Best cheap laptops for under £500 [updated]

by , Technology Researcher Laptops 02/10/2014
Cheaplaptops-blog

Our annual PC reliability survey revealed that most people spend between £300 and £600 on laptops. Models that fall within this ‘sweet spot’ should offer a decent screen, plenty of storage space and a reasonably speedy processor. Everything you need for everyday tasks like web browsing, watching a movie or working with Microsoft Office.

But how do you pick the best laptop at the right price? Read on for five decent laptops that cost under £500.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 15D – for versatility

Flex15DAlthough the Flex 15D isn’t a full tablet/laptop convertible – the screen doesn’t detach – it comes pretty close to one. The rotating hinge allows you to flick its 15-inch touchscreen from a regular clamshell position to a standing one, which is useful for Skype or watching films.

Unfortunately, the display doesn’t fold fully backwards and demonstrates a noticeable wobble in ‘stand mode’. This means the Flex’s versatility can only stretch so far – as you might expect for a laptop at this price.

Disappointingly, the Flex 15D didn’t meet our expectations for either video playback or internet browsing.

Find out if the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 15D impressed our experts for screen quality and ease of use in our full review.

Toshiba Satellite NB10t-A-101 – ultrabook

Toshiba Satellite NB10t-A-101
Ultrabooks are thin, light and sleek-looking Windows-powered equivalents to Apple’s MacBook Pro range. This Toshiba Satellite ticks most of the category’s boxes with its compact design and 11.6-inch screen.

Despite a solid build quality, compromises have been made to meet the £279 price point. The Satellite’s battery lasted just four hours when watching video, and you’ll get even less use out of it if you want to browse the web.

Is this laptop a hot bargain or a little undercooked? Read our Toshiba Satellite NB10t-A-101 review to find out if it’s the right device for you.

Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite – for portability

Samsung ATIV Book 9
A portable laptop that’s ideal for students, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite has a trim 13.3-inch screen and weights in at just 1.5kg. This means you can easily tuck it into a rucksack for computing on the go.

Battery life isn’t bad, either – you’ll get a smidge over five hours of web browsing when surfing over wi-fi. Due to the Book 9’s slim design it doesn’t offer a great selection of connections – you’ll have to make do with only two USB ports, and the adapters required for ethernet and HDMI.

Read our Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite review for its full test lab verdict.

Asus X550CA-XX877H – for screen size

Asus X550CA-XX877H
Featuring a 15.6-inch screen with a good 1,366×768 resolution, this Asus laptop is an excellent budget choice for movie-lovers. Plus, its built-in SonicMaster speakers offer better sound than you’d expect for a laptop at this price.

Sadly, the Asus doesn’t hold up well when transported away from a mains power supply, with battery life when playing video less than three and a half hours.

Read our Asus X550CA-XX877H review for our extensive test lab verdict.

Asus VivoBook X200 – for price

ASUS200CAYou can pick up this VivoBook for as little as £259, which is about as cheap as you’re likely to find a Windows 8 laptop. With an 11.6-inch touchscreen and weighing in at a light 1.3kg, it’s extremely portable, too.

Battery life isn’t great, timed at around three hours when using wi-fi, and if you tend to use processor-intensive programs on your laptop, like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere, this VivoBook, like many cheaper laptops, will struggle.

Read our Asus VivoBook X200CA review to see how it fared overall.

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49 comments

Add your comments

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Gary

Note to The Editor: please review the first paragraph of the Sony Vaio section – there’s some text missing from the end. Perhaps a sloppy cut’n'paste?

Thanks for spotting Gary!

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Catherine

Renae…….Z570 on sale for 399 at P C World at the mo…

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Danish Wali

There are many advantages of buying a refurbished laptop for someone who requires more computing power or desires higher-end model for less money. Save not just money but your frustration by buying low-end cheap laptops that can easily handle emailing and web browsing … I was also looking for a Refurbished Laptop.. Bought HP NC6400 from “ElectroComputerWarehouse” and the product id is “hp_nc6400″

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Howard

Spelling error seperate should be separate in the first two reviews.

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Ota Cervenka

Howard spotted your writer’s/proofreader’s mistakes some ten weeks ago. He gave up some of his time to let you know and yet the mistakes are still there.

Considering the fact a small army of Which? members is being charged such a hefty fee every single month, one would expect at least some of your employees to … work!

It’s not like this is an underfunded blog of a gadget-loving student. Get your act together and embrace your customers by not ignoring their input. Alternatively, try to write like professional journalists in the first place.

