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5 Best Laptops Under $500 By Consumer Reports 2021

Innovation in technology has widened the selection of budget laptops compared with the last decade. Now you have way more options of the best laptops under $500 with a huge variety in terms of design and performance.

Windows is no longer the only usable operating system with the existence of Google’s ChromeOS. Models with touch screens or convertible and detachable laptops have also become more popular.

Even though you can’t expect these inexpensive machines to handle CPU-hungry or graphics-intensive tasks, you can browse the web, answer emails, and edit documents just fine. They are also extremely portable, and most importantly, don’t burn a huge hole in your pocket.

The choice mostly depends on which aspect of a laptop you need the most for your work. Is it raw processing power? Or do you need the most portable machine? Some people even need only a Chromebook for their daily use. Whichever your preference, these recommendations won’t disappoint you.

Top 5 Best Laptops Under $500 By Consumer Reports

Acer Aspire 5 – The Best Overall

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This slim laptop is your best bet of a budget portable Windows machine with great features, battery life, and performance.

Even though you can’t compare it with high-end models, there is nothing wrong with its build quality. The keyboard deck can resist flexing pretty well while the stiff lid can be extended to a full 180 degrees.

The quality of the touchpad and keyboard also goes beyond the expectations of a budget machine. You can even find backlight on the black keys – a nice feature usually found on more expensive models.

The Acer Aspire 5 comes with Ryzen 3 3200u CPU, which should be comfortable enough for typical school, home, and work tasks. This AMD process with a new architecture can last well for a few years until you need an upgrade.

Most major issues come from the screen and design. The display isn’t vibrant as you may expect while the whole machine isn’t the thinnest or lightest option out there.

Pros

  • Decent build quality
  • Good performance with future-proof CPU
  • Keyboard with backlights

Cons

  • Still feel bulky
  • The screen is not vibrant

ASUS VivoBook 15 F512JA – Fastest CPU

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Even with a limited budget, you don’t need to settle with a slow CPU on a laptop.

The ASUS VivoBook 15 F512JA offers a 10th-gen Intel Core i3 1005G1, which can be overclocked to 3.4 GHz. Between this and the 8GB DDR4 RAM, ASUS has provided a powerful multi-tasking machine that doesn’t break the bank.

The best part about this top-notch process is that it doesn’t lead to any noise issue. You can enjoy a quiet experience when browsing and editing documents.

This ASUS VivoBook shares the same arrangement as other ASUS laptops when it comes to connectivity. But there is no Thunderbolt 3, and we wish the spacing between the ports would be wider.

On top of that, the cheap panel display has a low contrast ratio of just 300:1 and a narrow sRGB space of just 58%.

Pros

  • Excellent CPU for a budget laptop
  • Solid build quality
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Cramped port positions
  • Low-contrast display

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 – Best ChromeOS Laptop

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The Chromebook Flex 5 from Lenovo can give you a wonderful ChromeOS experiment – a viable, lightweight alternative to Microsoft Windows – in the form of a typical laptop.

The machine has a light and thin design with solid build quality even though most of the parts are made from plastic. The tight hinge can resist wobbles when you swipe or tap the touch screen, and there is also no problem flipping it to a full 360 degrees.

This Lenovo laptop offers a standard variety of ports of a modern Chromebook. You can find everything you need here: microSD slot, headphone jack, USB A and C ports, etc.

While many cheap Chromebook use a Celeron or MediaTek chip, the Chromebook Flex 5 is equipped with the latest-generation Intel Core i3-10110U. It helps the machine fly even if you open many applications at the same time.

However, the screen is quite lackluster. The maximum brightness is only 250 nits while there is also a slight green tint on it.

Pros

  • Full 360-degree convertible design
  • Solid build quality
  • Great performance for the price

Cons

  • Mediocre display
  • Unimpressive touchpad

Lenovo Chromebook C330 – Top Small 2-in-1 Choice

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This is another Chromebook from Lenovo, but this time around, the C330 brings amazing portability and convenience in a small form factor. It is only an 11.6-inch laptop – one of the smallest options it offers right now.

Even though the frame is made from plastic through and through, it doesn’t feel cheap or poorly built. The 360-degree hinge rotates smoothly while the whole laptop has no stability issues in all four modes: standard, tablet, display, and stand.

With a battery capacity of 45 watt-hours, it should give a decent battery life for simple tasks. But its biggest issue is raw processing performance.

While the MediaTek MTK 8173C chip makes this laptop inexpensive, it gives an underwhelming experience, even though ChromeOS is already a lightweight operating system. The only-HD screen doesn’t help either when it gets washed out easily under strong lighting.

Pros

  • Extremely cheap
  • Good battery life
  • Acceptable build quality for the price

Cons

  • Poor performance
  • Dull display

Lenovo 100E Chromebook – For Education Purposes

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Lenovo is the real champion when it comes to the best laptops under $500 with this rugged Chromebook, which is designed primarily for simple teaching and learning tasks.

It features an impressively tough build with a shock and liquid-resistant keyboard to withstand against whatever a student can dish out. It uses the standard Chromebook keyboard layout with no function keys.

Inside the chassis are the MediaTek MT8173C, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB eMMC of storage. There is no way you can call this a high-end specification, but they still give enough performance for lightweight applications in the classroom.

The Lenovo 100E Chromebook lasts around 9 hours – a respectable number for such a cheap laptop. This only lags behind the more expensive models from Asus and Google.

But like other lower-end Chromebook models, the quality of the screen is quite frustrating with narrow viewing angles. On top of that, the built-in webcam has poor quality as well.

Pros

  • Rugged, durable design
  • Decent performance
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Narrow viewing display angles
  • Poor-quality webcam