7.5 hours of battery life. Extremely thin design. Affordable. Large and clear 15.6” HD screen. Backlit keyboard. Surprisingly good speakers. Large trackpad with fingerprint reader.
This model doesn’t feature a memory card slot or USB-C connectivity.
Affordable. Sports laptop and tablet modes. 11” HD touchscreen. Includes 3 USB ports and HDMI connection. Compact design. Best for web-based apps and programs.
With little over 5 hours per charge, its battery life is on the short side.
Affordable. Bright 11.6” HD display. Less than 3 lb. Impressive 8 hours of battery life. Range of convenient connectivity options. Slim design. Great travel PC.
Does not sport a touchscreen.
Affordable. 11.6” HD anti-glare display. Excellent battery life of 9 hours,15 minutes. Super-slim profile. Built-in webcam. Great stereo speakers. Available in blue and white.
Its bundled Office 365 software package expires after a year.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Shopping for a budget laptop can be tricky, because every manufacturer has a different idea of what constitutes an “affordable” price. Thankfully, as technology has evolved, even so-called “low-end” laptops are still quite powerful and suitable for everyday use.
Whether you’re looking for a Windows-based laptop for crunching numbers at work or a Mac for surfing the web at home, we’ve got you covered with the best laptop options that keep costs down. At BestReviews, our mission is to provide honest, unbiased reviews on the products that matter most to our readers. As we prepared this budget laptop review, we did not accept free products or compensation of any kind from manufacturers. In fact, all of the products we buy for our test labs are purchased with our own funds.
As you’re deciding which budget laptop to buy, use our shopping guide to help you understand the must-have features you need and the gimmicks you can live without. Then check out the featured products above to see which of our budget laptops is best for you.
Each of the major operating systems – Windows, Mac OS X, and Chrome OS – is available on a budget laptop, but there are a few nuances and pitfalls to be aware of.
Most budget laptops run Microsoft Windows 10. If your budget is $500 or under, a Windows-based laptop will provide the best value, especially if you already have money invested in third-party, Windows-only applications.
If you’re looking for a budget Mac OS X laptop, investigate the MacBook Air. Apple’s MacBook Air is consistently their most affordable portable machine and is usually the only one sold for less than $1,000. If OS X is a must for you, but the MacBook Air isn’t the right machine for you, consider other MacBooks. Usually, the next models up are only slightly more expensive.
If you’re buying a budget laptop that runs Chrome OS, search the internet to determine when it was first released. Google guarantees support for Chrome OS for five years from the day a Chrome OS model laptop is released (not the day it’s purchased). If there are less than three years of support left, look at more current models.
Naturally, a “budget” laptop is one that’s more affordable than cutting-edge machines, and in the majority of cases, a lower price means less-powerful internal hardware. That’s not a bad thing. For example, if you spend most of your computer time browsing the web or watching movies, chances are you don’t need the latest-generation processor or an ultra-powerful video card. You can save a lot of money by finding a budget laptop that makes reasonable compromises.
As you’re shopping for budget laptops, consider the most common hardware compromises you’ll encounter.
If you’re thinking about buying a budget laptop with an 11-inch screen, make sure the diminutive size isn’t too small for your hands. Some users complain that there isn’t enough room to comfortably type on the corresponding keyboard.
When you purchase a budget laptop, keep the packaging and paperwork. You may need it in the event of a problem, and if you eventually decide to upgrade, having the original materials will boost the machine’s resale value.
Every laptop needs some extra gear—here are the peripherals you’ll want to start with. We’ve picked the best budget-friendly options.
Backpack: KOPACK Slim Laptop Backpack
KOPACK’s laptop backpack is one of our go-to favorites because it doesn’t cut any corners but still manages to have a minimalist appearance (that’s available in several different colors). It’s soft and cushy, so it’ll keep your laptop safe and scratch-free; it’s got a built-in organizer with enough room for a tablet, a notebook, pens, and your laptop’s plug; best of all, it’s got a slot to slide a USB cable through so you can charge your phone while you’re out on the go (although you’ll have to buy a separate power bank to do that). At this price point, it’s hard to find a better value in laptop backpacks.
Mouse: Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse
Microsoft doesn’t get enough credit for their hardware—ever since they launched the Surface brand, they’ve been churning out high quality gear and accessories. One of our favorites from them is the Arc Touch Mouse, which looks more like a surrealist sculpture than it does a mouse, but is one of the most comfortable models we’ve ever used. The shape of the Arc Touch Mouse helps maintain proper wrist positioning and makes precision pointing easy, and when you need to travel it flattens so you can put it in any pocket. It’s definitely funny looking, but once you get used to the comfort and portability of the Arc Touch Mouse, other models will feel outdated.
Webcam cover: 5 Pack Trobing Laptop Camera Cover
Keep yourself safe from prying eyes and always use a webcam cover with any laptop you own. We like Trobing’s camera covers, because they’re thin, easy to apply, and they can last the entire lifespan of a laptop. Thankfully, basic safety is affordable, making this an easy decision.
There are two main price ranges to consider when shopping for a budget laptop.
In the $250 to $499 price range, you’ll find a mix of competent, but not amazing, laptops and off-brand knock-offs. Laptops in this price range typically feature second-rate processors and only 4GB of RAM (which, these days, is the bare minimum). If you’re OK with using a laptop that’s a little slow from time to time, or you only need a machine for casual or infrequent use, there’s no need to spend more than this. Most 11.6-inch budget laptops fit this category.
When budgeting for your laptop purchase, take peripherals and accessories into account, especially if you plan on buying any cases, bags, screen protectors, keyboards, or mice with it.
When shopping for a budget laptop, consider these tips.
Pay attention to the types of processors found in different budget laptops. Comparing processor power across brands can be tricky because speed ratings are rarely consistent from manufacturer to manufacturer. If you encounter an unfamiliar processor, search for comparisons to known brands online. If a budget laptop is marketed with a processor that either doesn’t list its speed or doesn’t provide any comparison data, don’t buy it.
Buy a model that has as much RAM as you can afford. Random-access memory, better known as RAM, affects how many tasks a computer can take on simultaneously. While having more RAM doesn’t actually make a computer faster, computers with more RAM generally feel faster because background tasks aren’t slowing them down. Many budget laptops come with 4GB RAM on board, which really isn’t enough to provide a satisfactory experience. We recommend getting one with at least 8GB of RAM, if not 16GB.
Q. Do budget laptops have touchscreens?
A. Laptops that feature touchscreens, sometimes referred to as two-in-ones, cost more to make, so it’s rare to see a laptop with a touchscreen in the budget category. If you need a laptop that also functions as a tablet, a two-in-one laptop may be a better choice for you.
Q. What is an SSD? Should I buy a budget laptop that has one?
Q. Why do most budget laptops running Windows 10 use Windows 10 Home Edition?
A. Microsoft produces several variations of each Windows operating system. Two popular versions are Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Home. Windows 10 Pro adds a handful of features that are commonly used in business applications, including Remote Desktop, Group Policy Management, and Microsoft’s Device Guard service. Because most consumers don’t typically use these features, budget laptop manufacturers often opt for the more affordable Windows 10 Home version.
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