9 best budget laptops for under £299

Cheap and definitely cheerful

It's not such a long time ago when laptops were only affordable to a few mere mortals and were sufficiently heavy to pose a serious risk of lumbago.

Fast forward 20 years and they have now reached mainstream, having seemingly displaced desktops as the nation's favourite computing form factor while vying for the top spot with tablets.

At the low-end of the spectrum are laptops that cost £200 or less; don't let the price fool you, these are capable devices that will be fine for most tasks.

You should get away with a bit of social media, web browsing, productivity work using office applications, watching Youtube and the occasional bout of gaming. Anything more and you should consider buying a more expensive and powerful model.

Surprisingly, there is a wider range of form factors at the lower end of the spectrum as competitors innovate in order to sell get more models outside the door. For the sake of simplicity, we're sticking to Windows laptops available in the UK (so, no Chromebooks) in our list below.

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Dell

1. Dell Vostro 15 3549

Perfect for businesses with a tight IT budgetDedicated numeric keypad, relatively powerful CPU

CPU: Intel Celeron 3205U (dual core, 1.5GHz) | Storage: 500GB HDD | Display: 15.6-inch HD LED

Dedicated numeric keypad
Relatively powerful CPU
Girth
VGA port

Dell's small business laptop range makes a surprising appearance with the Vostro 15 3549 available at just under £200 and although it is powered by a Celeron processor, it is one of the more powerful models (based on Broadwell). It does include some goodies like an optical drive and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Shame though that there is a VGA connector rather than a HDMI port. You do however get a proper dedicated numeric keypad, a must on a business laptop.

Lenovo

2. Lenovo IdeaPad M30-70

Great design, decent processing power and plenty of storage, what's not to like?

CPU: Intel Celeron 2957U (dual core, 1.4GHz) | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 500GB HDD | Display: 13.3-inch HD LED

Price
Bundled security software
No optical drive
Thick bezel

Lenovo's M30 has a smaller screen than the Vostro and loses the numeric keypad and the optical drive but it also weighs significantly and has a more useful HDMI port. Its aluminium/silver finish makes it trendier as well which might appeal more to students and those looking for something else than an anthracite finish. Add in the fact that it comes bundled with a one-year subscription to McAfee Internet Security and it looks like a very decent buy at just under £180.

Read the full review: Lenovo IdeaPad M30-70

Acer

3. Acer ES1-311

A fantastic-looking laptop with acres of storage capacity at a rock bottom price

CPU: Intel Celeron N2840 (dual core, 2.16GHz) | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 1TB HDD | Display: 13.3-inch HD LED

Massive hard disk drive
Optical drive
Processing power
Bloatware

Perhaps an indication of how far things have moved on is this Acer ES1 laptop. At £199, it packs 4GB of RAM and a whopping 1TB hard disk drive. True, it packs a slower dual core Intel Celeron N2840 processor but that shouldn't be an issue if you stick to lighter tasks. Just don't try to edit videos or play the latest games. With a larger than average touchpad and an island-style keyboard, it looks more expensive than it actually is.

Read the full review: Acer ES1-311

Asus X102BA

4. Asus X102BA

Reminds us of good old netbooks and comes with a surprising freebie

CPU: AMD A4-1200 (dual core, 1GHz) | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 500GB HDD | Display: 10.1-inch HD touchscreen

Free Office 2013
Size
No optical drive
Slow processor

The CPU on this one is the slowest of the bunch but it more than makes up for it thanks to its touchscreen capabilities (albeit on a 10.1-inch panel), a HDMI port and a perpetual Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 license that carries an RRP of £110, not bad for a laptop that costs just under £180. The X102BA is also the lightest model in this chart at 1.15Kg and that's partly due to the lack of an onboard optical drive.

Read the full review: Asus X102BA

Satellite Click Mini

5. Toshiba Satellite Click Mini

A unique proposition at this price and a bargain if you don't mind the tiny screen.

CPU: Intel Atom Z3735F | RAM: 2GB RAM | Storage: 32GB SSD | Display: 8.9-inch FHD+ touchscreen

Display resolution
Battery life
Tiny screen
Keyboard

Another example of how far budget laptops have moved on. This is a laptop that can convert to a tablet and not only does it have an 8.9-inch full HD touchscreen display, but it also comes with a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, a package worth around £50. What's more is the Satellite Click Mini weighs just under 1Kg and yet manages to last at least 13 hours when playing video. So why it might not be the fastest of the lot (it runs on an Intel Atom Z3735F), it sure packs a lot of value for money.

Read the full review: Toshiba Satellite Click Mini

X551MAV

6. Asus X551MAV

A well balanced laptop that only suffers from a relatively slow processor

CPU: Intel Atom N2840 (dual core, 2.13GHz) | RAM: 4GB RAM | Storage: 1TB HDD | Display: 15.6-inch HD screen

Dedicated keypad
1TB hard disk drive
Poor CPU performance
Low battery life

The second laptop with a 1TB hard disk drive, the X551MAV from Asus is a 15.6-inch model that comes with a one-year subscription to McAfee Internet Security. Not only does it have a dedicated numeric keyboard, it also sports a HDMI port, a DVD writer and a VGA connector. The rest is standard for devices of this category, no fancy other than Asus' SonicMaster audio technology. Shame though that this laptop has a rated battery life of four hours.

Lenovo B40

7. Lenovo B40-45

The cheapest new laptop in the UK, perfect for students or for penny pinching geeks

CPU: AMD E1-6010 (dual core, 1.4GHz) | RAM: 2GB RAM | Storage: 500GB HDD | Display: 14-inch HD screen

Price
Hard drive capacity
Lack of optical drive
System memory

The Lenovo B40-45 is a boring laptop and that's a good thing. It is the cheapest new laptop in the UK at £148 and given that it runs Windows 10, which costs £90 on its own, it is actually a very good purchase especially since it comes with next day delivery and free Bullguard Internet Security for three users. Geared towards a business audience, it comes with a HDMI port, a dedicated touchpad but no optical drive. All-in-all an excellent model for those looking for something affordable and new.

Flex 10

8. Lenovo Flex 10

An ingenious design coupled with some cracking specification at this price

CPU: Intel N2807 (dual core, 1.58GHz) | RAM: 4GB RAM | Storage: 320GB HDD | Display: 10.1-inch HD touchscreen

Touch screen
Price
Poor performance
Lack of optical drive

Lenovo tried a few things over the years and seems to have hit the jackpot with the rotatable screen format with the Yoga family being the one we're familiar with. This Flex 10 borrows that particular feature but its 10.1-inch, 10-point touchscreen display can't do a full 360-degree rotation (only 300 degrees). As expected, it doesn't come with an optical drive but does offer a HDMI port, Lenovo's acclaimed AccuType display and a multitouch touchpad.

X205TA

9. Asus EeeBook X205TA

The spiritual successor of the wildly popular EeeBook brand is a real bargain

CPU: Intel Atom Z3735F | RAM: 4GB RAM | Storage: 32GB SSD | Display: 11.6-inch HD screen

Size
Battery life
CPU peformance
Storage capacity

Asus has yet another deliciously looking laptop, the X205, which is the latest in the range of EeeBook, derived from the Netbooks (remember these), the original super affordable laptop range. That one weighs less than 1Kg, is super thin and yet can run for 12 hours thanks to its Atom processor. There's a microSD card slot and a microHDMI port plus a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal. The best thing though has to be the price, a mere £179.

Read the full review: Asus EeeBook X205TA

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré (Twitter, Google+) has been musing and writing about technology since 1997. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global techfests, developing an uncanny attraction for anything silicon, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro.