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Best Laptops for $500 or Less

Consumer Reports' testing uncovers inexpensive models that get the job done

Can you actually find a decent laptop for less than $500?

Absolutely—as long as you're not expecting cutting-edge performance or a design that will turn heads at the local Starbucks.

The sub-$500 laptops listed below aren't the most powerful computers on the market, but they're more than capable of handling the kind of everyday tasks—sifting through email, shopping online, video chatting over Skype—that many consumers want in a laptop.

Check out all the laptops and desktops in our computer buying guide. And find the best router for your home.

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1
Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA-DHM4

Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA-DHM4

This Asus Chromebook Flip earns high marks from our testers in part due to excellent performance in everyday tasks and a battery that lasts just shy of 10 hours. That's long enough to get you through the workday with enough juice left over to wind down with a few YouTube videos. A 12.5-inch touch screen—not huge but not too small, either—and a comfortable keyboard just add to the value.

 

Some consumers may expect the 64GB of onboard storage to be a bit limiting, but that's where Chrome OS comes in. This laptop uses Google's web-centric operating system instead of Windows, which means the bulk of your work will take place inside web apps like Google Docs and Microsoft Word Online, negating the need for a ton of onboard storage.

 

An alternative to the Chromebook Flip could be the HP Chromebook 11, which can be found for a little less than $200 but has a smaller display (11 inches vs. the Flip's 12.5), one that isn't a touch screen. The computer also has a slightly slower CPU.

    2
    Acer Spin 1 SP111-31-C2W3

    Acer Spin 1 SP111-31-C2W3

    This particular Acer Spin 1 model is becoming more difficult to find at stores, but it's worth the effort. At around $250, it's among the least expensive ways to experience Windows 10.

     

    Our testers found a lot to like about this 11.6-inch laptop, including an Intel processor speedy enough to handle everyday tasks like web browsing and word processing, a comfortable keyboard, and a battery that lasts more than 14 hours per day.

     

    On the other hand, the solid-state drive (SSD) with just 32GB of storage space may be a tight squeeze for some consumers, and the relatively small 4GB of RAM means you probably won't be able to run too many programs at the same time. But the computer does very well considering its low price.

     

    A newer version of the Spin 1, which adds a slightly faster CPU and doubles the storage capacity to 64GB, may be a little easier to find in stores but costs around $380. It has not been tested by Consumer Reports yet.

      3
      Asus VivoBook E403NA-US21

      Asus VivoBook E403NA-US21

      Weighing just over 3 pounds, this Asus Vivobook is among the lighter sub-$500 laptops Consumer Reports has tested. That's useful if you intend to carry your laptop to and from the office (even if that office is just a local cafe) or even from room to room at home.

       

      In addition to its light weight, our testers also praised this Vivobook's screen. Matte displays like the Vivobook's are somewhat rare among laptops these days, but they're helpful in reducing glare if you use the laptop outdoors a lot or in a room with bright, harsh lighting.

       

      The computer's 128GB of SSD storage should be plenty, particularly for consumers who make generous use of cloud storage options. But the fact that you only get 4GB of RAM will limit the number of programs or browser tabs you can have open at any one time.

        4
        Dell Inspiron i3567-3465BLK

        Dell Inspiron i3567-3465BLK

        One of the biggest PC makers around, Dell builds quality computers at a range of prices. This Inspiron model, which has a roomy 15.6-inch display, can be found online for around $350.

         

        Consumer Reports testers were more than impressed with this Dell, noting that it was among the fastest models in its category. That means everyday tasks like browsing the web, sorting through digital photos, and having Skype chats with your dorm-dwelling daughter should be a piece of cake.

         

        At just under 5 pounds, this laptop is also light enough to tote to the local coffee shop or library.

         

        Stores are beginning to swap this model out with a newer version that has a slightly faster CPU and additional RAM and storage space. Consumer Reports has not yet tested that model, which costs around $450.

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          Nicholas Deleon

          I've been covering consumer electronics for more than 10 years for publications like TechCrunch, The Daily (R.I.P.), and Motherboard. When I'm not researching or writing about laptops or headphones I can likely be found obsessively consuming news about FC Barcelona, replaying old Super Nintendo games for the hundredth time, or chasing my pet corgi Winston to put his harness on so we can go for a walk. Follow me on Twitter (@nicholasadeleon).