Best Laptop for College Students Under $500

April 28, 2023

Finding a top-notch laptop for under $500 is like searching for a needle in a haystack these days. The options are limited, making it challenging to come across a well-made and high-quality device within this price range.

Despite the odds, there are still some great options available for those on a budget. Our lineup of laptops under $500 features a variety of quality machines that can handle your workload without putting too much strain on your wallet.

It’s important to keep in mind that you won’t get the latest and greatest performance or sleek design from these laptops. However, you can still expect a reliable machine for completing tasks on the go, or a durable device for kids to use without fear of breaking something expensive.

What Are the Best Laptops Under $500 Right Now?

Our selection of affordable laptops is expanding as more hybrids that blur the line between tablet and laptop hit the market, all while remaining wallet-friendly.

Our current pick for the best laptop under $500 is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. It’s technically a Chrome tablet, but it comes with a detachable keyboard that lets it double as a serviceable laptop, all for less than $300! Talk about a sweet deal.

Another option worth considering is the Microsoft Surface Go 2. It’s a solid upgrade to the original, more budget-friendly Microsoft hybrid, and while it may not have the most impressive specs, it’s still got enough power to get you through basic tasks while you’re on the go. Plus, its design and keyboard cover are pretty impressive.

And if you’re an Apple enthusiast, don’t count out the iPad 2021 with its Smart Keyboard just yet. Thanks to improvements to the iPadOS, it’s now a more laptop-like experience. Sure, you may not be able to get all your work done on it, but you’ll have access to one of the best app stores out there.

List of the Best Laptops for College Students under $500


Lenovo Chromebook Duet (Best 2-in-1 under $500)

If you’re on the hunt for a budget tablet that’s a little different from the norm, you might want to consider the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. It’s a hybrid tablet/Chromebook combo that’s going for a cool $216, and comes with the tablet and detachable keyboard all in one package. The Microsoft Surface Go, on the other hand, doesn’t offer that same convenience and you have to buy the tablet and keyboard separately. Although, let’s be real, the Surface Go does give you a more premium experience with its Windows 10 software.

As for the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, it’s got a 2.0GHz octa-core MediaTek Helio P60T, ARM G72 MP3 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. Now, while that might not sound like much, it’s actually not that big of a deal because Chromebooks generally use web-based services that take care of most of the heavy lifting. Plus, the lower specs mean that it won’t drain your battery as quickly.

What really sets the Lenovo Chromebook Duet apart is its super sharp 1920 x 1080 display. You can watch all your favorite YouTube videos and check your email and surf the web with ease, and everything will look great on that gorgeous display.

  • Sharp, colorful screen
  • Excellent battery life
  • ChromeOS tablet optimizations
  • Flimsy hingeCramped keyboard

Lenovo Ideapad 3  (Best Overall)

The Lenovo Ideapad 3 is a top contender for college students searching for an affordable yet powerful laptop. As most college students can’t break the bank, this laptop offers a great balance between affordability and performance.

Featuring an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U processor with a base clock speed of 2.1GHz, the Ideapad 3 is a fantastic bargain. Although not as potent as Intel i7 or i9, this laptop can handle most applications a college student would need, from heavy web browsing to bookkeeping to homeschooling.

The Ideapad 3 also boasts an AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics card, surpassing most Intel UHD graphics cards. Although it can’t handle high-end games, it’s more than capable of managing photo and entry-level video editing.

This laptop’s 8GB DDR4 RAM works in tandem with the processor to offer smooth program operations. Meanwhile, the 256GB SSD is lightning-fast, making it perfect for college students who need to access their files quickly. The laptop comes pre-installed with Windows 10 and can be upgraded to a full mode Windows 10 Home/Pro, allowing unrestricted access to programs beyond the Microsoft Store.

The Ideapad 3 features a 14-inch Full HD screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, making it ideal for presentations and movie watching. With a brightness level of 200 nits, you won’t be disappointed with its visual performance.

The laptop’s chiclet-style keyboard lacks a dedicated numeric pad, but the key size and placement are perfect. Although the key resistance could have been sharper, the keyboard is suitable for everyday use. The multi-touch table trackpad has a smooth surface and optimal sensitivity for various gesture controls.

Weighing approximately 3.3 lbs, the laptop has a black matte finish on its plastic frame. It comes equipped with three USB Type-A ports (two USB 3.0 Type-A and one USB 2.0 Type-A), a card reader, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack. The laptop supports Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity.

