The 8 Best Laptops to Buy in 2017 for Under $500

Find the best 2-in-1, design, portable laptop and more

It wasn’t long ago that the “under $500” batch of laptops were thought to cheaply made, with poor battery lives and underpowered processors. But in 2017, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and the current crop of fully loaded affordable laptops can make you wonder why you would even need to pay an arm and a leg for the latest gadget.

Over the past three years in particular, many people are now recognizing that the processing power on offer in modern budget laptops far exceeds their daily requirements. All of the laptops on our list can be used to browse the Internet, play high-definition movies and edit office documents without skipping a beat. For many consumers, this is more than enough.

From the sleek Asus VivoBook F555LA-AB31 to the Asus Transformer Book T300CHI that will double as a tablet, here are the best laptops under $500. 

The Asus F556UA-AB32's sleek black matte finish feels much more premium than its price point would suggest. It runs on Windows 10 and includes a 2.3 GHz Intel Core i3 processor, a 15.6-inch screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution, one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port and one USB3.1 Type C port. The 802.11ac wireless capability means that you'll have super fast Internet connectivity, while the 4 GB of RAM and 1,000 GB hard drive will allow you to store plenty of files, songs and movies. One of the downsides is that the laptop weighs 5.1 pounds, but all things considered it delivers the oomph you're looking for in the under $500 space. Plus, the price includes a one-year international warranty with one-year accidental damage protection, just in case you drop it or spill something on it.

If our overall winner doesn’t strike your fancy, turning your eye to the HP Pavilion x360 might be a good idea. Released at the tail end of summer 2016, the newest generation of the X360 introduces a well-performing machine at a sub-$500 price point. The 13.3-inch HD IPS 1366 x 76-pixel display is paired with a 6th generation Intel Core i3 2.3GHz processor, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. At 3.6 pounds, the x360 is still portable even as it adds a full chassis to turn the display a full 360-degrees to enter tablet mode.

Featuring Windows 10, the x360 offers a full range of capabilities and power that you’d expect from a higher-priced machine. The combination of the processor and RAM provide plenty of horsepower to run multiple tabs in any browser alongside streaming music and Word processing. When it comes to all that work, the x360 offers just over 6.5 hours of battery life, which is lower than the ultraportable average, but a tradeoff for a 2-in-1 machine that offers above-average display and a solidly built frame.

The TrueVision HD webcam takes color-accurate photos while including digital microphones that are perfect for Skype phone calls. Additionally, HP has included multi-touch gesture support with the touchpad that pairs nicely with the keyboard, and it feels as sturdy as the computer itself. Unfortunately, Amazon’s write-up notes the x360 includes Ethernet support, but early reviews have said this is not accurate.

Competition in the Windows 10 2-in-1 space heats up more and more every day, but it’s the Asus Transformer Book T300CHI that steals the spotlight. The inclusion of a fan-less Intel Core M processor, full-size keyboard cover and 12.5-inch 1080p touchscreen display offers exceptional value. The T300 comes with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, as well as Windows 8.1. At 12.38" x 7.52" x .63" and 1.59 pounds, the T300 offers no additional ports save for the microUSB charging opening. When you attach the keyboard, the aluminum-based T300 build jumps to 3.2 pounds all while feeling far more expensive than its actual asking price.

As a 2-in-1, the 1920 x 1080 touchscreen display showcases clear and crisp text and offers a fantastic movie-viewing experience, while the included SonicMaster speakers are good enough for traditional use. The six hours of battery life means t’s a good idea to keep a charger nearby if you’re on the road.

If budget is your chief concern and you’re willing to make a few sacrifices, the Asus E402MA may be the laptop for you. It is one of the cheapest notebooks out there, yet it still sports a 14” display capable of a 1366 x 768 resolution, 64-bit Windows 10 operating system, full-size keyboard and a battery capable of running for around seven hours between charges.

The 32 GB hard drive is a bit tight, especially considering Windows 10 alone will take up nearly half of that space, and with only 2 GB of ram you’re not going to be able to run more than one or two applications concurrently without noticing a slowdown in responsiveness. Consider the E402MA just enough computer to get the job done, but excellent value for money.

When it comes to creative work on a laptop, finding a machine that handles day-to-day work can be challenging until you find the Acer Aspire E-15. Powered by a 6th generation Intel Core i5 2.8GHz processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD drive, the Acer brings more than enough power to the table to handle applications such as Photoshop or video editing. Additionally, the inclusion of a NVIDIA GeForce 940MX graphics card with 2GB of independent memory will aid in both entertainment and productivity needs.  

All this work is done on a 15.6-inch full HD 1366 x 768-pixel matte display which helps reduce glares and reflections. Utilizing an external mouse to aid in more fine-grain Photoshopping is welcomed thanks to a bevy of ports, including one USB 3.1 Type C, two USB 3.0 and an SD slot. As a bonus, you’ll even find a DVD drive, though it could have been removed to make the Acer slightly lighter. At 5.3 pounds, the Acer is no Ultrabook and even though it has a 12-hour battery life, there’s still a good chance this computer isn’t moving from a desk.

For the creative types that focus on editing video, the inclusion of Acer’s TrueHarmony speakers offers a rich audio experience that helps limit audio distortion and includes enough volume to fill a room. And if you’re working remotely, the HD webcam will help you jump on Skype and talk to your colleagues or clients anywhere in the world.

The Lenovo Ideapad has modest specs but head-turning looks at one of the most attractive price points on the market. The design makes this laptop look as good something five times the price. The smooth case is sleek and colorful, a bold red that will set it apart from the sea of silver and black laptops populating most coffee shops. The flexible hinges compensate for a less-than stellar screen, and at 2.2 pounds it is incredibly light for a budget laptop.

It also comes with Windows 10 pre-installed, which is something else that sets it apart from other laptops. The humble Intel Atom Chip and 2 GB of RAM aren’t going to handle too much, but if you are looking for basic productivity like Word processing and web browsing, you will be satisfied. Unfortunately, it lacks 802.11ac WiFi and doesn’t have an ethernet plug, so be patient with Internet speeds. But on the plus side, it has an 11-hour battery life per charge.

Powered by Windows 10 and an Intel Celeron N3050 processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, the Acer Aspire One 11.6-Inch Cloudbook isn’t going to win any power awards, but that’s OK. It's still one of the best laptops out there if you're on a tight budget. Constructed of a black plastic, the material feels more solid than it looks, but remains a little boring overall. The 11.6” display offers 1366 x 768-pixel resolution, which is pretty standard for a budget-priced computer. The display does not support touch, but is more than good enough for everyday use, including Web surfacing, typing up Word documents and watching Netflix.

The modest components and performance make this a fantastic secondary machine or a great introductory computer for someone with minimal computing needs. Competitively, at this price range, the Cloudbook might best match up against Google’s Chrome OS. And while there are some tradeoffs including a slightly heftier 2.5-pound weight, Acer includes a full one-year subscription to Office 365 and two years of 100GB OneDrive storage.

Microsoft’s Surface 3 has the perfect combination of power, portability and popularity. The magnesium-alloy body holds a 10.8-inch 1920 x 1280 display, Intel Atom Z8700 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 64GB flash storage drive. The Intel Atom processor can’t match up to the Pro’s Intel Core-series, but it offers more than enough speed to perform all the daily tasks you want and then some. With Windows 10 on board out of the box, it’s pretty much “touch” and go right when you receive the Surface 3 in the mail.  

Microsoft has positioned the Surface 3 as a tablet that can replace your laptop and portability is a central piece of that argument. At 1.37 pounds before the keyboard, the Surface 3 feels premium and now includes a more user-friendly Micro-USB charging port. The adjustable kickstand on the rear works at three separate angles. Perhaps the lone drawback of the Surface 3 is the separate purchase of the keyboard.

Portability aside, the Surface 3 retains a slew of ports to help you not miss a beat while traveling, including a microSD card reader for extra storage and MiniDisplay port for connection to a larger monitor. Microsoft includes a one-year subscription to Office 365 alongside a bevy of other applications that are must-haves. Additionally, with 10 hours of battery life, there’s enough juice for a full day at work and Netflix at night. 


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