks than Home windows laptops, making it probably the most well-liked classes of finances laptops available on the market, although we’re additionally seeing much more Chromebooks within the $500 to $1,000 vary. That is as a result of Google’s Chrome OS is not almost as power-hungry as Home windows (test the specs), so you will get by with a lower-end processor, slower storage and fewer display screen decision or reminiscence — just some of the elements that make a laptop computer costly. 

Learn extra: Greatest Chromebooks for 2020  

However the flip aspect is that whereas Chrome OS is not as energy hungry as Home windows, Chrome and Google apps are sadly extra of a reminiscence hog than you’d anticipate, and when you go too low with the processor or skimp on reminiscence, the system will nonetheless really feel sluggish. Chrome OS can also be a a lot completely different expertise than Home windows; ensure the functions you want have a Chrome app earlier than making the leap.

Since they’re cloud-first units, nonetheless, you do not want numerous storage inbuilt. That additionally means when you spend most of your time roaming the online, writing, streaming video or enjoying Android video games, they are a good match. Should you hope to play Android video games, ensure you get a mannequin with a touchscreen.

Learn extra: Greatest low-cost gaming laptop computer below $1,000 to get in 2020   

For an inexpensive gaming laptop computer, although, you may nonetheless have to interrupt the $500 finances for efficiency. The least costly finances laptops appropriate for a strong gaming efficiency expertise — these with even reasonably highly effective discrete graphics processors, will run you nearer to $700. Listed below are our suggestions when you’re searching for one of the best gaming laptop computer

Though, when you prefer to dwell on the bleeding edge, cloud gaming companies resembling Google Stadia will allow you to play video games on laptops with specs that hit the under-$500 mark.

ht cleanlaptop2 - Greatest laptop computer below $500 of 2020 in inventory from HP, Lenovo, Acer and extra

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Specs to bear in mind

Whereas Chromebooks can run Chrome OS-specific and Android apps, some folks want the complete Home windows working system to run heftier functions, resembling video modifying suites. With that comes a necessity for a sooner processor with extra cores, extra reminiscence — 8GB is the naked minimal — and extra storage for functions and the working system itself. Quite a lot of these have 4GB or 6GB, which along with a spinning laborious disk could make for a frustratingly sluggish Home windows expertise as nicely. 

  • I am seeing much more Home windows laptops on this vary use AMD Athlon and lower-end A sequence and Intel Celeron processors to hit the cheaper price. I do not actually advocate going with an Athlon as an alternative of a Ryzen or a Celeron as an alternative of a Core. Home windows is simply too heavy for them and along with the 4GB reminiscence numerous them have, you could discover them abysmally sluggish.
  • Due to their low costs, 11-inch Chromebooks are engaging. However we do not advocate that dimension for all however the youngest college students. And for distant studying, if you are going to be taking a look at their display screen continuously, 11 inches can get actually cramped.
  • Stable-state drives could make a giant distinction in how briskly Home windows efficiency feels in contrast with a spinning laborious disk, however in addition they push the worth up. So in case your finances can stretch just a little and also you need extra storage, you could wish to think about stepping up from base storage choices to a 128GB SSD. 
  • Within the finances worth vary it’s important to be careful for display screen terminology in terms of specs: That is why an “HD” display screen might not all the time imply a really high-definition display screen. HD, which has a decision of 1,920×1,080 pixels, is usually known as “Full HD” so entrepreneurs may hold promoting you lesser-resolution shows (1,280×720) as “HD.” In Chromebooks, “HD” normally refers to a display screen with a decision of 1,366×768 pixels. One other frequent grievance I see is about “washed-out” trying shows with poor viewing angles. Sadly, that is one of many trade-offs you have to dwell with; numerous these use TN (twisted nematic) display screen expertise, which is affordable however meh.
  • Take note of networking. Cheap fashions with older chipsets might solely help Wi-Fi 3 (or 802.11b/g/n). Wi-Fi Three is proscribed to 2.4GHz channels; these are slower than more moderen chipsets with Wi-Fi 4 (aka 802.11ac) that add a 5GHz channel as nicely. The specs aren’t all the time right on the procuring websites, so when you see a mannequin which does not appear to have Wi-Fi 4, double test on the producer’s website earlier than ruling it out. Keep in mind, Chromebooks are designed to work predominantly over the web, so Wi-Fi velocity and stability is essential. 