I usually completely ignore online typos but when the author is not writing in his/her spare time, obviously doesn’t use words correctly on a long-term basis (i.e. we are not talking about a ‘typo’ per se) AND cannot be bothered to read comments from helpful readers on a regular basis, then I speak out. Especially after reading about the original cut’n'paste fiasco.

How would you like if you had to overlook repeated mistakes while reading your Sunday papers? And what if the same mistakes remained uncorrected in the following issue?

I thought so!

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Adam

Ota, you have just used 5 paragraphs on pointing out a spelling error. Its not like this is an error in the review or wrong legal information. Maybe you should go and get yourself a hobby or something.
Which, you do a great job and if you put an a where an e should be so be it. As long as the information is 100% who cares, except som epeople who don’t have much going on in their lives

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Denise

Ota – you omitted a word (it) in your final paragraph (it should say “How would you like it …”

Normally I wouldn’t be so rude as to point it out, but I feel you deserve it.

I, too, think the people at Which! do a great job. Anyone can make mistakes.

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craig89

just pointing out a small grammatical error Ota, ‘a small army of Which members is (sic) being charged ?? Should read ‘are’ being charged….. A small army of Which members are being charged etc etc, plural rather than singular you see!
There is a small army of Which members who like to see good grammer used when constructing a critical sentence

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Dacron

Err… army is singular. It is a collective noun (in this case comprising of Which members). The “is” refers to “small army” not to its constituent parts, therefore the use of “is” is correct. To use “are” there would need to be “small armies of Which members”!

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DerekP

…actually I think “is” would be correct if the army of Which? members were paying as a collective but “are” would be correct if each one of them was paying as an individual member of the group.

It’s a very “picky” point though…

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Ota Cervenka

How about this: regardless of my hobbies/life, I’m still a paying customer and you are a paid member of Which? staff. One would expect a professional to simply correct the mistakes and say thanks to the people who spotted them. After all, this isn’t your spare time blog. You are paid to test and review products and services, not the life of each customer who chose to express his/her opinion.

I’m far from being a troll, in real life or online, but your attitude does stink a bit. If you are a volunteer/blogger only, I take everything back. If you are a professional journalist, you might want to consider a job where you won’t be offending members of the public. Especially since they pay your salary.

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Ray Trench

To simply correct – tut tut, a split infinitive!

Hi Howard and Ota,

Thanks for your comments. We have amended the post. Apologies it took so long.

The poster above, Adam, is not a Which? employee but a genuine commenter.

Separately, could I remind everyone about our commenting guidelines.

Please, refrain from posting comments that could be construed as offensive, harassing, threatening or abusive or we consider to be defamatory

.

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Miles Dexter

I am somewhat disgusted with Ota’ s attack on what is Britians only strictly independent consumer mag and in my opinion does a superb job, even if it is closer linked to brands now and much more commercial than it once was, it still is striving to be impartial and has to have revenue to allow it to carry out their extensive complicated tests on products and services which is expensive, or would ota prefer to take the advice of Jeremy clarkson, may and co, I know which I would choose as I don’t want to fund Clarsons millionaire life style, the fees Which? Charges for the scope and depth of their research is phenomenal value, perhaps ota is dominated or dominating in her work place and has to vent her anxieties on the minutiae on things that can’t bite back, god we have killed 600000 people in Iraq-that’s serious!

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David

I wholeheartedly agree with Ota’s comments. I sometimes feel that there are those at Which? who are getting a bit too big for their boots (or is it that the organization has been expanding too rapidly, and too commercially, in recent years?). The tendency to ignore members’ comments also seems to apply to their reviews of Which?’s Best Buys on some products.

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Brenda Bromley

A few spelling mistakes amongst friends is surely no a matter for a lengthy epistle. I am bit more concerned that a legitimate complaint about an Apple product made to Which was totally ignored.

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J Downes

I am sorry but the repeated comments about the poor grammar and the failure to apologise quickly and rectify make me think that the quality of the rest of the article i.e. the evidence base for the test, might be equally sloppy and worth ignoring so I am not signing up for a trail of Which?

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Tim Gee

Hi,

The comments above refer to a previous version of the post and all the copy has since been updated. We are sorry it took far too long to correct the mistakes and apologise but we are making every effort to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Brenda,

Could you tell me more about the Apple complaint?

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Adam

Precisely Brenda. More words are being expended on talking about grammer and spelling than products , which is why I am a which member anyway.
Ota, I apologise if my comments came across as confrontational , they were not meant to be and meant in a more light hearted vane.

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Hodders

Adam,
In this context ‘vane’ should have been spelled vein.

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melanie

hp pavilion dv6 is horrible i have it and only year and a half old and its not turnign on, only gets power if its off it over heats all the time and batery is dead!

