When you’re shopping around for a well-priced laptop for college, one of the most critical parts of your search is the research done prior to your purchase. Because laptops play such a big role in the way students live, study, and work, there are some important things to think about beforehand.
From the classroom to home, from leisure to a big homework assignment, the pace and variety of student life usually demands more than just a one-note solution. Your major and the type of coursework you pursue can lead to any number of different needs, whether it’s longer battery life or a bigger display.
Although your budget is ultimately paramount, there’s more to this search than simply looking at the price. That means there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to stay closer to your desired budget without losing out over time either through unexpected costs or shortfalls in functionality.
First and foremost, you should know what your coursework requires and have an idea of the most important features to prioritize while you shop. Which classes you will be taking will influence your needs. Will you be studying on-the-go, or heading back to your dorm room for most of your study sessions?
Whether it’s graphics and display performance, longer battery life, or higher capacity local storage, this bit of research will help you narrow down your selection.
Portability is another important laptop concern related to the weight, size, and battery life of your new device. If you’re already lugging around a lot of books, you may not want a laptop with a huge display that adds extra inches and pounds to your routine.
Similarly, Ultra High Definition (UHD) and 4K monitors tend to use up your battery faster than standard Full High Definition, so prioritize which features you really need before you buy. Workstation laptops with higher processing power and dedicated graphics cards also consume a lot of power and can reduce what you get from a single battery charge.
Having a good foundation for your visual experience is important, but if it’s not a major part of your routine, then skipping a graphics-focused setup may be the best option for your budget and future use.
Most students require access to a certain amount of storage space. There’s a lot that can come up between audio and visual files, archives, PDFs, and so on, so having everything you need to maintain good storage habits is important.
With some laptops shifting more of their processes to the cloud, namely the HP Chromebook, many traditional features have seen changes, including storage space. And even if you choose a laptop that doesn’t utilize cloud-based apps, it’s becoming increasingly easy to shift a large part of your storage to online solutions like Google Drive.
Depending on how you shop, embracing this change can save you a lot of money and potentially streamline the configuration you end up purchasing. More minimal processors and trimmed-down hardware specs can also save on battery life. But if you don’t think you can always depend on a strong internet connection for cloud storage, you’ll find plenty of equally reliable options in our guide.
Convertible laptops are relatively new and combine the functionality of a laptop and a tablet. This is accomplished by the inclusion of a strong hinge and chassis that allows users to convert from one mode (traditional laptop) to another (tablet) simply by adjusting their display or even removing the keyboard. Plus, there are often a range of in-between modes to explore that optimize other experiences, like tent mode for watching videos.
Convertibles offer a new level of portability to just about anyone. However, their flexible work modes are particularly great for anyone devoted to streaming or starting out in a creative field and eager to get hands-on with their work. You can easily identify these models within HP® by looking for “x360” or “x2” in the name of the device.
The best laptops for college students under $500
Finding the most robust laptops at this price point may seem like a challenge, but you’ll soon learn there’s a strong variety of styles and features available from HP®.
For example, until relatively recently convertible and touch screen features would have been scarce on a list of budget laptops, but the selection in this guide has several of them.
Here are our picks for five best laptops for students under $500:
We’ll start out with streamlined models like the HP Chromebooks that offer a simplified experience while they shift some of the heavy-lifting to the cloud. Then, we have 2-in-1 laptop models, touch screen laptop options, and several different display configurations in our roundup of HP’s best budget laptops under $500.
1. HP Chromebook 11-inch laptop
The compact HP Chromebook 11 notebook is an affordable and versatile model from the HP Chromebook line. Designed with an eye toward reducing cost and improving usability, these laptops are extremely affordable and highly portable.
Under the hood, you’ll find an Intel® Celeron® processor and integrated Intel HD Graphics 400, with 4GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC storage, all wrapped up in anodized silver. These specs along with its competitive starting price easily make this HP Chromebook a contender for best laptop under 500 dollars.
It’s also super-light at only 2.54 lbs and sports trim 11.26 x 8.07 x 0.72-inch measurements, so it travels well and won’t weigh you down. You can use it on-the-go without worrying as much about hardware or environmental damage, too, because most of your files and data will be stored in the cloud.
