The 5 best computer speakers of 2021 for audiophiles, budget shoppers, and gamers

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Desktop speakers for your computer or laptop are essential if you want the best audio quality. Though some gaming monitors and ultrawide monitors have decent built-in sound, a dedicated set of computer speakers will take your listening experience to the next level.

Computer speakers are available at many price points and in a variety of sizes. Some packages even include a separate subwoofer for extra bass. Wireless streaming support and surround sound capabilities are also featured on more expensive models.

Most computer speakers feature built-in amplification so all you need to do is plug them into an outlet for power. We made our picks with convenience in mind, so all of our recommendations fall into this category, which saves you the cost and hassle of buying a separate amp.

Here are the best computer speakers you can buy

Best computer speakers overall

The Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speakers on a computer desk

The Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speakers lack advanced features, but they deliver incredible sound for the money.

Pros: Impressive audio performance, affordable price, includes subwoofer, 3.5mm ports

Cons: No wireless support, no USB port

Klipsch’s ProMedia 2.1 speaker system is the definition of a tried-and-true audio product. In fact, the ProMedia 2.1 has been on the market in one form or another for nearly two decades.

Though the speakers lack extra features, like wireless streaming, they excel in the two areas that count the most: audio performance and value. The package includes two satellite speakers with 3-inch midrange drivers, MicroTractrix horns, and 19mm tweeters. You also get a dedicated 6.5-inch subwoofer for deep bass. 

You don’t get a remote, but separate knobs for volume and subwoofer levels are integrated on one of the satellite speakers. The system uses a 3.5mm connection on the subwoofer to hook up to your computer or laptop, but it doesn’t have a USB option like some newer speaker systems. Two 3.5mm ports are also included on one of the speakers, allowing you to easily connect a pair of headphones for private listening. 

What really makes the ProMedia 2.1 so special, however, is its audio performance. With clean highs, rich mids, and deep lows, the speakers excel at music, gaming, and movies. This versatility makes them a perfect fit for any multimedia computer setup. 

Though this system has been available for nearly 20 years, we’ve yet to hear better sounding computer speakers in this price range.

Best budget computer speakers

Logitech_Z313

While the Logitech Z313 speakers don’t impress with their sound quality, the low price tag makes them an excellent upgrade to built-in monitor speakers.

Pros: Very inexpensive, easy to set up, includes a subwoofer

Cons: Mediocre audio quality

The Logitech Z313 speakers can’t measure up to more expensive speakers when it comes to sound performance, but they make up for any audio woes in value. With such an affordable price tag, the Z313s are the de facto choice for budget computer speakers. While not reaching the quality heights of Klipsch, the low price tag and simple setup of the Z313s makes them worthy of consideration.

For the price, you’re getting a 2.1 system, meaning there are stereo speakers on your desktop and a subwoofer below. Everything is wired, but with only three cords going between each of the components, cable management shouldn’t be too difficult.  

As far as audio quality goes, the Z313s are best summed up with “good for the money.” The satellite speakers are fairly tinny and the subwoofer doesn’t reach too deep into the lows. The system won’t get loud, either, with a total power rating of 25 watts (five for each satellite and 15 for the subwoofer).

The flaws show up most when you trying to play music loudly through the speakers. Logitech attempts to duck the sound coming out of the satellites as the subwoofer gets loud, making for a wobbly effect when listening to bass-heavy music at high volumes. These speakers are best used when listening to music at low volumes or, say, watching YouTube videos.

Despite their audio limitations, as a replacement for your monitor’s built-in speakers, the Z313s are great, especially for how cheap they are. If you’re interested in high-quality audio or just want to blare music, however, you’ll need to spend a little more.

Best high-end computer speakers

Klipsch_R 51PM

Klipsch’s R-51PM computer speakers look as good as they sound, delivering high-end audio and wireless support.

Pros: Look great, high-end sound, plenty of connection options, Bluetooth support

Cons: A bit pricey, doesn’t include a separate subwoofer

The speakers you use are somewhat of a status statement, and no company more clearly understands that than Klipsch. However, a company isn’t adopted in homes and theaters around the world for its looks alone. Klipsch has substance to its style, and that’s no more clearly exemplified than it is with the R-51PM computer speakers.

As a long time fan of the R-15PMs — which the R-51PMs replaced — to say I was excited for an update would be an understatement, and Klipsch definitely delivered. When I broke out the speakers for the first time, I was impressed with their style. The copper spun tweeter is a familiar hallmark, adding a perfect accent to an otherwise blank chassis.

