2018 Gift Guide: Our Favorite Laptops Under $500

By on November 6, 2018

Selecting our favorite budget laptops under $500 was a lot like walking a tightrope: on one side was mediocre quality and low prices, and on the other was terrible quality and even lower prices. Fortunately there are a handful of laptops at this price range that are keepers, and we present our picks below.

While the prices on these laptops are already low, expect them to go even lower on or around Black Friday, so keep visiting Ben’s, set up deal alerts and watch for some great deals this holiday season!

Lenovo IdeaPad 330S 15.6-inch Laptop (2018)

Street price: From $379 for Core i5;
from $450 for Ryzen 5

Pros: Solid up-to-date specs at a reasonable price, narrow bezels

Cons: Vanilla

Buy at Walmart Lenovo 330S 15 Deals on Ben’s

This budget laptop is a favorite on Ben’s because you get a lot of processing power at a low price. On Ben’s, we’ve seen both 8th Gen Intel Core i7 and 2nd gen AMD Ryzen 7 models under $500.

With powerful internals, plus an aluminum lid and relatively narrow bezels, the Lenovo IdeaPad 330s has a more premium look than what you would normally find in this price range, even if it lacks the pizazz of the $1000 laptops. If you opt for the AMD Ryzen processor, you can even find a Full HD configuration under $500.

Watch out… Don’t get it confused with the cheaper, beefier 330 model. You can definitely get an excellent deal on the better 330s (the “S” stands for slim). The 330s weighs around 4.1 lbs and is 0.8” thick, which is pretty good at this price point.

Microsoft Surface Go 10-inch Tablet with Type Cover (2018)

Microsoft introduced the Surface Go, the low-cost version of its popular Surface 2-in-1. It’s technically sold as a tablet ($399), but with the addition of the $100 keyboard cover with touchpad, you have a sub-$500 laptop. And, with its 10-inch display size—basically the size of a standard iPad—it’s a highly portable laptop at that. Plus, the Surface Go is likely to get discounts this holiday, making it a good gift for casual PC users, like older parents or younger students.

The base model comes equipped with the budget Intel Pentium processor, plus 4GB RAM and 64gb storage, just about the minimum you want for a Windows 10 PC. You also get 1800 x 1200 resolution and a USB-C port, which is quickly becoming the standard port for higher priced laptops. Plus, this diminutive Surface also wins style points, a rarity at this price point.

Watch out The Surface Go ships with Windows 10 S preloaded, but nobody likes it because of its Microsoft Store-only apps restriction. Luckily it’s free and easy to switch it to standard Windows 10 Home.

Street price: $399 or less for the 64GB model;
$100 for type cover (black)

Pros: Good price point, stylish appearance, high resolution display

Cons: Keyboard and/or pen sold separately, Windows 10 S pre-loaded (but can be switched to Home for free)

Buy on Amazon Surface Go Deals on Ben’s

Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-576) 15.6-inch Laptop (2018)

Street price: From $380 for 8th Gen Core i3 with 1TB HDD;
From $430 with 256GB SSD

Pros: Configurable M.2 SSD slot, good price point

Cons: Bland styling, almost 5 pounds

Buy on Amazon Aspire E 15 Deals on Ben’s

Last year’s model (E5-575) appeared on this list, and now this year’s makes the list for good reason. Although not fancy by any means, you still get a lot of bang for your buck, all for under $400. You get an 8th gen Intel Core processor, full HD display, backlit keyboard and even a USB Type-C port. Plus, you get an optical DVD drive, an increasing rarity in today’s laptops.

You can also opt for Solid State Drive (there’s a free M.2 SATA SSD slot compatible up to 512GB) and still keep the price well under $500. You can find one on Amazon with a 256GB SSD configuration for around $435. Getting a full HD laptop with SSD for under $500 is a great deal, and the big performance boost you get from SSD will pay dividends later.

Sure, the Aspire E 15 is relatively heavy (4.9 pounds) and thick (1.2 inches), and its styling is fairly bland and plastic,  but its price-performance ratio is outstanding and continues to be a winning formula for Acer. Expect to see some great Black Friday discounts on Amazon, Newegg and Walmart.

ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA 12.5-inch 2-in-1 Laptop (2017)

The best sub-$500 Chromebook is the ASUS Chromebook Flip 12.5” 2-in-1 Laptop (from $499). It sports an all-metal body, full HD+ display, backlit keyboard, flash storage, 360-degree hinge and Intel Core processor (albeit Core m3), two USB Type-C ports, backlit keyboard and 2 free years of 100GB storage on Google Drive. It also gets upwards of 9 hours of battery life in real-world conditions.

On the other hand, it’s rather expensive for a Chromebook, not counting the fancy Google PixelBook. If you are loyal to the Chrome OS ecosystem, though, it’s got much better build quality and functionality than what you’ll see from most Chromebooks.

Alternatively… The C302CA is also over a year old, so if you want something newer, the comparable 2018 Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 (from $499) has a built-in pen and 16:10 display that’s arguably better for productivity. No backlit keyboard, though, and there is some plastic (gasp). 

Street price: From $475 for Core m3 model

Pros: Excellent build quality, touchscreen and full 360-hinge

Cons: Pricey for Chromebooks

Buy on Amazon ASUS Flip C302CA Deals on Ben’s

Acer Chromebook 11 (CB311-8H) 11.6-inch Laptop (2018)

Street price: From $250

Pros: Low price, relatively svelte, sturdy build

Cons: Not your go-to computer

Buy on Amazon Acer Chromebook CB311 Deals on Ben’s

If you want really cheap, the Acer Chromebook 11  can sometimes be found on sale for under $200, although the sticker price is $250. Yes, it has the to-be-expected budget Celeron (N3350) processor and outdated 1366 x 768 “HD” display resolution, but does score points with its metallic-looking indigo blue lid, sturdy build and two USB Type-C ports. It’s also a svelte 2.43 pounds and 0.71 inches thin— impressive for this price point.

Some other nice touches include Android app (Google Play) support, 10 hours of battery life and an HDR webcam with 88° of wide field of view (FOV).

The form factor and price make this Chromebook a good laptop for kids or as a secondary computer you can take with you wherever and aren’t afraid to toss around a bit.

Check the latest laptop deals on Ben’s

About Joe Warner

I'm the senior editor of The CheckOut. I am an aficionado of shiny gadgets and classic Hollywood movies and can also tell you the names of the late '80s Swedish Davis Cup team members.

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