The 13 Best Laptops to Buy in 2018 for Under $500

Find the best touchscreen, design, portable laptop and more

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6"


Dropping hundreds of dollars on a laptop that’s bound to be dropped itself might seem a bit stressful, but a rugged laptop like this ASUS Chromebook will surely put your nightmares to rest. It houses an Intel Celeron N3060 Processor with 2M Cache, up to 2.48 GHz, plus 16GB of flash storage. (You’ll also get 100GB of free Google Drive storage for the first two years.) Its 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 anti-glare display tilts back 180 degrees for viewing at all angles.

Being a Chromebook, it’s not as powerful as other machines on this list, but what it lacks in brains it makes up for in brawn. It has 3 millimeters of reinforced rubber around its edges, which passes the 3.9 feet drop test, and a spill-resistant keyboard that can endure about a quarter-cup spill. On top of that, its durable and modular design makes it easy to swap in and out parts, should it need repair.

Check out our other reviews of the best ASUS laptops available on the market today.

Best for College Students: 2018 Lenovo ideapad 320 15.6"


Lenovo delivers an excellent everyday laptop at a value price point, combining the latest generation of Intel processing with a high-definition 15.6-inch screen. The computer is powered by an Intel Celeron N3350 dual-core processor with 4GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive. The computer also includes a DVD drive, a 4-in-1 memory card reader for easy transfer of files, as well as Bluetooth 4.1 and USB 3.0 port. Expect fast streaming, thanks to the latest 802.11ac wireless internet. The computer is also great for college students looking to watch movies in their dorm room, with a 15-inch anti-glare screen that looks great from every angle.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best Lenovo laptops

Best Touchscreen: HP - 15.6" Touch-Screen Laptop

HP - 15.6" Touch-Screen Laptop

If you are a tactile learner, a touchscreen computer can come in handy. This entry-level touchscreen from HP is an amazing value at just under $500. It has an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive. The BrightView glossy 15.6-inch screen is powered by WLED backlight and shows movies and photos in 1366 x 768 HD. The 2 SuperSpeed USB 3.1 ports make transferring media a breeze, while built-in Bluetooth makes it easy to sync with mobile devices. Finally, an Intel HD Graphics 620 card can handle photo editing and even some basic gaming.

Check out our guide to the best touchscreen laptops you can buy today. 

Best Budget: HP Notebook 15

HP Notebook 15
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The latest edition of the HP Notebook 15 is a surprising Windows 10 laptop that packs a lot of features into a sub-$300 machine. This laptop may not impress power-hungry users, but it will do the job for casual users that need to accomplish basic tasks in a timely fashion.

The Notebook 15 has a 15.6-inch screen with 1366-by-768 resolution, a 500 GB hard drive, an SD media card reader, a DVD/CD burner, as well as a VGA webcam with a digital microphone. For ports, there’s one Ethernet, one HDMI, two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0 and a headphone/microphone combo jack. One of the standout features of this model is its 4GB of RAM, which is incredibly important for keeping your machine running smoothly and not something we often see on models in this price range. (Usually, you’ll see models with a paltry 2GB of RAM, which is often not enough to keep things running at a fast clip.)

This machine measures 10 x 15.1 x .9 inches and is a little heavy at 4.74 pounds, so it’s probably not one you’ll want to carry around everywhere. It would make sense as a home or work laptop that’s mostly used in one place. Thankfully, it does offer 5.5-hour battery life, so if you do need to take it anywhere, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Runner-Up, Best Budget: Lenovo IdeaPad 330s

The Lenovo IdeaPad 330s doesn’t come in at the bottom of the budget barrel, but it hits a sweet spot between price and solid specs. With this model, you’ll be getting a decently sized 15.6" display while the laptop itself stays slim thanks to reduced bezels around the screen. Plus, the display is a Full HD IPS panel, offering clear visuals and great viewing angles.

Inside, the IdeaPad 330s packs a modern Intel Core i3-8130U dual-core processor paired with 6GB of DDR4 memory and a large 1TB hard drive. You should expect decent performance out of this despite its budget price. As a bonus, this laptop will be good for interfacing with external hardware as well.

