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The 5 best budget laptops for 2024

The 5 best budget laptops for 2024
Acer, Apple, HP, Lenovo, Samsung

When it comes to choosing a laptop computer, less is sometimes more. If you mostly use a laptop for word processing, crunching numbers with a spreadsheet, managing emails, surfing the web, streaming audio and video, and using cloud-based applications, a less expensive, entry-level laptop could be all you need. When we compiled this roundup, we didn't seek out the cheapest laptops. We selected computers that are very affordable, but that also offer a decent hardware configuration. Whether you're seeking a Windows, MacOS or ChromeOS-based laptop, you'll find some great options here. 

For even more advice on choosing the best desktop computer, laptop computer, Chromebook, tablet, Android-based tablet, Android smartphone or cell phone, be sure to check out our extensive and continuously updated tech coverage.

Our five top budget laptop computer picks for 2024

Our team of in-house consumer technology experts have done the testing and research to curate this roundup of the best budget laptop computers available right now. While some can be custom configured at the time of purchase, this is not the case for all models. So consider the ideal display size for you, and how much computing power you'll need.

Best Windows-based budget laptop: Acer Aspire 5 Slim 

Acer Aspire 5 Slim

Operating System: Windows 11 Home | Display Size: 15.6 inches | Display Type: LCD IPS | Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels | Processor: Ryzen 3 335OU Quad-Core with AMD Radeon Vega 6 mobile graphics | CPU Speed: 3.50 GHz | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | Size: 14.3 x 9.9 x 0.71 inches | Weight: 3.97 pounds | Battery Life: Up to 6 hours

Head over to Amazon, where less than $450 will get you a 2023 version of the Acer Aspire 5 Slim laptop computer that runs Windows 11 Home. The computer is nicely equipped with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for storage. It's powered using an AMD Ryzen 3 processor with a Radeon Vega 6 GPU. 

The 15.6 inch display is more than adequate for the average user. Other features include a backlit keyboard with a numeric keypad, along with a fingerprint scanner to securely unlock the computer. The Aspire 5 Slim is nicely equipped with one USB Type-C port, three USB Type-A ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, an Ethernet port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1 for wireless connectivity. The Aspire 5 Slim also comes equipped with two internal stereo speakers and a webcam.

This is the entry-level configuration of the Aspire 5 Slim. At the time of purchase, you can upgrade the RAM (up to 32GB) and internal storage (up to 2TB), but this increases the computer's price to $800. Overall, this laptop offers a really good value for a budget-conscious shopper with average needs.

Best budget Apple MacBook: Apple 13" MacBook Air with M2 processor

Apple MacBook Air

Operating System: MacOS Sonoma | Display Size: 13.6 inches | Display Type: Liquid Retina | Display Resolution: 2,560 x 1,664 pixels | Processor: Apple M2 | CPU Speed: 8-Core CPU, 10-Core GPU | Unified Memory: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Size: 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches | Weight: 2.7 pounds | Battery Life: Up to 18 hours

All of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptop computers from Apple run the same version of MacOS Sonoma and come with the same impressive collection of preinstalled apps. What sets each model apart are display size and style, processor, RAM and storage. While a less expensive version of the MacBook Air that runs Apple's older M1 processor is available, we recommend spending a bit more to take advantage of the company's more powerful M2.

The entry-level model of the 13-inch MacBook Air (with the M2) is super thin and weighs a mere 2.7 pounds. It features a beautiful Liquid Retina display and a battery life that lasts up to 18 hours. It comes in four colors -- silver, starlight, space gray or midnight.

For around $1,100, this version of the MacBook Air utilizes an 8-core CPU and an 8-core GPU, with a 16-core Neural Engine. The display offers a maximum brightness of 500 nits. For connectivity, this model includes four USB Type-C/Thunderbolt ports. For wireless functionality, you get Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3. We really like the sound quality the computer's four-speaker system generates. And in video calls or virtual meetings, you'll benefit from the 1080p FaceTime HD camera. 

Beyond an impressive level of computing power for an entry-level system, the MacBook Air comes with a robust collection of apps designed to handle most everyday tasks, like scheduling, web surfing, contact management, email management, photo editing and more. The MacBook Air also offers full integration with Apple's iCloud service, as well as Apple's other online services, like Apple Music, AppleTV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+ and Apple Fitness+. 

