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The best cheap laptops of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed

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Let’s face it: with an ever-rising cost of living, the last thing you want to throw your money at is overpriced tech. If you’re in the market for a new laptop but you’re on a budget, don’t sweat — there’s a wide range of sub-$500 laptop and Chromebook options that will get you plenty of bang for your buck, and you don’t have to sacrifice a lot of performance to get there.

Also: The best cheap laptops under $350

Through our hands-on testing, we considered performance, battery life, functionality, and features to compile this list of solid laptops, but made even better when the price is right. We found that the best laptop below $500 is the Acer Aspire Go 15 for its long-lasting battery, 15-inch display, and incredible bang for your buck for just $300.

Best laptops under $500

Acer Aspire Go 15

Best laptop under $500 overall

Our price ceiling for this list is $500, but the Acer Aspire Go 15 is the best laptop for much less. For just $300, this is a capable laptop that is ideal for anyone on a budget. Not everyone needs a powerful laptop decked out in high-end hardware, especially if you have a desktop as a primary computer. And for a portable notebook built to cover the basics, it doesn’t get much more affordable than this. 

The Acer Aspire Go 15 has half the amount of RAM and memory as our overall best-rated Chromebook, the HP Dragonfly Pro. Still, it’s a third of the cost, making it a tremendous bang-for-buck device or secondary laptop for use on the go. 

Review: Acer Aspire Go 15

This laptop is ideal for work or business students, as the 15-inch screen gives enough room for working with spreadsheets and productivity software, whereas the full keyboard features a number pad on the right side. Add a webcam, a good selection of ports, and a Kensington lock slot, and you have a laptop with all your bases covered.

Acer Aspire Go 15 tech specs: Price: $300 | Processor: Intel Core i3-N305 | GPU: Integrated Intel UHD | Display: 15-inch | Storage: 8GB memory, 125GB SSD | Battery: Up to 11 hours | Weight: 3.75lbs

Acer Aspire Go 15

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HP 17 Laptop

Best laptop with a 17″ display under $500

This HP 17 laptop provides robust performance, a generous display size, and plenty of storage for around $400. At 17.3 inches, this screen is one of the biggest you can have on a laptop, and with a 1600 x 900 HD Plus resolution, you can stream, game, and surf the web with pristine quality. 

Also: The best 17-inch laptops 

An advanced 256 GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD promises speeds that are 15x faster than a traditional hard drive. The 4GB of DDR4 RAM with a higher bandwidth also boosts performance to an already stellar laptop. 

Lastly, this HP 17 laptop features a battery with up to eight hours of life and HP Fast Charge capabilities that can charge the device from 0 to 50% in about 45 minutes. 

HP 17 Laptop tech specs: Price: $350 | Processor: Intel Core i3 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics | Display: 17.3″ | Storage: 4GB RAM, 256GB storage capacity | Battery: 8 hours | Weight: 3.67lbs

HP 17 laptop against a gray background

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HP Chromebook Plus x360

Best 2-in-1 around $500

The Chromebook Plus series has proven to be an excellent range for the HP brand. All the laptops offer outstanding hardware performance and various features, and the Chromebook Plus x360 is no exception. Although this laptop is currently over $500, it is very affordable for a 2-in-1 device with a robust 12th Gen Intel Core i3 processor that allows the computer to handle more demanding tasks and to run more apps at the same time effectively than previous models.

Review: HP Chromebook Plus x360

Combine the superior performance of the Chromebook Plus x360 with its inherently flexible nature, and you will have a competent work machine. The ability to flip the display around and turn the device into a tablet is a handy function, as the Plus computers are among the first Chromebooks to support Photoshop on the web. Combine this with a solid physical build that can withstand a few bumps and bangs and a surprisingly good battery, and you have a tablet/laptop 2-in-1 that costs a little more but is worth every penny.

HP Chromebook Plus x360 tech specs: Price: $699 | Processor: Intel Core i3 12th Gen | GPU: Integrated Intel UHD | Display: 14″ touchscreen | Storage: 8GB RAM, 256GB storage capacity | Battery: Up to 10.5 hours | Weight: 3.34lbs

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Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i

Best laptop under $500 for creatives

In October of last year, Google announced its Chromebook Plus line – a new generation of laptops sporting more powerful hardware and better displays than older models. Of these, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus is a niche option, but one that I would argue is better than the generic models when put into the hands of the correct user. 

