The Best Budget Laptops for 2021
Are you looking for the best budget laptop 2021 Best budget laptop under $500 for Windows or Chrome OS (also known as Chromebook)?
The supply of cheap notebooks dried up as parents hit their kids won’t be back in school anytime soon, and we’ve passed the hump since the height of the initial rush to work from home caused by the coronavirus when PC and accessory sales soared. But with the grim reality of unprecedented job losses, demand for budget laptops and other ultra-expensive devices remains strong. Although it might also be a perfect time to find the best budget laptop deals.
Below is the list of the best budget laptop available for under $500 that should ship within at least 10 days.
Keep in mind, though, that availability and shipping times may depend on where you live. I live in New York, so my recommendations may be based on a best-case scenario.
As a general rule, resist buying out of desperation — don’t spend $500 on a laptop because there are no cheaper hardware available, for example. Buying a laptop you need right now can be like shopping for food while you’re hungry. Even for a laptop, $500 can be a lot of money, and you’ll likely keep it for at least three years if the stats given to us by computer manufacturers and the Internet are correct.
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You can also try to make your current laptop last a little bit longer. If you need something to steer you through for a few months, research potential places to buy refurbished machines, and explore nonprofit or educational discounts if you qualify.
Also, if there’s something you really want in a laptop, like a touch screen, backlit keyboard, or HDMI port, definitely look for something with that feature. You will regret if you don’t.
If you suspect you’ll be keeping your new laptop for a while, see if you can increase your budget to buy a slightly more expensive laptop to accommodate a bit more memory or a processor with more cores than you thought. If you haven’t considered it, look for AMD Ryzen processors as alternatives to Intel Core.
Better yet, if you’re comfortable with that, consider an affordable laptop with a replaceable battery, upgradeable memory, graphics card, and storage, or all of the above. Moreover, you will not be stuck at home forever. Remember to consider whether having a lighter laptop and a good battery is important to you in the future.
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You can always add an external drive or two (or five, if you’re me) at some point down the road. But if your internal storage is the kind of slow hard drive that comes in a lot of cheap laptop models, then a fast external storage isn’t likely to help speed up the loading of Windows or apps. (You can frequently set a system to boot from an external solid-state drive if necessary.)
You may see references to “Intel Optane” in conjunction with slow (5400rpm) hard drives; Optane is a fast hard drive that acts as a temporary storage space for frequently accessed files on your hard drive to speed things up. It helps, but not as much as an SSD drive.
And finally, if you are replacing an old Windows laptop that can no longer run Windows.
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As long as you manage your expectations when it comes to options and specs, you can still get very little from a budget laptop model, including good battery life and a reasonably lightweight laptop body.
The bright spot is that you don’t have to settle for a traditional laptop with a fixed display and keyboard. You also get a convertible laptop (also known as a two-in-one), which has a screen that flips around the screen to convert the screen into a tablet or position it for convenient broadcasting or for giving a presentation. Keep in mind that all convertibles have a touchscreen, which is a prerequisite for tablet operation, and several support styluses (also known as “pens”) for handwritten and schematic input. Don’t assume a stylus is included with that.
One thing you won’t find at these prices: a MacBook or any other Apple laptop. Even an iPad Air tablet will run you more than $500 once you buy the optional keyboard (although if you’re looking at sales on the tablet or keyboard, it might work for less), which is way above our budget here might be the base model iPad Equipped with an inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard and an inexpensive stand for the iPad is sufficient.
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You’ll see plenty of cheap laptops listed as coming with Windows 10 S, a locked, locked version of the operating system meant for use by schools — it only allows you to install apps from the Windows Store. You can use the Microsoft Edge browser and it includes a subset of the administrative tools in Windows 10 Pro. However, you can upgrade to the full version for free.
Inexpensive Chromebooks are easier to find than Windows laptops, which makes them one of the most popular categories of budget laptops on the market, although we also see a lot more Chromebooks in the 500-500 range. 1000 dollars. That’s because Google’s Chrome OS isn’t as power-hungry as Windows (check the specs), so you can deal with a lower-level processor, slower storage, and lower screen resolution or memory — just a few of the components that made a laptop so expensive.
But the flip side is that while Chrome OS isn’t as power-hungry as Windows, Chrome, and Google’s, unfortunately, apps have more memory than you might expect, and if you’re too low on the processor or stingy on memory, the system will still feel sluggish. Chrome OS is also a much different experience than Windows; Make sure the apps you need have Chrome before you make the jump.
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Since they are cloud-first devices, you don’t need a lot of built-in storage. It also means that if you spend most of your time roaming the web, writing, streaming video, or playing Android games, it’s a good fit. If you like to play Android games, make sure you get a touchscreen laptop model.
For cheap gaming laptops, you still have to break the $500 ceiling to support most games. Less expensive laptops suitable for a solid gaming experience — those with moderately powerful discrete graphics processors — will fetch you close to $700. Here are our recommendations if you are looking for the best budget laptop.
Although if you want to live on the bleeding edge, cloud gaming services like Google Stadia and Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will let you play games on laptops with specs under $500 on our best budget laptop list.
Pack more cores, more memory – 8GB is the minimum – and more storage for apps and the operating system itself. Many have 4GB or 6GB, which in combination with a rotating hard disk can lead to a frustratingly slow Windows experience, too.
