A few years ago, finding a good laptop under $300 was near impossible. These days, you can easily find inexpensive hardware that can play videos and browse the web smoothly and efficiently. Most of the laptops on this list are Chromebooks because Chrome OS is a much lighter operating system than Windows and macOS, meaning it can run on lower-end hardware. While laptops in this price range can handle most everyday and basic tasks, you'll be hard-pressed to find the best gaming laptops under $300, as for gaming you need more powerful hardware than this price point allows for.
We've tested more than 60 laptops. Below you'll find our recommendations for the best laptops under $300, or you can check out our recommendations for the best laptops under $400, and the best laptops under $500.
The best laptop under $300 we've tested is the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020), a 15.6-inch Chrome OS laptop. It's very portable, thanks to its thin and light design, and its battery lasts about 12 hours of light use. It has a 1080p display that provides plenty of room for multitasking, a comfortable keyboard, and a small but responsive touchpad. As it's a 2-in-1 convertible with a 360-degree hinge, you can use the laptop in tent mode for media consumption and presentations or flip the screen all the way around and use it as a tablet.
Performance-wise, the Intel Pentium Gold CPU is powerful enough to provide a smooth desktop experience. You can upgrade to a faster Core i3, but expect to pay a little more. The downside is that you can only get a maximum of 4GB of memory, so it might stutter a little if you have too many things running at the same time. The port selection is okay; you get two USB-Cs that support charging and video output, a USB-A, an SD card reader, and a headphone jack.
While the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020) we recommend above is a portable laptop, it might be a little too big for some, especially for younger students in grade school. If so, get the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 (2021) instead. This 11-inch Chromebook fits easily into a small backpack and has a battery that lasts nearly 16 hours of light use. The build feels decent even though it's entirely plastic, and it's also a 2-in-1 convertible, so you can flip the screen around into tablet mode.
Unfortunately, the display doesn't get very bright, so visibility might be an issue in well-lit settings, and the touchpad doesn't track all that well. It only has one USB-A and one USB-C port, but for grade school students or people with a light workload, it's not too bad. The USB-C port supports charging and video ouput. Lastly, this is a fanless device, so you don't need to worry about causing too much noise in a quiet classroom or library.
If you want to stick with Chrome OS but prefer a 2-in-1, get the Lenovo Chromebook Duet (2020), a Chrome OS tablet with a detachable keyboard. You can detach the keyboard to make it easier to hold when viewing content or attach it when you need to type something. It has a sharp, bright, and colorful display, which is hard to find on inexpensive Chromebooks. The keyboard comes with the device, so there's no need to purchase it separately. However, it isn't the most comfortable keyboard; it's fine for a couple of emails but not for typing out a long paper. Battery life is excellent at nearly 12 hours of light productivity or seven hours of video playback.
If you can stretch your budget slightly, we recommend getting the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 instead. It has a much better OLED display that produces more vibrant colors and inky blacks, as well as a faster processor. Like the Duet, the keyboard comes with the device, although it's just as uncomfortable to type on. The display supports pen input, and there's even a dock on the back cover to store the pen for transport, but you need to buy the stylus separately.
Our pick for the best Windows laptop under $300 is the Acer Aspire 5 15 (2020). It's an older model from 2020, which is why the price is much lower than when it was first released, so it's a good time to grab one. It's still a little over $300, but it's worth spending a bit more as it's a well-built laptop with decent performance. This configuration has a 15.6-inch 1080p display, an Intel Core i3-1005G1 CPU, 4GB of memory, and 128GB of storage.
The display gives you plenty of room for multitasking and gets bright enough for use in most indoor settings. It has a full-size keyboard with a Numpad on the right, which is great if you work with lots of numbers, and it feels comfortable to type on for extended periods. The Intel Core i3 CPU has no problems handling everyday tasks like web browsing, text processing, and video playback. However, 4GB of memory isn't much for a Windows machine, meaning you'll see stutters and slowdowns if you have too many things running simultaneously. Battery life is the weakest point, as it only lasts about seven hours of light use, so you'll have to plug it in at some point to get through a typical 8-hour day.
Dec 23, 2022: Minor changes to the text to improve clarity. No change in recommendations.
Oct 27, 2022: Minor structure change. Replaced the HP Pavilion x360 11 (2021) with the Acer Aspire 5 15 (2020) because the HP increased in price.
Aug 25, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks; no change in recommendations.
Jun 03, 2022: Minor structure change. Replaced HP Pavilion x360 11 (2021) with Acer Chromebook Spin 311 (2020) because it's better overall and cheaper.
Apr 05, 2022: Changed the categories and structure. Removed HP Chromebook 14 (2021) and Acer Chromebook Spin 311 due to the category changes. Added HP Pavilion x360 11 (2021) as Best Windows Laptop for Productivity.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best laptops you can get for under $300. 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.