Update: The MacBook Air might be dead in the water, but the Acer Swift 3 beats out Apple’s cheapest laptop for half the cost. Better yet, it rivals one of Acer’s own premium Ultrabooks in terms of raw performance. Read on to find out more!
Everyone needs a laptop. Whether for school or work, a foldable clamshell of a computer is necessary to carry out tasks both on the go and sitting stationary at a desk. But not everyone needs the most powerful laptop – sometimes the cheap laptops will suffice. And of course, it’s and to recommend the best cheap laptops for you.
The best budget laptop has its priorities straight. It makes concessions only in the areas that casual PC users won’t notice. While it won’t run the newest games at the highest settings, you shouldn’t expect it to; the top cheap laptops only promise the bare essentials to get you by. They’re all under 500 bucks, too, so don’t expect any MacBooks.
Acer Swift 3
The bigger, better value proposition
CPU: Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
Powerful for the price
Stellar battery life
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Acer Swift 3 was influenced heavily by an Ultrabook double its starting price. From its silvery all-aluminum chassis all the way down to the spacious keyboard and trackpad, the Acer Swift 3 feels like the thinner and sleeker, but significantly less powerful, Acer Swift 7, which itself is a love letter to the now-defunct MacBook Air.
Acer Switch 3
Spiritual successor to the Surface 3
CPU: Intel Pentium Quad Core N4200 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 505 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.2-inch (1920 x 1200) IPS LCD | Storage: 64GB
Excellent build quality
Tricky hinged stand
No good for games
We may never get a low-power, budget-friendly, non-pro Surface 4, but Acer has delivered the closest thing. Appropriately titled the Switch 3 (no, you didn’t miss two Nintendo consoles in the last few months), this Windows tablet becomes a laptop when you strap it on to its included matte black keyboard. And the active digitizer makes it feel much more expensive than it is.
Asus Transformer Mini T102HA
Small, portable and flexible
CPU: Intel Atom x5-Z8350 | Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 10.1-inch HD (1,280 x 800) LED touch display | Storage: 64GB
Tablet and laptop in one
Sizable hard drive
Tiny size could be tough
The Asus Transformer Mini T102HA doesn’t have the horsepower to compete with the , but at least the keyboard cover isn’t sold separately. Here you’re paying for the full package in one transaction, including a dependable battery life, a fingerprint scanner for Windows 10 biometric logins and a magnesium-alloy design that’s built to last.
Samsung Chromebook Pro
First in a new generation of Chromebooks
CPU: 0.99Ghz Intel Core m3-6Y30 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, QHD (2,400 x 1,600) touchscreen | Storage: 32GB eMMC
Stunning, vivid screen
Stylus support on Chrome OS
With the Google Play Store now supported on every new Chromebook released, it only makes sense to craft a Chromebook with a 12.3-inch QHD touch display, with a 360-degree hinge and pen support to boot. The Samsung Chromebook Pro may have a keyboard that’s a bit too compact for comfort, but it more than makes up for it, even mastering pen input on the first try.
Lenovo Yoga Book (Windows 10)
The netbook of the future – the ultra netbook?
CPU: 1.44GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8550 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 10.1-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,200 resolution), IPS touchscreen | Storage: 64GB flash storage (plus 128GB with microSD)
Insanely thin and light
Keyboard surprisingly accurate
Dated microUSB port
If you thought the Android edition of the Yoga Book was impressive, imagine using Windows on a laptop sporting inputs that double as a Wacom digitizer. The Windows 10 version of the Lenovo Yoga Book is exactly that, and while its on-paper specs leave something to be desired, the purely touch-based keyboard is so revolutionary we can’t believe nobody has copied it yet.
Acer Chromebook 14
Meet the anti-MacBook Air
CPU: Intel Celeron N3160 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) display | Storage: 32GB SSD
Top-notch build quality
Solid keyboard and touchpad
Full HD display
Flaky HD video playback
With its slick lines and a slim silhouette, the Acer Chromebook 14 makes for a subtle, snazzy laptop. Although its display isn’t the most attractive we’ve seen, it’s rich and fine. And, while not amazing, the keyboard and trackpad serve just as well as most. Battery life satisfies as well, even if it falls a bit south of Acer’s 12-hour claim in real-world use.
HP Pavilion 15
The de facto learning laptop lives on
CPU: AMD dual-core A9 APU – Intel Core i7 | Graphics: AMD Radeon R5 – Nvidia GTX 1050 | RAM: 6GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080); touch optional | Storage: 512GB SSD – 1TB HDD
Thinner and lighter
Tons of options
Shallow, squishy keyboard
Heavy and ready to heft hours of school work, HP’s Pavilion 15 makes for a fine deal that bears the known moniker well. Frankly, this is a broke college kid’s laptop. With power that the average pupil needs but at a cost the average student may afford, should be considered before the primo PC aisle, leaving you strapped with a few more clams for more books (or fun).
Dell Inspiron 11 3000
Colorful can be cheap, too
CPU: Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB | Screen: 11.6-inch HD (1366 x 768) anti-glare LED-backlit display | Storage: 32GB eMMC
Lots of color choice
Barely HD screen
Going for under 200 bucks on a regular basis, this 11.6-inch laptop with an HD screen should serve you well as a budget companion device. With 32GB of storage, it’s twice as capacious as most Chromebooks, though the 2GB of slower RAM is something to watch out for. Available in several colors and complete with a microSD card slot, this is one versatile device.
Lenovo IdeaPad 110s
A simple and reliable laptop
CPU: Intel Celeron N3160 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 2GB | Screen: 11.6-inch HD (1366 x 768) anti-glare | Storage: 32GB
Full SD card slot
Barely HD screen
Lenovo has its very own 11.6-inch Windows 10 laptop with an HD screen, but does the Inspiron one better (for a bit more cash) with Pentium processors from Intel as well as a full SD card reader. Lenovo rounds out the package with up to 7 hours of battery life, matching or surpassing rivals in nearly every category. In the budget space, another few bucks can go a long way.
HP Stream 14
Big and colorful for cheap
CPU: Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch HD (1,366 x 768) SVA BrightView WLED-backlit | Storage: 32GB eMMC
Larger than most budget options
Free 25GB of Dropbox for 1 year
Barely HD screen
With a starting price of just above 200 large, the HP Stream 14 is a fine value for those seeking a strong if basic web browsing machine. It’s cheaper than even some Chromebooks while offering a bigger screen and the fullness of Windows 10. Other 15-inchers lack the ergonomics and aesthetics of HP’s cheapest Windows laptop yet.
Acer Aspire E5-575
Mighty impressive for the price
CPU: Intel Core i3-6100U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 4GB – 32GB | Screen: 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) display | Storage: 1TB hard drive
Intel Core processor
Still barely HD screen
Not super portable
Available in a variety of colors, this number from Acer brings things into practically a whole new class, with a 15.6-inch HD display powered by an Intel Core i3 processor. The metallic frame should make using this device feel more like a luxury without the sticker shock. Plus, with up to 12.5 hours of claimed battery life, this should last at least once forgetting to charge it.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article