These are the best Dell laptops you can buy for under $500 in 2021

These are the best Dell laptops you can buy for under $500 in 2021

Dell is one of the most renowned PC manufacturers out there, and for good reason. The company makes some of the best laptops you can buy today, particularly with its XPS and Inspiron families. However, those high-end laptops aren’t cheap. If you’re looking for something more affordable, we’ve rounded up the best Dell laptops you can buy for under $500.

Dell actually doesn’t make a lot of laptops in this price range, but by taking advantage of ongoing deals, you can find some solid options. The laptops we’ve rounded up here are all under $500 as of writing, but some of them are discounted. Prices may go back up, so you’ll need to check to make sure they fit your budget.

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Best overall: Dell Inspiron 14 5410

Dell Iinspiron 14 5410

If you want a solid laptop on a budget, the Dell Inspiron 14 is one of your best options, and with its current discount, it’s briefly available for under $500. It’s got modern specs and design, making it a great choice for just about anyone.

First off, the latest Inspiron 14 comes with Intel’s 11th-generation processors, specifically the Core i3-1125G4. Core i3 processors are very common in this price range, but the model number here is very important. Unlike the Core i3-1115G4 some other models have, this is a quad-core, 8-thread CPU, and it can boost up to 3.7GHz. This is a huge boon for performance compared to the dual-core version, making this undoubtedly better. Plus, you get 8GB of RAM, and combined with the CPU, this should give you solid multitasking performance. It comes with 256GB of SSD storage, which is a great starting point for most people.

The display is a 14-inch panel with wide viewing angles, but perhaps most notably, it comes in Full HD resolution, or 1920 x 1080. For under $500, many laptops still have lower resolution displays, so this is great. It does come with a 16:9 aspect ratio, but that applies to any laptop on this list, and taller screens are generally reserved for premium devices.

The webcam above the display is a 720p camera, which isn’t fantastic but it’s completely expected at this price point. Far more expensive laptops still have 720p webcams, so more affordable ones are bound to have them, too. What’s more disappointing is the lack of Windows Hello support, be it in the camera or a fingerprint reader. The camera does have a privacy shutter, though, in case you’re worried about someone being able to see you without you knowing.

In terms of design, the Inspiron 14 is fairly basic but still premium. It has an aluminum exterior shell and it comes in a classic silver color, which is what you’d expect for an affordable metal laptop. It’s also fairly thin, measuring 17.99mm at its thickest point, and it weighs 3.22lbs. It’s not incredibly light, but it’s still fairly portable, so you can easily take it anywhere.

In terms of connectivity, it’s packing one USB Type-C port (with 20Gbps speeds, DisplayPort and Power Delivery), two USB Type-A ports, HDMI, a headphone jack, a microSD card reader, and a proprietary power connector for charging. That’s a solid combination of ports, including a fast USB Type-C connection that can charge the laptop, and a good supply of ports to cover the basics.

With its current discounted price, this is easily one of the best laptops you can find for under $500, specifically in Dell’s lineup. It’s going to give you a great experience across the board, and it’s an easy recommendation.

    Dell Inspiron 14
    The Dell Inspiron 14 is a great 14-inch laptop with a quad-core processor and a Full HD display.

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Best convertible: Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 5406

Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 5406

The Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is a pretty great laptop for its price, too. It has a solid combination of specs in this price range, and being a convertible gives it some versatility you won’t easily find anywhere else.

It starts with the processor, which is an Intel Core i3-1115G4. Of course, this isn’t a high-end processor, but it’s one of Intel’s most recent CPUs, with two cores and four threads, plus boost speeds up to 4.1GHz. That processor is backed up by 8GB of RAM and 256GB of fast SSD storage, which isn’t bad at all. That should get you some solid multitasking capabilities, and 256GB is already a solid amount of storage for documents and school projects.

The display is slightly disappointing, as it comes in a 1366 x 768 resolution, and not Full HD. That’s not uncommon in this price range, though, and considering it’s a relatively small 14-inch laptop, it should still look sharp enough.  Since it’s a convertible, it supports touch, which is a great option to have for more intuitive controls. The display also has fairly small bezels on the sides, and for sound, you get two stereo speakers with MaxxAudio, which should give you a solid experience for media consumption.

