Affordable good laptops: The Best Budget Laptops for 2023

Acer Aspire 5 (2022, A515-57-56UV) Review

The Acer Aspire name has always been a bit of smart branding, since the series is positioned as a better-than-average pick among budget laptops—a notebook you can afford, but with the features and performance you aspire to. It hasn’t always hit the mark, but the company has managed to produce solid economy choices year after year. The latest Aspire 5 (starts at $369.99; $599.99 as tested) offers a 12th Generation Intel processor and reasonable RAM and storage. It delivers pretty good performance and battery life, though as you’d expect, some features are kept basic for the sake of affordability.

For 2022, the 15.6-inch Aspire 5 line starts at $369.99 with an 11th Gen Core i3 laptop processor and Windows 11 Home in S mode. Our $599.99 model A515-57-56UV features a Core i5-1235U chip (two Performance cores, eight Efficient cores, 12 threads) with Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16GB of memory, and a 512GB solid-state drive, as well as a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) non-touch display. It’s built to offer just-good-enough levels of quality in all but a few choice areas, and that’s reflected in the design, from the materials used to the connections and components inside.

(Credit: Molly Flores)

Measuring 0.7 by 14.3 by 9.4 inches and weighing 3.9 pounds, the Acer is far from featherweight, but it’s not too bulky to throw in a laptop bag or backpack. The Asus VivoBook 15 is a little trimmer at 0.78 by 14.1 by 9.1 inches and 3.75 pounds. The Aspire’s construction combines metal and plastic, with a uniform finish that makes it hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The lid is covered in aluminum, but the rest of the chassis is fairly sturdy plastic. The laptop is large enough for a full-size keyboard with numeric keypad, though the latter has half-width keys.

The keyboard is backlit for visibility in dim rooms, and the tiled keys are reasonably comfortable to type on. The narrower keys of the keypad aren’t as comfortable, but any number pad is better than none if you’re doing a lot of data entry in spreadsheets. The touchpad is extra-wide, giving you a spacious surface for gesture controls as well as basic clicking and scrolling.

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The Aspire 5 doesn’t skimp on connectivity, with plenty of ports that’ll free you from having to bring along a hub or adapter. On the laptop’s left side are three USB 3.2 ports (one Type-C and two Type-A), along with an HDMI video output and a compact Ethernet jack.

(Credit: Molly Flores)

On the right, you’ll find a third USB-A port and a 3. 5mm audio jack, plus a Kensington lock slot for physically securing the machine. Wi-Fi 6 handles your networking needs (assuming you don’t use the Ethernet port), and Bluetooth is available for wirelessly connecting headsets, keyboards, and mice.

(Credit: Molly Flores)

No Feast for the Eyes and Ears

The built-in webcam is a bit pedestrian, meaning it’s your typical generic cam with 720p resolution and no face recognition support for Windows Hello logins. Nor is there a fingerprint reader, so you’ll be typing passwords the old-fashioned way.

The 1080p IPS screen is a little underwhelming in an era when higher-resolution and even 4K displays are offered on many laptops, but they’re not common at this price point, and full HD at least beats some ultra-cheap notebooks’ 1,366 by 768. The 15.6-inch size is adequate for everyday tasks like schoolwork, web browsing, and streaming videos and movies, but in this segment you shouldn’t expect dazzling brightness or better-than-bland colors. Touch screens are scarce in this price range, too.

(Credit: Molly Flores)

The Aspire 5 is outfitted with a pair of downward-facing speakers. The clarity of the sound isn’t bad, but the speakers are surprisingly quiet. Watching YouTube videos online, I had to crank the volume to the maximum to get adequate audio.

Testing the 2022 Aspire 5: Performance in Line With Price

For this review, we compared the Aspire 5 to other budget-friendly systems, ranging from the affordable Asus VivoBook 15 to the AMD-powered Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14 and Intel-based Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i 14, two of the best models in this price range that we’ve seen in the last year. We also included the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 and the Gateway 15.6-inch Ultra Slim, two rock-bottom budget machines with less-capable hardware and limited specs.

Our primary productivity test is UL’s PCMark 10, which simulates routine workloads with such everyday staples as word processing, spreadsheet analysis, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also use PCMark 10’s Full System Drive test to assess the access time and throughput of the system’s boot drive. Geekbench 5 also simulates popular apps like PDF rendering and speech recognition, with a little more emphasis on processing power.

Two other CPU tests that stress all available cores and threads are Maxon’s Cinebench, which uses that company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, and the open-source HandBrake, which we time as it encodes a 12-minute clip of 4K video (the Blender Foundation short film Tears of Steel) to 1080p resolution. Our final productivity test is workstation vendor Puget Systems’ PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud 22 version of Adobe’s popular image editor to measure a PC’s suitability for multimedia and digital content creation.

The Aspire 5’s up-to-date Intel Core i5 CPU is well suited to everyday applications, whether in the classroom, home, or office. Our test unit handily beat the bottom-feeding Inspiron and even topped the capable IdeaPad Flex 5i 14 in most tests.

We test PCs’ graphics capabilities with two game-like animations apiece from two benchmark suites. UL’s 3DMark provides the DirectX 12 tests Night Raid (less challenging, suited for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suited for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs). GFXBench is a cross-platform GPU performance test that uses both low-level routines like texturing and high-level image rendering. Its 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase subtests are rendered off-screen to accommodate different display resolutions.

