The best cheap laptops 2024: budget notebooks and Chromebooks

best cheap laptops
(Image credit: Future)

Choosing the best cheap laptop for you largely depends on your specific needs. We get it; you’re on a tight budget and want to save as much as you could. However, what’s more important is that you’re getting the best value for your money, which means that you should choose the one that meets your daily needs. Otherwise, you’ll likely be forced to buy another one in a year or so and end up spending more.

The best laptop to buy on a budget doesn't mean just get the cheapest model on the shelves. If you don't need a full operating system and just want something for sending emails, surfing the internet, and streaming online content, for example, then it makes sense to get the cheapest but still good quality one you could find. That or one of the best Chromebooks may be the ideal choice. 

However, those portable can't run the same wide selection of software that Windows laptops can, and if you need to download and run specific programs, a more powerful Windows laptop might be a better choice. Even if you do have to pay a little more for it. Bear in mind, too, that when it comes to devices, 'cheap' is often a matter of perspective. A 'cheap' laptop for video editing or gaming is going to cost more than a budget laptop for students purely because those activities demand more capable hardware. 

So, we used our expertise and made sure to widen our price range where necessary when assembling this list. We’ve tested hundreds of laptops over the years, from premium models to cheap ones, so we know which ones are worth your money, no matter the cost. If you’re looking for the best cheap laptops, you can’t go wrong with one of our picks below.

The best cheap laptops 2024

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Acer Aspire 5 cheap laptop against a white background

(Image credit: Acer)
The best budget laptop overall

Specifications

CPU: 11th-gen Intel Core i3 – i5, AMD Ryzen 3 – 5
Graphics: Intel UHD, Intel Iris Xe, AMD Radeon Graphics
RAM: 4GB – 16GB DDR4 SDRAM
Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
Display: 14” Full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 – 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9

Reasons to buy

+
Solid build, with a 1.7kg weight
+
Decent battery life for the price

Reasons to avoid

-
720p webcam
-
Limited port selection

The Acer Aspire 5 is the one to beat for the perfect balance of cheap price and solid performance. This 2022 model comes with an 11th-generation Intel or AMD Ryzen 5000 processor, instead of the usual low-powered or outdated chips you’ll find in many cheap laptops, which means that it’ll deliver snappy performance. Want it even snappier and have a bit more flexibility in your budget? You can get a slightly more expensive configuration with more RAM.

In our own testing of the Intel Core i5-1135G7, Iris Xe, 8GB RAM configuration, it delivered a respectable performance that should see you through most productivity and casual workloads, as well as a decent battery life of up to 10 hours. And, whereas most dirt-cheap notebooks would cut corners in terms of build, Acer has given it a solid, lightweight chassis you’ll be glad to have when you’re commuting to and from work or traveling.

Read our full Acer Aspire 5 review

Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook best cheap laptop against a white background

(Image credit: Lenovo)
The best budget Chromebook

Specifications

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon SC7180
Graphics: N/A
RAM: 4 GB LPDDR4X 2133MHz
Storage: 256GB eMMC
Display: 13.3" FHD OLED (1920 x 1080) 100% DCI-P3 400 nits touchscreen

Reasons to buy

+
Gorgeous display
+
Phenomenal battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Flimsy keyboard
-
Difficult kickstand

Chromebooks like the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 are the first options to consider if you want the best laptop under $500. Since they need less power to be mighty multi-taskers, thanks to their lightweight operating system, chances are you’re getting a much more capable notebook if you choose Chromebook over a Windows 10 or 11 laptop with similar specs and a similar price. And it’ll likely have a more premium build and better features as well.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook is the perfect example of this. One of the best Chromebooks we’ve ever tested, even we’re baffled that Lenovo can roll out something with its level of quality for much less than you’d expect. We’re blown away by its gorgeous OLED touch display, bigger keyboard, and of course, one of the longest-lasting batteries we’ve seen on a Chromebook, which is saying a lot since these devices are known for their battery life.

Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook review 

An HP Victus 15 gaming laptop against a white background

(Image credit: HP)
The best budget laptop for gaming

Specifications

CPU: Up to Intel Core i7-12700H or AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
Graphics: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4 3200 MHz
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD
Display: 15.6" FHD 1920x1080, up to 300 nit and 144Hz refresh

Reasons to buy

+
Great gaming performance with settings tweaks
+
Great price

Reasons to avoid

-
OK Design
-
Bad battery life

HP’s latest in its line of budget gaming laptops, the HP Victus 15, is geared with the price-savvy gamer in mind from the get-go, offering great gaming performance at an even better price. Even the lowest specced configuration can play high-end titles well while still balancing most other tasks that the user may need. 

We wouldn't suggest investing in this laptop if you need something with a long battery life or a flashier appearance. The design isn't necessarily ugly, but it can be a bit boring, while the battery life means this will likely not travel very far from a power outlet. But if you're looking for a great gaming laptop for not a whole lot of money, then you definitely need to consider the HP Victus 15.

