People like gamers and video producers might need high-powered laptops that cost upwards of $1,000, but most of us don't. Shop for a budget laptop, and for under $700 you'll find lots of choices that can easily handle your email, watch videos, and work with text documents and spreadsheets. The laptops we've selected here include very inexpensive machines that are fine for most tasks, as well as more upscale laptops that add a lot more power, and even some style, to the mix.
Asus Transformer Book TP200SADH04T
The Streaming Notebook
An inexpensive Windows machine, the $350 Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA cuts a few corners but boasts an impressive battery life and a good display.
The Transformer Book is a budget laptop powered by an Intel Celeron processor, has 4GB of RAM, and a small-ish 64GB solid state drive. You probably won’t be storing any big files on here, nor will you be playing many games, and if you run multiple applications the computer may stutter. But, then again, this is a true budget laptop.
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On the positive side of the ledger, the Transformer does have all the power you need for web browsing, and you can take advantage of Microsoft’s touch-friendly interface thanks to its 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 touchscreen. The display is very good in terms of color accuracy, and its wide viewing angle is great for friends gathering around a screen. And in our testing, the battery life was around 13 hours, more than enough for a full day on the go.
Dell Chromebook 11
The Web-Based Alternative
Don't want to spend a lot of dough on a laptop? Just need to get online? The $250 Dell Chromebook 11 is designed for just that, getting on the web. It’s powered by Chrome, so you’ll need a Google account to take full advantage of its integration with the company’s apps.
The Chromebook 11 has an Intel Celeron processor inside, and 2GB of RAM. During normal use, the Chromebook 11 is pretty snappy, but web browsing will hit a slowdown if you open too many tabs.
With this machine, you can browse those tabs all day thanks to a 14-hour battery life. The Dell's 11-inch, 1366 x 768 display is decent, but nothing spectacular. And this is a lightweight option, weighing only 2.8 pounds.
HP Spectre x2 - 12-a001dx
The Surface Alternative
A detachable Windows 10 laptop, the $600 HP Spectre x2 is small and light enough to take anywhere, and its battery will carry you through a whole day without a problem. Inside the 12-inch Spectre x2 is a decently big 128GB solid state drive, and an Intel Core m3 processor that can easily power web browsing and most applications, though you may want to hold off on processor-intensive activities such as gaming. The 1920 x 1280 touchscreen display is prone to glare, but indoors it’s just fine for watching HD-quality videos.
In the lab, we found the laptop's detachable full-size keyboard and touchpad easy to use, and in dim conditions we appreciated the fact that they were backlit. In addition to WiFi, the Spectre x2 has 4G/LTE SIM card, which allows you to get online with cellular service—once you arrange a data plan from Verizon.
Lenovo Flex 4
Media Junkie's Pick
If performance is what you care about, and you’re ready to nudge up against our $700 price ceiling, the Lenovo Flex 4 convertible laptop is an excellent choice. It has a mid-range Intel Core i5 processor, suitable for most applications, including photo editing. Inside the 1080p, 14-inch laptop is a roomy 1TB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, and a battery that can keep going for over 11 hours.
Its HD touchscreen display is decent enough, though it doesn’t handle bright sunlight well due to glare. Thanks to its convertible feature, you can flip the screen around and use the Flex 4 as a Windows 10 tablet. It has a full-size, backlit keyboard, too. At 4 pounds, this is not a particularly lightweight machine, so tote with caution.
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