First, we have to admit that the best laptops under $500 are never powerhouses, and may not be used to run heavy applications such as the ones used at studios for photo editing or programming by developers. However, they are powerful enough for online surfing, email, typing, social networking, movie viewing, and several tasks that freelancers do apart from huge video editing and programming. Some models can play basic games. Despite their poor CPU speed, these laptops should be able to accomplish basic computer activities. For everything else, greater resolution screens, gaming power, and longer battery life are nice to have but not essential.
Considerations for a budget laptop
Buying a laptop under $500 requires compromise. But where to create them matters. These are the areas where you can save money and where you shouldn’t.
Though you won’t get a flagship CPU at this price, your CPU choice will have the most influence on PC performance, so don’t go cheap or outdated.
You need an Intel 11th or 12th-generation CPU or an AMD Ryzen 4000, 5000, or 6000. Intel Celeron and AMD Athlon CPUs are cheaper, yet they perform well for specific tasks. If possible, use a Ryzen 5 or Intel Core i5 design. A quad-core CPU is best for multitasking, although a dual-core is sufficient.
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System RAM should be at least 8GB. Many manufacturers provide 4GB of RAM for less than $500. Just be aware that less RAM slows and responds to the system.
If you’re gaming, a laptop with a dedicated GPU is the golden grail. It’s rare at this pricing, thus none of the models above do. You need competent onboard graphics. AMD’s Vega and RDNA2 GPUs are superior, while Intel’s 11th and 12th-generation CPUs include Iris Xe graphics, which is a good option. Intel’s older UHD graphics are suitable for older esports and indie games, although performance is worse than on current ones.
SSDs are the best storage for quick startup times and responsive programs. At this price, 256GB of storage is plenty for the operating system, programs, and a few films and games. Most sub-$500 laptops offer 128GB of storage, which fills quickly. Chromebooks employ slower eMMC flash storage.
Laptop display size depends on its use. Bigger displays are better for heavy works like programming and movies, but they drain battery life quicker and cost more, so you’ll sacrifice more on a laptop under $500, particularly a gaming laptop. Smaller sizes like 15.6-inch and 14-inch provide a good balance between price, battery life, and performance. At this price range, 1080p is ideal, although 720p is OK for smaller displays.
Most of the finest $500 laptops last 10 hours. More is wonderful, but less might seem restricting, particularly while using the laptop on the run. Make sure your laptop can last the number of hours you’ll be away from a power source so you don’t have to keep plugging it in.
Bigger laptops weigh more, which isn’t a problem if you’re using it as a desktop replacement or in static areas, but it may be if you’re carrying it about all day. Most computers under $500 weigh 3–4 pounds, making them portable.
Expectations for best laptops under $500
Small under $500 computers are usually just powerful enough for email, online browsing, word processing, basic freelance tasks, and music and video streaming. These ultra-low-cost PCs may be able to edit photos, and videos, or play games, but anticipate slow performance due to restricted processing power, graphics, and system memory.
Thus, a cheap laptop computer won’t be able to run apps that demand a lot of computing power, or it will execute them slowly. If you buy one of these $500 laptops, have reasonable expectations for its capabilities. A laptop capable of huge picture editing and other processing-intensive activities costs at least $700 to $1,000 due to the heavy apps used in such works. The cheapest MacOS-based MacBook Air with Apple’s M1 CPU costs $999. So make the best choice for yourself.