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Best cheap laptops 2019: 13 options under $500

Best cheap laptops 2019: 13 options under $500

You know the old saying: You get what you pay for. But thanks to the technology boom of the last few decades, a cheap laptop can actually take you pretty far — it’s all about knowing which one to select.

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It’s really (really) hard to make it in today’s world without a computer of some kind. Nobody wants to do school or work projects on a phone. You’ve gotta get yourself a real laptop. 

Unfortunately, laptops cost money. If you’re not careful, you can end up spending well over $1,000 for a machine with impressive specs. But we’re not here to talk about those. There’s a whole world of laptops that cost $600 or less, and many of them are perfect companions for students returning to school or folks who just need something that’s a little more capable than an iPhone.

What are the most important things to look for in a laptop?

Let’s set expectations right away: The laptops on this list will not come with the latest and greatest processors, graphics cards, or displays. You have to spend more than $1,000 for those things. For students or workers who just want something to get them through the day, things like ports and memory are more important.

If you want to record audio with a microphone or use a mouse, you’ll need USB ports. Photographers or videographers should emphasize microSD card readers. An HDMI port goes a long way if you like streaming on a TV. Above all else, you want as much RAM and storage as you can get. More RAM means the computer can handle more applications at once and more storage means less hard drive management.

What am I losing by getting a cheap laptop?

Laptops in the $600-or-below price range are not going to be good for PC gaming. You won’t get a 4K resolution display or a refresh rate higher than 60Hz. RAM is going to max out around 8GB, which isn’t bad but also isn’t spectacular. You’re also unlikely to get more than 500GB of storage space.

In this price range, laptops are going to be best for web browsing, word processing, Zoom calls, and streaming. As long as you don’t expect more than that, you’ll be fine.

But are cheap laptops worth it?

You know the old saying: You get what you pay for. But thanks to the technology boom of the last few decades, a cheap laptop can actually take you pretty far and won’t break down immediately. It’s all about knowing which one to select.

Rather than just making a few purchase suggestions and sending you on your way, we’re going to equip you with some knowledge that’ll help you be a more informed laptop shopper. You know all that computer jargon of processor-this and gigahertz-that — we’ll explain it all in terms that anyone can understand.

What is the best cheap laptop?

We’re glad you asked. In fact, we’ll do you one better: We’ll give you 13 stellar selections below. (Make sure to hit the small grey arrow to expand each card and read more.)

Comes with Microsoft Office 365 for one year • 10 hours of battery life • Very affordable

Only 36GB of storage • Not HD • Always reliant on WiFi

The HP Stream 11 is a good option for college students with its inexpensive price point. Keep in mind that it’s like a Chromebook, but it runs Windows 10 instead.

HP Stream 11

This HP laptop is engineered without a fan, so it should be quiet and comfortable to use on your lap while you enjoy 10 hours of battery life.

  • Storage:
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  • Features:
    One USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, HDMI port, microSD slot, 11.6″ diagonal HD sva Anti-Glare wled-backlit 1366 x 768, Intel Celeron N3060 up to 1.6GHz, Intel HD Graphics 400
The HP Stream 11 is pretty much in direct competition with the Inspiron 11, since they have similar specs and even similar color options. But the Stream does include a few noteworthy features, especially for students. 
It comes with a 1-year subscription to Office 365, which includes Excel, Word, and Powerpoint. You also get 60 free monthly Skype minutes and one terabyte of cloud storage. The notebook is entirely cloud enabled so you have access to all your files no matter where you are. 
The 11-inch laptop has advanced Wi-Fi connectivity, and since this HP laptop is engineered without a fan, it should be quiet and comfortable to use on your lap while you squeeze the 10 hours of battery life out of it. The HP Stream 11 also has ports so you can connect it to various displays, TVs, and other accessories. 
Does it have a fingerprint reader? No. Does it have a backlit keyboard? No. But you don’t really need those anyway. What it does have is a built-in webcam, a thoughtfully designed body, and more cloud storage than you’ll know what to do with. And bonus: the 14-inch screen is just $10 more.

Thin and light — great for travel • High-res PixelSense display • Low price

Stylus and keyboard not included

The smallest and lightest Microsoft Surface available, the Surface Go is a great option for anyone with an unpredictable day-to-day.

Microsoft Surface Go

A small and light laptop-tablet combo that’ll adapt to on-the-move lifestyles with no gimmicks.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    PixelSense display, USB Type C, fast-charging Surface Connect, microSDXC, 3.5 mm headphone jack, front- and rear-facing cameras, Intel Pentinum Gold 4415Y processor
In need of some personal tech that can adapt to an unpredictable way of life?
Enter the Microsoft Surface Go — the smallest, lightest iteration of Microsoft’s iconic 2-in-1 laptop and tablet combo. It’s made for those whose office may change depending on the day, who call an airport their second home, or who just don’t want to be held down by some clunky device. 
Its small size still packs a punch, though — it has a high-resolution PixelSense touchscreen display that’ll show anything you do in its best light, runs the fan-favorite Windows 10 effortlessly, has two cameras, a
1.6 GHz Pentium processor, and a nine-hour battery that will get you all the way from daytime to down time. 
Amazon user Grayson called the Microsoft Surface Go “perfection” — check out what else they said about it:

“I previously had a surface pro 4. But it was just too big for me to carry around and take notes on. Since I am a writer (all junk lol) and I needed something more along the size of a notebook. The Surface Go is perfection. I love everything about it. I’m using it mostly to work on my book and painting and it does everything I need without a struggle. I will not be using it for gaming or anything that requires a lot of power, but it’s perfect for my needs. I say get it.”

