If you’ve reached this post, you’re probably after an ultrabook and don’t want to spend a lot of money on it. That’s why I’ve put together a list of the best ultra-portables you can get for under $1000, $800 and $600 these days, and you can read all about them below.
Now, these laptops check all the Intel imposed ultrabook requirements, so they are still good looking, thin, fairly powerful and able to last for a few hours on each charge. However, the lower your budget, the more compromises you’ll need to make with your potential device, and that includes the materials used for the cases, the overall build quality, the screens, the performance and a few other features.
But hey, no laptop is perfect, and if you’re after a price-conscious ultrabook, you’ll have to learn to accept these shortcomings and choose the machine 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. Keep in mind that I’m mostly including modern notebooks here, powered by Intel’s Haswell platforms or later, with only a few older exceptions that are still worth considering today.
Best ultrabooks under $600
You can get these brand new ultrabooks for less than $600 right now, some even for under $500, as long as you shop for them online and hunt down the periodical discounts.
Asus Vivobook X200LA / K200MA / X202E
The Asus Vivobook X200LA (or S200LA as it’s known in Europe) is one of the the most interesting such cheap ultraportables. It’s a compact machine (1 inch thick, weighs roughly 3 lbs), packing only an 11.6 inch touchscreen with a TN 1366 x 768 px panel, but the overall image quality is not utterly bad.
The whole thing is built from plastic, but it’s fairly solid and sturdy. Inside you’ll find a Intel Core i3 Haswell processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB HDD, so not the most powerful hardware platform, but enough for casual everyday tasks. Of course, swapping the regular HDD for an SSD will make the whole thing a lot faster, and it’s easy to do that yourself. On top of that, there’s a 3 Cell battery on this Vivobook, which unfortunately is only enough for about 4 hours of daily use on this configuration.
The Asus Vivobook S200LA sells for roughly $499 these days (an you might find it even cheaper online), which is a pretty good price. The screen quality and the short battery life do draw it down though, but you’ll hardly find anything similar for this kind of money.
If you don’t need the Haswell hardware though and only plan on using the computer for basic everyday activities, you’ve got better options, like the :
- Asus Vivobook K200MA (same everything, but a fanless Intel BayTrail Pentium platform inside, for under $300),
- the Acer Aspire E3/V3 series (even cheaper 11 inchers, also built on Intel BayTrail hardware. The Aspire E3-111 starts at under $250 these days, but only packs a small battery that’s going to push it for around 4 hours of daily use. The Aspire V3 options are slightly more expensive, but pack a bigger battery and touchscreens on some versions),
- the Asus Transformer Pad T100 (reviewed here – latest discounts) or the Acer Aspire Switch 10 (latest discounts), both very compact 2-in-1 laptops that go for under $400,
- or maybe some of the available Chromebooks
- and the other 11.6 inch ultra-portables that you can find in stores these days.
If you do need the extra power though, the S200LA is a great buy.
The Vivobook X202E series is the S200LA’s predecessor, similar in most ways, with a few exceptions: it is powered by an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3 processor, its case is mostly made from metal, it only features a 2 Cell battery and is available in a Light Silver color scheme, while the newer model goes in a few different colors. But it sells for around $450 or even less, which might be enough to get it on your radar. I did test the X202E a while ago, and you can find my detailed review over here, if interested.
And while we’re speaking of Asus laptops, you might want to have a look at the Vivobook S400CA (14 incher, IvyBridge hardware – detailed review over here) and the sleek Zenbook UX32A (13.3 incher, aluminum body, IvyBridge hardware – detailed review here), as you’ll find several configurations on both of these for under $500.
Other laptops that go for between 500 and 600 bucks these days are the:
- Lenovo IdeaPad U310 (detailed review – latest discounts) – 13 inch laptop – you’ll get a Core i5-3317U processor, with 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB of storage for roughly $590 right now;
- 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 S3 (detailed review – latest discounts) – a first generation ultrabook, but still, a thin and light 13 incher that goes for about $450, for a Core i3-2367M configuration, with 4 GB of RAM and a 320 GB HDD, which might be good enough for basic use.
The Lenovo Flex 2 14 and 15 series also starts just under $600 for the base configuration that includes a Core i3-4010U processor, 4 GB of RAM and hybrid storage. If you opt for beefier processors and specs though, you’d have to pay more, but even so, the Flex 2 laptops are some of the most affordable out there, which is in fact their major selling point. The other is the convertible screen that goes all the way back around its hinges to 270 degrees, which means that it doesn’t go completely flat, thus you won’t be able to use these devices as tablets, like you can with the Lenovo Yogas and other similar form-factor laptops.