The sound is really what sells these speakers. Small woofers are notorious for either lacking bass or crowding the rest of the audio field with it. The R-51PM’s humble 5.25-inch woofer sounds much bigger than its size would suggest, partly aided by the large rear-firing port.

If you’ve ever demoed Klipsch speakers — or any audiophile brand, for that matter — none of this should come as a surprise. The R-51PMs aren’t just for audiophiles, though. With a surprisingly clear 120W amplifier powering the two speakers, the R-51PMs are a plug-and-play speaker solution that anyone can pick up.

While my pair lives on my desktop, I’ve moved them around for various purposes in the past. They support a variety of connections, including your phone, computer, and TV. You could, for example, hook the speakers up to your computer through the USB connection and pop over to streaming music on Bluetooth with a single remote click.

Best computer speakers for gaming

Razer_Nommo_Pro

The Razer Nommo Pro system is expensive, but for the sound and features it offers, the price is justified.

Pros: Clear midrange, impressive bass, RGB under-glow

Cons: Expensive

Razer is well known for its gaming peripherals but only recently did it make a serious contender for desktop audio. While PC gamers usually use headphones for the best audio experience, the Razer Nommo Pro speaker system is a clear and powerful alternative for gaming audio.

That comes at a price, though. In fact, the Nommo Pros are the most expensive speakers on our list. That said, you get a lot for your money. The Nommo Pro system is a 2.1 audio setup, meaning you get two satellite speakers and a subwoofer. Each of the satellite speakers has a dedicated woofer and tweeter, too, so you get clear highs and midrange.

First, the satellites. Each speaker is equipped with a 3-inch woofer that’s angled towards your ears as well as 0.8-inch tweeter. The midrange woofers make the difference here. With a dedicated subwoofer, the Nommo Pros aren’t trying to reproduce bass with the satellites and, because of that, the midrange is clearer. Gunshots in games like “Overwatch” give just the right kick to the chest.

The low-end is filled out by the subwoofer, which gets surprisingly loud. In fact, the whole system can get loud. Razer has managed something special with the Nommo Pro in that it can easily shake your room without distorting. Even when explosions are pushing the subwoofer to its limit and bullets are flying across the screen, the sound is clear.

Gaming isn’t the only use case for them, either. Razer includes THX, Dolby, and music modes. THX and Dolby go a lot heavier on the bass, which makes it ideal for watching movies. However, these modes sound dull when listening to music or gaming as the subwoofer overpowers the high-end finesse of the dedicated tweeters.

Best computer speakers for surround sound

Logitech_Z906

While it’ll take a lot of legwork to set up, the Logitech Z906 5.1 surround system delivers excellent audio quality at a good price.

Pros: The Z906 system is one of the cheapest ways to buy 5.1 surround sound

Cons: Setting up the speakers can be a pain

If you’re an avid movie fan, surround sound is the way to go. While not the most convenient for your desktop, the Logitech Z906 surround sound system has small enough speakers with multiple mounting options to make it worthy of consideration.

The package is comprised of four satellite speakers that are meant to be placed around you, a central speaker, a front-firing subwoofer and control module for controlling the output. Across the speakers, the Z906 system delivers 500 watts of continuous power with the ability to go up to 1,000 watts. In short, it can get really loud.

At the center is the subwoofer, which contains the amplifier and all necessary inputs and outputs. Most surround systems are designed to work in a home theater and, while the Z906 system can be used for that purpose, the number of inputs makes it a great choice for desktop applications.

On the back, you’ll find three 3.5mm jacks, a pair of RCA inputs, two optical inputs, a coaxial input, and a plug for six-channel direct connections. Furthermore, you can run these connections simultaneously and switch between them using the included wireless remote. If you use Logitech’s Bluetooth adapter (sold separately) you can stream wirelessly to the system, too.

As far as sound goes, the Z906 system is excellent, worthy of official THX certification. According to Trusted Reviews, this Logitech system “delivers a very impressive sound with depth, punch and decent detail reproduction.”

What else we considered

Audioengine_A5+

Audioengine A5+ ($569): Audioengine’s A5+ speakers were recently one of our picks. Though they still serve as very worthwhile desktop speakers, current price adjustments make it hard to truly recommend Audioengine’s speakers over Klipsch’s R-51PMs.

