As a college student, if you are interested in basic productivity, media consumption, content creation, and casual gaming, the $500 budget is more than adequate. Although running intricate 3D modeling, rendering software, high-end games would require an increase in budget, a sub-$500 notebook often covers the bare essentials of computing, including decent processing power, sharper display, and a powerful battery, regardless of the subject or academic specialization.
It is obvious that laptops in the mentioned budget range will cut certain corners and, therefore, a student must ascertain their requirements before purchasing. Keeping high-end academic programs and leisure gaming aside, one should prefer portability as a basic laptop trait. Other desirable attributes include a long-lasting battery, solid processing performances (presumably for IT professionals), and vibrant 1080p displays.
As a college-goer, you might need to work on assignments that require optimal typing resources. Therefore, a good keyboard with decent key travel comes in as a handy feature. Moreover, with virtual classrooms being popularized by institutions, it is advisable to pick a laptop with an HD or FHD wide-angle webcam and studio-grade microphones.
Despite the restrictive price tag, you might want to get hold of a convertible for easing through the presentations, assignments, and projects while being able to travel without academic compromises. It’s difficult to get hold of a reliable convertible at this price point, you can still get your hands on something similar, provided you know where to look. You can also opt for a Chromebook if you are not fixated on the Windows OS and a larger storage module.
The featured price bracket wouldn’t allow you to get a premium machine but with proper research and little help from our experts, you can get hold of a moderately powerful gadget, based on your tailored preferences.
Lastly, regardless of the available choices, consider purchasing a device that comes with a decent set of ports, because as a student you’d often need additional ports for attaching accessories such as a mouse, keyboard, external storage devices, and USB, etc.
- Minimum & Recommended System Requirements
- 12 Best Laptops Under $500 for College Students in 2021
- 1. Best Overall: Lenovo Ideapad 3
- 2. Best Renewed Model: Dell Latitude E5440
- 3. Best for Everyone: Asus VivoBook 15
- 4. Best 15-inch Laptop: HP 15-DY1036NR
- 5. Best 2-in-1 Convertible: Asus 2-in-1
- 6. Best 14-inch Laptop: Dell Inspiron 14
- 7. Best from Lenovo: Lenovo IdeaPad 15
- 8. Best Intel i3 Laptop: Dell Inspiron 15
- 9. Best Display Quality: Acer Aspire 5
- 10. Best For Teachers: Lenovo IdeaPad S340
- 11. Best Chromebook: HP Chromebook x360
- 12. Best Compact Laptop: Microsoft Surface Go
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Is a sub-$500 notebook a good choice for 1st-year college students?
- What is the most important feature that a college-centric laptop must have?
- What are the preferred processor families that sub-$500 laptop manufacturers consider?
- What kind of display should a college student opt for?
- Are Chromebooks useful for college-goers?
Minimum & Recommended System Requirements
|Minimum System Requirements||Recommended System Requirements|
|CPU||Intel Pentium Gold||Intel Core i3 or better|
|Storage||128GB SSD||256GB SSD or 500GB HDD|
|Display||14-inch HD (1366 x 768)||15-inch FHD (1080 x 1920)|
|Battery||Up to 5 hours||Up to 8 hours|
12 Best Laptops Under $500 for College Students in 2021
If you are willing to compromise on high-end processing power and exceptional graphics-intensive features, the sub-$500 price bracket might just surprise you with highly efficient, powerful, and resourceful laptop selections. In the subsequent sections, our experts have enlisted the 11 best options you should consider for your college needs (based on performance, longevity, and portability.)
Each reviewed notebook was subjected to extensive tests and days of continued usage. Therefore, despite the comparable price points, every listed gadget caters to a specific preference of a college-going student, including overall competence, quality of visuals, acoustics, productivity, or ease of usage.
1. Best Overall: Lenovo Ideapad 3
Most college students wouldn’t be able to splurge on laptops. Lenovo Ideapad 3 offers a solution with an all-around performer. Lenovo brings a powerful AMD-powered processor and sufficient RAM that takes you through most of the activities performed as a college student.