Because the Aspire 5 relies on integrated graphics instead of an AMD or Nvidia dedicated GPU, it’s naturally limited in graphics performance. It’s fine for office productivity, streaming media, and even light photo editing, but if you’re looking to play the latest games, you’ll have to look elsewhere. That said, its graphics are quicker than those of most economy models, often leading the pack in our tests.

Finally, we test laptops’ battery life by looping a locally stored 720p video at 50% screen brightness and 100% audio volume, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off, until the system quits. We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and software to measure the screen’s coverage of popular color gamuts or palettes and its brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).

With an unplugged runtime of 11 and a half hours, the Acer shows pretty good stamina for the price. Its screen, however, didn’t wow us—it’s a typical economy panel with limited color reproduction and barely adequate brightness, falling just short of the 300 nits we consider a baseline, let alone the 400 nits we prefer. To be honest, however, you won’t find much better in this class.

Verdict: A Budget Compromise, But Not a Bad One

Made to tread the line between budget and midrange laptops, the Acer Aspire 5 has a tightrope to walk, balancing an affordable price and capable features. The latest version handles that balance fairly well, though there are some rough spots that are hard to ignore, like the lackluster display and missing biometric and touch-screen features. But on the whole, it delivers what the Aspire line has always promised, a better-than-bare-bones laptop for consumers on tight budgets.

(Credit: Molly Flores)

Whether you’re looking for performance that edges out other economy laptops or a port selection that lets you leave the hubs and dongles at home, the 2022 Aspire 5 hits those marks. It’s a strong option for a solid laptop that won’t cost you a fortune.

Acer Aspire 5 (2022, A515-57-56UV)


  • Solid everyday performance

  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad

  • More than 11 hours of battery life


  • Weak speakers

  • Non-touch, not-too-bright 1080p display

  • Half-width numeric keypad feels cramped

The Bottom Line

You won’t get loads of creature comforts with Acer’s Aspire 5, but you’ll get solid performance for daily use—and the battery life to back it up.

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The Best Laptop Under $500 for 2023

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  1. Electronics
  2. Computers

Photo: Rozette Rago


We’ve tested two new models and added them to the Competition section.

Lots of laptops cost less than $500, but it’s hard to find a cheap one that doesn’t totally suck. We’ve researched and tested hundreds of cheap Windows laptops and Chromebooks over the years to find decent models, and we also have advice to help you shop smart when prices change and our picks go out of stock.

Choosing a budget laptop is tricky because you can find dozens—even hundreds—of options at a given time. Their prices fluctuate constantly, too, and companies release and discontinue models with no warning. We have picks for Chromebooks and Windows laptops under $500, and some other good options if those picks are unavailable. If you can’t find our picks anywhere, check out our tips on how to shop for a budget laptop, or consider a used laptop instead.

The research

  • Choosing a cheap Chromebook vs. a cheap Windows laptop
  • Best Windows laptops under $500
  • Best Chromebooks under $500
  • What about an iPad?
  • Other good laptops under $500
  • How to shop for a cheap laptop
  • How we picked
  • How we tested
  • The competition
  • Sources

Choosing a cheap Chromebook vs.

a cheap Windows laptop

Our picks are for anyone who doesn’t want to or can’t spend more than $500 on a laptop. These models are good for anyone who just wants to browse the web, students who don’t need special software, and people who work at home only occasionally. If you need a more powerful laptop, take a look at our guide to the best laptops.

At this price, Chromebooks are better than Windows laptops because they’re faster at the things most people use a laptop for. They also tend to have better build quality, longer battery life, and superior screens, keyboards, and trackpads. Chromebooks don’t need antivirus software and don’t come with bloatware (unnecessary, manufacturer-loaded software that clutters the computer and slows it down). If you spend your computing time in a browser—checking email, using Google Docs, watching Netflix, or making Zoom calls—Chrome OS is all you need. But if you need specialized software for work or school, if you want to play Windows-specific games, or if you need to be able to work offline, you’re better off with Windows.

A great Windows laptop under $500 can handle web browsing, video calls, and media consumption, but they’re rare—many cheap Windows laptops buckle under the load of running more than a couple apps at a time. And buying a bad laptop may cost you more in the long term: Compared with a $700 laptop, it will feel worse in everyday use in two years, and you’ll need to replace it sooner. Even $550, if you can swing it, will more reliably buy you a faster computer that will last longer.

If you don’t need Windows, if you prefer Apple’s platforms, or if you mostly watch videos and play games, consider an iPad with a keyboard. Compared with a cheap Windows laptop, this combo is snappier when you’re banging out emails, watching movies, or taking notes, and whereas a Chromebook forces you to rely on web apps and Android apps designed for phones, you can find thousands of iPad-optimized apps and games. But an iPad-and-keyboard combo is not a complete replacement for a laptop.

Best Windows laptops under $500

Our pick

Acer Aspire 3 Spin 14 (A3SP14-31PT)

Unlike most cheap Windows laptops, the Aspire 3 Spin 14 is fast, compact, and light, and it has a decent 1080p touchscreen and good battery life.

