The 10 Best Budget Laptops

Updated January 22, 2018 by Chase Brush

Best High-End
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We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Most office workers and students do not need much more from their laptops than a reliable way to browse the web, watch video, and open and edit documents. The good news is that models that do just that are relatively cheap these days. But finding the best budget options can be exhausting, so our selection helps to take the guesswork out of the process. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best budget laptop on Amazon.

10. HP Notebook 15

The HP Notebook 15 is a decent entry-level model that should hold up to most basic tasks, including light photo editing and heavier web surfing. Still, it cuts corners on some crucial components, including its weak 1366 x 768 screen resolution and cheap build quality.
  • front-facing webcam
  • cd and dvd burner
  • some preinstalled bloatware
Brand HP
Model N5Y13UA#ABA
Weight 6.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Asus Chromebook Flip C302

The beautifully designed Asus Chromebook Flip C302 is a mostly cloud-based model that has low storage and memory, but more than enough power for using on the go, doing homework, or downloading all the Goggle apps you want. It's ideal if most of your activity is on the web.
  • fast solid state drive
  • works well online and offline
  • a little pricey for what it is
Brand Asus
Model C302CA-DHM4
Weight 4.4 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Acer Aspire 3

Apart from the price, there's really nothing "budget" about the Acer Aspire 3, which offers some of the latest performance specs -- including 6 GB of DDR4 memory and 1 TB of HDD storage. It's certainly not the most stylish machine out there, though.
  • amd r5 graphics card
  • fairly heavy at over 4 pounds
  • battery life is a bit disappointing
Brand Acer
Model Acer Aspire 15.6
Weight 6.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. Lenovo Ideapad 310

The Lenovo Ideapad 310 is an excellent multimedia tool that comes with 12GB of RAM, so you can keep tons of browser tabs, HD video, and Office applications running at the same time. But it's winning feature might be a tactile keyboard that makes typing a real joy.
  • 1 tb of expandable storage
  • plenty of legacy ports
  • does not have an ssd
Brand Lenovo
Model 1.90941E+11
Weight 6.9 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

6. Asus VivoBook 14 E403NA-US21

Despite is rock-bottom price tag, the Asus VivoBook 14 E403NA-US21 doesn't compromise on construction or screen quality, featuring a lightweight aluminum chassis and hi-res display that are often the signatures of more expensive models. Still, it could be a little faster.
  • very thin design
  • up to 12 hours of battery life
  • could offer more storage options
Brand Asus
Model E403NA-US04
Weight 4.9 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

5. Apple MacBook Air

It's hard to call this one truly "budget friendly," but for fans of this company, the Apple MacBook Air is your best bet. It's among the most affordable of their offerings, but is also a high-end piece of tech, with HD graphics and 8 GB of RAM.
  • best option for photo editing
  • fast speeds with turbo boost
  • high quality construction
Brand Apple
Model MQD32LL/A
Weight 5.1 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Lenovo Yoga 710

For a convertible model of this caliber and quality, the Lenovo Yoga 710 is a complete steal. True, its full HD screen may be a little small at 11.6", but that shouldn't bother you much while using it to play games, watch video, or perform other basic multitasking.
  • long-lasting lithium battery
  • weighs just over 2 pounds
  • no sim card or usb-c port
Brand Lenovo
Model Lenovo yoga 11.6
Weight 3.5 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. Acer Swift 3

It may not win any design competitions, but the Acer Swift 3 could very well represent the best bang for your buck in terms of performance options. You can choose between versions with an i3 or i5 Celeron processor, 4 GB or 8 GB of RAM, and a 14" or 15.6" screen.
  • fingerprint reader
  • keyboard is backlit
  • great value for price
Brand Acer
Model SF314-51-39NE
Weight 5 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

2. Samsung Chromebook Pro

Google devotees will appreciate the Samsung Chromebook Pro, which offers one of the best examples of what the software giant's own OS can really do when packaged correctly. This 2-in-1 device works great as a tablet, thanks to its 12.3" touchscreen and accompanying pen.
  • great for taking notes
  • requires very little maintenance
  • highly portable size
Brand Samsung
Model XE510C24-K01US
Weight 3.9 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Dell Inspiron 15 5000

For fast processing and legendary customer support, check out the Dell Inspiron 15 5000. This touchscreen option comes equipped with 5th generation Intel i5 processors, an Ethernet port that many newer models skip, and modern WiFi, making it ideal for frequent travelers.
  • backlit led display
  • intel hd 5500 graphics
  • 10-key number pad
Brand Dell
Model DELL-15-touch-i3-6GB-1T
Weight 7 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Budget By What Year's Standard?

