Power and Portability: The Best Laptops Under $500 for Work and Play

Best Laptop Under 500 Review
Best Laptop Under 500 Wordcloud

Remember the days when a laptop with decent features and a battery life longer than 90 minutes cost almost as much as a small home entertainment suite? It’s like they wanted you to pay extra for the portability while skimping on features that make the laptop a realized, viable alternative to a desktop home and work PC.

Those days are long numbered, and we couldn’t be gladder. With the meteoric rise of smartphones pairing functionality, digital convenience, and portability the competition is fierce among major manufacturers and independent start-ups alike to grab their slice of the once exclusive laptop market and bring to their consumers a more compelling alternative to what smartphones can do, without compromising on portability or affordability.

This means retailers from all corners of the market are rushing to push out the best laptops at affordable prices, which means it’s a great time to shop for a shiny new portable PC. Read on, and we’ll help you find the best laptops under $500.

Top-Rated Inexpensive Laptops - Comparison Table

HP Pavilion X360 2 In 1 13.3 Inches Touchscreen Premium Laptop
HP Pavilion X360 2-in-1 13.3" Touchscreen Premium Laptop
Under $500
  • Editors Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars
  • Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
HP Thin And Light EliteBook Premium Build G1
HP Thin and Light EliteBook Premium Build G1
Under $500
  • Editors Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
  • Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit
Acer Spin 5 3
Spin 5

Under $500
  • Editors Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Windows 10 Home
Dell 2017 Inspiron Touchscreen Laptop 2
Dell 2017 Inspiron Touchscreen Laptop

Under $500
  • Editors Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars
  • Windows 10
ASUS C100PA DB02 10.1 Inch Touch Chromebook Flip
ASUS C100PA-DB02 Touch Chromebook Flip

Under $500
  • Editors Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars
  • Chrome
HP Pavilion X360 2 In 1 13.3 Inches Touchscreen Premium Laptop

If you’re browsing around for a premium laptop and don’t mind ditching the DVD player for a lighter weight travel solution, then check out the HP Pavilion X360.

With its Intel Core i3-6100U processor and 6GB RAM, this laptop’s more than ready to make up for it by letting you stream all your favorite movies and shows online. Its spacious 13.3” touchscreen means a wide field of view, so you’re missing none of the action.

Its impressive average battery life of 8 continuous hours and max screen resolution of 1366x768 pixels means plenty of desktop space for all your apps and windows for multitasking, making this laptop an excellent choice for homework, and work-at-home purposes.

HP Pavilion X360 2 In 1 13.3 Inches Touchscreen Premium Laptop 3

But if you’re one of the few and the proud who still insists on a DVD player for the money, there’s always the option to score yourself a portable one -- just plug it into one of the X360’s two SuperSpeed USB 2.0 ports, and you’re ready to go.

And while you’re on the go, the X360’s front-facing TrueVision HD Webcam ensures you can stay in touch with the people who are important to you, be they family you’re missing at home, or your legion of clamoring YouTube fans waiting for you to upload your next vlog.

HP Thin And Light EliteBook Premium Build G1

Few big-name manufacturers can rival, let alone top the lasting power of a good HP computer, and the EliteBook G1 is no exception.

You might think Notebooks might be a blast from the past, but critics have been raving about the EliteBook’s solid suite of features, enhanced performance, battery longevity and staying power, and it looks like it’s won over the most recent round of Amazon buyer reviews as well.

The EliteBook wins high praise for its outstanding 15-hour (if you’re using it to run multiple applications simultaneously and/or graphics intensive processes, this goes down to 8) plus battery life via HP’s patented 3-cell Lithium-Ion polymer construction.

That makes this notebook perfect for college students or working professionals who demand nothing short of a workstation that’s not only mobile, but is also powerful enough to work as long and hard as they do.

HP Thin And Light EliteBook Premium Build G1 2

The EliteBook might be slim in dimensions, but it certainly doesn’t skimp on technology: this Notebook PC comes standard equipped with WLAN, allowing you to take it on the go and connect remotely to any Wi-Fi hotspot for fast, painless browsing and high-speed internet access.

If you rely on your laptop to keep in touch with your friends, family, business associates and diehard vlogging fans, then the EliteBook’s built-in 720p HD webcam is one feature that’s right up your alley.

And if you do vlog, stream, work with graphics, or edit your own multimedia, you’re going to need a lot of space to store your data on the go: the Elitebook gives you a generous half a terabyte (500GB) of hard drive storage space to do it in.

HP Thin And Light EliteBook Premium Build G1 3

To top it all off, the Elitebook is powered by an impressive Intel Core i3-4030U Processor clocking in at a splendid 2.4GHz, and 4GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM. Laptop aficionados of today demand nothing less, and it’s nice to know HP’s still a brand that’s not only keeping up with the times, but it's also giving those younger upstart companies a run for their money.