The Ideapad 3’s two-cell lithium-ion battery offers backup for up to 7.5 hours, making it a reliable choice for long college sessions. Lenovo has included an HD webcam with a privacy screen and decent battery backup at a budget-friendly price, making the Ideapad 3 an excellent all-around performer for college students.

  • Powerful processor
  • Thin and Light design
  • Dependable graphics card
  • Wi-Fi-5 connectivity
  • Full HD display
  • HD webcam with privacy shutter
  • Not a backlit keyboard

Best Renewed Model: Dell Latitude E5440

If you’re cool with an older but still powerful machine, the Dell Latitude E5440 might be just what you need for your college tasks. While the original version may be too pricey, you can easily snag a refurbished model.

The Intel Core i7-4600U processor is a real standout at this price point. It may be from the 4th generation of Intel chipsets, but it still packs a punch with its power-efficient dual-core chipset and turbo clock speed of up to 3.3GHz. Plus, its efficient single-core performance can handle basic to mid-range photo editing without slowing down.

And that’s not all – the laptop also features an Intel HD 4400 integrated GPU that works together with the dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M GPU. While the existing GPU is basic and has just 2GB VRAM, it supports overclocking thanks to the GPU Boost 2.0 technology.

What about gaming performance, you ask? You can easily play games like Rocket League, Minecraft, and Farming Simulator on the lowest HD presets, hitting 70 FPS or more. Plus, the NVIDIA Optimus technology allows you to switch between the integrated and dedicated GPU based on what you need.

The laptop also boasts 8GB RAM, making it great for multitasking college students. And storage-wise, you get a 500GB SSD module with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed for the best user experience.

Although the Dell Latitude E5440 has a 14-inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, it’s still sharp with its Wide-angle LED panel and anti-glare properties. And the keyboard is pretty standard, with a responsive touchpad, optical drive, functional microphone array, and 2MP HD webcam.

At 4.41 pounds, the laptop has all the standard ports you’d expect, including Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0, HDMI, Gig Ethernet, and the E-port connector. And don’t forget the Dual-Band wireless support and Bluetooth 4.0 for better connectivity.

We put it to the test, and it lasted between 5-6 hours of moderate use. Overall, the Dell Latitude E5440 is a powerful machine for college students on a budget, with its i7 processor and dedicated GPU, making it a top contender in the sub-$500 price range.

  • HyperThreading i7 processor
  • Remote access support courtesy of vPro technology
  • Fast SSD-based storage drive
  • Has a dedicated GPU
  • NVIDIA Optimus technology
  • 4th gen processor
  • Middling battery

Best for Everyone: Asus VivoBook 15

Hey, are you on the hunt for a laptop that can keep up with your college demands? Well, the ASUS VivoBook 15 might be just what you’re looking for! Even though it’s a little pricier than your typical $500 laptop, it’s definitely worth the extra bucks as it offers some of the best features you’ll find in the online market.

For starters, the laptop is powered by an Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor, which is optimized for graphics and can reach a turbo clock speed of up to 3.6GHz. And while the base clock speed of 1GHz may seem modest, the processor has 6MB of cache and HyperThreading support, ensuring that you can run even the most demanding tasks with ease. When it comes to graphics, the laptop features an Intel UHD integrated graphics card that can handle most casual gaming needs.

The laptop also has 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD module with NVMe compatibility, which means you can expect ultra-fast performance and rapid app loading times. Plus, the 15.6-inch Full HD display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, and the NanoEdge display technology ensures an 88% screen-to-chassis ratio. This results in a top-notch viewing experience with excellent sunlight visibility, wide viewing angles, and sharper visuals.

But that’s not all – the ASUS VivoBook 15 also comes with an ergonomic keyboard that’s backlit, making typing in dimly-lit environments much easier. The touchpad is responsive and comes with a built-in fingerprint scanner, while the built-in speakers feature SonicMaster technology for high-quality audio.

The laptop weighs 3.75 pounds and has a range of functional ports, including USB 3.2 Type-C, Type-A, USB 2.0, and HDMI slots. You’ll also get Gig Ethernet and Wi-Fi 5 network standards, ensuring that you stay connected at all times. Plus, the laptop has a battery life of up to 9 hours on moderate usage, making it ideal for long college days.

Overall, the ASUS VivoBook 15 is an excellent choice for college students who need a powerful machine that can handle demanding tasks. Whether you’re studying engineering, law, medicine, or any other subject, this laptop has got you covered. Just keep in mind that it’s a bit pricier than other laptops, falling just below the $600 mark.