Recommended configuration

Processor: Intel Core i3-N305 Screen: 14-inch 1920×1200 touch
Memory: 8 GB Weight: 3.3 pounds
Storage: 128 GB or 256 GB SSD Tested battery life: 8.5 hours

Why we like this one: If you need to run Windows apps or games, or if you prefer to work offline, we recommend the Acer Aspire 3 Spin 14 (A3SP14-31PT) in any of the following configurations: 37NV, 38YA, or 32M6. The Aspire 3 Spin 14 is fast enough to meet most people’s computing needs for years to come. Many cheap Windows laptops have less memory or terrible processors that limit them to running only a couple apps and a handful of browser tabs at a time.

The Aspire 3 Spin 14 is one of the more portable cheap Windows laptops we’ve tested. It’s more compact than common Windows devices in this price range, and its battery life lasted 8 hours and 30 minutes in our tests—long enough to make it through a full day of work or classes. Unlike cheap laptops with unpleasant keyboards and trackpads that flex and rattle, the Aspire 3 Spin 14’s keyboard and trackpad are accurate and reliable.

Our pick’s 14-inch 1920×1200 touchscreen has a tall aspect ratio that feels spacious and is particularly convenient for web browsing. The glossy touchscreen is reflective, but it’s much better than many laptop displays in this price range—most have lower-resolution screens that look pixelated, or horrendous TN panels that look blown out and have poor viewing angles. Our pick also has a 360-degree hinge that allows you to flip the display all the way around to use the device as a tablet (or in any intermediate position), though it’s a bit heavy to do so easily.

Photo: Acer

Where it falls short: The Aspire 3 Spin 14 ships with Windows 11 S mode, which only allows apps from the Microsoft Store and limits you to Microsoft Edge for web browsing. But you can switch it to Windows 11 Home for free to install any program you need.

Like many inexpensive Windows laptops, our pick comes with a ton of unnecessary bloatware that takes up space and slows down performance. Follow these steps to remove those programs and make your laptop feel faster and be more secure.

The Aspire 3 Spin 14 also lacks a fingerprint reader, has a mediocre webcam, and it can’t be opened with a single hand.

Also great

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3 (82X7001VUS)

If you want a 15-inch screen, the best option is the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3. This model is fast, plus it has a 1080p touchscreen and a fingerprint reader.

Buying Options

Recommended configuration

Processor: Intel Core i3-1315U Screen: 15-inch 1920×1080 touch
Memory: 8 GB Weight: 3. 6 pounds
Storage: 256 GB SSD Tested battery life: 7 hours

Why we like this one: If you want a Windows laptop with a large 15-inch screen, we recommend the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3. With our recommended specs, it’ll be fast enough for most people’s computing needs for years to come.

The IdeaPad Slim 3’s 15-inch 1920×1080 display is bright, and the matte touchscreen is convenient and not overly reflective. (The 82X7001VUS configuration we recommend has a touchscreen; the 82X70005US is largely identical, but lacks touch.) Its colors look a bit cool and washed out compared to more expensive Windows laptops, but the Slim 3’s IPS display is leagues better than the horrendous TN panel in its sibling, the IdeaPad 1.

The backlit keyboard feels snappy and the large trackpad is reliable and accurate. The IdeaPad Slim 3 also has a reliable fingerprint reader on the power button and a handy webcam cover. It’s possible to partially open the laptop with one hand, though it’s difficult to fully open the lid without additional leverage.

Photo: Lenovo

Where it falls short: The IdeaPad Slim 3 lasted about 7 hours in our battery test—not quite long enough for a full day of work or classes, but about average for this category. And like most inexpensive Windows laptops, this model is bulky and heavy, and its webcam is mediocre. We also recommend following these instructions when you get the laptop to remove unnecessary preinstalled programs.

Best Chromebooks under $500

Budget pick

Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook (13″)

The cheaper Flex 5i is a serviceable Chromebook, but its battery won’t last a full day, and it will stop receiving OS updates one year sooner than our top pick.

Buying Options

$385* from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $374.

Recommended configuration

Processor: Intel Core i3-1115G4 Screen: 13.3-inch 1920×1080 touch
Memory: 8 GB Weight: 2.97 pounds
Storage: 64 GB eMMC or 128 GB SSD Tested battery life: 6.5 hours

Why we like this one: The Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook (13″) is a great Chromebook for its budget price. It’s fast, it has an excellent keyboard and trackpad, it’s compact and light, and it has a 1080p touchscreen. This Chromebook is faster than Windows laptops at the tasks most people use laptops for, including browsing the web (even with a ton of tabs open), making video calls, working in documents and spreadsheets, and watching movies. The Flex 5i is much more portable than cheap Windows options, too, and it’s free of the bloatware that slows them down.

Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Where it falls short: In addition to the limitations of ChromeOS outlined above, the Flex 5i has disappointing battery life; this model likely won’t make it through a full day of work or classes without needing to be plugged in. Compared with the display on the more expensive Acer Chromebook Spin 513 (CP513-2H-K62Y), our top Chromebook pick, the Flex 5i’s screen doesn’t get as bright, and this Chromebook will cease receiving OS updates one year sooner. I also needed two hands to open the Flex 5i.

Also great

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook 16″ (82V80009UX)

This model has a spacious 16-inch screen with a high refresh rate and an RGB keyboard with a built-in number pad, but it’s too bulky to travel with frequently.

Buying Options

$429* from Walmart

*At the time of publishing, the price was $430.

