Best Budget-Friendly Laptops

Budget laptops used to be flimsy, slow machines that could barely handle basic computing tasks. But this is not the case these days. Dive into this competitive portion of the market and you can find loads of fantastic options, from full-size Windows laptops to Chromebooks and hybrids. The best budget laptops are usually the ones offering decent entry level specs (32 or 64GB of storage in a Chromebook or a 4GB / 8GB RAM, i3 processor, 128GB  storage in a Windows machine) at a low price. However, you will sometimes find mid-range specs offering a step up at similar prices on cheaper machines. Below you’ll find our top picks of cheap laptops.

What are the most important things when buying laptops?

Let’s set expectations right away. The laptops on this list will not come with the latest and greatest processors, graphics cards, or displays. You have to spend more than $1,000 for those things. For students or workers who just want something to get them through the day, things like ports and memory are more important.

If you want to record audio with a microphone or use a mouse, you’ll need USB ports. Photographers or videographers should emphasize microSD card readers. An HDMI port goes a long way if you like streaming on a TV. Above all else, you want as much RAM and storage as you can get. More RAM means the computer can handle more applications at once and more storage means less hard drive management.

What am I losing by getting a cheap laptop?

Laptops in the $600-or-below price range are not going to be good for PC gaming. You won’t get a 4K resolution display or a refresh rate higher than 60Hz. RAM is going to max out around 8GB, which isn’t bad but also isn’t spectacular. You’re also unlikely to get more than 500GB of storage space.

In this price range, laptops are going to be best for web browsing, word processing, Zoom calls, and streaming. As long as you don’t expect more than that, you’ll be fine.

But are cheap laptops worth it?

You know the old saying: You get what you pay for. But thanks to the technology boom of the last few decades, a cheap laptop can actually take you pretty far and won’t break down immediately. It is all about knowing which one to select.

1. Microsoft Surface Go 2

The Surface Go 2 may be limited by its small size and, at the entry-level, by a low-powered Intel Pentium processor. The latter can be upgraded to an Intel Core m3 for $130 more. However, it offers something never before seen in the Windows world: A truly budget-minded 2-in-1 laptop. Its build is every bit as solid as its bigger brother, the Surface Pro 7, and it boasts a beautiful, bright display to boot.

It’s actually thin and light enough to be held in one hand like a proper tablet. While performance doesn’t feel as smooth as on something like an iPad or even a Chromebook, those devices can’t do quite as many things as the Surface Go 2, which runs a full version of Windows 10.

On the battery front, however, it’s a bit lacking. That’s its most unfortunate compromise since this is a device made for portability. Also, we still wish the excellent Type Cover keyboard and Surface Pen came bundled in. But even with its fair share of faults, the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is absolutely the best budget 2-in-1 you can buy.

Competitors in this price range lack its high build quality and often have a less impressive display or keyboard.

2. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet

This Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is essentially a Chrome version of the first Microsoft Surface Go. Like the Go, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard and touchpad. Unlike Microsoft, though, Lenovo includes the keyboard. This Lenovo laptop also costs much less than the Microsoft Surface Go (including the Microsoft Surface Go 2). It starts at $249 list for a 64GB version or $299 for one with 128GB of storage. The Lenovo IdeaPad is essentially a smaller, albeit less powerful, Pixel Slate that makes more sense for more people with a price that’s more in line with what people expect a Chromebook to cost.

The screen is small, however, so if you’re regularly using it at a desk, we recommend attaching an external monitor to its USB-C port. You will probably want to connect a wireless keyboard and mouse, too.

3. Asus E410

It might not score as highly as other laptops here but most people will want as much as possible for under $300 and the E410 is a great option if that’s you.

Things like a dim screen are inevitable and not everyone will like the quirky design on the lid. We also found the NumberPad in the trackpad a tad annoying but Asus has got a lot right here.

The E410 has excellent battery life, a lightweight design and performance is good enough for basic day-to-day tasks. Ticking key boxes at this price makes it a great value laptop.

4. Honor MagicBook 14

Despite the MagicBook 14 being a dainty and lightweight laptop, it still boasts a decent AMD processor and Radeon graphics card, which means that it can easily handle a couple of games or high-performance programs. In addition, the longevity of the battery life will give you more than 10 hours of work or play time.

Spec nuts will notice that this laptop is almost identical to Huawei’s MateBook D14. However, the one key difference is that this laptop is less expensive. If you did find yourself able to spend a little more, there’s a late 2020 refreshed model with a new AMD chip and 512GB storage for $759.

5. Samsung Chromebook 4

This is a pretty straightforward 15-inch Samsung Chromebook equipped with a Celeron N4000, 4GB RAM and 32GB storage (plus an extra 32GB via an SD card). There are less expensive laptop versions of the Samsung Chromebook at the same link starting at $390. However they are all 11-inch models, so unless it is for a small kid or a small space.

6. Acer Aspire 5

The Acer Aspire 5 has a strong 8th Gen Core i3 performance, a bright 1080p display and a long battery life. Although the Aspire 5 is much thinner than its sibling, the Aspire E 15, the Aspire 5 boasts enough room for a battery that lasts nearly 9 hours on a charge.

It doesn’t feature a DVD writer, but it still has a decent number of ports. The display emits an impressive 276 nits of brightness, which gives the screen some decent contrast. It even has an aluminum hood. To top it off, the bezels on the display are surprisingly narrow for a laptop this cheap. The Aspire 5 is one of the best cheapest laptops currently available.

7. Dell Latitude

The Dell Latitude works in laptop, tablet, or tent mode, and is designed for use with a variety of Microsoft learning apps. It have two USB 3.1 ports, an HDMI port, a USD Card Reader slot, a 11.6” HD IPS 16:9 1366 x 768 Touch with Corning Gorilla Glass NBT display and an Intel Pentium Processor.

The Dell Latitude touchscreen is literally one of the best affordable laptop choices a student can have. This 11-inch system is built to withstand a lot, since it’s durable and spill-resistant. Students can go all day without charging it thanks to its long 10-plus hours of battery life.  The Dell Latitude works in laptop, tablet, or tent mode, and is designed for use with a variety of Microsoft learning apps. A built-in webcam makes for easy photography or for making Skype calls, and you can use the Active Pen to draw, write, and take notes right on the screen. A solid choice for any school-goer.

8. HP Pavilion 14

The Pavilion 14 from HP is a good all-rounder if your budget will stretch, offering stylish design, good build quality and decent specs. It does a bit of everything with a fingerprint scanner, a good webcam, a touchscreen and B&O speakers making it a good choice for those that want a laptop for a wide range of tasks.

Battery life is middling but performance is above average thanks to the latest 11th-gen Intel processors and other solid components. There’s also a nice selection of ports and good wireless connectivity. The main spanner in the works here is the existence of the Honor MagicBook 14 at the same price.

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