If you’ve reached this post, you’re probably after an modern laptop and don’t want to spend a lot of money on it. I’ve put up together a list of the best ultra-portables you can get for under $1000 these days, as well as a selection of great notebooks that sell for $600 or less, and both will prove helpful in your search.
Now, these laptops meet all the requirements necessary to get the “ultrabook” brand, which means they are sturdily built and yet portable, pack the latest Intel hardware and are powerful enough for everyday use, but also able to last for 5+ hours on each charge. However, the lower your budget, the more compromises you’ll need to make, and those include, among others, the materials used for the cases, the overall aesthetics and weight, the screen quality, certain features or performance.
But hey, no laptop is perfect, and if you’re after a budget-friendly ultrabook, you’ll have to compromise here and there and just choose the computer that best suits your needs, taste and wallet-size.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at the best budget ultrabooks you can get these days.
*I’m currently working on completely updating this post. Please come back in a day or two for the final version.
Best ultrabooks under $600
You can get these brand new ultrabooks for less than $600 right now and some for under $500, as long as you shop for them online and/or hunt down the occasional discounts.
Full-size laptops with 14 and 15 inch screens
You’ll have to sacrifice the weight, the materials used for the casing and the screen quality if you’re aiming to get a modern full-size laptop that cheap, but there are still a fair number of options available out there that are worth buying.
Dell Inspiron 15 3000 and 5000 series
The Dell Inspiron 15 3000 is one of the better full-size modern laptops you can get for a limited budget. It is very durable built, despite having an all plastic case and chassis, it offers good performance and it’s actually very easy to upgrade, in case you buy a base model and decide to add more RAM or replace the storage later on. It also bundles an internal optical drive.
Yes, the laptops is rather bulky and heavy, weighing close to 5.3 pounds, and you’ll have to settle for a rather bad 1366 x 768 px TN display, but at least it’s a touchscreen. Besides those, the 40 Wh battery is a bit small, as it can only offer around 4-5 hours of daily use on a charge.
We reviewed the base model with a Core i3 processor here on the site, in case you want to read more about it, and it turned out to to be a great buy for the money. That base model sells for under $400 right now, while the Core i5 configuration goes for a little under $500. Follow this link for more details, as well as updated prices and potential discounts.
The Inspiron 15 5000 is Dell’s step further in terms of build quality and design, as it’s sleeker, comes with a silver color scheme and a brushed-aluminum hood, but also a backlit keyboard, which the 3000 series lacks. It no longer offers a DVD-drive though.
A Core i5-5200U / 8 GB of RAM / 1 TB HDD configuration sells for around $550 these days, with the same 15-inch HD touchscreen as on the lower-end model. Follow this link for more configurations and up-to-date prices at the time you’re reading this post.
Toshiba Satellite C55-C5 and S55-B5 – the bestseller
The Toshiba Satellite C55 is one of the best selling 15-inch laptops in the world right now, and that’s because it is one of the most affordable devices in its class and there’s nothing utterly wrong with it, nothing that could steer you towards something else.
A latest generation Core i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM and 1 TB HDD sells for around $470 at the time of this post, which makes it more affordable than the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 above or the Acer Aspire E5 presented below.
The C55 gets an optical drive, a fair-sized 45Wh battery, a decent keyboard and trackpad, and a good selection of ports on its sides. The case is made entirely out of plastic, but it’s a nice feeling textured material that should handle hassle well. The laptop is also lighter than the competition, weighing roughly 4.8 lbs.
On the other hand, you do have to settle for a 15.6-inch 1366 x 768 px non-touch TN display, pretty bad speakers and what looks like not the best quality control, based on user reviews. Even so, this Toshiba is the best selling laptop on Amazon right now, so if this device is what you need, you should give it a try. Amazon are known for their impeccable support in case you’ll draw a short straw, so no need to worry about that.
Toshiba also offers a Satellite S55t model, which we reviewed here on the site a while ago. Unlike the Satellite C55 this one gets a 1920 x 1080 px IPS display, font-facing speakers and a slightly thinner and lighter case. And despite all these changes, the base model configuration still sells for under $500 these days and includes a latest-gen Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB HDD, alongside all the other features mentioned above.
In other words, this thing offers more than any other similar laptop out there, for its price. But it’s not without a fair share of shortcomings of course, as you can find out from the review.
Acer Aspire E5 series – the gaming option
Acer’s 15-inch laptops are known for their highly competitive prices and there are two series that meet the interest here, the Aspire E5-571G and the Aspire E5-573G.