The AMD Ryzen 5 3500U processing unit operates at a base clock speed of 2.1GHz. This CPU is generally found in the sub-$700 laptops, and it’s sweet that Lenovo is bringing it to a 500 dollar laptop. It may not be a processing powerhouse like an Intel i7 or Intel i9, but it takes care of most productivity applications. Moreover, the CPU is more than capable of handling heavy web browsing, accounting, homeschooling, and more.
Moving forward, there is an AMD Radeon Vega 8 for graphics support, which is still better than most Intel UHD graphics cards. The integrated GPU manages the graphics processing requirements such as photo editing, entry-level video editing, and more. While the graphic-intense games may be beyond its purview, it can keep you entertained with games like GTA, older versions for FIFA, etc.
An 8GB DDR4 RAM is a considerate operating memory that complements the processor. It works in tandem with high transfer speeds of 256GB SSD with fast data read/write speeds keeping the software operations smooth. Ideapad 3 comes with Windows 10 pre-installed. It allows you to upgrade to a Full mode Windows 10 Home/Pro that opens access to softwares beyond the Microsoft store.
The device comes with a 14-inch Full HD screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The display is excellent for displaying presentations and even movie watching. The screen with brightness levels of 200 nits doesn’t let you down with its visual performance.
The Ideapad has a chiclet-style keyboard without a dedicated numeric pad. Although the key size and placement are ideal, the key-resistance could have been sharper. The keyboard is suitable for everyday use. The multi-touch capable trackpad has a smooth surface with optimum sensitivity for multiple gesture controls.
At approximately 3.3 lbs, the relatively light laptop carries a black matte finish in its plastic casing. It has three USB Type-A ports (two USB 3.0 Type-A and one USB 2.0 Type-A), a card reader, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack. The laptop supports Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity.
The Lenovo Ideapad 3 has a two-cell lithium-ion battery providing backup up to 7.5 hours. With optimal usage, the battery should last through the college sessions. Lenovo accommodates an HD webcam with a privacy shutter and a decent battery backup at a budget-friendly price. A good fit for students looking for a laptop with an all-round productivity and entertainment performance.
- Powerful processor
- Thin and Light design
- Dependable graphics card
- Wi-Fi-5 connectivity
- Full HD display
- HD webcam with privacy shutter
- Not a backlit keyboard
2. Best Renewed Model: Dell Latitude E5440
In case you are fine with an older yet efficient machine for your college-centric indulgences, the Dell Latitude E5440 is a perfect gadget to invest in. While the original version might not come this cheap, you can readily purchase the refurbished model without thinking twice.
The Intel Core i7-4600U processor is a commendable inclusion for the sub-$500 price point when it comes to performance. Despite hailing from the 4th generation of Intel Chipsets, the power-efficient, dual-core chipset flaunts a turbo clock speed of up to 3.3GHz. The efficient single-core performance allows you to handle basic to mid-range photo editing without experiencing lags.
It also comes equipped with the Intel HD 4400 integrated GPU that works in tandem with the dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M GPU.
The existing GPU is strictly entry-level and comes equipped with 2GB VRAM. Most importantly, it supports overclocking, courtesy of the GPU Boost 2.0 technology. For the gaming performances, you can play titles like Rocket League, Team Fortress, and Farming Simulator at the lowest HD presets, hitting 70 FPS or more, consistently.
The NVIDIA Optimus technology allows you to switch between the integrated and dedicated GPU, based on requirements. You can switch to the integrated GPU when you aren’t doing graphic-intensive tasks.
It comes equipped with 8GB RAM and is quite a useful multitasking resource for college students. As far as storage is concerned you get a 500GB SSD module. It ensures that you get Windows 10 Pro installed, for the best possible user experience.
This business-oriented notebook comes with a 14-inch screen, flaunting an overall resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. Despite cutting corners when screen resolution is concerned, Dell makes way for sharper viewing angles courtesy of the Wide-angle LED panel and decent sunlight visibility. Most importantly, the existing panel flaunts anti-glare properties for minimizing strain on your eyes.
Dell integrates a standard keyboard with the gadget followed by a responsive touchpad. What stands out is the availability of the optical drive which is slightly elusive in a modern-day computing device. You also get a serviceable microphone array and a decent 2MP HD webcam for attending video conferences.