Above the display is the webcam, as you’d expect, and it’s a 720p camera. You’ll be seeing that a lot on this list, and considering many premium laptops still have 720p webcams, this isn’t surprising. However, there’s no Windows Hello support either, be it with a camera or a fingerprint reader. Again, that’s not uncommon at this price.

The Inspiron 14 2-in-1 has a fairly modern design, too. It looks sleek and clean, and of course, it’s versatile thanks to the convertible form factor. It weighs 3.58lbs, which is still decently portable for a 14-inch convertible. It’s 19.05mm thin, so it won’t feel bulky, even if it doesn’t compete with some of the most premium devices out there.

It has a solid supply of ports, too. On the right side, you get one USB Type-A port, an SD card reader, and a headphone jack, plus a security slot. On the left, an additional USB Type-A port, one USB Type-C port, HDMI, and a proprietary charger port. USB Type-A is still the most common port for most accessories, especially budget ones, so this is a solid setup that covers all the basics.

Despite some downfalls, the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is one of the best convertible laptops for this price, and while it’s not usually expensive, it’s only under $500 for a limited time. This is a great time to grab it if you want an affordable convertible.

    Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1
    The Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is a solid low-cost convertible with modern Intel processors.

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Best 15-inch laptop: Dell Inspiron 15 3511

Dell Inspiron 15 3501

If you’re a fan of slightly larger screens, the Dell Inspiron 15 may be one of the best laptops available for under $500. This 15-inch laptop also offers solid performance all around, and it gives you additional space to have more apps open and multitask.

In terms of performance, the Dell Inspiron 15 comes with an Intel Core i5-1035G1, which is a quad-core processor with 8 threads and boost speeds up to 3.6GHz. That should get you quite good performance for basic tasks like browsing the web or writing up documents. It is a 10th-generation processor, so it’s not the most recent, but it’s still very good. You also get 8GB of RAM, more than enough to have multiple apps open at once, and a 256GB of SSD storage round things out with a good amount of space for files.

Having a bigger screen is definitely a plus for some users (myself included), but with a bigger size, it’s good to have a higher resolution, too. Thankfully, the Inspiron 15 comes with a Full HD panel, which is sharp enough to look great on a 15.6-inch display like this one. You don’t get any fancy bells and whistles like touch support, but it’s a solid screen to get work done, and the higher resolution makes multitasking easier.

Like every other laptop on this list, the camera on the Inspiron 15 is just 720p, and it doesn’t support Windows Hello, so you’re out of luck if you want a more convenient method to sign in. Dell’s support page does say there’s an optional fingerprint reader, but it’s not clear what models it’s included in.

Design-wise, the Dell Inspiron 15 is a bit unique compared to its 14-inch counterparts, mostly because it comes in black instead of a variation of silver. It’s also made of plastic, which is likely to feel cheaper than the metal used in the smaller siblings. It’s relatively portable, weighing 3.83lbs, which isn’t too bad for a 15-inch laptop. It also measures between 17.5mm and 18.99mm in thickness, so it’s not too bulky, though it’s not overly thin either.

In terms of ports, too, the 15-inch version feels a little less modern. It comes with three USB Type-A ports, HDMI, a full-size SD card reader, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a proprietary charger port. There’s no USB Type-C, which is an odd omission in 2021. Still, this should cover most of your needs, since many (if not most) peripherals still use USB Type-A to connect to your computer.

The Dell Inspiron 15 is a solid 15-inch laptop at an affordable price, and even though there are some downsides, it’s still a great choice if you want a larger screen. It’s one of the best Dell laptops you can get for under $500, though it’s only that cheap thanks to a discount.

    Dell Inspiron 15 3511
    Dell's 15-inch Inspiron is a solid low-cost laptop with a large Full HD display.

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Best AMD-based laptop: Dell Inspiron 15 3505

Del Inspiron 14 3505

Dell doesn’t make many laptops with AMD processors, so if you’re absolutely interested in an AMD laptop, this is essentially your best (and only) option for under $500. That’s not to say it’s not a solid laptop in its own, right, though.

