The purpose of this article is to share the top 5 back to school laptops under $500 (August, 2022). Students have enough stressors on them when heading back to school, so why add financial stress and the stress of picking out a new laptop? We make the buying decision easy to understand here by reviewing five (5) laptops, the pros, the cons, and the hardware specs for each.
These laptops are primarily geared for college students. Most school districts provide laptops (or Chromebooks) for their students. Additionally, all college students should be using Windows or Mac computers, depending on their field. Students who will be studying and going into the fields of graphics/video editing and marketing should tend to get Macs, where students entering the business or science fields should be using Windows. Unfortunately, you most likely will not find a brand new Macbook for under $500. These laptops are also not really meant for gaming. You might want to look at the Acer Nitro 5 for gaming or the Alienware M15 R6, but that does come at an increased cost and puts you at higher costs.
1. HP – 14″ Laptop
This laptop comes with the bare essentials that you will need for school work. It has a 14″ display which is big enough for focusing and viewing for a longer period of time and light enough to tote around. This will be a good laptop for students who need word processing for writing papers, browsing the internet, and of course allow them to stream their favorite Netflix, Hulu, or Prime shows. It also comes with a webcam which is important due to all the requirements for distant learning and zoom calls.
What this laptop is not good for is video editing or gaming. The processor and graphics processor is just not enough to handle those types of workloads. It also doesn’t have a lot of memory so if you’re a multi-tasker that tends to leave 50 browser windows open (exaggerating) while watching Netflix, you may experience some issues with performance. That being said, you can’t beat the price on this laptop for what you get.
- Relatively low cost
- Bare essentials gives you everything you need
- Windows 10/11
- Relatively lower performance (but not bad either)
- Not a lot of storage space
- Not meant for gaming or video editing
2. HP Notebook 15 Laptop
For a little bit more money, you can get a bigger screen. That’s going to be important if you like working on a bigger screen. This laptop only comes with 128GB hard disk drive, which is similar to the 14″ laptop above. That means it’s not going to be ideal for working with video, photos, or graphics due to their large file sizes. This laptop does come with a webcam though which will be good for any distant learning. Your student should not have a problem using this for the next four years.
- Bigger screen
- Good for word processing and web surfing
- Not the best performance, but functional
- Not a lot of storage space
- Not meant for gaming, video or photo editing
3. Dell Inspiron 3510 Laptop, 15.6″
The Dell Inspiron 3510 is a nice school laptop for just under $500. This is a great laptop to last 4-5 years because it has a lot of RAM and storage space. That will make it ideal for saving years’ worth of study material which your student can go back and reference. This laptop is meant for multi-tasking, so you can feel free to leave all those browser windows open while streaming your favorite shows and not have to worry about performance issues. It also comes with bluetooth, which means you can hook up your favorite bluetooth headset and not deal with cords.
- 16GB of RAM for heavy multitasking
- 512GB of Storage for saving photos, videos, and years’ worth of work
- Windows 10/11
- Processor could be a little faster
4. HP 15 Laptop, 11th Gen Intel Core i5
I would consider this laptop a great middle-of-the-road school laptop for under $500. There is a lot of compromise going on here for the price. You have an i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage space. On top of that you have a 15.6-inch screen display. To me, that is a perfect blend of hardware for a student who is on a four-year path to a business or science degree. It allows them enough storage for saving important reference material and enough performance to multitask without experiencing any issues with performance.
- Good performance for the price
- Windows 10/11
- Some photo editing, but don’t expect to save a lot
HP Pavilion Laptop
Compared to the others on the list, this is going to be right in line with number 4 on this list. It is a good school laptop for under $500. It comes with a 2.6Ghz Celeron processor, 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD hard drive space, and a 15.6″ screen. This will be a fine laptop for doing schoolwork and saving reference materials and digital books over a long term.
There are downsides to this laptop though. The 2.6 Ghz Celeron processor is an older product that has been discontinued. It only has 1 core, so playing any modern games is out of the question. It also has an older WiFi standard, which is not a terrible thing but also not the latest and greatest. The last downside about this laptop is its resolution, which is 1300×800. It’s not even 1080P, which is the modern low-end standard for resolution. This does also come with its own number pad which is nice when you’re doing accounting or other type of schoolwork that requires number punching.
- A lot of RAM for helping with multi-tasking
- A lot of storage for saving reference material and large files over the years
- 10-key number pad for punching numbers and doing numerical work
- Low end processor – not to be used for gaming or high-end graphics/video work
- Low end resolution – not to be used for gaming or high-end graphics/video work. Not the greatest resolution for streaming (e.g. Netflix, Hulu).
- Older wireless standard
For more on what to look for in laptops before you purchase, visit our 2022 Best Home Laptop Buyers Guide.