Computers are in a weird place right now. High-end PCs are struggling, especially in the US, where Apple’s MacBooks have seen a swift decline in consumer sales. Perhaps people simply aren’t interested in new technology, but more likely is that they haven’t been introduced to the best cheap laptops.
- Not all of the best laptops are contained by tight budgets
That’s right, not every quality laptop has to be an expensive Ultrabook. Some can be found for under five-hundred dollars or pounds. Now, of course, these budget laptops have historically included mainly Chromebooks, but Microsoft has made tremendous strides in optimizing Windows 10 for cheap laptops as well.
As such, we’ve made it our mission to deliver laptop recommendations that you can trust, even on an entry-level budget. Whether you want complete control over your files and programs with a Windows 10 device or you’re more complacent with a cloud-based Chromebook, here they are: the best cheap laptops you can buy.
Acer Swift 3
The bigger, better value proposition
CPU: Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Acer Swift 3 was influenced heavily by an Ultrabook double its starting price. From its silvery all-aluminum chassis all the way down to the spacious keyboard and trackpad, the Acer Swift 3 feels like the thinner and sleeker, but significantly less powerful, Acer Swift 7, which itself is a love letter to the now-defunct MacBook Air.
Read the full review: Acer Swift 3
Acer Switch 3
Spiritual successor to the Surface 3
CPU: Intel Pentium Quad Core N4200 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 505 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.2-inch (1920 x 1200) IPS LCD | Storage: 64GB
We may never get a low-power, budget-friendly, non-pro Surface 4, but Acer has delivered the closest thing. Appropriately titled the Switch 3 (no, you didn’t miss two Nintendo consoles in the last few months), this Windows tablet becomes a laptop when you strap it on to its included matte black keyboard. And the active digitizer makes it feel much more expensive than it is.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA
Small, portable and flexible
CPU: Intel Atom x5-Z8350 | Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 10.1-inch HD (1,280 x 800) LED touch display | Storage: 64GB
The Asus Transformer Mini T102HA doesn’t have the horsepower to compete with the Surface Pro, but it shouldn’t matter at a price point this tasty. 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
Samsung Chromebook Pro
First in a new generation of Chromebooks
CPU: 0.99Ghz Intel Core m3-6Y30 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, QHD (2,400 x 1,600) touchscreen | Storage: 32GB eMMC
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
Lenovo Yoga Book (Windows 10)
The netbook of the future – the ultra netbook?
CPU: 1.44GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8550 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 10.1-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,200 resolution), IPS touchscreen | Storage: 64GB flash storage (plus 128GB with microSD)
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.
Acer Chromebook 14
Meet the anti-MacBook Air
CPU: Intel Celeron N3160 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) display | Storage: 32GB SSD
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.
HP Pavilion 15
The de facto learning laptop lives on
CPU: AMD dual-core A9 APU – Intel Core i7 | Graphics: AMD Radeon R5 – Nvidia GTX 1050 | RAM: 6GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080); touch optional | Storage: 512GB SSD – 1TB HDD
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
Dell Inspiron 11 3000
Colorful can be cheap, too
CPU: Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB | Screen: 11.6-inch HD (1366 x 768) anti-glare LED-backlit display | Storage: 32GB eMMC
Going for under 200 bucks on a regular basis, this 11.6-inch laptop with an HD screen should serve you well as a budget companion device. With 32GB of storage, it’s twice as capacious as most Chromebooks, though the 2GB of slower RAM is something to watch out for. Available in several colors and complete with a microSD card slot, this is one versatile device.
Lenovo IdeaPad 110s
A simple and reliable laptop
CPU: Intel Celeron N3160 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 2GB | Screen: 11.6-inch HD (1366 x 768) anti-glare | Storage: 32GB
Lenovo has its very own 11.6-inch Windows 10 laptop with an HD screen, but does the Inspiron one better (for a bit more cash) with Pentium processors from Intel as well as a full SD card reader. Lenovo rounds out the package with up to 7 hours of battery life, matching or surpassing rivals in nearly every category. In the budget space, another few bucks can go a long way.
HP Stream 14
Big and colorful for cheap
CPU: Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch HD (1,366 x 768) SVA BrightView WLED-backlit | Storage: 32GB eMMC
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.
Acer Aspire E5-575
Mighty impressive for the price
CPU: Intel Core i3-6100U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 4GB – 32GB | Screen: 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) display | Storage: 1TB hard drive
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
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article