Trying to find your way through the online plethora of inexpensive laptops can be a drag. For the most part, they all boast the same features and similar specs, so how can you really be sure that you’re getting the most for your money? Let’s be real, $500 is nothing to bat an eye at. That’s still a good chunk of change for most households to dish out. For that size of an investment, you want a quality product, not something that flat out sucks.
The vast supply of lower end notebooks disappeared quick when parents realized their kids weren't going back to school anytime soon, and they were going to be stuck working remotely for a majority of the pandemic. However, with the depressing reality of record job losses, the demand for a budget laptop has been stronger than ever.
Believe it or not, there are some laptops priced under $500 that are just as capable of delivering impressive performance and great features, similar to the high end notebooks selling for thousands more. As long as you’re not looking for a machine with sheer power for extremely demanding tasks, they’ll get the job done. You owe it to yourself, and your wallet to consider some of these high performance budget options in 2021.
- Chrome OS Operating System
- Intel® Celeron® Processor 3965Y (1.50 GHz, 2 MB L3 Cache)
- 12.2" FHD WUXGA LED Display (1920 x 1200) with Touch Screen Panel
- 4 GB LPDDR3 Memory at 1866MHz (on BD 4 GB)
- Battery Life10 hrs
Pros – Easily transform this lightweight device into a laptop or tablet with a stylus. It includes a 13mp camera, touchscreen display, and 10 hour battery life.
Cons – The only con we could see was no backlit keyboard make it harder to work in dimly lit conditions.
- Chrome OS™
- Intel® Celeron® processor
- Intel® UHD Graphics 600
- 4 GB memory; 32 GB eMMC storage
Pros – This device has a colorful 14” UHD touchscreen display, with a 12 and half hour battery life and speed delivered performance.
Cons – If you want a colorful model, it may not be for you as it only comes in silver.
- Windows 10 Home Operating System
- 10.51” screen display
- 128 Gb flash memory installed
- 1.7 GHz core_i9_7740x processor
- 8GB RAM
Pros – Removable keyboard makes easy conversion into tablet mode, with integrated kickstand and Dolby audio built in.
Cons – Stylus not included.
- Chrome OS Operating System
- 4 GB DDR4 memory
- 64 GB solid state drive
- 2.1 GHz apple_ci3 processor
Pros - Extremely fast Wi-Fi connectivity, easily convert to tablet mode, 10 hr battery life, and 13.3” HD display.
Cons - If you’re looking for a high quality camera to facetime grandma, look elsewhere.
- Windows 10 S Operating System
- 3.52 GHz ryzen_3 processor
- 4GB DDR4 RAM
- 128 GB Solid State Memory
Pros – This machine was made for the multitasker with a 15.6” HD screen, backlit keyboard, fast Wi-Fi, and powerful audio.
Cons – No touchscreen and table option.
Things to consider when choosing a laptop for your budget.
The most important part of any computer is the operating system. Why do I make such a bold claim? Because your computer literally won’t run without one. It’s called the operating system for a reason. It acts as the bond between your hardware and software and tells the computer how to process information. Whether you go with Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS, or Linux, your operating system will determine how your work your machine.
The size of your screen is something you should also seriously consider. Whether you’re in the market for a laptop/tablet combo, gaming device, or lightweight portable work horse, the screen size will have a big effect on all of those. Manufacturers measure screen size diagonally, and the majority of laptops fall between 12 inches and 17 inches.
The battery life of any portable device is paramount to how its utilized. The battery is what makes laptops, tablets, and phone so, well, portable. No one wants to constantly look for a power source to plug into when trying to get work done. Battery life can vary with some devices accounting for 9 to 12 hours and others only 4 to 6 hours. Consider your typical workload and choose wisely.
The processor or CPU is essentially the brain of the computer and determines how efficiently it can run programs and execute commands. The faster the processor, the more processes it can handle, which is essential for multitaskers. Look for processors manufactured by Intel or AMD, as they’re typically reliable and efficient.
Due to their compact design, laptops usually have less storage than larger desktops, they can still offer enough storage for music, photos, games, and other files. Laptops either use a hard disk drive (HDD), a solid state drive (SSD), or a mix of the two called a hybrid drive. If your laptop doesn’t have the storage space you require, external hard drives can also be used.
MemoryRAM (random access memory), or just memory, is another component in deciding the speed and performance of your laptop. RAM is considered active memory for running programs. The amount of RAM can vary from 2GB to 16GB or more. A consistent standard for inexpensive laptops is 8GB, but more is always better.