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 surely 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. In order to make your life easier, I’ve split the post into several different chapters:
- the best 14 and 15 inch full-size laptops and the 10-13 inch portable laptops under $600;
- 14 and 15 inch full-size laptops under $1000, the 13-inch versions and the 12 inch and smaller models in the same budget.
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 laptop 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 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 you should at least 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. 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 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, 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, 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 fairly beefy configuration, with a latest-gen Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 500 GB of storage, plus a 13.3-inch matte 1920 x 1080 px IPS display. It’s not the best screen out there, but it’s better than the TN panels offered by most other devices in this price range. So when you think about it, you’re actually getting a lot for your 600 bucks. Higher end versions are somewhat more expensive, but at least you can get the U31 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 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 either White or Red.
Dell Inspiron 11 3000
The Inspiron 11 3000 is one of the better affordable 2-in-1s out there. It’s small, as it only bundles an 11.6-inch display, so that means it’s not for everyone. But if you want the touchscreen in a portable and budget-friendly option, 11-inchers are going to be your best bet anyway.
In fact, there are a couple of 11-inchers worth your attention, but we’ll start with this one, since I believe it has a few strong points over the competition.
The most powerful configuration includes a Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB SSD, while the more affordable options come with Intel Celeron or Pentium CPUs. Dell does not offer a model with 8 GB of RAM or SSD storage, but you can upgrade the RAM and the storage drive yourself, which is a strong selling point, alongside the decent 1366 x 766 px IPS touchscreen and a large 43 Wh battery. All these are tucked inside a plastic made 3.1 lbs body, while the Inspiron 11 3000 is of course a 360-degrees convertible, so you’ll be able to use it as a tablet as well.
Last but not least, this computer is affordable. You’ll have to pay between $350 and $550 for one, based on the configuration you’ll end up choosing, and you’ll be getting quite a lot for your buck. Follow this link for up-to-date configurations and potential discounts.
HP Pavilion X360
This is HP’s direct competitor to the Inspiron 11 3000 presented above. It’s also an 11-incher with an HD IPS display, it’s also a convertible with a 360-degrees rotating screen and it’s also entirely made out of plastic.
But unlike the Dell, this one is available in a bunch of different lively colors, packs a newer Core i3 processor (or Intel Pentium and Celeron CPUs) and includes a smaller 32 Wh battery.
It’s also 5-10% more expensive than the Dell, although that could change in time. Follow this link for updated configurations and prices.
Still, even if the Pavilion x360 would match the Inspiron 11 3000 in terms of price, personally I’d rather get the latter, because of its bigger battery and more appealing design (in my opinion).
Asus Transformer Book Chi T300
The Chi T300 is Asus’s premium 2-in-1 detachable at the time of this update. It’s built on an Intel Core M hardware platform, can take up to 8 GB of RAM and SSD storage, includes an excellent high-resolution 12.5-inch touchscreen and only weighs 3.2 pounds, with the dock attached.
The Transformer Book Chi T300 is primarily a Windows tablet, as all the hardware and the battery are tucked behind the display. And it’s a slim and sleek one, with a nice anodized aluminum body. The included keyboard dock allows it to behave like a 2-in-1 when needed.
Despite all that, the Chi T300 wasn’t received very well, mostly because it failed to deliver in terms of battery life (offers roughly 5 hours on a charge), wireless performance and IO. It wasn’t very cheap at launch either, with the base model going for $699.
These days that configuration is much more affordable, selling for under $500, and that should put this device on the map for those of you willing to live with its shortcomings. Cause you’re sure getting a lot for what you’re paying. Follow this link for up-to-date prices and user reviews at the time you’re reading this post.
Unlike the devices above, these 2-in-1s below are only available with Intel Core M, Celeron, Pentium or Atom hardware, which makes them less powerful, but also more affordable.
- Acer Aspire Switch 11V – The Aspire Switch 11V is one of the cheapest Core M 2-in-1s out there and it’s actually a pretty good one, for the money, as you can tell from our detailed review. It’s a detachable with a multi-functional dock, a great screen and fairly solid build quality. On the other hand it is rather heavy (3.3 lbs) and the 30 Wh included battery will only offer around 4-5 hours of daily use on a charge. But with an MSRP of $500, it’s an option to consider.
- Acer Aspire R11 – review – latest deals – Acer’s 11-incher is cheaper than its competitors and it’s overall a pretty good machine, as you can tell from our review. It’s built well, it includes a gigantic 50 Wh battery and it can be equipped with Intel Braswell processors and 8 GB of RAM, but on the other hand you’ll have to make due with the 3.5 lbs body weight and the poor TN touchscreen. Still, if you want the 2-in-1 form factor, the specs and the very long battery life for as little money as possible, this will be your best bet right now.
