The Best Budget Laptops for 2021

Gone are the days when a decent laptopIt’s now possible to purchase a full-size or ultraportable laptop computer. would set you back more than $1,000. Windows 10For $300 to $500, you can get a notebook with a processor powerful enough for use at home, school, or work. For less than that, you can find full-featured Chromebooks and hybrid systems that combine laptop and tablet functionality in one device.

Understanding those trade-offs and matching the strengths and weaknesses of a budget laptop to what you’ll be doing with it is the key to making a happy purchase. However, you must be willing to make concessions in one or more areas. Similarly, you could get a well-made ultraportable for a low price by using a modest CPU and a small storage drive. While a powerful laptop with a 15-inch screen is certainly possible, you may have to make do with a flimsy keyboard and touchpad. Here’s some assistance.

Components and Connectivity: What to Know

Intel’s Celeron and Pentium processors (which power the majority of laptops under $400) have progressed to the point where they can handle most web browsing and basic productivity tasks without feeling sluggish. However, systems based on the much faster Core i3, Core i5, Ryzen 3, and Ryzen 5 processor families dominate the $400-to-$700 Windows laptop market. Choose these. The good news is that with today’s budget laptops, you’ll have to make fewer compromises than in the past. (This is especially true with Chromebooks, which we’ll discuss later.) CPU if you require more than the fundamentals

However, AAA games’ higher demands still necessitate a discrete GPU, which you won’t find in this price range. In browser-based games and even some online games like World of Warcraft, the latest integrated graphics solutions can compete. All of these CPUs also house the graphics-processing silicon for the laptop. (If money isn’t an issue, take a look at our best-selling titles.)gaming laptops and ultraportables, as well as our favorite cheap gaming laptops.)

In terms of battery capacity, a budget laptop should have at least six cells. A cheap laptop’s battery life should be at least seven or eight hours, and many of them will last much longer these days. (A lower-resolution screen, which is a feature of some of these machines, can consume less power than a higher-resolution screen, so it can be seen as a benefit.) Many low-cost Windows laptops used to come with only 2GB or 4GB of main system memory, but nowadays, at least in the Windows world, the majority come with 8GB. (A 4GB RAM count is still more common in Chromebooks and Windows laptops under $300.)

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

If you can get by with a small SSD’s capacity, we strongly recommend it over a larger platter-based hard drive because of its durability. When it comes to storage, some low-cost systems still use spinning hard drives with capacities of up to 500GB, but low-cost Windows machines are increasingly opting for small-capacity solid-state drives (SSDs) with capacities of 128GB or 256GB.

Also keep in mind that some of these low-cost computers, including many Chromebooks, use “eMMC memory” as their primary storage. Of course, you’ll need to be online to use it, as with anything cloud-based. Other budget systems, such as Chromebooks and some under-$400 Windows laptops, will only have a small amount of local storage (32GB or 64GB), but will compensate with generous free cloud storage offers. This isn’t the same as the flash memory in a true solid-state drive (SSD), so it’ll feel a little slow if you’re used to one.

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

(The newer 802.11ax, also known as Wi-Fi 6, hasn’t made its way down to the budget end of the market yet, though you’ll see it in a few models.) A Wi-Fi radio that supports the fast 802.11ac protocol is now standard. In terms of features, budget laptops will almost always include at least one USB 3.0 port, as well as one or two USB 2.0 ports. There’s also a chance you’ll get an SD card slot.

An HDMI output and a USB-C port are definite pluses that can be found on even the most basic models. ( ) Check out our top picks for However, don’t expect a touch-screen display all of the time. the best touch-screen laptops.) Any 2-in-1 convertible machine, on the other hand, will have a touch screen by default, as it is required for using the machine as a tablet or in other orientations where the keyboard is hidden.

Chromebooks: The Crème de la Cheap?

ChromebooksPreviously, Chromebooks were nothing more than glorified netbooks running Google’s Chrome OS. If you spend the majority of your working hours in the cloud, a Chromebook will provide you with much of the functionality of a regular Windows 10 or macOS laptop, and depending on the model, it may even provide longer battery life. While these Chrome OS-based laptops remain resolutely web-centric, their feature sets have expanded.

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

Chromebooks are also likely to be less expensive than other types of notebooks, with many costing less than $300. Because Chromebooks have limited offline functionality and limited local storage, make sure you have easy access to stable Wi-Fi wherever you’ll use one.

A Pentium or Celeron processor is sufficient for a low-cost Chromebook with light usage. Intel Core processors are typically found in Chromebooks that are more expensive.

The Best Low-Cost Tablets and Hybrids: Budget-Friendly 2-in-1s

Tablets became increasingly popular in the 2010s, and while we have plenty of reviews of them—take a look at our overall roundup of the best tablets—best tablets, as well as our favorites running the Windows 10 and AndroidAlthough some come with detachable keyboards, most are far less comfortable to type on than a traditional laptop. They don’t always make good substitutes for traditional clamshell-style laptops because their operating systems are sufficiently different.

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

By folding the keyboard out of the way, these machines can convert from a laptop to a tablet. If you primarily need the typing capabilities of a laptop but occasionally want the lie-back, passive-consumption convenience of a tablet, you should consider one of these convertible systems. Convertible 2-in-1s, on the other hand, are a good alternative to traditional clamshells.

(Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

See our guide to the best 2-in-1 convertible and hybrid laptopsBoth permanently attached (generally 360-degree rotating hinge) and detachable-keyboard designs are available. There aren’t as many affordable models as there are traditional clamshell designs, partly due to their added complexity, but there are a few Windows 10 and Chrome OS-based models that cost $500 or less. for more information on this well-liked market segment.

When looking at one of the detachables, make sure you know what’s included in the box. In some cases, such as with Microsoft’s nifty software,Surface Go 2, you’ll have to purchase the keyboard base separately, and the total price may not be as low as it appears.

So, Which Budget Laptop Should I Buy?

You will undoubtedly be able to find PCs that will provide you with sufficient performance to complete your daily tasks without difficulty. The best ones are listed below, and we keep this guide up to date so you can always see our top picks for high-performance, low-cost laptops. Don’t despair if you’re on a tight budget.

Take a look at our roundups of the best budget picks for a more in-depth look at our budget laptops for college students, the best laptops for kids, and the best Chromebooks.

Take a look at our buying guide with more general factors to consider when choosing a laptop, on the other hand.our top laptop picks overall.