The Best Laptops On A Budget – Forbes

Science & Technology

The best affordable laptops today are leaps and bounds ahead of their predecessors. For $1,000 or less, you can get a lot more laptop than ever before, thanks to advances in processors, storage and displays. Even budget laptops can look good, perform well and remain relatively lightweight and portable. You may have to make some sacrifices, but you can still get a smart and effective laptop at a very approachable price.
The Apple MacBook Air M1 is powerful, with a massive battery life and light weight so you can take … [+] it anywhere.
While you won’t be able to push a hardcore gaming experience or efficiently run intensive multimedia tasks like video editing, these affordable laptops offer more than enough productivity for most typical school and work needs. In this field, you’re typically looking for good multi-core performance, above average battery life, and a more portable and sleek form factor than meatier options can muster. All of the options on this list pass the criteria in more ways than one.
To pick the best affordable laptops, we combined extensive personal and hands-on experience with in-depth research, cross referencing third-party reviews with specs sheets, first-party benchmarks, and user experiences. Whatever your needs, one of these affordable laptops will be perfect for you.

CPU: Intel Core i5-1235U | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX550 | Storage: 256GB SSD | Display: 14-inch, 2240 x 1400 | Battery: 8 hours
Best for: Anyone who wants solid performance at an affordable price.
The versatile HP Pavilion Plus packs quite the punch at a reasonable price. It has the latest 12th-generation CPU from Intel, with 10 cores and 12-threads for multi-threaded performance; entry-level Nvidia graphics for esports and light gaming; and a sharp 2K display. It model can do a bit of everything very well, making this a great affordable laptop for just about anyone. The weight is an appealing 3.1 pounds, light enough to carry around all day if you’d like. This model’s clean, utilitarian design gives it a professional appearance, and it would fit in as well in office meetings as it would in a student dorm. The Pavilion Plus has a high-resolution 5MP webcam for easy web conferencing, and a dual-speaker Bang and Olufsen audio system.
The battery lasts about eight hours, nothing extraordinary but enough to get through much of a day. Plus, the laptop has fast charging so you can get up to 50% battery in just 30 minutes of charging. It also has two USB Type-C 10 Gbps ports, giving you the option of external monitors and high-speed external drives. It has no Thunderbolt support, however.
CPU: Intel Core i7-1235U | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Graphics: Integrated Intel Xe | Storage: 512GB Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 touchscreen | Battery: Up to 10.5 hours |
Best for: Anyone wanting a great convertible 2-in-1 laptop without breaking the wallet.
The HP Pavilion x360 is among the best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy in 2022, and it gets noted especially for its more affordable price. It combines an Intel 12th-generation CPU with plenty of SSD storage and a 14-inch touchscreen display whose narrow bezels make it appear larger than it is. This model makes a few sacrifices, though, with only 8GB of RAM (half of our overall HP pick) and a 1080p resolution display, which lacks the sharper appearance of 2K displays. The touchscreen display can rotate 360-degrees thanks to a nifty hinge design which enables using this model as a tablet. It can also switch to tent mode if you want to watch movies and shows at a comfortable angle.
At just 3.4 pounds, this laptop is light enough to carry around. The battery life should last 10-hours per charge, more than enough for a workday and a commute. HP uses a 5MP webcam with dynamic backlight adjustment for improved video conferencing.
Best Buy
CPU: Intel Core i5-12650H | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti | Storage: 512GB SSD | Display: 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 | Battery: Up to 8 hours
Best for: Gamers looking for an affordable and capable gaming laptop.
The HP Victus is an entry-level gaming laptop with a capable 12th-gen Intel CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics chip—more than enough performance to deliver excellent frame rates in esports games. Thanks to its 144Hz display, animations look smooth and fluid and you’ll be able to keep pace with gamers playing on more expensive machines. The battery lasts up to eight hours in mixed used, or up to six hours of video playback. Keep a charger handy, though, for extended gameplay.
The laptop’s thermals are optimized to keep the components cool through long gaming sessions, and the keyboard has an HP Omen Gaming Hub key and is matched with a bigger-than-usual keypad. On the whole, this Victus is an excellent entry-level gaming laptop at a surprisingly affordable price.
Best Buy
CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T | RAM: 4GB DDR4 | Graphics: MediaTek Helio P60T GPU | Display: 10.1-inch 1,920 x 1,080 | Battery: Up to 13 hours
Best for: Anyone on an extreme budget, or who is more interested in web browsing and online services.
Chromebooks still offer some of the best low-cost laptop solutions and the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a great example of that. At under $300, it’s an extremely affordable 2-in-1 with good performance despite the weak hardware under the hood. Google’s Chrome OS works with web browser-based services and with Android apps, and it was designed for use on more baseline configurations. This model reflects that ethos, and could be a great choice if you already use Gmail, Sheets, Docs and other Google services.
The Chromebook Duet has well over 10 hours of mixed-use battery life. This 2-in-1 comes with a keyboard, you don’t have to buy anything extra. And at just under one pound in weight, this is the kind of laptop you can throw in a backpack and forget it’s even there. It has 128GB of local storage and no media card slot, but you can add cloud storage if you need more space. If you’re looking for a way to respond to emails on-the-go and do some light web browsing, this is one of the best affordable laptops around.
Best Buy
CPU: Intel Core i3-1115G4 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD Xe | Storage: 256GB SSD | Display: 15.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 | Battery: Up to 7 hours
Best for: Those needing a functional Windows laptop on a restricted budget.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 hits a price few Windows PCs can—including the latest iterations using Intel’s 12th generation CPU. This model, with an 11th gen Intel CPU, upholds the IdeaPad 3’s long tradition as a line of budget machines which get almost everything right. In addition to its Intel Core i3 CPU and 8GB of RAM, it has a generous-for-the-price 256GB SSD—all enough for adequate day-to-day use.
