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Back to School: Best Budget Laptops (Under $500)

A good laptop is more important than most anything else you’ll buy before heading back to campus this fall. There are tons of options out there ranging from expensive to dirt cheap, but searching through Amazon or even your local electronics store can be overwhelming. Instead we’ve rounded up some of the best budget laptops, ranging from Chromebooks to classic Windows to fancy hybrid devices, and from Acer products to Dell and Lenovo options. Check it out!

Acer C720 Chromebook ($243.99)

If you’re interested in picking up a Chromebook there are plenty of solid options that won’t break the bank, but Acer may just offer the best model around. The Acer C720 packs an 11.6-inch touchscreen, a 1.4GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, a webcam for video chat, 32GB of SSD storage and a 7.5-hour battery. The only drawback is Google’s somewhat limited Chrome OS, but if you do most of your work online it shouldn’t be much of an issue. The Acer C730P is one of the best budget laptops that you’ll surely want to consider.

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HP Chromebook 11 ($199.99)

Here’s one more Chromebook to choose from. HP’s 11.6-inch laptop is going for under $200 on Amazon and offers a pretty sleek design. It also comes equipped with a dual-core 1.7GHz Samsung Exynos processor, 2GB of RAM, a webcam for video chat, 16GB of storage and a 6-hour battery. HP’s Chromebook may not be as powerful as Acer’s, but it’s cheaper and lighter without sacrificing too much else.

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Dell Inspiron i3531 ($266.99)

If you’re looking for a solid low-cost Windows 8 laptop, Dell has you covered. The 15.6-inch Inspiron offers a 1366 x 768-pixel display, a 2.16GHz processor, a webcam for video chat, 4GB of RAM, 500GB of storage and a 6.5-hour battery. It’s simple and sleek while offering the full Windows 8.1 experience. Plus, its price is under $300, making this an easy contender for one of the best budget laptops running Windows.

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Toshiba Satellite 15.6 L50D-BBT2N22 ($379.99)

Windows 8.1 offers a fine desktop experience, but Microsoft’s operating system was meant to be touched. Thankfully there’s the Toshiba Satellite L50D-BBT2N22, which offers a 15.6-inch touchscreen display for under $400. The Toshiba Satellite also packs a quad-core AMD A4-6210 processor, a webcam for video chat, 4GB of RAM, 500GB of storage and comes with a free carrying case if ordered direct from Toshiba.

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Asus Transformer Book ($374)

You may not want to bring a laptop and a tablet with you to school, and luckily you don’t have too. The Asus Transformer Book is a 2-in-1 device that lets you seamlessly switch depending on the situation. The 10.1-inch 1366 x 768-pixel touchscreen display easily clicks into a keyboard for getting work done and snaps right out when you’re finished. It also packs 2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a webcam for video chat and a 1.46 GHz Intel Atom Processor.

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Lenovo Thinkpad Edge ($359.99)

This Windows laptop is all business, but if you’re looking for a dependable computer it’s hard to go wrong with the Thinkpad Edge. Lenovo’s 15.6-inch laptop offers a 1366 x 768-pixel display, a dual-core 2.9GHz processor, a webcam for video chat, 4GB of RAM, plenty of storage, and a 6-hour battery. It actually ships running Windows 7, which may be a plus if you’re not a fan of Microsoft’s new tile-based UI, but Lenovo also includes the discs for Windows 8 if you prefer to upgrade.

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These are some of our picks for the best budget laptops out there, and none of them are going to break the bank. You may also want to consider refurbished options, particularly if you’re looking for something from Apple on a budget. Stay tuned for plenty of additional back to school guides.


Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...

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