While premium laptops have gotten more expensive over time, cheap and budget options have improved significantly in quality. You can easily find some great devices that provide a satisfying user experience, from dirt cheap under $300 Chromebooks to budget gaming laptops with a dedicated GPU costing up to $1,200. The list is short for now but will grow as we review more laptops.
We've tested more than 70 laptops, and below, you'll find our recommendations for the best cheap and budget laptops you can get. You can also check out our recommendations for the best laptops under $300, the best laptops under $400, and the best budget and cheap gaming laptops.
The best budget laptop we've tested is the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020). This 15.6-inch model is portable and feels very well-built despite its wallet-friendly price. Its 1080p display looks decently sharp and provides plenty of space for multitasking, and since it's a 2-in-1, you can flip the screen around and use it as a tablet. It doesn't get very bright, though, so it isn't ideal for use in well-lit rooms or outdoors in broad daylight. The keyboard feels great to type on for extended periods, and while the touchpad is a bit small, it tracks all movements and gestures well.
You can get it with an Intel Pentium Gold or a Core i3 CPU; both are powerful enough to provide a smooth experience on Chrome OS. The downside is that you can only get up to 4GB of RAM, which means you'll likely experience slowdowns if you have many applications or browser tabs open simultaneously. The battery lasts around 12 hours of light use and charges over USB-C. Speaking of ports, you get one USB-A, two USB-Cs, an SD card reader, and a headphone jack. Both USB-Cs support video output but not Thunderbolt.
If you need or prefer Windows and don't mind paying more, the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) is a good alternative. At 14 inches, it's more portable than the Lenovo but doesn't give you as much screen real estate for multitasking. It has longer battery life, though, and its port selection is also better as its USB-C supports Thunderbolt 4. The main tradeoff is the webcam; the image looks extremely underexposed, and the microphone sounds staticky. You can get this laptop with an Intel 11th Gen. Core i5 or i7 CPU and up to 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage.
If you mainly want to use your device for media consumption, go with the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021), a 2-in-1 Chrome OS tablet with a kickstand and detachable keyboard. It's compact and lightweight, and its battery lasts nearly eight hours of video playback. It sports a gorgeous 13.3-inch OLED display that produces saturated colors and deep, inky blacks with no uniformity issues like backlight bleed or clouding. Above its stunning display sits a surprisingly great webcam for video calls, and there's also a camera on the back if you need to take a photo.
As for the quality of the speakers, they're only passable. They sound unnatural and don't get very loud, so you're better off with a pair of headphones. If you want to get some work done, know that the keyboard feels cramped, and the touchpad isn't very responsive, so it's okay for a couple of short emails but not ideal for typing a long paper. Nonetheless, this is a great option if you want good picture quality at an affordable price.
Our best budget gaming laptop pick is the Lenovo Legion 5 Gen 6 15 (2021). This 15.6-inch laptop has a sturdy build, a spacious full-size keyboard, and a wide port selection, including an HDMI 2.1 port. You can configure it with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H or Ryzen 7 5800H CPU, both powerful enough to provide smooth gameplay, and there are multiple GPU options, ranging from an entry-level NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 to a high-end RTX 3070. We recommend getting either the 1080p 165Hz or the 1440p 165Hz display, as they have the fastest response time and support variable refresh rate to reduce screen tearing.
Build-wise, this laptop has a sturdy chassis with a finish that doesn't scratch or smudge easily. It's a little bulky and heavy, so it isn't the best option for on-the-go use, and you'll also have to carry the charger because the battery lasts only around an hour when gaming. The keyboard feels great to type on, and there are plenty of ports, including four USB-As, two USB-Cs, an HDMI 2.1, and an Ethernet port. It doesn't support Thunderbolt 4, though, since this is an AMD system. The webcam is pretty decent if you want to stream; it's only 720p, but it captures a fair amount of detail, and the microphone sounds loud and clear.
If you need something cheap to get the job done or are shopping for a grade school student, the Acer Chromebook 315 (2020) is the best cheap laptop we've tested. It's portable despite being a 15-inch laptop, and its battery lasts easily through a full day of light use with plenty to spare. You get a full-size keyboard with a Numpad on the right side, a reasonably large touchpad, and a good port selection that includes two USB-As, two USB-Cs, and an SD card reader. The USB-C ports support charging and video output.
Naturally, as this is a budget-friendly model, there are a few downsides to know about. First, the screen only gets bright enough for indoor use, and even then, you might have some visibility issues in well-lit rooms. Second, the available CPUs (Intel Celerons) can only handle light workloads, so this might not be the best option if you're a heavy multitasker. Lastly, you can only get 128GB of storage, although that isn't a big issue if you use cloud storage, and you can also expand your storage space with an SD card.
We recommend the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (2021) if you're looking for a cheap gaming laptop. It's a 15.6-inch laptop with either an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H or Ryzen 7 5800H CPU, and you have multiple GPU options, from an entry-level GTX 1650 to a mid-range RTX 3060 with ray-tracing and DLSS support. The memory and storage drive are user-upgradeable, meaning you can get less to start and upgrade it yourself later on. You can allocate more of your budget toward a better GPU and display.
Speaking of the display, you can choose between a 60Hz, 120Hz, or 165Hz panel. We recommend the 120Hz or the 165Hz option, as they'll provide a smoother and more responsive gaming experience with less screen tearing. The keyboard feels great to type on, and there's a pretty good webcam if you want to stream. You'll need to carry the power adapter if you want to game on the go, as the battery lasts less than an hour when gaming. Also, it gets hot and loud under load. There's an Intel version if you prefer to go with team blue, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3i (2021), but it doesn't have as many GPU options.
May 11, 2023: Minor text changes. Added the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021) and the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 (2022) as Notable Mentions. No change in recommendations.
Apr 12, 2023: Verified accuracy of picks. Added the HP Victus 15 (2022) as a Notable Mention. No change in recommendations.
Mar 16, 2023: Minor text changes. Added the ASUS TUF Dash F15 (2022) as a Notable Mention. No change in recommendations.
Feb 16, 2023: Replaced the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021) with the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020) as the 'Best Budget' pick for consistency. Added the Acer Chromebook 315 (2020) as the 'Best Cheap' pick.
Jan 19, 2023: Minor text changes to improve clarity. Added the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2020) and the Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021) as Notable Mentions. No change in recommendations.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cheap and budget laptops you can get. We factor in the price (a cheaper laptop wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no laptops that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you prefer to make your own decision, here’s the list of all of our laptop reviews, sorted by price from low to high. Keep in mind that most laptops are available in various configurations, and the table only shows the results of the model we tested, so it’s best to see the full review for information about other variants.