Many laptops cost less than $ 500, but it’s hard to find one that doesn’t totally stink. If you want a cheap laptop that you really like to use, we recommend the Asus Chromebook C425TA on any Windows laptop of similar price. After researching hundreds of laptops and testing eight, we discovered that the C425 has a comfortable keyboard, a responsive trackpad and enough battery to last a full day of work or classes. It is faster than Windows laptops in tasks for which most people use laptops: surf the Web (even with lots of tabs open), basic text processing and watch movies. And it is free of the bloatware that slows down laptops with Windows.
Chromebooks do not run Windows, and most tasks require you to be online, but you can use basic versions of Office applications in the browser if you need to take occasional work home, and Chrome OS has viable replacements (including applications from Android) for software that most people use. The Asus Chromebook C425TA is quite fast, with an Intel Core m3-8100Y processor, 64 GB of flash storage and 8 GB of memory, even more than Windows laptops in this price range. Its 14 inches 1920 x 1080 IPS screen looks boring and does not support touch, but is fine for documents and spreadsheets. In addition, the C425 is lightweight, compact and has a long battery life.
However, before buying the C425, check if the HP Chromebook x360 14 is for sale. It has a stronger body than the C425 and a brighter and more precise touch screen, but it is bigger and heavier. Its price fluctuates frequently between $ 400 and $ 600, and if it reaches below $ 500, it is the Chromebook that you should get.
If you need Windows applications or prefer to work offline, we recommend the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 TP412FA-OS31T because it is the best Windows laptop for less than $ 500. Its Intel Core i3-8145U processor, 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB Solid state storage is enough to handle common tasks, although you should not expect to be able to use Photoshop with Spotify and dozens of browser tabs open at the same time. Compared to the screens of other Windows laptops in this price range, the 14-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS touch screen is brighter and more enjoyable to watch, and the VivoBook Flip offers superior build quality and portability. But the trackpad is slippery and unreliable, and the battery of this laptop will not last a full day of work or a school day like the Asus Chromebook.
Like all cheap Windows laptops, the VivoBook Flip 14 comes with some unnecessary bloatware that take up space and slow down performance, although it’s not as bad as we expected. However, it also comes with Windows 10 in S mode, a version of Windows 10 that allows applications only from the Microsoft Store and limits it to Microsoft Edge for web browsing. You can change it to Windows 10 Home for free. The model we like is exclusive to Office Depot.
If the VivoBook Flip 14 is not available or needs longer battery life, get the Acer Swift 3 SF314-54-39BH. It has a similar Core i3-8130U processor and the same memory and storage as the VivoBook Flip, but it lacks a touch screen and backlit keyboard, it is not built as well and has a dimmer screen. It also carries much more bloatware and, like the VivoBook Flip, it comes with Windows 10 in S mode, although you can change it to Windows 10 Home. The trackpad is more reliable than the VivoBook Flip, but the laptop’s chassis is flexible enough to cause errant clicks of the trackpad if it is supported by it. Even with its failures, Swift 3 is a laptop with better performance than most other options in this price range.
Depending on how you use a computer, you may not need a laptop. An Apple iPad (7th generation, 32 GB) with a Bluetooth keyboard makes it a lighter and more portable system than any of our options. If you primarily browse the Web, write and take notes, an iPad provides a smoother and less painful experience than Windows options in this price category. But if you need to run more than two applications at once, work with specialized software or if you want a large screen, the iPad will not work for you.
If our selections are out of stock or increasing in price, check our purchase tips for budget laptops to ensure you get a laptop with which you will be satisfied. And if you can spend a little more, you will get a much more usable laptop that will last longer.