The Best Affordable Laptop Under $500 – 2018 Pick

With dozens of brands and hundreds of different models available at any given time, picking the right laptop can be a monumental task. That task becomes even more difficult if you need to stay under a strict price range.

Rather than wasting your time comparing all the options across the web, we’ve done all the heavy lifting for you already!

Below we cover six of the absolute best laptops under $500 covering every range of possible uses.

Picking the best budget laptop under $500

When you plan on spending between $400 – $499 on a computer, you want to make absolutely certain you get the best pick before hitting that order button. $500 may be relatively inexpensive for a computer, but it’s not an insignificant amount to drop all at once.

Processor speed and the amount of system memory are good baseline features to consider, but that’s really just the beginning. Types of ports, screen sizes, Bluetooth connectivity, and many other variables will  impact your final decision.

Laptops with similar specs may have radically different designs or built-in options. By planning ahead, you can save yourself a bundle of money and still get all the features you need.

Do you prefer a laptop to be ultra portable with a tiny screen for easy carrying? Are you keen to pick up a bigger machine with a 17” display to serve as a desktop replacements?

Don’t forget to take into account the budding touch screen technology. Full size laptops are available with touch screens, or you can pick a hybrid unit that flips over like a tablet.

Each of six contenders are intended as multi-use options for students, educators, employees, or just regular users who don’t intend to do any heavy gaming. No matter what size or style you prefer, we’ve got a laptop pick that will work for you.

Monkey’s  cheat sheet

Top pick

2018 Newest HP Pavilion 15.6″

In 2018, the single best all around low cost laptop is easily the HP Pavilion. With both an 8th gen processor and a touch screen, you can’t really ask for much more from a cheap notebook.

 

If you prefer a complete hybrid 2-in-1 machine that flips over like a tablet, you may want to go with the 2018 Flagship Dell Inspiron instead. It features similar specs, but in a much smaller package.

Runner-up

2017 Dell Business Laptop PC

For those who don’t want a touch screen at all, Dell also offers an excellent business laptop solution with high end specs at a low price.

The contenders for best affordable laptop under $500

1. 2018 Newest HP Pavilion 15.6″

  • Full size touch screen display
  • 8th gen processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • Older HDD instead of newer SSD technology

Should this be your choice?

Need the best possible specs on a touch screen device without sacrificing screen size or any other specs? This should be your pick!

Why is this the single best laptop available for under $500 right now? For around $480, you get nearly everything you could ask for in a portable laptop.

With only a single exception, you don’t lose out on any functions that are normally traded off in other machines. While offering the processor speed and RAM necessary to run modern programs, you still get a touch screen.

Many notebooks in this price range will significantly reduce the display size on a touch screen, dropping down to 10 or 11 inches. Here, you get the full 15.6” standard display like any other all purpose laptop.

Having a touch screen is great if you use that feature, but the real draw here is the fast 8th gen processor that uses less power. Combined with 8GB of RAM, you won’t run into many programs that don’t run smooth and fast.

If you want to save yourself an extra 20 bucks, the same model is available with the i3-7100U processor instead. Honestly, the extra price is worth it for the 8th gen processor though, especially since it’s still well under $500.

Three other features are also particularly worth noting if you are considering this laptop:

  • This model is less than an inch thick, but still has room for a DVD-RW optical drive
  • You get built-in Bluetooth for using wireless external devices like a mouse or speakers.
  • The keyboard has dedicated right and left click buttons below the touchpad, which is a feature that is often removed to save space in thinner laptops.
 

The only real downside here is the hard disk drive. While you do get a full 1TB of storage space, an SSD would increase the speed even further.

Be sure to also keep in mind that while this is a touch screen model, it isn’t a 2-in-1. In other words, it isn’t meant to be bent backward and used as a tablet.

For that functionality, check out the Flagship Dell 2-in-1 model listed below. When you need a full size laptop with touch, this is your best bet, however.

Hardware specifications for 2018 Newest HP Pavilion 15.6″
ProcessorIntel Core i3-8130U (2.20 – 3.40GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620
Display15.6-Inch HD WLED-Backlit Touch Screen Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight4.52 lbs

2. 2017 Dell Business Laptop PC

  • Solid state drive for quicker booting up
  • 8GB RAM
  • Less built-in storage space
  • No touch screen

Should this be your choice?

Want a low price laptop that still has great specs and isn’t a touch screen model? This should be your pick for the best cheap notebook computer!

Although this model actually came out last year, it remains one of the most competitive notebooks in 2018. At under $500, you get everything you need for a basic work or school computer.