A built-in 14” LED-backlit BrightView screen with anti-glare display settings and a max resolution of 1366x768 pixels round out the Thin and Light’s impressive suite of features, making this one lightweight contender a true heavyweight champion of its class and a solid contender on our list of the best laptops under $500.

Acer Spin 5

Ever had to share office space with one of those guys who’s always showing off his latest tech gadgets? You know who I’m talking about:

The guy who’s always updating to the newest, shiniest piece of tech bling. The guy who really, really bought the pitch that Apple was going to bring back the watch (and sported a couple of models to boot -- on the same arm). The guy who wore a pair of Google Glasses wrapped around the back of his head like some misplaced Silicon Valley surfer dude, way before anyone really even knew what to think about Google Glass.

Yeah, that guy.

That guy everyone loves to hate, because everyone hates a show-off.

But beneath that seething veneer of scorn, one might sometimes have to wonder, what’s it like to be that guy, only you’d use your powers for good? With the Acer Spin 5, you could totally be that guy, only better.

And at a fraction of the cost of what that guy paid for Google Glass, without all the added baggage of owning a costly peripheral that careened out of style as soon as people figured out how creepy it was living in a world where strangers had the power to record video of you with their glasses.

Right, let’s move on.

There’s no way around saying it. The Acer Spin 5 is one tech toy that’s meant to be shown off. With its revolutionary 360 dual-torque hinges, the device is capable of being reshaped into 4 physical configurations.

Acer Spin 5 3

An A-framed tent position allows it to be stood upright, minimizing the device’s overall footprint while still taking advantage of its touchscreen tablet. It's perfect for when you’re on the go or need to work in close quarters, such as on a plane or on public transit, or when browsing your favorite online recipes as you’re tooling about the kitchen.

A quick pivot of the hinge turns it into a display that brings the screen fully forward, which makes it perfect for streaming your favorite movies or making presentations. An L-shaped configuration turns it into a notebook with a full-featured, backlit keyboard and touchpad, and its fully 360’ rotating screen means you could show off both your work and your sweet, sweet new notebook.

Or, if you’re in the mood to browse or bust into an intense Bejeweled marathon (hey, we won’t judge), just fold the keyboard panel all the way back, and your notebook turns into a sleek 13.3” full HD widescreen tablet with multi-touch screen inputs supporting up to an optimized 10-finger touch.

Of course, the Acer Spin 5 is not just a pretty face that swivels and pivots a full 360 degrees--wait, that got a little Exorcist there.

Acer Spin 5 2

What I mean is, it’s got some great processing chops underneath that stylish exterior...to the tune of 4GB DDR4 memory and a lightweight battery pack that’ll keep you swiping, touch-screening, streaming, and video chatting for up to 10 hours (8 if you happen to be doing all the above at the same time).

And its state of the art 892.11ac and MU-MIMO lets you stay connected to the fastest high wireless speed internet wherever you are, while you’re unplugged and on the go. Its 1920x1080 pixel maximum resolution means lots of generous wiggle room for all your applications, and was meant to stream video at comfortable distances.

At 13.3”, it’s perfectly sized and balanced for convenient carrying and widescreen display. Its brilliant full HD via its LED-backlit IPS display really makes a big splash. Get a carrying case for it to really accessorize your way to being the office hero.

Dell 2017 Inspiron Touchscreen Laptop 2

Let me be clear about one thing: I love my laptop. I take it everywhere with me: it’s my work-at-home station, my gaming rig, the knight in my technology chessboard. (Nerdy chess club reference, check.) But man, I do wish it had a touchscreen.

Touchpads just don’t do it for me; inevitably I graze a corner of them each time I lift my thumb off the spacebar and then I wonder why my mouse cursor is suddenly hovering dangerously near the close window button.

And while I could just pack around a USB mouse with me wherever I go, sometimes you need to deploy your workstation while on the road in transit, or in other quarters simply too tight to accommodate a mouse pad.

What I really find myself wanting these days is a touchscreen.

Enter the Dell 2017 Touchscreen Laptop. “But touchscreens belong on tablets,” tech purists might insist. Move aside, nerds. I want my touchscreen. And the Dell sports one heck of a touchscreen, too.

Dell 2017 Inspiron Touchscreen Laptop 3

Measuring in at 15.6 inches, this laptop’s a bit on the cumbersome side to lug around, but oh man, the payoff is huge. Literally huge. To the tune of a maximum screen resolution of 1366x768 HD pixels, with a touchscreen backlit with LED and fully equipped with a suite of hands-on controls, built right into the display.

