Between tuition fees, rent, textbooks, and of course ramen, college can be a hugely expensive time! One major cost you might be worried about is acquiring a laptop that’ll see you through these intense years. As more and more learning goes digital, having the best tool for the job should be a top priority for students.
Thankfully, we’ve got you covered on this front. A good laptop doesn’t have to cost the earth – in fact, we’ve tracked down best laptops for college students under $500. We’ve listed our top budget-friendly models below, and highlighted key features so you can make an informed decision.
8 Best Budget Laptops for College Students
|NAME||PROCESSOR (GHZ)||RAM (GB)||PRICE|
|Asus Chromebook Flip||2.2||4||Check Price|
|Acer Chromebook 15||2.5||4||Check Price|
|HP 250 G5||2.0||8||Check Price|
|Lenovo IdeaPad 320||2.4||4||Check Price|
|Acer Aspire E15 (E5-575-33BM)||3.4||6||Check Price|
|Dell Inspiron 11 3000||2.48||4||Check Price|
|Asus Transformer Mini||1.44||4||Check Price|
|Samsung Chromebook 3||2.48||4||Check Price|
With 360 degrees of flexibility in its screen hinges, this Chromebook can be used in either laptop or tablet mode. This could be a really useful feature if you want to combine the intuitiveness of a touchscreen with the utility of an inbuilt keyboard. On top of this, the Flip weighs in at only 2.6 pounds, making it lightweight enough to slip into your backpack and head to class or the library. The Flip also boasts a surprisingly vivid screen and tactile keyboard for its price point.
If you haven’t considered a Chromebook before, now might be the time. Unlike traditional laptops, Chromebooks run Google’s own operating system. Since this OS comes for free, unlike with Windows, these laptops tend to be considerably cheaper. You should bear in mind that Chromebooks are designed to be used whilst you’re online, and a lot of your files and apps will be stored in the cloud. This means that some apps simply won’t work when you’re not around WiFi.
Despite this limitation, Chromebooks tend to have exceptional battery lives, which can make them particularly suitable for students who are constantly on the go.
CPU: 0.99Ghz Intel Core m3-6Y30
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515
RAM: 4GB LPDDR3
Screen: 12.5-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare
Ports: 2 x USB, microSD card reader, headset jack
Connectivity: Intel 2×2 802.11ac; Bluetooth 4.2
Camera: 720p webcam
Size: 13 x 9.1 x 0.9 inches
Our next competitor is another Chromebook, and for less than $400, we think it’s a steal. This machine boasts a whopping 12 hours of battery life, coupled with a 15.6 inch HD touchscreen. The fanless design and aluminium body of this model make it quiet and physically pleasant to use, whilst its 32GB of internal storage isn’t bad at all for a laptop in this price range.
One small drawback is that it’s a little less powerful than its more expensive cousins, but we think this is more than made up for by its sleek design, killer battery life, and gorgeous screen. You might also notice that it’s a little heavier than its competitors, at 4.2 pounds. Nonetheless, its thin design allows it to be easily slipped into a backpack or messenger bag.
If you’re planning on using your laptop for documents, streaming, and internet-related activities, the Acer is a clear winner.
CPU: 1.1Ghz Intel Pentium Processor N4200
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 505
RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) multi-touch IPS display
Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Type-C, headphone/mic jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera: 1,280 x 720 webcam
Weight: 4.3 pounds (1.95 kg)
Size: 14.88 x 10.08 x 0.75 inches
For our first Windows entry on the list, we’ve selected HP’s 250 G5. It’s a fairly basic design, but both keyboard and track-pad are functional, durable, and well laid out. You get quite a lot of screen for your buck, too – 15.6 inches. Although the color display can appear a little anaemic, the HP’s high processing power, and impressive internal storage, make up for this.
It’s not hugely portable, though, weighing in at just over 4.3 pounds. Its battery life – 5 hours when streaming video – is certainly respectable for something of its size and power, though.
One thing to bear in mind is that this laptop doesn’t have a CD drive, which you might expect from something a little bulkier than the Chromebooks above. This isn’t likely to be a huge issue these days, but might cause problems if you want to watch DVDs instead of streaming video. Despite this, you do get a lot more ports than you would with a typical Chromebook, including an HDMI output.
CPU: Intel Core i3-5005U Processor 2.0GHz
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500
RAM: 8 GB SDRAM DDR3
Screen: 15.6 inches, (1366×768)
Storage: 1 TB
Ports: 3x USB, HDMI + VGA, SDXC card slot, headset jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera: 640 x 480 webcam
Weight: 4.3 pounds
Size: 15.1x 10 x 0.94 inches
This laptop is a great fit for anyone looking for a decent Windows system on a tight budget. With a 15.6 inch screen, and Intel Core i3 processor, this laptop proves itself a competent desktop replacement.
The keyboard and trackpad are both comfortable to work with, featuring a layout with plenty of room to rest your palms. This model also hosts a CD drive, which is becoming a rarity. Although it’s not equipped with the supercharged processing power of a higher-end traditional laptop, the IdeaPad can easily handle web browsing, video streaming, and even casual games, smoothly. Its screen is a little lower quality than you might expect for something of this size – 1366×768 pixels – but if you’re mainly using it for college work this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
The Lenovo’s battery life is also a decent 5 – 6 hours, and it charges quickly when you do get round to plugging it in. It isn’t too heavy for its size either; 4.84 pounds. Overall, this laptop provides a lot of bang for your buck, especially compared to similarly priced Windows systems.
