While modern laptops can come packing hardware that would make desktops of yesteryear blush, not everyone needs all that power — and not everyone has the budget for it. Just because your future laptop is cheap doesn’t mean it has to be slow or incapable. Some of the best laptops under $300 are impressive little machines.
It’s important to note that as great as the choices below are, some sacrifices need to be made to keep the price so low. You can’t expect to have top-tier hardware in these systems, and fancy features are kept to a minimum.However, we wouldn’t go ahead and recommend any of these if they didn’t offer decent performance and battery life, so you can buy any of the following systems with the confidence that they will serve you well — just not as quickly as their more expensive counterparts.
Acer Aspire 1 ($220)
Though not exciting to look at, the Acer Aspire 1 makes up for that with an improved array of internal hardware. It sports an Intel Celeron N3450 quad-core CPU with 4GB of memory, 32GB of local storage, and a 14-inch display with 1080p resolution.
None of that comes at the price of portability. Although it is a little heavier than the other entries at 3.5 pounds, that’s not enough to be significantly noticeable. Battery life comes in at a respectable seven hours, which isn’t stellar, but it’s enough for most of a workday, and would be plenty for the average medium-distance flight.
Its one major weakness may be local storage space, but with a USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, and an SD card reader, you can expand that with a decent external hard drive (these are our favorites). The Amazon listing for this one even comes with an optional flash drive for a few dollars more. There are options for cloud storage if you prefer.
The 1080p display is this laptop’s main attraction. It makes this laptop great for watching movies and online video, even if the display is a little on the dull side. It’s worth shopping around for this one as you can find a deal that knocks the price down to well under $200.
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Acer Chromebook 15 ($370)
A 1080p screen is as much a rarity in Chromebooks at this price point as it is in their Windows counterparts, but the Acer Chromebook 15 packs that full-HD resolution into a 15.6-inch IPS panel. That makes it the laptop with the largest display on this list, which might impact portability, but certainly helps with productivity and media viewing.
Internally, the Chromebook 15 packs an Intel Pentium N4200 processor, paired up with 4GB of memory and 32GB of solid-state storage. There is a 16GB version for those who want to save a few dollars, but there isn’t much difference in price between the two, and doubling the onboard storage is a worthy upgrade.
This is a larger laptop than some others on this list, weighing in at just under 5 pounds. It also moves above and below our $300 cutoff. However, battery life is much more impressive, lasting upwards of nine hours in the right circumstances. Considering the size and resolution of this display, that’s a good run, and makes this great for simple work and media viewing.
Read our full Acer Chromebook 15 review
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Lenovo Ideapad 120S ($240)
Lenovo has a number of offerings under $300, and the Ideapad 120S is one of the best. Coming in 11-inch ($200) and 14-inch ($250) form factors, it packs an Intel Celeron N3350 processor running at 1.1GHz (turbo 2.4GHz), 2-4GB of memory, and up to 64GB of onboard flash storage. Graphics-wise, it runs the onboard Intel HD 500 chip that powers the 1,366 x 768 TN display.
Despite the affordable price tag, the Ideapad 120S has a premium look to it, with a great finish available in a few different color choices. While there are some reports of the frame not being the most sturdy, you do get a good selection of ports, including a USB-C that can be used as an alternative charging port if needed.
Most important is its portability. Although the smaller-screen variant is more compact, neither are heavy, weighing in at 2.53 pounds and 3.17 pounds respectively. The battery life lasts up for up to 8.5 hours, so this laptop is good for almost a full working day without charging.
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Asus Chromebook C202 ($220)
Ranked as the best budget Chromebook in our guide, the Asus Chromebook C202 is designed for students and middle-school children, giving them a rugged and reasonably powerful laptop to work with. It might not pack some of the features and hardware of the other entries on this list, but it can withstand the rigors of day-to-day use better than most.
Internally, it sports an Intel Celeron N3060 processor, up to 4GB of memory, and 16GB of flash storage. Its screen is on the small size, measuring in at just 11.6-inches with a resolution of 1,366 x 768, but it does sport an anti-glare coating and the small form-factor aids its portability.
This Chromebook weighs in at just 2.2 pounds, so it’s the lightest on this list, and with an average battery life of around 10 hours, it’s more than capable of lasting throughout a school day.
With a tough frame, rubber guards, easy-grip handles, and a spill-resistant keyboard, this laptop is designed to handle regular use in a rough environment with ease. It’s not the fastest Chromebook out there, but it’s impressively capable for such a tough, little package.
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Acer Chromebook R 11 ($290)
Although it has stiff competition from several other Acer laptops in this lineup, the Chromebook R 11 is still a solid contender under $300. It might skirt the edge of that price ceiling, but that means you get an Intel Celeron N3150 quad-core CPU running at up to 2.08GHZ, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of onboard storage. It also has great battery life, managing more than six and a half hours when running our Peacekeeper benchmark.
Although we did find its touchpad a bit difficult to use at times, the R 11 has a great hinge that lets you flip it all the way around to use as a tablet. That, combined with a decent touchscreen, means that this is a versatile 2-in-1 with a lot going for it, where many of the other entries here are “just” laptops.
Read our full Acer Chromebook R 11 review
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