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The best laptops under $1,000

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 is the best laptop under $1,000. It’s a budget laptop with high performance thanks to a cutting-edge CPU, a near-premium build quality, and a display that’s very hard to find at such a low price.

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

The best laptops under $1,000 at a glance

Best laptop under $1,000: Asus ZenBook 13 UX333

asus zenbook 13 ux333fa
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

If you’re willing to compromise a bit on a more premium build quality design, the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 is an excellent choice. It’s our pick for best laptop under $1,000. It starts at just $850, and for that price, you still get a Whiskey Lake 8th-generation Intel Core i5-8265U processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD).

The upgrade to 8th-generation Intel Core processors is the most meaningful update in the newest model as it moves it past the other laptops in this price category. Those CPUs offer a substantial performance boost, even during everyday use, and they’re also more efficient when you’re not pushing the CPU to the max.

Read our full Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 review

The best gaming laptop for under $1,000: Dell G3 Gaming

Playing Fortnite on a laptop
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends

Just a few years ago it would’ve been unthinkable that you could find a laptop under $1,000 with graphics card powerful enough to run the latest games without turning the detail settings way, way down. The Dell G3 Gaming is something of a novelty in that regard. Starting at just $800, it features a fast 45-watt Intel Core i5 processor, a 256GB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card. During our time with the G3 Gaming we were consistently impressed by its robust gaming performance — even if we were underwhelmed by its display quality.

At this price range, you simply won’t find a better gaming laptop. The G3 Gaming 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 full Dell G3 Gaming Laptop 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 9th-generation Intel i5-9300H 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 9GB of DDR4 RAM, and a speedy 356GB PCIe NVMe SSD. Graphics are supported by the Intel UHD 630 GPU. It won’t be good for gaming, but that’s not why you buy this laptop.

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 money-making investments.

The best laptop for students under $1,000: 2020 HP Chromebook

High school and college students will love this ultra-affordable 15.6-inch Chromebook that still has the specs to act as a traditional laptop when necessary. This model comes with an 8th-gen Intel Core processor, an HD touchscreen, and Intel UHD Graphics 620. There’s also 4GB of RAM and 128GB of eMMC storage. The laptop is rated at 13 hours of battery life.

The keyboard is full-sized and includes a numeric keypad for faster data entry — plus, thankfully, backlit for working in darker study rooms. The laptop charges via a handy USB-C port, but there’s a downside: That’s really the only USB port that the laptop comes with, so it’s important to rely on wireless accessories or adapters when using this Chromebook.

The best laptop for photo editing: Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3 (2019)
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Whether it’s photo editing or video editing, finding a laptop under $1,000 that can handle your needs will be tough. Fast video editing often requires both a dedicated GPU and higher core count processors. 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.

A good option in the meantime, however, is the Acer Swift 3. For $900, you get a quad-core Core i7 processor, a discrete Nvidia MX150 graphics card, 8GB of RAM, and a decent IPS 1080p screen. The screen tested quite positively for colors, offering 95% of the sRGB color space and a low average color error, meaning you can trust the edits you’re making. It’s not going to revolutionize your workflow nor is it going to impress your friends, but it should be to hold you over until you can save up for a laptop with a six-core processor.

Although it’s lacking the all-important SD card slot, the Swift 3 does offer both USB-A and USB-C for port selection.

Read our full Acer Swift 3 review

The best 2-in-1 for under $1,000: Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6 Review
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 6 is your best bet under $1,000. Starting at under $900, the latest Surface Pro features an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage space. It’s a solid performer, and the touchscreen and active 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, it’s 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. Note that Microsoft did just release the new Surface Pro 7, and so prices on the Surface Pro 6 are likely to remain low — and perhaps even go lower.

Read our full Surface Pro 6 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 there’s a good reason. They’re affordable, safe, provide decent performance, and won’t break the bank when it comes to maintaining them. If you’re looking for basic transportation, then you can’t go wrong with either of these options. The same goes for budget laptops: you aren’t getting a Ferrari, 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, Mac, or try a Chromebook?

It depends. Specifically, it depends on what kind 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 an older 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 the most categories, then Windows will be your best bet. But 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?

You can get a Whiskey Lake 8th-generation Intel Core i5 CPU in laptops that are well under our $1,000 threshold. Quite a few of the laptops in our list use the Core i5-8265U, which is a highly capable processor that will churn through most productivity tasks without hesitation. It’s also an efficient CPU, meaning you’ll enjoy good battery life.

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 as the most logical — and available — processor choice 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. That’s going to be good enough for all of your productivity needs and for running casual games or older titles at lower resolutions and graphical details.

However, as our list indicates, you can find budget laptops with entry-level GPUs like Nvidia’s GeForce MX150 and GTX 1050. These will provide a much better gaming and content-creation experience than 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 either of these chips.

Can I afford a laptop with a 4K display?

Probably not — it wasn’t too long ago when you’d struggle to find Full HD displays available for under $1,000. Besides, budget laptops typically don’t pack in as much battery capacity as more expensive machines, and 4K displays are notorious for sucking down power. Even if you could score a 4K display in a sub-$1,000 laptop, you likely wouldn’t be too happy with its longevity away from a plug.

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