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Laptops that cost less than $500 don’t have to be low-powered. For evidence, just look at our top pick, the HP Pavilion x360. It offers a 13-inch touchscreen, an Intel Core i3 processor, and a hefty 6GB of RAM for less than $500.
The laptop is largely considered to be the hub of our digital lives, and while many suggest that the smartphone is changing that, the fact is, there’s still plenty that’s far easier to do on a laptop than on anything else. That’s especially true if you’re getting a laptop for work or for school, and with the new school year right around the corner that may well be the case.
While you may see headlines about devices like the latest MacBook Pro, it turns out you don’t need to spend thousands to get a decent computer — especially if you’re using it for things like word processing, web browsing, and emailing.
Of course, there are quite a few things to consider in purchasing a new laptop. After all, they’re pretty complex machines. Here’s a quick rundown of the features to look for when you make your choice.
- Operating System: There are a few major computer operating systems out there. You’re probably most familiar with Windows, as its by far the most popular operating system, but there’s also Apple’s macOS, which is also very capable. Finally, there’s Google’s Chrome OS, which is a little more targeted to those with basic computer needs who like the idea of being able to use some Android apps on their computer and are plugged into Google’s ecosystem and web apps. We’re not including any computers with macOS on this list because there aren’t any that would fall under the “budget laptop” distinction of costing $500 or less.
- Specs: Some computers are more powerful than others. Things like the processor and amount of RAM will dictate how quickly your computer runs, while the amount of storage indicates how many files you can keep on your computer at once.
- Size: Laptops come in a range of different sizes, however, the smaller ones generally sit in the 10- to 11-inch range, while the larger ones can get as big as 17-inches. That’s handy for watching movies, but it comes at the cost of portability.
Then, of course, there’s cost. For this guide, we consider a “budget” laptop to be a laptop that costs less than $500. However, if you can afford to spend more than that, you will be able to get something more powerful and arguably better than the computers on this list.
Stay tuned for our official list of the best high-end laptops. You can also check out our guide to the best Chromebooks on Insider Picks.