PCWorld (USA)



Ah, here we are at the billion-dollar question. Do you spring for a basic Chromebook or go for a Windows laptop with more features? Well, it really depends on your lifestyle and your expectatio­ns of a sub-$500 machine. At this price point, you’re not going to find a powerful workhorse. However, there are plenty of affordable laptops out there for those who need the basics.

Chromebook­s, for example, are a great low-cost option and offer phenomenal battery life. I use a Chromebook as my primary work laptop, as it has everything I need for both editing and writing. If you travel for work, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a laptop that weighs less than 3 pounds. If you’re still unsure, don’t sweat it. I’ve put together a list of quick buying tips below.

Laptop type: There are many different laptop types that fall in the sub-$500 category: clamshells, 2-in-1s, Chromebook­s, and much more. The displays on convertibl­e laptops (aka 2-in-1s), for example, can swing around 360 degrees. This allows you to use the laptop like a tablet. They can also be propped up like a tent for viewing movies or participat­ing in video calls. Chromebook­s come in various shapes and sizes, and exclusivel­y run Google’s web-focused Chrome OS. With a Chromebook, all you need is a Gmail account and boom, you’re in.

CPU: When it comes to the sub-$500 Windows laptops, you can expect to find Intel Core i3 or i5 processors. An i5 processor obviously provides a little more oomph. That said, basic office and web work does just fine on a Core i3. As for AMD options, the Ryzen 3 is good for basic productivi­ty and web browsing, while Ryzen 5 chips rival Intel’s Core i5 as solid allarounde­rs. For Chromebook­s, Snapdragon and Pentium processors are more powerful than Mediatek chips.

Graphics: At this price range, you probably won’t find a laptop with a powerful discrete graphics card. Instead, you’ll encounter laptops with integrated graphics, which are integrated with the CPU and use less power as a result. This is perfectly fine for everyday tasks, especially if you’re not doing anything that’s graphics-intensive— like 3D gaming.

RAM: Always go for 8GB of RAM. That’s plenty for firing up applicatio­ns and loading web pages. Most Chromebook­s are equipped with 4GB of RAM, which is the bare minimum. You need a decent amount of memory on these machines, as they’re primarily web based. If there’s an 8GB RAM option, I’d recommend springing for that.

Display size: If you’re a video editor or someone who does a lot of multimedia work, you’ll want a display that’s anywhere from 15 to 17 inches (but these machines usually cost far more than $500). The sweet spot for budget laptops is really anywhere from 13 to 14 inches. The bigger the display, the heavier your laptop is going to be. A 13- or 14-inch display is the best in terms of portabilit­y and value.

Resolution: I wouldn’t go for anything less than 1080p, as there’s nothing more annoying than a slightly fuzzy image. 1080p produces a picture that’s sharp enough for watching Netflix or working in Excel spreadshee­ts. At this price range, you won’t really find many (if any) laptops with 1440p resolution or higher.

Battery life: If you plan on taking your laptop anywhere with you, aim for something that can last 10 to 12 hours on a single charge. That’s more than a full workday, so it should theoretica­lly get you through long flights or a day of classes. Obviously, more is always better. Just know that the bigger the battery, the heavier the laptop will be.

Price: The price really depends on your budget. If you’re strapped for cash (I’ve been there, trust me), go for a Chromebook or an entry-level business laptop. These laptops are a good choice for students or young profession­als. If you shop smart, you can even find 2-in-1s in the $500 range.

Ports: A wide array of ports is always a plus, as it eliminates the need for an adapter. I’d recommend a laptop that has both USB-C and USB-A. An HDMI port is good, too. This is especially useful for hooking up to an external monitor.

 ?? ?? There are many different laptop types that fall in the sub-$500 category: clamshells, 2-in-1s, Chromebook­s, and much more.
There are many different laptop types that fall in the sub-$500 category: clamshells, 2-in-1s, Chromebook­s, and much more.

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