There's been a surprising number of good budget laptops available recently, and a lot of them are Chromebooks. Since the release of the first Google cr-48 prototype in 2010, each batch of Chromebooks has gradually improved to the point where they can cater for most day to day demands and unless you really need full HD playback, video-editing options and gaming chops they generally do fit the bill. You'll also note that some of the budget portables now have touchscreens as the line between what's a laptop and a tablet continues to blur and will ultimately not matter anymore very soon.
1. Acer C720 Chromebook
It comes as no surprise that the first and most affordable budget laptop we're highlighting is a Chromebook. If you're after something that will handle basic word processing and spreadsheets, browsing the web over Wi-Fi and watching YouTube clips then the Acer C720 is a steal.
At this price you also have to expect compromises: the 1.40GHz Intel Celeron processor and Intel HD Graphics are up to a lot of tasks, and also help to secure 8.5 hours of battery life, but can't cope with intensive tasks such as video editing. Storage is scarce too: a 16GB SDD is supplied, but then you're expected to embrace the cloud and suck up the 100GB of free Google Drive space that comes with the purchase.
The 11.6-inch TFT screen is also on the dull side with a limited viewing angle, and the keyboard refuses to offer decent feedback. But these are to be expected and the overall package is a bargain.
2. HP Chromebook 11
Light, sturdy and really quite stylish, our reviewer went a little squishy over the HP Chromebook 11. Setting aside the limitations of ChromeOS and the Chromebook concept itself, this is HP being as clever as possible with the specs.
Instead of an Intel processor, HP chose the ARM-based Samsung Exynos 5250 and slotted in 2GB of RAM and 16GB of solid-state storage (bolstered by the usual 100GB of Google Drive space). When set to work together with a vibrant 11-inch IPS screen running at a decent 1,366 x 768 pixels, the overall effect is a smooth and responsive experience.
The only surprising result - considering the low-power and efficient choice of specs - is the battery life, which was a head-scratching three hours on full load and then five hours after a few fine adjustments.
The touchpad isn't top notch either, and suffers from being oversensitive on occasion, but you'll find the key connectivity ports are all there, such as USB 3.0 and HDMI, and the HP Chromebook 11 adds up to surprisingly well-built laptop.
3. Asus X102BA
On the face of it, the Asus Z102BA looks like a no-frills lightweight laptop, but it's actually packed with a few surprising features that make it a good general purpose portable.
First off, it's kept the choice of OS fuss-free and pre-installed a full copy of Windows 8. Second, it comes bundled with a version of Microsoft Office 2013 Home & Student Edition. Finally, its otherwise unremarkable 11.1-inch screen, which has a resolution of 1,366 x768 and a limited viewing angle, is also a nicely responsive touchscreen.
In fact, combine all these factors together with a good isolation keyboard for lots of typing, all the connectivity you need (including an Ethernet port) and plenty of space for photos, files and videos on its 500GB hard drive, and the Asus Z1023BA becomes a shoo-in for a student on a tight budget.
The only major thing letting it down is that the battery lasted three hours in our intensive test. A mediocre result considering the Asus is geared towards energy efficiency with its AMD A4-1200 APU, which combines CPU and graphics on a single chip.
4. Acer Aspire V5
Looking at the quality build of the Acer Aspire V5-122P, it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing it to the Aspire's high-end siblings and end up grumbling over its performance. Its budget limitations are squarely reflected in the internals: AMD's A6-1460, which includes Radeon HD 8250 graphics, backed by 4GB DDR3 RAM and capable of dealing with HD video playback, basic productivity tasks and some simple editing software, but not much more.
Equally, the 1,366 x 768 native resolution of the 11.6-inch TFT screen is, as you may have spotted by now, pretty standard on budget laptops and in this case benefits from a bright LED backlight.
Yet again, battery life rears its ugly head and only briefly, as the Asus achieves a measly 92 minutes against our Battery Eater test, and slightly more respectable two hours of general use.
The Aspire V5 is a stylish looking budget portable but very much a mixed bag. Ultimately, it's an adequate budget laptop running Windows 8 and, therefore, worth considering.
5. HP Pavilion 15
Sports car manufacturers might disagree, but its yet to be proven that the colour red will make a thing go faster on it's own, but it does make the HP Pavilion 15 stand out from other less stylish laptops at this budget price.
Make no mistake though, this is a budget laptop powered by an AMD APU, which combines both the graphics and the processor into one chip.
The overall experience is still peppy in Windows 8, and unless you plan to use it for video editing, the Pavilion 5 will handle all the usual document and spreadsheet work, film watching and web browsing you can throw at its way. It will also give you a respectable 5 hours of battery life in the process.
The 15.6-inch TN display isn't going to make film watching an earth-moving experience, though and the keyboard, as is often the case at this price, isn't very responsive.
Take a look, if you're looking for a tidy portable on a tight budget and need a full Windows 8 OS.
6. Asus V550CA
The Asus V550CA does a good job of balancing power and price, and at this price It's no surprise the Intel Core i7 packed isn't the latest: it's an Ivy Bridge, which means its last gen but still very capable.
There are no frills here in spec terms as it's designed to be a straightforward laptop for covering the needs of office work with good storage, web browsing and a bit of casual gaming.
You shouldn't expect to use the V5550CA for anything more as the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 are mediocre befitting the low resolution of the 15.6-inch TFT screen on offer.
But this a capable laptop with a nice brushed aluminium lid and a generally appealing style, if you want cutting edge performance, you'll need to pay more.
7. Lenovo G500s
Lenovo has a habit of pumping out similarly named products at a brisk trot and the G500s is essentially an update to the Lenovo G505.
The G500s comes with an Intel Pentium 2020M processor, 8GB of memory and integrated Intel HD graphics, which means it will handle Windows 8 and day to day use smoothly enough, along with the likes of HD video playback on it's sizeable screen.
That's 720p HD, however, not full 1020p HD as we're still looking at a native resolution of 1,366 x 768. Demanding tasks are firmly off the table, though. You won't be playing games like Titanfall on this portable.
The G500s isn't the most portable of devices at 2.5kg, which amounts to hefting around a small bag of potatoes, which makes it more suitable as a stay at home device.
We also didn't find that keyboard gave much feedback when typing, which caused a bit too many mis-types for our liking. But overall, this is a steady but mundane workmate with a good battery life.