Thin and light • Handsome design • Big battery

Lack of ports • Not a hybrid

Fans of traditional laptops will feel right at home on the 11.6-inch Samsung Chromebook 4, but few ports and no tablet functionality makes it less versatile than some Chromebooks.

Samsung Chromebook 4

Samsung’s latest traditional Chromebook isn’t going to wow you with specs or looks, but its svelte size and big battery make it a great buy.

  • Storage:
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  • Features:
    One USB 3.0, one USB-C, 11.6-inch LED 1366×768 display, Intel Celeron N4000 processor

Samsung’s 11.6-inch Chromebook 4 is about as unpretentious as it gets. This is a totally traditional laptop with a somewhat low resolution display and a non-detachable keyboard, so don’t expect to use it like a tablet. And thanks to Chrome OS, you’ll have to get by with Google’s software ecosystem.
One USB 3.0 and one USB-C port aren’t much, but you’ll at least be able to use some accessories with the Chromebook 4. The highest-end model at this size also comes with 6GB of RAM for just $279, making the Chromebook a little more capable of multitasking than some of its brethren. 64GB of storage isn’t a ton, but Chromebooks are supposed to be cloud-focused anyway.
The biggest advantages here are its 1.87-pound weight, less than an inch of thickness, and a battery that’s rated for 12.5 hours on a full charge. Samsung’s Chromebook 4 is about as nondescript as laptops get, but for the price, it’s plenty portable and capable of getting you through a work or school day.

Tiny enough to take anywhere • Good keyboard

Middling performance • Serious lack of ports

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet isn’t especially powerful or feature-rich, but the low price combined with maximum portability make it a great choice for students on the go.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet

The astoundingly tiny Chromebook Duet punches above its weight with a solid keyboard, plentiful battery life, and a touchscreen.

  • Storage:
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  • Features:
    One USB-C, 1920×1200 10.1-inch display, MediaTek Helio P60T processor, ARM G72 MP3 800GHz graphics

One of the main distinguishing features of Chromebooks is that they’re usually not very powerful, but they also don’t cost much. Both things are extremely true of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. With just 4GB of RAM, you’ll be limited to things like web browsing, streaming, and work tasks, as long as they aren’t too intense. Get comfortable with Google Drive, too, as 64GB of storage will fill up quickly if you don’t make use of the cloud.
That said, there’s still plenty to like about it. A 7,000mAh battery will keep the Chromebook Duet powered through an entire school or work day, with some juice left over the next day if you don’t plug it in. The included detachable keyboard is a lot better than it has any right to be, so anything that requires excessive typing will be totally fine here. 
And finally, at around two pounds, you’ll barely even notice it as you carry it around from classroom to coffee shop and back again. The Chromebook Duet gets the most out of an enticingly low price point.

Built with a fingerprint sensor • Comfy keyboard • A lot of ports

Lacks in audio quality • Battery life needs improvement

The Acer Swift 1 is a sleek laptop that’s also pretty powerful at its price point. It’s also one of the most secure budget laptops out there, so you can rest assured that no one will steal your data, even if the machine is stolen itself.

Acer Swift 1

The designers of the Acer Swift 1 created a simple but pleasing-to-look-at laptop with some pretty impressive specs.

  • Storage:
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  • Features:
    One USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, one USB-C, HDMI port, SD slot, 13.3-inch, 1080p with 1920×1080 resolution display, Intel Core 1.10 GHz processor, Intel HD Graphics 505
The designers of the Acer Swift 1 created a simple but pleasing-to-look-at laptop with some pretty impressive specs. 
Of course, you’ll find all the standard port options, including HDMI and UBS ports. But, unlike the previous options on the list, the Acer Swift 1 one is built with a 13.3-inch HD screen. The screen is an IPS display, which means it produces excellent color you can see from multiple viewing angles. 
The keyboard still has enough space to give you a comfortable typing experience. There’s also a fingerprint sensor, which is a great feature to have if you’re worried about anyone going through your laptop. The Acer Swift 1 has a built-in touch-pad, and is equipped with 4GB of RAM.
The speakers on the Acer Swift 1 aren’t the best in the world, but few of the budget laptops offer jaw-dropping speaker output anyway. What you’ll get is something you can hear just fine in your living room or bedroom. You can expect about 9.5 hours of battery life. 
Sure, that’s not quite as long as some of the others out there, but it should be plenty to get some work or gaming done on the go.