CPU: 2.4 GHz Intel Core i3
Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce™ 940MX
RAM: 4 GB DDR4
Screen: 15.6 inches, 1366×768 pixels
Storage: 1,000 GB
Ports: CD drive, 2x USB, headset jack, HDMI, 4-in-1 card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC)
Connectivity: 802.11 A/C WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera: Built in webcam
Weight: 4.84 pounds
Size: 0.9 x 14.88 x 10.24 inches
When buying a Windows laptop for under $400, you’ll usually have to compromise on screen resolution, design, and performance – but not with the Aspire e15! The laptop is solidly built, so can easily endure whatever your college experience throws its way (within reason of course). Featuring a 1920 x 1080 pixel display, all the ports you could need, and a CD drive, the Aspire certainly squeezes a lot of features into a budget-friendly product.
The Aspire also has above average speakers, capable of comfortably filling your dorm room, and about 8 hours of battery life, meaning you could probably make it through a full day of classes without running for a power socket. That is, if you don’t mind carrying it around – the Aspire does weigh 5 pounds, making it the heaviest on this list.
Like the IdeaPad, the Aspire has enough processing power to cope with light multi-tasking, including having several tabs open, streaming a video, and working on Google docs at the same time. Nonetheless, this is not the laptop for avid gamers, and can handle casual games only.
CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-7100U Processor
Graphics: Intel HD 620 GPU
RAM: 4 GB
Screen: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080 pixels
Ports: Ethernet port, 3x USB ports, HDMI-out, VGA-out, CD/DVD drive
Connectivity: 802.11 A/C WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera: Built-in web cam
Weight: 5.08 pounds
Size: 10.2 x 15.02 x 1.19 inches
And the award for the cheapest student-friendly laptop goes to Dell! It’s easy to get fingerprints on the Inspiron’s gloss-finished surface, but for a useable laptop at under under $200, this is a small price to pay.
The Inspiron features a sturdy, compact design, and 100GB of cloud storage. As you’d expect from a laptop of this calibre, running Windows 10 can be a little sluggish. However, you’ll have no issues carrying out basic tasks such as browsing the web and working on documents. Since the Inspiron doesn’t have a powerful processor to run, it’s incredibly quiet too – great for use in libraries or shared dorm rooms.
The battery will serve you for around 9 hours without a charge, so you can use it on the go worry-free too. Since it’s a little lighter than the other Windows laptops on this list – just over 3 pounds – it’s also surprisingly portable.
Although you’d struggle to carry out complex tasks on this machine, it is a great entry-level Windows laptop which doesn’t feel cheap.
CPU: 1.6GHz to 2.1GHz Intel Celeron N3050 two cores
Graphics: Intel HD GPU
Screen: 11.6in, 1366 x 768 pixels
Ports: 2x USB ports, HDMI output, microSD card slot
Connectivity: 802.11 A/C WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera: 0.9MP built-in webcam
Weight: 3.06 pounds
Size: 11.5 x 7.7 x 0.8 inches
If you’re looking for something closer to a tablet than a laptop, the Transformer Mini could be the right device for you. It’s a lot smaller than most of the laptops on this list, with a screen size of only 10.1 inches. What it lacks in screen size, though, the Transformer Mini makes up in portability and versatility.
Since the machine device serves equally well as a laptop or a tablet, Windows 10 is very at home here, and it boasts a touchscreen as well as a physical keyboard and trackpad. Weighing only 1.74 pounds, this is also the lightest laptop on our list, making it incredibly easy to carry around campus.
The Transformer Mini does compromise on power to achieve its long battery life, however. Its 1.44GHz processor falls short of the speeds offered by its bulkier counterparts, but its battery should last for 11 hours.
You also get a fair amount of storage for your money, meaning you’ll be less reliant on accessing cloud accounts than you would if you chose a Chromebook.
CPU: Intel Atom x5-Z8350, 1.44GHz
Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics
Screen: 10.1 inches
Ports: USB, Micro USB, headset jack, Micro HDMI, MicroSD card
Connectivity: 801.11 ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera: 2 megapixel built-in webcam
Weight: 1.74 pounds
Size: 10.2 x 6.7 x 0.3 inches
We finish off our list with another Chromebook – one of the cheapest on the market. Samsung’s take on the Chromebook is robust and easy to use, with nice attention to detail including rounded edges to keep your wrists comfortable during typing. It also has a good quality screen for its price point; 11.6 inches with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. Colors are vivid and realistic, and text is crisp and sharp.
Another great feature of this particular Chromebook is its battery, which can hold out for almost 10 hours between charges. It also has ample space for your files – 20GB – and an HD webcam with live filters. The main drawbacks of this device are its below average speakers and the fact that its underside tends to get a little warm during use.
Nonetheless, this is a great value device which can easily handle all your word processing and web browsing needs, with the added bonus of a great screen and webcam.
CPU: 1.6-GHz Intel Celeron N3060
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400
Screen: 11.6 inches, 1366 x 768 pixels
Ports: 2x USB, HDMI output, MicroSD card slot, headset jack
Connectivity: 801.11 ac Wi-Fi
Camera: 720p built-in web-cam
Weight: 2.5 pounds
Size: 11.4 x 8 x 0.7 inches
Last update on 2020-06-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API