Recommended configuration

Processor: Intel Core i3-1215U Screen: 16-inch 2560×1600 non-touch, 120 Hz
Memory: 8 GB Weight: 4.01 pounds
Storage: 128 GB eMMC Tested battery life: 9.5 hours*

*We tested the Core i5 model; we expect the Core i3 model to have slightly better battery life.

Why we like this one: If you want a larger screen and a number pad, we recommend the fast, inexpensive Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook 16″. Its 16-inch display provides more room to get work done or to enjoy media; its colors are vibrant, the matte display doesn’t throw distracting reflections, and the 120 Hz high refresh rate makes scrolling and other actions look extra smooth. The RGB-backlit keyboard also has a number pad, which can be useful if you do a lot of data entry. But even though this model will last a long time away from an outlet, it’s too large and heavy to carry around.

Photo: Michael Hession

Where it falls short: The 16-inch display makes this Lenovo model heavier and bulkier, so it’s much less portable than our other Chromebook picks—we don’t recommend it if you need a laptop to take to work, to class, or even to a coffee shop. I also consistently needed both hands to open this laptop.

What about an iPad?

Also great

Apple iPad (9th generation)

If you favor portability over screen size, the iPad works for browsing the web and doing light note taking or writing. It’s not good for more complicated tasks, though.

Why we like it: Depending on how you use a computer, you might not need a laptop at all. An Apple iPad (9th generation) with a Bluetooth keyboard or a keyboard case makes for a lighter and more portable system than any of our picks. If you primarily browse the web, make video calls, write, and take notes, an iPad provides a smoother, less painful experience than the Windows options in this price category.

Photo: Sarah Kobos

Where it falls short: An iPad can’t run traditional desktop apps and offers only limited multitasking support, so it’s not a direct replacement for a laptop. If you need to run more than two apps at once, work with specialty software, or want a large screen, an iPad won’t work for you.

You can read more about the iPad in our guide to the best tablets.

Other good laptops under $500

If our top pick is unavailable: The next best option is the Acer Aspire 3 A314-23P-R3QA and A314-36P-360X. Compared with the Acer Aspire 3 Spin 14 model we recommend, these models have duller-looking non-touch displays with a shorter aspect ratio that isn’t as convenient for browsing the web. But both models have fast-enough performance, reliable keyboards and trackpads, and the R3QA model we tested had long battery life, at 12 hours and 11 minutes in our tests.

If our 15-inch pick is unavailable: We recommend the 15-inch Acer Aspire 3 instead. These ones are available with a lot of different model numbers: A315-24P-R7VH, A315-24P-R2SC, A315-24PT-R08Z, A315-24PT-R90Z, and A315-510P-3905. Compared with our 15-inch pick, the R7VH model we tested had a dim, washed-out, non-touch display and a large trackpad with poor palm rejection. It’s also quite heavy, at around 4 pounds, and its battery lasted for 7 hours and 31 minutes.

The models with “24PT” in the name have touchscreens that we haven’t tested, and the model with “510P” has an Intel processor instead of an AMD one. And some models come with Windows 11 in S mode while others are already upgraded to Windows 11 Home. Otherwise, all of these models are identical—they’re all passable laptops that are fast enough for everyday tasks.

If you can spend a little more for the best Chromebook: Our top Chromebook pick, the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 (CP513-2H-K62Y), is slim, light, and blessed with long battery life, and it has a tall, vivid touchscreen. It typically costs around $550, but it has gone on sale for less than $500.

If you can spend around $700: Our budget ultrabook pick, the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED (UM3402YA-WS51T)—or the UM3402YA-WS74T version with more memory—costs a few hundred dollars more, but it has the build quality to last at least five years and the battery life to run all day. Its predecessor was frequently on sale for $550; if you see this model on sale for that price, it’s an unbeatable value.

If you want a tablet with a bigger screen: The iPad is plenty powerful for most people, but if you want a bigger screen on your tablet for multitasking and a faster processor, consider the iPad Air. But it starts at $600, and you have to spend more on a keyboard and a case to go with it.

How to shop for a cheap laptop

For laptops under $500, inconsistent pricing, disappearing inventory, and retailer-exclusive deals make shopping difficult. But even if you aren’t familiar with computer specifications, you can still find a decent Windows laptop by looking for these features:

  • Processor: We recommend an 11th, 12th, or 13th-generation Intel Core i3 or i5 processor or a 7000-series AMD Ryzen 3 or 5 processor. Avoid AMD processors such as the dual-core A9, as well as Intel Pentium or Celeron processors.
  • Storage: Choose a 128 GB or larger solid-state drive (SSD) and avoid hard drives (abbreviated as “HDD” on some product pages).
  • Memory: Get 8 GB of memory (which can also be listed as “RAM”). In a pinch, 4 GB will do, but with that smaller amount you won’t be able to run many programs at the same time.
  • Screen: Look for a display with 1080p resolution, listed as 1920×1080 or “FHD” by many sellers. A computer that hits the other requirements but has a standard HD display (1366×768) will do for basic tasks.

(Chromebooks have different requirements to run well—they run better than Windows laptops with 4 GB of memory and can get away with certain slower processors. You can learn more in our guide to Chromebooks.)

When shopping for a cheap laptop, stick to major retailers with good return policies, such as Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, or the manufacturer itself. Avoid sites with deals too good to be true, like BuyDig. Buying a refurbished model is another excellent way to save money. When you’re shopping for a refurbished laptop, buy from the original manufacturer or an authorized dealer and avoid seller-refurbished models from places like Amazon.