Back in the early 90s, that golden era of colorful, oversized suit vests, white boy break-dancing, and quality blockbuster cinema, V-Tech, a toys company with a heavy focus on bringing contemporary technologies into the hands of children, came up with a laptop computer for kids. It was called the Super Color Whiz, and it featured a dedicated slot for educational cartridge games, a full qwerty keyboard, and color LED screen.

Of course, that color screen was about two, maybe three inches across. At the time, screen technology was one of the most, if not the most expensive aspect of laptop computer manufacture, so it makes sense that V-Tech would make their biggest cuts to the screen. They were smart enough to keep it in color, though, as most kids' patience for black and white LED screens was already running thin back then.

When it debuted in 1994, it cost a whopping $149.99, and an additional $24.99 per cartridge. For the laptop and two cartridges, you'd pay just south of $200, which, in 1994, was worth about $320, according to the US government's own Consumer Price Index.

I point this out mainly to quell any and all fears that you aren't getting your money's worth when looking into "budget" laptops. The same amount of money that you would have spent for your child to play some colorful spelling games in 1994 can now buy you a machine like the ones on our list, all of which are capable of playing games, streaming video, communicating online via video chat, and anything else you could ask the majority of laptops on the market to do.

Will they run the latest and most CPU-taxing, RAM-eating MMORPGs? Probably not. Will they allow you to edit 4K footage into a cinematic masterpiece? Not a chance. Is that why any of these laptops exist? No, it isn't.

These laptops make small sacrifices to their processing power, RAM, graphics cards, and internal speakers to bring you a product that's perfect for a student going off to college, for a quick internet fix on vacation, or for a high-schooler to get a leg up on his or her classmates who might not have any computer to speak of.

Broken Windows

As you look up and down our list of the top ten budget laptops, you might notice that each and every one of them runs Microsoft Windows. In the spirit of full disclosure, you should know that I'm writing this on an Apple computer running Apple's operating system. Let's talk about why.

There was a time when this was because of Apple's clear superiority to Windows when it came to security and performance. In the past few years, however, Windows has caught up to Apple in almost every category of either, and Windows-platform machines are still the preferred tools of most colleges, hospitals, institutions, and gamers. I'm still an Apple man mainly because I'm used to it now.

To help you choose from among the computers on our list, it's important for you to know the reasons behind your purchase. For what will you use this laptop? If you spend a lot of time talking to relatives through Skype, or Facetime, or some similar video conference app, you'll want to make sure you get the most RAM (Random Access Memory) available among these laptops. They can all handle the video processing for such a service, but when the RAM gets too low, your picture will start skipping and freezing.

If you're more into surfing the web for adorable cat videos, streaming Netflix, etc., then not only is that RAM important, but a quality video card as well. These help render things like HD video fast enough for your computer to display it without any lag.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly for a laptop computer, you want to look at battery life. If you're getting a laptop for only short bursts of occasional travel, and you mostly want to be free to use it around the house, a killer battery life might not be the most important feature. If you work or stream materials on the go, however, there is little of more importance.

To Those Who Wait

If you want a very loose, very entertaining history lesson in early laptop computing, you could take a look at AMC's Halt and Catch Fire, which is a few seasons deep at this point. While the series takes plenty of liberties with the timeline and players in the development of portable personal computing, the actual history of the laptop isn't much clearer.

Sure, you've got release dates and spec sheets that we can all look back on now, comparing 1981's Osborne1 with its hilariously small screen to the more impressive Grid Compass that came out the following year, but as the 80s wore on, corporate espionage and subterfuge ran rampant.

The field has largely leveled out these days, with a few major players building hardware around the Windows platform, with Apple continuing to dominate its high-end market with a closed system, and with hobbyists continuing to build their own boxes.

With each year that passes, last year's technology, speed, and capabilities, which were considered cutting edge just 400 days prior, make their way into the laptops with a big "budget" sticker slapped on the box, and savvy consumers benefit from the tide.

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Last updated on January 22, 2018 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.

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