Compact design • Long battery life • Kid-proof

Mushy and flat keyboard • Too small for office work

The Dell Latitude 2-in-1 is a good option for young students with a Microsoft suite of learning apps and functions.

Dell Latitude 2-in-1

The Dell Latitude works in laptop, tablet, or tent mode, and is designed for use with a variety of Microsoft learning apps.

  • Storage:
  • RAM:
  • Features:
    two USB 3.1, HDMI port, USD Card Reader slot, 11.6” HD IPS 16:9 1366 x 768 Touch with Corning Gorilla Glass NBT display, Intel Pentium Processor N4200
The Dell Latitude 2-in-1 touchscreen is literally one of the best affordable laptop choices a student can have. This 11-inch system is built to withstand a lot, since it’s durable and spill-resistant. Students can go all day without charging it thanks to its long 10-plus hours of battery life. 
The Dell Latitude works in laptop, tablet, or tent mode, and is designed for use with a variety of Microsoft learning apps. A built-in webcam makes for easy photography or for making Skype calls, and you can use the Active Pen to draw, write, and take notes right on the screen. A solid choice for any school-goer. 

It’s a durable little bugger • HP Audio Boost brings music to life

Battery life could be better • Hard drive capacity is low

The HP Pavilion x360 is one of the best utility notebooks under $500. It’s powerful, lightweight, and durable.

HP Pavilion x360

The HP Pavilion x360 2-in-1 touchscreen laptop is one of the best utility notebooks under $500. It’s powerful, lightweight, and durable.

  • Storage:
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  • Features:
    Two USB 3.1, one USB-C, HDMI port, SD card reader slot, 14-inch diagonal HD SVA anti-glare micro-edge WLED-backlit multitouch-enabled edge-to-edge glass 1366 x 768 display, Intel Pentium processor, Intel HD Graphics 620
When you have both new materials and advanced technologies at your fingertips, you have an opportunity to transform something traditional into something pretty freakin’ remarkable. That’s what the makers of the HP Pavilion had in mind when they set out to create a 2-in-1 touchscreen laptop that really reflects today’s busy lifestyle. It’s lightweight, it’s durable, and it has quite a few features that we think you’ll be happy with. 
If you want to listen to music or watch TV and movies, the Pavilion is a good choice because it has some of the best audio around for a laptop within this class. It comes with Bang & Olufsen Audio and HP Audio Boost. Since the Pavilion is a 360-degree 2-in-1, it’s a really versatile device in terms of viewing modes. Micro Gears allow the display to roll around the base in one continuous movement, so from notebook mode you can rotate it around to tent mode, and it’ll stay there until you want to adjust again. There is an IPS display, so you can look at the screen from any angle and the picture should always be crisp. 
Under the hood, you’ll find 500GB of hard drive capacity, 6GB of system memory, and a processor speed of 2.4 GHz. The Pavilion has a Windows 10 operating system, but only has an 8.5-hour battery life. Overall, it’s a great, affordable laptop for everyday usage. 

Thin and light • Beautiful display • Fingerprint sensor

A few reviewers reported keyboard issues

The Asus Vivobook is a great all-around player that will suit students, travelers, and those who just need a computer for everyday usage. You can’t go wrong with its display and thin, portable construction.

Asus Vivobook

A great, affordable laptop that’s well-suited for students, travelers, and those just who just need a computer for personal use.

  • Storage:
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  • Features:
    15.6-inch HD NanoEdge bezel display, Intel Core i3-8145U Processor, backlit chiclet keyboard with fingerprint sensor
When it comes to day-to-day usage, most people just want a laptop that they can throw in their bag and take with them virtually anywhere — not something that’ll end up giving them backaches and fill them with frustration. 
If that describes you, the Asus Vivobook may be just what you’ve been looking for — and it’s pretty cheap and honestly nice to look at. 
The Vivobook’s 15.6-inch, full HD NanoEdge bezel display is pretty stunning at such a low price point, and the laptop’s Intel Core i3-8145U processor provides the necessary power for a seamless, on-the-go user experience. You’ll also get ample space to store all your files, programs, photos, and other stuff that you need to take along with you (128GB, to be exact). 
The only issue that some reviewers have come across is the Vivobook’s keyboard — while ergonomic, some have said that they have run into issues with the backlight not working properly, but this didn’t happen in every case (either way, both Amazon and Asus have good customer support programs that should help you sort out any problems). 
Amazon reviewer Juan Mendez says:

“Looking for a great affordable laptop that can be used for school and personal use? This is the one. It took like like 4 days to settle on what laptop to buy but I finally figured out this one would be it. There’s not much youtube video reviews about this laptop but it is worth buying. Even if you aren’t going to college, this is a great laptop for personal use. The backlit keyboards are a life saver for late night usage. The only problem (not the laptop itself) is windows 10, it took a while to install chrome because it was only allowing me to use Microsoft Edge browser but I figured it out it got chrome.”

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