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Keith

Had exactly the same problem with my dv6! For information, my dv7 is perfect, several yrs old now and never had a problem but the dv6`s problems are all down to overheating. I actually burned my hand quite severely on the keyboard because it was so hot! Took it back to Comet from whence I purchased the machine, and, instead of fixing the fault, they did a factory reset and reinstalled Windows, not forgetting to charge me £60! Within days I had the same problem.

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Ota Cervenka

A final note ─ for objectivity sake:

We, the readers, were not talking about a single mistake only. Some comments indicated otherwise so it’s only fair to point out the truth.

Thanks for sorting this out, Tim. And for caring about your organisation’s online appearance. Your dedication is appreciated as much as your professionalism.

Ota

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Edward

By using the phrase, “We, the readers,” you are effectively disenfranchising every other reader. Please remember, as valid as your comments may appear to you, each and every one of the readers of this blog has the right to express themselves for themselves without your help.

Edward

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cliff

Hi,
Ota I get your point fully, it’s not the only mistake that Which make I contacted them some time back for help with a problem with my laptop giving all the details in full after some time I got the reply from them telling me to try every thing I had already tried then they came back and told me the only way to correct the fault would be to reinstall every thing from scratch, this I was not prepared to do as it was only the auto run that was not working.I received another e-mail from which saying that the service that they were offering was free to this I replied to that it was not free but a large part of the advertising to get me to pay a monthly subscription. I recently had another problem and took it to be repaired and mentioned the above problem he fixed it in minutes.

This is a company that test reliability of other people products!

A company that criticises should make sure they can do the work they claim to be doing.

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bob

Hi,

It would be very nice if even a small percentage of the comments actually bothered to mention the various pros & cons of the laptops included in the review!

Additionally, it would also be nice if there were comments mentioning the various pros & cons of laptops not mentioned in this article, but used by this website’s visitors.

I have never owned a laptop, but a relative has two Samsung laptops in their household. They have both been reasonably reliable. The build quality is also quite good. The major drawback is that the battery pack on both machines has needed to be changed in under 3 years of (fairly intensive) usage.

TIP: If you are buying a laptop for the first time, find out what you can do to increase the lifespan of your laptop’s battery.

Bon chance :-)

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bob

Important Tip: If you want your laptop to last for a long time, rest it on a stand when it is in use!

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Laptop

Amazing laptops here …nice product list here. thanks for posting this blog.

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Richard Coleman

partly through Which?, i purchased an Acer laptop which, in itself, is excellent.

The problem with Acer is that their helpdesk ia the worst I have come across.

I work in IT & I get the impression that Acer are deliberately trying to discourage everyone from ever contacting them for support

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Kevin

Can any one tell me what happen to the Magazine called What Laptop not seen it on sale for a long time ?

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James

my god i can’t believe you lot have gone to the trouble of rowing over a couple of typos. get a life, feed a donkey, save a child, ban some fur. this area is for people trying to figure out what laptop is best for them and you’ve just wasted your time and mine. now i’m off to watch jeremy kyle.

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KindleFan

I am very disappointed to see that Which is still recommending as Best Buys the Acer laptops that have known problems with constantly dropping the WiFi.

Several members have given feedback on this, but the machines are still there as Best Buys.

If a quick google (unfortunately done AFTER I bought on the Which recommendation) shows whole forums devoted to this problem, why didn’t Which find this out and tell us?

I now don’t know where to start looking for my new laptop, as I don’t trust the Which reports any more, and don’t wish to end up sending another one back to Amazon.

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Paul Brighton

Always very informative. I read some articles from here and i must say this one is the best.

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harryjohan

Very impressive article…!!

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Richard

I have just bought a Dell Inspiron 15 withwindows 8.1, 15.5 HR screen, intel core i3 processor 500gb memory etc, first class service for £349 and so far the machine has been excellent. The only quibbles with windows 8.1 which takes some getting used to. I know Which loves everything Apple but they have to realise that not all of us can afford the prices they charge, and stop referring to “cheap” laptops! £350 is not cheap if one is on a budget. There are some reasonable laptops out therefor a decent price and do the job.

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Ed

Couldnt agree more Richard. I think the staff all get an Apple to work on and dont know any better.

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RogerM

I have a Acer for two years now and only had problems of my own making. Problems with WiFi but which I found to be with the router set up. Cannot comment on the Acer help desk as never used it.
Also have a Samsung netbook (5 years old) which travels the world and give great internet & webmail service. Oh, and an ancient HP laptop, so heavy that it probably has valves inside. Gave it up when it started to go wonky but in an idle moment cleaned it up, removed all the rubbish and it now works perfectly.

