If you think that you’ll be compromising when your laptop budget is under $500, then you might be pleasantly surprised. This price range is widely considered as a solid one for laptop buying, and that’s due to a few reasons. Firstly, manufacturers know that the average consumer doesn’t want to be spending much more than $500 on a laptop, and so they have been consistently working harder to make them the best all-round machines available. That means that you will have a vast choice when it comes to both the value that you can get and the variety of uses you can put your laptop to.
There are, however, factors that you're going to need to take into account, but laptops under $500 could be much more suitable than you think. General trade-offs will need to be made, such as video production and 3D design, so if these are a must, you will need to consider spending more.
Your first task before you start looking through the Choosist list for the best laptop under $500 is to work out exactly what you want to use your machine for. Someone planning to browse social media and watch Netflix is going to need a different laptop to those people wanting to edit video or create music. If $500 is your budget, then you have a lot of scope to play with, so having a clear idea of what you will be using your laptop for is going to be crucial.
Buy the laptop that is designed for your usage and you’ll get a lot more enjoyment from your investment. If you have specific needs, then you may need to compromise on certain factors, and knowing where you should and shouldn’t make a trade-off is very important.
Once you have a firm idea of how you’ll be using your laptop, it’s time to start looking closer at the best laptops under $500. There are some brilliantly competent all-rounders in this price range, but you will need to look closer at the tech side of things. You don’t have to learn the difference between a GPU and RAM, but knowing what you’re looking for on the product descriptions can be very useful for narrowing down your options.
While laptops under $500 can be fantastic, you will have some limitations on what you will be able to do with your new machine. Here are some of the activities that you will most likely struggle with if you invest in a laptop under $500.
Of course, there are some online video resources that can be used, but if you want some dedicated software installed, then you’re going to run into problems with most laptops under $500.
In order to run professional editing software, your laptop will need to have a very powerful processor and a graphics card that can handle your video images. It will also need a wide variety of input and output ports so that you can load your video footage onto the system. Storage is going to be an issue too, and the fact is that if your budget is under $500, you will find it very difficult to find a laptop that will allow you to flex your video editing skills.
While you will be able to play plenty of games on laptops under $500, you will certainly struggle to play the latest high-end games. After all, there are many reasons why hardcore gamers invest more money on their laptops. With everything from bigger screen size, better graphics cards, and more powerful processors, the cost of a laptop that you want to seriously game on is going to be over $500.
If gaming is your reason for getting a laptop, then you might want to look at the Choosist list of best gaming laptops and consider waiting until your budget allows for a better option. A laptop under $500 will be able to play some good quality games, but it will not play more recent games like Hitman or The Division. These types of games need at least 8GB of RAM, and that’s not likely on even the best laptop under $500. Trying to play the latest games on a machine not capable of running them will result in a very poor game playing experience.
If you’re planning to use your new laptop for graphic design, you may want to wait until you can get a more expensive option. Most graphic design software needs at least 8GB of RAM, and you’re probably not going to get more than 4GB. If you’re hoping to use Adobe Photoshop or Architect 3D Express, then a laptop under $500 is not going to do the job.
The other issue is color, because at under $500, your laptop is probably not going to have the bursts of color that you need. Pale screens and washed out effects are not going to be doing you any favors when it comes to printing out your finished designs. Resolution is the real problem at this price range, although you can, of course, link your laptop to an external monitor or television. That won’t help you with your RAM needs, but it will make your designs look more like you hoped. It’s also worth noting that you will have very minimal (if any) external pen or inking options, too.
There’s no getting around the fact that laptops under $500 are going to struggle to let you run animations or any form of CAD. The graphics card that you’ll get with even the best budget laptops under $500 is not going to be anywhere near powerful enough to do what you need it to do. If this is your priority then you’ll need to keep an eye out for laptops that come with a graphics card like the NVidia Quadro or the AMD Iris Series. Anything less than those is going to seriously restrict what you’re capable of.If you're looking for a better laptop so that you can get down to some serious 3D designing and animation tasks, then you will need to start looking at laptops in a higher price range.
For many of the same reasons why you'd struggle to find video editing easy, you will also have problems with a laptop under $500 if you’re hoping to do some professional music production. There are some obvious reasons for this. The first is that most music production software will need a high level processor, with the 6th generation i5 options the ideal choice. Unfortunately, for laptops under $500, you’re not going to be able to get that level of performance. You won’t even be able to compromise on RAM requirements either, as most music production software will need at least 8GB. If music production is your intention, then you may need to hold back on buying a laptop until you can save a little more.
If it was a little frustrating reading the list of things your laptop under $500 won’t be able to do, let’s look at the many things that it can. There are actually plenty of uses that your laptop will be able to be put to, so if you're not looking for a professional gaming or design laptop, then you can breathe easy. Here’s what you can expect your laptop to be able to do.
There are obviously not going to be any issues when it comes to the generic uses that the majority of people want from their laptop. Checking emails, watching Netflix, using Word or Google Docs, and scrolling for eternity down your social media feed will not be a problem for any laptops under $500. If those are your sole activities on your laptop, then you’re going to find that these laptops are ideal, and will be more than capable.