As soon as your laptop arrives, open the box carefully, keep all the parts and accessories, and give the computer a thorough test drive. Check for a clunky trackpad, mushy and unresponsive keys, or a dim, washed-out screen, and if you spot anything you don’t like, return the laptop as soon as possible. Wait too long, and you’ll be stuck with it—some manufacturers give you only a two-week return window.

If you don’t need a laptop right this second, you can find a great deal on a good laptop with some patience—prices fluctuate, and a $700 laptop can temporarily dive below $500. Wirecutter Deals editor Nathan Burrow told us that the best deals on laptops come around the holiday season, starting in November and running through Christmas.

How we picked

You can’t get a perfect laptop for less than $500—if it were perfect, it wouldn’t be cheap. At this price you make serious trade-offs, so it’s worth knowing how the system’s components affect your experience:

  • Storage: Some cheap Windows laptops still have spinning hard drives or hybrid drives that feel unbearably slow—booting the laptop, launching apps, and browsing files take so long that you have time to sip coffee and stretch before you can do anything. We found that having flash storage (ideally an SSD, but an eMMC or UFS drive will do in a pinch) instead of a traditional hard drive dramatically improved everyday performance, even more than a faster processor or more memory. But avoid Windows laptops with less than 64 GB of flash storage—you can’t even run Windows updates on them without an external drive.
  • Processor: We recommend an 11th, 12th, or 13th generation Intel Core i3 or Core i5 processor or a 7000-series AMD Ryzen 3 or Ryzen 5 processor. The Core i3 and Ryzen 3 processors are fine for casual use and basic schoolwork but aren’t the best for multitasking; the Core i5 and Ryzen 5 are faster and better at multitasking but rare in this price range. Avoid AMD processors like the dual-core A9 and steer clear of Intel Pentium and Celeron processors like the N4200 and N5000. We found these processors to be unusable with more than a single open app.
  • Memory: For less than $500, it’s uncommon (but possible) to find more than 4 GB of memory without sacrificing other important specs. But 8 GB will allow you to more smoothly run multiple programs and browser tabs, and is a much better choice for a computer you’ll be using years from now.
  • Screen: Models with a 1080p display (a resolution of 1920×1080) offer a clear image and more screen real estate than cheap 1366×768 screens. We recommend IPS (in-plane switching) screens because they have more accurate color and better viewing angles than TN (twisted nematic) panels.
  • Keyboard and trackpad: The keyboard and trackpad should be tolerable and responsive, and neither input device should annoy you so much that you seek out an external keyboard and mouse. Backlit keyboards are a bonus but rare in this price range.
  • Build quality: No budget laptop is a paragon of industrial design, but a computer shouldn’t feel like it’s going to break. Many laptops in this price range are massive 15-inch beasts with cheap plastic cases, loose keys, and rattly trackpads. A decent laptop should be sturdy, shouldn’t flex beneath your fingers when you type, and shouldn’t creak every time you click the trackpad or tap the spacebar.
  • Bloatware: Cheap Windows laptops come with a ton of bloatware, and it’s especially problematic on these laptops with slower processors, less memory, and limited storage. We recommend getting rid of useless applications by following these steps as soon as you unpack the laptop to speed up boot time, sew up potential security holes, and eliminate annoying notifications. We experienced mild performance bumps after removing bloatware.

For $500, you don’t get much control over features we consider when evaluating more expensive laptops, such as size, battery life, or ports, so although such details are nice to know, they didn’t make or break any of our picks. In this category, we just wanted to find usable laptops.

How we tested

We tested the Windows laptops and Chromebooks that met our criteria by using each for at least a day of ordinary work and video calls to get a feel for their performance, screens, keyboards, and trackpads. For Chromebooks, we had at least 20 browser tabs open, including Google Docs, Google Sheets, streaming music, Slack, and a variety of other sites. For Windows, we had five to 10 tabs open at a time, as well as the Spotify and Slack applications. We also tested the laptops by opening large Excel spreadsheets, 100-page Word documents, and 200-page PDF files.

The competition

Most Windows laptops under $500 are horrendous, and very few with our recommended specs even exist—we combed through hundreds of models on manufacturer and retailer websites and found only a handful of promising options. (And if you’re curious about the Chromebook competition, head over to our Chromebook guide.)

The Asus VivoBook 15 (F515EA-Ah44) was one of our previous picks, thanks to its fast-enough specs, decent screen, backlit keyboard, reliable trackpad, and handy fingerprint reader. But it has short battery life, it’s large and heavy, and we recommend removing the included bloatware. Our current picks have newer, faster processors for a similar price.

The Acer Aspire 5 (A515-45-R74Z) was another of our previous picks thanks to its fast-enough performance, vivid and bright display, and long battery life. But it’s also large and heavy, and it comes with a ton of unnecessary bloatware. It also lacks a fingerprint reader, and its keyboard is mediocre.

The Lenovo IdeaPad 1 (82VG00BJUS) is very similar to our 15-inch pick, the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3 (82X7001VUS), but this model has a horrendous TN display with terrible viewing angles and an unseemly blue cast.

The Gateway 14.1″ Ultra Slim Notebook (GWTN141) has only 4 GB of memory, which means it struggles with more than a couple of apps open, and it won’t perform as well for as many years as our picks. It also has poor build quality and terrible speakers.