Dell Latitude E5440 weighs 4.41 pounds and comes equipped with a standard set of ports and connectivity options, including Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0, HDMI, Gig Ethernet, and the E-port connector. You also get access to Dual-Band wireless support and Bluetooth 4.0 for better connectivity.
In our tests it lasted between 5-6 hours of moderate usage. Overall, it is a pretty competent notebook, best characterized by an i7 processor and a dedicated GPU for the sub-$500 price segment.
- HyperThreading i7 processor
- Remote access support courtesy of vPro technology
- Fast SSD-based storage drive
- Has a dedicated GPU
- NVIDIA Optimus technology
- 4th gen processor
- Middling battery
3. Best for Everyone: Asus VivoBook 15
Although, priced $100 more than the mentioned $500 price range, it is probably the most relevant notebook to a college student, the Asus VivoBook 15 features a seasoned specs sheet that is at par with some of the more high-end gadgets in the online arena.
Asus features a graphics-optimized Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor at the helm, boasting of a turbo clock speed of up to 3.6GHz. While the base clock speed of 1GHz is quite menial, 6MB of cache support and HyperThreading support ensure decent processing performances. Graphics, visuals, and casual gaming requirements are handled by the Intel UHD, integrated graphics card.
When it comes to RAM support, Asus offers 8GB of system memory to rely on. Storage-centric requirements are taken care of by the 512GB SSD module, boasting of NVMe compatibility. The featured solid-state drive is ultra-fast and ensures that every application and the pre-installed Windows 10 Home Edition OS, loads in a twinkling of an eye.
The 15.6-inch Full HD panel exhibits a display resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. However, it is the NanoEdge display technology that steals the show, translating further into a screen-to-chassis ratio of 88 percent. It ensures excellent sunlight visibility, a 178-degree viewpoint, and sharper viewing angles, which make way for the above-par visual experiences.
You get access to an ergonomic keyboard with backlit support. Content creation and optimal typing experiences are possible, courtesy of the innovative ErgoLift design. Other specs include the responsive touchpad with an integrated fingerprint scanner, standard webcam, and serviceable microphones. The built-in speakers boast of SonicMaster technology and deeper bass.
This notebook weighs 3.75 pounds and features an extensive range of functional ports, including USB 3.2 Type-C, Type-A, USB 2.0, and HDMI slots. Asus features Gig Ethernet and Wi-Fi 5 connectivity standards that ensure unhindered internet access. The featured gadget comes equipped with a decent battery that supports fast charging and can last up to 9 hours, on moderate usage.
Overall, the Asus VivoBook 15 is one of the best options for all the tasks requiring high-end CPU-usage. Be it grad school, engineering course, or art studies, the 10th gen Intel i5 processor can help you do it all. However, it is a bit costly and falls under the $600 price range.
- Graphics optimized processor
- Decent display with narrow bezels
- NVMe supported SSD
- Fast charging battery
- Portable and light
- Innovative keyboard
- Middling battery backup
4. Best 15-inch Laptop: HP 15-DY1036NR
Are you seeking premium design accents blended with class-leading, mid-range performances? In that case you can readily opt for the HP 15-DY1036NR. This notebook is one of the best sub $500 gadgets in the market with no obvious deal-breaking flaw.
The processing performances are handled by the Intel Core i5-1035G1 chipset, with 4 cores to account for. The turbo clocks at 3.6GHz courtesy of Intel’s Turbo Boost technology. The path-breaking single-core performances ensure seamless content creation via Adobe apps and even 3D software like Blender.
While graphics and visuals are handled by the Intel UHD integrated graphics, the graphics-optimized chipset does the majority of heavy lifting and allows you to run programs like Ardour, Audacity, and lightweight games with minimal efforts.
Multitasking feels like a charm with the 8GB of built-in RAM. However, the 256GB SSD, despite the NVMe support, feels slightly restrictive, in terms of raw storage space. Then again, the solid-state drive is anything but slow and loads the Windows 10 Home edition, faster than a SATA-powered SSD.
The 15.6-inch screen is extremely bright, courtesy of the overall resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Despite being a budget notebook, it is the micro-edge panel that enhances the visual experience by amplifying the display-to-body ratio to a respectable 82 percent. The WLED panel also comes equipped with anti-glare support which is a handy resource for students engrossed in work or media consumption.