- Lenovo Yoga 300 (Flex 3 11) – latest deals – the 11-inch Lenovo is cheap as well, although with the base versions going for under $300 it’s not as affordable as the Aspire R11. It is however a lot lighter than the Acer, weighing only 3.0 lbs, but you’ll have to live with a similar 11-6-inch HD TN touchscreen and a much smaller 30 Wh battery though.
- Asus Transformer Book T200 – review – latest deals – The Asus T200 comes in as the last option here because it’s not as powerful as its competitors, being built on an Intel Atom platform. It is however a detachable, a tablet with a docking station, it includes an 11.6-inch HD IPS display and thanks to the more efficient hardware, it can go for up to 10 hours of daily use on a charge. So with this one you’ll be sacrificing performance for battery life.
If you’re interested in something even more affordable or more compact, there are a bunch of 10-inchers you can consider, and I’ve got in depth about them in this other post.
Among them, you should keep a close eye on the Asus Transformer Book T100 series, the Acer Aspire Switch 10 series and of course the Microsoft Surface 3, although this latter one can easily got past the $600 mark. Here’s what our collaborator Doug thinks about it, after using it for a few months.
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 if you’re shopping withing this budget: 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’ll address both of them in the rows below.
14 and 15 inch full-size ultrabooks
When it comes to 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. 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 6-7 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.
And there’s also a 15-inch Inspiron 7000 2-in-1, a slightly larger update of the popular 13-inch model. It inherits the plastic body of the small 13-incher and binds it to a 360-degrees 15.6-inch rotating screen. It gets a 43 Wh battery, either a FHD or a 4K display and weighs 4.8 pounds. As for the price, the cheapest Core i5 configurations start at $600, but there are also Core i3 models available for less.
Check out this post for all the available Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 configurations, user opinions and the latest prices.
Acer Aspire V15 Nitro VN7-571G
Acer offers a few different Aspire V15 Nitro models these days and among them there’s a configuration built on an Intel Core i7-5500U/Core i7-6500U ULV processor, paired with 8 GB of RAM (upgradeable to 16 GB), dual-storage and an Nvidia 950M graphics. It’s called the V15 Nitro VN7-571G and it’s a pretty good multimedia device with some gaming abilities, as you can find from our detailed review published a while ago.
But there’s more than just specs with this one. The V15 Nitro is fairly compact for a 15-incher and weighs roughly 4.9 lbs. It includes a backlit keyboard, a matte 1080p IPS display, an internal optical-drive and a 52 Wh battery. And last but not least, it sells for under $1000, while slightly older versions with a Haswell processor and Nvidia 840M graphics (which is nearly identical to the 950M chip on the newer models) go for as low as $800.
The Acer V15 Nitro Black Edition is perhaps this one’s greatest rival, as it sells for $1100 and includes a quad-core Intel processor and faster Nvidia 960M graphics, which are well worth getting for just $100 extra if you need a powerful machine. On the other hand, if you only want a well-balanced multimedia computer, fast enough for most tasks, but also able to last for 5-6 hours on a charge, the V15 Nitro VN7-571G would be hard to look past.
Lenovo Yoga 500 (Flex 3) 14 and 15 – the convertibles
Lenovo calls their Flex 3 (soon to be rebranded into Yoga 500) series affordable, thin and light. There are both a 14 and and 15.6-inch model in this line and both offer, among other, latest-generation Core i3/i5 and i7 processors, 1080p IPS panels, backlit keyboard, up to 8 GB of RAM and 1 TB HDD storage, plus 45 Wh batteries. Both models are convertibles with 360-degrees flipable screens and both are mostly made out of plastic, with metallic palm-rests.
The 15-inch version gets a few extras though, like a NumPad keyboard and optional Nvidia 920M or 940M graphics. It’s also larger and heavier, weighing roughly 5.0 lbs, while the 14-inch version weighs 4.3 lbs.
As for the price, a Core i5 configurations with 8 GB of RAM and a 500 GB HDD is going to cost around $650 on both of these, and surprisingly the Flex 3 14 is a bit cheaper than the 15-inch model. Higher specked versions are going to go past $1000 mark in both cases.
- Lenovo Y40 – this is one of the few ultraportables able to handle games well that you can get for under 1G. The Y40 comes with a 14-inch screen (with a TN panel though), but beastly specs: a latest generation Core i7 CPU, 8 GB of RAM, hybrid storage and an AMD Radeon R9 275M graphics configuration sells for just under $800.
- Acer Aspire R7 – a solid built 15 incher with a convertible touchscreen and digitizer/pen support, modern hardware, Nvidia dedicated graphics and a weird form-factor. This one does seem to be in short supply lately, so it might be a bit difficult to track down.
