If you're looking for the best budget laptop, we've got you covered right here.
Many of the best laptops out there can set you back four-figure sums, such as the best laptops for illustrators, but you don't need to spend that much to get a good user experience.
For more of a budget-oriented pick, we'd say something around the $600 mark is appropriate, and for that, you can still get capable laptops with great processing power, storage speeds, battery life and good displays.
A key thing to think about when you're looking for a budget laptop is which operating system you'd prefer to work with.
Traditionally speaking, Chromebooks have dominated the more affordable laptop space with their ChromeOS selection of lightweight laptops that are great for productivity - you can find some of their lightest models in our best budget lightweight laptop guide.
However, there are also some capable Windows laptops available within this price bracket, which are well worth considering.
In addition, processing power is going to be a point worth noting and how much you need. Many budget laptops may be limited to dual-core processors (such as some of the best gaming laptops under 300), whilst others can handle quad-core or even hexa-core processors, which can aid with productivity.
The amount of storage you get is also vital for laptops at this price. Some will come equipped with lower eMMC capacities of up to 64GB whilst others will run SSDs with larger capacities from 128GB to upwards of 1TB and faster transfer speeds.
With all that in mind and more, we’ve selected these budget laptops based on their features, reviews, and other general points that we think make them worth considering, plus, we’ve answered some of your most frequently asked questions so you can pick the best one for you.
So, let's get into it - here are some of the best budget laptops out there today.
Best Budget Laptop
- HP Pavilion 14 (2021)
- Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
- Dell Inspiron 15 3000
- Acer Chromebook Spin 513
- Honor MagicBook 14 (2020)
- Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5
Best Budget Laptop HP - HP Pavilion 14 (2021)
If you're after a marvellous laptop from Hewlett Packard, then the HP Pavilion 14 (2021) looks like a fantastic choice.
First things first, it looks to have quite the premium feel and sharp looks with a light pink outer shell that should make for quite a solid construction. In addition, it's also rather slim, but contains loads of ports including USB-A, HDMI, USB-C and an SD card reader, giving you plenty of opportunities to plug devices in.
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Under the hood, you'll find the HP Pavilion 14 (2021) features an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, giving you ample performance for day-to-day working, and 8GB of DDR4 RAM, which can also allow you to engage in some more intensive tasks. If you wanted to, for instance, you could edit a 1080p video on this laptop.
A 256GB SSD provides you with a marvellous amount of storage for loading files on and off, and its speedy read and writes should also ensure that process doesn't take too long, either.
A 14-inch display also gives you a nice blend of good screen real estate that also ensures the laptop remains compact for when you need to pack it up and move. Its colours should be decent thanks to 250 nits of quoted brightness and offer some decent viewing angles too, with it being an IPS panel.
To keep this laptop safe when you're on your travels, it may well be worth investing in one of the best hard laptop cases alongside the HP Pavilion 14 (2021) to give you a great all-round setup.
Best Budget Laptop Microsoft - Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
As the makers of Windows, it would make sense that Microsoft has manufactured a great budget laptop, and the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go proves just that.
It features an ultra-light frame for a full-size laptop, weighing just 1100g, and features some sleek looks that are in keeping with other Microsoft laptop models more than double its price. Its port selection is pretty good with USB-Cs, USB-As and a headphone jack all represented to give you decent options for connectivity.
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Its 12 or so inch display offers you something a little more compact and it's also a touchscreen, which makes the Surface Laptop Go a 2-in-1 of sorts as you can tap away until your heart's content. 400 nits of brightness should make this panel pretty sharp, even if its resolution isn't quite full HD at 1536 x 1024.
A 10th-gen Intel Core i5 processor keeps things chugging along nicely for basic productivity tasks, be it watching content on Netflix or writing up an essay on Microsoft Word.
8GB of RAM also ensures you can have a myriad of Chrome tabs open whilst you work, as well as engage in some more intensive tasks if you wish.
Best Budget Laptop Dell - Dell Inspiron 15 3000
Dell has been in the game of making great affordable laptops for a good while, and the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 looks to be a great option.
With it, you'll be getting a 10th Intel Core i5 processor that should be able to power through day-to-day tasks with ease, and 8GB of RAM provides enough headroom for basic productivity work, and even enough capacity to do some light editing work.
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The Dell Inspiron 15 3000 also features a relatively large 15.6-inch display that should provide both decent detail in images with a 1366x768 resolution, as well as a good level of screen real estate for you to get your work done on. The fact this is an IPS panel also lends itself to having good viewing angles, too.
