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.
Inspiron 15 3000
Most of the budget laptops on our list run Google’s Chrome OS, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a Windows 10 laptop at prices that are equally easy on the wallet. Dell’s Inspiron 15 3000 is one such laptop, which often comes in well below our $300 price point thanks to sales that save real money off of its entry-level price at retail.
For that minimal investment, you’ll be getting a well-designed laptop with a ton of useful ports, a reasonable weight of 4.95 pounds given the 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) display, and a thickness that measures just less than an inch. The least expensive version offers up an Intel Pentium CPU that’s fast enough for basic productivity work, 4GB of DDR4-2400MHz RAM, and a 500GB spinning hard disk drive (HDD).
You won’t enjoy Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) or the speed of a solid-state drive (SSD), but you’ll be able to work for a good portion of the day thanks to the 40 watt-hour battery. Dell also paid attention to the Inspiron 15’s durability by testing it at up to 149 degrees F, engineering the keyboard for 10 million keystrokes, and testing the lid against a whopping 20,000 cycles.
Acer Chromebook 15
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 Chrome OS laptop with the largest displays on this list, which might impact portability, but certainly helps with productivity and media viewing.
Internally, the Chromebook 15 packs an Intel Celeron N3060 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
Lenovo Ideapad 130S
Lenovo has a number of offerings under $300, and the Ideapad 130S is one of the best. Coming in a 14-inch form factor, it packs an Intel Celeron N4000 processor running at 1.1GHz (turbo 2.6GHz), a choice or two or 4GB of memory, and up to 64GB of onboard flash storage. Graphics-wise, it runs the onboard Intel HD 600 chip that powers the 1,366 x 768 TN display.
Despite the affordable price tag, the Ideapad 130S 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 3.2 pounds. The battery life lasts up for up to 8.5 hours, so this laptop is good for almost a full working day without charging.
Asus Chromebook C202
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.
Acer Chromebook R 11
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 Celedon 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