Read the full HP Victus 15 review

Acer Chromebook Spin 311 cheap laptop against a white background

(Image credit: Acer)
The best budget laptop for students

Specifications

CPU: Intel Celeron N4000 – AMD A6-9220C
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600 – AMD Radeon R5 Graphics
RAM: 4 GB DDR4 SDRAM
Storage: 32GB – 64GB Flash Memory
Display: 11.6" HD (1366 x 768) 16:9 IPS Touchscreen

Reasons to buy

+
Great design and build
+
Excellent touch screen and flip mechanism

Reasons to avoid

-
Dim screen
-
Massive bezels drastically reduce actual screen size

The Acer Chromebook Spin 311 reminds us of those clunky super-cheap laptops from the aughts, but that’s probably more because of its thick bezels, which not only makes it look a little dated but also robs you of a bigger display. Still, if you want a budget laptop for students – especially elementary and middle school students – this is a great, money-saving option.

After all, such users are likely only going to need it for research, schoolwork, and media consumption, and those do not require a lot of power. And while the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 might be dirt-cheap, we found its overall build and design to be robust yet classy and its compact size convenient for carrying from classroom to classroom all day.

Read our full Acer Chromebook Spin 311 review 

Best cheap laptop for business Acer Chromebook Spin 713 against a white background

(Image credit: Acer)
The best budget laptop for business

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Display: 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504p (3:2) LCD Touchscreen

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful performance
+
Gorgeous display

Reasons to avoid

-
No stylus included
-
No physical privacy shutter for webcam

There’s a lot to love about the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 that we don’t even know where to start. This might be a premium Chromebook, but it’s a lot more affordable than most business laptops with a full Windows OS, making it our natural recommendation as the best budget laptop for business. Of course, its exquisite combination of performance, design quality, and battery life have something to do with that as well.

Stuffing powerful components in a laptop running on a lightweight operating system is a brilliant move. We found this to be a powerful laptop, despite the fact that access to apps is still a tad limited on the Chrome OS. But, most business owners aren’t going to be using apps like Premiere Pro anyway, and most of the apps they’ll need, they do have access to here. But, there’s one more thing we absolutely love about this option – the 3:2 aspect ratio of its display, which gives multitaskers a bit more vertical space to spread out. It’s this aspect ratio that makes us also heartily recommend the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 as the best laptop for writers on a budget.

Read our full Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review 

best cheap laptop Dell Inspiron 14-inch against a white background

(Image credit: Dell)

6. Dell Inspiron 14-inch

The best budget laptop for photo and video editing

Specifications

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5825U
Graphics: AMD Radeon Graphics
RAM: 16GB DDR4 3200MHz
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 14" FHD+ 1920 x 1200 60Hz Touch

Reasons to buy

+
Thin and lightweight design
+
Great screen

Reasons to avoid

-
High price point for what's on offer
-
Poor screen hinge joints

The Dell Inspiron 14-inch was recommended specifically by our own TechRadar Pro Managing Editor as a great budget laptop for video editing, thanks in large part to its AMD Ryzen 7 5825U inside, which is an 8-core CPU. If you aren’t familiar with how CPUs work, just know that the higher the number of cores, the faster a processor’s performance will be in tackling intensive tasks with multiple parts, which in this case is rendering videos on software like Premiere Pro. Plus, it comes with 16GB of RAM, which should boost performance as well. 

Those two innards should be terrific for producing new music as well, so if you’re looking for a cheap laptop for music production, this laptop is a terrific choice too. This laptop also comes in a great-looking package that’s thin and lightweight – a boon to videographers and video editors who shoot on location. Just remember that this is still Dell’s “budget” line, which means that there are still some compromises here like the poorly-designed hinges.

Read our full Dell Inspiron 14-inch review 

How to choose the best cheap laptop for you

The idea of a cheap laptop is different for different people so when choosing the best laptop for you, you must first figure out what you'll be using it for. If you're hoping to just use it for emails, social media, and streaming, you can get away with a lower-powered laptop. 

However, if you want to use it for gaming or video editing, you definitely have to shell out a bit more to get that power you need for such demanding workloads. The trick is to focus on the vital things you need like a multi-core processor for video editing, even if it doesn't have the most powerful graphics card.

The good news is, whatever those needs are, there are cheaper alternative to pricey flagships if you look hard enough. You just have to be willing to compromise a little. Instead of an expensive gaming laptop from Razer or Alienware, for example, you can go for the best cheap gaming laptop you can buy if you're happy to play at lower game settings. Instead of a flagship MacBook or the most powerful option for creating content, you can go for a more affordable laptop for video editing as long as you're ok with longer render times. 

You might also want to skip out on premium features. Some cheap laptops come with touch ID or an OLED display, but most of them sacrifice those frills for a lower price of entry.

How we test laptops

We know that buying a new laptop can be a huge investment, even budget ones, so we test every laptop we recommend in our buying guides. That means that most of the products on this list have already been tested by us. The rest, we're in the process of testing.

When we test laptops, we use them in our day-to-day lives to see how they perform. We look at their design, including how stylish they are, or if they are thin and light enough to carry around with, and how comfortable they are to work on. We also test the webcam and mic as well as the battery life.

When it comes to performance, we use a mix of real-world tests and synthetic benchmarks to see how powerful (or not) these laptops are. This means using Windows 11 (or Chrome OS on Chromebooks and macOS on MacBooks) and running various apps and seeing how fast they load, noting down any problems. 

Obviously, with budget laptops, we bring our standards down a little, not in terms of quality or performance, but in terms of power, speed and features. Setting our expectations lower is necessary as cheap laptop tend to be less powerful and/or less feature-rich. We then take everything we’ve learned about the laptop and compare it to its price, to see if it offers the best value to customers.