This article is going to help you if you’re after a modern laptop and don’t want to spend a lot of money for it. We’ve reviewed most of the devices you can find in stores, and we’ll tell you which lines are worth your hard earned buck and why.
These computers meet all the requirements of a modern thin-and-light ultrabook, which means they are sturdily built and yet portable, get good screens and keyboards, recent hardware and are powerful enough to handle everyday activities and some games, but also last for 5+ hours on each charge.
However, keep in mind that the lower the budget, the more compromises you’ll need to make.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at the best budget laptops you can get these days. You can go through the entire article or jump straight to the section of interest:
- under $600: full-size 14 and 15-inch laptops and smaller 10-13 inch ultraportables;
- $600 to $1000: all-day multimedia laptops, powerful gaming options and mid-tier ultraportables.
Affordable laptops under $600
You’ll find a fair bit of good laptops available for $600 or less, especially if you shop for them online and/or hunt for occasional discounts. We’ve split this section in two parts, first we’ll talk about options with full-size screens, and then we’ll talk about some of the lighter and smaller variants in this class.
Full-size laptops under $600
When shopping for a cheap full-size laptop you’l have to sacrifice on the weight, overall build and materials used for the outer case, as well as the screen-quality, hardware specs and battery life to some extent.
Even so, there are still a fair number of options out there that are worth your attention, and we’re going to give you a few different suggestions based on what they can do and their price.
First of all, if you’re on a very tight budget, I would suggest aiming for laptops with at least an Intel 7th or 8th gen Core i3 CPU and 4 GB of RAM, the minimum I’d get in an all-day computer these days. There are cheaper laptops built on Celeron/Pentium platforms, but those are rather slow for full-size allrounders and I personally wouldn’t recommend them in this class.
You’ll find those i3 configurations brand-new for around $400 to $450, or you can shop for refurbished and open-box units for as low as $300. Out of the existing options, I’d have my eye on the Acer Aspire E15 series, the Lenovo IdeaPad 320 / 330 or the Asus Vivobook Max lines.
At the same time, if you’re shopping for a basic all-day computer that you plan to primarily use for browsing, video streaming, Youtube, email and so on, you should definitely consider one of the existing 14 and 15-inch Chromebooks available for around $300 to $400. Go through this detailed article for more info about Chromebooks, what they can and cannot do, as well as recommendations of the best available units.
If you can spend a little more and plan to keep the computer for a few years, I’d advise you to get a configuration with at least 8 GB of RAM and preferably SSD storage. You can find those on Intel i3/i5 platforms, or you can consider some of the existing AMD APU Ryzen 3 and 5 options. These are actually a little faster with daily multitasking and can handle simpler or older games better than the existing Intel variants in this class, but with a toll on battery life, as they’re not as efficient.
You’ll find these models at around $500 in devices like the Asus VivoBook F505, Acer Aspire 3, Dell Inspiron 15 5000 and the Lenovo IdeaPad 330 lines, and some of them come with 8 GB of RAM and SSD storage. Follow this link for more info.
However, the majority of the options mentioned above get rather bulky plastic builds, TN screens and fairly small batteries, as mentioned earlier, but you will find smaller devices with backlit keyboards, IPS screens and better specs as you get closer to the $600 mark.
Specs wise, you can either go with one of the better AMD Ryzen 5 builds, or with some of the Intel Core i5 models without or with Nvidia MX150 dedicated graphics, if you’re interested in games. You’ll find such configurations on the 15-inch Acer Aspire 5, the Asus VivoBook Slim S15, HP Pavilion 15, Lenovo Ideapad 330s or the Dell Inspiron 15 5000, as well as in some versions of the 14-inch Acer Swift 3 SF314-52.
You’ll also find a few affordable 2-in-1 laptops with touchscreens at around the $600 mark, like the 14-inch Lenovo Flex, Acer Spin 3 or Asus VivoBook Flip. Follow this link for more details on the existing affordable hybrids.
Cheap ultraportable options (10 to 13 inchers) under $600
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 12 inch and smaller models.
We’ll mention these first, before getting to the Windows options, as there are many great 11 to 13-inch Chromebooks in the $150 to $400 price range in shops, and if they fit your requirements, you’re not going to find similar value in other modern notebooks.
Just make sure, and I cannot stress this enough, you understand what a Chromebook can and cannot do. This article explains that in depth, and this list analyses the best Chromebooks available at the time of this update.