  1. Brian Westover, How much RAM do I need?, Laptop Mag, June 22, 2018

  2. Avram Piltch, Help Me, LAPTOP! Will an SSD Improve My Budget Laptop?, Laptop Mag, May 21, 2017

  3. Cale Hunt, eMMC vs. SSD storage: What’s the difference?, Windows Central, February 26, 2019

Meet your guide

Kimber Streams

Kimber Streams is a senior staff writer and has been covering laptops, gaming gear, keyboards, storage, and more for Wirecutter since 2014. In that time they’ve tested hundreds of laptops and thousands of peripherals, and built way too many mechanical keyboards for their personal collection.

Further reading

  • The Best Cheap Gaming Laptop

    by Haley Perry

    You may not need to spend as much as you think to get a good gaming experience on a laptop, and we’ve got options for multiple budgets.

  • The Best Laptops

    by Kimber Streams and Dave Gershgorn

    From budget-friendly options to thin-and-light ultrabooks to powerful gaming laptops, we’ve spent hundreds of hours finding the best laptops for most people.

  • What to Buy: A School Laptop Under $500 That Isn’t Junk

    by Thorin Klosowski

    To get a laptop that’s usable for most schoolwork, you need to spend at least $450 to $500. I’ve tested dozens of laptops, and here’s what I’d recommend.

  • The Best Laptops for Video and Photo Editing

    by Dave Gershgorn

    Photographers and video editors on the go need a powerful laptop with good battery life, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro is almost always the best tool for the job.

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Notebook 2023 – how to choose a good laptop for different purposes

General characteristics

  • Classic

    These laptops are available in a standard design, equipped with a conventional or touch screen, touchpad and keyboard. In such a case, there can be a very powerful “stuffing”.

  • Ultrabooks

    Devices that combine the qualities of a classic laptop and tablet. They have less weight and are able to take the form of an open book.

  • Transformer

    Laptops that can change their geometry and take the form of an unfolded book or tablet. They are equipped with a touch screen with a mechanism that allows you to rotate the display to the desired angle.

Choosing a laptop by size

The size of the screen is as important as the hardware. If a person uses several programs during the working day, works with text, numbers, photos, then you should focus on devices with a screen diagonal of 14.1. The best option is 15″ or 17.3″ .

Notebooks from 10.1″ to 14.1″ are classified as travel devices. Their compact size allows you to take them with you even on a plane or put them in a small bag if you have a long trip. Such devices, as a rule, have a little less weight.

Choosing a laptop by weight

Don’t count on a lightweight laptop if you’re looking for a device for gaming, photo or video editing. The better the technical “stuffing”, the greater the weight. It can reach 4 kg or more if two hard drives, a powerful video card, large RAM, and a large screen size are installed.

  • The best option if you need to take your laptop with you every day to lectures, seminars, field briefings.

  • 1 to 3 kg

    This range has the widest selection of laptops in various configurations. You can choose the operating system, any type of drive, up to 32 GB of RAM and “core” – all kinds of processors are available.

  • > 4 kg

    This category contains top performance professional devices. True, their price is much higher due to the perfection of the models. These laptops are suitable for gamers and can replace a desktop PC.

Determine the number of cores

The number of cores affects the performance of the laptop. The more of them, the more physically complex the architecture of the “stuffing” and the more breakdown by task. Performance and response speed are increased due to the fact that the system divides all requests into several threads, and this allows you to work in multitasking conditions. Even if the user is just listening to music or typing text, the laptop performs several tasks at once: for example, antiviruses, archivers, encoders, defragmenters are launched.

  • 2 cores

    These laptops are quite suitable for home use. The device has enough strength and capabilities to ensure listening to music, playing videos, launching Skype, aimless “walks” on the Internet space.

  • 4, 6, or 8 cores

    These laptops don’t just share tasks, they provide and support system multithreading. There will definitely be no problems with launching video editors, games, powerful applications. It remains to make sure that there is enough RAM and hard drive resource.

What about the hard drive?

If we talk about drives, then SSD drives have unconditional advantages. Sometimes, due to financial constraints, buyers prefer HDDs, and rightly so. But as long as there are no higher expectations regarding the speed and performance of the laptop. HDD drives are quite capable of handling typical tasks, so only those who work with maximum memory consumption decide to upgrade the device.

Battery capacity

If the laptop is used exclusively in home or office environments, there is direct access to the socket near the table, in this case the battery capacity is not important. You can save by choosing a model with a capacity of up to 60 Wh.

If the user often works remotely in open spaces, in a car, at outdoor events, if it is necessary to take a laptop on a business trip or to a meeting with a client, in this case, special attention should be paid to the capabilities of the battery. Savings in this case should not be a priority.

  • up to 60 Wh

    Battery capacity up to 60 Wh – does not greatly affect the weight parameters of the laptop and allows you to work without connecting to the mains for 1-2 hours.

  • up to 80 Wh

    Battery capacity from 60 Wh to 80 Wh allows you to do more when you’re offline. The best option, if you need to work on an airplane, car, is to present a company presentation on the road.

  • from 100 Wh

    Battery capacity from 100 Wh. Such laptops, as a rule, weigh more than 2 kg and are more oriented towards stationary use. They are able to work more than 2 hours without recharging.

Additional Options

Above, we looked at the key parameters that you should pay attention to when buying a laptop. But that is not all. There are little things that greatly simplify the work with a laptop, make it more pleasant and convenient.

