Best laptop deals 2019: Windows and Chromebooks for under $500 – CNET

Looking for the best deal on a new laptop under $500. Who isn't, right? Sure, you could buy Apple's newest iPad for $500 on the nose. But you can also get a full-service laptop with a keyboard and everything instead. How much computer can you really get for less than $500? Quite a bit, as long as you manage your expectations. 

That's easier with Chromebooks, one of the most popular categories of budget laptops on the market. Google's Chrome OS isn't nearly as power-hungry as Windows, so you can get by with a lower-end processor, slower storage and less screen resolution or memory -- just a few of the components that make a laptop expensive. 

Our picks

And since they're cloud-first devices, you don't need a lot of storage built in. They're great if you spend most of your time roaming the web, writing, streaming video or playing Android games. (For games, make sure you get a model with a touchscreen.)

But while Chromebooks can run Chrome OS-specific and Android apps, some people need a full Windows operating system to run heftier applications, like video editing suites. With that comes a need for a faster processor with more cores, more memory -- 8GB is the bare minimum -- and more storage for applications and the operating system itself. 

Solid-state drives (SSD) can make a big difference in how fast Windows feels compared with spinning hard disks (HDD), but they also push the price up. So if your budget can stretch a little, you may want to consider stepping up from a base option to a 128GB SSD.

The good news is you can get a convertible (aka a two-in-one) -- a laptop with a screen that flips around to turn the display into a tablet, to position it for comfortable streaming or to do a presentation -- at a pretty reasonable price, for Windows or Chrome OS. All convertibles have touchscreens, as that's a prerequisite for tablet operation.

If you're looking for gaming on the cheap, you'll still have to break the $500 ceiling. The least expensive laptops suitable for a solid gaming experience -- those with even moderately powerful discrete graphics processors, will run you closer to $700. Here are our recommendations if you're looking for a cheap gaming laptop

Considering all specs from battery life to storage space, screen resolution, core processor and general machine performance, these are a few of our top picks for 2019's best laptop under $500.

Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of products featured on this page.  

Lenovo IdeaPad 330: A current name-brand value

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There's a lot to like about this $430 15-inch laptop, which boasts a quad-core Core i5 processor in addition to more usual components such as 8GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive. The hard drive does use Intel's Optane solid-state memory to speed up application loading. One of the only major cons is a screen with a resolution of just 1,366x768 pixels, so it falls short of high-def but still enough to land it firmly on our best laptop under $500 list.

IdeaPad 330 with less power, for less money

If you need a really cheap Windows system, an alternative configuration of the IdeaPad 330 -- based on the AMD A9-A9425 processor, with 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD storage -- costs a mere $255. But set your expectations low -- Windows will probably run glacially slow. 

Acer Aspire E 15: A big Windows machine for a low price

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It's not the prettiest system, but the Aspire is a solid budget laptop and includes a good 1,920x1,080 15.6-inch screen, a ton of ports -- new and old -- and even a DVD burner for those still working in the world of physical media. What's more, you can open it up and add more memory and storage space. It's heavy at 5.3 pounds, but it's a great option as a desktop replacement or as a system you just want to tote around the house. This $330 configuration includes a dual-core Intel Core i3-8130U, 6GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive.

Asus Flip C302A: A small Chromebook convertible that delivers big value

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This classy, capable Chromebook sports an all-aluminum two-in-one design and touchscreen. It's got a backlit keyboard, two USB-C ports and a sharp 1,920x1,080 12.5-inch display, and since it weighs under 2.5 pounds, it's a great travel companion. A budget Chromebook with great battery life, this guy runs around $486 for a dual-core Intel Core M3 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD. Another solid budget Chromebook perfect for basic web browsing, word processing, business applications and more.

Asus C523NA: An up-to-date Chromebook that's big and light

Best laptop deals 2019: Windows and Chromebooks for under $500     - CNET

Most Chromebooks under $500 keep the price lower by sticking with a smaller screen. The C523NA goes big with a 15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080 touchscreen display and a premium brushed-aluminum body that comes in at roughly 3.1 pounds. It's got up-to-date features, including 5GHz wireless support and USB-C connections. With this model you get a quad-core Pentium N4200, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD for under $400. Unlike the model above, this budget Chromebook has a shorter battery life, so depending on your needs and habits, could be a nuisance.

Samsung Chromebook Pro: A premium Chromebook convertible for less than $500

Best laptop deals 2019: Windows and Chromebooks for under $500     - CNET
Sarah Tew/CNET

Pulling back from the $500 line with a price drop to $460, the Chromebook Pro greets you there with its 12.3-inch touchscreen at a better-than-HD 2,400x1,600 resolution. With formidable battery life, this one comes with Samsung's excellent S Pen stylus, and an Intel Core m3, 4GB of RAM and a 32GB eMMC flash storage. A premium Chromebook but still budget-friendly, all things considered.

HP Pavilion x360: A Windows convertible with a modern look

Best laptop deals 2019: Windows and Chromebooks for under $500     - CNET

The latest version of this sleek Windows 2-in-1 convertible laptop packs in quite a bit for a hair under $500; it has a 15.6-inch 1,920x1,080 display, a current-generation dual-core i3-8130U, a 128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM. The stylus comes with, and it boasts one of HP's excellent keyboards. The battery life isn't terrific, but it's light for a 15-inch at under 4 pounds.

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