This version of the Dell Inspiron 15 comes with an AMD Ryzen 3 3250U, which is a couple of generations old, but it offers decent entry-level performance. It’s a dual-core processor with 4 threads, and it can boost up to 3.5GHz. On top of that, you get 8GB of RAM, making for a solid multitasking experience, and you get 256GB of SSD storage for files. This setup isn’t too far off from what you’d get with the Intel laptops here, so it’s still a good choice. You can also upgrade the RAM and storage if you can stretch your budget slightly past $500.

This laptop has some more strengths despite its aging processor. For example, just like the Intel version above, it has a Full HD display, and it’s also a 15.6-inch panel. That size and resolution make for a fairly big canvas for multitasking and using more than one app at once. Full HD isn’t a guarantee at this price range, even with more modern PCs, so this is certainly a plus.

The webcam above the display is once again 720p, just like every other laptop on this list. It also doesn’t support Windows Hello facial recognition. What it does have, however, is a fingerprint reader, which the rest of the laptops we’ve looked at so far don’t have (or are unclear about). That makes this one of the more convenient laptops if you want to be able to unlock your PC quickly. The fingerprint sensor is built into the power button.

Design-wise, the AMD-powered Inspiron 15 is a silver-colored laptop, and it’s slightly heavier than the Intel model above. It weighs in at 4.04lbs and it’s 17.78mm thin, so it’s not the most portable, but it’s not super bulky either. It’s also made of plastic, so it won’t feel exactly premium.

That design makes way for a relatively ample selection of ports. Much like the Intel version above, this one has three USB Type-A ports, HDMI, a combo audio jack, and a full-size SD card reader. However, it also adds an Ethernet port, giving you the option for a wired internet connection if you need increased speed and reliability. There’s still no USB Type-C, which is unfortunate, but this should cover most of the basics, and most devices still connect to Type-A ports.

All in all, while it may look like a downgrade in some ways compared to the Intel version, this AMD variant of the Inspiron 15 still has some benefits to it, like the fingerprint reader and an Ethernet port. If you want an AMD-powered Dell laptop for under $500, it’s pretty much your only choice, but it still deserves a spot among the best on this list.

    Dell Inspiron 15 3505
    This AMD-powered version of the Inspiron 15 comes with decent specs and fingerprint reader.

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Best business laptop: Dell Vostro 3400

Dell Vostro 3400

We had to break our own rules ever so slightly for this one, as there aren’t a ton of business laptops in this price range, but the Dell Vostro 3400 is still likely to be your best option if you need the benefits of Windows 11 Pro. Because Pro licenses are more expensive, Dell had to make some sacrifices to keep the price close to $500, though it’s not under that number right now.

The Windows 10/11 Pro license is a big deal for some users, though. This means you get features like BitLocker encryption, additional control over how to receive updates, the ability to set up your PC without a Microsoft more easily, and so on. It also makes these devices easier to manage in an organization.

First off, there’s performance. The Dell Vostro 3400 is powered by an Intel Core i3-1115G4, which means it’s still packing the latest hardware in that regard. It’s a dual-core processor with 4 threads and boost speeds up to 4.1GHz, so it’s acceptable for basic day-to-day tasks. One area where it cuts corners is the RAM, which is just 4GB, barely enough to support the upgrade to Windows 11. It has a ton of storage – 1TB, to be precise – but that’s because it’s an HDD, not an SSD like most other laptops have.

The display is a 14-inch panel, and it comes with a resolution of 1366 x 768. That’s not the first time we see that resolution on this list, and it’s not completely uncommon at this price point, but it’s still a step down from Full HD, which some other laptops have. The webcam is also a 720p camera with no Windows Hello support. In fact, there’s no Windows Hello support at all on this laptop, which, again, isn’t uncommon for laptops at this price.

The design is also not the most modern-looking. The Dell Vostro 3400 has big bezels around the display, and it’s made of plastic, so it won’t exactly feel premium. On the bright side, it weighs 3.49lbs, so it’s not too heavy. It’s somewhat thick, however, measuring over 20mm in thickness.