You'll also find some purposeful looks with a sturdy black plastic frame and a pretty good port selection that totals 3 USB-As as well as an HDMI out and a combination audio jack
Best Budget Laptop Acer - Acer Chromebook Spin 513
If you're hunting for an amazing mid-range Chromebook that'll fit in your budget nicely, then the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 is a superb choice.
Intriguingly, this particular Chromebook packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c processor inside, which means it's Arm-based. With this, it'll provide you with some snappy performance for basic tasks and, as it runs ChromeOS, everything is kept nice and simple.
In addition, the fact the Spin 513 is an Arm-based Chromebook means it needs less cooling and is, therefore, one of the thinner budget laptops out there. This helps its looks to no end, as this particular Chromebook looks rather stylish indeed.
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Its Full HD IPS panel should offer you some brilliant colours and viewing angles, and 300 or so nits of brightness mean the 13.3-inch panel should also be pretty sharp, too.
Battery life of over 13 hours also means the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 should comfortably last two working days, meaning you won't have to think about charging it up all too often.
Best Budget Laptop Honor - Honor MagicBook 14 (2020)
The Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) also looks like a great choice for a more affordable laptop, providing you with a great blend of performance and portability.
This comes courtesy of its quad-core AMD Ryzen 5 3500U processor, which despite being a couple of generations old now still provides great bang for your buck for both general productivity tasks and more intense work.
Its 256GB SSD also gives you some good capacity and its quoted read and write speeds of 3500MB/s and 1500MB/s respectively make it one of the snappier within this price range so loading your files on and off the drive definitely shouldn't be an arduous task.
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The Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) also looks rather good, sporting a sleek grey metal finish that, from the right angle, could fool you into thinking you're looking at a MacBook. It's one of the better-looking mid-range laptops, that's for sure.
Its 56wH battery life is definitely respectable and should last you for an entire working day. In addition, Honor also provides you with 65W fast charging, which means if you are ever caught short on battery, it'll get your laptop from zero to half charge in just 30 minutes.
Best Budget Laptop Lenovo - Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5
Lenovo also makes some of the best budget laptops, and the IdeaPad Flex 5 is a great example of that.
It's a good choice if you're after the convenience of a two-in-one machine, so you can fold the screen over and use it as a tablet, as well as a normal laptop. You'll find it features a 14-inch Full HD display which gives you a load of screen real estate to play with as a nice middle ground.
In addition, its AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor will. be convenient for productivity tasks such as writing emails or searching the web or planning an essay, and offer you some beefy performance for any slightly more intense tasks you wish to engage in.
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The IdeaPad Flex 5 also features a generous selection of ports with USB-As, a USB-C, HDMI, a headphone jack and an SD Card reader all represented, giving you a good blend of current and legacy offerings to connect to.
A quoted 9-hour battery life also means this laptop can go the distance and will last for a full working day before needing to be charged up fully.
Frequently Asked Questions
As with a lot of other tech, with laptops, there are questions that can arise time and time again, so we're here to help you make the most informed buying decision by answering some of those burning questions.
Are cheap Windows laptops worth it?
This all depends on what your perceptions of 'cheap ' are. The 'cheap' Windows laptops we've listed above all clock in for around £500/$600 as this is the bottom line for getting a serviceable mid-range Windows laptop with great all-round performance, a good display and usable storage.
You could, of course, go for something cheaper, but you risk poor performance and stingy storage. For Windows laptops especially, spending a little more can get you a fair amount more.
How much should I spend on a budget laptop?
If you're after a decent affordable Chromebook, then up to around $400 will get you something that's powerful enough for day-to-day work and something that's well-built with a good port selection.
For a Windows laptop, it'll be closer to $500-$600 for something rather serviceable, given they need better specs in order to run a more demanding and complete operating system compared to ChromeOS. The internal specs of a Windows laptop may also be higher with larger amounts of storage and a better processor, which will cost more than some Chromebooks.
Is 4GB RAM enough?
For more basic tasks, 4GB of RAM will be enough. The laptops we've listed above majorly have 4GB or 8GB which can allow you to partake in some more intense tasks such as editing an HD video or some photos and will generally give you a little more to work with in terms of capacity.
Is 256GB storage enough for a laptop?
In short, yes. For more affordable laptops at lower price points, 256GB is plenty to work with for storing documents, photos and the occasional video.
As you get more expensive though, and 512GB and 1TB options become available, you're always better to get too much storage than too little.
Of course, if you do ever need more storage that you want to keep externally, then you can purchase one of the best cheap hard drive enclosures for storing your HDDs and SSDs in.
What is RAM used for?
In short, RAM (or Random Access Memory) is used to run all your laptop's tasks and functions and store important and temporary data that can be accessed quickly.
For more information on what RAM is used for, manufacturer Crucial has a useful breakdown of the functions of the component, and what computer memory actually is, too.