The 8 best laptops under $500 for 2023

The 8 best laptops under $500 for 2023

When you’re on the hunt for the best laptop under $500, there are two important words to keep in mind: “Buyer beware.”

Many popular gadgets have wildly inflated prices, but in the highly competitive laptop market, you get what you pay for. And that means it can be very dangerous to buy cheap laptops. Choose wrongly, and you’ll be stuck with a slow, outdated computer that causes more problems than it solves.

The Mashable shopping team is here to make your lives easier, which is why we’re bringing you the best laptops under $500. We’ve previously tested some of the best cheap laptops overall, but if $500 is your upper limit, then you’re going to be priced out of some popular budget models. Even so, there are some great computers inside your budget.

Keep scrolling to find the top laptops of 2023 in the under-$500 price range.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 on desk with open screen

Testing the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2.
Credit: Callum Bains

A quick guide to laptop pricing

Our favorite cheap Chromebook can be yours for just $159, while our favorite gaming laptop will set you back $2,099. And in our guide to the best laptops of the year, you’ll find machines for every budget. So, how much should you plan on spending?

Typically, laptops fall into one of the following categories:

  • Chromebooks, $150-$400: These computers have minimal storage and are designed to run web applications. They’re light, portable, and very affordable.

  • Budget laptops, $250-$750: Even the best cheap laptops won’t have the most impressive specs, but they should have enough RAM and storage for everyday use at school or work.

  • MacBooks, $750-$3,500: The cheapest MacBook worth buying (the always-popular M1 MacBook Air) will set you back $750, while a fully specced-out MacBook Pro can cost as much as $3,500.

  • Ultrabooks, $1,000-$3,500: These high-end laptops have enough processing power to handle tasks like photo and video editing. They typically have a sleek and modern aesthetic, too. MacBook laptops also fall into this category.

What specs should you look for in a budget laptop?

When you’re buying a laptop, technical terms like GPU and solid-state drives can be confusing, especially if you’re buying your first laptop.

Still, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of what you’ll be buying, so let’s break down the basics:

Processor: Also known as a CPU, a processor is the brain of your laptop. If you’ve seen terms like “11th Gen Intel Core i5” in product descriptions, this refers to the type of processor inside the computer. In the budget category, you should look for laptops with either an Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes find laptops with a superior Intel Core i5 processor discounted to $500 or less.

close-up view of Chromebook with "Intel Inside" sticker

Testing the Samsung Chromebook 4.
Credit: Timothy Beck Werth / Mashable

Graphics card: Also known as a GPU, a graphics card renders the visual images and textures displayed by your laptop. Unfortunately, even the best laptops under $500 will lack the latest GPUs. Look for devices with graphics cards from AMD or Intel. Most of the laptops in this category will have a GPU such as the AMD Ryzen 3, but you can find some budget laptops with AMD Ryzen 5.

System memory: You’ll often see laptops with names styled like so: Dell Inspiron 3000 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD. The number that comes first, often listed as RAM, refers to the amount of onboard memory available for computing. The higher the number, the more powerful the laptop. The cheapest laptops will have only 4GB of memory, while the best will have 16GB or more.

Storage: A laptop’s storage is usually described as 512GB SSD or 256GB HDD. The terms “SSD” and “HDD” refer to the type of storage drive used by the device. (Most users prefer SSD drives.) The more GB of storage you have, the more photos, videos, software, and files you can save to your computer. Chromebooks have next to no storage, but non-Chromebook laptops should have at least 128GB of storage, and ideally 256GB or more.

Display: Your laptop’s display is measured in inches and resolution. You may prefer a larger or smaller screen depending on your needs. While it’s rare to find budget laptops with a premium OLED screen, there are some options available.

Operating System: Often abbreviated to OS, this refers to the system software that lets you interact with your device. Usually when shopping for a laptop, you’ll have to choose between macOS or Windows 11, but since there are no Apple laptops at this price point, your wallet has made the decision for you. As such, you can consider this article our guide to the best Windows laptops under $500.

What is the best cheap gaming laptop under $500?

It’s no longer true that you have to spend $1,000 to $3,000 to get a decent gaming laptop. In our guide to the best gaming laptops, you can find options starting at $680. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for the best gaming laptop under $500, we have bad news.

So far, we haven’t tested any gaming laptops under $500 that are actually worth buying.

Lenovo Legion gaming laptop on desk with "LEGION" on screen

You’ll have to pay more than $500 for a decent gaming laptop.
Credit: Callum Bains / Mashable

What is the best laptop under $500 in 2023?

Below, we’ve put together a detailed guide to the top budget laptops, with options starting at just $191. The best laptop will vary depending on your needs and budget, but our overall top pick is the ACER Aspire 5. We’ve also gathered computers perfect for students, work, and personal use.