HP also features a durable keyboard with decent key travel followed by a responsive touchpad, boasting of gesture capabilities. There is an integrated TrueVision webcam for the students to work with followed by amplified speakers, and dual-array microphones, boasting of noise reduction.
This is one of the more premium looking notebooks on our list, weighing a mere 3.72 pounds. The port arrangement, however, is pretty exhaustive with HP featuring USB 3.1, HDMI, and the data-transfer Type-C port with a throughput of up to 5 Gbps. It wins over the competition with seamless Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity standards. The battery on offer is best known for the 11-hour backup.
To sum it up, the HP 15-Dy1036nr is easily one of the best sub-$500 notebooks to invest in, provided you are ready to work around the non-backlit keyboard.
- Graphics-optimized i5 processor
- Excellent battery
- A decent set of ports
- Anti-glare display
- Dullish display
- Lower storage capacity
5. Best 2-in-1 Convertible: Asus 2-in-1
Are you looking for a powerful 2-in-1 notebook that you can use both as a laptop and tablet? If that’s the case then, you will love this laptop from Asus.
Better termed as the Asus Q304UA, this convertible boasts of excellent processing performances, courtesy of the Intel Core i5-7200U CPU. The U-series processor is power-efficient and Turbo Clocks at 3.1GHz. The chipset is equipped enough to handle some of the more demanding academic programs with ease, provided you aren’t multitasking. The integrated Intel HD 620 GPU is handy enough for casual, leisure gaming and also takes good care of the visuals.
As an affordable notebook, you get 6GB RAM for efficient multitasking. However, it is still advisable not to run resource-intensive applications on this gadget to avoid running out of system memory. The 1TB hard disk drive comes with adequate storage space but lacks speed when data reading and writing are concerned.
The 13.3-inch screen supports multi-touch and flaunts a cumulative display resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. However, it is the touch responsiveness that is a scene-stealer. Besides, students can benefit from the Widescreen display and sharper viewing angles
The backlit keyboard with a key travel of 1.6mm is one of the best features on offer followed by a sensitive and intelligent touchpad. It also comes equipped with brilliant speakers, boasting of the SonicMaster acoustic technology. Other innovative specs include a standard VGA webcam and integrated microphones.
At 3.31 pounds, the Asus Q304UA is one of the lightest budget convertibles in the market. As far as the ports are concerned, you get access to USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Type-C, and other legacy slots. Connectivity-wise, you get speedy Ethernet and Wireless support. The battery lasts up to 10 hours, on a single charge.
While the screen size might be on the smaller size, the ASUS Q305UA is one of the most powerful 2-in-1 on our list, courtesy of the 360-degree hinge and an exceedingly durable chassis.
- 7th gen i5 processor
- Durable keyboard
- Innovative form factor
- Responsive UI
- Dependable battery
- No SSD support
6. Best 14-inch Laptop: Dell Inspiron 14
The Dell Inspiron 14 hailing from the 3000-series is a standard and basic notebook which doesn’t compromise on the processing performances.
For starters, there is an Intel Core i5-1035G4 processor to work with that is power-efficient and graphics-optimized, at the same time. The excellent Turbo Clock speed of up to 3.7GHz ensures that creative editing and basic accounting tasks are easy to initiate. However, it is the Intel Iris Plus integrated GPU that handles basic gaming and other graphics-intensive tasks such as drawing, photo editing, etc.
Although the system memory can be upgraded up to 8GB, you get 4GB onboard for basic multitasking. When it comes to storage, you get the 128GB solid-state drive with PCIe compatibility. When it comes to the OS, students can benefit from the Windows 10 Home, in the power-efficient S-mode.
The 14-inch HD display isn’t the brightest one around but can get the job done, especially if you are planning to use the gadget for basic academic assignments. The LED-backlit panel is yet another power-saving attribute in play. When it comes to cumulative display resolution, you get 1366 x 768 pixels to work with. Working for longer hours is possible courtesy of the anti-glare properties.