You do have to make some sacrifices with a machine this low cost, most notably the low-resolution display which misses the usual minimum baseline Full HD 1080p resolution. At 1,366 x 768 pixels, this display looks lacks the sharp text and inspiring colors of better displays. Then again, you still get a lot for your money if your computing needs aren’t too demanding. Get it while you can: This older model won’t be around forever.
Best Buy
CPU: Apple M1 with 8-core CPU | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Graphics: Apple M1 GPU | Storage: 256GB | Display: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 | Battery: Up to 18 hours
Best for: Apple fans who want the least expensive MacBook available today.
The MacBook Air M1 may no longer be the fastest Apple in town, but it still delivers tremendous power—whether you’re editing video, browsing the web or running 3D simulations. Even with the Apple MacBook Air 2022 now available with the M2 processor, this M1 version of the MacBook holds fast as the MacBook standard for $1,000 or less. It comes with responsive and fast keyboard, and a quiet, fanless design that makes it good for use in quiet spaces. And it has an impressive battery life at up to 18 hours, which makes this a great choice for getting through a full day of work or school with battery to spare, and the best choice of any laptop if battery longevity is your priority at this price. At just 2.8 pounds, too, this MacBook is perfectly portable and will slot into a backpack without weighing you down. The MacBook Air’s built-in webcam quality disappoints, though. Also, this laptop might not be the best choice if you need to connect a lot of peripherals: It comes with just two USB Type-C ports for Thunderbolt 4/USB connections—and one of those is used for charging.
Buying a laptop can be a big decision, filled with choices about components and what to get inside. And even more so when it comes to affordable laptops. Unlike big budget spenders who can splash the cash to get whatever they want, budget shoppers need to prioritize what’s important for their computing needs. That doesn’t mean making major sacrifices, though, as the best affordable laptops can all be excellent options. But you do want to focus your money where you can to get the kind of laptop you want and need.
Think you can stretch your budget a little? Consider some of the best laptops overall, too.
Before you buy an affordable laptop, you need to consider what you’re actually going to use it for. If you don’t ever plan to game on it, then you don’t need to buy a laptop with a discrete graphics card. By skipping discrete graphics, you can save money or spend it on a configuration with other features, like a better CPU, more storage or a better screen.
Will you be doing any photo or video editing? You want at least 8GB of RAM and the best CPU you can afford. Plan to use your laptop more as a portable movie machine? Make sure it has at least a 1080p display and battery life to spare. Want your laptop for working on-the-go? Pick a laptop with a full-size keyboard and a light weight so you can throw it in your backpack.
The central processing unit, or CPU, sometimes called the processor, is the heart of the laptop, moving data around and making all the important calculations. When it comes to general use, web browsing, office work and more intensive tasks like video editing, the CPU is the core component affecting performance.
Picking a CPU isn’t as easy as just getting a laptop with the best CPU available, because oftentimes that’s overkill or a minimal upgrade over the next step down. Also, how a laptop handles heat can impact its performance, making the issue not cut and dry. The best thing you can aim for is to make sure the CPU is at most one or two generations old. For Intel, you’d be looking at 10th generation or newer, and for AMD, Ryzen 4000 or newer. Ideally you want at least four cores, but if you’re only planning on using the laptop for lightweight tasks, you can get away with two cores.
You only need a discrete graphics card, or GPU, if you’re planning on using the laptop for gaming or 3D design work. Otherwise, the integrated (or onboard) GPU is fine and you can save yourself a lot of money and battery life by not having a discrete GPU. Both Intel and AMD have integrated GPUs.
If you are a gamer, mobile GPUs like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 3050 and GeForce GTX1650 are much better than the MX450 or equivalent, so try to find one with a full scale mobile GPU rather than those limited options if you want to play anything outside of lightweight esports games.
The display is a key component in any laptop and it’s often one area that suffers in affordable laptops. However, you can still get a good looking display in the right laptops, and that can be very important if you want to use it for gaming or enjoying movies and TV shows. At the least find a 1080p screen, as anything less than that can look a little blurry at 13-inches and above.
Brightness and color saturation make a big difference too, so check individual reviews for laptops to make sure that you’re getting something that looks good. If you’re looking to game on this laptop, try to find one that has a 120Hz or higher refresh rate, as that can make your games look and feel much smoother.
Battery life is important in any kind of laptop, as laptops stop being quite so versatile if you can’t use them away from a charge point. Still, most modern laptops provide at least 10 hours of mixed usage, while the best can go over 20 hours. Manufacturers quote battery life estimates, based on tests using video or mixed-use. Treat those estimates as a guideline but not set in stone, as many factors (screen brightness, choice of activities) can impact a laptop’s battery life. Make sure whatever laptop you want can handle the amount of time you want to be untethered. If it’s for work or school, you want at least eight hours of solid use to get you through the day.
Laptops that are physically smaller and less expensive typically don’t have as good a battery life.
When you’re talking about less expensive laptops, niceties that often get lost are a touchscreen or 2-in-1 compatibility, which lets you use the laptop as a tablet, too.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are standard in almost all laptops, even affordable ones, but the better laptops using the most recent CPUs will offer more recent generations of those technologies, such as like Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.
For connecting wired accessories like external drives, mouse and keyboard, and external displays, you’ll want a decent array of wired connections. High speed USB Type-A and USB Type-C ports will help you with all of your peripherals, and some laptops allow USB Type-C charging for added convenience. Look for a laptop with multiple USB 3.1 or 3.2 ports, to get the maximal speed possible, particularly important for connecting external storage.