When you don’t care about having a touch screen or 2-in-1 device, this should be among your top contenders. Not everyone needs that functionality, and for some projects touch screens just aren’t that helpful.

You still get a built-in optical drive with this model, which is critical for many school or business applications. If you still use disc installation instead of online-only tools, that’s a huge plus.

The 7th gen processor doesn’t quite match what you get with the HP Pavilion. That being said, it easily outclasses most other processor specs on any machine under $500.

This business-class laptop does easily beat the Pavilion in other regard — the much faster solid state drive. Due to the small drive space, be sure to have an online storage location ready or pick up a cheap USB jump drive.

You don’t have any lack of options on that front, with the USB drives and a card reader. An HDMI port is also included if you want to hook up to an external monitor or TV for presentations.

Buyers bring up the comfortable and spacious keyboard with the full 10 key on the side. This isn’t a backlit keyboard, however.

Keep that in mind if you prefer the style of keys that light up for a clearer display in dark conditions.

Finally, while this level of RAM and processor speed will let you run many games, be aware this laptop isn’t specifically aimed at gaming.

Hardware specifications for 2017 Dell Business Laptop PC
ProcessorIntel Core i3-7100U (1.8GHz)
RAM8GB DDR3 RAM
Storage128GB SSD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 620
Display15.6-Inch HD LED-Backlit Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life8 hours
Weight4.63 lbs

3. Lenovo Built Business Laptop PC

  • Large 17” display
  • Higher screen resolution
  • Heavier model
  • No solid state drive
  • Higher price

Should this be your choice?

Do you prefer a wider viewing screen over a lighter laptop computer? If crisp resolution and a big display are your most important features, this should be your pick!

At the very top end of the price range, at just under the full $500, Lenovo offers a behemoth of a laptop. I don’t just mean it has great specs, I mean it’s literally a giant machine!

With a 17 inch monitor, this is essentially a desktop replacement. While you sacrifice the portable nature of a smaller notebook, the extra weight can be worth the trade off.

When you want a large screen and higher resolution, you can’t beat this model at the price range.

If you are used to standard laptop keyboard designs, be sure to note this one underwent a redesign from previous year’s models.

The touch pad is slightly offset to the left, and doesn’t feature the dedicated left and right click buttons. It’s slightly more ergonomic and more responsive than previous touchpads, but some users don’t enjoy acclimating to the change.

Of course a full 10 key keyboard is included in a laptop of this size. The page up and page down keys are still compacted into a single space, however, so keep that in mind if you use those keys often.

Hardware specifications for Lenovo Built Business Laptop PC
ProcessorIntel Core i5-7200U (2.5Ghz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 620
Display17.3-Inch HD Display, 1600 x 900 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life4 hours
Weight6.61 lbs

4. 2018 Flagship Dell Inspiron 2 in 1

  • Bigger solid state drive
  • 2-in-1 touch screen format
  • Slower processor
  • Annoying power button location

Should this be your choice?

Need a laptop that’s extremely small and lightweight but still has great specs and lots of storage space? This should be your pick for the best 2-in-1 hybrid laptop under $500!

There’s going to be a time not too long in the future when 2-in-1 machines are the norm, rather than the exception. As touch screens become more prevalent and consumers want lighter devices, be on the lookout for most laptops to be hybrids soon.

So what exactly  the benefit of picking a hybrid 2-in-1 device? Primarily, it savies even more space by flipping the keyboard back and using the device like a tablet.

You can lay it flat, pop it open partially to “tent” itself upward in a V shape, or flip it around to sit like a normal computer. When you need to type longer documents, just flip the keyboard back over and use it like a normal laptop again.

With a 256GB solid state drive, this tiny 2-in-1 device actually has a better storage drive than most of the other contenders.

Where it loses out is on the processor speed. Nearly every other contender in our list has a better CPU, although you still get the full 8GB of RAM here.

Two issues are often brought up in reviews by users who bought this laptop. First off, it has a slightly more cramped keyboard design.

Frankly, that’s to be expected though. You have to save space to get an 11 inch laptop, and that means cramming more buttons into a smaller area

Because these laptops are redesigned to be more like tablets, take careful note of the power button location. It is very easy to accidentally grab the device by the power button, especially if you are right handed.

Once you get used to the power button location and the smaller keyboard, this is a nifty little laptop that is ultra portable without giving up much power.

