A Convertible For The Rest Of Us
The category pioneer, Lenovo knows how to make convertible laptops better than many other companies . But over the years since the first Yoga was introduced, the Chinese tech giant has broadened the category so significantly that it can be hard to make sense of all the options. The Yoga moniker shows up on premium consumer designs, but also a wide range of ThinkBook and ThinkPad business laptops. There are even one-off curiosities like the e-ink-equipped Yoga Book.
The laptop reviewed here belongs to a sensible middle ground of Lenovo 2-in-1s that bear the Flex moniker. They’re available in multiple screen sizes from 11 to 15 inches, but the 14-inch IdeaPad Flex 5i is arguably the sweetest spot. It’s not bulky, which means you can hold the laptop in one hand and rotate the screen or tap on it with your other hand. But it has enough screen real estate to make movie watching and spreadsheet editing possible on a cramped airplane tray table.
How Much Ram Does A Laptop Need
RAM is an important specification to look for in a laptop. Youll want 4GB at the very least for a Windows laptop though wed actually recommend for many people to go for 8GB. That will ensure that the laptop runs well for years to come. Budget Chromebooks can get away with less RAM, such as 1GB or 2GB.
What’s The Best Laptop For Home Travel Or Both
The pandemic changed how and where a lot of people work. The small, ultraportable laptops valued by people who regularly traveled may have suddenly become woefully inadequate for working from home. Or maybe instead of needing long battery life, you’d rather have a bigger display with more graphics power for gaming.
If you’re going to be working on a laptop and don’t need more mobility than moving it from room to room, consider a 15.6-inch laptop or larger. In general, a bigger screen makes life easier for work and is more enjoyable for entertainment, and also is better if you’re using it as an extended display with an external monitor. It typically means you’re getting more ports, too, so connecting an external display or storage or a keyboard and mouse are easier without requiring a hub or dock.
For travel, stay with 13- or 14-inch laptops or two-in-ones. They’ll be the lightest and smallest while still delivering excellent battery life. What’s nice is that PC-makers are moving away from 16:9 widescreens toward 16:10- or 3:2-ratio displays, which gives you more vertical screen space for work without significantly increasing the footprint. These models usually don’t have discrete graphics or powerful processors, though that’s not always the case.
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How To Shop For A Budget Laptop
Finding the best laptop under $500 used to be an exercise in futility, bounded on all sides by misery. It was about finding the least bad, most tolerable laptop and hoping it stayed available for a few weeks. Inevitably there would be a performance bottleneck a slow hard drive, not enough memory or a not-quite-good-enough CPU that would drag the whole thing down. But over the last couple of years, the inflection point has shifted, in particular as manufacturers have begun to clear inventory as supply chain problems have eased. A $350 laptop will probably still have a performance bottleneck or two, and probably a janky screen or keyboard, but at $400 you start being able to avoid both.
For Windows laptops, you should look for a 10th, 11th or 12th-generation Intel Core i3 or i5 or AMD Ryzen 5000-series processor, 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a 128GB or 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD. These are the same basic guts as a $1,000 ultrabook, and you can get them all in sub-$500 laptops now. Most Chromebooks with similar specs cost more, but you should still aim for a Core i3 processor and as much RAM as you can get storage space isnt as important in Chromebooks, so compromise there if you must.
The keyboard, trackpad and monitor are how you interact with the laptop, and if any of them suck youll be frustrated every time you use your computer. Look for a 1920 x 1080 LED-backlit screen, a keyboard with decent key travel and a Precision trackpad.
How We Test Computers
The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computer-like devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device’s aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both those objective and subjective judgments.
The list of benchmarking software we use changes over time as the devices we test evolve. The most important core tests we’re currently running on every compatible computer include: Primate Labs Geekbench 5, Cinebench R23, PCMark 10 and 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra.
A more detailed description of each benchmark and how we use it can be found in our How We Test Computers page.
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Hit The Internet With An Affordable No
Not everyone needs a top-of-the-line laptop when your online activities are limited to email, web searches, and the occasional Word document. You can save a bundle with one of the best cheap laptops and still do everything you need to.
These inexpensive models might be a few gens behind on their processors, but theyve got the computing power, memory, and durability for light, everyday use. Keep in mind that what one person considers cheap might be at the top of the range for a student. Weve included inexpensive models in different categories, like gaming and students, to meet a wide range of budgets.
Acer Chromebook R 13 Convertible
Specs: 13.3 , 4GB RAM, 32GB eMMC, MediaTek MT8173C
- Chrome OS, not full Windows 10
- Small disk space
Unlike many standard Chromebooks, you get an ARM processor in the Acer R 13. Why does it matter? The ARM processor works better with Android programs, it means that you get much better functionality from Google Play applications than with similar computers. For users who bought this model, the main advantages are extremely high battery life, fast loading, and an excellent screen.
