The Best Budget Laptops At A Glance
Why you should buy this: Its the best budget laptop.
Who its for: Anyone who doesnt mind sacrificing style for power.
Why we picked the Acer Swift 3 :
Finding a fast, well-built, cheap laptop for $650 isnt easy. Normally, one of the things you give up is processing power, relegated to low-end and/or last-generation Intel Core CPUs, in addition to builds that are plasticky and dont elicit confidence in their long-term viability.
Fortunately, Acer has come on strong with the Swift 3 equipped with AMDs latest Ryzen 7 4700U CPU. For around $650 , you get an eight-core laptop with AMD Radeon integrated graphics. That helps the laptop not only perform productivity tasks with aplomb but even churn through demanding tasks like encoding video. The display isnt the best weve seen, but youll forgive it once you see how well this budget laptop performs.
The $650 Acer Swift 3 also gets you 8GB of RAM and a large 512GB SSD. Its not a sleek or modern-looking laptop by any means, though it is very well built, and youll be hard-pressed to find a faster or better-built laptop for this kind of money. It even had a backlit keyboard, too.
Why you should buy this: Its the best budget laptop for students.
Who its for: Students, buyers on a budget.
Why we picked the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go:
Are Chromebooks Worth It
Yes, they are, but they’re not for everyone. and Chromebooks — laptops that run on Chrome OS — are great for people who do most of their work in a web browser or using mobile apps. They are secure, simple and, more often than not, a bargain. What they can’t do is natively run Windows or Mac software.
Choosing A Cheap Chromebook Vs A Cheap Windows Laptop
Our picks are for anyone who doesnt want to or cant spend more than $500 on a laptop. These models are good for anyone who just wants to browse the web, students who dont need special software, and people who work at home only occasionally. If you need a more powerful laptop, take a look at our guide to the best laptops.
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Best Lenovo Laptops In 2021
The best Lenovo laptops, from ThinkPad to Legion
Included in this guide:
ThinkPad X1 Carbon
ThinkPad X1 Yoga
ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4
ThinkBook Plus G2 ITG
The best Lenovo laptops consistently rank near the top of our overall best laptops rankings. From the excellent ThinkPad business laptops to the sleek Yoga notebook and affordable Ideapad laptops, Lenovo offers something for all types of laptop users.
We recently reviewed the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, the first PC with a flexible, foldable display. It didn’t make this list but it’s worth checking out anyway. If you’re looking for something more traditional, the ThinkPad X1 Nano is a 13-inch competitor to the XPS 13.
- Best laptop deals in 2021
Still not sure which Lenovo business laptop to buy? Check out our best Lenovo ThinkPad guide that compares the top models. And to maximize productivity at work, make sure you buy the right ThinkPad accessories. If you’re a business user and aren’t sold on buying a ThinkPad, check out the best Dell Latitude and Precision laptops.
Best Windows Laptops Under $500
|Tested battery life:||9.5 hours|
Why we like this one: If the other options are unavailable or cost more than $500, the Acer Aspire 5 A515-45-R9YK is another solid 15-inch Windows laptop. Its fast enough to handle most workloads, and its 15-inch 1920×1080 screen looks vivid and bright, which is an achievement compared with many Windows laptops in this price range. It has a decentbut not great, and not backlitkeyboard with a built-in number pad, a responsive trackpad, and one USB-C port. The Aspire 5 also has a few more hours of battery life than our other Windows picks it lasted 9 hours 41 minutes in our tests.
Where it falls short: The Aspire 5 is big and heavy, so despite its long battery life its not especially convenient to use on the go. And like most inexpensive Windows laptops, it comes with a ton of unnecessary bloatware that takes up space and slows down performance. We recommend running Microsofts Refresh Windows tool to remove those unnecessary programs and make your laptop feel faster, and to help it be more secure. It also lacks a fingerprint reader, and its keyboard isnt as satisfying as that of the Asus VivoBook models above.
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Limitations You Can Live With
Naturally, a budget laptop is one thats more affordable than cutting-edge machines, and in the majority of cases, a lower price means less-powerful internal hardware. Thats not a bad thing. For example, if you spend most of your computer time browsing the web or watching movies, chances are you dont need the latest-generation processor or an ultra-powerful video card. You can save a lot of money by finding a budget laptop that makes reasonable compromises.
As youre shopping for budget laptops, consider the most common hardware compromises youll encounter.
- Video hardware: Most budget laptops either use underpowered graphics processing units , or they power their video by sharing resources with the main processor . In these cases, video on the laptop will be adequate, but thats about it. Watching Netflix will be fine, but your laptop will struggle with more intense video tasks such as playing video games and editing videos.
