A laptop with an Ultra HD display, blazing fast Intel Core i7 processor, and 12 hours of battery life isn’t exactly an impulse buy—it can easily set you back $1,000 or more, and that’s before you consider upgrades to RAM, storage, or graphics capabilities.
Nevertheless, there are many cheap laptops with decent features. Many manufacturers offer devices that cater to consumers looking for a balance among style, performance, and price. There are inexpensive laptops with 1080p displays, detachable notebooks with great battery life, and business-oriented laptops chock full of ports.
The bottom line: You can snag a laptop that’ll handle light web browsing or a Netflix binge session for less than $600. Here are some of our top picks for cheap laptops.
Asus VivoBook E200HA-US01
Who It's For: Bloggers, Casual Web Users
The very inexpensive Asus Vivobook E200HA-US01 can handle light web browsing or word processing, and it's a good option for a writer or just folks who want to keep up on news and social media. The 11.6-inch display and its just-okay 1366 x 768 resolution make the tiny laptop great for a smaller backpack, though not so great for cinephiles (or for people with large hands, who migh find the keyboard cramped). Inside is an older Intel Atom processor and only 32GB of storage, slim pickings for anyone not using cloud storage services or streaming media.
But the Asus also has a lot to like. It runs Windows 10 Home and packs in a USB 3.0 port for fast file transfers and an HDMI port for connecting to televisions or external monitors. The VivoBook E200HA's long battery life (more than 14 hours) will get you through a heavy workday, and at 2.1 pounds you can carry this laptop easily. And, did we mention that it costs only around 200 bucks?
Acer Aspire E5-574-53QS
Who It's For: The No-Frills Business Worker
A respectable no-frills business laptop, the Acer Aspire E5-574-53QS has enough features to satisfy someone with a low budget and modest display and multitasking needs. The 4.9-pound machine has a 1TB hard drive, but only 4GB of RAM, which might make heavy web browsing a bit slower than if you were using a computer equipped with more memory. Inside is an Intel Core i5 processor that can handle a decent workload and won't be a bottleneck on your productivity. As far as gaming goes, the more casual, the better.
The 15.6-inch display has a 1366 x 768 resolution, and so movies won’t have the crispness they would on a 1080p screen. Of course, you can always connect the Aspire E5 to an external monitor or TV with the Aspire E5’s HDMI and VGA ports. It has a full-size keyboard that features a numeric keypad, a convenience for number crunchers.
Who It's For: The Media Streamer
The Asus T300CHI-RHM5T06 detachable laptop runs Windows 10 and starts at $475, making it a stylish and cheap laptop that can handle most of a media junkie’s streaming whims, though its small screen and dearth of traditional ports means it can’t hold its own in a business environment. The T300CHI’s display—12.5 inches, 1080p resolution, and an antireflective coating—is a decent choice for media consumption and working in brightly lit spaces, but isn’t the greatest at producing accurate colors. With a battery life of nearly 10 hours it can accompany you on a flight from coast to coast, letting you watch movies or browse the web the whole way.
For a 12.5-inch device, the Asus's 3.2-pound weight isn’t bad. The computer has a 128GB solid-state drive and 4GB of RAM, so if you like to browse with a bunch of tabs you might find things to be a bit sluggish. The Asus has a micro HDMI port, and supports WiDi for streaming your display to a compatible television. There are no full-size USB ports; instead you’ll find a micro USB 3.0 port that comes with an adapter, transforming the one port into two full size USB ports. Full-size SD cards are also unsupported, but MicroSD cards are just fine. You can charge devices while the laptop’s in sleep mode through its USB port, a feature useful in a pinch.
Lenovo Ideapad 300S
Who It's For: The Utilitarian
A well-rounded laptop that can handle a variety of tasks with ease, the Lenovo Ideapad 300S has some welcome features (such as an Ethernet port for networking) that heighten its functionality. Its 1080p screen grants you the high-resolution display you’ll want for movies, but the Ideapad’s 14-inch screen has an unfortunate problem with glare.
The Ideapad's 8GB of RAM and Intel Core i5 processor mean this Windows 10 laptop is no slouch when it comes to multitasking, and its 9.75-hour battery life means you can browse the web, watch movies, or do some light gaming for a long workday. There's nothing particularly special about the keyboard, though it has enough room for you to feel like you’re not cramming your hands together.
Ports on the Ideapad 300S include two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, an Ethernet port for wired connectivity, and an HDMI port for connecting to a television or external monitor. It also has a built-in card reader. You can charge devices while the laptop is closed thanks to its USB sleep and charge feature. It's 3.6 pounds, svelte for a 14-inch laptop.
HP Spectre x2 - 12-a001dx
Who It's For: The Jetsetting Media Streamer
Streaming junkies looking for a high-resolution notebook will find the HP Spectre x2 fits the bill. The 12-inch display with 1920 x 1280 resolution is great for both web browsing and movie viewing. Inside, the 128GB solid-state drive can probably hold all the data you'll need, but if you’re a streaming fan, storage probably isn't a high priority. The efficient-but-modest Intel Core m3 processor paired with a scant 4GB of RAM mean the Spectre x2 won't be playing even midrange games or handling multiple tasks such as video streaming and web browsing simultaneously. It comes equipped with 2 USB-C ports and a card reader.
The Spectre x2's keyboard cover is backlit and has a full-size touchpad similar to Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets. The 2.7-pound machine packs an impressive 11 hours of battery life—put the weight and battery specs together, and you have a good machine for computer users on the road. Forward- and rear-facing cameras make Skype calls easy, and the adjustable kickstand will help you hit the perfect viewing angle. The Spectre x2 even has built-in LTE functionality (requiring a Verizon data plan).
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