The Best Budget Laptop Deals This Week*
- Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Intel i3 15.6-Inch Laptop With 128GB M.2 SSD — $342.99 (List Price $379.99; Save $37)
- Motile M141 Ryzen 3 14-Inch 1080p Laptop With 128GB SSD — $349 (List Price $599; Save $250)
- Lenovo IdeaPad 330S Ryzen 5 15.6-Inch Laptop With 256GB SSD — $449 (List Price $499; Save $50)
- Asus VivoBook Ryzen 3 15.6-Inch Laptop With 128GB SSD — $319 (List Price $349; Save $30)
- Lenovo IdeaPad S145 Ryzen 3 15.6-Inch Laptop With 256GB SSD — $329.99 (List Price $379.99; Save $50)
When it comes to storage, many inexpensive systems offer up to 500GB of hard drive space. Others, particularly Chromebooks, will have only a small allotment (16GB or 32GB) of local storage, but compensate for it with generous offers of additional free cloud storage. Of course, as with anything cloud-based, you’ll need to be online to access it. Also, know that some budget machines, including many Chromebooks, use what is called “eMMC memory” as their main storage. This is not the same as the flash memory used in a true solid-state drive (SSD), and it will feel a tad sluggish if you’re used to an SSD.
In terms of features, budget laptops will come with (almost always) at least one USB 3.0 port, and possibly a USB 2.0 port or two. You also may get an SD card slot. A Wi-Fi radio that uses the speedy 802.11ac protocol is also a possibility, although the older 802.11n might still be found in machines in this price range. An HDMI output and a USB-C port are definite pluses, and you can find these on even some of the very cheapest models. You shouldn’t always expect a touch-screen display, however. (See our picks for the best touch-screen laptops.) Any 2-in-1 convertible machine, though, will by definition have a touch screen, as having one is necessary for using the machine as a tablet or in other orientations where the keyboard is covered up.
Chromebooks: The Crème de la Cheap?
Chromebooks used to be little more than glorified netbooks running Google’s Chrome OS. While these Chrome OS–based laptops are still resolutely web-centric, they now have fuller feature sets. If you spend most of your working hours in the cloud, a Chromebook will offer you much of the functionality of a regular Windows 10 or macOS laptop, and it may well deliver longer battery life, depending on the model.
It will also likely cost you a lot less than other types of notebooks, as many Chromebooks come in at less than $300. Just be sure you have easy access to stable Wi-Fi wherever you’ll use one, as Chromebooks have limited offline functionality and scant local storage.
Tablets and Hybrids: 2-in-1s on a Budget
Tablets rose in popularity throughout the 2010s, and though we have plenty of reviews of those—take a look at our overall roundup of the best tablets, as well as our favorites running the Windows 10 and Android operating systems—they are sufficiently different from traditional clamshell-style laptops that they don’t make good substitutes. Some come with detachable keyboards, but even these are far less comfortable for typing on your lap than a conventional laptop.
Convertible 2-in-1s, however, do make a good substiute for traditional clamshells. These machines let you flip between a laptop and a tablet, by folding the keyboard out of the way. You should consider one of these convertible systems if you primarily want the typing capability of a laptop, but occasionally would appreciate the lie-back, passive-consumption convenience of a tablet.
See our guide to the best 2-in-1 convertible and hybrid laptops for more information about this popular segment of the market. In part because of their added complexity compared with traditional clamshell designs, you won’t find many affordable ones, but there are a few Windows 10 and Chrome OS-based models that cost $500 or below. They come in both permanently attached (generally 360-degree-rotating-hinge) designs, and in detachable-keyboard designs. Make sure when looking at one of the detachables that you know what comes in the box. In some cases, like with Microsoft’s spiffy Surface Go, you need to buy the keyboard base separately, and the total cost may not be as low as it first appears.