Those on a budget might be surprised to learn just how much laptop you can get for less than $500 these days. Chromebooks are coming on strong, because they’re easy to use, responsive and satisfy basic computing needs. Prefer Windows? You can also pick up a Windows 8 laptop with touch for less than $350. The trick of choosing a great budget notebook is finding the one that delivers what you care about most, whether it’s portability, performance, display quality or comfort. Here are the best laptops available now for less than $500.
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is premium as far as Chrome OS laptops go, but it's well worth the slight splurge for its gorgeous full HD, 13-inch display and punchy Skullcandy-powered speakers. The MacBook Air-like design doesn't hurt either. This Chromebook lasted nearly 8 hours on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which means you'll have plenty of time to surf, get work done and play games between charges.
If you're looking for something more versatile than a Chromebook but don't want to pay more, take a good look at the HP Stream 11. This Windows 8-powered notebook offers solid Intel Celeron performance for its very low $199 price, plus Office 365 access and one terabyte of cloud storage for a year. And, unlike Chromebooks, you can use more games and apps when you're offline. If you prefer a bigger screen, step up to the 13-inch Stream 13, which costs just $30 more.
From its raspberry-red paint job to its Core i5 processor, the Acer Aspire E5-471-59RT is a budget notebook that doesn't look the part -- or perform like one. You also get a very long 8 hours of battery life from this 14-inch Windows machine. Add in a comfortable keyboard and clickpad with smooth performance, and it's easy to see why the Aspire E5 is one of our favorite notebooks under $500.
Have your cake and eat it too with the Transformer Book T200, a versatile 2-in-1 that transforms from a clamshell to a tablet. This Atom-powered hybrid isn't big on storage -- there's just 64GB on board -- but the full-size detachable keyboard dock comes with a hard-drive bay for adding more. Asus sweetens the deal with handy bundled photo and video editing apps.
You don't have to settle for a small screen if you're shopping for a Chromebook. HP's Chromebook 14 sports a colorful 14-inch display in a design that's available in three stylish color options. We also like the nearly 8 hours of battery life. HP even throws in 200MB of free 4G connectivity a month, so you can get online without a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The first laptop with Nvidia's powerful K1 processor under the hood, the Acer Chromebook 13 combines zippy graphics performance with a strong 8 hours of battery life. The full HD 13-inch screen isn't just sharp; it also boasts an anti-glare treatment so you can read content more easily outdoors. You get all this in a sleek white package for less than $300.