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Best Laptops For College Students Under $500

Finding a decent college laptop that can satisfy the broad-spectrum needs of a college student that’s also budget-friendly can get pretty hard. Not only does a college laptop need to be capable of running high-end software, maybe some gaming and sport enough storage, other specs like battery life, portability, and build quality that could be used as a trade-off for those looking for niche uses like gaming, video editing, or visual development become just as important.

Not to mention it’s gotta last, ideally, at least four years and throw in the fact that most college students are strapped for cash, and you’ve got quite the task on your hands.

How to Choose the Right Laptop for College?

As a cash-strapped college student, you need enough storage space to store pretty much your entire digital life. Not only the academic stuff, like coursework and learning resources but your personal stuff too.  Movies, music, games, or anything else.

You also need something portable (don’t discount the importance of weight. I did, and I regretted it.) and with decent battery life because, and this is true, it is physically impossible to find an unoccupied outlet within reach when your computer dies in a lecture. It is simply impossible. Quarantine, believe it not, won’t last forever so it’s important to think about the long haul.

You need a decent processor to prevent hanging and to keep up with the growing demands of software over the next few years, as well as some RAM. But you certainly won’t need a dedicated graphics card unless you’re studying art & animation. But a lot of us like to game too, so, sure, it’s a perk.

You’ll definitely not want to discount build quality either. College students go on all sorts of adventures, and it’s important that your laptop can survive a few hits before being completely KO’d.

Thus, your recommended order of priorities when sifting through the laptop buckets (that’s a thing, right?) could be something in this order: Processor > Storage > Build Quality and Portability > Battery Life > Graphics and Screen. You need to subscribe to this view BTW because we have got laptops covered with different scenarios in mind.

5 Best Laptops for College Students under $500

Lenovo Ideapad 3

Lenovo Ideapad3

  • Price: $489.00
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-1005G1 Dual Core Processor (3 – 3.40 GHz)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Weight: 5 lbs

The Ideapad is one of the heavier laptops on this list, but for what it lacks in portability it makes up for with well-rounded specs. Enough storage to satisfy the general needs of your typical college student, and enough RAM and processing power to handle everything academic and even some more demanding recreational activities like gaming or video editing. Beware though that Lenovo tends to use slightly lower build quality to finance the decent on-paper specs, so be careful with it.

Get Lenovo Ideapad 3 on Amazon

2020 Dell Inspiron

2020 Dell Inspiron

  • Price: $449.99
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-1005G1 (1.2 – 3.4 GHz )
  • Graphics: Intel UHD
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 1TB HDD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768
  • Weight: 4.50 lbs

The 2020 Dell Inspiron is for the student who needs a lot of storage on hand. The 1TB hard drive is its biggest perk, providing more than enough storage for your average student and decent enough power to handle whatever your academic needs throw at you — for the most part. If storage is important to you, the Dell Inspiron should be your first choice.

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HP 14

HP 14-dk

  • Price: $499
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 3200U  (2.6 – 3.5 GHz)
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 3 Graphics
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 14″
  • Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs

An excellent, well-rounded laptop for any college student, the HP 14 DK0736MS comes with the right balance of power and storage to handle both work-time and playtime. For the slight dip in resolution compared to the Ideapad, this laptop has a dedicated GPU to enhance after-hour activities like gaming better than most other laptops in the sub-500 range. So if your R&R activities are just as important in your decision-making, definitely consider the HP 14.

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CHUWI AeroBook Pro 13.3 inch

CHUWI Aerobook Pro 13.3

  • Price: $409.99
  • Processor: Intel Core m3-8100Y 14nm (3.4GHz)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615 (900MHz)
  • RAM: 8GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 13.3″
  • Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Weight: 3.9 lbs

A lesser-known contender in the budget laptops category, the CHUWI Aerobook Pro is proof that on-paper specs aren’t everything — for better or worse. The Aerobook sports a sleek design that, visually, is much better than any other in the price range. It’s not as powerful as its specs suggest due to an outdated processor, but can competently handle academic requirements.

The metal build quality may not be on par with a premium laptop like a MacBook but is certainly a few miles ahead of the other laptops under 500 dollars — especially considering this one’s closer to 400. A solid choice for anybody who appreciates the sleek design and sturdiness and is less peeved about the weaker performance.

