Best Laptops for $500 or Less

Consumer Reports' testing finds inexpensive models from HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft

A woman uses one of the best laptops for $500 or less.

Can you find a decent laptop for less than $500? Absolutely—as long as you’re not expecting cutting-edge performance or sleek, stylish design.

Laptops such as the HP Pavilion and Lenovo IdeaPad pack enough power to handle such tasks as editing text and spreadsheets, browsing the web, and streaming video, and they cost less than half what you’d spend on a MacBook Pro or the latest LG Gram.

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They may not have the highest-end specs or the hippest design features, but if your computing needs are more ground beef than filet mignon, they’re a compelling option.

Of course, if you’re not too tied to Windows, you might consider a Chromebook, which uses Google’s Chrome OS operating system and relies heavily on web-based apps, such as Google Docs, to keep costs low.

Every year, our labs test dozens of laptops—from budget picks to high-powered gaming models—rating them on such metrics as performance, portability, and ergonomics. Here are a few options, listed in order of increasing size, that can handle most computing chores without breaking the bank.

Microsoft Surface Go

At 10 inches, this one is modest in size but it gets you the two-in-one benefits of Microsoft’s widely sold Surface laptop line for about $500.

The touch screen—which functions on its own as a tablet—costs $400, and the optional keyboard/protective cover starts at $100.

(We opted for the $130 Surface Go Signature Type cover on the model we tested. If you want to save money, you can forgo the cover altogether and use almost any wired or wireless keyboard in its place.)

Under the hood, this Surface Go features a lower-end Intel Pentium processor (yes, Pentium is now one of Intel’s budget processors), 4 gigabytes of memory, and 64GB of storage.

As our testers noted, the device was a little slow to complete certain tasks, including launching apps and editing photos, and the keyboard felt a bit cramped. But if you’re primarily interested in checking Gmail, posting items on Facebook, and keeping your finances in check with Excel, it will generally serve you well.

Microsoft plans to launch a slew of new Surface devices before the end of 2019. While an updated Surface Go isn't among them, there’s a decent chance you’ll be able to find a deal as stores clear out old inventory, especially once Black Friday and Cyber Monday roll around.

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