Advice: buy a decent clean-up program (forget demonstration freebies) and MAINTAIN your computer just as you would maintain your car – if you do!

Sorry Which? but I guess this will keep this string running!!

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Lou Scales

Which is only one source of advice and you should always take more consultation and check websites to establish whether there are issues to take into account. I have I T support and have secured advice from that source as well before purchasing.

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Chris Greenwood

Best use for a windoze 8 laptop is as a wedge for steadying those wobble pub tables

Which should be pushing hardware which is untethered by microsoft, and also be providing Linux CDs

Bring reality back to the Home Computer User, by helping to shed the canker of poorly written software, and the attempts at market dominance by a floundering software house.

The Consumer Association established itself on a principle of sound product selection & recommendation to subscribers. The latest implementations of windows are an appallingly written and poorly kernelled attempt to divert users away from a common standard interface.

Which should be highlighting this as an attempt to hijack and isolate huge numbers of users, by ensnaring them with their tacky Metro interface, and ribbon bars

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daisy

TOTAL DISGUST HERE —WAS LOOKING FOR HELPFUL COMMENT AND WISDOM OF WHICH REPORTS ALL THERE IS HERE IS A LOT OF BITCHING RE GRAMMAR ETC
LETS HAVE SOME USEFUL ADDITIONS FOR SOMEONE LIKE MYSELF WHO IS NEW TO COMPUTING —-SHAME ON YOU ALL WHO BITCHED

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Chris Greenwood

Well Daisy,

In the good old days, you had more freedom with regard to choice.

Now you are constrained by a selection between Apple & windows OS

Your safest option would be to buy a second hand HP or Mac, from a recommended local store which is prepared to help you (not currys or pc world!)

I hope that helps

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Chris Greenwood

Regarding the laptops on test, might I suggest a section, which consists of taking them apart, photographing the internal components, & identifying weak points in construction.

Then we can all have a proper laugh at what you really do get for £350!

Remember that some users actually intend committing serious amounts of data to these flimsy little toys, and have never even considered the word backup!

Also the hapless purchaser, after spending £350, then has to run the gauntlet of ‘representatives’ flogging extended warranties, utility software, bags, books, cables etc.

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Derek Putley

I’d like to second that suggestion. These days I seldom like to spend more than £100 on a (new-to-me but secondhand) laptop and one of the first things I’ll usually want to do is to take them apart to upgrade such things as the RAM, the hard drive and the CPU. It is interesting to see the differences “under the bonnet”. Machines built for business use can be a lot more robust than machines designed to be cheap home computers. The nicest laptop I have ever used is an old XP Sony Vaio that my cousin owns – it seems very well built and has an excellent (“non-rubbery”) keyboard.

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carolwade

Do I still have to pay a pound to read reviews even if I am a which? member and pay by direct debit. It seems silly to have to pay more if that is true.

And once read a review about a kettle and the one that was top turns out it made a loud beeping noise when it came to the boil and had to send it back! Remember that new houses here have thin walls…it surprised me that it was given the all ok…it would wake the neighbours!

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Chris Greenwood

Yet more emphasis & time wasting on tacky cheap modern laptops, running a poorly designed metro interface.

Appalling hardware design, using flimsy components, totally unsuited to the rigors of modern usage

Apple wins on every level & platform

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DerekP

The words “Appalling hardware design, using flimsy components, totally unsuited to the rigors of modern usage” seem not entirely inappropriate as a description of the c. 2006 iMac 5,1, of which I recently had custody of a somewhat 2nd hand example. That machine suffered from thermal management faults “designed-in” by Apple, much as did the original Xbox 360′s, afflicted as they were by Microsoft’s attempt at a compact and stylish design. Hopefully Apple have improved since then. (I think they have, at least, learnt that thin aluminum is a less significant thermal barrier than thick polycarbonate.)

My experience with cheap and tacky laptops shows that they will give good service if looked after. For non-intensive home use, I doubt there is any need to blow £700+ on an Apple but it is good that the option of doing that is available for those who want it.

Back in the day, Apple Mac computers were “must have” kit for professionals in graphics and publishing. Eventually, the “must-have” softwares became available for Windows too.

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Dannny

Could you also add a section for battery life next time? Cheap laptops are usually for people who feel they are going to be carrying theirs around a lot or as a travel laptop and battery life is important.

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Mike

What a sad lot you are, pointing out spelling/grammatical errors. I thought this was a review site, who cares about spelling/grammatical errors, was the review of benefit; that is all we are interested in.

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