Unlike some pretentious coffee shop snobs, you don’t need the fastest or the thinnest or even the most stylish laptop money can buy. There are those who care about having the best of the best everything, and then there’s you. Some people would be inclined to call you cheap, but you would firmly deny the allegation, offering the correction that you’re ‘frugal’. For our economically conscious readers, the best budget laptops will suffice.
It goes without saying that there are consequences for spending too much on a laptop. Maybe you’ll have to worry about the interest rates that come with financing a computer that costs over a grand. Another e-Bill would be an annoyance and a financial burden. Otherwise, perhaps you aren’t fond of risking spillage on a pricier laptop. Insurance is another factor we too often don’t care to consider. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best cheap laptops on the market.
In doing so, we’ve put the following budget laptops through rigorous testing and – in some cases – fully reviewed every make and model to determine our top picks. From brand names as well known as Dell, HP and Samsung, you don’t have to skimp to land an affordable clamshell notebook. Some are colorful, others are subdued, but they’re all under $500. Here they all are, along with their respective pricing, below.
Here we have one of the few budget laptops with a processor nearly equivalent to the MacBook Pro, that is, if you opt for the Intel Core i5 configuration. The best part? It’s roughly half the cost of its Apple-branded rival. Now given that it sells at a range of different prices, the Acer Swift 3 can be an obtuse purchase, but lucky for you, the midrange model will get you by just fine.
Read the full review: Acer Swift 3
Hear ye, the Acer Switch 3 is a feat to behold. This cheap laptop uses a low-power, albeit astoundingly efficient, Intel Pentium processor. However, internal specs are the least of its appeal. No, that honor goes to the Acer Switch 3’s novel ability to detach its screen from its keyboard. That only scratches the ‘surface’ of the inspiration it’s taken from Microsoft’s hardware too.
Read the full review: Acer Switch 3
Its name is alphabet soup to the average reader, but then again this convertible laptop has always been about function over form. For one minuscule transaction, you’re getting a tablet equipped with an included keyboard and even a fingerprint scanner for more secure logins. Along with reliable performance and a magnesium-alloy chassis, it’s built to last.
Read the full review: Asus Transformer Mini T102HA
With Android apps now supported on every new Chromebook released, it only makes sense to craft a Chromebook with a 12.3-inch QHD touch display, with a 360-degree hinge and pen support to boot. The Samsung Chromebook Pro may have a keyboard that’s a bit too compact for comfort, but it more than makes up for it, going as far as to master pen input on the first try.
Read the full review: Samsung Chromebook Pro
If you thought the Android edition of the Yoga Book was impressive, imagine using Windows on a laptop sporting inputs that double as a Wacom digitizer. The Windows 10 version of the Lenovo Yoga Book is exactly that, and while its on-paper specs leave something to be desired, the purely touch-based keyboard is so revolutionary we can’t believe nobody has copied it yet.
With its slick lines and a slim silhouette, the Acer Chromebook 14 makes for a subtle, snazzy laptop. Although its display isn’t the most attractive we’ve seen, it’s still acceptable for full HD. On top of that, the keyboard and trackpad adhere to the principle of ‘it just works.’ The battery life is satisfactory as well despite falling a bit south of Acer’s 12-hour claim in real-world use.
Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 14
- From Australia? Try a fine alternative in the Samsung Chromebook Pro.
Frankly, this is a broke college student’s laptop, so as long as you go in with that in mind, you won’t be disappointed with the HP Pavilion 15. Possessing all the power you’ll need to get you through the semester, this laptop bears all of the essentials for an affordable price, so that you can save the rest of your cash for the crushing financial aid debt yet to come.
Read our hands-on review: HP Pavilion 15
For those who like their laptops as colorful as they are affordable, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is a no-brainer. Although some users might find that it’s 11.6-inch display is too small, we would argue that this budget laptop is the perfect fit for your portable workspace. Plus, its bright and vibrant color scheme is loud enough that no one on your flight will confuse it for their own.
You could argue that, with the IdeaPad 110s, Lenovo has one-upped the Dell Inspiron 11, at least as far as 11.6-inchers go. You’re still getting an HD screen and a Celeron processor, but you’re also getting the added bonus of a full-size SD card reader and a 7-hour battery life – that’s more than you can say for most Ultrabooks. It costs a little more, but it’s worth it.
With a starting price of just above 200 large, the HP Stream 14 is a fine value for those seeking a strong if basic web browsing machine. It’s cheaper than even some Chromebooks while offering a bigger screen and the fullness of Windows 10. Other 15-inchers lack the ergonomics and aesthetics of HP’s cheapest Windows laptop yet.
Available in a variety of colors, this number from Acer brings things into practically a whole new class, with a 15.6-inch HD display powered by an Intel Core i3 processor. The metallic frame should make using this device feel more like a luxury without the sticker shock. Plus, with up to 12.5 hours of claimed battery life, this should last at least once forgetting to charge it.
- Reluctant to use a trackpad? Don’t worry, we’ve found the best mice to buy too
- Want to see more cheap laptop deals? Check out our US, UK and Australian guides.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article