You can get a good laptop or a cheap laptop. That’s general wisdom, at least when it comes to something powerful enough to run Windows. At any budget under around $ 800, you’re looking for a minimal machine full of plastic parts and trash cans.
But the laptop market is changing. With competition from low-power Chromebooks and more flexible options thanks to AMD’s low-cost Ryzen chips, there is more to choose from in the lower price ranges than you might think.
What keeps a laptop from sucking?
Having said that, you cannot work miracles. We have selected the best options in several categories at the lowest price point for laptops that we would consider using for our work or play. While there were plenty of choices at lower price points, we have eliminated any models that received particularly poor ratings from users or professional reviewers, and made other distinctions based on less obvious differences.
We also started with a single minimum specification. While a low-power processor, low-res display, or plastic body aren’t necessarily the deciding factors, we believe trying to run Windows 10 on any machine with less than 8GB of RAM will be a big deal. bad time. Chromebooks Can Do With Less, Like The Wonderful And Extremely Affordable Lenovo Chromebook Duet, but Windows has a lot more to do under the hood.
You can find older models for less than the ones we picked, and a few currently produced at 4GB or (shudder) 2GB of memory. But we think these are the best Windows laptops on the market that don’t suck.
Best standard laptop: Acer Swift 3
If all you need is a regular laptop for browsing the web, reading emails, and maybe watching an occasional movie, the Acer’s Swift 3 is hard to beat. It’s available in AMD and Intel varieties, but the SF314-42-R6YC variant containing a Ryzen 4500U is the one we recommend for those on a budget. It uses a 14-inch Full HD IPS display, generous 256GB SSD storage, and surprising extras like an illuminated keyboard and an integrated fingerprint reader.
You won’t get a touchscreen in this price range, but the laptop comes with a full-size HDMI port for easy output to a monitor or TV, and USB-C charging with two USB A ports. standard.
The best affordable 2-in-1 laptop: HP Pavilion x360
It’s hard to find a cheap laptop with decent specs and a 2-in-1 flip-up touchscreen design. The best on the market is the Pavilion X360 from HP. We recommend the 14t-dw000 variant, which includes 128GB of SSD storage. It uses a 10th generation Intel Core i3 processor – a luxury in this category – although the 14-inch touchscreen is only “HD” at 1366 × 768.
The Pavilion X360 has a few high-end touches, like a metal cover, an integrated fingerprint reader, USB-C charging, and – a rarity on almost all laptops now – a full-size SD card reader. Although it is compatible with an active stylus, there is none in the box. Reviewers say the battery life isn’t great and the keyboard is nothing special, but the performance, fit, and finish are way above expectations in this price range.
The best affordable big screen laptop: Dell Inspiron 17 3793
If you don’t move your laptop often and prefer a big machine with a big screen, Dell has got you covered. The latest generation of the Inspiron 17 (Model 3793) offers much more convenience than a desktop computer while still being able to travel (although it doesn’t go out on any domestic airline flights). The base model on Dell’s website starts with a 10th Gen Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a massive (but slow) 1TB hard drive.
But the real draw here is that 17.3-inch 1080p display (non-touch in the entry model) and the variety of ports on its large body. You get a full-size SD card reader, three USB-A ports, HDMI output, and, surprisingly, a full Ethernet port and DVD drive. (Remember those?) The downside is that there aren’t any USB-C ports, and one of the USB-A ports uses the slower 2.0 standard. Also note that at over six pounds, this machine is more “transportable” than portable.
The best affordable ultraportable laptop: ASUS Zenbook 14
For those who want a svelte laptop that will turn a few heads in an airport door, the Asus Zenbook 14 will do the trick. This little aluminum alloy machine is more expensive than the others on this list with comparable hardware, but it weighs only 2.65 pounds and is only 0.7 inches thick. Bargain hunters should look for the Q407IQ version with an AMD Ryzen 5 processor – it’s considerably cheaper than the Intel version of this laptop.
The Zenbook 14 uses a discrete GeForce MX350 GPU for a little extra graphics power, which you’ll be thankful for on the 14-inch 1080p display with thin bezels. It has 256GB of SSD storage and a MicroSD card reader, with both HDMI and USB-C ports, but unfortunately it doesn’t charge from the latter. Surprisingly, this is the only laptop with a Windows Hello compatible infrared camera.
The best affordable gaming laptop: Acer Nitro 5
Trying to find an inexpensive laptop that can hold its own in 3D PC gaming is a Herculean task – the “budget” category for gaming laptops tends to start at four digits. But Acer’s Nitro 5 in its cheapest configuration is surprisingly affordable for a 15-inch machine with a 10th-gen Core i5 processor and a mid-range GTX 1650 graphics card. It won’t be enough to play the latest games in full quality, but with a few compromises you should be able to use the laptop’s 1080p screen at 60fps.
Other charms include a red backlit keyboard with a ten-key area, 512GB of SSD storage, and dedicated HDMI and USB-C ports. And since this thing is bigger and more generous in space than most laptops, you should be able to upgrade memory and storage with just basic tools, if you want a little more performance. late.