Finding a cheap laptop that does everything you want isn’t easy.
After more than 3 months of research and testing out 23 top laptops, we’ve compiled a list of the best budget laptops you can buy.
Lets’s dive in…
Best Budget Laptops
Whether you need one for gaming or creating a class presentation, we’ve analyzed the pros and cons of each of these machines in this in-depth guide.
|HP 15-F222WM Touch Screen||2.16 GHz||15.6 in|
Samsung Chromebook 3|
|2.16 GHz||11.6 in|
|Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ||2.16 GHz||11.6 in|
|Toshiba CB35-B3340 Chromebook||2.58 GHz||13.3 in|
|Lenovo - IdeaPad 100s||2.16 GHz||11.6 in|
|HP Stream PC 14-ax010nr||1.6 GHz||14 in|
ASUS C201PA-DS02 Chromebook|
|1.8 GHz||11.6 in|
1. HP 15-F222WM Touch Screen Laptop – Best Laptop Under $300.
- Rated as the best overall laptop on this list, with no glaring weaknesses
- The touch screen is awesome
- Has more hard drive space than you’ll know what to do with
Normally, you wouldn’t expect a 15.6” screen or a 500 GB hard drive from a budget laptop. But that’s exactly what you get with the 15-F222WM. Touch screens on budget machines often have a tendency to lead to frustration, but HP did a good job with this one. Welcome to seamless, keyboard-free navigation.
It also comes with a built-in DVD drive, webcam, and digital microphone. The Intel Quad Core Pentium N3540 processor runs smoothly, even with many internet tabs open. Other features include three USB ports and built-in wireless LAN.
- The 15.6” screen is quite generous for a budget laptop
- The touch screen feature is very responsive and easy to use
- Its 500 GB hard drive is more than enough space for almost all users
- Comes with a built-in DVD drive
- Despite its reasonably large 500 GB hard drive, it is in the form of hard disk drive (HDD) storage – the slowest form of storage in modern computers. Still, HDD is the norm for inexpensive machines, so I don’t hold it against them too much.
If you’re looking for a cheap laptop under 300, you’ll have a tough time finding better value than the HP 15-F222WM. Its specs are enough to handle most lower-end gaming requirements, and its touch screen is easy to use.
2. Samsung Chromebook 3 XE500C13-K01US
- The second-ranked laptop on this list, Samsung’s latest Chromebook is ideal for students on a budget.
- Optional memory gives buyers flexibility
- Like most laptops in this price range, it’s not ideal for gaming
- It’s great for pretty much everything else, though
It has everything you need to write papers, give presentations, and do research quickly and effectively.
The first thing you should know about this Samsung model is that it comes with two different memory options. You can get it with 2 GB, or pay slightly more for 4 GB. I generally recommend going with the 4 GB, as it doesn’t cost too much more.
It only comes with 16 GB of hard drive space – but it’s SSD, so it’s fast. The Intel Celeron N3059 processor won’t win any speed awards, but it’s plenty for surfing the web and typing papers.
Its 11.6” HD screen comes with an anti-reflective display. That’s nice, but what’s nicer is the spill-resistant keyboard. If you’ve had laptops in the past, you know how obnoxious it can be to try and clean a sticky keyboard.
Last but not least, this laptop has some seriously impressive battery life – up to 11 hours. So many laptop batteries last only half, or even a third as long.
- Superb 11-hour battery life
- Spill-resistant keyboard is a lifesaver
- Fast solid state drive (SSD)
- You choose how much memory you want
- Not really suitable for gaming
- Limited 16 GB hard drive
While it has some limitations, the Samsung Chromebook 3 offers a reliable laptop at excellent value. Between the long battery life and its resistance to spill damage, this is a machine built for durability.
Ultimately, durability may be one of the most important factors when buying a computer. After all, what’s the point of paying less for a laptop if it means you’ll just have to get another one sooner?
3. Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ
- One of Acer’s top-rated products
- Like all Chromebooks, comes with a complimentary 100 GB of memory on Google Drive
- One of the lightest laptops on the market – very convenient to carry
- Not the sturdiest machine
This Acer Chromebook features quality over quantity when it comes to memory. While it caps out at a mere 2 GB of RAM, it comes in the form of DDR3L SDRAM. This type of RAM has higher bandwidth than older iterations such as DDR and DDR2. For you, that means a faster laptop.
The 9-hour battery life it comes with is very respectable. It’s not quite as long as the battery on Samsung’s Chromebook, but still enough to last a full day at most jobs/schools.