As for connectivity, 801.11ac Wi-Fi is a good, recent protocol for connecting to wireless networks, and you’ll get Bluetooth 4.1. For fast USB connections, the IdeaPad 330s offers USB 3.1 and USB-C ports. And, if you’re doing work with any media, the 4-in-1 media card reader will come in handy.

Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Go

It’s hard to argue against the success of Microsoft’s Surface lineup, and the Go is no exception. When in tablet mode, the 10-inch PixelSense touchscreen display is ideal for reading, writing, and games. With 1800 x 1200 resolution, text is crisp and clear. Add one of the available Microsoft Type Covers and the Go instantly becomes a highly capable desktop-like computer. Running Windows 10 S, the Go has complete access to Microsoft’s Marketplace for downloading thousands of applications. For business users, Microsoft’s entire suite of Office products runs superbly.

Weighing a mere 1.3 pounds, the Go is easily the most portable Surface yet. Its diminutive size doesn’t mean scant battery life either as it provides up to nine hours of daily use. Whether it’s a business or personal device, the Go has plenty of protection built in. Microsoft Defender protects against malware attacks while parental controls offer parents peace of mind. With Microsoft stores popping up in malls all over the country, you also have the option of bringing the Go right into a brick-and-mortar location for tech support.

Runner-Up, Best 2-in-1: Huawei MateBook E Signature Edition

The Huawei MateBook E Signature Edition is a highly capable 2-in-1 machine that delivers a nice balance of performance, price, portability, and aesthetic appeal. As a tablet, it offers a satisfyingly crispy 12" touchscreen display with a dazzling 2160 x 1440 resolution for sharp visuals. The body of the tablet stays slim as well thanks to screen bezels.

Inside, the Huawei MateBook E Signature Edition packs a recent Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor that slowly sips on battery, along with 4GB of memory and a 128GB SSD for fast storage. All of that is packed into a classy, aluminum alloy body.

What makes this 2-in-1 exceptional is that, unlike some of its competitors, it comes bundled with the attachable keyboard needed for a true laptop experience. You don’t have to worry about an extra $100 just to get a folio keyboard. You do have to watch out for discounts though. We’ve managed to find this going for under $500, but don’t be surprised if the price of this premium device jumps around a bit.

Best for Business: Lenovo ThinkPad E485

For business users, Lenovo’s ThinkPad brand (formerly IBM’s) is tried and true. And, that remains the case with the ThinkPad E485 AMD, which unsurprisingly packs an AMD processor. What is surprising, though, is that the processor is a modern AMD Ryzen 5 2500U quad-core. That’s a quality processor to find in a budget laptop, and it’s paired with 4GB of DDR4 memory and a fast-spinning 7,200RPM hard drive with 500GB of storage. AMD Radeon Vega 8 mobile graphics even make this one of the most gaming-friendly laptops on the list.

The ThinkPad E485 has a 14" HD display with anti-glare finish, so you’ll have an easier time working on the go. The estimated 9-hour battery will also help you keep working when you’re away from an electrical outlet. This one comes in at the high end for budget laptops, so expect some price variability. We’ve seen it for under $500, and expect it won’t be too hard to find at that price on a regular basis.

Runner-Up, Best for Business: ASUS X540UA-DB31

Business users can get good mileage out of the Asus X540UA-DB31, even if the model name isn’t so user-friendly. The machine offers an excellent balance of performance and price, and it's exceptionally easy to work with. That’s because it has a 15.6" display with a Full HD resolution and matte finish for reduced glare, which is to say your eyes shouldn't be too strained after a long day at work.

The Asus X540UA-DB31 has a modern Intel Core i3-8130U processor, so you don’t have to worry about the budget price meaning old components. It also comes with 4GB of DDR4 memory, which will get you started with no issue but may be worth upgrading later on. One component that really demonstrates the machine's perfect blend of price and performance is the FireCuda SSHD, which combines an 8GB SSD with a hard drive for expansive storage accelerated by SSD speed.

If you need a work machine, this is a good option. And, thanks to its size, it offers a full keyboard. This will be especially handy if you often work with numbers since the number row is not nearly as easy to use as the number pad.

