The best budget laptops for 2019

These cheap laptops will make you wonder why anyone spends more

We’ve reviewed hundreds of laptops, so we know what to look for in a laptop regardless of the price. The best budget laptop you can buy is the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333. It does everything that laptops hundreds of dollars more expensive can do — and in some cases, it does it even better.

But if your budget is a bit lower, or if you want to be able to game on your laptop, we’ve included options for you below as well.

Best budget laptops

The best budget laptop: Asus ZenBook 13 UX333

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Why you should buy this: It’s fast, portable, affordable, and gets fantastic battery life.

Who’s it for: Everyone except gamers.

Why we picked the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333:

You might not expect quality from a laptop that costs less than a new flagship iPhone, but this ZenBook is a pleasant surprise. The newest ZenBook 13 enjoys the same all-metal unibody chassis, and now it is barely more than half an inch thick and has shed half a pound to weigh in at two and a half pounds. The latest version packs in the same surprising amount of horsepower into its small and inexpensive package. Featuring an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, the ZenBook easily outperforms its nearest competitors running old hardware.

Better still, the laptop is a real pleasure to use. It has an excellent keyboard — one of the best on a 13-inch laptop at this price. It also offers a spacious touchpad and a 1080p non-touch display with extremely thin bezels. The display has been improved to offer extraordinary contrast no matter the price, along with an impressive increase in its color gamut. This isn’t a 2-in-1, so you won’t be swinging the ZenBook 13 UX333’s display around for use as a tablet, but its focus on conventional use helps Asus offer this system at a budget price. The incredible battery life is the cherry on top.

The Asus ZenBook UX333 is good or great in all important metrics, which is why we gave it our Editors’ Choice award. It’s not just one of the best budget laptops, it’s among the best laptops at any price.

Our full Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 review

The best budget laptop for students: Lenovo ThinkBook 13s

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Why you should buy this: The ThinkBook combines great functionality with a solid design and fun features at an affordable price.

Who’s it for: Students and those who want a streamlined system with great security.

Why we picked the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s:

The 13-inch size is great for midrange computing and the ThinkBook 13s packs a surprising amount of capable hardware under the hood considering its price. Options include Core i5 and i7 Intel 8th-generation CPUs, up to 16GB of RAM, and half a gigabyte of M.2 PCIe storage. The onboard Intel graphics mean you won’t be gaming on this laptop, but you do get Dolby audio support for enhanced media viewing.

At just under three pounds, the ThinkBook 13s is a great portable system and with up to 11-hours of battery life, you won’t need to be concerned about stepping too far from a charge point throughout your workday.

If you’re concerned about privacy and the sanctity of your data, then the ThinkBook 13s remains a standout for its security features. It features a fingerprint reader build into the power button which provides file encryption, and quick login functions. There’s also a webcam privacy cover to make sure that no one can unintentionally see what you’re up to.

All of this comes at a great price too, with entry level models well under $1,000 and more powerful hardware options higher up the price range that still don’t break the bank.

The best budget Chromebook: Acer Chromebook 514

Acer Chromebook 514 review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s extremely affordable, with a great screen, and all-day battery life.

Who’s it for: Anyone on a budget who doesn’t mind sacrificing looks for function.

Why we picked the Acer Chromebook 514:

Chromebooks have become popular budget choices over the last few years, and many have won us over as well. The Acer Chromebook 514 is a great example of their strengths. It has a 1080p display, a limited, but fast enough Intel processor, and plenty of memory. No Windows notebook comes close to touching its value, and with battery life that will last all day, it’s supremely portable.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 514’s low price brings some limitations — you won’t find a budget Chromebook in this price range with a fast solid-state drive or an optional discrete GPU — but they aren’t necessities for the typical Chrome OS user. Its CPU isn’t blazing fast either, but it’s quick enough for everyday tasks.

It also has a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution IPS display that’s more than good enough for web browsing and productivity work, 8GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC flash storage. The keyboard is particularly noteworthy with a very satisfying feel when typing and the backlighting is tastefully done so you can easily run this device in the dark.

You will have to get used to Chrome OS too. It’s not as functional as Windows, and it works best when you have an active internet connection, but it’s much more fleshed out today than it was in the past. If you find yourself using a lot of Google web services and watching streaming services like Netflix, a Chromebook like the 514 could be a great way to save a lot of money on your next upgrade.

Our full Acer Chromebook 514 review

The best budget gaming laptop: Dell G3 Gaming Laptop

Dell G3 Gaming Laptop Review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It offers solid gaming performance for less than $1,000.

Who’s it for: Gamers, and only gamers.

Why we picked the Dell G3 Gaming Laptop:

Although gaming laptops are typically quite expensive, the Dell G3 Gaming Laptop is a great example of why they don’t need to be. Starting at around $700, you get an Intel Core i5-8300 CPU, a GTX 1050 graphics chip, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB of hybrid-HDD storage, with options for faster CPUs, more powerful graphics, extra and faster storage, and memory if you don’t mind spending a little more. You can now even bump up to next-gen components such as 9th-gen processors and 16-series graphics cards, though those configurations start at $950. Every model comes with a 15.6-inch, 1080p IPS display.

With decent build quality and good performance in a relatively light chassis, the G3 offers an all-around solid gaming package at an impressively competitive price. It does have its weak points, most notably a less than stunning display — it’s dull, but still looks good enough if you crank up the settings. Similarly, the storage options aren’t the quickest, but those are sacrifices that are worth making to keep the price down on such a capable gaming machine.