  • Graphics optimized processor
  • Decent display with narrow bezels
  • NVMe supported SSD
  • Fast charging battery
  • Portable and light
  • Innovative keyboard
  • Middling battery backup

Best 15-inch Laptop: HP 15-DY1036NR

Hey there, are you on the hunt for a laptop that’s got premium features, mid-range performance, and doesn’t break the bank? If so, the HP 15-DY1036NR is the best laptop for college students under $500 that you need to check out. This laptop’s got a sleek design and all the latest features, making it an excellent choice for students.

With its Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor, this laptop can handle just about anything you throw at it. With 4 cores and a turbo clock speed of up to 3.6GHz, you’ll be able to breeze through your workload without any trouble. The integrated Intel UHD graphics card also means you can run programs like Photoshop and lightweight games without a hitch.

This laptop also features 8GB of RAM for multitasking and a 256GB SSD for storage. While the storage capacity may be a bit limited, the SSD ensures that everything loads quickly and smoothly. Plus, the 15.6-inch screen boasts a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, making it perfect for streaming movies or working on projects.

One of the standout features of this laptop is its micro-edge display technology, which makes the display-to-body ratio an impressive 82%. The WLED panel also has an anti-glare feature, making it easier on the eyes during prolonged use.

This laptop also has a solid keyboard, responsive touchpad, and a TrueVision webcam for all your multimedia needs. Weighing only 3.72 pounds, it’s lightweight and portable, and features a comprehensive set of ports including USB 3.1, HDMI, and a data-transfer Type-C port.

Overall, the HP 15-DY1036NR is a fantastic laptop for college students. It’s got all the latest features and is priced affordably, making it a great choice for anyone on a budget. While the keyboard isn’t backlit, it’s still an excellent laptop that’s sure to meet all your needs.

  • Graphics-optimized i5 processor
  • Excellent battery
  • Light-weighted
  • A decent set of ports
  • Anti-glare display
  • Dullish display
  • Lower storage capacity

Samsung Chromebook 3 (An affordable, performance Chromebook)

Want an affordable laptop with a bright and vibrant display that can handle multiple browser tabs and apps? The Samsung Chromebook packs a punch with its Intel Celeron processor and 4GB of RAM, making it a great option for students and anyone on a budget. With a battery life of up to 10 hours, you can get through your day without worrying about finding a power outlet.

But that’s not all! The webcam on the Samsung Chromebook 3 is a standout feature, with Instagram-worthy filters and a Multi-Shot mode perfect for capturing your best angles. Plus, running on the Google Chrome OS operating system means you have access to a wide range of apps and services.

The only downside is that the laptop tends to run a bit warm after extended use, so make sure to take a break and let it cool down. Despite this minor issue, the Samsung Chromebook 3 is one of the top contenders for anyone looking for an affordable and reliable laptop.

  • Very affordable
  • Excellent battery life
  • Bright screen
  • Great performance
  • Awkward button placementRuns warm

Microsoft Surface Go 2 (The best Windows 2-in-1 under $500)

Hold up, we have a shocker on our list! It’s the Microsoft Surface Go 2, a hybrid device that can do it all. It’s both a tablet and a street-smart notebook. It may look like its forerunner, but it’s a game-changer with a slimmer bezel that’s suitable for its 10.5-inch display. The screen is clear and vivid, with popping colors.

Here’s the deal, add the optional Type-Cover extra to the entry-level $299 Surface Go 2, and you have a tiny yet powerful tablet. The catch? It’s a bit more expensive, ringing up at $359. However, it’s still a steal, given its capabilities. The tradeoff is that you’ll be getting an Intel Pentium Gold processor, just 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. But don’t let that fool you. It’s got enough juice to get the job done. It’s perfect for lightweight productivity tasks like browsing the web, word processing, and sending out a few emails.

But wait, there’s more! When you’re not busy working, you can load it up with movies, videos, and some indie games with Steam compatibility. It’s the perfect companion to help you pass the time during a long commute. And with a better battery life than its predecessor, the Surface Go 2 will keep you going all day long.

  • Much improved battery life
  • Bright, colorful (and bigger) screen
  • Excellent webcam
  • Excellent webcam
  • Performance doesn’t impressType Cover has a learning curve

Lenovo Chromebook C330 2-in-1 (Another excellent, affordable Chromebook)

Lenovo has hit a homerun with its inclusion in the list of best laptops for college students under 500. The Lenovo Chromebook C330 comes with a MediaTek processor, 4GB of RAM, and the Google Chrome OS. Sure, it may not handle multiple heavy browsing tabs or run the latest graphics-intensive games on its integrated graphics chip. However, you can still get some light work done and watch a YouTube video (just make sure to close other tabs), even if the low-resolution display tends to wash out colors.