Hardware specifications for 2018 Flagship Dell Inspiron 2 in 1
ProcessorAMD Dual-Core A9 9420e (2.6GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R5
Display11.6-Inch HD LED-Backlit Touch Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life6 hours
Weight3.22 lbs

5. 2018 New Dell Inspiron Premium

  • Very low price
  • Thin and lightweight
  • Slower processor
  • Least powerful graphics chip

Should this be your choice?

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Dell’s 2018 Inspiron is easily the cheapest laptop on our list of contenders, usually available for around a mere $420! That’s an extra 80 bucks you save that can be used towards upgrades or peripherals.

Unlike the slightly older Dell model listed above, this one ditches the HDD and gives you a faster SSD instead.

You lose out on a lot of physical storage space, but the speed gains are considerable. If you are willing to spend a bit more, you can bump up to a 256GB version.

Of course, there’s another trade off to be made to get such a low price. Although this is a newer model, the processor is actually slightly less powerful.

This contender also has the lowest end graphics chip. That may not be a huge downside though, as none of these options are particularly suited to gaming in the first place.

Two main features are brought up by reviewers that are worth noting. This model has the a combination of the full 10 key and offset touchpad to the left, with no dedicated left and right click buttons.

The motherboard also features two memory slots and can be upgrade to 16GB for a faster experience. Since you save quite a bit by picking this budget option, upgrading later is well worth the extra cost.

Hardware specifications for 2018 New Dell Inspiron Premium
ProcessorAMD A6-9200 (2.0 – 2.8GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage128GB SSD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R4
Display15.6″ HD LED Backlit Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight5.07 lbs

6. Acer Aspire

  • More RAM
  • Decent processor
  • Low battery life
  • HDD instead of SSD
  • Loud fan

Should this be your choice?

Want the best all around starting specs in terms of RAM and processor power? This should be your pick, if you don’t mind dealing with a few negative issues like the loud fan.

Looking just off the specs, you might be tempted to think this is the best overall laptop. At 12GB, it beats many other contenders on the RAM front, and the processor isn’t half bad either.

That’s the main draw, and if you need more memory for keeping multiple tabs open, that may be the best selling point.

It misses out on some key features the other contenders typically include, however. There’s no optical drive here, and you also don’t get a touch screen.

Nearly all buyers mention the loud cooling fans and high amount of bloatware that needs to be uninstalled after the initial setup. If the fan sound doesn’t bother you and you don’t mind a little extra work, this can be a great basic use machine, however.

Hardware specifications for Acer Aspire
ProcessorAMD A9-9420 (3.0 – 3.6GHz)
RAM12GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R5
Display15.6-inch HD Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life4 hours
Weight4.63 lbs

7. ASUS C302CA Chromebook

  • Lightweight Chromebook
  • Higher screen resolution
  • Small screen
  • Tiny hard drive

Should this be your choice?

Want to stick with the Chrome OS instead of Windows 10? This should be your pick, but don’t forget to think about external storage options!

You may have noticed we haven’t listed a Chromebook yet in our roundup. That’s because devices at this price point are typically full laptops with Windows 10.

Do you prefer to stick with the sleeker, more streamlined Chrome OS? That is still a possibility in the $400 – $500 price range with this Asus model.

As a full hybrid flip model, the C302CA is extremely thin and lightweight. When you need portability and do more web browsing than using Windows programs, this can be a great option.

The main downside to keep in mind here is the storage space of 64GB. At this price point, you’d typically want either a 128GB SSD or a full 1TB HDD.

Unfortunately, you sacrifice a lot of internal storage space by going with the Chromebook. When you want Android apps and a fast email machine though, you can always just use online storage or a USB hard drive.

Hardware specifications for ASUS C302CA Chromebook
ProcessorIntel Core m3-6Y30 (2.2GHz)
RAM4GB DDR3 RAM
Storage64GB eMMC
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 515
Display12.5-Inch Touch Screen Display,  1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemChrome OS
Battery Life10 hours
Weight2.65 lbs

8. 2018 HP Elitebook 840 G1 (Refurbished)

  • 16GB of RAM
  • Solid state drive
  • Refurbished
  • Smaller 14” screen
  • Windows 7

Should this be your choice?

Want a laptop with tons of RAM that you don’t need to upgrade later on? This should be your pick if you are willing to deal with the potential problems of a refurbished machine.

We’re going to finish off our look at the contenders for best cheap laptop with an unusual choice. This particular model is refurbished, meaning it was previously owned and sent back to the manufacturer.

When you’re willing to spend up to $499, typically you’d want a completely new machine. There’s good reason to consider this pre-owned option, however.