Review: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i

Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 5i is a surprisingly good laptop for creatives that looks like something several hundred dollars more expensive. Photographers and visual designers will love the 14-inch touchscreen display that can be flipped 180 degrees, turning the Chromebook into a tablet, and images look great on the 1920 x 1200 resolution screen.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i tech specs: Price: $500 | Processor: Intel 13th Generation Core i3 | GPU: Integrated Intel UHD | Display: 14″ LCD, 60Hz, 300 nits brightness | Storage: 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD | Battery: Up to 10 hours | Webcam: 1080p | Weight: 3.52 lbs

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Acer Aspire 5 A515-45-R74Z Slim Laptop

Best laptop under $500 for gaming

You may often see Twitch streamers gaming with their enormous PC towers, RGB lights, and advanced keyboards. But you don’t need to pump thousands of dollars into your setup to get a high-quality gaming experience. This Acer Aspire 5 laptop is a solid laptop powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor that can handle most mid-range games. 

However, this laptop can do more than just run your favorite games — it’s also an outstanding laptop for school and professional work. With two built-in microphones and an HD webcam, you can complete your meetings in high quality. Additionally, you can plug in all your accessories with three USB ports, an HDMI port, an ethernet port, and a USB-C port.

Acer Aspire 5 A515-45-R74Z tech specs: Price: $438 | Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 5500u | GPU: Integrated AMD Radeon | Display: 15.6″ LED, 60Hz | Storage: 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD | Battery: Up to 11 hours | Webcam: 1080p | Weight: 3.88 lbs

Acer Aspire laptop against a gray background

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Laptops are a give-and-take of features and price points; knowing which features you prioritize and which are less critical will help you select the right laptop. If you’re looking for a big screen because you plan on using your laptop for media consumption, it might be worth sacrificing some RAM to get there (like the HP 17 Laptop in this list).

Price, screen size, and memory are three features that can be helpful to compare at a glance and help differentiate the five laptops on this list. 

Laptop

Price

Screen size

Memory / Storage

Acer Aspire Go 15

$300

15″

8GB, 128GB

HP 17 Laptop

$350

17.3″

4GB, 256GB

HP Chromebook x360

$699

14″ touchscreen

‎8 GB, 256GB

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i

$500

14″

8GB, 128GB

Acer Aspire 5

$438

15.6″

8GB, 256GB

We know that buyers consider many factors before deciding which laptop to purchase. But with so many different uses for laptops today, finding the perfect one for you can be tricky.

Here’s a quick description of each one to help you make your decision.

Choose this laptop…

If you want…

Acer Aspire Go 15

A competent laptop for an unbeatable price. If you’re a casual laptop user who needs standard ports and features, you can’t go wrong here.

HP 17 Laptop

An affordable laptop with a generous 17″ display. If you like quick charging, need a little more SSD, and want a beautiful display, this laptop will get the job done.

HP Chromebook Plus x360

A premium Chromebook that offers a 2-in-1 user experience. If having a tablet and a laptop in one device is important to you, the Plus x260 offers that for less money.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i

A laptop designed with creators in mind that won’t break the bank. If you want a touchscreen display and high resolution, this laptop is for you.

Acer Aspire 5

A cheap gaming laptop with great specs. If you’re looking for a capable gaming laptop without spending thousands, consider this option.

We get the chance to go hands-on with dozens of laptops a year here at ZDNET, so narrowing down the top five for this selection of use cases was no easy task. That said, we chose the five machines that satisfied the broadest potential and would resonate with the most significant number of consumers. 

Laptops and Chromebooks under $500 occupy a particular niche within the market, and manufacturers are getting more thoughtful about squeezing only the most desired features into machines while keeping other elements that bloat the cost out entirely. In that vein, these laptops are well-optimized to work within their limitations and are advertised as such to the consumer. 

As with everything else, you get what you pay for. If you want a laptop with all the bells, whistles, and advanced specs, you will likely have to spend at least $700. The laptops designed for strenuous workloads such as video editing, 3D animation or rendering, or hardcore gaming will come with next-gen hardware that isn’t cheap. But if you’re looking for a laptop capable of surfing the web, playing media, and getting you through a day of work, all of the selections on this list are capable machines, able to take on the demands of the average user with ease. 

With so many tech companies producing entry-level laptops at a relatively low cost, there’s a lot of competition, which is a good thing for consumers. You’re unlikely to see an Apple MacBook under $500. Still, manufacturers that make Chromebooks and entry-level laptops, such as HP, Acer, Lenovo, and Dell, have the most outstanding selection of machines under $500.

As I mentioned above, competition is abundant at such a low price for laptops, so narrowing this list down to just six was tough. The above laptops are the best on the market regarding cost and functionality, but if you’re looking for more options, here are some noteworthy alternatives to consider.

Lenovo Flex 3i

This touchscreen laptop offers an abundance of ports, a decent processor, and high levels of functionality.

The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3i in tent mode

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