Where this laptop really shines is its portability. If you’re like most people, the whole point of getting a laptop is so you can take your computer with you wherever you go. That’s never been easier than with this Acer Chromebook, which weighs a mere 2.4 pounds with its handy 11.6” screen.
One thing to note is that this machine doesn’t seem to be as durable as some of its competitors. I want to be clear in saying that it isn’t prone to breaking by any means – it holds up just fine if you handle it properly. It’s important to take care not to drop it, though.
- At only 2.4 pounds, you’ll barely even notice you’re carrying this laptop
- Good battery life: 9 hours from full charge
- Great HD audio support and two built-in stereo speakers
- Only comes with 2 GB RAM
- Slightly less durable than some other laptops
The durability issues really shouldn’t scare people away from this laptop. It’s more of a testament to how sturdy laptops in general have become, rather than an indictment on the Acer Chromebook.
This is an ideal laptop for people who are looking for maximum portability. It can easily fit into purses, small backpacks, and even deep coat pockets without a problem.
4. Toshiba Chromebook CB35-B3340
- Features an impressive 4 GB of DDR3L SDRAM
- 16 GB SSD
- 13.3” screen features HD Intel graphics
- Skullcandy speakers/headphones
Toshiba has a strong horse in the Chromebook market with its latest laptop, the CB35-B3340. At 2.95 pounds, it’s a tad bit heavier than Acer’s Chromebook. But its screen is also nearly 2 inches bigger at 13.3”, so that’s to be expected. It’s still quite light and easy to carry.
Like the Acer, it has 9 hours of battery life – plenty for the majority of situations.
If you’re an audiophile, you’re probably familiar with the frustrations of listening to music on most laptops. The sound quality often just isn’t very good.
However, Toshiba has joined forces with Skullcandy in an effort to improve the audio quality on this machine. I would say they were mostly successful, as the speakers give a nice level of bass considering the size of the laptop. It’s no surround sound system to be sure, but it’s a move in the right direction.
The 13.3” screen displays high-definition Intel graphics, and they look great. The colors are more distinct and clear than most of its competitors – although there is some color-shifting when you look at it from an angle.
- Excellent HD graphics and resolution – arguably the best of all laptops on this list
- Improved sound with Skullcandy speakers
- Reasonably light with solid battery life
- The excellent graphics do have noticeable color shifts when viewed at an angle
Toshiba gives us another great option in this competitive lineup of budget laptops. If your main concerns are battery life or portability, this machine doesn’t come out on top – but it’s close.
On the other hand, if you want the best audio/visual experience you can find on a cheap laptop under 300, I’d strongly recommend looking into this option.
5. Lenovo IdeaPad
- Just under 10 hours of battery life (9 hours, 48 minutes)
- Has the most ergonomic keyboard of this batch
- Drawbacks include lower quality memory and erratic touchpad
- Extremely light and easy to carry
The Lenovo IdeaPad 100s comes with an 11.6” screen. Thanks to HD Intel graphics and an LED backlight, the color quality is very good.
Like a couple of the other laptops on this list, this machine is super light. At 2.2 pounds, you’ll barely even notice it’s there. Because it has a small screen, it’s easy to fit in your handbag, purse, backpack, and so on.
This computer is not a powerhouse by any means. While it utilizes DDR3L, it only has 2 GB of memory. Its 32 GB of flash memory is of the eMMC variety. This type of memory is lower quality than the standard SSD. Still, it will work just fine for doing your homework, or typing up a document for your boss.
I really liked the feel of the keyboard on this laptop. Sometimes smaller machines have keyboards that leave your fingers feeling cramped, but not with the IdeaPad.
Unfortunately, I can’t give the same praise for their touchpad. Its response tends to be slow and inconsistent. It’s too bad they didn’t implement some kind of touchscreen feature.
- Lightweight, easy to carry
- Great battery life
- Has the best keyboard of the batch
- Touchpad isn’t very responsive
- Cheap eMMC memory
I can’t be too hard on Lenovo for using eMMC flash memory, given how affordable this computer is. With the light weight and great battery life, it would make a good companion to any student who doesn’t have a ton of extra money laying around. It still has enough horsepower to stream YouTube videos without a problem.
The touchpad is less excusable, as it can add some frustration to using the laptop. The solution, of course, is to just use the mouse instead. While it has some cons, the pros outweigh them for this laptop, making it a solid buy.
