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How to buy the best laptop for under £350 on Black Friday

What to look out for when bagging a bargain

Buying a new laptop can sometimes be a stressful or confusing experience, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive one, especially as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are rapidly approaching, which should bring a number of fantastic laptop deals.

Thanks to the advances in modern laptop technology, even budget laptops can feature thin and light designs and perform well. In fact, even if you’re shopping on a budget, you’ll be faced with plenty of choice, and depending on your needs you should be able to get a brilliant new laptop for under £350.

However, when buying a budget laptop there are some things you should take into account to make sure you’re getting the best possible device for your money. You don’t want to be disappointed or pay for a machine that doesn’t suit your needs – no matter how cheap it is.

In this guide we’ll show you how to buy the best laptop for under £350 on Black Friday (or throughout the year), so you can buy in confidence.

For more Black Friday laptop buying advice, check out our Black Friday laptop deals: how to get the best model for the best price guide.

Think about what you need

Before you begin shopping for a laptop under £350, you should take some time to think about what you need from the device. By having a clear idea about what you want to use the laptop for, you can make sure you buy one that can handle those tasks while avoiding wasting money on features you don’t need.

So, if you’re looking for a laptop to watch a lot of Netflix on, for example, you’ll want a laptop that has a nice big screen, and which ideally is 1080p. Because you’ll be streaming Netflix movies and TV shows, and not storing them, you don’t need to worry so much about having a huge hard drive.

On the other hand, if you want a laptop for working on, browsing the internet and writing emails, then you’ll want something that has a large, comfortable to use, keyboard and good battery life. A laptop with fancy speakers or high-resolution screens won’t be so important here.

You should also be realistic about your expectations when buying a laptop for under £350. While you can get some great machines, you will have to expect limitations at this price point. 

So, if you’re looking for a laptop to play the latest graphically-intensive games, you’d be better off looking at slightly more expensive machines so that you are not disappointed.

Check the specs

Once you’ve got a good idea of what you want in a laptop you can start the search. An important thing to consider when buying a laptop is the specifications of the device, which should be listed on most online stores alongside the laptop.

The specifications of the laptop detail the kind of hardware it uses, and knowing what to look out for (and what to avoid) can really help you find the best laptop under £350 for your needs.

So, what kind of spec should you look out for? First of all, you should take a look what processor, also known as CPU, is being used. This will usually be an Intel or AMD processor. You don’t need to get too technical, but keep an eye on if the specifications say the processor is dual or quad-core. The more cores a processor has, the better it performs, especially when multitasking.

Screen size, resolution and graphics card (GPU) should also be considered. For laptops below £350, it’s unlikely the laptop will have a separate, powerful graphics card, and instead use an integrated graphics solution. This should be fine for most day-to-day tasks, but will struggle with some games, or intensive video and photo editing.

When it comes to screen size, you’ll want something that’s bit enough to use comfortably, but not so large that the laptop becomes big and heavy to carry. Also the bigger the screen, the more expensive the laptop might be.

Another specification to look out for is RAM. This is the amount of memory a laptop has, and the more it’s got, the faster it runs. For laptops below £350, you should aim for 4GB, or ideally 8GB. 

There will also be laptops on the market with 2GB. This is a bit low in our view, but if you’re only using the laptop for browsing the web and writing a few documents, this will be OK. But we’d suggest going with a Chromebook rather than a Windows laptop in that case, as ChromeOS, the software Chromebooks run on, needs less RAM than Windows 10.

The storage space (sometimes referred to as capacity) is also an important specification to look out for. You’ll want something that has enough storage space to hold your files and to install applications on, but you don’t want to pay for huge amounts of storage if you’re not going to use it.

If you want to store lots of photos, home movies and music on the laptop, you’ll want a large hard drive, offering around 500GB or even 1TB of storage space.

However, if you will be mainly using web-based apps and services, such a Spotify to stream music or Google Docs to work on, then you don’t need as much storage space. Around 160GB – 320GB will be enough. For Windows 10 laptops we don’t recommend anything lower, as you’ll quickly run out of space.

Keep an eye out to see if the laptop has a memory card reader built-in. This allows you to easily transfer photos from your camera, and it also means you can expand the storage space of the laptop quickly and easily as well.

Read reviews before you buy

Once you’ve settled on a potential laptop, it’s worth checking out reviews of the device to find out what other people who used the laptop think.

We have a huge collection of laptop reviews, and if it appears on any of our ‘best of’ lists, like best cheap laptop deals, then you can buy in confidence knowing that you’re getting a brilliant device.

If we haven’t reviewed it, search Google for the name of the laptop followed by ‘review’ to see if any other sites have. If no one has reviewed it, that should be a red flag.

Many websites also have customer reviews, and these are a great way of seeing what people who bought the laptop think of it. If the laptop has lots of happy customers, then go ahead and make that purchase.

Wait for the sales

Struggling to find the right laptop for your needs for under £350? Don’t despair, as if you wait for sales or promotions to begin, you could bag yourself a brilliant laptop for under £350 – you just have to be patient.

Keep an eye on our aforementioned best cheap laptop deals guide, and check out top retailers for any promotions they are running.

Certain times of the year are also a good time to bag a laptop bargain, such as back to school season, Boxing Day and, of course, Black Friday.

Matt Hanson
Matt Hanson

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Computing and Entertainment, looking after two of the best, and most exciting, channels on the site. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made. He's also a huge film and TV fan and Marvel geek, and his favorite recent film is Dune.