These days, laptops can come in such a small container and still be just as powerful as their counterparts, the large 17-19 inch laptops. High-end laptops are infamously known for being super expensive and being extremely difficult to upgrade. With some laptops, it’s better to just flat out buy a brand new one over upgrading a few pieces of hardware. Today though, thanks to technological advancements, laptops that pack a punch don’t have to be expensive.
Even tablets today have a lot of technology and functionality built into them. Do you remember the last time you used your hand held device to make a phone call? So much functionality is being built into mobile hardware like laptops and smartphones and the price of these things are getting lower every year as new technology comes out. Whether it’s a hybrid system or a Chromebook, companies everywhere are coming up with new inventive ways to step into the marketplace.
Just a mere decade ago, even the quad processors seemed like an impossible pricing point and it was hard to justify purchasing them. Today, quad processors are relatively cheap and Intel Atom and Celeron processors specifically, have seen significant progress – not only in functionality but in pricing as well. It kind of boils down to your purpose for a laptop and what you want it to do. Laptops that come with integrated GPUs aren’t specifically appealing to people who’d like to play brand new major AAA titles but they can hold their own against less demanding applications.
For example, World of Warcraft can be played on low or fair settings with a fair amount of integrated GPUs today. Flash based browser games or watching people stream on Twitch TV is also easily doable with a highly affordable budget laptop. Another great thing about laptops is that RAM is easily affordable now when you do want to purchase an upgrade. The relative price of $ per byte gets lower and lower every year. Ideally, you want to make sure that your laptop has 4GB of DDR3 to be able to handle multi-tasking and most games today.
When it comes to your battery, this is another area that you don’t particularly want to cheap out on because it should have six cells or more. In a cheap laptop, you can expect the battery to last anywhere from three to four hours. Storage is another story because as technology advances, more and more storage space is demanded, especially for games like World of Warcraft that take up to 45 gigabytes of storage. The game has so much data and expansion data inside, coupled with the fact that the developers never clean up old or unused code.
Most inexpensive systems tend to offer at least 500GB of hard drive storage and if you’re a casual user with low demands, this should be more than enough to fulfill your needs. Now, for gaming at least, there’s the issue of local storage that comes in Chromebooks and Windows based Chromebooks. While most of these particular laptops only come with about 16GB to 32GB, there’s always the cloud. The only downfall to cloud storage is that you’ll need to have internet access to access the data being stored on the cloud.
For connecting portable devices and attachments, most budget laptops should come with a couple of USB 2.0 ports and some may even come with a USB 3.0 port. You should try to look for a budget laptop that has at least one HDMI port. Some of these laptops offer a touch screen display and some of them do not. The downfall to Windows users is that Windows in recent years has been making touch based interfaces, but the good news is that Windows uses a lot of shortcuts and hotkeys to access almost everything in the system.
Best Laptop Under $500 Complete Guide
What is the Chromebook? This was Google’s blood and glory that basically was their first go at running the Chrome operating system. A Chromebook usually only runs anywhere from $200 to $300 and they’re great for people who do things like writing, simple photo editing or work online. They’re not great for gaming, or resource intensive applications that may be used for music production, graphic design or video editing, and they often offer very limited local storage but cloud storage is available for people who are always connected to the internet. Due to the fact that not many demanding applications can be ran on them, they often have a longer battery life than your average laptop, and rarely require the use of a laptop cooling pad due to overheating.
Next, we have this new concept of computers known as the hybrid system. It’s not exactly fleshed out yet and these are relatively new. This is taking the idea of a tablet and combining it with a laptop. One of the cool things about these hybrid systems is that they act as a tablet when you disconnect them from their dock but if you wish to use them as a desktop mock setup, you can connect them to the dock and use the keyboard that comes with them. Sounds expensive right? Wrong. These bad boys are usually under $500 and come with enough performance for a working or casual browsing environment. Again, these are not suitable for major AAA titles.
