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 smoother on lower-end hardware. Unfortunately, there isn't a category for the 'best gaming laptops under $300' since you'll want a laptop with a dedicated GPU and a high-end CPU to run most games well, both of which are generally much more expensive.
We've just started reviewing laptops, and have tested more than 40. 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 student laptop under $300 we've tested is the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020). It's a 15.6 inch convertible laptop with a 360-degree hinge, which means you can flip the screen around and use it as a tablet. It's easy to carry around thanks to its thin and light design, and you likely don't need to bring the charger because it has outstanding battery life, lasting well over 12 hours of light productivity. Its port selection includes one USB-A and two USB-C ports, with the latter supporting data transfer, charging, and video output.
It sports a full-size keyboard with a Numpad on the right side, which is great for those working with lots of numbers, and it feels great to type on for extended periods. It doesn't have the biggest touchpad, but it tracks well and responds to gestures. The 1080p display is decently sharp and provides plenty of room for multitasking; however, it looks washed out and doesn't get very bright. It's flicker-free, though, which helps reduce eye strain.
As for the CPU performance, the Intel Core i3 processor is more than powerful enough to handle most web-based tasks on Chrome OS. You can't install x86 applications on a Chromebook, so if you're in a program that requires third-party x86 applications, you're better off with a Windows device. The price is usually slightly above $300, but considering its impressive build, long battery life, and good performance, it's well worth spending the extra cash.
If you're shopping on a tight budget and find the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020) too expensive, consider the Acer Chromebook 315 (2020). It's also a 15 inch Chrome OS laptop, but since it isn't a 2-in-1, you can only use it in clamshell mode. The Intel Celeron CPU isn't as powerful as the C340's Core i3; however, it still provides a relatively smooth Chrome OS experience as long as you don't run too many applications simultaneously. Battery life is its standout feature as it lasts nearly 14 hours of light productivity, long enough to get you through a school or workday with plenty of charge to spare. It has a similar 1080p IPS display option, meaning you still get reasonably sharp images and text and plenty of room for multitasking. The keyboard feels good to type on but can be slightly tiring over time because the keys require a fair amount of force to actuate. Likewise, the touchpad is decently large and tracks movements well, but actions like dragging and dropping don't work reliably.
If you can stretch your budget slightly, go with the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 because it has a better keyboard and touchpad, and its 10th Gen Intel Core i3 provides a snappier desktop experience. However, if you prefer something cheaper and don't mind a few compromises, the Acer Chromebook 315 is a good alternative.
If you need a cheap laptop that supports x86 applications for your school or work, it's best to get a Windows laptop, like the HP Pavilion x360 11 (2021). It's a compact device with an Intel Pentium Silver processor, so it's better suited for light tasks like responding to emails, web browsing, video playback, and text formatting. Its small size makes it very portable, and since it's a 2-in-1 convertible, you can use it in tent or tablet mode for media consumption; the downside is that it doesn't support pen input for note-taking.
In terms of battery life, it can last about 8 hours of light productivity, enough to get you through most of a typical school or workday, though you'll need to plug it in for a quick charge. The display is small, so it isn't the best for multitasking; however, it does have an HDMI port to connect to an external monitor. The keyboard feels decent to type on but can be fatiguing over time due to its tight spacing, and the touchpad tracks movements well but is tiny, making actions like dragging and dropping over long distances a pain.
If you're often on video calls, the webcam's video quality is pretty good, and voices sound clear albeit slightly nasal over the microphone. Unfortunately, you can only get 4GB of RAM, and the memory isn't user-upgradeable, so you have to limit the number of applications you run at once. Overall, this isn't a particularly powerful laptop, but as a cheap device to get some simple tasks done while on the go, it's a pretty decent option worth checking out.
The best multimedia laptop under $300 that we've tested is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet (2020). It's more of a tablet with a kickstand and detachable keyboard, which means you can detach the keyboard when you want a light device for viewing content and attach it when you need to do some work. The keyboard feels pretty cramped, though, so it isn't the best option for extended use as it may cause some fatigue over time.
Although its 1080p resolution isn't impressive on paper, the display looks very sharp because it's a fairly small screen. It gets more than bright enough to combat glare, and it also gets very dim to provide a more comfortable viewing experience in the dark. That said, it's still an IPS panel with a fairly low contrast ratio, meaning blacks look grayish in dim settings. Its battery life is excellent as it lasts nearly 7 hours of video playback, enough time to get through a couple of movies and TV show episodes.
Unfortunately, the speakers sound treble-heavy and don't get very loud. There's no 3.5mm headphone jack, meaning you have to use wireless headphones or use the included USB-C audio adapter for wired ones. With only a single USB-C port, you can't charge the device while using wired headphones. Nonetheless, this is a great Chrome OS tablet for media consumption at a budget-friendly price.
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.
Feb 04, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks, no change in recommendations. Added Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021) as a Notable Mention.
Jan 14, 2022: Minor structure changes and verified accuracy of picks. Replaced HP Chromebook 14 (2020) with Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020) because it has a better screen, keyboard, touchpad, and webcam. Removed Samsung Chromebook 4 (2019) and added HP Chromebook 14 (2020) as a more compact alternative to the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020).
Dec 24, 2021: Verified availability and accuracy of picks, and updated text for clarity.
Dec 10, 2021: Added the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2020) to Notable Mentions. Verified availability and accuracy of picks, and updated text for clarity.
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.