- for a more detailed list of 14 and 15-inch ultraportables you should also check out this other post from our site.
13-inch portable laptops
If you’re after a very 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.
On the other hand, if you’d rather get a beefier configuration for your money, here are some of the options you should consider.
- Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300 and Q302LA – review – latest discounts – a solid priced 13-inch convertible with the latest generation ULV hardware and an IPS FHD touchscreen, but a bit bulky and heavy for its class (3.7 lbs). 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.
- Dell Inspiron 13 7000 series – review – latest discounts – Dell’s alternative to Asus mentioned before, packing more or less similar features, with Intel hardware and an IPS FHD screen, but also an excellent keyboard and plenty of ports, in what I believe it’s an overall 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 (around 5 hours).
- Asus Zenbook UX305LA/UA – review – latest discounts – this Zenbook is a great choice if you’re after a modern clamshell laptop with a matte display. The UX305LA is the Broadwell model, while the UX305CA is its Skylake update. Both bundle Intel ULV hardware with up to 8 GB of RAM and SSD storage, a FHD IPS display (or an optional QHD+ screen) and a large 56 Wh battery in a 2.8 lbs aluminum shell. There’s no backlit keyboard though, the IO is rather limited and you can’t have these laptops with a touchscreen. Prices start at around $800 for a Core i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage.
- Asus Zenbook UX305FA/CA – review – latest discounts – these are Asus’s slimmer, lighter (2.6 lbs) versions of the UX305s mentioned before, built on Intel Core M hardware. That makes them fanless, but on the other hand they are not as powerful and don’t last for very long on a charge either (roughly 5-6 hours), as they pack smaller 45 Wh batteries. The UX305FA is the Broadwell version, while the UX305CA is the Skylake update. Both start at $699, but you’ll probably find them even cheaper online.
You could also look for discounts on the premium 13-inch ultrabooks discussed in this post, especially during the Back-to-School and the Winter Sales periods.
12, 11 and 10 inch mini-laptops
This article covers the 11-inch or smaller ultraportables in depth, but if you want a short-list of high end devices you can get for under $1000, well, here you go:
- Lenovo Yoga 3 11 – a sleek convertible with a 360 degrees tiltable screen. It’s built on an Intel’s Core M platform with 4 or 8 GB of RAM and various amounts of SSD storage. It includes an 11.6-inch IPS 1920 x 1080 px touchscreen and a 34 Wh battery, all tucked inside a slim and light (2.6 lbs) plastic body. The available configurations sell for between $670 and $900 at the time of this post, but they will get cheaper down the line. Follow this link for more details.
- Apple Macbook Air 11 – the 11-inch version of the Macbook Air is one of the most powerful mini computers on the market, as it is built on Intel processors with Iris graphics, up to 8 GB of RAM and fast PCIe SSD storage. On top of that, the MBA 11 includes a backlit keyboard, a large battery and is both light (2.4 lbs) and sturdy, but owners will have to live with a rather poor TN panel and the lack of an SD card reader. The Macbook Air isn’t very cheap either, as it starts at $899 for the most basic configuration, but there’s a fair chance you’ll will find it discounted online.
- Microsoft Surface 3 – we mentioned this one earlier, but if you’re planning to get the Surface 3 with the keyboard folio (and you should, otherwise you’ll have no physical keyboard) you’ll have to pay at least $630 for it, so I feel it is better suited for this section. The MS3 is a compact tablet with a great 10.8-inch display and pen support, a solid built magnesium-alloy body and Intel low-power hardware, so it’s mostly designed as a long-lasting companion (expect 7-8 hours between charges), and not as a powerful computer. Our collaborator Doug owns one and has been using it for a few months, so you might want to read his detailed impressions gathered in this post.
At the end of the day, you might still wonder whether a budget ultrabook is worth your money or not. The answer is definitely YES these days, when there are many good devices available for under $1000, and quite a few decent ones selling for under $800, under $600 and even under $500.
You’ll have to make some sacrifices as you go into the lower tiers, that’s true, but you can find something good no matter what your budget is, as long as you have correct expectations.
Most of the units mentioned in this posts will handle everyday activities like browsing, watching movies, listening to music or working on documents very well. Many will also do fine as laptops for school, laptops for your kids or secondary inexpensive travel notebooks. And one or two can even go as business or light-gaming machines. So you’re definitely not without options.
Now, if you need more help in your quest for the ideal ultraportable, 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).
Or get in touch in the comments section, I’m around to help out.
Keep in mind that I’m constantly updating this list of budget ultrabooks under $1000, adding new models as they hit the stores and taking out the older versions that have become obsolete. If you happen to spot any mistakes though or any machines that should be in here and are not, I’d appreciate to hear from you in the comments.