For anyone who already relies on an iPhone, iPad or iMac, the MacBook Air is a lightweight and feature-packed laptop computer that fits nicely within Apple's ecosystem. At the time of purchase, you can upgrade the version of the M2 processor that comes bundled with the computer, along with its amount of unified memory (up to 24GB) and the capacity of the internal SSD storage (up to 2TB). But those upgrades will affect the price. 

Best budget Chromebook: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook Go

Samsung Chromebook Go

Operating System: ChromeOS | Display Size: 14 inches | Display Type: LED | Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels | Processor: Intel Celeron N4500 with integrated Intel UHD graphics | CPU Speed: 1.1 GHz to 2.8 GHz (Turbo mode) | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB eMMC | Size: 12.88 x 8.88 x 0.63 inches | Weight: 3.2 pounds | Battery Life: Up to 12 hours

For the most part, Chromebooks are much cheaper than traditional Windows or MacOS laptop computers, because they rely more on cloud-based applications and storage. They're also fully compatible with all Google online services, as well as all Android mobile apps. This makes them a really good (and inexpensive) companion for an Android smartphone, tablet and or smartwatch.

Chromebooks need less powerful processors, less RAM and less internal storage -- even to run higher-end applications -- so no it's wonder that they start at less than $100. But we chose the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook Go for this roundup because it offers a nice collection of features and functions, as well as a hardware configuration that'll appeal to the widest group of users. 

This configuration of the Chromebook Go includes a 14-inch display, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. This is the Wi-Fi 6 only version of the computer, but at the time of purchase, you can upgrade to one with Wi-Fi and cellular LTE connectivity (via AT&T or Verizon). You can also increase the amount of RAM to 16GB. One of the best features of this Chromebook is its durability. It's designed to withstand a minor drop or liquid spill. 

Best budget 2-in-1 laptop: Lenovo Yoga 6

Lenovo Yoga 6 2-in-1 Convertible Touchscreen Laptop

Operating System: Windows 11 Home | Display Size: 13.3 inch touchscreen | Display Type: WUXGA | Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,200 pixels | | Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 7530U with integrated AMD Radeon graphics | CPU Speed: 4.5 GHz | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | Size: 11.97 x 8.58 x 0.72 inches | Weight: 3.01 pounds | Battery Life: Up to 17 hours

Maybe you haven't invested in a feature-packed tablet, and you know you need a laptop computer, but you're on a budget. We recommend an entry-level, 2-in-1 device that gives you the best of both worlds -- a full-featured, Windows laptop that converts to a versatile tablet with a touchscreen. This is exactly what the Lenovo Yoga 6 offers.

While this entry-level configuration includes a 13.3-inch touchscreen display, an AMD Ryzen 5 7530U CPU with integrated AMD Radeon graphics, along with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for internal storage, at the time of purchase, you can upgrade both the RAM and internal storage (up to 2TB).

Some of the things we really like about this 2-in-1 device are that it's very thin (a mere 0.72 inches thick) and it weighs just 3.01 pounds. This makes it easy to transport. While the display quality and resolution aren't the best, it's certainly adequate for everyday computing (like streaming video or basic photo editing). Unfortunately, the Yoga 6 does not come with a stylus, but you can purchase the Lenovo Digital Pen 2 ($40) and use it to handwrite or draw on the screen.

Best budget large-screen laptop: HP Envy 17T-CR100

HP Envy 17T-CR100 17.3" Touchscreen Laptop

Operating System: Windows 11 Pro | Display Size: 17.2 inch touchscreen | Display Type: ISP | Display Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels | Processor: 13th Gen Intel Core i7-13700H with integrated Intel Xe graphics | CPU Speed: 1.70 GHz | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 1TB | Size: 10.2 x 15.58 x 0.75 inches | Weight: 5.5 pounds | Battery Life: Up to 7.5 hours

Not everyone needs a massive 17.2-inch display in a laptop. It provides more on-screen real estate, but it also increases the size and weight of the computer, making it more cumbersome. And with a larger display, of course, comes a higher price. 

But, if you know you'll benefit from having a larger, 1080p-resolution display, combined with the computing power that a 13th generation Intel Core i7-23700H processor offers, we suggest the HP Envy 17T-CR100. It's affordable, but offers a useful collection of features. This configuration is equipped with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for internal storage -- which is more than enough for higher-end computing. 