When it comes to basic productivity, you get hold of a basic keyboard, responsive trackpad, front-firing speakers, and a serviceable webcam-microphone combo. However, it is the feathery chassis that stands out with the Inspiron 14 weighing a mere 3.68 pounds. Dell comes with USB 2.0, USB 3.0, HDMI, and other functional ports followed by basic wired and wireless connectivity standards.
The existing battery offers a steady 9-hour backup, qualifying this sub-$500 notebook as one of the best gadgets in the market when battery backup is concerned.
- Graphics optimized processor
- HyperThreading support
- Lower TDP levels
- Dependable battery
- Portable and light-weighted gadget
- Middling storage space
- The display isn’t bright enough
7. Best from Lenovo: Lenovo IdeaPad 15
If you are looking for an AMD-powered budget notebook then the Lenovo IdeaPad 15 is the gadget to consider. But why? Read more.
You get the AMD A9-9425 chipset with a decent base clock speed of 3.1GHz. The dual-core chipset speed can be boosted up to 3.7GHz, if and when necessary. Despite being an entry-level chipset, this processor is ably supported by the AMD Radeon R5 iGPU, featuring 192 Shaders and a clock speed in the range of 800MHz. Therefore, creative processing and content creation is easier than ever for a cheap $500 device.
You get a modest 4GB RAM on this gadget with a processing speed of 2133MHz. When it comes to storage, college students might find the 128GB solid-state drive a bit underwhelming, in terms of capacity. However, the working interface is top-notch with the Windows 10 Home edition OS, pre-installed with the gadget.
You also get access to a sizable 15.6-inch screen, featuring an equivalent resolution of 1366×768 pixels. While the brightness levels are middling, It ensures sharper viewing angles courtesy of the moderate 100 ppi pixel density. Besides that, the TN display also exhibits anti-glare properties for minimizing the continued strain on your eyes. Be it streaming videos, watching movies, or attending zoom lectures, the display won’t let you down.
It features every basic productivity-centric spec in the market, including the durable keyboard, responsive touchpad with gesture support, dual speakers, integrated HD webcam, class-leading microphone, and an elusive optical drive.
At 4.60 pounds, this is quite a portable notebook, featuring some of the basic data and display-centric ports, including USB 3.0, dedicated card reader, and HDMI slot. Apart from the standard connectivity specs, you also get an average battery that barely churns out 5 hours of backup, at one go.
The new Lenovo IdeaPad 15 is as basic a laptop can get but still makes a difference courtesy of the innovative processor and the integrated graphics card.
- Dual-core processor with decent single-core performances
- Class-leading integrated GPU with 192 Shaders
- TN display comes with decent refresh rates
- Integrated optical drive
- Dual speakers
- Middling battery
- Underwhelming display especially for media consumption
8. Best Intel i3 Laptop: Dell Inspiron 15
If you are looking to invest in an affordable notebook that can handle multitasking requirements with ease, the Dell Inspiron 15 is the perfect model to consider.
The processing performances are commendable for the existing price tag with Dell making way for the Intel Core i3-8145U chipset. The existing CPU turbo clocks at 3.9GHz and comprises dual cores and 4-threads, capable of handling demanding processing tasks without breaking a sweat. Most importantly, as it is a U-series processor, the TDP levels are on the lower side.
Visuals and casual gaming indulgences are still possible with the Intel UHD integrated graphics at the helm. However, this machine also comes equipped with a dedicated AMD Radeon R7 GPU which is capable of running the older gaming titles with ease.
This is one of the few notebooks that college students can use for simultaneous programming, coding, and multitasking courtesy of the Intel Virtualization technology and 8GB RAM. While the existing SSD module is fast, the storage capacity of 128GB is pretty average, considering the requirements. It comes pre-installed with the Windows 10 Home edition OS, in the power saving, S mode.
When it comes to the display, there is a 15.6-inch HD screen to work with. The existing panel comes with touch support which is pretty responsive and features an overall resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. Despite an average display resolution, Dell’s proprietary True-life HD technology makes way for sharper visuals.