Best Specs: Acer Aspire 3 A315

Acer knows how to give consumers what they want: a budget laptop with high-performance internal components. In the case of the Acer Aspire 3 A315, a bit of cost is saved by going with a 15.6" HD screen instead of Full HD, but that cost-saving decision makes for some really great internals.

Inside, the Aspire 3 A315 packs a recent Intel Core i5-7200U dual-core processor paired with 6GB of DDR4 memory and a 256GB SSD. For productivity, those specs should feel pretty good. You may even be able to get a bit of light gaming in with integrated Intel HD Graphics 620, since the HD resolution won’t be as hard to output as Full HD would be.

While we appreciate the balance this machine strikes between its processor, RAM, storage, and display, a few laptops on our list concentrate more on the specs of single areas of performance. So, depending on what type of performance you’re looking for, our Best Value or Best for Business picks may actually be more suited, but the Acer Aspire 3 A315 offers good all-around performance.

Best Value: HP Pavilion 15z

If you're looking for speed, capacity, design, features, and price, HP’s Pavilion 15z Touch pretty much delivers on all counts. The design is sleek, with a simple yet polished look complemented by an all-metal finish. Plus, at it's regular price point, there's enough wiggle room in your under-$500 budget to fit in a few upgrades where needed.

The base model includes a 15.6" HD touch display, an AMD Ryzen 3 2200U processor with Vega 3 Graphics, 8GB of DDR4 memory, and 1TB of storage on a hard drive. For a budget computer, these specs are quite impressive. Just keep in mind that as such, the price of this laptop can fluctuate, so keep an eye out for sales to get the best price.

Starting with the base model, you could still stay under $500 while upgrading to a quad-core Ryzen 3 2300U, upgrading to a Full HD IPS display, or adding backlighting to the keyboard. There’s plenty of room for even greater upgrades to the storage, memory, and processor, but expect those to push it past the $500 mark, so choose wisely if you choose to go this route.

Runner-Up, Best Value: Acer Aspire E 15

Another computer offering an excellent balance of modern hardware, performance headroom, features, and price is the Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-576-392H). Though hitting its budget price means there’s a lot of plastic to be found, some of it has been given a metallic appearance for a classier look.

Inside, the machine delivers an Intel Core i3-8130U processor. Given its low price, it’s nice to see such a modern CPU. That processor is paired with 6GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory and a 1TB hard drive. Both the memory and hard drive are stored inside an easily accessible compartment, so if you want to upgrade them, you can. There’s even a DVD-RW drive included.

Continuing to surprise us at this price point is the Acer Aspire's 15.6" display (hitting Full HD resolution) and the inclusion of 802.11ac Wi-Fi along with an all-day battery, a USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 3.0 ports, and an SD card reader.

Best for Portability: Microsoft Surface GO

Microsoft nails portability and design with the 2-in-1 Surface Go. It takes Microsoft’s stunning Surface Pro design language and packs it into a small and light form that weighs just 1.15 pounds and features a 10" touchscreen. That means excellent portability, so you can take your work — or your entertainment — with you more easily since the Surface Go has a sharp 1800 x 1200 display with a tight 217 pixels per inch.

The budget model of the Surface Go comes with a Pentium Gold 4415Y processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC memory. Anyone looking for serious performance or productivity is likely not going to be impressed with that. But, for casual users focused on portability more than anything else, it should suffice.

The Surface Go doesn’t come with a Microsoft’s Type Cover, but you can add one to your shopping list while still sticking to your under-$500 budget, or you can go for an affordable Bluetooth keyboard.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 79 hours testing four of the most popular laptops available. We asked our testers to consider the most important factors — from the overall value to the individual features — when using these laptops and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Laptop Under $500

Form factor - Laptops have become so versatile that it’s almost hard to classify them. There are laptops, Chromebooks, netbooks, and 2-in-1s that convert into tablets. Laptops are standard clamshell computers, while Chromebooks are often a bit smaller and only run the Chrome OS and cloud-based apps. A netbook is even more portable, while a 2-in-1 is a laptop that transforms into a tablet. If you’re looking for a device to power your professional work, a laptop will probably do the trick. However, if you’re a student that will be taking a lot of notes, a detachable screen plus a tablet pen can double as a digital notepad.