6. HP Stream Laptop PC 14-ax010nr
- Has a 14-inch screen while still remaining lightweight
- 4 GB of DDR3 SDRAM is nice for this tier of laptops
- 32 GB of eMMC storage isn’t ideal
- Better than most laptops on this list for gaming
This laptop is 3.2 pounds, a bit heavier than the last two computers on this list. You have to consider that it has a bigger screen though, too. It’s still quite light for a laptop with a 14” screen.
If you’re like me, you need a diversion from work once in a while. Whether you prefer watching random YouTube videos or playing a game of Minecraft, the HP Stream can handle it surprisingly well.
32 GB of eMMC storage is a fairly low amount. Thankfully, it comes with plenty of SD card slots and USB ports. You’ll probably want to take advantage of these to increase the storage capacity.
It’s worth noting that unlike a good portion of this list, this isn’t a Chromebook. That means you can run Windows 10 on it, and download programs just like a normal computer.
- Great portability for its size
- 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM is excellent
- You can run games, stream videos, and use Windows 10 without any problems
- 32 GB of eMMC storage is pretty meager
- Graphics could use brighter colors, more contrast
This is a good option for someone who needs a cheap laptop capable of handling both work and games. It remains very portable at 3.2 pounds. However, it might not fit into some smaller bags.
7. ASUS C201PA-DS02 Chromebook
- 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM
- 16 GB SSD
- Incredible 13-hour battery life
- Display graphics not the best
- Very durable
Asus’s latest offering in the Chromebook market gives us a machine with excellent performance for its price level. It utilizes both DDR3 SDRAM and a high-quality solid state drive (SSD). This proves that you don’t have to completely sacrifice quality to make a cheap laptop.
For me, the biggest selling point for this system is its battery life. At full charge, you can use the Asus Chromebook for an unbelievable 13 hours before it requires a charge. There’s a lot of laptops that don’t last half as long.
I was pleased to find that this laptop can take a beating. Despite dropping it on hard cement and spilling coffee on it, it continued operating like nothing happened. In some ways, this is a bigger deal than any individual spec.
Even with its many strong qualities, the Asus Chromebook does have its weak points as well. Its graphics appear bland compared to some of the competitors. The colors just don’t pop out at you the way they should. The 1366 by 786 resolution isn’t bad, but isn’t great either.
- Quality memory and hard drive storage
- Excellent battery life
- Highly durable
- Mediocre graphics and resolution
When it comes down to it, the combination of superb battery life and durability make this laptop a safe, reliable choice. It won’t win any points for style, but you don’t buy a budget laptop to win style points anyway. You buy it because you need something affordable that still gets the job done. The Asus Chromebook does exactly that.
One of the biggest hidden factors in a laptop’s value is how long it will last you. Some laptops might offer a great deal in terms of their performance. But If that laptop has a higher risk of breaking down, is it really a good deal? With the Asus Chromebook, you don’t have to worry about that.
8. ASUS VivoBook X540SA High Performance Premium HD Laptop
- Comes with one of the largest screens in its class at 15.6 inches
- Because of its size, it is a bit heavier than most laptops on this list
- Gives you the freedom of using Windows 10 – not limited by the Chrome OS
- Battery life on the shorter side
- 4 GB DDR3L, 1.6 GHz Quad Core processor, 5400 RPM HDD
With the Asus VivoBook, you get a bigger screen than most of the Chromebooks. This is a real advantage if you have to do spreadsheet work, or anything where a tiny screen can become a hindrance.
Of course, there’s a tradeoff with this: portability. The X540SA is actually pretty light for having a 15.6” screen, but it’s still bulkier and heavier than a Chromebook. At 4.5 pounds, it won’t be a big deal for most people, but don’t expect to go stuffing it into your purse.
The screen comes with high-definition LED display. The screen doesn’t have any backlighting, but most budget laptops don’t either. Its built-in wireless LAN, SD card reader, and integrated webcam are all very functional and easy to use.
Another advantage for the VivoBook over the Chromebooks is that you can use Windows 10, which is a more flexible and dynamic OS than the Chrome OS. However, I’d be remiss not to mention the battery life – at only 5 hours, it falls short compared to the other options on this list.
- Many users will find the extra screen space preferable to smaller laptops
- Windows 10 compatibility
- Good processor and decent storage space
- 5-hour battery life is subpar
Overall, this is another quality budget laptop. If the battery life doesn’t interfere with your personal usage, I can easily recommend it as a solid buy. If you’ll have access to a charger most of the time – or simply plan to use it in shorter intervals, it won’t be a problem.