Ultra-compact traditional laptops with Windows
The market offers a handful of Window running mini laptops that sell in the $150 to $300 price range at the time of this update. You can consider those as travel companions, notebooks for kids or inexpensive secondary computers that can deal with basic activities such as browsing, music, email and video content, but there’s always the argument whether a Chromebook is a better computer for such use cases. On one hand these do run Windows, so they are more capable than Chromebooks, but at the same time they’re not as snappy or as easy to use, so the average user will probably find better value in the Chromebooks mentioned above.
The performance is a limitation with these mini laptops, as they are built on low-power Intel platforms, with 2-4 GB of RAM and 32 to 64 GB of e MMC storage, thus can only handle basic tasks. They also get rather cramped keyboards (due to their small size), poor TN screens and various quality control issues that you might run into. That means you can get a unit that works as expected, or you can get defective ones or versions that stop working after a while, so it’s imperative to buy these from reputable stores that allow returns and offer solid post-sale services.
Some of the devices worth mentioning in this class are the Asus VivoBook X series (review here, more details here), the updated and better specked Asus VivoBook E series, the colorful HP Stream 11, or the more sober 11-inch Lenovo laptops.
Compact 2-in-1s and tablets
If you’re willing to spend a little more, somewhere between $250 and $500, you can get a few different compact 2-in-1s with touchscreens and convertible or detachable form factors. These are also built on low-power Intel platforms and can only handle basic daily activities, but are usually better built and pack touchscreens with IPS panels. Among these, the most popular series and models in this segment are:
- the Asus Transformer Pad and Mini series – 2-in-1 detachable with a 10-inch IPS touchscreen, Intel Atom hardware and matching keyboard docks or folios. The basic Transformer Pad T100HA starts at around $200 (we reviewed it here), while the updated Transformer Mini T101HA sells for around $300 and the redesigned Mini T102HA for around $400 (we reviewed it here).
- Microsoft Surface Go – a newer 10-inch tablet with a high-resolution 3:2 IPS screen and pen support, as well as updated hardware. It’s nicely built and fairly capable for its size, but it’s also a lot more expensive than the competition, as it starts at $399 and you’ll have to shove extra for the keyboard folio and the pen. Follow this link for more details.
- the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 – a 2-in-1 convertible line with an 11-inch screen that rotates to 360 degrees. The latest Inspiron 11 3000 sells for between $200 and $450 based on configuration (more details via this link), is available in a few different colors and offers Intel Celeron, Pentium or Core m3 hardware, with up to 4 GB of RAM, a 2.5″ bay for storage and a 32 Wh battery. The screen can be a deal-breaker though, as it only gets a TN panel.
- the Acer Spin 11 – review – a compact 11-inch convertible built on Intel Apollo lake hardware. It gets a FHD IPS screen with pen support, a competitive price and a 36 Wh battery, all tucked inside a sturdy metallic build;
- the Lenovo Flex 11 – Lenovo’s alternative to the Spin 11, with similar hardware and a more affordable price, but with a HD touchscreen, plastic build and smaller battery.
If you’re able to extend your budget closer to the $600 mark, you should also check out the HP Spectre 12 X2 (review – 12-inch tablet with Core M hardware, great screen and solid construction) and you might even find a 13-inch Dell Inspiron 13 7000 convertible if you search well enough (review of the previous generation).
Best-value laptops under $1000
There are many ultrabooks selling for between 600 and 1000 bucks these days, and we’re going to mention the better ones in this section. When choosing the right device for your needs, you can either look for a powerful laptop with solid specs, or look for an ultraportable with mid-tier specs, but a slimmer and nicer quality build. We’ll cover both cases below.
All day multimedia laptops under $1000
In this section you’ll find either refined mid-range laptops built on Core U hardware, or better specked versions of the lines mentioned in the sub-$600 category, with extra RAM, more storage and faster CPUs.
Our recommendations include primarily devices in the former subcategory, as all-day multimedia laptops with compact and nicely crafted builds, IPS screens, backlit keyboards, as well as good hardware specs and no major flaws. Performance wise these can smoothly handle daily chores, but also more demanding applications if needed, as well as some light games. They are not primarily gaming machines though, but rather a well balanced mix of performance, portability and features.