Operating system - Some people are simply Apple people through and through and that’s perfectly fine. However, they’ll wind up paying a premium for all their products. If you’re not dead set on buying a Mac, and are happy with Windows, the price comes down while the number of your options goes up. Plus Windows has some amazing features for business users that will blow the Mac OS out of the water.

Screen quality - Whether you’re watching movies or just working in Excel, a high-quality screen still makes all the difference. The more pixels, the more content you can fit on-screen, and the sharper it will look. Many budget devices offer a standard 1366 x 768 screen, but if you can afford it, try to buy something with at least a 1920 x 1080 resolution, also known as Full HD.

Test Results: ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6" (Best Overall)


What We Like

  • Very portable

  • Great value

  • Impressive battery life

What We Don’t Like

  • Limited features

  • Screen on the smaller side

ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02
ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02
ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02

The ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6" received good ratings from our testers because it’s a no-nonsense laptop that you can depend on. “This is a great option for everything you need: online access, writing accessibility, and some extras,” one person said. Another tester described this model as “basic” but noted that she thought that was a good thing: “This is not a sleek, stylish Mac,” she said. “It’s no frills and gets the job done.” The battery also gets an A from our testers with one reviewer commenting, “For school, I'm positive this computer would last a full day and likely still have time for homework back at home.” Testers also say you’ll notice the laptop’s durability as soon as you hold it in your hands.

Test Results: 2018 Lenovo ideapad 320 15.6" (Best for College Students)


What We Like

  • Large size

  • Good video quality

  • Extremely fast and responsive

What We Don’t Like

  • Cheap build

  • Subpar audio quality

2018 Lenovo ideapad
2018 Lenovo ideapad
2018 Lenovo ideapad
2018 Lenovo ideapad
2018 Lenovo ideapad

“I think it's the perfect computer to use when curled in bed watching Netflix or a DVD,” one of our reviewers said about her experience with the Lenovo ideapad. “I could see my teenage cousin enjoying it — it's attractive, has a 'cool factor,' and his laptop needs are relatively limited.” The low price is felt in the quality of the build, according to one Lifewire tester, who thought like the screen and the keys definitely felt “budget.” She did add, however, “From a processing perspective, it runs similarly to a more expensive model.”

Test Results: HP - 15.6” Touch-Screen Laptop (Best Touchscreen)


What We Like

  • Useful touchscreen

  • Tons of storage

  • Customization options

What We Don’t Like

  • Poor battery life

  • Touchpad lacks quality

HP Touch-Screen Laptop
HP Touch-Screen Laptop
HP Touch-Screen Laptop
HP Touch-Screen Laptop
HP Touch-Screen Laptop

One Lifewire reviewer summed up his experience with the laptop by saying, “In its price range, it’s much better than the products I’ve used before.” He thought this model had great value for the price. Our testers also appreciated this laptop’s storage capacity — 1 TB. You can certainly store a lot of photos, videos, or music with that amount of space. The only downsides? One person felt that the laptop was a little “heavy” and he said the touchpad doesn’t work as smoothly as a Mac’s.

Test Results: HP Notebook 15 (Best Budget)


What We Like

  • Solid screen quality

  • Lightweight

  • Great speed

What We Don’t Like

  • Inexpensive-feeling build

  • Long setup

  • Pop-ups for software trials

HP Notebook 15
HP Notebook 15
HP Notebook 15

“It has a nice 15-inch display, the processor is decent, and it has a fair amount of RAM for an under-$500 laptop,” one of our testers said about the HP Notebook 15. Our reviewers thought this laptop performed well, but they deducted most of their points for the setup process. One person was irked that she had to sign up for an email address during the process. Fortunately, she went on to say, “Once it was set up, it seems pretty responsive and browsing the Web is fine.” Another reviewer remarked on the physical feel of the laptop, describing it as “plastic-y” compared to other models. Overall, our testers noticed that laptops that fell into the budget category — like this one — had cheaper-feeling builds, but that it didn’t affect performance.

Our Process

Our writers spent 10 hours researching the most popular laptops under $500. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 60 different laptops, screened options from 11 different brands and manufacturers, and read over 100 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.