That aside, the Flex 2 laptops are made from plastic, are rather bulky, don’t last very long on a charge (roughly 5 hours) and stick to HD TN panels, albeit touchscreens. If you’re willing to live with these shortcomings, than the Flex 2s could be the right ultrabooks for you. If not, you’ve got better alternatives, but you’ll have to pay extra for them, as you’ll find out below.
Best ultrabooks under $800
There’s a fair offer of ultrabooks selling for between 600 and 800 bucks these days. You can either get a modern Haswell laptop, but settle for an entry-level configuration or/and a rather poor screen and bulky body, or you can get some of the previous generation premium IvyBridge devices, but compromise for poorer performance and battery life. The choice is yours.
14 and 15 inch full-size ultrabooks
I’ve covered these laptops in depth in this detailed article that speaks both about the affordable 14/15 inchers and about the premium options, and you should definitely check it out if you’re after a computer in these size-classes.
As a quick recap though, you could look at the:
- Acer Aspire E1-472, E1-572 and E1-572P – entry level ultrabooks, without or with a touchscreen (the 527P model), starting at about $600.
- Lenovo Flex 2 14 and 15 series – already mentioned above.
- Asus Vivobooks V451 and V551 (reviewed here) – thinner and sleeker than the ones above, with aluminum-cast bodies, touchscreens, a DVD-RW (on the 15 inch model) and options for dedicated graphics. Core i5 and i7 Haswell configurations with 8 GB of RAM and Haswell hardware sell for under $800 these days.
- Asus Transformer Book Flips TP500 series – you’ll hardly find a 15 incher comparable to this one right now, as the TP500LA is a convertible with a Yoga-like form factor. Its case is made from metal, Intel Haswell hardware motorizes it with options for dedicated graphics and it comes with a FHD IPS touchscreen. The Core i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB HDD sells for under $800 and you can find more about this laptop from my detailed review also available here on the site.
- Lenovo IdeaPad S510P – a simple and affordable clamshell laptop with a 15.6 inch non-touch display , plastic body and a DVD-RW. Core i5 Haswell configurations are available for a bit over 600 bucks.
- Lenovo U430 – one of my favorite 14 inchers, with a sturdy body, excellent keyboard and good hardware options. It’s available with or without a touchscreen, with or without Nvidia dedicated graphics and can go for about 5 hours of daily use on a charge. Intel Core i5-4200U combos with 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB HDDs sell for under $700, while the Core i7-4500U models sell for around $750. See this link for more details and potential discounts.
- Dell Inspiron 5000 and 7000 series – slightly heavier 14 and 15 inch laptops with metallic cases, options for FHD IPS screens and large batteries. Worth your attention especially if you’re living in the US, where Dell’s customer support and after-sale services are good, compared to others.
Higher end configurations of all these laptops above will get to roughly $900-$1000, with some exceptions, and will include Intel Core i7 Haswell U processors, 8 GB of RAM and even SSD storage in some cases.
13 inch portable laptops
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 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.
There are also a few older laptops you could consider buying, and I’d personally look at the Asus Zenbook UX32A (reviewed here) and the UX31A (reviewed here) , the affordable Lenovo IdeaPad U310 (reviewed here) and the Dell XPS 13 2013. Keep in mind that these are all running on Intel IvyBridge hardware, so they won’t last as long as the newer Haswell powered machines do on each charge.
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:
- Dell XPS 12 – a 2-in-1 convertible with a 12.5 inch FHD IPS touchscreen which flips inside its own frame, with Haswell hardware and excellent build quality. Core i5-4200U CPU / 4GB of RAM / 128 GB SSD configurations are available these days for under $800.
- Lenovo Yoga 2 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.
- Dell Inspiron 11 3000 – similar in many ways to the Yoga above, the Inspiron 11 3000 is somewhat cheaper than Lenovo’s unit and packs a larger battery and more full-size ports, which do make it one of the most interesting 11 inch affordable convertibles available right now.
- Dell XPS 11 – just another 11.6 inch hybrid with a few aces down its sleeve: the XPS 11 is very light/thin (2.5 lbs, 0.6 inches) and packs an 11.6 inch QHD touchscreen with an integrated digitizer and pen-support, which could make it ideal for school, taking notes and sketching. It is only powered by Intel Haswell Y processors, packs a 40Wh battery and only lists a limited number of ports on its sides, but nor these or its higher starting price (roughly $750 for the Core i5 / 4 GB RAM / 128 GB SSD config) drag it down. Its abysmal keyboard and typing experience might though, so you should really look into it if the XPS 11 checks all the other right boxes.
Best ultrabooks between $800 and $1000
If you’re willing to expand your budget somewhat, you’ll find a bunch of other good laptops in this section, on top of the higher-specked versions of some of the devices mentioned in the previous chapter.
14 and 15 inchers
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 inch or smaller notebooks
- Macbook Air 11 2014 – 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.