Most of the software choices available now will easily run on your laptop. There are a lot of laptops that will run most bookkeeping software, mostly because the system requirements are relatively minor. If you’re worried about a laptop within this budget being able to do your bookkeeping tasks, you can rest easy and take your time looking at other potential uses instead. The most popular bookkeeping software options like Office 365, Sage, Quickbooks and Xero need very little power. You might want to prioritize getting a good sized screen to see all of your data clearly. However, 4GB of RAM will be enough to handle your bookkeeping requirements (although if you go higher then you’ll be able to multitask much more easily). Your storage is going to be something to consider, because some of the more popular accounting softwares available can take up a lot of space. If you can find a laptop that meets your other requirements and still comes with an SSD then this will make your bookkeeping much faster to tackle.
If you’re heading off to college or university, then having a laptop is one of the essentials. If you’re spending under $500 on your laptop, you need to pay attention to durability. Your laptop is going to have to last until you're not relying on your student loan, so you want something that can withstand the student lifestyle.
The laptop that is best for you will depend on your areas of study as much as your budget. Engineering students will need a very different laptop from those studying English Literature, for example. Make sure that you are aware of the system requirements that are suggested by your course. For technical students, it may be that you have to go over your budget, or simply waiting until you can afford a machine that will make your coursework easier to complete.
You will have some strong options to choose from if you have decided that you need a touchscreen on your laptop. Touchscreens are largely down to personal choice, but there are pros and cons to them. One of the most beneficial factors of a touchscreen is that they make it much easier to navigate around your applications. If that seems like it should be a priority for you, then a touchscreen may be the way to go. However, there are some drawbacks to touchscreen laptops. These include:
There are some good options available for 2-in-1 laptops in the $500 and under price range. Being able to switch from tablet to laptop mode is wildly convenient, and can be the perfect compromise for those who are undecided as to whether they need a dedicated laptop or just a tablet. You are going to have to make some choices if you opt for a 2-in-1 laptop though. They are:
While you may not be able to run Dreamweaver or Photoshop on a laptop under $500, there are options. Some more streamlined budget editing software is available, so you just have to check that your laptop has the necessary specs. You’re not going to be overwhelmed with choice if you’re focusing primarily on photo editing, but there will be some strong options in this price range. You may even be able to upgrade your hardware later when you have more budget to play with and have a clearer idea of what you need. Display resolution is going to be the main factor, although you may also run into challenges finding a laptop under $500 that has the necessary RAM to run smoothly.
Most people will play at least a couple of games on their laptop, but for the best budget laptops under $500, you are going to be restricted. That’s not to say that you won’t be able to play any games at all, but you will certainly have to avoid the latest chart offerings.
If gaming is a hobby, then you should know that most laptops under $500 will struggle to run games that need more 8GB of RAM or over. You’re most likely going to have to restrict yourself to games with 4GB requirements, but that still leaves you plenty of game options to choose from.
A top tip from the Choosist team is to check out the classic games that rely less on cutting-edge graphics and are renowned for quality gameplay and story. If the worst happens and you find nothing that appeals, then you can always go to the Play Store or find online games that work straight from your browser. If you tweak your in-game settings, then you may even be able to play games like Skyrim or Warframe.
When you're buying a budget laptop under $500, it’s all going to be about prioritizing the essentials. Trading less important specs for those that you actually need can take time but will end up with you owning a machine that suits your exact needs. There are several areas to look at when it comes to the tech side of things, but you don’t have to worry if you struggle with the acronyms and meanings. Here’s how to get more from your budget without losing out on the essentials.
Unless you are hoping to play games and get down to some amateur music editing, then you might be able to reduce your costs by looking for a slower processor. This can be very useful, although you will need to ignore this advice if you're planning on watching a lot of films or television from a hard drive. The processor is going to be the heart of your machine, and if you're only planning on browsing social media, then you can justify getting less processing power and spending the savings on better sound quality, a longer battery life, or a bigger screen.
Chances are that you will not have the option of getting yourself a solid state drive (SSD) at this price range. They are available, but you will lose out on other important specs. The vast majority of laptops under $500 will come with a hard disk drive (HDD), and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A good HDD may make loading times a little slower, but the savings are well worth it. If you're desperate for an SSD, then you will have a few options, but you will be much better off focusing on those with HDDs.
You’re probably not going to be able to compromise here, and that’s not really a bad thing. If you would much rather have a Mac, then you should be aware that for all of their benefits they are extremely limited when it comes to running the more popular software options. Apple laptops are also extremely expensive, so this may not even be a factor worth considering. Instead, focus entirely on Windows or Chromebook laptops under $500. You’ll not only get more from these machines, but you won’t have to go over your budget either.
One of the best tips for those looking for a better laptop without breaking the bank account is to look at models that have been designed for business users. They will tend to be a little more durable, making them ideal for students who can expect their laptop to get a little battering during parties, or parents worried about the children getting their grubby and sticky fingers on the keyboard. The problem is that business laptops will tend to be priced higher than standard laptops and you may have to compromise on size, portability, and power if you’re looking for a little more durability.
You can definitely forget about battery life if you’re likely to stick to using your laptop in the same place every day. If that sounds like you, then you may be able to get more from your budget by ignoring battery life estimates and prioritizing your processing power or RAM. However, this will obviously depend on how you plan on using your laptop. If you’re the type that likes to go and hang out in the park with your laptop resting on your knees, you're going to want a good battery. If you're happy to be plugged in at all times, then battery life is much less of a concern.
Finding the best budget laptops under $500 can be a little bit like finding a needle in a haystack. The best way to find that needle is to use a magnet, and you too can save yourself time by checking out this list of the best laptops under $500 chosen by the Choosist team. If you’re still feeling lost, then you can get yourself a personalized recommendation from us too!
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