Gone are the days of muscle memorizing your favorite desktop shortcuts, or pawing at the touchpad like a large and clumsy animal. Taking advantage of this gorgeous, multi-functional display is a powerful integrated Intel HD 620 graphics card and an impressive 7th Gen Intel Core i3-7100U.

Yup, you read that right: a state-of-the-art Intel core beats as the heart of the tiny powerhouse, all hidden beneath a sleek-as-can-be construction that’s as sexy as a sports car you can carry under your arm.

Sure, it’s meant to be a work rig. But why just go to work, when you can go to work and look this good doing it?

Dell 2017 Inspiron Touchscreen Laptop

Other hardware features include a surprising 1 terabyte high density hard drive that clocks a solid 5400rpm out of the box. Coupled with the 2017 touchscreen’s gorgeous 6GB of RAM, this laptop pretty much ensures on-screen responsiveness with all your swipes and user interactivity, with plenty of processing power to run all your favorite programs and apps, all for a fraction of the cost of a comparable desktop PC.

The only question you might be left with is why wait? Get yourself one of these and experience for yourself how smoothly Windows 10 runs the way it’s supposed to run: on an ultra responsive, efficient, and user-friendly touchscreen laptop.

ASUS C100PA DB02 10.1 Inch Touch Chromebook Flip

So, maybe I’m showing my age here, but I remember the days when flip-phones were all the rage.

Now, while flip-phones might only be seen in technology museums or in the hands of diehard grandparents who simply refuse to upgrade their cell phone plans, flip technology for laptops are completely different creatures. And it’s easy to see why they never really went out of style.

The C100PA Chromebook comes equipped with a swivel hinge that allows it to easily transition between two exceptionally useful modes: laptop, and tablet. The screen portion simply ‘flips’ back and snaps onto the back cover of the keyboard, transforming your notebook into an even more ultra space-saving tablet.

Even better, and true to form, Google’s hallmark user-friendly design and aesthetics are exemplified in the Chromebook’s visual interface.

The on-screen controls transition seamlessly from tablet mode to keyboard mode by switching intuitively from touchscreen to touchpad (or USB mouse) input, and vice versa, based on the physical configuration of the device, and without needing any additional prodding from you.

ASUS C100PA DB02 10.1 Inch Touch Chromebook Flip 2 3

And yes, the keyboard automatically disables itself when you switch to tablet mode, so no worries about making clunky unintentional keyboard inputs while you’re swiping.

As for other specs, the Chromebook’s no slouch: its processor is a Rockchip 3288-C Quadcore processor topping out at 1.8 GHz, and its 4GB DDR3 RAM means plenty of power to drive your favorite applications at top touchscreen response times.

It’s also one of the few laptops under $500 to sport Google’s proprietary Chrome OS, built with a touch interface in mind. And at 10.1-inches, the 1280x800 pixels maximizes the coverage of this thin and sleek device, outputting WXGA displays in high-quality color.

And topping it all off is its 802.11AC Wi-Fi adapter and Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility, making the Chromebook an excellent choice for anyone shopping for a powerful little laptop under $500.

Here’s something a straight-up list of specs can’t tell you: the Chromebook scores significant praise for its ease of software integration, with several users reporting how easy it was to transfer their old data and transition their favorite apps into Google OS.

ASUS C100PA DB02 10.1 Inch Touch Chromebook Flip 2

If you’ve owned a multi-configuration device before, no doubt one of your biggest concerns about the Chromebook is its durability: after all, a device whose main claim to fame is its ability to alter its physical orientation, then it’d better hold up to the wear and tear.

And from top user reviews, the Chromebook does just that: its case is made up of a remarkably durable, ultra-lightweight metal construction; the only plastic to be found is in the necessarily malleable parts of its hinge.

Overall, the Chromebook is a solid buy if you’re in the market for a laptop that’s remarkably portable and user-friendly.

It’s a steal at under $500; if you’re buying from Amazon, be sure to shop around for the right model from the right retailers, as this prize-worthy gem can often be listed with a much heftier price tag. (At the time of this writing, we’ve seen the Chromebook go for as little as $299 and change.)

The Takeaway

With the advent of smartphone technology, laptops have had to make giant leaps and bounds to stay relevant in an age where probability must come with absolutely no compromise to power.

Laptops these days are not only viable stand-ins for PCs, but altogether alternatives that can be used as a multipurpose workstation at home, as well as on the go.

We hope our guide to the best laptops under $500 has opened your eyes to how the marriage of beauty, power, and portability doesn’t have to break your budget.

But as with any purchase, the first and best payout comes from doing your research, reading reviews, and knuckling down to do some responsible budget planning. So, get out there, do some due diligence, and happy shopping!

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(Last Updated On: October 17, 2017)
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