Contemplating all specs and choices — from battery life to space for storing, display screen decision, display screen dimension, core processor efficiency and basic machine and battery efficiency — these are a number of of our high picks for 2020’s finest Home windows laptops and Chromebooks below the $500 finances, together with their execs and cons.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That is primarily a Chrome model of the primary Microsoft Floor Go. Just like the Go, the Duet is a 10-inch pill with a removable keyboard and touchpad. In contrast to Microsoft, although, Lenovo contains the keyboard. It additionally prices a lot lower than the Go (together with the brand new Go 2), beginning at $290 for a 64GB model or $299 for one with 128GB of storage. It is primarily a smaller, albeit much less highly effective, Pixel Slate that makes extra sense for extra folks with a worth that is extra in step with what folks anticipate a Chromebook to value.    

It’s a small display screen, nonetheless, so when you’re often utilizing it at a desk, we advocate attaching an exterior monitor to its USB-C port. You will in all probability wish to join a wi-fi keyboard and mouse, too. 

This goes out and in of inventory, so when you see it at an uninflated worth (round $300) and also you need it, do not wait. Finally test it was in inventory at Amazon for $439 however out all over the place else, so nonetheless is perhaps value contemplating. I’ve left the Lenovo hyperlink so you may test again there periodically; for the time being it says “this product is quickly unavailable.”

Sarah Tew/CNET

The 2019 Aspire 5 15-inch clamshell contains the most recent era AMD Ryzen Three processor, the 3200U, with its trendy Vega graphics processing. Its 4GB RAM and 128GB solid-state drive storage do not permit for utilizing many applications or a number of browser tabs open concurrently, however this 15-inch display screen mannequin weighs lower than Four kilos. The 2019 mannequin nonetheless appears to be obtainable for an inexpensive worth of round $450, but it surely’s solely obtainable from third-party sellers on Amazon.

The 2020 fashions have changed it, with AMD-equipped variations simply squeaking in below our finances at $499 and Intel variations just a little cheaper. It is a actually well-liked mannequin, so it tends to play now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t in terms of availability. We have not but reviewed it, however we’re fairly sure it must be very comparable because it’s the identical configuration.

Learn our Acer Aspire 5 (2019) assessment.


This can be a fairly simple 15-inch Chromebook outfitted with a Celeron N4000, 4GB RAM, 32GB Storage (plus an additional 32GB through an SD card). There are cheaper variations on the identical hyperlink beginning at $390, however they’re all 11-inch fashions, so until it is for a small child or small house, I would suppose twice about these.


The IdeaPad Three is available in 14- and 15-inch fashions; the 15-inch Core i3-1005G1 and 256GB storage runs $479. The draw back for each is the low-resolution display screen, which is only one,366×768 pixels. 


This 15-inch Chromebook has a full HD touchscreen, Celeron N3350, 4GB RAM, and 32GB storage (plus one other 32GB through an SD card). That is the 2020 mannequin; you can too get the 2019 mannequin for $449 with 32GB, which is perhaps a greater deal, since that additional 32GB prices lower than $30 when you purchase it individually. It is not my major suggestion right here solely as a result of there seems to be like a discrepancy on the Wi-Fi specs, so I can not inform if it is Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac, good) or Wi-Fi 4 (Wi-Fi b/g/n, dangerous). Walmart has that mannequin for even much less, just below $420, but it surely’s not the complete HD display screen. 


This one goes out and in of inventory quickly. Greatest Purchase has it in silver with a Ryzen 5, 8GB reminiscence and a 512GB SSD for $500; Amazon at the moment provides a Core i3 8GB mannequin for $480. Do not confuse it with the thinner, lighter, costlier VivoBook S15.


Usually I would say $499 is lots to pay for HP’s barebones 14-inch laptop computer, however these aren’t regular occasions. The show is not actual HD, but it surely does have 8GB RAM, which places it a step up from the 4GB options.


You possibly can’t discover the 15-inch mannequin anymore, which is a disgrace, however for littler youngsters an 11-inch mannequin outfitted with a Celeron N4000, 4GB RAM and 32GB SSD for $374 may serve.

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