One thing the Dell Vostro 3400 gets right is the ports, and there’s quite a few of them here. You get three USB Type-A ports, HDMI, Ethernet, a headphone jack, and a full-size SD card reader. Again, there’s no USB Type-C port, but a few of the laptops on this list don’t have it either. And as we’ve mentioned, many peripherals still connect via USB Type-A.

The Dell Vostro 3400 is roughly $50 over our budget at writing time, but you can use a coupon code on Dell’s website to get an additional discount that brings it to around $510. It’s still slightly over the budget, but it’s probably worth it if you need the features in Windows 10 or 11 Pro.

    Dell Vostro 3400
    The Dell Vostro 3400 is a business-oriented laptop with a Pro license for Windows 10 and 11.

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Bust for young students: Dell Latitude 3120 2-in-1

Dell Latitude 3120

Young students need a device that’s easy to use for smaller hands, durable, and still decently capable. These devices may also need the additional management features of Windows 10 or 11 Pro, and the Latitude 3120 2-in-1 checks all the right boxes.

First off, it comes with Windows 1o or 11 Pro licenses, which may be useful for schools trying to deploy and manage classroom devices. It can be had with a Home license, but that actually seems to increase the price, so there’s no reason to not get the Pro license instead.

Performance-wise, the Latitude 3120 2-in-1 comes with an Intel Celeron N5100 CPU, which has four cores and four threads and it can boost up to 2.8GHz. This is a low-power processor, meaning it won’t be as fast as the Intel Core processors in some other devices, but it should deliver better battery life in return. The laptop can also be configured with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD while still staying under the $500 budget. 4GB of RAM is good enough for a young child using one app at a time, and having SSD storage is a big plus. Many devices in this price range opt for slower eMMC storage.

This is an 11-inch device, which is partly why it’s ideal for younger students. These smaller screens make the devices easier to grab and use for smaller hands. The resolution is 1366 x 768, which isn’t great, but it’s more acceptable with a smaller screen like this and considering most children will only use one app at a time. Because this is a 2-in-1, it also supports touch, giving children a more intuitive way to interact with their PC.

The design is also a big part of why this device is tailored to younger kids. It looks somewhat bulky, but the design is easier to grip, and it’s tested to withstand up to 30-inch drops onto steel or 48-inch drops onto plywood. It has rubberized edges and rounded corners to lessen the impact of falls and tumbles, making it more durable overall, which is ideal for children’s clumsy hands. It’s not extremely portable, though, weighing 3.12lbs and measuring over 21mm in thickness, but it’s not meant for that as much as it is meant to be durable.

The Latitude 3120 also has a decent selection of ports for its small size. You get two USB Type-A ports, HDMI, a headphone jack, and a proprietary power connector. There’s also a volume rocker on the side to make volume adjustments easier, particularly when using the device as a tablet. The Pentium model (which is beyond our budget) also adds a USB Type-C port.

For a price under $500, this one one of the best Dell laptops you can buy for younger students. You can find cheaper devices running Chrome OS, but if you prefer Windows, this is the way to go.

    Dell Latitude 3120 2-in-1
    The Dell Latitude 3120 has a durable design and solid specs for younger children to use at school.

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Best Chromebook clamshell: Dell Chromebook 3100

Dell Chromebook 3100

Dell doesn’t have a wide selection of Chrome OS laptops available, and the Chromebook 3100 is the best option available for under $500. This is more of an education device, as many Chromebooks tend to be, and it’s specifically geared towards younger users.

The performance specs of the Chromebook 3100 aren’t very impressive, but they’re serviceable. It’s powered by an Intel Celeron N4020, which is a dual-core processor with just two threads. It’s not particularly impressive, but Chrome OS is a lightweight operating system that should run decently well on this PC. Additionally, it comes with 4GB of RAM and up to 32GB of eMMC storage. Again, it’s not an impressive setup, but with Chrome OS being fairly lightweight, that amount of RAM isn’t too bad, and 32GB of storage is also acceptable considering many files are saved on the cloud instead.

The display is similar to other cheap 11-inch laptops, featuring a 1366 x 768 resolution that should look good enough on a display of this size. It also has a 720p webcam above the display, and naturally, no form of biometric authentication is available here.