“If youre thinking about buying a budget laptop with an 11-inch screen, make sure the diminutive size isnt too small for your hands. Some users complain that there isnt enough room to comfortably type on the corresponding keyboard. “
How Often Should You Update Your Laptop
You need to update your mattress every eight years, your TV every five years, and your phone every two years. So what about laptops? How long should you hang onto your device before its officially outdated? Chloe Harris-Williams, tablets & computing buyer at John Lewis says: We would recommend updating your laptop every three to four years, depending on how much it is used during this time.
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What Are The Best Laptops Under $500
If youre looking at the top of the best laptops under $500 list, youll find the Acer Aspire E 15 and the Acer Aspire 5. Why? Well, Acer is pretty good at making affordable laptops and giving you the most bang for your buck, which is why youll see Intel Core i3 CPUs in its laptops even at under $500. The Aspire 5 even sports a premium aesthetic, with a silver, aluminum hood. And both laptops feature a wide variety of ports.
However, if you prefer working on a Chromebook, the best ones around right now are the HP Chromebook 15, HP Chromebook x2 and Samsung Chromebook 4. The HP Chromebook 15 is the best all-rounder. Most Chromebooks look tragically boring, but the HP Chromebook 15’s two-toned design caught my eye. If you want something more versatile, the HP Chromebook x2 offers a detachable 2-in-1 design. And if you want to prioritize battery life, go with the Samsung Chromebook 4, which lasted 10 hours and 36 minutes on our tests.
Some of the other best laptops under $500 include the HP Stream 11 and Acer Swift 1. The former is by far the cheapest Windows 10 laptop that youll find, so you should expect some major compromises in performance. Meanwhile, if youre looking for something thats a good size and lightweight, then the Acer Swift 1 would be the best laptop for you.
Best Chromebook In 2022
The best Chromebook based on our test results
Included in this guide:
ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook
The best Chromebooks offer a clean, simplistic OS with killer performance and excellent battery life. “What’s the best Chromebook?” you ask. Well, before we dive into that answer, you should know that you aren’t the only one who’s asking. In fact, the demand for Chromebooks has soared by a whopping 122% year-over-year. Whoa!
The best Chromebooks aren’t just for students anymore. More laptop makers are making Chromebooks that are for casual users and work-focused busy bees. The best Chromebooks are also known for having low malware susceptibility. This means that Chromebooks are least likely to be infected with viruses and spyware compared to other vulnerable operating systems .
The best Chromebooks are secure and seamless to use with the Google ecosystem. You’ll also be happy to know that the best Chromebooks typically have a long battery life. Be sure to check out our Chromebooks with the longest battery life list, too.
The best Chromebooks are evolving, too, and deviating away from that traditional clamshell look. Many now have sleeker designs and touch-screen displays some sport 2-in-1 designs. There’s even a premium Chromebook market that targets Chrome OS lovers who want a top-of-the-line laptop. The best Chromebooks also offer a surprising amount of endurance, which is why we’ve devised our own Chromebook drop test.
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Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Although it’s not the Surface Laptop, the Surface Pro continues to hit all the right notes if you’re looking for a do-it-all Windows tablet that doubles as a Windows laptop. Microsoft recently overhauled it for the Surface Pro 8, which has a larger 13-inch display, 11th-gen Intel Core processors and two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports. The Surface Pro 7 is still around for the time being at a discount, and an updated version called the Surface Pro 7 Plus will stay in the lineup, so you’ll still be able to get the classic Pro design but with new processors.
Which Operating System Is Best
Before you begin to evaluate features, you’ll start with the essential question that has plagued PC shoppers for decades: Which operating system should I choose?
This is not the Mac vs. Windows debate of old. New Apple laptops aren’t available for less than $500ânot even close. The MacBook Air, Apple’s least-expensive notebook, starts at $999 and is still overkill for an elementary- or middle-school student. If you’re an Apple fan and want to raise your son or daughter to be one too, you’re best off giving them a hand-me-down and buying a new MacBook or MacBook Pro for yourself.
Reused Macs aside, most parents will choose between Windows and Chrome OS, the operating system from Google. In addition to running web apps within the Chrome browser, Chrome OS can also designed for Android smartphones and tablets, including Microsoft Office. If you’ve decided against buying a smartphone for your kids but they talk your ear off about wanting to play mobile games, buying a Chromebook might be a good compromise.
If your child’s school has specific software that runs only on Windows, your operating system choice will be decided for you. If not, you’ll want to take a close look at Chrome OS, since a few Chromebooks include decidedly kid-friendly features . Again, check out the Chromebooks-for-kids story for more on the specifics around this OS.
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Windows Mac Linux Android Or Chrome Os
Operating systems tend to polarise opinion. Ask a room of techies whether you should go with a Windows, Mac, Linux, Android or Chrome OS laptop or tablet and you’ll start a heated debate that will go for a long time but nobody will win .
