Cheap laptops: the 10 best budget laptops that (very little) money can buy

Everyone needs a laptop. Whether for school or work, a foldable clamshell of a computer is necessary to carry out tasks both on the go and sitting stationary at a desk. But not everyone needs the most powerful laptop – sometimes the cheap laptops will suffice. And of course, it’s our job and our passion to recommend the best cheap laptops for you.

The best budget laptop has its priorities straight. It makes concessions only in the areas that casual PC users won’t notice. While it won’t run the newest games at the highest settings, you shouldn’t expect it to; the top cheap laptops only promise the bare essentials to get you by. They’re all under 500 bucks, too, so don’t expect any MacBooks.

Instead, the best cheap laptops are comprised of those running the now-Android compatible Windows 10 and the soon-to-be text messenger Chrome OS. Here they are. 

Dell

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

Tablet and laptop in one
Sizable hard drive
Tiny size could be tough

That the Asus Transformer Mini T102HA comes with a keyboard cover is definitely a pro, considering many make it an expensive option. The keyboard itself is serviceable, the build quality of the tablet is acceptable, and it’s thin and light enough to commute with easily. Couple that with full-size ports and impressive battery life, then you have a winner.

Read the full review: Asus Transformer Mini T102HA

Lenovo

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

Stunning, vivid screen
Stylus support on Chrome OS
Cramped keyboard
Weak speakers

With the Google Play Store 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, even mastering pen input on the first try.

Read the full review: Samsung Chromebook Pro

Acer

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)

Insanely thin and light
Keyboard surprisingly accurate
Woefully underpowered
Dated microUSB port

Lenovo has crafted an impressive, futuristic product that could very well create a subcategory in mobile computing all its own. Even with low-power parts that need a bit of work, the Yoga Book bridges the gap between tablet and laptop in ways that we, honestly, didn’t anticipate for a much longer time – if at all. 

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga Book

Asus X102BA

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

Top-notch build quality
Solid keyboard and touchpad
Full HD display
Flaky HD video playback

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 rich and fine. And, while not amazing, the keyboard and trackpad serve just as well as most. Battery life satisfies as well, even if it falls a bit south of Acer's 12-hour claim in real-world use.

Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 14

Satellite Click Mini

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

Thinner and lighter
Tons of options
Shallow, squishy keyboard

Heavy and ready to heft hours of school work, HP's Pavilion 15 makes for a fine deal that bears the known moniker well. Frankly, this is a broke college kid’s laptop. With power that the average pupil needs but at a cost the average student may afford, should be considered before the primo PC aisle, leaving you strapped with a few more clams for more books (or fun).

Read our hands-on review: HP Pavilion 15

X551MAV

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

Lots of color choice
AC Wi-Fi
Barely HD screen

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 B40

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

Full SD card slot
AC Wi-Fi
Barely HD screen

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.

Flex 10

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

Larger than most budget options
Free 25GB of Dropbox for 1 year
Barely HD screen

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.

X205TA

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

Metallic frame
Intel Core processor
Still barely HD screen
Not super portable

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.

Asus X555YA

Value-packed and user-focused

CPU: AMD E1 – A6 Series APU | Graphics: AMD Radeon R2 – R4 Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 8GB | Screen: 15.6'-inch HD (1,366 x 768) – Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED | Storage: 500GB – 2TB HDD

Large display
Full HD option
DVD drive option
AC Wi-Fi not standard

The only 100% AMD laptop on our list, this lovely 15.6-inch machine offers up to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels of display and a massive amount of optional storage. Even picking this laptop up at its base specification would provide a laptop that could last your school career. That said, some standards, like AC Wi-Fi, don’t come standard, so look twice before checking out.