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Best budget laptops under $500 in 2022

Surface Go 2
Surface Go 2 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The best budget laptops under $500 don't necessarily have to make too many sacrifices when it comes to quality and performance. We'd all have the latest and greatest Ultrabooks if we could afford them, but lots of us can't — or just don't want to — hand over thousands of dollars for a computer. Fortunately, there are many choices for the budget-conscious laptop buyer that still provide a great PC experience. The Surface Go 3 from Microsoft is a versatile, affordable 2-in-1 device that is also one of the best budget laptops under $500. There are a bunch of other great cheap laptops that we've rounded up here.

Best overall: Surface Go 3

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Microsoft Surface Go 3 — 10.5-inch

Premium design with rear stand
Performance upgrade over Go 2 is welcome
Outstanding display with inking capabilities
Optional LTE connectivity
IR camera for Windows Hello
Pentium models are underpowered
Type Cover and Surface Pen sold separately

The Surface Go 3 might be tiny, but it's a rather versatile laptop with enough performance from an optional Core m3 processor (CPU) to get through most productivity work. Baseline models start with an Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y CPU, which is still enough power for casual use. Compared to the Surface Go 2, the Go 3 is nearly identical save for the performance upgrade. Keep in mind that Instant On capabilities, thinner bezel, and larger display have carried over from the Go 2.

Models with Pentium Gold 6500Y CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB eMMC storage start at about $400. Scaling up, a model with Core i3-10100Y CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD costs about $630. Add LTE and the price jumps up to $730.

This is a typical 10.5-inch Surface display with 3:2 aspect ratio, 1920x1280 resolution, touch functionality, and Surface Pen compatibility. Thanks to the 2-in-1 form, you can use the device as a tablet for drawing and writing. Attaching a Type Cover with touchpad and keyboard turns it into a notebook with the rear stand deployed.

You get front- and rear-facing cameras, Wi-Fi 6, and dual 2W stereo speakers. Ports include USB-C, 3.5mm audio, Surface Connect, and a microSD card reader. This is one of the best budget laptops under $500 for anyone who is always on the move and doesn't need a particularly powerful PC. Models ship from the factory with Windows 11

Powered by AMD: HP Laptop 14z

Source: HP (Image credit: Source: HP)

HP Laptop 14z

Excellent AMD performance
Above-average IPS display
Wi-Fi 6 connectivity
SD card reader
Display still not particularly bright
No keyboard backlight
No fingerprint reader

HP has been on a roll, and its more budget-conscious laptops have come a long way. Just check out the HP Pavilion Aero, which Executive Editor Daniel Rubino awarded full marks as the best mid-range AMD laptop available today. HP's standard "Laptop" lineup lives just below the Pavilion line, and the HP Laptop 14z packs in a whole lot of features for less than $500. It even has AMD Ryzen 5000 Mobile CPUs.

Prices start at about $350 for a model with Ryzen 3 CPU and HD display, but for a few dollars more, you can get a way better configuration. For about $490, I configured a model with Ryzen 5 5500U CPU with six cores and 12 threads, 8GB of dual-channel DDR4-3200MHz RAM, 128GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD (upgradeable all the way to 1TB if money allows), and a 14-inch 1920x1080 (FHD) IPS display. Not having to deal with an inferior TN panel or HD resolution is important when checking out the best budget laptops under $500.

The laptop can be upgraded to Wi-Fi 6 for free, and port selection is good at this price. You get USB-C, two USB-A, HDMI 1.4b, an SD card reader, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Check out our HP Laptop 14z review for more information.

Lots of features: ASUS Vivobook 15 — 15.6-inch

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

ASUS Vivobook 15 — 15.6-inch

Backlit keyboard with 1.4mm travel
FHD display
Lots of ports
Fingerprint reader
Decent performance from Core i3
Battery life doesn't impress
Slow SSD
Display isn't overly colorful

I recently reviewed the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 — another ultra-budget laptop — and compared it to the ASUS Vivobook 15. They're both 15-inch laptops with Windows 10 in S mode (which can be switched easily to normal Windows 10 Home), and they both have a similar price. However, the Vivobook 15 has some extra features that you won't find in the IdeaPad.

With the ASUS laptop, you'll be looking at a 1920x1080 (FHD) display with a thin bezel. The chassis is relatively thin, but it has plenty of ports. You get USB-C, HDMI, microSD card reader, three USB-A, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The keyboard has decent travel distance at 1.4mm, and it has a backlight to help with working after hours. A fingerprint reader is built into the touchpad for some added security.

Performance from the 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 CPU will handle light productivity work without much issue, especially with 8GB of RAM. The 128GB SSD isn't particularly large, but for the price, it's easier to overlook. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi 5 is the standard here. This is still one of the best all-purpose laptops under $500 you'll find.

11th Gen Intel CPUs: Dell Inspiron 15 3511

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Dell Inspiron 15 3511

Decent build quality
Wide range of legacy ports
Large 15.6-inch display
Full keyboard with numpad
Trackpad could be better

Dell's Inspiron 15 3000 — in this case the 3511 models — come with 11th Gen Intel Core i3 and Core i7 CPU options, with the former starting at just $343. From there, you can configure up to 12GB of DDR4-2666 RAM, and 512GB of M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD storage. This laptop will easily cut through productivity work, especially if you spend a bit more and go beyond the Core i3 chip.

The 15.6-inch display has an FHD resolution (1920x1080) for a fairly crisp look, and its anti-glare finish helps cut down on glare. Bezel is fairly slim, especially on a laptop this price. The keyboard has a full number pad for number crunching, and the touchpad is a generous size for easier pointing. Note that keys are not backlit.

Ports include USB-A 2.0, HDMI 1.4, two USB-A 3.2, and an SD card reader. No USB-C here, but you can always add a dongle. Connect wirelessly with Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth.

Bottom line

Many more PCs hit the sub-$500 mark, but they can't necessarily be considered one of the best budget laptops under $500 for one reason or another. For example, the Acer Aspire 5 A515-56 is a great 15-inch laptop with upgradeable storage and RAM, generous port selection, good audio and camera, and decent performance. But its FHD display is dreadful to the point that I can't recommend it. Here's hoping it's fixed in the next refresh.

When shopping around for a cheap laptop, you might be tempted to check some truly inexpensive hardware, like the best laptops under $300. This category is mostly dominated by Chromebooks, with Windows PCs sitting much more comfortably in the category of best laptops under $500. Stepping things up to around $800 or less adds a bunch of great options, including a few of the laptops we've rounded up in this collection. You can check out the best Chromebooks over at Android Central.

Our overall pick for a cheap laptop is the Surface Go 3, thanks to a combination of premium build quality and design, high-end display with inking capabilities, optional 4G LTE, and the new Intel Core m3 CPU option for better performance. This PC isn't going to dominate when it comes to performance, but it will put up a fight against productivity work and daily tasks. And thanks to its diminutive size, it's easy to take with you wherever you go. Considering the price starts at just $400, this is an easy recommendation for PCs on a budget.

For more great PCs, be sure to have a look at our roundup of the overall best Windows laptop options out there today.

Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.