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Finding a laptop under $500 for or Chrome OS (also known as a ) has become more challenging since the COVID-19 pandemic forced both office workers and students to start working from home. While we are starting to finally get past the -induced work-from-home rush, when , there’s still a strong demand for a budget laptop and other .
Even though demand is high, we urge you not to make any rash decisions. There are a lot of cheap laptops that are just not worth it. But there are a few that are — we’re highlighting our picks for the best laptops under $500 to help you sort through the competition and find the one with the features and hardware specifications that are right for you.
As a rule of thumb, resist buying out of desperation — don’t spend $500 on a laptop because there are no cheaper ones available, for example. Buying a need-it-now laptop can be like shopping for food while hungry. Even for a laptop, $500 can be a lot of money, and you’ll likely be holding onto it for at least three years, if the statistics Intel and PC manufacturers hurl at us are correct.
You can also . If you just need something to tide you over for a few months, dig into possible places to buy refurbished machines, and explore nonprofit or educational discounts if you’re eligible. Also, if there’s something you really want in a laptop, like a touch screen, backlit keyboard or HDMI port, definitely look for something with that feature. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
If you suspect you’ll be holding onto your new laptop a while, see if you can stretch your budget to buy a slightly more expensive laptop to accommodate a little more memory or a processor with more cores than you were otherwise considering. If you haven’t thought about it, look at AMD Ryzen processors as alternatives to Intel Core.
Even better, if you’re comfortable with it, think about an affordable laptop with a replaceable battery, or upgradable memory, graphics card and storage, or all of the above. Furthermore, you . Remember to consider whether having a lighter-weight laptop with good battery life will be important to you in the future.
You can always add an external drive or two (or five, if you’re me) at some point down the road. But if your internal storage is the type of slow-spinning hard drive that comes in a lot of cheap laptop models, even fast external storage is unlikely to help speed up loading Windows or applications. (You can frequently set a system to boot from an external solid-state drive if necessary.)
You may see references to “Intel Optane” in conjunction with slow (5,400rpm) spinning hard drives; Optane is fast solid-state memory that acts as a temporary storage space for frequently accessed files on the hard drive to speed things up. It helps, but not as much as an SSD drive.
And finally, if you’re replacing an old Windows laptop that’s just not up to running Windows anymore, .