Best Cheap Laptop Reviews
1. Dell Inspiron 17 5000 Series Review
The Dell Inspiron 17 5000 Series was built for people that work with multimedia or watch a lot of shows. If you’re on a tight budget and like to do a lot of Netflix binges or do some work from home, this is the perfect budget laptop for you. This laptop at first glance has an aggressive and sleek look that will make you think it’s far more expensive than what it is. The screen is 17.3 inches and very brightly lit, allowing you to see the screen clearly in sunlight or darkness. It also comes equipped with a SD card reader and DVD burner if you’d like to burn movies or import some multimedia.
A metal finish is quite rare on a budget laptop but the Inspiron 17 5000 Series has a nice shiny silver lid that makes it look far more sleek and expensive than what you actually pay for the system. The only downside to having a 17 inch notebook is that they tend to be a bit on the heavy side and can get tiring if you lug them around all day on your shoulder. The total weight of the system is 6.6 pounds – separate from the weight of your laptop backpack and anything else you might also have in it.
The total dimensions are 1.1 by 16.2 by 10.6 inches. Under the nicely finished and high gloss silver lid is a beautiful 1600px by 900px 17.3 inch display. It offers a nice finished glossy look that reflects beautifully. However, you aren’t going to be able to streamline 1080p content but it still delivers a bright and sharp 720p picture. The keys of the keyboard are highly responsive and fast so you’ll be able to show off your typing speed accurately.
There is a webcam embedded into the front of the display that displays 720p imagery. If you’re into home networking, there’s a built in Wireless-N 1705 that offers quick internet access speed. The processor is a 1.7GHz Intel Pentium 3558U dual core processor. The memory is efficient with 4GB of memory to run most applications today and the graphics are an integrated Intel HD 4400. It’s relatively inexpensive and will run all of your casual browsing or multimedia needs and has been tested by Intel for a variety of games like League of Legends, Counterstrike, and other browser based gaming applications. If this purchase will be for game-loving child, they will most definitely be pleased.
2. Acer Chromebook R11 Convertible Review
If you’re looking for a Google-backed cheap laptop, there’s the R11 Google Chrome, OS-run alternative to a typical PC experience. The R11 comes with a nice 4GB of memory and even a solid state drive. While the storage space isn’t very spacious, coming with a SSD ensures that loading times and boot times are fairly quick. One of the only downsides is that it lacks the aluminum shiny body of the Asus Chromebook Flip C100PA-DB02. However, to make up for this, the R11 does offer another inch of screen real estate and it also offers more local storage.
It’s only a few more bucks but the components on the Chromebook are quicker as well. The viewing screen comes with a modest 1,366px by 768px 11.6 inch touch screen. It’s not going to be 1080p but it will offer high quality video. There’s also different modes to the laptop as well. There’s what’s known as display mode that allows you to face the keyboard down and turn the screen outward, there’s tent mode which allows you to stand the system on its edges and finally there’s tablet mode that will allow you to fold the keyboard back all the way behind the display and mimic the functionality and look of a tablet.
No matter what mode you put the Chromebook in, there’s a sturdy couple of hinges located on the bottom of the Chromebook that makes the laptop feel sturdy in all modes. One thing that could be improved on the R11 is the keyboard. While it’s very well built, they could use a little more testing on it. Sometimes, users are reporting that there’s too much resistance on the keyboard and in the dark, there’s absolutely no keyboard backlighting. This means you have to either know where the keys are or you need to hook up a light next to your keyboard to see the keys.
This isn’t highly unusual though for a system that’s cheap and it doesn’t take it away from being one of the best laptops. Backlight laptops are generally expensive or moderate in price and the system makes up for this lack of functionality. The Asus Chromebook Flip offers a 16GB while this R11 Chromebook offers double the size in storage capacity. Google, being as generous as they are, also offer 100GB of free storage on Google Drive. You’ll get this benefit for two years until you have to pay or upgrade. The monthly fee however is currently only $1.99.
This really makes up for the lack of local storage and allows you to store almost anything you want. It’s important to note that this isn’t a hardcore or heavy gaming laptop and shouldn’t be used as such. Google Drive is a nice toolkit that offers things that replace Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel which offers free tools that offer functionality that’s similar but not as powerful. This is great because Chrome OS doesn’t allow the installation of any Windows based programs or applications.
