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The best laptops under $1,000 you can buy right now

The Asus ZenBook 14 UX425 is the best laptop under $1,000. It’s a budget PC with great performance thanks to a cutting-edge CPU, a near-premium build quality, and a low-power and high-quality display that’s very hard to find at such a low price (unless you’re leveraging Black Friday laptop deals).

We’re not just picking our favorite sub-$1,000 laptops out of thin air, though. We’ve reviewed hundreds of laptops of all kinds and at all price points, spending thousands of hours doing so. It’s a Herculean task for sure (and a lot of fun, frankly), and it has given us great insight into what makes for a good laptop and what holds a laptop back.

The best laptops under $1,000 at a glance

The best laptop under $1,000: Asus ZenBook 14 UX425

We’re replacing one Asus laptop, the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333, with another, the ZenBook 14 UX425, as our pick for the best laptop under $1,000. It starts at just $800, and for that price, you still get a 10th-generation Ice Lake Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), and a low-power Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS display. It’s still a great deal even if you spend the extra $100 to update to a Core i7-1065G7 with Iris Plus graphics.

The Asus ZenBook 14 UX425 is aimed squarely at being thin and light, and it succeeds marvelously. And yet, it gives up little by way of build quality. It also benefits from strong battery life thanks to its low-power 1-watt display, and it has a great keyboard and touchpad. There are very few compromises made to fit this laptop into an $800 price point, and that makes it not only a great value but a downright steal.

Read our in-depth Asus ZenBook 14 UX425 review

The best gaming laptop for under $1,000: Dell G5 SE

Just a few years ago it would’ve been unthinkable that you could find a laptop under $1,000 with a graphics card powerful enough to run the latest games without turning the detail settings way, way down. The Dell G5 SE is something of a novelty in that regard. Starting at just $900, it features a fast AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and an AMD Radeon RX 5600M graphics card.

During our time with the G5 SE, we were consistently impressed by its robust gaming performance — even if we were underwhelmed by its display quality (other than the 144Hz refresh rate, which we loved).

At this price range, you simply won’t find a better gaming laptop. The Dell G5 SE is without peer when it comes to gaming performance on a budget. If you have more money to spend, then you should head over to our best gaming laptops list.

Read our in-depth Dell G5 SE review

The best business laptop for under $1,000: Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (2020)

These days, an excellent business laptop isn’t so different from any other laptop. That’s why the updated Inspiron 15 7000 is such a perfect fit — it’s simply a great 15.6-inch laptop with ideal specs for all kinds of business purposes.

You’ll find everything you need for your work, including a fast 10th-generation Intel Core i5-10300H processor, HDMI for plugging into televisions and projectors, and a Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port for charging and extra-fast data transfer. Models start at 8GB of RAM, and a speedy 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD. Graphics are handled by the Intel UHD Graphics GPU, although if you’re a gamer, invest in the optional GeForce GTX 1650.

If you’re looking for a laptop that will fit your business needs, then the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 is an option that will leave some cash left over for additional accessories.

The best laptop for college students under $1,000: Apple MacBook Air

MacBook Air 2020
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

College students often gravitate toward MacBooks given Apple’s strong promotional efforts aimed directly at them. As a case in point, Apple offers the 2020 MacBook Air to college students for just $900, one of the cheapest ways you’ll find to get your hands on an Apple laptop.

That price will net you a 1oth-gen dual-core i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a Retina display with True Tone support. That’s plenty of power for taking notes and finishing homework, in a chassis that’s thin and light and sports Apple’s amazing Magic Keyboard.

The one caveat is the rumored return of the 12-inch MacBook later this year, which might end up being the first Apple Silicon-powered MacBook. With a rumored price of $750, the Apple MacBook Air could end up being the ultimate college laptop.

Read our in-depth Apple MacBook Air review

The best laptop for photo and video editing: Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7

Whether it’s photo editing or video editing, finding a laptop under $1,000 that can handle your needs will be tough. At least, it used to be that way before AMD released its fantastic Ryzen 4000 line of CPUs. Now, you benefit from the fastest processor you can buy for under $1,000 (and one that rivals those in machines selling for $2,000 and more), along with reasonably quick graphics.

Fast video editing often requires both a fast GPU and higher core-count processors, and Lenovo’s IdeaPad Slim 7 provides a reasonable mix of both thanks to its Ryzen 7 4800U CPU. Meanwhile, both photo editing and video editing require a well-calibrated screen with accurate colors. Unfortunately, the XPS 15, MacBook Pro 15, or Razer Blade that you need are never under $1,000.

