You can get a good laptop, or you can get a cheap laptop. That’s the common wisdom, at least when it comes to something powerful enough to run Windows. For any budget under $ 800, look for a small machine full of plastic and bargain components.
But the laptop market is changing. With competition from cheaper low-power Chromebooks and more flexible options thanks to AMD̵7;s low – cost Ryzen chips, there are more choices in the lower price ranges than you might think.
What makes a laptop not suck?
That said, you can not perform miracles. We have chosen the best options in several categories at the lowest price for laptops that we would consider using in our own work or leisure. Although there were many choices at lower price levels, we turned down all models that received particularly poor ratings from users or professional reviewers and made other differences based on less obvious differences.
We also started with just a minimum specification. While a low-power processor, a low-resolution screen, or a plastic body are not necessarily deal-breakers, we think it will be a bad time to try running Windows 10 on any computer with less than 8 GB of RAM. Chromebooks can do with less, like the wonderful and extremely affordable Lenovo Chromebook Duet, but Windows has a lot more going on under the hood.
You can find some older models for smaller than the ones we chose, and some currently produced models with 4 GB or (shake) 2 GB of memory. But we think these are the best in Windows laptops on the market that do not suck.
The best standard laptop: Acer Swift 3
If all you need is a regular laptop to surf the web, read emails and maybe watch occasional movies, Acer’s Swift 3 is hard to beat. It is available in AMD and Intel varieties, but the SF314-42-R6YC variant that packs a Ryzen 4500U is the one we recommend for those with a budget. It is used in a 14-inch IPS screen in full HD, a generous 256 GB SSD storage and some surprising accessories, such as an illuminated keyboard and a built-in fingerprint reader.
You will not get a touch screen in this price range, but the laptop has a full-size HDMI port for easy output to a screen or TV and USB-C charging along with two standard USB A ports.
Best General Cheap Windows Laptops
The best affordable 2-in-1 laptop: HP Pavilion x360
It is difficult to find a cheap laptop with decent specifications and a foldable 2-in-1 touch screen design. The best on the market is the Pavilion X360 from HP. We recommend the 14t-dw000 variant, which comes with 128 GB SSD storage. It uses a 10th generation Intel Core i3 processor – something of a luxury in this category – even though the 14-inch touch screen is only “HD” at 1366 × 768.
The Pavilion X360 has some premium features, such as a metal lid, integrated fingerprint reader, USB-C charging and – a rarity on almost all laptops now – a full-size SD card reader. Even if it is compatible with an active pen, it will not come in the box. Reviewers say the battery life is not good and the keyboard is nothing special, but performance, fit and finish are far above expectations in this price range.
The best value for money laptop: Dell Inspiron 17 3793
If you do not move your laptop often and prefer a large machine with a large screen, Dell has you covered. The latest generation of the Inspiron 17 (3793 model) contains much more of the comforts of a desk while it can still travel (even if it does not come out on any domestic flights). The base model on the Dell website starts with a 10th generation Intel Core i3 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a huge (but slow) 1 TB hard drive.
But the real draw here is the 17.3-inch 1080p screen (without touching the entry-level model) and various ports on its large body. You get a full-size SD card reader, three USB-A ports, HDMI output and surprisingly both a full Ethernet port and a DVD drive. (Do you remember them?) The downside is that there are no USB-C ports, and one of the USB-A ports uses the slower 2.0 standard. Also keep in mind that this machine is more “portable” than portable over 6 kg.
The best affordable notebook laptop: ASUS Zenbook 14
For those who want a nice laptop that will turn a few heads in an airport port, the Asus Zenbook 14 will fit the bill. This small aluminum alloy machine is more expensive than others on this list of comparable hardware, but it weighs only 2.65 pounds and is only 0.7 inches thick. Bargain hunters should look for the Q407IQ version with an AMD Ryzen 5 processor – it’s significantly cheaper than the Intel version of this laptop.
Zenbook 14 uses a discreet GeForce MX350 GPU for a little extra graphics power, which you will be grateful for on the 14 ″ 1080p screen with thin frames. It has 256 GB SSD storage and a MicroSD card reader, with both HDMI and USB-C ports, but unfortunately it is not charged from the latter. Surprisingly, it is the only laptop with a Windows Hello-compatible IR camera.
The best affordable laptop notebook: Acer Nitro 5
Trying to find a cheap laptop that can hold its own in 3D PC games is a big task – the “budget” category for laptop games tends to start with four digits. But Acer’s Nitro 5 in its cheapest configuration is surprisingly affordable for a 15-inch machine that packs a 10th generation Core i5 processor and a mid-range GTX 1650 graphics card. It’s not enough to play the latest games in full quality, but with some compromises you should be able to use your laptop’s 1080p screen at 60 frames per second.
Other charms include a red backlit keyboard with tenkey area, 512 GB SSD storage and dedicated HDMI and USB-C ports. And since this thing is bigger and more generous with space than most laptops, you should be able to upgrade your memory and storage with just basic tools, if you want a little more performance later.