Here are some of the models I’d have on my radar, listed alphabetically:
- Acer Swift 3 14-inch and 15-inch – 14/15 inch all-rounders with metallic builds, Core U hardware, optional Nvidia MX150 graphics, IPS matte screens with small bezels, fast keyboard, 48 Wh batteries, from 1.45 kg / 3.4 lbs, competitively priced;
- Asus VivoBook S15 S530 – compact and slim 15-inch all-rounder with colorful designs, but mostly plastic build, Core U hardware, optional Nvidia MX150 graphics, IPS matte screen, just a 42 Wh battery, from 1.75 kg / 3.85 lbs, competitively priced;
- Dell Inspiron 15 7000 – compact and slim, metallic build, but heavier than the other options, Core U hardware, optional Nvidia MX150 graphics, IPS matte screen, just a 42 Wh battery, from 2 kg / 4.4 lbs, rather pricey in most regions;
- HP Envy 17 – one of the very few good mid-range 17-inchers, Core U hardware and Nvidia MX150 graphics, IPS glossy screen, 56 Wh battery, from 3 kg / 6.7 lbs, fair priced;
- Lenovo IdeaPad 530s – compact and slim 15-inch all-rounder, metallic build, Core U hardware, optional Nvidia MX150 graphics, IPS matte screen, 45 Wh battery, from 1.7 kg / 3.75 lbs, competitively priced;
You’ll find a few more suggestions in this list of recommended 14 and 15-inch laptops, as well as in this list of notebooks with Nvidia MX150 graphics.
Those of you interested in sub $1000 allrounders with a convertible touchscreen should also consider devices like the Acer Spin 5, Lenovo Yoga 730 or some of the other options mentioned in this dedicated article.
Gaming options under $1000
If you’re interested in a budget gaming laptop, your options are to either go for one of the full-size devices with powerful specs you can get for under $1000 these days, or put performance on a secondary plan and go for one of the very few sub-$1000 ultraportable laptops.
In the former case you’ll end up with 14 and 15-inch laptops built on Core H hardware and Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti and even GTX 1060 graphics, while in the latter you’ll mostly have to settle for Core U laptops with GTX 1050 graphics, but in smaller and nicer built packages. It’s up to you, and both sub-sections are covered in-depth in this dedicated article.
Mid-tier Ultraportables under $1000
If you’re after a premium thin-and-light ultrabook, $1000 can buy you base-level versions of the ultra-compact Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Laptop, the convertible HP Spectre X360 or the ultra-lights LG Gram 14 and Asus Zenbook UX391 series, to name just some of the top options. Those should be good enough for most users, as long as you can get a Core i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM and preferably at least 256 GB of storage.
On the other hand, if you’d rather get better specs for your money or you’d rather spend less, there are a many other great options you could consider instead.
- Asus Zenbook UX333 (13-inch) and 433(14-inch) – from $899 – light and compact options with narrow bezels, matte or touch screens, Core U hardware and optional MX150 graphics, 50 Wh batteries, from 1.1 kg (2.4 lbs);
- Asus Zenbook UX331 – from $999 – 13-inch ultralight and slim model, matte IPS screen, Core U hardware and MX150 Max-Q, 50 Wh battery, 1.15 kg (2.5 lbs) ;
- Acer Swift 3 SF314-55 – from $799 – 14-inch model, slightly heavier than others, but sturdily built, matte ISP screen, Core U hardware and MX150 Max-Q, 48 Wh battery, 1.35 kg (3 lbs);
- Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 – from $949 – 13-inch convertible with 360-degrees IPS touchscreen, compact metallic build, Core U hardware, 38 Wh battery, 1.4 kg (3.1 lbs);
- HP Envy 13 – from $799 – 13-inch light and compact model, matte or touch IPS screen, Core U hardware and optional MX150 Max-Q, 53 Wh battery, 1.25 kg (2.8 lbs) ;
- Lenovo IdeaPad 720s – from $899 for a top-specked version – 14-inch model, well built and compact, but a bit heavier than the other options, Core U hardware and MX150, 55 Wh battery, 1.45 kg (3.5 lbs) ;
- Lenovo ThinkPad T480 – from $849, but the base versions are poorly specked – 14-inch business laptop, highly configurable, solid build quality and great keyboard, Core U hardware and optional MX150, from 48 Wh battery, from 1.6 kg (3.6 lbs);
- Microsoft Surface Pro – from $899 for base model without keyboard – 12.3-inch tablet with high-resolution 3:2 touchscreen, Core U hardware, 38 Wh battery, from 1.75 lbs (.8 kg) without keyboard;
All in all, there are a lot of great laptops available for under $1000 these days and quite a few good ones selling for between $300 and $600. You’ll still have to make some sacrifices if you go into the lower tiers, that’s true, but you can find something good-enough no matter what your budget is, as long as you have correct expectations.
We’ve mentioned some of our favorite recommendations above, but there are also others you might want to consider in certain regions, so if you need any help picking the best option for your needs and budget, don’t hesitate to get in touch in the comments section below, or check out some of the 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).
Keep in mind that I’m constantly updating this list of budget laptops under $1000, adding new models as they are launched and retiring the older versions as they become obsolete. We’re a small site though and there might be some delays, so if spot any units that should be in here and are not, just let us know in the comments section.