With 16GB of RAM, you get way more starting memory without spending any extra money. In essence, you are actually saving yourself money later by avoiding the need to upgrade the RAM.

HP wipes the hard drive, cleans the laptop, and re-packages it so it is essentially like-new. Not everyone has a perfect experience with refurbished machines, however.

Some users have to send them back for a repair or replacement fairly quickly. Getting more RAM for $50 less than other options at the same price range is worth the risk, though.

There are three main features to keep in mind here that could change whether this is the right machine for your needs.

This model features the smaller 14 inch screen, which may be a pro or con depending on your preference. Do you need a laptop that’s smaller and lighter weight, or do you want a larger screen?

Second, this unit comes with Windows 7, so expect to spend some time updating to Windows 10 whether you want to or not. Finally, the keyboard layout may be a bit different than you typically utilize.

There’s no 10 keypad, but it does have the small mouse nub between the G and B keys for easy clicking and scrolling if you don’t like the big touchpad.

Hardware specifications for 2018 HP Elitebook 840 G1 (Refurbished)
ProcessorIntel  i5-4300U (1.9 – 2.9GHz)
RAM16GB DDR3 RAM
Storage240GB SSD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 4400
Display14-Inch HD Display, 1600 X 900 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 7 Pro
Battery Life7 hours
Weight6.21 lbs

Do I really need to spend this much on a school laptop?

The answer to this question entirely depends on how you intend to use your portable computer. Do you need a screaming fast processor and a full 8GB of RAM to run your programs?

In many cases, a system with slightly lower specs will more than meet the needs of a typical student or even work employee. If you are mostly sending emails and using spreadsheets, going all the way up to $499 may be overkill.

When you primarily browse the web or use Android apps, a cheaper Chromebook could also be a better pick for you.

On the other hand, going up to the $400 – $499 price range ensures your computer will remain useful for a longer period. By getting a faster processor, quicker booting SSD, and more RAM, you won’t run into programs that run slowly.

When you need a solid system that works at decent speeds for school or work, don’t be afraid to spend a little extra.

For the best of both worlds, keep in mind the option of pre-owned machines. By picking a refurbished laptop, you can often save up to $100 or more and still get better specs!

What laptop components can I upgrade later on?

In general, the entire purpose of picking a laptop over a desktop is to get a portable machine. You want to be able to carry your work or school projects with you anywhere you go.

Lugging around a desktop tower certainly isn’t a viable option, so smaller sizes are necessary. To get high end hardware specs into a portable chassis, manufacturers need to make major changes.

Laptop motherboards, hard drives, and graphics cards are all significantly different than their desktop counterparts. While desktops can be easily upgraded, that’s not the case here.

With the vast majority of models, you won’t be able to upgrade the central processing unit at all. It will generally be soldered directly to the motherboard, and so will the integrated graphics chip.

Most laptops feature the ability to upgrade the RAM, however, and in some cases you can more than double the amount. Check the documentation on a laptop before making your final decision to find out how much total RAM it can handle!

The exact method for upgrading will vary between models. It usually involves either removing a single screw to access the memory compartment, or may instead require pulling off the entire bottom cover.

Hard drives in laptops can also frequently be removed and replaced. This is especially helpful if you want to go from a standard hard disk drive to a faster SSD model with quicker data speeds.

Does Microsoft Office come with these laptops?

Most new (meaning not refurbished) laptops that include Windows 10 will include a trial version of Microsoft Office. These aren’t actually the full versions of Word, Excel, Access, and so on.

Instead, they are limited functionality versions only available for a set period of time, such as 30 or 60 days. If you want to keep using the Office apps after that point, you have to pay full price.

Sadly, the days of Microsoft Word and Excel coming pre-packaged with most computers is completely over.

That doesn’t mean you are out of options for making spreadsheet or writing word documents, however! There are dozens of options available out there completely for free.

OpenOffice is a free suite just like Microsoft Office that also includes spreadsheets, a database, and so on. Each program in OpenOffice also has the option to save in the standard Microsoft formats.

That means that even if you save a file in OpenOffice Writer for instance, someone else can still open that file in Microsoft Word.

Google also has a free suite of online tools that take the place of Office. If you don’t mind working in the cloud, Google Docs and Google Sheets can easily meet your needs.

Picking the right laptop for under $500

Big or small, touch screen or standard display, SSD or HDD — it doesn’t matter what options you prefer, because one of these six options should fit your budget!

Leave us a comment below and let us know what you think of our picks for the best laptop under $500!

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