Buyers who write their feedback after using the device for several months often criticize several design issues. All of them deal with the usual problems of the laptop that is capable to rotate 360 degrees. First, the power button is in an uncomfortable position. Thats why you can press accidentally. Whether you pack this best value laptop or put it in your backpack, you can turn it on and off by accident. The same problem occurred in the SD card slot. The inserted SD card is also quite easily removed, so be careful when holding R 13 in tablet mode for the first few days.
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Best Overall: Google Pixelbook Go
Why It Made The Cut: The Pixelbook Go looks good, keeps things lightweight, and offers the power of an 8th-Gen Intel Core processor to straddle the line between Chromebook and laptop.
Doesnt support digital stylus Expensive for a Chromebook Few ports
The falls on the expensive side for a Chromebook, but it makes for one of the best cheap laptops. This pint-sized device has a 13.3-inch screen and weighs only 2.3 pounds. A textured bottom and magnesium body make it feel and look much more high-end than the price suggests.
For those who spend a good deal of time in online conferences or classes, the 1080p camera makes you look good, especially for a Chromebook. This machine also offers an impressive 12-hour battery life. It speeds through startups and updates. In fact, it breezes through them much faster than similarly priced Windows and Apple laptops. You can use apps to access Microsoft Word, DropBox, and other third-party programs, making it a great option for students, professionals, or home use.
The small size limits the number of ports, and the price is a bit much for a Chromebook. Also, the screen doesnt support use with a digital stylus. However, if youre looking for a speedy Chromebook to do the majority of your online work, the Pixelbook Go is one of the best out there. If you’re looking for a refurbished option, Amazon carries a renewed .
Internal Upgrades: Budget Towers Have You Covered
If you’re remotely interested in upgrading your desktop down the line, traditional tower desktops will do the job, even at this price point. The niche small-form-factor desktops are less friendly to maintenance, but your go-to standard tower will welcome additions easily. In a traditional case, you should expect to be able to remove the side panel and add more storage and more memory.
Towers can also give you the option to add a discrete graphics card, but be mindful of several factors affecting that future prospect. For one thing, limitations might be posed by the chassis size or the wattage of the internal power supply. Some budget tower models without video cards have power supplies with less than 200-watt output ratings, and others use proprietary power supply solutions that can’t be easily swapped for a higher-wattage unit. You may be able to open up a case, and it may have the PCI Express x16 slot for a video card, but the power supply might not have the wattage oomph to push it, or the chassis might be cramped and allow for the installation only of half-height cards or short-length cards, which would severely limit your upgrade options. It’s easy to assume you’ll be able to throw a better graphics card in a system after you buy, but you’ll often find these limitations, especially in the least expensive models. Be sure to look at those factors closely first. Your most likely upgrade options for these systems will come in the form of additional storage or memory.
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What Should You Look For When Buying A New Laptop
There are certain things you can look out for when buying a new laptop in 2021 that can ensure you get the best laptop for your money.
Make sure you take a look at the specifications of a laptop before buying. This is a good way of quickly seeing how powerful a laptop is, and what it is capable of as long as you know what youre looking for.
First of all is the processor. This is essentially the brain of the laptop, and a laptop will usually have a processor made by either Intel or AMD. Intel is by far the most popular CPU maker for laptops, though were seeing an increasing number of AMD-powered laptops as well.
As a general rule of thumb, Intel processors offer better performance, but AMD processors are better value.
To make things more simple, both Intel and AMD have numbered their processors to give you a rough idea of what sort of tasks a laptop with that processor can perform.
If youre after a budget laptop for simple tasks like browsing the web or watching Netflix, then a laptop with an Intel Pentium, Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3, processor will do that job without making the laptop too expensive.
If youre after something with a bit more oomph perhaps to do more complex task like editing your home videos or playing games then go for a laptop with an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor as a minimum.
A newer processor performs better and is more power efficient so battery life will last longer. They are more expensive, though.
Best Cheap Laptops In 2021
These are the best budget laptops you can buy this year
Included in this guide:
The best cheap laptops provide solid performance, long-lasting battery life, and a lightweight, unobtrusive design all at a price that will make your wallet smile. If youre looking for sub-$1000 options, weve compiled a list of the best, including the best business laptops with the mobility needed for working on the go, the best gaming laptops that let you dive into some of the top games of last year, and the best 2-in-1 laptops for jumping between laptop and tablet.
- Check out our best laptops under $500
There are plenty of factors to consider depending on what you want out of the laptop. For example, if youre not looking to run particularly demanding programs, you could buy something with a lesser CPU. And if you have no plans to play any games, that instantly reduces the amount of cash youll have to put down.