Similar to the Latitude 3120, the Chromebook 3100 is designed to be durable, and it can withstand 30-inch drops onto steel, as well as thousands of “free-fall micro drops”, so it should be just fine in the hands of a young child. The keyboard is also resistant to spills and tampering so kids can’t damage it or pry keys out of the keyboard. At 2.85lbs, it’s not very light for its size, but it’s not a heavy device, either. It’s over 20mm in thickness, too.

The ports on the Chromebook 3100 are enough to cover the basics, with two USB Type-A ports, one USB Type-C, and a headphone jack. You don’t get a typical display output, but it’s unlikely to be something you need in a laptop like this. Regardless, it’s a very basic setup, so it’s not going to be the most capable.

Costing just $259.99, the Chromebook 3100 is meant to be an extremely budget option, so it’s only natural that it’s not impressive. If you can deal with its sacrifices, it’s a decent enough machine for young children.

    Dell Chromebook 3100
    The Dell Chromebook is a very affordable laptop with Chrome OS that covers the most basic needs.

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Best Chromebook convertible: Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1

dell chromebook 3100 2-in-1

This is the convertible version of the clamshell laptop we just talked about, and while it’s more expensive, it comes with some clear benefits that make it worth considering. That includes the form factor, of course, but there’s a bit more to it. It’s still under $500 by a big margin, so this is easily one of Dell’s best Chrome OS laptops in this price range.

First off, it’s powered by the same processor, the Intel Celeron N4020, so in that regard, performance will be similar. However, you can get up to 8GB of RAM on this one, and that can get you far better multi-tasking performance compared to the 4GB maximum in the clamshell model. This upgrade is still well within the budget, so it’s absolutely recommended. Plus, you get 32GB of storage as standard, so there’s no need to worry about having to make do with 16GB.

The display has a similar resolution, but of course, since it’s a convertible, it now supports touch for more intuitive navigation. In addition to standard touch support, you can upgrade the panel to support Wacom EMR pens. Unfortunately, this configuration isn’t available with 8GB of RAM, though, so you have to make the choice regarding what’s more important to you.

Convertible laptops tend to be heavier than traditional clamshell laptops, and that holds true here, too. The Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1 weighs in at 3.10lbs, and it’s slightly thicker at 21.5mm, but that shouldn’t make this device significantly less portable than the clamshell variant. Of course, being a convertible means you can rotate the display all around and use this device as a tablet, which is a great feature to have.

One advantage of the Dell Chromebook 2-in-1 versus its clamshell variant is the ports. You get two USB Type-A ports, two USB Type-C ports, a microSD card reader, and a headphone jack. That’s an additional USB Type-C port and a microSD card reader, which the clamshell version didn’t have. This could allow you to expand the internal storage if you find 32GB to not be enough. Plus, since it’s meant to be used as a tablet, you also get a volume rocker on the side of the laptop to make adjustments on the fly.

The top-tier configuration of the Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1 costs $369.99, which is still far below our budget. Considering all the benefits you get, this is certainly the best Chrome OS laptop Dell offers for under $500 – you just have to weight the benefits against the increased cost compared to the clamshell version.

    Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1
    The 2-in-1 version of the Dell Chromebook 3100 comes with more RAM and a touch screen.

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These are the best Dell laptops you can get for under $500 right now. As we mentioned, these prices may vary since some of the laptops are currently on sale. If you’re looking strictly at specs, the Dell Inspiron 14 is clearly the best of the bunch. It has the latest Intel processors, a lot of storage, and a decent amount of RAM for multitasking. The Dell Inspiron 15 is a close second, and the bigger screen might be enough to win you over.

However, all the other options are viable for specific use cases. Windows 10 Pro has some important business features that might suit your use case, and if they do, then you’ll want to opt for the Latitude laptops. On the other hand, Chrome OS is popular for education, so that might be a better option for young students.

If you’re looking for other affordable options, we recommend taking a look at our list of the best cheap laptops you can buy right now. There are many non-Dell options there if you’re interested in other brands. That’s particularly true for Chromebooks, which admittedly aren’t abundant in Dell’s lineup. All the Windows-based laptops we recommended also support the upgrade to Windows 11.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.