Both speakers are actually very similar. The woofers are the same size, as are the bodies, and both have excellent audio quality. However, with a slightly lower power rating, the A5+ speakers may not stay as clear at high volumes. Despite that, CNET says the 5+’s “deliver phenomenal sound.”

As far as connectivity goes, the A5+ speakers are slightly worse than their Klipsch counterparts. One speaker has the amplifier inside, and you’ll connect that speaker to the other using an included speaker cable. For connecting to your source, Audioengine includes a 3.5mm jack (standard headphone jack) and stereo RCA inputs and outputs.

While fine for connecting the speakers to your computer, a USB or optical output would allow the A5+ speakers to be used in a more diverse range of situations. Thankfully, that’s offset by support for Bluetooth. You can connect any Bluetooth device to the speakers and switch to that source using the included remote.

Despite missing optical and USB inputs, the A5+ speakers have one major strength in connectivity: an RCA output. With that output, you can pair the A5+’s with Audioengine’s powered S8 subwoofer. While the speakers alone have “solid bass depth” according to PCMag, adding a dedicated subwoofer helps the lows a lot.

The looks aren’t shabby, either. You can choose either satin black or hi-gloss white, both of which look excellent with the Kevlar woofers. For a premium, you can also purchase the speakers in a natural bamboo finish that looks great.

Check out our other speaker buying guides

Sonos Move
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best webcams of 2021 for work or fun

A man presenting in a meeting at his home using the Razer Kiyo Pro that is attached to his monitor

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A great webcam remains among the most wanted home office tech in 2021.
  • Logitech’s C920 HD Pro is still the best webcam. It delivers effective video quality and clear audio at an affordable price.
  • Can’t find a webcam to buy? Here’s how to turn your camera into a webcam.

A webcam is a critical piece of home-office equipment. It’s the best way to connect with co-workers while working remotely. It’s also a must-have for streamers and content creators.

Although a basic laptop webcam can do the job, the result is often fuzzy and dim, making it hard for those on the other side of a video conference to see and connect with you. A USB webcam will provide a leap in quality. Most models available today pack 1080p resolution, double the 720p resolution that most laptop webcams stick to. Your image will be sharper and clearer for whomever you’re talking to.

Logitech dominates this market. It was alone in building new, high-quality webcams over the last decade, so many have turned to the company as remote work surged. Microsoft sells several webcams, but most are older models that often can’t compete with newer Logitech gear. Meanwhile, Razer’s alternatives target streaming rather than work conferencing.

Here are the best webcams you can buy

Our testing methodology

We judged all our recommended webcams, and most of the alternatives, with side-by-side comparisons of video recorded by each webcam. These records were unlabeled and judged back-to-back to reach an unbiased conclusion. 

Our opinion of video quality was most heavily influenced by clarity. We look for a crisp, clean image that is not only sharp but also free from distracting artifacts. We also look for good performance in low-light conditions and rooms with unbalanced lighting. 

Color performance was also key to our observations. We think a warm, vibrant image can deliver a more inviting and personable look. The best webcams are capable of this, while less impressive options can appear cool, stark, and clinical. 

Audio quality was also key to our comparisons. While video quality is important, many owners use a webcam’s built-in microphone even more often than the camera itself. A webcam’s microphone must deliver clear, crisp audio that makes the user’s voice easy to understand while also rejecting unwanted background noise. As with video quality, audio quality was judged through back-to-back comparisons of unlabeled audio samples. 

Last, but not least, we considered the webcam’s software suite (if one was available). We give this far less weight than video or audio quality, but it can be important on more expensive cameras that include advanced customization options.

The best webcam overall

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920

Logitech’s C920 HD Pro is a proven 1080p webcam with quality video and audio at a reasonable price.

Pros: Great video quality, good audio quality, handles background noise well, durable, attractive build quality

Cons: Mount could use more adjustment, limited field-of-view

Logitech’s C920 HD Pro is a proven, affordable webcam. It debuted in January 2012, making it almost a decade old. The webcam’s 1080p resolution and dual-microphone audio were advanced at the time and remain competitive today.

The C920 looks good in a variety of conditions. The camera’s well-tuned autofocus and white balance handle poor lighting well, providing natural, enjoyable video in situations that leave competing webcams confused. 

Audio is no different. The C920‘s dual microphones are not the absolute best available, but they handle background noise as well as any webcam we tested. That’s important if your home office isn’t silent (and most aren’t). 

This webcam has a 78-degree field of view, which is perfect for most people. It centers the shot on your face and keeps the background largely out of view. It can feel tight if you need to have multiple people in the shot, however, or if you want background details to be visible. 

