Best cheap laptops: Don't pay more than you have to in 2022 – Mashable

It’s really difficult to make it in today’s world without a computer of some kind. Nobody wants to do their school or work projects on their smartphone or even on a slightly larger tablet screen. My typing skills are bad enough on a standard keyboard (sorry, Mavis Beacon); can you imagine how long it would take to hunt-and-peck 2,000 words on a touchscreen keyboard? Preposterous, I tell you!
My point is, you’ve got to get yourself a real laptop.
Yes, I know, laptops cost money — a luxury that not all of us care to throw away on a hunk of precariously constructed metal and plastic. If you’re not careful, you can end up spending well over $1,000 for a laptop with impressive specs, and that’s just the mid-range models. But we’re not here to talk about those laptops. There’s a whole world of laptops that cost $600 or less, and many of them are perfect companions for students returning to school or folks who just need something that’s a little more capable than an iPhone.
Let’s set expectations right away: The laptops on this list will not come with the latest and greatest processors, graphics cards, or displays. You do indeed have to spend upwards of $1,000 for those things. But for students or workers who just need something to get them through the day, or folks who just want to be able to do some light web browsing and check their emails at home or on the go, the budget-friendly laptops on this list will be right up your alley.
For any cheap laptop, things like ports and memory are more important than fancy displays and processing power. If you want to record audio with a microphone or use a mouse, you’ll need USB ports; casual photographers or videographers should emphasize microSD card readers; and an HDMI port goes a long way if you like streaming your favorite content on a TV.
Above all else, you want as much RAM and storage as you can get. More RAM means the computer can handle more applications at once and more storage means less hard drive management.
Laptops in the $600-or-below price range are not going to be good for PC gaming. You won’t get a 4K resolution display or a refresh rate higher than 60Hz. RAM is going to max out around 8GB, which isn’t bad but also isn’t spectacular. In this price range, laptops are going to be best for web browsing, word processing, Zoom calls, checking emails, and streaming. As long as you don’t expect more than that, you’ll be fine.
You’re also unlikely to get more than 500GB of storage space at this price point. In fact, you’ll find that most cheap laptops probably won’t give you more than 128GB of storage these days, opting to offer you cloud storage instead. This is especially true if you’re looking to get a Chromebook; these laptops run Google’s Chrome OS so they have a strong tie-in with Google Drive, the personal cloud storage and file-sharing platform.
When it comes to cheap laptops, you’re bound to find yourself at the crossroads of Chromebook vs. Windows. Here’s the difference between the two operating systems (or OS) and how can you decide which one is best for you:
Chromebooks run on the Google Chrome OS, a simplified, web-based operating system that’s great for light web browsing and low-demand streaming. You won’t find a ton of RAM on these little machines and the storage space will likely be quite small as well as Google wants you to opt for Google Drive cloud storage instead. Many different laptop brands make Chromebooks and, overall, they tend to be a great entry-level machine for students and a nice, cheap secondary device for frequent travelers.
Windows-based laptops are the more traditional choice, especially if you’re looking for something that runs more like a desktop computer or a more premium laptop model. They tend to have more onboard storage space and more RAM to handle more demanding tasks, and they typically offer more options to scale up these specs to fit your needs. (With a Chromebook, on the other hand, you often just get what you get and don’t get upset.) This means that they also tend to be more expensive than Chromebooks, though there are plenty of budget-friendly Windows laptops out there from the same wide range of laptop brands.
You know the old saying: You get what you pay for. But thanks to the technology boom of the last few decades, a cheap laptop can actually take you pretty far and won’t break down immediately. It’s all about knowing which one to select.
Rather than just making a few purchase suggestions and sending you on your way, we’re going to equip you with some knowledge that’ll help you be a more informed laptop shopper. Forget all that mind-boggling computer jargon of processor-this and gigahertz-that — we’ve broken down our picks of the best cheap laptops in terms that anyone can understand.
The best cheap laptop is pretty subjective and wholly dependent on your individual wants and needs. That’s why we’ve rounded up this list of some of the best budget laptops that are proven to be dependable for a variety of users and use cases. Check ‘em out and we’re sure you’ll find the right laptop to fit your budget. (But if you’re considering expanding that budget a bit, check out our roundup of the overall best laptops, too.)
It may not be a technical powerhouse on par with the much more expensive Surface Pro 8, but the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is by far the most affordable 2-in-1 in the Windows maker’s lineup. Just like most other Surface devices, it’s basically a tablet that you can attach a keyboard to, but be warned: the keyboard attachment will run you an extra $125 or so when it’s not on sale.
Still, for a low starting price, you get what is essentially a hyper-portable 10.5-inch tablet with Windows 11 pre-installed, a USB-C port, a Surface Connect port you can use for charging and a headphone jack, to boot. Pair that with up to 11 hours of battery life and WiFi 6 compatibility and you’ve got a 2-in-1 that can get the job done no matter where you are.