Other productive specs include a responsive keyboard featuring significant key travel, gesture-supported touchpad, integrated stereo speakers with MaxxAudio support, 720p webcam, and serviceable microphones. At 4.41 pounds, this is still a portable gadget, featuring USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and other functional ports followed by high connectivity standards. Last but not least, the 6-hour backup is more of a middling trait, especially when study-based activities are concerned.
In case you are an avid reader or a college student seeking a moderately powerful notebook for running apps like Blender and QuickBooks on, the Dell Inspiron 15 is one of the better choices to consider. However, if you want to steer clear of the storage-centric worries, the HDD-equipped Dell Inspiron 15 is a pretty worthy alternative.
This notebook flaunts a 1TB HDD but compromises a bit on the processing power, featuring the i3-7130U processor with a clock speed of 2.7GHz and even misses out on the dedicated GPU.
- 8th gen processor
- Lower TDP values
- True-Life powered screen
- Touch support
- Excellent acoustic arrangement
- 8GB RAM
- Shorter battery life
- Underwhelming storage space
9. Best Display Quality: Acer Aspire 5
College students seeking the perfect balance between portability and processing efficiency can consider the Acer Aspire 5 as their go-to computing ally.
Powering the same is the AMD Ryzen 3 3200U, which is one of the best entry-level processors in the mobile computing arena. Clubbed with dual cores and a boosted clock speed of up to 3.5GHz, the CPU can handle every demanding processing requirement with precision. Graphics-wise, this notebook comes equipped with the AMD Radeon Vega 3 iGPU, featuring a clock speed of 1200MHz, DirectX 12 support, and the processor-centric SenseMI technology.
Multitasking requirements are perfectly handled by 4GB of system memory. As far as storage is concerned the 128GB solid-state module with NVMe support is worth mentioning. Despite being an ultrafast storage unit, the capacity is less than adequate when college-centric preferences are taken into account. Acer offers Windows 10 OS in the S Mode, bolstered further by Amazon’s Alexa, as the integrated voice assistant.
Acer Aspire 5, probably, comes with the best display on an entry-level gadget, courtesy of the 15.6-inch Full HD screen. The In-Plane Switching technology makes room for exceedingly sharper visuals followed by an overall resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Moreover, the narrow bezels ensure exceptional levels of visual clarity whereas color reproduction is set to the truest levels owing to the Color Intelligence technology. Lastly, the existing display comes with anti-glare properties, best characterized by Acer’s BlueLight Shield support.
Despite being a sub-$500 notebook, there isn’t a shortage of productivity-centric specs with Acer making way for an advanced backlit keyboard, integrated touchpad, and powerful speakers that boast of TrueHarmony technology. You also get an HD webcam and voice purified dual microphones.
At 3.97 pounds, the Aspire 5 is one of the best thin and light notebooks on our list. However, despite the slimness of profile, there aren’t any connectivity compromises, with Acer making way for USB 3.1 Gen 1, USB 2.0, HDMI, and other functional ports followed by Gig Ethernet, and Dual-Band Wi-Fi connectivity. When it comes to battery backup, you get 7.5 hours at one go.
To sum things up, the Acer Aspire 5 is one of the best sub-$500 notebooks on our list, best characterized by a brilliant display and dependable processing components.
- Powerful AMD processor
- Stellar display
- Excellent connectivity suite
- Light-weighted notebook
- Ultra-Fast SSD
- The chipset supports Precision Boost technology
- Lower storage space
- Only 4GB RAM
10. Best For Teachers: Lenovo IdeaPad S340
Students with professional inclinations can readily depend on the amazon link=”B07WD8JY7J” title=”IdeaPad S340″ /] from Lenovo, an affordable laptop that comes equipped with a decent specs sheet. Not only students, but this machine is highly popular among many professors and teachers.
When it comes to processing performances, you get access to the Intel Core i3-8145U, a dual-core processor. The featured chipset comes with Hyper-threading support and a turbo clock speed of up to 3.90GHz.
Although it isn’t the most powerful option for high-end creative and academic tasks, it can handle coding requirements and mid-range programs like QuickBooks with precision, courtesy of Virtualization technology, and 4MB of fast-access, cache memory. As far as graphics-centric performances are concerned, you get the Intel UHD 620 GPU, integrated along.