They are both built on a hard-plastic chassis, with the same non-backlit keyboard and a similar non-touch HD display with a TN panel (an option for a FHD IPS screen is available on the higher-end configs). But while the former model only settles for Intel integrated graphics, the latter bundles an Nvidia 940M dedicated chip, for those of you in need of extra graphics power.
Of course, the Aspire E5-573G is not the only laptop with Broadwell/Skylake hardware and and Nvidia 940M chip, but it’s the only one that sells for under $600 these days, for a configuration that also includes 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB HDD. Follow this link for up-to-date info on prices and configurations at the time you’re reading this post, and check out my detailed review of this laptop for more in depth details.
The Aspire E5-571G is even cheaper, BTW, so if you don’t need the dedicated graphics you can get a modern Core i5 configuration for a little over $500, while a Haswell model sells for under $450 right now.
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500 – the sleek 2-in-1
You’ll hardly find a 15 incher comparable to this one right now, as the Asus TP500 is a convertible with a Yoga-like form factor that sells for roughly $500 and up. That’s for the most basic configuration, which includes a Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 500 GB of storage and a 1366 x 768 px TN touchscreen, while higher end models are more expensive, as you can configure this machine with a better FHD display, up to Core i7 processors, 8 GB of RAM and even add dedicated graphics on the TP500LD versions.
Of course, the major selling point here is the 2-in-1 form factor, but this laptop is more than that. It bundles a metallic case, a decent keyboard and trackpad, a 48 Wh battery and a solid selection of ports on the sides. All these together make the Asus TP500 one of the better budget-oriented 15-inch convertibles you could buy out there.
Acer Aspire R14 – the 14-inch 2-in-1
Acer’s Aspire R14 is another convertible with modern hardware, but it’s one you should take into consideration if you’re on a limited budget, since the base model with a Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB HDD sells for around $500, while the Core i5 model is about $100 more expensive.
The Aspire R14 has a few other aces downs its sleeve, aside from the price, like the pretty good keyboard, the excellent battery life (thanks to the 53Wh battery inside, huge for its class) and the upgrade-friendliness, as both the RAM and the storage drive can be easily upgraded on this unit.
On the other hand, you’ll have to make due with a rather poor 14-inch HD TN screen, an all plastic case with quite a few glossy elements and a fairly hefty weight of 4.4 pounds, but also the fact that this laptop’s case gets hot quite easily under load.
Anyway, check out our detailed review of the Aspire R14 for the full impressions and follow this link if you’re interested in up-to-date prices and configurations at the time you’re reading this post.
Portable and ultraportable options (10 to 13 inchers)
This section is reserved for the more portable options you can get for under $600 these days, but if you’re in the market for a compact laptop, you should also check out our dedicated posts on the available 13-inch options, as well as this post on the 11.6 inch and smaller models.
The Lenovo U31 barely makes it into this section, with a starting price of $599, but that’s for a latest-gen Core i5 processor, with 8 GB of RAM and 500 GB of storage, plus a 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080 px IPS display. So when you think about it, you’re actually getting a lot for your 600 bucks. Higher end versions are somewhat more expensive, but you can get this one with a Core i7 processor, SSD storage and Nvidia 920M dedicated graphics.
Check out this link for up-to-date configurations and prices, as well as user reviews.
On the other hand, the laptop bundles a fairly small 35 Wh battery when compared to the more premium 13-inchers, which means you should only expect 3-4 hours of battery life on a charge. It’s also a bit heavy at 3.3 lbs and entirely made out of plastic, but the build quality isn’t bad at all and you get the option to pick your laptop in a few different colors.
Dell Inspiron 11 3000
Lenovo Yoga 300 (Flex 3 11)
Acer Aspire R11
HP Pavilion X360
Asus Transformer Book T200
Best ultrabooks under $1000
There’s a huge offer of ultrabooks selling for between 600 and 1000 bucks these days.
There are two main directions you can follow: either get a mid-range laptop with a solid configuration, or tap into the premium class and get the entry-versions of some of the best laptops out there.
We’re not going to focus on this latter approach in this article, as we have other dedicated articles on the best laptops based on screen-size. But if you’re after a good 13-inch ultrabook, $1000 can buy you the latest Core i5 versions of the ultra-compact Dell XPS 13, the convertible HP Spectre X360, the sleek Asus Zenbook UX305LA or even the base version of the Apple Macbook Air, to name just some of the top options. Check out this post for the full list of the best 13-inch ultrabooks of the moment.
As for full-size laptops, $1000 can get you business ultraportables like the Lenovo ThinkPad T450/T550 or even the versatile Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 15, to name just some of the better 14 and 15-inch portable laptops available these days.
