This article was last updated by Digital Trends contributor Mark Coppock on 5/28/2020.
We’ve reviewed hundreds of laptops, so we know what to look for in a laptop regardless of the price. . 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. You can also check out some of the best laptop deals as well if you’re looking for savings.
The best budget laptops at a glance:
- The best budget laptop: Asus ZenBook 13 UX333
- The best budget laptop for students: Lenovo Yoga C740
- The best budget Chromebook: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet
- The best budget gaming laptop: Dell G3 Gaming Laptop
- The best budget laptop for video editing: Dell G5 Gaming Laptop
- The best business budget laptop: Dell Inspiron 13 7000
- The best budget 2-in-1: Surface Go 2
The best budget laptop: Asus ZenBook 13 UX333
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 doesn’t have the latest hardware available, but its a reasonable compromise given the price and quality of this laptop.
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.
Read our in-depth Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 review
The best budget laptop for students: Lenovo Yoga C740 14
Why you should buy this: It’s cheaper than the ZenBook and has a larger screen.
Who’s it for: Students, buyers on a budget.
Why we picked the Lenovo Yoga C740 14:
If the ZenBook 13 is a bit too expensive (or a bit too small), the Yoga C740 14 is a fantastic alternative. It features a larger, 1080p 14-inch screen, providing you with a bit more screen real estate to work on.
The Yoga C740 is also a 2-in-1, meaning it has a touchscreen and a 360-degree hinge. Now, at 3.1 pounds, it’s a bit too heavy to use as a tablet. But flipping the keyboard around for tent mode or presentation mode can be a useful way to watch movies or run a PowerPoint slideshow. It also works with stylus input, if you need that.
The Yoga C740, of course, comes with up to date internals like 10th-gen Intel processors, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. This means speedy performance and great quad-core multitasking. The C740 has great battery life too, lasting for over nine hours in light use in our own testing. It should get you through the majority of a workday, so long as you aren’t running intensive applications.
The best budget Chromebook: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet
Why you should buy this: It’s extremely affordable, with a great screen, and more than all-day battery life.
Who’s it for: Anyone on a budget who doesn’t mind sacrificing performance for extreme value.
Why we picked the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet:
Chromebooks have become popular budget choices over the last few years, and many have won us over as well. One form factor that hasn’t done as well as some others is the detachable Chrome OS tablet. That’s changed with the introduction of the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet, which not only is a very useable tablet but that represents a tremendous value thanks to the included kickstand cover and detachable keyboard..
The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet’s low price brings some limitations — performance isn’t the greatest, for example, although it’s good enough for the kinds of tasks you’ll want to run on it. And the display is very good but not great, with a 16:10 1,920 x 1,200 resolution that’s not as pixel-sharp as Apple’s baseline iPad that the Duet competes against.
However, if you want a tablet for web browsing, light productivity work, and consuming media, then the Duet has you covered. It’s a very comfortable size as a tablet — although it’s a bit chunky with the kickstand cover and keyboard attached — and it feels great in hand. Not only is this the best budget Chromebook, but it’s one of the best budget laptops you can buy, period.
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 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 Duet could be a great way to save a lot of money on your next upgrade.
Read our in-depth Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review
The best budget gaming laptop: Dell G3 Gaming Laptop
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 $730, you get an Intel Core i5-9300 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. Every model comes with a 15.6-inch, 1080p IPS display. For $949, you’ll get a fantastic machine with a proper SSD boot drive and upgraded GTX 1650 graphics card.
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 and thick chassis — 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.
Read our in-depth Dell G3 Gaming Laptop review
The best budget laptop for video editing: Dell G5 (2018)
Why you should buy this: Those who need extra power for video editing on a tight budget.
Who’s it for: Video editors and anyone who doesn’t mind sacrificing style for power.
Why we picked the Dell G5 Gaming Laptop (2018):
Finding a laptop for video editing under $1,000 isn’t easy. When it comes to video editing, the more cores the better, and a discrete graphics card is a good idea too. The best video editing laptops like the Dell XPS 15 and MacBook Pro 16-inch will cost you well over $2,000.
We don’t usually advise buying older hardware, but if you’re on a tight budget, a previous generation Dell G5 gaming laptop is your best bet. For just $730, you get a six-core laptop with a discrete GTX 1050 Ti graphics card. These are each a generation back from the most current, but you won’t notice a huge drop in performance — especially not for over $300 you’re saving over the new models.
This $730 laptop also gets you 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD boot drive, and a 1TB HDD. It’s not a sleek or modern-looking laptop by any means, but if pure video editing power per dollar is what you’re looking for, look no further.
The best business budget laptop: Dell Inspiron 13 7000
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 all sorts of games 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 2
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 2:
The Surface Go 2 may be limited by its small size and, at the entry level, by a low-powered Intel Pentium processor — which can be upgraded to an Intel Core m3 for $130 more — but it offers something never before seen in the Windows world: A truly budget-minded 2-in-1. Its build is every bit as solid as its bigger brother, the Surface Pro 7, 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 2, which runs a full version of Windows 10. On the battery front, however, 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 Type Cover 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. Competitors in this price range lack its high build quality and often have a less impressive display or keyboard.
Our full Microsoft Surface Go 2 review
Research and buying tips
- Are budget laptops any good?
- Do any budget laptops have Thunderbolt 3?
- Do budget laptops have good battery life?
- Can I find a good display on a budget laptop?
- Is AMD better for budget laptops?
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.
There are certain features which are less common in budget laptops, and Thunderbolt 3 is one of them. Plenty of budget laptops offer USB-C support, but only some provide Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 spec, such as the Dell Inspiron 13 7000.
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 workday 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.
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, which is yet another reason why it’s our first pick.
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.
That might change in 2020 with the release of Ryzen 4, but for now, there’s still very few AMD laptops available.
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