Dell makes some of the very best Windows laptops money can buy. From the Alienware gaming machines to the incredible XPS 13 and XPS 15 and beyond, there’s a lot to choose from. But laptops like these are also very pricey. Not wanting to spend thousands shouldn’t exclude you from having a great laptop, and in the case of Dell, you can get something good for under $500 like the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1.
Best overall – Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 5481
In keeping the cost of a laptop low, there are always compromises to be made. But in the case of the latest Inspiron 14 2-in-1, those compromises are minimal. For one, you’re getting an 8th Gen Intel Core i3 and up to 8GB of RAM for under $500. It’s only a dual-core i3, but it does have four threads, at least.
What’s also astonishing about this affordable laptop is that Dell has NVMe SSD storage in all configurations, even the cheapest. Superfast storage is a massive bonus since there are still plenty of low-cost laptops out there using a slow HDD or eMMC for their storage choices.
As it’s a 2-in-1, you also get a touch display, albeit only an HD resolution one, and it folds all the way around so you can use it as a tablet, or just prop it up when you want to watch a movie. It’s incredibly versatile, and while it’s a shame you can’t get one with a Core i5 for under $500, it’s still the best of the bunch.
Superfast NVMe SSD storage
Convertible touch display
Great looking design
Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 5481
From $460 at Dell
Well made and well equipped
It’s crazy you can get NVMe SSD storage for under $500, as well as a convertible touchscreen and four-thread CPU.
Runner-up — Dell Inspiron 15 5000
The Inspiron 15 5000 is incredibly well equipped for a sub-$500 laptop. Part of that is down to what’s inside it, and you are limited at this price point to the 10th Gen Intel Core i3, but it’s still a solid laptop for the money.
You get a Core i3-1005G1, though you’ll have to spec it with only 4GB of RAM to keep it under budget, but you do get a 128GB PCIe SSD included. That’s not a problem, though, as Dell left it easily upgradeable, so you can add an SSD and some more RAM if what comes included isn’t enough for you.
The Core i3-1005G1 is a solid budget laptop processor, too. It’s got excellent single and multi-core performance and is much better than we’d be seeing in a laptop this affordable even a couple of years ago. It’s well built, too, and ultimately a lot of PC for not a lot of money.
10th Gen Intel processor
PCIe SSD storage
Great build quality
Upgradeable RAM and SSD
Limited to 4GB of RAM in budget
Dell Inspiron 15 5000
From $470 at Dell
Excellent performance for a fantastic price
The one to get is the Core i3 powered version, but with solid performance and PCIe storage, it’s no slouch.
Best Budget Convertible – Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1
This little 2-in-1 is a highly-portable laptop with an 11-inch 1366×768 resolution display that folds around to be used either as a tablet or to be propped up when you want to watch a movie. The entry-level model comes with 32GB of eMMC storage and 4GB of RAM, but you can spend a little more and get 128GB of storage.
eMMC and not SSD is a little disappointing, but it’s a credit to Dell that you can even get a decent convertible laptop for this kind of money. It uses AMD hardware inside, though here you’ll find the AMD A9-9420e dual-core APU with Radeon R5 graphics. It’s not as good as Ryzen, but in a small laptop like this and for everyday computing, it’s fine, and since it’s passively cooled, it’s also quiet.
And even though it’s small, it’s still well equipped with ports. You get a full-sized HDMI output, microSD card slot, even USB 3.1. That’s fantastic to see on a budget laptop.
Convertible with touch display
Older AMD APU
eMMC storage is slow
Best Budget Convertible
Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1
Small touch-friendly PC on a budget
It’s not without its flaws, but that you can get a decent convertible for this price is a remarkable achievement in itself.
From $294 at Dell
Best for Kids – Dell Inspiron 11 3180
The Inspiron 11 3180 is a good choice if you’re hunting for a laptop for the little ones in your life. It’s compact, affordable, and, most of all, durable. Because you know it’ll get banged and dropped and need to feel confident it’ll survive.
You get excellent battery life, a decent 11-inch 1366×768 resolution display, and a robust build quality that can take the kind of abuse kids deal out. And at 11 inches, it’ll fit in their bag just great for the trips to and from school.
The latest versions have all switched to AMD APUs, specifically the 7th generation A6 or A9, with 32GB or 128GB of eMMC storage and 4GB of RAM. Sadly, the storage is a little slow, but at the price you can buy it for it’s not much of a complaint.
Small enough for a school bag
Older AMD APU
eMMC storage is slow
Best for Kids
Dell Inspiron 11 3180
A good laptop for the little ones
A compact, durable laptop that looks pretty good, has decent hardware, and a brilliantly low price perfect for the little ones’ school work.
$249 at Amazon
Dell’s expensive XPS and gaming laptops might make the most noise, but it’s certainly not the case that you have to spend megabucks to get a good laptop from the company. The Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is proof of that. Sure, the display resolution is a compromise, but everything else about it is top quality, especially seeing the superfast NVMe storage in a sub-$500 laptop.
And while unflattering, perhaps, that’s why it’s the best choice. It’s the least compromising in areas that make a significant difference to user experience. We’d all love to gaze at a gorgeous high-resolution display all day, but it’s simply not going to happen under $500. By knocking a little bit off and taking it down to 768p, it still looks decent at 14-inches but allows Dell to invest more in areas that will really matter.
Fast storage, a good processor, and a good amount of RAM means the actual business of using this laptop will be far better than the others on this list. With the added bonus that it’s still got a touch screen.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Richard Devine Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you’ll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming.
Daniel Rubino is the executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009 back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.
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