If you need to edit photos or run any kind of Windows based programs on a Chrome OS, the good news is that there’s a lot of alternatives online to do so. You need to be careful when you tinker with the volume because the speakers that are located directly on the bottom of the system are pretty loud. If you blast your audio at maximum volume, not only might your neighbors hate you through thin walls but the sound will get a bit fuzzy as well. Other than that, the sound quality is great.
If you combine how portable this laptop is, the great audio quality and great screen viewing quality, this laptop is great for viewing videos online and great for photo editing with a selection of tools available by Google. The port selection on this laptop is also great as well. On the left side of the laptop, there’s a powerful USB 3.0 port and an additional SD card. On the right side, there’s a less powerful USB 2.0 port, you have the headphone input and then a Kensington lock slot.
Most Chromebooks usually suffer from limited speed but they’re not made to run hardcore applications that eat up your CPU. The R11 however is relatively quick and this is in part due to the powerful Celeron N3150 1.6GHz processor. It comes with an adequate 4GB of memory and then combined with the built in SSD, it offers surprisingly fast loading times. Boot times average at about 5 seconds and it’s a great pick for streaming video and web applications.
3. ASUS Chromebook Flip Review
Chromebooks haven’t always been wildly popular. This is due in part to the fact that they cannot use Windows based apps and even if they could, they don’t come with enough storage to do so. Typical windows installation and setup requires gigs of data to be installed on a system. Most Chromebooks simply don’t offer the local storage capacity to make this a reality. However, we have seen the number of Chromebooks rapidly growing as more and more manufacturers are looking for a way to produce budget laptops.
Next in the arena, we have the Chromebook Flip 10.1 inch has a stunning and great looking design. It’s very lightweight as well and it even comes at a nice price that everyone can agree to, just under $300. The battery life of this laptop is also highly impressive compared to other Chromebook battery life spans.
The word “flip” in the Chromebook flip comes from the hinge that allows it to make wide turns. It’s known as a 360 degree hinge and this allows the display to flip to the back and make it useable on any kind of surface with a variety of different modes. One of the things that’s different about the Chromebook Flip is that it doesn’t use two hinges, it uses one long hinge that runs the entire length of the chassis. Only two Chromebooks that exist today offer this kind of tablet functionality and this happens to be one of them.
While the display comes in at a small 10.6 inches, this Chromebook also offers one of the best displays available for Chrome OS based laptops. This is because it features what’s known as the IPS (In-Plane Switching Panel). What this means is, that when viewed at an angle, the Chromebook has a screen that will allow you to view the picture at different angles including up or down with perfect clarity as if you’re viewing it straight on.
While the screen resolution is only 1,280px by 800px, which is lower than what most Chromebooks provide today on the market, the picture still comes in adequately fine for most multimedia or video. A lot of the inexpensive models of the Chromebook line up offer 1,366px by 768px. However, with only a 10 inch screen, you’re not going to notice much of a difference in terms of resolution and clarity.
Another downfall aside from the smaller resolution is the volume quality. Even if you turn the volume all the way up, the audio doesn’t appear to have that far of a reach or have very high clarity. We’d definitely recommend some high quality headphones if you plan on using this Chromebook for watching movies or doing anything that has to do with sound. Just don’t try the Chromebook out on full blast volume if you have sensitive hearing right away, because it could still be loud to some people with sensitive hearing.
One major concern for most people is the keyboard. If it has such small dimensions and such a small screen, then surely, the keyboard is really small and hard to use, right? The keyboard is one of the things on this Chromebook that was done right. The keyboard is relatively easy to use and it almost looks and feels like it’s full sized. It’s not cramped at all and just as easy to use as a full sized keyboard for most people when you get used to it.
However, if you’re used to the usual Chromebook layout, you’ll find that there’s some slight variations like having a dedicated search key instead of a caps lock key. It has more Chrome functions instead of F1 and F12 as well. Now, the local storage isn’t impressive but this isn’t used for storing a lot of things. Not only that but there’s the free optional Google storage with Google Drive as well which offers 100GB. This is free and even when your trial is up, it’s only a mere $1.99 a month to keep going with your current 100GB plan.