Despite being a cost-effective machine, you get access to 8GB of system memory for satiating your diverse multitasking requirements. The 128GB SSD storage module is ultra-fast, courtesy of the NVMe support. Lenovo ensures that the gadget is extremely user-friendly courtesy of the pre-installed Windows 10 OS.
The 15.6-inch HD display isn’t the brightest one around but competes well courtesy of the narrow bezels and sharp viewing angles. Lenovo also features 1366 x 768 pixels, as the cumulative screen resolution. Most importantly, the IdeaPad S340 is one of the best gadgets that students can purchase for extensive usage, owing to the availability of the anti-glare panel.
Productivity gets a significant boost with Lenovo packing in the all-inclusive backlit keyboard and a gesture-supported touchpad. Not to mention, you also get access to a pretty responsive touchpad, front-firing speakers, HD webcam with physical shutter, and the Dual-Array microphone setup. When it comes to the heft, the IdeaPad S340 is one of the lightest in the market at a mere 3.96 pounds.
The port arrangement is competitive enough with Lenovo making way for USB 3.1, Type-A, HDMI, and other functional slots followed by basic wireless standards. The battery on this model lives up to the expectations and offers an 8.5-hour backup. Overall, the Lenovo IdeaPad S340 is a feature-packed, budget notebook for a college student, best known for the portability and low-powering processing competence.
- 8th gen processor
- 8GB RAM
- Ultra-Fast SSD with NVMe support
- Backlit keyboard
- Anti-glare panel
- Dependable battery
- Lower storage space
11. Best Chromebook: HP Chromebook x360
If you are willing to let go of the Windows operating platform for a web-based, open-source UI, the HP Chromebook x360 is one of the more perfect gadgets to invest in. Despite being affordable, this notebook flaunts some class-leading features, including a brilliant display and competent processing components.
At the core, HP stacks in the Intel Core i3-10110U processor, boasting of a dual-core structure and a turbo clock speed of up to 4.10GHz. The excellent single-core performances of the featured chipset ensure seamless handling of more demanding, web-based applications. When it comes to the graphics-intensive setup, there is an Intel UHD iGPU to rely on.
Despite being an affordable convertible you get 8GB RAM on-board, which is a significant resource for a college-going student. However, as this is a Chromebook, you only get 64GB of eMMC storage memory within the gadget while the rest needs to be stored over the cloud or online platforms.
HP ditches Windows 10 for the Chrome OS, which loads faster and comes forth with no desktop application. As a student, if you spend the majority of your time surfing the internet or using web apps, this Chromebook x360 is the most appropriate gadget to consider purchasing.
The 14-inch touch-supported display is one of the best features that a college student can wish for. This attribute renders a sense of flexibility and portability to the Chromebook x360. Besides that, the IPS panel also flaunts a cumulative display resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, which further escalates the visual quality and color reproduction levels.
As far as productivity is concerned, HP makes way for an intuitive backlit keyboard and the user-friendly touchpad. Despite flaunting a 360-degree foldable design, this convertible doesn’t compromise on other specifications, including an integrated webcam with privacy switch, standard microphones, B&O dual speakers, and the highly responsive fingerprint scanner.
Clearly, the Chromebook x360 is one of the lightest gadgets in the market, weighing a mere 3.64 pounds. Not just that, the slimness of profile i.e. 0.7-inch of thickness doesn’t interfere with the inclusion of SuperSpeed USB Type-A, Type-C, and the card reader. In terms of connectivity, you get Wi-Fi 6 wireless standards to work with. The existing battery is more than adequate and offers a 13-hour backup.
- Brilliant display
- 10th gen processor
- Backlit keyboard
- 8GB RAM
- SuperSpeed ports
- Chrome OS might not cater well to the Windows lovers
- Requires continuous internet connectivity
12. Best Compact Laptop: Microsoft Surface Go
As a student, enhanced productivity-centric features might interest you more than the basic processing power, provided you are only looking to spend 500 dollars on a new notebook. This is why the exceedingly portable and resourceful Microsoft Surface Go is one of the best options in the market, courtesy of the add-ons, and intuitive specs on display.