  • Notebook key backlighting

    Older models rarely had this option, but modern devices with a tilting screen and a touch display in most cases have key backlighting. The function greatly simplifies the use of a laptop, and this can be seen in poor lighting conditions, when watching a video in a dark room, when typing on the road.

  • Fingerprint reader

    A feature that allows user identification and access to software by a scanned fingerprint. To enter, there is no need to enter a password and specify a username – the system will automatically determine it and immediately launch the “desktop”.

  • IPS panel

    Provides perfect white color and eye protection. There is no flicker, which means that you can forget about eye fatigue and weakening of visual functions.

  • Connectors

    High-speed USB 3.0 ports are installed in the latest notebook models. But many manufacturers have gone further, and today you can already find devices with version 3.1 Type-C connectors. You should pay attention to this parameter if the user often uses remote storage, works with flash drives, auxiliary hard drives, and peripherals.

For the convenience of choosing laptop models, the CITILINK website provides an advanced filter.

You can choose a device by any parameter, by options and technical characteristics, as well as by price. For each model, detailed information and a photo carousel are presented. Finding and selecting a laptop has never been so easy and fast!

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Programming Laptops 2023 –

A programming laptop can and should handle a workload beyond what we expect from a standard PC. Previously, programmers had to sit in front of a large desktop with a bunch of monitors. Some still work in this format, but a powerful laptop with a good high-resolution display is a portable workstation that you can take with you anywhere. The best laptops for work allow you to code anywhere, anytime.

Buying a laptop for programming is different from buying a laptop for gaming or general corporate use. Programmers don’t always need extreme performance, especially in the beginning, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a resource-intensive task.

As with any computer, there is no one recipe that works for all users. This site is a list of the best laptops for experienced and novice programmers, on different platforms (Windows, macOS and ChromeOS), for every taste and for every budget.

Simply the best: MacBook Pro 16

: up to 96 GB
GPU : up to 38 integrated cores

Everyone loves Apple’s MacBook Pro. If ever there was a canonical product in software development, the canonical “programming laptop,” this is it. You see the MacBook Pro everywhere at developer events, even at events hosted by Google and Microsoft. Why is that? Because it’s the perfect tool for the job. And with the introduction of the M1, M2, M2 Pro, and M2 Max series processors, Apple has made it even harder for the competition.

It’s not just about looking good at Starbucks while you’re at work. The MacBook Pro was the best laptop for coding, and also one of the best laptops for creativity, before the introduction of the M1 processor. But Apple’s move to use the ARM architecture in its Macs has brought significant progress and made them even better and faster. The new architecture delivers incredible main processor performance, high GPU performance and exceptional power efficiency, which in turn delivers fantastic battery life. More importantly, Apple doesn’t suffer from the same legacy software compatibility issues you might find on an ARM-based Windows laptop.

Perhaps the only real drawbacks to programming on the 16-inch MacBook Pro are the price and lack of upgradeability. What you buy from Apple is pretty much something you will have to live with later on and you only have the option to put together your dream configuration when you buy it. If you have the budget, you can get up to 8TB of SSD storage and up to 96GB of combined storage depending on whether you choose the M2 Pro or M2 Max.

Best Laptop for Windows Programming: Dell XPS 15 (9

OS : Windows 11
Processor : up to Intel Core i9-12900HK
RAM 901 61 : up to 64GB
GPU : up to Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti

If you love your MacBook Pro but prefer Windows, the Dell XPS 15 is the perfect alternative. In many ways, it’s the equivalent of the MacBook Pro, only with Windows, combining exquisite design, amazing build quality, and incredible performance. 9The 0009

XPS 15 isn’t the biggest XPS laptop Dell makes, but it’s still worth buying. All you really get with the larger 17-inch model is a bigger screen and a higher price tag. Thanks to its ultra-thin bezels, the XPS 15 isn’t as big as the 15-inch laptops you may have gotten used to in years past. The case size is about the same as most 14-inch laptops, so you get a bigger screen and a smaller footprint, as well as a weight of around 2kg.

Dell has plenty of options when it comes to specs, but unlike many smaller laptops, you have the option to improve them yourself. If your initial budget is only enough for 16 GB of RAM, that’s fine. When the time comes, you can upgrade the memory up to 32 GB yourself. Programmers tend to use a lot of RAM, and on the XPS 15 you don’t have to shell out for it upfront. The same goes for storage: Dell uses standard PCIe SSDs that you can upgrade yourself at any time.

The XPS 15 uses the latest 12th Gen Intel processors from Core i5 to Core i9-12900HK with 14 cores. For the GPU, there are two options from NVIDIA on top of integrated Intel graphics: RTX 3050 or RTX 3050 Ti available. For what is basically an ultrabook, that’s really impressive (if you want some serious power, an eGPU via Thunderbolt 4 will let you throw in something completely crazy like an RTX 3080 Ti if you want – though it won’t be a laptop for programming, but for machine learning!).

Best 13 inch laptop: Dell XPS 13 Plus (9320)

161 : up to Intel Core i7-1260P
RAM : up to 32 GB
GPU : Intel Iris Xe

When coding on a laptop, a large display is definitely an advantage, but there are many people who simply don’t need a large laptop for programming. Fortunately the Dell XPS 13 Plus (9320) offers everything a compact laptop enthusiast could wish for. To this day, this is one of the best 13-inch laptops you can buy.