This particular Chromebook is equipped with a Rockchip 1.8GHz processor which isn’t well known in the market and isn’t exactly the quickest but it does get decent scores, and considering the price of this laptop its hard to beat. This is a relatively inexpensive CPU and it appears to be a go to for newer Chromebooks. It’s cheap and it’s relatively new. It won’t power games but it will power all of your browsing and Chrome related needs with relative ease. Some reports compare it to be on par with other Intel Atom and Celeron processors and some reports compare it to be slightly under these processors.
The boot time was averaged out at 8 seconds and isn’t exactly the best but it’s still relatively quick compared to say PC based machines that aren’t built with super expensive SSDs or have thousands of dollars pumped into it. If you want to stream music through Pandora or video through YouTube, this is a great Chromebook. It doesn’t have any kind of lag no matter how many tabs you got open and it can even handle some web based games as well.
4. Microsoft Surface 3 Review
We’d like to cover one laptop that’s not a Chromebook. The Microsoft Surface 3 is featured here because it finally corrected a large issue that Microsoft seemed to ignore for so long. The Surface is Microsoft’s entry level laptop and it finally now allows the laptop to run a full version of Windows that isn’t stripped down. Originally, you had to use a stripped down Windows RT system that was missing so much functionality that it almost wasn’t worth the purchase at all.
Even the Windows legacy programs can now be run and this is a huge improvement from the Microsoft Surface 2 which didn’t allow you to run a full version of Windows. If you had a Surface 2, you know that you could only use some Windows Apps from the store and that’s it. It features a nice fancy snap on keyboard but this is sold separately and it comes at a premium price. Don’t get too excited though because the price increases a considerable amount when you combo the keyboard and the tablet – yes, the keyboard is an additional purchase.
One of the most concerning features is that it comes with Windows 8 which is highly disliked by a lot of people. Windows 8 came with a lot of performance issues and a lack of user experience integrated into the system. It’s one of the core reasons that they had to give Windows 10 out for free. Now, while this is a downfall, the Surface 3 itself runs much like a typical laptop or a hybrid. It’s modestly powered compared to some of the budget laptops out today partly due to the fact that it’s using an Intel Atom CPU instead of a i-series CPU.
This laptop is ideal for some web surfing, browsing the internet, checking your email, streaming music, watching HD videos, watching Netflix and it runs pretty smooth as long as you don’t overload the table with unnecessary apps. It comes standard with Internet Explorer (yuck) but that can be easily replaced (and it should be). It’s a great product for the price point and should be considered for any casual user looking for a budget deal.
5. Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Review
If you’re a fan of Celeron powered CPUs and Chromebooks, the Lenovo ThinkPad 11e might just be for you. This Chromebook was made with schooling in mind and is great in the classroom. It’s also made for students everywhere because it was engineered to withstand hard drops and being tossed around like most careless students do with their laptop. Not only that but it’s also spill proof to prevent people who are clumsy with drinks constantly around their keyboard so you shouldn’t have to worry but you should still be careful.
One of the great things about this Chromebook is that it comes with a powerful quad core Intel based Celeron CPU and it comes with an adequate amount of memory coming at 4GB of RAM. The battery life is relatively great as well which was engineered for long term use in the classroom in mind. However, it does appear to lack some aesthetics and sleek looking design that other Chromebooks tend to have. So, this is one of those downfalls but doesn’t impact the functionality or speed of the Chromebook what so ever.
While it’s a great Chromebook, the thing is, there’s really nothing too fancy about it. The ThinkPad 11e has a nice durable style but it sacrifices the chassis design. The hinges are reinforced and the lid was made extra study. There’s also a nice rubber bumper attached to the display to protect itself from being accidentally bumped into a wall. It was also built to endure harsh temperatures as well and it comes with a nice anti-dust functionality.
Most Chromebooks are anywhere from 1 to 2 pounds but this comes in at a hefty 3.1 pounds. Not too heavy but slightly heavier than most Chromebooks. The resolution of the 11.6 inch display comes in at 1,366px by 768px. It also features a nice anti-glare coat on the display to protect your eyes from bright lights and help you see everything on the screen better when there’s bright lights in the room or the sun is shining near it. There’s plenty of color quality as well and the viewing angles are great.