On the other hand, If you’d rather get more beefier specs for your money, I’ve gathered a fair number of solid options for you in the following rows.
14 and 15 inch full-size ultrabooks
These are the portable 14 and 15-inchers you should get these days if you want a capable configuration, usually with great displays, modern Core i5 or i7 processors, at least 8 GB of RAM and even dedicated graphics or SSD storage in some cases.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 – the solid all-rounder
The Inspiron 15 7000 is Dell’s better mid-range 15-incher. It comes with a more compact and lighter aluminum unibody (weighs roughly 4.6 lbs), an aluminum hood cover, a backlit keyboard and a FullHD IPS touchscreen. The 15-inch model also packs either and 34 or a 58 Wh battery, with the latter translating in roughly 5-6 hours of daily use on a charge.
On the other side, unlike other 15-inchers, this one does not include any sort of dedicated graphics, not even as an extra option.
The MSRP for the latest configurations is set at around $800 and up, but a Core i5 model with 6 GB of RAM and a 1 TB HDD can be found for under $700 these days. Follow this link for details.
As a side note, a 14-inch Dell Inspiron is also available, if you’re looking for something slightly more compact and you’re willing to spend a bit more. It weighs 3.5 pounds and sells for $999 and up.
Lenovo Yoga 500 (Flex 3) 14 and 15 – the convertibles
Aspire V15 Nitro VN7-571G
- Toshiba Satellite E55T (latest discounts) – a larger 15 incher with a touchscreen, that weighs about 4.7 pounds; the Core i5-4200U CPU (Haswell!) with 4 GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD sells for under $600;
- Acer Aspire V7 482PG and 582PG – the higher end 14 and 15 inch Acer clamshell ultrabooks, the V7s offer metallic bodies and a nice-looking design, but also solid features and specs , with list prices ranging between $850 and $1100. The 15 inch model includes Haswell hardware, a Full HD IPS touchscreen, dedicated Nvidia graphics and a 53 Wh battery, all tucked inside a 4.8 pounds body, while the 14 incher is even lighter. See this link for more details and potential discounts.
- Lenovo Y40 – this is one of the few ultraportables that you can get for under 1G able to handle games. The Y40 comes with a 14 inch screen (and a poor TN panel that might actually break it for many of you), but beastly specs: an Intel Core i7-4710U processor, 8 GB of RAM, hybrid storage and an AMD Radeon R9 275M graphics chip configuration can be yours for just under $900.
- Acer Aspire R7-582 – a solid built 15 incher with a convertible touchscreen and digitizer/pen support, Haswell Hardware, Nvidia dedicated graphics and a weird form-factor. This one does seem to be in short supply lately though, so it might be a bit difficult to track down.
13-inch portable laptops
Dell Inspiron 13 7000
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300
This post gets in depth with all the available 13 inch ultrabooks, but there’s also another quick recap below:
- Lenovo IdeaPad U330 – this is the 13 inch version of the IdeaPad U430 mentioned before. It’s also available with or without a touchscreen and packs Haswell hardware, but it seems to be in short supplies in some regions, so it might be discontinued soon, it it weren’t already by the time you’re reading this post.
- Asus Vivobook Q301 LA/LP – this Asus Vivobook is more widely available an roughly $650 (or even less) will get you a Core i5-4200U CPU / 6GB of RAM / 750 GB HDD configuration. You’re also getting a touchscreen with an HD TN panel and a metallic body, but Asus did sacrifice the battery size on this device, as you’ll find out from my detailed review.
You might also find the base versions of the Asus Zenbook UX303LA, Lenovo Yoga 2 13, Dell Inspiron 13 7000 or the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300 for under $800, the ones bundled with Intel Core i3 Haswell processors, but those are only available in some regions and the Core i5 configurations sell for over 800 bucks, so we’ll talk about them in the next chapter.
- Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300 and Q302LA – a solid priced 13 inch convertible with Haswell hardware and an IPS FHD touchscreen, but a bit bulky and heavy for this class. Even so, metal is used for most of its case and it is cheaper than its rivals. The TP300 is available in silver, while the Q302LA can be found in black in some stores around the world. Check out my review of this series for more details.
- Lenovo Yoga 2 13 – Lenovo’s alternative to the Asus above and the updated iteration of the original Yoga, this device also offers Haswell hardware and an IPS FHD touchscreen, but only in a plastic shell. As a result, it is somewhat more compact and lighter than the Transformer Book Flip, but it’s also slightly more expensive. However, Lenovo does offer the Yoga 2 13 in a bunch of different configurations, which can’t be said about Asus’s 2-in-1 for the time being.