Samsung’s 11.6-inch Chromebook 4 is about as unpretentious as it gets. This is a totally traditional laptop with a somewhat low-resolution display and a non-detachable keyboard, so don’t expect to use it as a tablet. And thanks to Chrome OS, you’ll have to get by with Google’s software ecosystem.
One USB 3.0 and one USB-C port aren’t much, but you’ll at least be able to use some accessories with the Chromebook 4. The biggest advantages here, however, are its 1.87-pound weight, less than an inch of thickness and a battery that’s rated for 12.5 hours on a full charge. Samsung’s Chromebook 4 is about as nondescript as laptops get, but for the price, it’s plenty portable and capable of getting you through a work or school day.
One of the main distinguishing features of Chromebooks is that they’re usually not very powerful, but they also don’t cost much. Both things are extremely true of the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3. With just 4GB of RAM, you’ll be limited to things like web browsing, streaming and work tasks, as long as they aren’t too intense. Get comfortable with Google Drive for cloud storage, too, as 64GB of onboard space will fill up mighty quickly.
That said, there’s still plenty to like about it, including 10 hours of battery life to power you through an entire school or work day (plus some juice left over for the next day, in case you forget to plug it in). Its convertible design also makes this 2-in-1 laptop a star for streaming entertainment and unwinding with some tablet-style gaming, too.
Lenovo’s 11-inch IdeaPad 3 is fairly stripped down, but that’s not such a bad thing. For a super-low price, you get a crisp HD display, up to 10 hours of battery life, a solid keyboard and a reasonably decent selection of ports, including multiple USB-C ports and a microSD reader. (For the record, being able to transfer microSD data to your laptop can come in very handy, especially for class presentations and hopping from dorm to dorm.)
Overall, at just under 2.5 pounds, this Chromebook laptop is a lightweight, simple machine that will get you through basic everyday tasks like taking notes, writing papers, streaming and, of course, scrolling social media. Is it fancy? No. But does that matter? Absolutely not.
If you want to listen to music or watch TV and movies, the HP Pavilion x360 is a good choice because it has impressive audio quality and its convertible 2-in-1 design makes it really versatile in terms of viewing modes. Micro Gears allow the display to roll around the base in one continuous movement; so from notebook mode, you can rotate it around to tent mode, and it’ll stay there until you want to adjust again.
Under the hood, you’ll find minimal hard drive capacity (128GB) on this particular model, but 8GB of system memory to help you multitask as needed. Overall, it’s a great, affordable laptop for everyday use. 
The Acer Swift 1 one is built with a 13.3-inch HD screen — considerably larger than most other cheap laptops — which means you get enough space for comfortable typing and viewing. The screen is also an IPS display, producing excellent color you can see from multiple viewing angles. The laptop is equipped with 4GB of RAM, all the standard port options (including HDMI and USB ports) and a fingerprint sensor, which is a great feature to have if you’re worried about anyone accessing your laptop when you’re not around.
Overall, you can expect about 9.5 hours of battery life, which isn’t quite as long as some of the other cheap laptops out there, but it should be plenty to get some work or gaming done on the go.
The Vivobook’s 15.6-inch, full HD NanoEdge bezel display is pretty stunning at such a low price point, and the laptop’s Intel Core i3-8145U processor provides the necessary power for a seamless, on-the-go user experience. You’ll also get ample space to store all your files, programs, photos and other stuff that you need to take along with you. The only issue we found is potentially with the keyboard; while ergonomic, some users have said that they’ve run into issues with the backlight not working properly, but this didn’t happen in every case. (And either way, both Amazon and Asus have good customer support programs that should help you sort out any problems). 
The Acer Aspire 5 may not be the newest laptop on the block, but it certainly is one of the most consistently reliable, cheap laptops you can buy. The 15-inch clamshell laptop offers an admirable 4GB of memory for light multitasking, word processing, web browsing and email checking, plus 128GB of storage for your most important files. It has a few different types of ports (but no USB-C) to keep you connected to any necessary accessories, a backlit keyboard for undisturbed working and nearly 8 hours of battery life to get you through the day — or night, for that matter. It doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but that’s precisely why certain users prefer it as a Windows-based alternative to a Chromebook.
The Dell Chromebook 11 is a no-frills, budget-friendly laptop that boasts a relatively rugged build with a scratch-resistant touchscreen so you won’t have to worry too much about it getting banged up on the way to and from school. In fact, Dell has tested it to survive 30-inch drops — onto a steel surface, no less — which is probably much more than can be said about the premium laptop you spent upwards of $2,500 on. (Just saying.) This convertible Chromebook is by no means elite when it comes to specs, however; the 2-in-1 laptop performs as you’d expect from Google’s simplistic OS and that’s precisely what makes it so kid-friendly. It is a bit larger and heavier than some other Chromebooks, but it’s certainly still easy for young children to carry.

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