This list of the best budget laptops will help you find the right device for you, whatever your needs may be.
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Best Overall: Surface Go 3
The Surface Go 3 might be tiny, but it’s a rather versatile laptop with enough performance from an optional Core m3 processor to get through most productivity work. Baseline models start with an Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y CPU, which is still enough power for casual use. Compared to the Surface Go 2, the Go 3 is nearly identical save for the performance upgrade. Keep in mind that Instant On capabilities, thinner bezel, and larger display have carried over from the Go 2.
Models with Pentium Gold 6500Y CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB eMMC storage start at about $400. Scaling up, a model with Core i3-10100Y CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD costs about $630. Add LTE and the price jumps up to $730.
This is a typical 10.5-inch Surface display with 3:2 aspect ratio, 1920×1280 resolution, touch functionality, and Surface Pen compatibility. Thanks to the 2-in-1 form, you can use the device as a tablet for drawing and writing. Attaching a Type Cover with touchpad and keyboard turns it into a notebook with the rear stand deployed.
You get front- and rear-facing cameras, Wi-Fi 6, and dual 2W stereo speakers. Ports include USB-C, 3.5mm audio, Surface Connect, and a microSD card reader. This is one of the best budget laptops under $500 for anyone who is always on the move and doesn’t need a particularly powerful PC. Models ship from the factory with Windows 11
Best For A Little Bit Of Everything
- A few reviewers reported keyboard issues
The Bottom Line
BEST SAMSUNG DEAL:Samsung Galaxy Book Pro $559.99 $999.99
BEST GAMING DEAL:Razer Blade 15 $1,785.32 $2,599.99
BEST 2-IN-1 DEAL:Asus Chromebook Flip C434 $475 $569.99
BEST MICROSOFT DEAL:Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 $1,369 $1,599
Its really hard to make it in todays world without a computer of some kind. Nobody wants to do school or work projects on a phone. Youve gotta get yourself a real laptop.
Unfortunately, laptops cost money. If youre not careful, you can end up spending well over $1,000 for a machine with impressive specs. But were not here to talk about those. Theres a whole world of laptops that cost $600 or less many of them are perfect companions for students returning to school or folks who just need something thats a little more capable than an iPhone.
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Best Laptops Under : Extra Information To Consider
If you’re not familiar with Chromebooks, they’re Google-powered laptops that are often very, very cheap. We’ve put together a dedicated best Chromebooks guide if you’d like to see the cream of the Chromebook crop.
All of the laptops in our guide are good all-rounders. They’ll cope comfortably with web browsing and Office applications, Zoom calls and online shopping and everyday gaming. If you’re a power user who wants to play the latest games at the very maximum possible speeds and resolutions, or if you want to perform very demanding tasks such as video rendering, check out our best laptops and best gaming laptops guide instead. And if you’re a fan of Dells like we are we also have a dedicated guide to the best Dell laptops.
If you’re looking to spend under £500 then you may actually be better served for your computing and reading needs with one of the best Kindle ereaders or best tablets, so be sure to check those out, too.
Dell isn’t the only big name brand you’ll find here. Buying an affordable laptop doesn’t mean having to buy a no-name cheapie from someone you’ve never heard of. All the big players are here: Microsoft, HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Asus and many more.
- These are the best ergonomic keyboards
The Best Laptops You Can Buy Today
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Dell XPS 13 is one of our favorite laptops thanks to its excellent performance, beautiful display, and svelte design. While the battery life isn’t as good as some other laptops of similar price, it’s usually more than enough to get you through a day of work without scrambling for a charger.
Plus, in 2021 Dell began offering the XPS 13 with a 3.5K OLED touchscreen option. If you can afford it it’s well worth the investment, as the OLED’s deep, inky blacks, vibrant colors, and high contrast ratios really shine when mounted in the XPS 13’s thin-bezelled InfinityEdge design. As mentioned earlier, it’s so good that it won the awards for best laptop display and best laptop overall in our Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.
Not interested in OLED? Don’t miss our Dell XPS 13 review.
Reasons to avoid
Apple has revolutionized its laptops, thanks to its own Apple silicon processors, which are replacing the Intel chips it’s previously used. This chip delivers faster speeds than the Air’s ever seen, and the longest battery life in any MacBook either: it lasted 14 hours and 41 minutes on the Tom’s Guide battery test. Not since 2015 has a MacBook come close to that. Not only does the M1 chip make the MacBook Air a multi-tasking fiend, but it also enabled me to play Rise of the Tomb Raider smoothly, and that’s even with Rosetta 2 conversion of that Intel app.
Reasons to avoid
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Reasons to avoid
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