There are far better gaming laptops out there, but we’d struggle to find one that’s as powerful as Dell’s G3 at this price point. It’s a fantastic, budget gaming machine.

Our full Dell G3 Gaming Laptop review

The best budget laptop for video editing: Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3 (2019)
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: With a strong battery life despite powerful hardware, the Swift is a great piece of kit for video editors.

Who’s it for: Video editors and anyone who doesn’t mind sacrificing style for power.

Why we picked the Acer Swift 3:

The Swift 3 is a solid, if slightly dull, laptop, with great battery life, powerful internal hardware, and an attractive price tag — it’s almost the whole package, which is rare for a budget system.

Encased in what is in 2019, a rather dull and typical silver chassis, the Swift 3 doesn’t turn heads, but it will make your eyes widen when you get to grips with it. Packed with an eighth-generation Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 Whiskey Lake CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 1.5GB of storage space (up to 1TB HDD and 512GB SSD), this system has some great hardware at its price. It won’t stand up to a desktop, but compared to its laptop contemporaries, you’ll be surprised at the performance you can get for such an affordable price.

Better yet, it comes with a discrete Nvidia MX150 graphics chip too. That means that any hardware assisted rendering will be completed in the fraction of a time it would take a system without a dedicated GPU, and you can do some light gaming in your downtime without sacrificing frame rates.

Despite the decent hardware, battery life is pretty solid too. We saw as long as nine-hours in our video loop test, which is more than enough to get your through the average national flight without charging.

Read our full Acer Swift 3 review

The best business budget laptop: Dell Inspiron 13 7000

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Why you should buy this: With powerful and efficient hardware, this budget laptop enjoys solid battery life for an all-day work schedule.

Who’s it for: Office workers who want to game in their off hours.

Why we picked the Dell Inspiron 13 7000:

Whether you’re typing up another spreadsheet or winding down with a game at the end of a long workday, the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 strikes a great balance. It features powerful and efficient general computing power, like a ninth-generation Intel CPU — options include Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9 chips — and up to 16GB of RAM, and this laptop sports a dedicated graphics chip. The standard model comes with an Nvidia GTX 1050 3GB for entry-level gaming chops, but there’s also an option for a new-gen 1650, which can play just about anything if you tweak the settings enough.

With the typical Inspiron build quality, we’d expect this system to borrow a number of great design features from the more premium XPS range, but make them available in a more affordable form. It’s not the lightest laptop at just over four pounds, but it has a great, spill-resistant keyboard, full Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth connectivity, and a top-mounted 720p webcam for conferencing.

It also comes in an attractive white paint job, which helps it stand out from all of its silver contemporaries.

The best budget 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Go

Microsoft Surface Go Review
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s quick, lightweight, and versatile.

Who’s it for: Anyone who needs the on-the-go mobility of a small, 2-in-1.

Why we picked the Microsoft Surface Go:

The Surface Go may be limited by its small size and low-powered Intel processor, but it offers something never before seen in the Windows world: A truly budget-minded 2-in-1. Its build is every bit as strong as its bigger brother, the Surface Pro, and it boasts a beautiful, bright display to boot. The best part? It’s actually thin and light enough to be held in one hand like a proper tablet.

While performance doesn’t feel as smooth as on something like an iPad or even a Chromebook, those devices can’t do quite as many things as the Surface Go, which runs a full version of Windows 10. On the battery front, it’s a bit lacking. That’s its most unfortunate compromise since this is a device made for portability. Also, we still wish the excellent keyboard and Surface Pen came bundled in.

But even with its fair share of faults, it’s absolutely the best budget 2-in-1 you can buy.

Our full Microsoft Surface Go review

Research and buying tips

Are budget laptops any good?

Absolutely! Depending on what you need your laptop to do, budget options can be just as good as their high-end counterparts. If you only need a laptop for watching Netflix and answering emails, a budget Chromebook can save you hundreds of dollars and perform no worse than something that cost $2,000 or more.

That said, you do need to be careful about which system you pick. Budget laptops tend to make some sacrifices where the expensive options don’t, so be sure to make sure that the system you’re interested in can do what you need it to before buying.

Do any budget laptops have Thunderbolt 3?

There are certain features which are less common in budget laptops, and Thunderbolt 3 is one of them. Plenty of budget laptops offer a USB-C support, but only some provide Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 spec, such as the Dell Inspiron 13 7000.

Do budget laptops have good battery life?

Some do, some don’t. The models that prioritize portability tend to offer a little more, and you’ll want to skip a dedicated graphics chip if you want the most battery life.

However, you can find plenty of budget systems that offer a full work day and beyond on a single charge. In some cases, an option like the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 offers better battery life than many laptops that cost a few hundred dollars more. Many Chromebooks also offer impressive battery life thanks to how lightweight the software is.

Can I find a good display on a budget laptop?

Definitely, but as with battery life or specific ports, you’ll need to pick and choose the right laptop. A good display will need to be a key component of the laptop, as color accuracy and contrast can be some areas where savings can be made on certain systems.

The best looking screen of our budget recommendations comes with the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333, which is yet another reason why it’s our first pick.

Is AMD better for budget laptops?

It can be, but Intel is still a far more dominant force in the laptop space with a wider range of options available. Very few of the best laptops out there offer AMD as an option, even in laptops under $1,000. For that reason, shopping around for a laptop that meets your specifications is far better than simply opting for AMD over Intel.

However, as Ryzen APUs find their way into more laptops throughout 2019, the AMD alternative has begun to pick up a bit more steam, especially in budget gaming laptops.

Editors' Recommendations