Right now, the AMD version is hard to find. The product listing leads to Intel-based models with 10th-generation Core i5-1035G4 and i7-1065G7 CPUs. The starting model includes the Core i5 CPU, 8GB of memory (soldered), a 512GB PCIe SSD, an IR camera, and a fingerprint reader. The $1K plus model includes the Core i7 and 16GB of RAM.

Read our in-depth Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 review

The best 2-in-1 for under $1,000: Surface Pro 7

Sometimes a typical laptop just doesn’t cut it. If you need a reliable stylus or a mobile workstation with a creative side, the Surface Pro 7 is your best bet under $1,000. Starting at $750, the latest Surface Pro features 10th-generation Intel Core processors, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of storage space. For $900, you get a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The Surface Pro 7 is a solid performer, and the touchscreen and Surface Pen — which will run you an extra $100 — make this one of the best digital drawing surfaces around.

As a 2-in-1 with best-in-class handwriting recognition and Windows Ink, the Surface Pro 7 is a versatile mobile workstation with features you won’t find elsewhere, at least not at this price. For that reason, it’s hard to beat if you’re looking for something ultra-mobile and stylus-friendly.

Read our in-depth Surface Pro 7 review

Research and buying tips

Is a laptop under $1,000 any good?

Of course! As we said in the introduction, you’ll want to be careful when buying a budget laptop to be sure that the manufacturer hasn’t cut a corner that you care about. But frankly, the same is true for premium laptops — you can spend over $2,000 and get a laptop that won’t meet your needs if you don’t carefully identify what’s important to you.

In the world of cars, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla have been two of the best-selling cars for some time now, and for good reason. They’re affordable, safe, provide decent performance, and won’t break the bank when it comes to maintenance. If you’re looking for basic transportation, then you can’t go wrong with either of these options.

The same principle applies to budget laptops. You won’t get a new Ferrari at a new Honda Civic price, but if what you need is good performance and reliability at an affordable price, then our list proves that you can get quite a bit of computer for well under $1,000.

Should I buy Windows or Mac, or try a Chromebook?

The choice depends on what kinds of tasks are important to you. We suggest that you check out our Windows, MacOS, and Chrome OS buyer’s guide, which goes over the differences between each operating system and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Chances are, if you’re looking for a laptop that’s less than $1,000, then you won’t be looking at a Mac unless you’re willing to buy the base MacBook Air model. That leaves a choice between Windows and Chrome OS, which is primarily a question of what software you need to run.

If you want the widest selection of software across most categories, then Windows will be your best bet. If you just need to browse the web, run simple productivity apps, and can get away with Android equivalents, then Chrome OS could work.

What processor should I buy?

There are more choices now than ever. You can stick with Intel and get Ice Lake or Comet Lake 10th-generation Core i7 CPUs in laptops that are under our $1,000 threshold.  On the flip side, AMD now has a very competitive platform in its Ryzen 4000 series CPUs.

If you want to go well under $1,000, you can get a very fast Ryzen chip or an Intel Core i5, both of which are highly capable processors that will churn through most productivity tasks without hesitation — but the AMD Ryzen will be much faster overall. You can also enjoy good battery life with any of these CPUs.

If you buy a Chromebook, then you can get away with a slower processor, such as an Intel Core i3 or Pentium processor. And, chances are, you won’t find many laptops with Core i7 processors in this price range. That leaves the Core i5 and AMD Ryzen 5 as the most logical — and available — processor choices for budget laptops.

How much RAM do I need?

The sweet spot for memory — for any laptop, really, not just budget machines — is 8GB. We answer the question of  “how much RAM do I need” in more detail in our buyer’s guide, but whether you’re running Windows, MacOS, or even the more lightweight Chrome OS, 8GB will provide you with plenty of headroom for multitasking and more complex applications.

What graphics hardware should I look for?

Most budget laptops will come with integrated graphics, usually some variant of Intel’s UHD Graphics technology that the company builds into its Core CPUs. What this means is that most budget laptops can run older games at lower resolutions and still handle your day-to-day productivity needs as well. That is unless you consider AMD, in which case you can get much faster performance than with Intel’s integrated options.

However, as our list indicates, you can find budget laptops with reasonably fast graphics. These will provide a much better gaming and content-creation experience than Intel’s integrated graphics can manage, and if you’re willing to settle for 1080p and lower graphical details, you can get some real gaming done with a few of them.

Can I afford a laptop with a 4K display?

If you’re trying to stick to a budget of under $1,000, then the answer to this question is likely a “no.” In fact, up until recently, it was difficult to even find Full HD displays under this price point. Your average laptop on a budget won’t have the battery strength it needs to support a 4K display. And if it does, it won’t hold a charge for very long—keeping you glued to your outlet. 

However, wait a few years. 4K and batteries adequately supporting this resolution will become the baseline spec as seen with Full HD-based laptops of today.

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