I see a lot of Windows laptops in this range use AMD Athlon, minimalist A-series, and Intel Celeron processors to get to the low price. I don’t really recommend using Athlon instead of Ryzen or Celeron instead of Core: Windows is too heavy for them and combined with the 4GB of memory that many of them have, you might find them very slow at best.
Given their low prices, 11-inch Chromebooks are attractive. But we don’t recommend this site to anyone except the youngest students. And for distance learning, if you’re both going to look at the screen frequently, 11 inches can get quite narrow.
SSDs can make a big difference in how fast Windows performs compared to a spinning hard drive, but they also raise the price. So if your budget can stretch a bit and you want more storage, you might want to consider moving from the basic storage options to a 128GB SSD.
In the budget price range, you have to pay attention to screen terminology when it comes to specifications: an “HD” screen may not always be a truly HD screen. HD, which has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, is sometimes called “Full HD” so marketers can refer to screens with lower resolutions (1,280 x 720 pixels) as HD.
On Chromebooks, HD usually refers to a screen with a resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels. Another frequent complaint I see is about “washed” displays with poor viewing angles. Unfortunately, this is one of the trade-offs you have to live with; A lot of these use TN (Twisted Twisted) screen technology, which is cheap but meh.
Watch out for contact. 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; These chipsets are slower than newer chips with Wi-Fi 4 (also known as 802.11ac) that also add a 5GHz channel. Specs aren’t always correct on shopping sites, so if you see a model that doesn’t appear to have Wi-Fi 4, double-check the manufacturer’s website before dismissing it. Remember, Chromebooks are designed to work mostly online, so Wi-Fi speed and stability are crucial.
Looking at all the specs and options — battery life, storage space, screen resolution, screen size, core processor performance, overall device, and battery performance — these are some of our top picks for the best Windows laptops and Chromebooks for 2021 under a $500 budget side by side. Along with its advantages and disadvantages from the list of best budget laptop.
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Lenovo IdeaPad This is basically the Chrome version of the first Microsoft Surface Go. Like the Go, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard and touchpad. Unlike Microsoft, though, Lenovo includes the keyboard. The Lenovo laptop costs significantly less than the Microsoft Surface Go (including the Microsoft Surface Go 2), starting at $249 for the 64GB version or $299 for one with 128GB of storage. The Lenovo IdeaPad is essentially a smaller, albeit less powerful, Pixel Slate, which makes more sense for more people at a price that’s more in line with what people expect from a Chromebook.
However, the screen is small, so if you use it regularly at a desk, we recommend connecting an external monitor to its USB-C port. You’ll probably want to connect to a wireless keyboard and mouse, too.
Pricing can vary quite a bit, so if you see it at an underpriced (under $300) and want it, don’t wait for our best budget laptop list.
The 2019 Acer Aspire 5 15-inch clamshell features the latest generation of AMD Ryzen 3 processors, 3200U, with the latest Vega GPU. It also features a USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, two USB 2.0 port options, and an HDMI port. 4GB of RAM and 128GB solid-state storage don’t let you open many programs or many browser tabs at once, but this Acer Aspire 15-inch monitor model weighs less than 4 pounds have been replaced by later models, but that one still hangs there.
This Lenovo laptop is fairly small, with a 13″ Full HD display, but the Flex 5 offers the convenience of a convertible laptop plus excellent performance and battery life for the money thanks to its Intel Core i3-10110U processor, 4GB RAM, and 64GB ROM. SSD storage. The Lenovo Flex isn’t a great option for outdoor use, as the screen is pretty dim.
This is a very simple 15-inch Samsung Chromebook equipped with a Celeron N4000, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage (plus an additional 32GB via SD card). There are less expensive Samsung Chromebook laptop versions on the same link starting at $390, but they’re all 11-inch models, so unless they’re meant for a toddler or a small space, I’d be hesitant to get one of them.
Amazon is currently offering an older Core i3 8GB model for $435, which is a reasonable price for a Windows laptop with an Intel Core processor. You will also see menus with 4 GB of RAM, but this is a very small memory for Windows, which is barely 8 GB. Don’t confuse it with the thinnest, lighter, and more expensive Asus VivoBook S15.
Newer models are on the way — not yet in stock — and there’s the 2020 Asus VivoBook that’s under $500, but has a high-end Ryzen 5 processor and more storage. You can check stock at B&H if you’re interested.
If you’d rather have a wider screen rather than a taller 13-inch model, this HP is the way to go. It’s a little wider than the 13.3-inch premium model, but that extra width makes it easy to work two windows side-by-side. The two-in-one design means you can use it as a tablet (although a bit heavy to use in your hand) or tent it up and connect an external keyboard and mouse and use it as a mini All-in-One PC.
In our testing, the Core i3 processor and 8GB of memory kept it running smoothly even with a few dozen tabs open and video streaming in the background. It has a long battery life to run, lasting 10 hours and 40 minutes in our tests.
Just a little over $500 Prices for these laptops tend to fluctuate around the $500 mark, sometimes dropping below it
HP’s two-in-one is at the top of the range, but this HP laptop has a surprisingly great configuration for the money. You get a 10th generation Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, plus the convenience of a convertible model and the best build of the Pavilion line. The screen isn’t real HD, but at 14 inches it shouldn’t be a big deal.