- Dell Inspiron 13 7000 series – Dell’s alternative to those two mentioned before, packing Haswell hardware and an IPS FHD screen, but also an excellent keyboard and plenty of ports, in what I believe it’s a much better looking case. Dell did cut the corner where it came to battery though and only put a 43H one on this unit, and that translates in rather short battery life. But on the other hand this Dell is affordable. Check out my review for more details.
- Macbook Air 13 2014 – if it weren’t for the screen, we could say that this is by far the best 13 inch ultraportable of the moment. It’s sleek and solid built, it packs a good keyboard and trackpad, it bundles more-powerful Haswell processors than most ultrabooks, with Intel Iris graphics, and lasts longer than any other 13 incher on a charge (12-13 hours of daily use).
On top of that, the base configuration is listed at $999, but you can find it cheaper online, which makes the Macbook Air more affordable than most other premium 13 inch devices.
Its 1440 x 900 px screen with a TN panel might steer you towards something else though, as well as the necessity to get a Windows computer, in case you’re running software that does not work properly on Macs. See this post for a detailed comparison between the Macbook Airs and the top-tier ultrabooks.
- HP Spectre 13T-3000 – one of the few premium 13 inchers selling for under $1000, the HP Spectre 13T is sleeker, lighter and better built than many of the other devices in this category, while packing top tier features. See this post for its strong-points and quirks.
- Asus Zenbook UX303LA/LN – the 2014 Zenbook series is almost without flaws. It offers a metallic case, a Full HD IPS touchscreen, a few different Haswell configurations and a 50 Wh battery, plus leaves room for user upgrades, something not many other similar 13 inchers allow.
On top of that, the UX303LA, the model that relies entirely on the Intel HD 4400 graphics, is cheaper than similarly configured Macbook Airs or HP Spectre 13Ts, while the UX303LN offers Nvidia 840M graphics and all the other goodies for under $1000. See my detailed review of the Zenbook UX303LN for more details and my comparison between the LA and the LN models.
You could also look for discounts on the premium 13 inch ultrabooks discussed in this post, like the Dell XPS 13, the Toshiba Kirabook 2014, the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, the Acer Aspire S7, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus, the Asus Zenbook UX301LA and so on.
12, 11 and 10 inch mini-laptops
This post covers 11 inch or small ultrabooks in depth, but if you want the short-list, well, here you go
- Lenovo Yoga 3 11 – another convertible whose 11 inch screen rotates 360 degrees around its hinges. It’s available with either Intel BayTrail hardware or Intel Haswell Y processors, 4 GB of RAM and various types of storage, with prices ranging from $500 to $800. See my detailed review of the Yoga 2 11 for more details.
- Macbook Air 11 2015 – the 11 inch version of the Macbook Air, built on Intel Haswell processors with Iris graphics, but with a smaller battery (should last 8-9 hours on daily use), lower resolution screen and fewer connectivity options (no SD card card) than the 13 inch model. It is however cheaper, starting at $899, and you’ll will find it discounted online.
- Sony Vaio Pro 11 – one of the lightest ultrabooks out there, tipping the scales just under 2 lbs, the Vaio Pro 11 sells these days for under $1000, but some units are plagued by annoying Wi-Fi problems.
Wrap up – are the cheap ultrabooks good enough for you?
The first thing you might ask yourself is whether a budget ultrabook is worth your money or not. I’d say yes, you will find plenty of good devices for under $1000 these days, and some decent ones if you want to pay even less and you’re OK with somewhat sacrificing the lightweight and some specs and features.
In the end, it’s up to you to choose what’s best fits your needs, your taste and your wallet size. Most of the units mentioned above will do fine as portable everyday computers meant to deal with browsing, watching movies, listening to music and some work. Many will also do fine as laptops for school, laptops for your kids or secondary inexpensive notebooks you’ll just use when traveling. And one or two can even go as business or light-gaming machines.
If you need more help in your quest for the ideal ultra-portable, you might also want to check these other articles on the site:
- my lists of recommended 11 inch, 13 inch, 14 and 15 inch ultrabooks;
- my selection of 2-in-1 hybrids;
- my selection of affordable Chromebooks that sell for between $199 and $399;
- my selection of powerful ultraportables able to handle games and complex software (programming, photo/video editing, etc).
Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’m constantly updating this list of budget ultrabooks under $1000, adding new models as they become available. In the meantime, leave a comment if you have anything to add to this post, if you have any questions or need help deciding what you should get, I’ll be around here to reply.