In addition to running Windows 11 Pro, the computer does a nice job with wireless connectivity, thanks to its support for Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. It's also equipped with a decent selection of ports, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port and an SD memory card reader. This is not an entry-level computer, but between its larger display and impressive configuration, it offers a really good value for someone who does not want to spend top dollar on a new laptop computer.

How to choose the best budget laptop computer

Keep your expectations in check. These are entry-level devices, so they typically won't offer the most powerful processor, highest-resolution display, or the most internal storage. What you'll typically get is a laptop computer that will handle everyday computing, but that might struggle if you use applications that require much processing power. 

The best budget laptops can handle just about any cloud application, especially if you're connected to the internet via a strong and fast Wi-Fi signal and the computer supports Wi-Fi 6E. Most of these laptops come with a generous collection of preinstalled apps. Most, however, will struggle with high-end gaming, high-resolution photo editing or video editing.

Before you start shopping for a budget laptop computer, ask yourself these five questions:

  • What operating system do I need it to support?
  • What will I primarily be using the computer for?
  • What's the ideal size display to meet my needs?
  • How important is the computer's size, weight, overall design and battery life to me?
  • How much can I spend on a new computer?

Here are six important things to consider:

  • Operating system: Choose an operating system that's compatible with equipment you're already using, including your desktop computer, smartphone, tablet and smartwatch. This will make it easier to set up the equipment to sync and share data. 
  • Processor (CPU and GPU): The computer's CPU and GPU work together and provide it with the power it needs to handle tasks quickly and efficiently. A faster and more powerful CPU and GPU allows the computer to work faster and perform more complex, power-heavy tasks.
  • Display size and type: The display size determines how much on-screen real estate you'll have, while the display type will help to determine how bright, detailed and smooth things will look. The best options display more than 1 million colors and display them accurately and with a high level of contrast. A touchscreen display will help you boost productivity.
  • Internal storage and RAM: Internal storage determines how much content it can store locally. If you rely heavily on cloud-based services, a lot of internal storage is less important. But if you plan to store a lot (especially large photo or video files), you'll want a computer with the biggest capacity you can afford. For the average user, this is typically either 256GB or 512GB. Having plenty of RAM will help a computer run faster and smoother, but for the average user, either 8GB or 16GB is adequate.
  • Design, size and weight: The overall design, size and weight of the computer determines how comfortable it is to use, as well as how easy it is to pack up and transport. These decisions are typically based on personal preference, along with how and where you'll typically be using the computer.
  • Battery life: Any laptop computer can run indefinitely when it's plugged into a power outlet. But one of the main benefits is that it can run on a battery. Battery life varies greatly. Again, consider how and where you'll be using the computer and how many hours at a time you'll typically be relying on the computer's battery.

Should I buy a brand-name computer if I'm on a budget?

Yes. In almost every situation, you'll pay a bit extra for a name-brand computer. Otherwise you may be stuck with components that are unreliable. A brand name computer may not have the most high-end components, but it will have faced rigorous testing. It's also much easier to have a brand-name computer repaired or upgraded. Brand-name computers also tend to be updated more often with security patches, that'll help protect you, especially when you're on the internet.

We highly recommend a laptop from a reputable brand that will stand behind its products and that comes with a good warrantee. You might consider spending a bit extra for an extended protection plan that will cover accidental damage to the computer, so you can avoid potentially costly repairs.

Another perk that comes with a brand name is that the maker often guarantee future support for years, including updates to the computer's operating system, apps, and security features. That said, since you're purchasing a lower-end computer, you can typically expect it to become obsolete within three to five years.

Are budget laptops worth it?

If you're just looking for a computer to handle everyday tasks, and you don't need to see the most high-resolution and detailed graphics, then a budget laptop will serve you well. 

A budget laptop can easily handle everyday computing tasks and, for the most part, are as reliable as more expensive computers. However, if you're computing needs are more extensive than what the budget laptop is able to handle, you'll get frustrated by its sluggishness and lack of advanced features. The power of the computer's CPU and GPU, its display size and type, it's amount of RAM and internal storage and the capacity of its battery all impact its price.

To get the most out of a budget laptop, we recommend a model that's been released within the last year or so, since an older model will become outdated faster (even if it is cheaper).

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