All systems have their good and bad points, but it’s important for you to choose a side, because it affects your software choices and possibly your hardware decisions too. This is definitely the case with Apple products and Chrome OS in particular.
Apple’s macOS only runs on Apple’s family of computers, while iPadOS only runs on iPads, but they’re designed to work seamlessly with Apple’s other operating systems: iOS , tvOS and watchOS .
Chrome OS runs on laptops, mini PC desktops and PC sticks that are specifically designed for it, usually of a relatively lightweight configuration that is meant to be internet-connected most of the time.
Even outside enterprise users, Microsoft’s Windows has several versions, with Home being the consumer version, Pro for more serious users and Windows in S mode for lightweight laptops aimed at being an alternative to Chromebooks.
These days Windows and Chrome OS have a much greater degree of interoperability with Android, though not to the same degree as Apple’s tightly integrated hardware-software ecosystems.
Android is also outgrowing its phone-centric roots to also be seen as a stand-alone OS for tablets, most notably by Samsung and Lenovo.
Microsoft Surface Go 2
Before we get to the official used recommendations, theres a decent argument to be made for Microsofts Surface Go 2. Its technically not an older laptop as its the last budget Surface tablet Microsoft has made, but its still been around for over a year and the price has dropped a bit.
However, in my humble opinion, its not quite the best overall tablet for the price because of its cramped screen and very weak performance with the lower end Pentium/eMMC storage configs, but if you are looking for a cheap secondary Windows convertible, you can do a lot worse. Just be aware of the specs and follow the buying tips below, because your experience with this tablet will vary greatly depending on which configuration you buy. Check out eBay to see if you can snag a good enough deal.
Update: Theres a more recent Surface Go 3 available in the meantime. Its merely a hardware bump of the Go 2, but with a noticeable performance improvement on the base-level Intel Pentium configurations. However, if youre shopping for the better specs in this tiny format, Id still consider going with the Go 2 instead, especially if you can find it discounted.
- m3/i3 CPU confogurations necessary for more than basic use
- slow eMMC storage
- Difficult to use on lap
If you can find a good deal on a Surface Go with keyboard and 8 GB of RAM, it could make an excellent secondary or tertiary Windows machine.
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Do I Need Any Extras When I Buy A Laptop
To my mind, the whole charm of a laptop is that it gives you everything you need in one device. That being said, I know that some people find laptop keyboards cramped and trackpads annoying. Thankfully, these days almost every peripheral keyboard and mouse is Bluetooth enabled so all should connect to your laptop with ease. You can find my guides to the best keyboards and best computer mouse by clicking those links.
So Which Laptop Should I Buy For My Child
Giving your son or daughter a laptop endows them with a portal into the immensely powerful internet, even if the laptop itself may not be the most potent you can buy. It’s up to you to make sure that tool isn’t harmful. Fortunately, both Chromebooks and Windows laptops have parental control features, and a laptop’s size relative to a smartphone makes it easier to both monitor activity and set ground rules like disallowing computer use after homework is finished.
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How To Choose The Best Macbooks For You
We have a separate guide on how to decide which MacBook is right for you. The TL DR version is to consider how much power you need and what you are willing to spend.
For us, the MacBook Air is an easy choice. It comes in at $999 yet sports similar performance and endurance to the MacBook Pro thanks to its M1 processor. It’s also the most portable of the bunch, and the improved 13.3-inch display is great for watching TV shows or movies.
If you want a bit more endurance and better performance over longer periods, get the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1. It lasts for a remarkable 16 hours and 32 minutes on a charge and scored benchmark numbers that blow away the competition.
Those two options should cover at least 90% of users. However, if you need either a larger screen or vastly more power for professional apps then the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max chip are outstanding, if expensive, options.
The Best Cheap Laptop Deals In December 2021
We’ve gathered the best value laptops for every budget.
Hoping to bag one of the best cheap laptop deals before the end of the year? Thankfully, retailers have a number of last-minute offers across inexpensive Chromebooks, budget-friendly mid-range machines or powerful ultrabooks. We’ve scoured through many of the offers that are now live to bring you just the very best deals available right now.
While there may be some reductions that aren’t as large as we saw back in November, there are still some terrific laptop deals to be found – especially at the budget end of the scale. Those with under $200 to spend will be very happy with the – it’s our favourite deal of the week.
Those with a little more to spend will want to check out this incredible value Lenovo IdeaPad 3i for $449 at Walmart. Nothing else within that price range comes close to beating it if you need a powerful and high-performance all-around machine. There’s also a rare Surface Pro 7+ bundle with Type Cover at Best Buy for $799.99. It’s the best price today for Microsoft’s hybrid machine.
We are expecting another uptick of discounts when the Christmas sales get underway at the end of the month, too. With that in mind, you can choose to take advantage of one of these great offers today, but do be aware that there could be a wider selection of deals later in December and into January.
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