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Best Laptops for $500 or Less

Believe it or not, you can find a cheap laptop that suits your needs

Hard as it is to imagine, it is possible to buy a decent laptop for $500.

They do exist.

These low-priced laptops might lack an ultra-high-definition screen or the gaming power of a $1,000 flagship PC, but if you'rewilling to compromise on screen size and performance, these best laptops for $500 or less are more than up to the task of email correspondence, web browsing, photo editing, and video streaming.

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

Microsoft Surface 3

Microsoft Surface 3

Microsoft's Surface line is all about versatility—providing the functionality of a laptop and a tablet to those who want both options in one device. With this third-generation 2-in-1 model, the manufacturer provides a lot of value at a nice price.

Thin and light, the 10.8-inch, 4G-capable computer has an excellent display. The full-fledged Windows operating system is a step up from what you normally find in a comparably priced Windows RT or a Chromebook. And the battery lasts a good 10 hours.

Like many of the computers on this list, the Surface 3 won't set any speed records, but it's good enough for basic tasks such as word processing and even some gaming.

The good news is the Surface 3 is often listed at $500. The bad news: The stylus and keyboard will cost you extra. But you can find this model starting at $350 (even less if you buy refurbished) on sites such as Amazon. And there are plenty of low-cost Bluetooth keyboards and mouse options available from third-party manufacturers such as Logitech.

    Asus VivoBook E200HA-US01

    Asus VivoBook E200HA-US01

    Weighing in at 2.1 pounds, this offering from Asus is a worthy coffee-shop or travel companion for the on-the-go consumer. And it can be yours for less than $250.

    Our testing found that it can run for 15 hours between charges. Its Atom processor earned only a Fair performance rating in our labs, which means it's not well-suited for video editing or heavy gaming, but it will handle browsing and Netflix-watching just fine.

    But the 11.6-inch laptop has a slender 32GB of storage, so users would be wise to invest in a low-profile flash drive or a cloud service such as Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or Google Drive to store photos, videos, and other large files.

      Dell Chromebook 13

      Dell Chromebook 13

      Not long ago, it was hard to see computers outfitted with Google's cloud-centric Chrome operating system as anything but a weak substitute for a laptop. But these Chromebooks have taken a big leap forward in recent months, in part because of an influx of new Chromebook-optimized Adobe apps such as Photoshop Mix, Lightroom Mobile, and Creative Cloud Mobile.

      Dell's Chromebook 13 is one of the standouts in that evolution. Second only to the $1,000-plus Google Pixel Chromebook, the $300 machine received an Excellent rating in our labs for its 17-hour battery life, speedy performance, and display. In fact, that display is larger and higher-rated than the one on Google’s flagship Chromebook.

      And Dell's Chromebook 13 will soon receive access to the Google Play store (and its catalog of millions of gaming and productivity apps), which will further change the perception that these machines are just Chrome browsers in laptop form.

        Acer Aspire R5-571T-57Z0

        Acer Aspire R5-571T-57Z0

        Here's another standout in the versatility game. With a comfortable full-sized keyboard, large trackpad, 15-inch multitouch screen, and 360-degree hinge that lets that screen fold backward and function like a tablet, this computer grants you many of the benefits of a high-end laptop.

        That’s important if you’re planning to do a full day's work on it. And with a tested battery life of more than 9 hours, it won't need a break before you do. It handles most routine tasks well—along with some gaming. At about 5 pounds, though, it's a little chunky.

        We've seen this 2-in-1 priced between $450 and $550. If a retailer hits you with the latter figure, try a bit of haggling. According to a recent subscriber survey, that strategy pays off more often than you'd think.

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          Tercius Bufete

          I'm an avid photographer and tech nerd with a passion for writing about gadgets and consumer technology. Originally from Los Angeles, I'm now an East Coast transplant searching for the perfect burrito in Brooklyn. Follow me on Twitter @terciusbufete