9. Nextbook Flexx 9 – 2-in-1 Tablet
- With an 8.9-inch screen and detachable keyboard, it’s hard to beat in terms of portability
- Comes with Windows 10, along with several useful apps already installed
- 32 GB of internal memory – can upgrade with Micro SD card
- Access to Windows app store, Xbox games, music, and videos
- Only 6.5 hours of battery life
Time to go from one of the biggest laptops on the list to the smallest. The Nextbook Flexx 9 is already easy to carry with its 8.9” screen. With its detachable keyboard, it becomes even easier. Interestingly, it’s not the lightest laptop on the list at 2.6 pounds. But it’s close enough not to matter.
For such a tiny machine, the Flexx 9 can actually do a lot. It comes with Windows 10, along with useful apps like Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote already installed and ready to go. You can also use the Windows app store to play Xbox games, and it’s capable of streaming videos and music.
As expected, it doesn’t come with a ton of memory. It has 32 GB of internal memory. Fortunately, this can be upgraded to 64 GB by using the Micro SD card slot. It still doesn’t leave you with a lot of space, but it’s at least adequate.
- With an 8.9-inch screen and detachable keyboard, it’s the best option for pure portability
- Gives you access to Windows 10, along with a number of useful apps
- Built for durability
- Mediocre battery life at 6.5 hours
- Limited memory
If you need a computer that you can take with you literally anywhere with ease, the Nextbook Flexx 9 fits the bill. Some may prefer a bigger screen, while others prefer the convenience of a smaller device. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Regardless of your preference, this laptop is quite versatile. It can handle videos, music, and lower-end games. The battery situation may or may not matter, depending on how you intend to use it. The limited memory could be a problem for some people, but that’s easily fixed by utilizing the Micro SD card slot to bump it up to 64 GB.
10. 2016 Newest HP Premium Laptop PC
- Comes with a generous 500 GB 5400 RPM hard drive and 4 GB of DDR3 SDRAM
- 15.6-inch screen is powered by HD BrightView WLED-backlit display
- Comes with Windows 10 and all the options that go with it
- Powered by AMD Quad-Core A6-5200 APU (2 GHz)
- A bit heavy at 4.7 pounds
- 5-hour battery life is a drawback
Bumping the size back up, we have HP’s latest laptop. For being a cheap laptop under 300, it offers a lot in terms of its specs. Its 500 GB 5400 RPM hard drive, 4 GB of DDR3 SDRAM, and 2 GHz processor are all above average for this category of laptops.
The 15.6” screen is backlit, a nice feature that’s not too common at this price point. It also has touchscreen functionality, meaning you don’t have to worry about annoying touchpads or tracking balls.
Like the last couple of laptops I looked at, this one comes with Windows 10. That means you get the nearly endless option of games, apps, and other options that come with it. You aren’t handcuffed to Chrome’s functional-but-limited operating system.
With all that said, I have to mention the battery life. It’s not ideal. Lasting only 5 hours, from full charge, you’ll need to be judicious with this machine if you want to use it for extended periods of time.
Likewise, it is heavier than the majority of laptops in its class. Although to be fair, it’s still just 4.7 pounds – I don’t think anyone is going to be breaking their backs carrying it around.
- 15.6-inch has WLED backlighting
- Comes with ample hard drive space and memory
- Windows 10 access
- 5-hour battery is too short
With its large backlit screen, this is a good option for people who prefer a larger screen. The backlighting can also really help with people who experience eyestrain more easily. Of course, if you’re going to be using it for enough hours to run the risk of eyestrain, you need to find a solution for the short battery life.
If you plan on having a charger nearby most of the time you use this, it’s still a strong option. Besides, you’ll have access to Windows 10 and all the apps it comes with.
Laptops – What to Know Before You Buy
It’s easy to get lost in all the technobabble that gets thrown around when discussing laptops. Whether you’re buying your first computer or you’ve been using laptops for decades, it’s a good idea to brush up on some commonly-used terminology.
Still not sure about the difference between an HDD and SSD drive, or how much storage you need? Read on, my friend.
HDD vs. SSD vs. eMMC
The HDD, or Hard Disk Drive, has been the standard method of storage for computers for a while. It’s a form of magnetic storage, and functions as a permanent storage medium. It was first implemented by IBM back in the 1950’s, but it’s still commonly used today.
SSD, or Solid State Drive, is also a form of data storage that has been gaining popularity recently. The SSD uses integrated circuits as memory to store data persistently. Unlike HDDs, the SSD has no moving mechanical components, making it more resilient to physical disturbance.
