Looking for the best Windows or Chrome OS (aka a Chromebook) under $500? Good luck. As an unprecedented number of people suddenly need to work from home, or worse, , PC and accessory sales have spiked, making it nearly impossible to find a cheap laptop or Chromebook that’s even in stock, much less one worth buying. That, paired with supply chain issues also resulting from the outbreak, has made reasonably priced laptops harder to find than ever. Despite that, I’ve pulled together a list of models that are still available for under $500 and that should ship within at least 10 days.for
I’ll try to keep this list current, but please don’t hate me if it’s a couple days out of date. Some online shopping sites make it impossible to figure out what’s in stock and what’s not — not just for tech, but for everything — as well as what can be shipped to you in a reasonable amount of time. I’ll try to make that web-trawling less onerous for you, so you have time to handle more important things. Keep in mind, though, that shipping times may be regionally dependent. I live in New York, so my recommendations may be based on a best-case scenario.
Also try to resist buying out of desperation — don’t spend $500 on a laptop because there are no cheaper ones available, for example. Buying a need-it-now laptop can be like food shopping while you’re hungry. $500 is a lot of money, and you’ll likely be holding onto it for at least three years if the statistics Intel and PC manufacturers hurl at us every time they’re ready to roll something new are correct. If you just need something to tide you over for a few months, dig into possible places to buy refurbished, and explore nonprofit or educational discounts if you’re somehow eligible.
If you suspect you’ll be holding onto your new laptop a while, though, see if you can stretch your budget to accommodate a little more memory or a processor with more cores than you were otherwise considering. Even better, if you’re comfortable with it, consider one with a replaceable battery, upgradable memory and storage or both. Furthermore, you (hopefully) won’t be stuck at home forever. Remember to consider whether you’ll want something more portable, with decent battery life in the future.
If you need it, you can also add external storage at some point down the road. But if your internal storage is the slow-spinning hard disks that come in a lot of cheap laptops, even fast external storage is unlikely to help speed up loading Windows or applications. (You can frequently set a system to boot from a fast external SSD.)
And finally, if you’re replacing an old laptop that’s just not up to running Windows anymore,.
As long as you manage your expectations when it comes to options and specs, you can still get quite a bit with a budget model, including good battery life and a reasonably lightweight body.
The good news is that you don’t have to settle for a traditional clamshell laptop with a fixed display and keyboard.— a laptop with a screen that flips around to turn the screen into a tablet, to position it for comfortable streaming or to do a presentation. Keep in mind that all convertibles have touchscreens, which are a prerequisite for tablet operation.
One thing you won’t find: aor any other Apple laptop. Even an will run you more than $500 once you buy the optional keyboard (though if you look for sales on the tablet or keyboard it might work out to less), which is above the budget. A with an inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard and cheap stand for the iPad might suffice, though.
It’s easier to find inexpensivethan Windows laptops, making it one of the most popular categories of budget laptops on the market, though we’re also seeing a lot more Chromebooks in the $500 to $1,000 range. That’s because Google’s Chrome OS isn’t nearly as power-hungry as Windows (check the specs), so you can get by with a lower-end processor, slower storage and less screen resolution or memory — just a few of the components that make a laptop expensive.
But the flip side is that while Chrome OS isn’t as power hungry as Windows, Chrome and Google apps are unfortunately more of a memory hog than you’d expect, and if you go too low with the processor or skimp on memory, the system will still feel slow.
Since they’re cloud-first devices, however, you don’t need a lot of storage built in. That also means if you spend most of your time roaming the web, writing, streaming video or playing Android games, they’re a good fit. (To play Android games, make sure you get a model with a touch screen display.)
For a cheap gaming laptop, though, you’ll still have to break the $500 budget for performance. The least expensive budget laptops suitable for a solid gaming performance experience — those with even moderately powerful discrete graphics processors, will run you closer to $700. Here are our.
Though if you like to live on the bleeding edge, cloud gaming services such aswill let you play games on laptops with specs that hit the under $500 mark.
Things to keep in mind:
- While Chromebooks can run Chrome OS-specific and Android apps, some people need a full Windows operating system to run heftier applications, such as video editing suites. With that comes a need for a faster processor with more cores, more memory — 8GB is the bare minimum — and more storage for applications and the operating system itself. A lot of these have 4GB or 6GB, which in conjunction with a spinning hard disk can make for a very slow Windows experiences as well.
- Solid-state drives can make a big difference in how fast Windows performance feels compared with a spinning hard disk, but they also push the price up. So if your budget can stretch a little and you want more storage, you may want to consider stepping up from base storage options to a 128GB SSD.
- In this budget price range you have to watch out for screen terminology when it comes to specs: This is why an “HD” screen may not always mean a truly high-definition screen. HD, which is 1,920×1,080 pixels to a screen, was retronymmed “Full HD” so marketers could keep selling you lesser-resolution displays (1,280×720 pixels per screen) as “HD.” In Chromebooks, “HD” usually refers to a 1,366×768-pixel screen.
- Pay attention to networking. Inexpensive models with older chipsets may only support Wi-Fi 3 (or 802.11b/g/n). Wi-Fi 3 is limited to 2.4GHz channels, which are slower and have a shorter range than more recent chipsets with Wi-Fi 4 (aka 802.11ac) 5GHz support. The specifications aren’t always correct on the shopping sites, so if you see a model which doesn’t seem to have Wi-Fi 4, double check on the manufacturer’s site before ruling it out. Remember, Chromebooks are designed to work predominantly over the internet, so Wi-Fi speed and stability is crucial.
Considering all specs and options — from battery life to storage space, screen resolution, screen size, core processor performance and general machine and battery performance — these are a few of our top picks for 2020’s best Windows laptops and Chromebooks under the $500 budget, along with their pros and cons.
For less than $400 (though higher-end configurations can break the $500 price ceiling), this Acer Chromebook is practically a steal. It’s a thin and lightweight laptop, but it’s sturdy, and has great battery life. Plus, it has a fingerprint reader and Citrix certification for IT-minded organizations.
With 8GB memory, a quad-core Core i5-8265U, real HD display and 1TB hard disk drive, this 14-inch two-in-one is quite a nice price for a two-in-one that will last you a little longer than the rest of the cheap models.
Another reasonable deal for $430, the Vivibook is attractive with a decent configuration: Core i3-8145U, 128GB storage, 8GB memory and a real HD screen.
For its price, HP’s 15-inch Chromebook offers good components and features, plus a comfortable keyboard with a number pad and fantastic battery life. This model only Wi-Fi 4 networking, (2.4GHz) so take that into consideration. It won’t be a problem if that’s all your home supports, but if you’ve got a reasonably fast internet connection and a Wi-Fi 5 router (or better), you may get frustrated with this model’s potentially slow performance or less reliable behavior when you’re far away from an access point.
For around $460, you get a classy 15-inch screen laptop with a reasonable configuration — an Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD storage and a real HD display.
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