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 over 85 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 Acer Swift 3 14 (2020), a 14-inch Windows ultraportable. Acer's Swift laptops aren't exactly budget models, but because this one was released in 2020, the price has decreased considerably, so you're getting a lot for your money. It has a sturdy build, a thin and light design, and all-day battery life. The display looks sharp and gets reasonably bright; it's fine for most indoor use but not outdoors in broad daylight. Ports include two USB-As, one USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, a full-size HDMI, and a headphone jack.
Spec-wise, this laptop is available with an Intel 11th Gen CPU. These processors are two generations behind Intel's current offerings, but they're still more than adequate for general productivity tasks like text processing, web browsing, and video playback. The keyboard deck has a fingerprint sensor, so you can log in quickly and get straight to work. Our only major issue is that the webcam's video quality is bad; the image looks underexposed, and the microphone sounds staticky.
Another option to consider is the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021). It's also a Windows ultraportable but with a slightly larger 15.6-inch display. It has a better webcam and a Numpad; however, it doesn't support Thunderbolt 4, and the display looks a tad washed out. Its AMD Ryzen CPU performs well, and while its battery life isn't as good as the Acer's, it still lasts long enough to get you through a typical workday.
If you like the 2-in-1 tablet form factor, get the Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021). At 10.5 inches, this tablet PC is incredibly compact, making it easy to carry. It has a sharp IPS display with stylus support, an excellent 1080p webcam that puts pricier laptops to shame, and a Windows Hello facial recognition camera for quick logins. You can use it without the keyboard attached to save space and pop it back on when you need to type something out. The keyboard is surprisingly comfortable to type on; the downside is that you have to buy it separately, and the same goes for the stylus.
You can get this tablet with an Intel Pentium Gold or Core i3 CPU. Both are fine for simple tasks like web browsing, emails, and video playback, but don't expect to do anything remotely intensive. We recommend getting a model with 8GB of memory, as you'll get a much smoother experience with fewer slowdowns when multitasking. The battery lasts about seven hours of light use, which isn't great but not bad for such a small device. Unfortunately, the port situation is grim; you only get one USB-C, a proprietary charging port, and a headphone jack.
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021) is a better option if you only need a device for media consumption. It sports a gorgeous OLED display with full DCI P3 coverage, and its battery lasts nearly eight hours of video playback. It's a little bigger at 13 inches but still compact and lightweight. The keyboard isn't nearly as good, and Chrome OS is more limited in the type of applications you can install, so you need to ensure you can do everything through a Chrome browser or Android app.
The Lenovo Legion 5 Gen 6 15 (2021) is our best budget gaming laptop pick. 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 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 many 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. As for the thermals and fan noise, the keyboard only gets mildly warm under load, but the fans are pretty loud.
The best cheap laptop we've tested is the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020). This 15.6-inch model is portable and feels very well-built. 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, 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 small, it tracks all movements and gestures well.
For the CPU configuration, you have two options: an Intel Pentium Gold or a Core i3. Both are getting old but are still powerful enough to provide a smooth Chrome OS experience. 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. Ports include 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 want to spend as little as possible, get the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (2021). Though entirely plastic, this 15.6-inch model feels surprisingly sturdy for its price range. For less than $800 USD, you can get a model with an FHD 120Hz display, an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. This configuration is powerful enough to provide a relatively solid 60 fps in demanding titles at 1080p, albeit with medium to low settings.
Of course, 8GB of RAM isn't ideal for gaming. You can upgrade it yourself (if you can get a RAM stick at a low price) or get this 16GB model at a slightly higher price. The SSD is user-replaceable, too, if you want more storage space. The response time is on the slow side, but it supports VRR to reduce screen tearing. If you play online games, there's Wi-Fi 6 wireless connectivity and an Ethernet port to get the best internet connection possible.
The most notable difference between this laptop and the Lenovo Legion 5 Gen 6 15 (2021) we recommend above is the lack of a MUX switch. Due to the absence of this feature, it won't perform as well as the Legion 5 even if it has the same configuration, as all the information processed by the discrete GPU needs to go through the integrated GPU, resulting in a performance loss. It won't affect every game, but the performance loss can be as high as 25% in the games where it matters.
Aug 08, 2023: Replaced the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020) with the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) because Windows is more versatile and has more functionality and moved to Lenovo to the 'Best Cheap' category, replacing the Acer Chromebook 315 (2020). Renamed the 'Best Budget Multimedia Laptop' to 'Best Budget 2-In-1 Tablet' and replaced the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 with the Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021) because the Microsoft laptop is better overall. Replaced the HP Victus 15 (2022) with the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 (2021) because the models of the HP with a high-refresh display are more expensive.
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.