Debuting at CES 2022, the all-new XPS 13 Plus features 12th Gen Intel processors and a unique design that integrates a haptic touchpad into a seamless palm rest. Reviewers note that “using the Dell XPS 13 Plus feels like living in the future.”

XPS 13 Plus does not come with dedicated graphics in any configuration, but all models have Intel Iris Xe. Likewise, all configurations come with PCIe SSDs, and while Dell offers a maximum capacity of 2TB, the SSD can be upgraded at any time if you need more space to store projects. The RAM is not expandable, but you can get 32GB if you want, which should be enough.

The display, despite being only 13.3 inches, is great on the XPS 13 Plus. You can get an FHD+ panel if you want, or you can get more with a 3.5K OLED or UHD+ IPS touchscreen. Resolution and color accuracy aren’t necessarily the most important factors – a programming laptop performs slightly different tasks, but why not make it as pleasing to the eye as possible? The high-resolution display lets you look at text all day long. Everything is clearer and clearer.

Best Chromebook: HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

62 RAM : up to 32 GB
GPU : Intel Iris Xe

Programming? On a chromebook? This is reality! Google’s ChromeOS has evolved rapidly in recent years, and if you’ve ever brushed off the operating system as an outlandish browser running on cheap laptops, it’s time to see what ChromeOS looks like in 2023. Yes, most Chromebooks are still budget laptops, but that also makes them attractive, especially for novice programmers. You can spend significantly less on the best Chromebooks compared to a Windows laptop or MacBook, and still write the same code. The HP Elite Dragonfly isn’t the most affordable Chromebook out there, but it’s the best of the best right now. In a world where Google killed the Pixelbook line, HP has taken the lead in Chromebooks aimed at professional and enterprise buyers.

Inside the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, you’ll find a 12th Gen Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processor with integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, up to 32GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of PCIe SSD storage for files. On a Windows laptop, this specification would be sufficient, but nothing outstanding, but ChromeOS handles its tasks in a very different way than other operating systems.

The secret sauce for ChromeOS programmers is Linux (and access to Android apps!). It’s essentially an integrated virtual machine, similar in some ways to WSL on Windows, but it gives you a Linux environment on top of ChromeOS and integration with it. There are still limitations, but you can use GUI apps, install dependencies, and even use some of the best code editors like Microsoft Visual Studio Code. Google even has its own dedicated tutorials for setting up a Chromebook for programming, but basically, if you’re familiar with Linux, you’re all set.

Best Budget Laptop for Programming: HP Pavilion Aero 13

RAM : up to 16 GB
GPU : AMD Radeon Vega

Programming can be a resource intensive task and professionals will definitely want to get the most out of it. But the same can be said for when you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend hundreds of thousands on a programming laptop that’s probably overkill for your needs. The HP Pavilion Aero 13 proves that buying on a budget doesn’t mean too many compromises. Definitely the best you can get on a budget.

Part of the benefit comes from AMD. Generally speaking, AMD-based laptops are still cheaper than Intel-based alternatives. This used to come with some performance sacrifices, but later Ryzen laptop processors have been excellent. Pavilion Aero 13 is equipped with Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 5000 series chip with different specifications. One is a 6-core, 12-thread option, the other is 8 cores and 16 threads. This is very impressive for a mid-range laptop and delivers some serious multi-core performance to put to good use. AMD’s integrated graphics are no slouch either.

Even the base model HP Pavilion Aero 13 is a really powerful laptop and there are several options you can choose from. You can get it with 8GB or 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage. Even the display is not very budget-friendly, with a 16:10 aspect ratio to increase vertical space. And you won’t suffer from some terribly low resolution, you can get 1920×1200 or even amazing 2560×1600. Laptops much more expensive than it are not as well equipped.

Alternatives – the best laptops for programming 2023 according to Techradar

A programming laptop should be designed to be able to write, assemble and test code, and have an impressive processor and RAM. Just as important as what’s inside, a laptop should be light and comfortable. A quality keyboard is a prerequisite for programming. The display is also important, which should not strain your eyes after several hours of work. —

Best overall

HP Specter x360

Big power, huge price tag

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

Extremely impressive

14″ MacBook Pro (2021)

9000 9

Best Chromebook

HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook

Most Affordable MacBook Pro

13″ MacBook Pro (M2, 2022)

ZD Net’s Best Programming Laptops of 2023 Alternatives

You don’t need a laptop with stunning specs to write code. The best laptops for programming provide maximum functionality in several of the most important key areas. Screen resolution, battery life, keyboard, and the weight of the laptop you choose are more important than RAM and CPU. If you’re planning on using your laptop for video editing or design work, you might also want to consider a graphics card; if you need to be present on video calls, a good webcam and microphone is essential. – ZD Net

Best Overall

MacBook Pro

Best Big Screen Programming Laptop

LG Gram 17

Best Game Development Laptop

900 08 Asus Vivobook Pro Notebook

Best tablet/notebook hybrid

Microsoft Surface Pro X

Alternatives – The Best Laptops for Programming 2023 According to PC Mag

Any laptop can be used for programming in one form or another. You can quickly scribble “HELLO, WORLD” in Basic on any of the oldest systems. However, if your job is to turn ideas into reality with code, you won’t want to settle for a low-powered or outdated machine.