At the core, you get the basic Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y processor with a clock speed of 1.6GHz. The existing chipset isn’t a class-leading option but still allows you to handle basic tasks and minor creative indulgences. The Intel HD 615 iGPU takes care of the visuals and entry-level graphics-intensive demands.
However, multitasking feels like a charm as students can make great use of the 8GB RAM on offer. When it comes to storage, the 128GB SSD module is worth mentioning, courtesy of the data reading and writing speeds. Microsoft makes way for the more power-efficient Windows 10 Home in S mode as the featured OS.
The 10-inch screen is all about visual magnificence as Microsoft pairs the PixelSense technology with a decent contrast ratio. Wooing the college students further is the multi-touch support and the enhanced screen durability courtesy of the Gorilla Glass 3 support.
When it comes to productivity, you can always pair the Surface Go with a detachable keyboard, best tagged as the Type-Cover accessory. Then again, using the same in the tablet or studio mode is also possible with a 5MP front and 8MP rear shooters to rely on. Additional specs include a single microphone and integrated stereo speakers with Dolby Audio support.
At 1.15 pounds, the standalone Surface device is the most portable unit on our list, featuring USB Type-C, Connect Port, Bluetooth 4.1, and Wireless support. The featured battery is more than capable of churning out a 9-hour backup, before needing a refill.
Overall, the Surface Go from Microsoft lives up to all your basic expectations but steals the show when portability is concerned.
- Power-efficient processor
- Extremely light
- Longer battery life
- Dual camera
- 8GB RAM
- Sharp display
- Corning Gorilla Glass 3 support
- The keyboard needs to be purchased separately
- Smaller screen
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a sub-$500 notebook a good choice for 1st-year college students?
A majority of college curriculums start with minimally intricate courses which are mostly related to typing assignments or attending lectures. A $500 laptop, therefore, comes in handy as it offers several productivity-enhancing specs, including a legible webcam, microphone array, decent keyboard, and competent processing components, while adhering to the cost-effectiveness.
What is the most important feature that a college-centric laptop must have?
If you are looking to prioritize one aspect, you must always opt for a gadget that offers decent battery backup. College students are mostly on the move, inside or outside the premise, and therefore charging isn’t always an option. Therefore, if you want to be more productive in the long and short run, consider a beefed-up battery but sans portability compromises.
What are the preferred processor families that sub-$500 laptop manufacturers consider?
A majority of cost-effective, student-centric notebooks come equipped with G-series or U-series Intel-powered chipsets. While the G-series processors, including i5-1035G1 and i5-1035G4, are graphics-optimized, U-series CPUs like i3-8145U are way more power-efficient, with lesser heat generation.
What kind of display should a college student opt for?
Besides academic tasks, a college student also requires a notebook for extensive levels of media consumption. Therefore, it is advisable to opt for a Full HD screen for better color clarity and visual experience. Apart from that, it is advisable to purchase a laptop with a matte panel for better sunlight visibility.
Are Chromebooks useful for college-goers?
Chromebooks can be extremely useful if you are into online collaborations, assignments, and presentations. The lack of storage space might restrict unhindered media consumption but when it comes to professional tasks; They often scale beyond Windows-powered laptops.
Selecting a sub-$500 notebook for a college student can be extremely tricky as we need to analyze each one of their specific preferences, before making a choice. As a student, you are extremely fickle when gadget-centric requirements are concerned and it is an arduous task to gauge your needs.
- If you, as a college student, are looking for power, performance, and a decent battery backup, Lenovo Ideapad 3 is the most appropriate gadget to consider.
- In case, you do mind an older and renewed notebook with a dedicated GPU for entry-level gaming, the Latitude E5440 from Dell is a commendable choice.
- For AMD lovers who are also inclined towards portability, the Acer Aspire 5 is a trendsetting option.
- Last but not least, if you aren’t a loyal Windows user, the HP Chromebook x360 is one of the best laptops to purchase as it brings forth a class-leading IPS display, a decent chunk of system memory, and exceptional battery backup.
We hope that you are able to find the right device for your computing needs. However, if you are still confused and need expert advice picking then feel free to contact us or comment below. Our laptop experts are known to help people pick the perfect option in less than 12 hrs. Meanwhile, you can also use our Laptop Finder (which allows you to filter devices based on the specifications.)