But hold on, the battery life can last for at least 10 hours, which is one of the most impressive on this list. The keyboard is also comfortable and clicky, so you can get some work done without worrying about mushy keys or flexibility. For kids and college students who prioritize getting their assignments done on time and don’t mind sacrificing color accuracy, the Lenovo Chromebook C330 is a fine choice.

  • 2-in-1 so works as a tablet
  • Long battery life
  • Comfy keyboard
  • Dull displaySluggish performance

Dell Inspiron 15 3000 (Another Affordable Laptop, Best Windows Laptop Under $500)

Looking for a wallet-friendly laptop that won’t let you down? The Dell Inspiron 15 3000 could be just what you need. Its title may not sound too inspiring, but with a starting price of $323, it’s hard to argue with the specs you get: a 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of PCIe NVMe storage.

The 15.6-inch display has a resolution of 1366 x 768, and the chassis is relatively compact, with a decent selection of ports. While we haven’t tested this laptop ourselves, customer reviews are generally positive, with an average score of 3.8 out of 5 stars. Plus, it’s a Dell machine, so you can expect it to be reliable and dependable – even if it’s not going to blow your socks off.

  • Intel 10th Gen CPU
  • Plenty of ports
  • Decent storage space
  • Good budget laptop
  • Only a basic HD displayDated design

Acer Chromebook Spin 311 (A Durable, Affordable Chromebook)

The Acer Spin 311 is the textbook definition of a Chromebook that delivers on affordability and performance for everyday use. The keyboard is surprisingly comfortable for a machine of this size and price point, the battery life is impressive, and while it may not have the strongest performance, it’s more than capable of handling day-to-day tasks.

Whether you’re a student, a child, or just someone looking for a highly portable machine that gets the job done, the Spin 311 is one of the best Chromebooks for kids that can also go head-to-head with some of the best Chromebooks at a similar price range.

  • Solid battery life
  • Exceptional keyboard
  • Tough Gorilla Glass screen
  • Dim, low-resolution screen
  • No USB 3.0 Type-A port

Apple iPad 2020 with Smart Keyboard (The best laptop under $500 that’s also an iPad)

Oh boy, do we have a treat for you! The iPad 2020, also known as the iPad 8, is not just another tablet. For a price tag of $449, you can add a $48 Apple Smart Keyboard and voila! You’ve got yourself a hybrid laptop that won’t break the bank. It’s a bit like the Microsoft Surface Go, but with the Apple touch.

Sure, it’s not going to handle heavy-duty tasks, but it’s got enough horsepower for light productivity work, such as drafting documents and doing some light photo and video editing. Even though iPadOS has its limitations, it’s still capable of powering through most everyday tasks. And don’t forget the plethora of apps available in the Apple App Store, which make the basic iPad a solid choice for work and play.

If you’re looking for a secondary device, we highly recommend considering the iPad 2020, even though it may not be as flashy as its pricier counterpart, the iPad Air 4.

  • Bright and colorful display
  • Positive
  • Superb battery life
  • Fast chip
  • Design a bit dated
  • iPadOS limitations

Buying Guide

How to Select the Best Laptop for College Students Under $500

Alright, let’s talk about the struggle of finding a decent laptop for under $500. We all know we can’t expect the best performance or premium design at this price range, but we also don’t want a cheap-looking and flimsy machine. So, here are some things you should consider when shopping for a laptop under $500.

First, you have to choose between Chrome OS or Windows 10. Chrome OS is a lightweight and simple operating system that can run on basic hardware, but it still offers a variety of web-based apps and even supports Android apps now. Windows 10, on the other hand, requires more power to run smoothly, but it can handle a wide range of software and programs.

Next, you have to decide whether you want a traditional clamshell laptop or a convertible 2-in-1. Clamshell laptops are usually cheaper and come with a non-touchscreen display and a keyboard. But if you want a touchscreen device that can also function as a tablet, you should consider getting a convertible or detachable laptop, like the Microsoft Surface Go.

Lastly, don’t settle for anything less than a 1080p display. Sure, some laptops might come with a 1366 x 768 resolution, but it’s worth paying a little extra for a screen that can display Full HD. Whether you’re streaming Netflix or working on a Word document, a higher resolution screen can make a huge difference.

So, keep these things in mind when you’re on the hunt for a laptop under $500.

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