The HP Chromebook is fundamentally connected with the Google Chrome OS, a web-optimized operating system designed to manage more processes and applications via the cloud.
The OS offers an entire suite of less resource-intensive apps whose interface will be familiar if you’re already using Google’s Chrome browser or Google Drive functions.
2. HP Chromebook x360 G1 11-inch laptop (Education Edition)
The HP Chromebook x360 G1 EE convertible laptop is designed specifically with students and teachers in mind. It also offers the flexibility of a 2-in-1 touch screen convertible allowing you to use it as a traditional laptop or as a tablet wherever you’re studying.
For specs, you’ll find an Intel Celeron processor with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 500 card. This HP Chromebook has a nice boost on storage and memory, too, with 8GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage - double what you’ll find in the HP Chromebook 11.
It’s also built for durability thanks in part to the protection of a Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3 display to combat wear and accidental display damage.
With the extra touch protection and a robust exterior designed to resist wear and incidental damage, it’s well-prepared for a varied routine, from the home to the classroom.
It offers a nice display upgrade compared to the prior two models on this list thanks to its 14-inch diagonal HD SVA WLED-backlit screen. It’s a great pick if you want more screen space for streaming entertainment or visual tasks.
It’s powered by your choice of AMD dual-core processor with integrated AMD Radeon™ Graphics. From there you’ll get 4GB of SDRAM and a super-speedy 64GB EMMC hard-drive, two features that further drive this laptop’s superior response times and performance.
The HP 14z is also incredibly lightweight and portable. It weighs in at a mere 4.78 lbs and offers an impressive battery life of up to 10.5 hours on a full charge. Plus it comes with the useful HP Fast Charge feature to get your battery from 0 to 50% in 45 minutes when the laptop is shut down.
4. HP ProBook x360 G3 11-inch laptop (Education Edition)
Our second convertible entry, the HP ProBook x360 G3 Education Edition notebook offers solid convertibility, efficient hardware, and massive battery life in a surprisingly compact form. It’s great for class and fits easily into any environment, weighing just 3.17 lbs and measuring only .78 inches thick.
When it comes to hardware, you’ll find an Intel Celeron N4100 processor with integrated Intel UHD Graphics 600 to help power through most activities. It also features 4GB of onboard RAM, with room for 8GB total, plus an efficient 128GB SSD for storage.
Power and portability are a big part of this laptop’s appeal thanks to its 11.6-inch diagonal HD touch screen display and long-life battery. You can expect up to 16 hours and 30 minutes of power when you’re on-the-go. Plus, fast charge technology means you can replenish up to 90% of your battery life in just 90 minutes.
It’s also ENERGY STAR-certified, so you won’t have to worry about undue environmental impact or oversized power bills. But that doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on features.
The HP ProBook x360 also comes dual speakers with HD audio, plus a molded rubber trim, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display, and damage-resistant keyboard to improve durability.
5. HP Stream Pro G5 11-inch laptop
Do you prefer a more traditional laptop layout? The HP Stream Pro G5 notebook is another affordable option with a standard physical configuration featuring a full-sized island-style keyboard, built-in VGA webcam, and efficient SSD storage. It’s also optimized for schoolwork and collaboration thanks to the 11.6-inch diagonal touch screen.
It’s built around an Intel Pentium® N5000 processor with Intel UHD Graphics 605 and also features 128GB worth of eMMC storage and 4GB of RAM. Handle your bulk storage via the cloud and then rely on a great, quiet-running local drive, all with the reassurance of ENERGY STAR® certification.
It’s the perfect choice if you want something that’s easy to take with you just about anywhere. It weighs less than 3 lbs and measures under an inch thick, giving it superior portability.
You’ll also find up to 12 hours of battery life, a full bank of connection ports, and integrated 2x2 WLAN and MIMO on this light, compact notebook.
Everyone’s focus and experience at college is different, so it’s up to you to know a little about what your routine demands most. Fortunately, HP® has plenty of good laptops under $500 - and even some great ones well below that amount.
Whether your needs center on internet applications, visual software and graphics, or local storage capacity, there are options to help you save money and keep on top of schoolwork.
And if you’re looking for even more laptops to choose from, check out our list of the best HP laptops for students to help you find the right device for you.
About the Author
Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.
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