Get CHUWI AeroBook Pro 13.3 inch on Amazon

2020 Lenovo 2-in-1 Chromebook

2020 Lenovo 2 in 1 Chromebook

  • Price: $426.75
  • Processor: MediaTek MT8173C Quad-Core  (1. 3 GHz -2. 16 GHz)
  • Graphics: Integrated PowerVR GX6250 Graphics
  • RAM: 4GB DDR4
  • Storage: 32GB eMMC
  • Screen Size: 11.6″ Touchscreen
  • Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768
  • Weight: 2.6 lbs

The single best choice for Android users, bar none. The Lenovo 2-in-1 Chromebook maxes out portability and ease of use, weighing in at about half of its competitors and doubling up as a tablet — making it an excellent choice for reading digital text or note-taking with a stylus. The focus on cloud storage and the ability to load Android and Linux apps make it an excellent tool for academic purposes. Just give up on the idea of gaming (unless you opt for a Stadia!) and you have an excellent, hyper-portable multi-faceted computing device that can handle all of your collegiate needs.

Get 2020 Lenovo 2-in-1 Chromebook on Amazon

2 Best Laptops for College Students under $400

Just in case your requirements aren’t much and you would like to save some bucks on laptop purchase, check out the two products below that cost less than $400.

HP 14-DK 14″

HP 14-dk

  • Price: $358
  • Processor: Athlon 3050U (2.3 GHz – 3.2 GHz)
  • Graphics: AMD Integrated
  • RAM: 4GB DDR4
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 14″
  • Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768
  • Weight: 3.33 lbs

The HP 14-DK is a solid, jack-of-all-trades machine that can perform competently for a typical college student. For the shoestring budget, the HP 14-DK manages to make concessions on size and storage for a decent processor and extra portability. You probably won’t be playing the latest video games or storing video-editing files on it, but if you need a laptop for school the HP 14-DK is a solid, budget-friendly choice.

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Lenovo IdeaPad 330

Lenovo Idea Pad 330

  • Price: $399.
  • Processor: Intel Celeron N4000 (1.1 GHz – 2.6 GHz)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600
  • RAM: 8GB SODIMM
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Screen Size: 15.6″
  • Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768
  • Weight: 4.6 lbs

The Ideapad has some pretty wild specs for the sub-400 range, with strong ram and good storage. Its major weak point is clearly its processor, and while it won’t be able to chew through the most eye-popping, ray-traced foray into gaming, it won’t leave you hanging anywhere when it comes to your academic needs. The machine has a gargantuan SSD drive for the price range and decent, slim design that makes it the perfect budget-friendly choice for college students with real storage needs.

Get Lenovo IdeaPad 330 on Amazon


2 Best Laptops for College Students under $700

In case you are not able to find a good, solid laptop for college under $500 and can toss in a few more quid, then you can take a look at these two great laptops that cost under $700.

HP 15-EF0023DX

HP High Performance

  • Price: $649.00
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 5-3500U Quad-Core (2.1 GHz – 3.7 GHz)
  • Graphics: AMD Vega 8
  • RAM: 12 GB SODIMM
  • Storage: 256GB PCI-e SSD
  • Screen Size: 15.6
  • Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768
  • Weight: 3.85 lbs

The HP 15-EF0023dx is, quite simply, a beast of a machine for the 650 bucks it’ll cost you. With considerable power, a fat stack of RAM, and comparatively lower weight than other budget-friendly laptops, college students can comfortably meet their storage, academic, and after-school needs without much of a hitch. The screen doesn’t sport a 1080 resolution, so it might not be the best for serious game enthusiasts who want to galavant across their favorite battle royale or resolution-dependent FPS when they’re done studying, but it should be able to store and run most modern games.

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Acer Swift 3Acer Swift 3

  • Price: $679.99
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 4700U Octa-Core (4. 1GHz)
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon
  • RAM: 8GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • Screen Size: 14″
  • Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Weight: 2.65 lbs

The Ace Swift 3 is our overall winner for value across the board. Not only does it come with substantial power for the sub-700 range, with solid ram and powerful processor, but it manages to pack in a huge SSD drive, dedicated graphics card, and HD webcam into a weight that’s almost half of your typical laptop. It also wisely chooses to make concessions on screen size for an enhanced resolution and the other goodies that make the Swift a perfect mix of power and portability and the best overall choice for college students on a 700 dollar budget.

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That’s our list for the best budget-friendly college laptops. Remember while shopping that your choice of a laptop may be surprisingly impactful on your college experience, and to think twice or thrice before finally pulling the trigger. While we’ve made some recommendations here, be sure to refer to the buyer’s guide at the start to fully consider your computing needs before committing to any final choice.

And feel free to ask us any questions below, we’d love to help out!

Will

Will Heydecker is a writer, screenwriter and illustrator who still likes dragons. As part of his bitter war against adulthood, he likes to distill art, gaming, technology, and entertainment info into digestible topics people actually enjoy reading.