The trend has been for manufacturers to move towards using SSDs more and HDDs less because of durability issues. If you drop an HDD, there is a high risk of data being either lost or corrupted. SSDs, on the other hand, stand up well to physical abuse. SSDs are also faster, and use less battery life. Because they have no moving parts, they also cause less noise and generate less heat.
Why aren’t all computers made using SSDs, then? Well, because of the price. While the price of SSD storage has decreased considerably in recent years, it’s still substantially more expensive than using HDD. As of 2017, SSDs are still about four times as expensive as HDDs per unit of storage.
What about eMMCs? eMMCs, or Embedded MultiMediaCards, are similar to SSDs in the sense that they use integrated circuits rather than magnets to store memory. They also tend to be faster than HDDs. Unlike SSDs however, the eMMC also utilizes flash memory. The eMMC option is typically used in smartphones, tablets, and other small mobile devices.
While it has some advantages over the HDD, HDD is better for the storage of large files. The reason for this is because it allows the data to be broken up and saved at any point on the disk, rather than having to be saved in one spot.
DDR3 and DDR3L SDRAM vs. DDR2 SDRAM
DDR3 stands for Double Data Rate Type 3. DDR3L is simply an addendum to that, specifying use for low voltage devices. That’s actually an important distinction, because DDR3L generally operates at 1.35 V, while DDR3 operates at 1.5 V. This means that newer DDR3L devices can’t be used with DDR3 SDRAM, because DDR3 operates only at 1.5 V.
SDRAM stands for Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory. There is also a DDR3U, which stands for DDR3 Ultra Low Voltage, and operates at 1.25 V.
It’s easy to get these confused with things like LPDDR3 (Low Power DDR3) and GDDR3 (Graphics DDR3). Despite the similar names, these are completely different types of SDRAM, with the former being used in mobile devices and the latter being used in graphics cards.
DDR2 is, as you might have guessed, the predecessor to DDR3. DDR3 is capable of transferring data at twice the rate of DDR2, which allows for higher bandwidth at peak data rates. I should mention that there’s actually a DDR4 available now, but you’re unlikely to find it on any budget laptops.
Whereas DDR3 runs on 1.5 V and DDR3L on 1.35 V, DDR2 requires 1.8 V (and its predecessor, DDR, ran on 2.5 V). This results in longer battery life for machines using DDR3/DDR3L.
How much storage do I actually need?
It depends. Okay, I’ll try to give a little better answer than that. But first, it’s a good idea to put storage capacity into perspective.
Just over 30 years ago, the first computer to have a 1 GB hard drive was released. The price? Just $25,000. Now, consider that every laptop I reviewed has at least 16 GB. It’s amazing how much things can change in a few short decades.
First, I want to give you a reality check. You are not going to be using these laptops for high-end, heavy duty photo or video editing. You also won’t be using them to store or play a bunch of cutting edge computer games.
You’re probably going to use them to surf the web, type up documents of some type, maybe watch some videos or listen to music, work on a PowerPoint presentation, and check your e-mail. All of these things are completely attainable with a 16 GB hard drive.
As you may know, Word documents take up a trivial amount of space. You could write the sequel to War and Peace along with the complete works of Encyclopedia Britannica, and still have nothing to really worry about.
Even PowerPoint presentations, while significantly larger files, are relatively harmless on their own. Just to be on the safe side though, there are tricks to reducing the size of these files. By changing a ppt file to pptx, taking advantage of PowerPoint’s compression settings, and using hyperlinks to multimedia rather than embedding it, you can cut down on the space they take up.
Video and music, of course, can be another story. Fortunately, most of the videos you’ll want to watch will be on YouTube, free from impacting your hard drive. If you’re using Windows 10 and itching to download a bunch of games from the app store, you might want to get one of the options with at least 64 GB. Even 32 GB is probably fine if you are only downloading a few low-requirement games.
Google offers Chromebook users loads of space with Google Drive, and Microsoft gives you similar options with OneDrive. Thanks to the evolution of cloud storage, storing certain types of documents should almost never be a problem, even in very large quantities.
The market for budget laptops has gotten extremely competitve in recent years. This is a win for the buyer, because companies are bending over backwards trying to create a product that consumers want. However, it also means that many of the options are becoming more and more similar, making it harder to distinguish between them. By doing your research and asking questions, you have an excellent chance at making a purchase you’ll be satisfied with for years.