However, if you view the screen from the top or the bottom, you can easily notice that there’s some loss of luminance. This is a problem that’s seen commonly in Chromebooks that utilize what’s known as TN or Twisted Nematic panels. The panels and user interface inputs are great as well. There’s a HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, a nice headphone input port near the front and even volume controls. There’s 16GB of flash based memory that can hold most of your Chromebook needs. It comes with a standard of a one year warranty.
There’s a quad core CPU backed by Intel Celeron N2940’s 1.83GHz. Paired up with the 4GB of memory, this provides a lot of power for people who just want to use this Chromebook for multimedia or YouTube video viewing. You can also stream music from services like Pandora as well or open up a bunch of new tabs and still not have any kind of input lag or stalling. The boot time seems to be around 8 seconds which seems to be the average boot time for most Chromebooks.
Now, while the ThinkPad 11e has its downsides and has its upsides in terms of performance, it does seem to be a bit more expensive than most other Chromebooks. It does cost a little bit more and it does seem to be a little bit heavier but this is for people that mostly attend college or school that allows you have to your own computer in the classroom. It’s a very well-engineered high quality Chromebook that is made to withstand drops and harsh temperatures.
However, it doesn’t come with a touch-screen and this would be great if it came with one because the price tag is a bit more than most Chromebooks and some of those Chromebooks that do come with a touch screen have a lower selling point than most.
6. Lenovo Lenz9 Ideapad 100s Review
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Lenz9 is that it offers a sleek design. The design would have you thinking that it’s a relatively expensive system but that’s not the case. It also comes with a very nice battery life that lasts longer than most budget based laptops and offers some pretty solid performance. One of the things everyone has been noticing is how low Chromebook has been going with their pricing system as of lately.
If you need a surprisingly low or tight budget Chromebook, the Lenovo Lenz9 100s might be the best fit for you. It comes in just under $200 and has an impressive 11.6 inch display. It comes with a lot of different ports and performance variations as well. The measurements come in at just .75inches by 11.8inches by 8.2inches. It’s a small but powerful system for people looking for a casual surfing Chromebook. This system weighs in at just 2.64 pounds making it relatively easy to carry around.
However, those that are looking for the functionality of a ThinkPad are going to be slightly disappointed. However, there’s chiclet style keys that are square, feel really snappy and have a great typing feel. It allows for smooth and progressive typing without feeling like the keys are being stuck or too resistant. There’s a nice keyboard palm rest as well for people who spend strenuous amounts of time on the computer.
While the touchpad is relatively smooth and has a nice glide about it, it’s still going to require a firm tap to get it working. There’s really relatively few cons and downfalls about this Chromebook but for the low price of under $200 (at the time of writing), you can’t expect everything to work absolutely perfect, can you? There’s going to be a couple of flaws and things that don’t work as perfect as they could. It’s a very tight budget Chromebook for those just looking for something that covers their basic needs.
If you need something for regular business meetings, then you might want to spend a little extra money because the webcam isn’t that great. It’s adequate for using it on something like Google+ Hangouts or maybe even Skype but it’s definitely not great for anything more than that. The problem with the webcam is that it’s often grainy or too noisy without any kind of sound cancellation for the background noises. It’s not great but it suffices for most people’s needs.
There’s an 11.6 inch 1366px by 768px display that has a few different backlight settings. As long as you stick to the first three backlight settings, it’s very clear and resolute. However, some of the settings get too dark and make it hard to see anything when it’s light out or if you’re viewing the display from an angel. It doesn’t have any kind of IPS technology that allows it to make the resolution bright from every single angle, but this is to be expected from one of the cheapest Chromebooks on the market.
There’s quite a few connectivity options that allow the user to import a wide variety of things as well. You wouldn’t expect to see a USB 3.0 port on this system but there is one on the left side. There’s also a USB 2.0 port with headphone inputs as well. Some of the last features we’ll go over are the processor which comes with a 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840. This isn’t exactly a speedy CPU but it’s still very adequate for general use. There’s integrated Intel HD graphics that can handle video and YouTube as well. The boot time isn’t exactly impressive compared to other Chromebooks but the downfalls of this Chromebook are overshadowed by the positives.