The Logitech C920 HD Pro spawned a family of spin-offs. The C930e has a wider field of view for multi-person meetings. The C922x is a budget streaming camera that adds the option to stream or record at 720p and 60 frames per second. The C920s adds a privacy shutter. 

These alternatives are excellent and, depending on availability and discounts, could be a better value than the C920. Still, the classic C920 HD Pro is our go-to recommendation. It’s a simple, reliable pick.

The best webcam for video quality

A closeup of the Logitech Brio Ultra HD on a computer with a person playing Fortnite

Logitech’s Brio boosts resolution to 4K and has versatile software features that make it great in any situation.

Pros: Best-in-class image quality, excellent audio, versatile recording options, supports Windows Hello

Cons: Expensive

Logitech’s Brio Ultra HD Pro is an outstanding webcam that will help you look your best. Video quality is this camera’s highlight with a 4K resolution that leads to a sharp, crisp image. The Brio has Logitech’s most advanced auto light correction, known as “RightLight 3,” and it’s incredible. This webcam captures usable imagery in low-light conditions that would reduce competitors’ video to a grainy, muddy mess. Although now four years old, the Brio still outperforms newer 4K webcams like Dell’s Ultrasharp Webcam. 

Audio is great, as well. The Brio handles background noise as well as Logitech’s C920 HD Pro, but sounds more vibrant and balanced. It’s as good as you’ll find from any webcam.

The camera’s software provides three field-of-view options (90, 78, and 65 degrees) and up to 5x digital zoom. You can use a wide field of view for a more professional look or narrow it when you don’t feel like cleaning your home office. 

The Brio also supports Windows Hello facial recognition which, once you use it, becomes a must-have. This feature can log you in to Windows 10 the moment you sit down and face the camera. It’s as quick and intuitive as Apple’s FaceID.  

A versatile mount keeps the Brio balanced on most monitors. Those who need an extremely stable shot can remove the default mount and attach the webcam to a tripod.

The best budget webcam

A closeup of the Logi C270HD attached to a computer

Cheap and cheerful, the Logitech C270 HD provides pleasant video and good audio quality in an affordable webcam.

Pros: Good image quality, crisp audio, small size, affordable

Cons: Only 720p resolution, mount lacks versatility

Logitech’s C270 HD delivers the basics at a low price. It’s among the least expensive webcams you can buy from a reputable brand, and though it won’t wow you with its image quality, it’s a step up from a typical laptop webcam.

The C270 is limited to 720p resolution, so it lacks the sharp, rich look of a more expensive 1080p webcam like the Logitech C920 HD Pro. However, the camera obviously benefits from Logitech’s long history in the webcam market.  

It delivers natural, warm, enjoyable video. It can look grainy when viewed full screen, but the difference between the C270 and a more expensive 1080p webcam is not always noticeable in real-world video conferencing.  

Unlike many budget competitors, the C270 has a narrow 60-degree field of view. This is for the best. A narrow field of view keeps video focused on your face and the background out of the shot. It does lead to a less professional look, but that’s only an issue if you’re frequently the sole presenter in video calls. 

The C270 HD has clear, crisp audio that’s easy for others to understand, and it’s much better at removing background noise than competing budget webcams. This is an important reason to buy the C270 HD over the competition.  

We do wish the C270 HD had a better mount. This is a small, light webcam that’s easy to bump or jostle out of position. It also lacks the option to mount the camera to a tripod.

The best premium webcam

The Dell Ultrasharp Webcam attached to the top of a computer with the screen displaying a video meeting

The Dell Ultrasharp Webcam combines great video quality with AI auto-focus and Windows Hello support.

Pros: 4K resolution and great video quality, durable, sturdy construction, Windows Hello support, AI Auto-focus

Cons: Video quality can’t beat Logitech’s Brio, no microphone

Dell’s Ultrasharp Webcam packs great video quality with a long list of advanced features that can make your PC more convenient. 

The Dell Ultrasharp Webcam doesn’t look as sharp and detailed as Logitech’s Brio, but it’s close, and the difference is often hard to notice. The Ultrasharp Webcam handles poor lighting well and provides a warm, saturated look. The Dell’s video quality was the second-best of any webcam we tested.   

Windows Hello is supported, but Dell takes it a step further with a feature called ExpressSign-In. This lets the camera automatically detect your presence, start the computer from sleep, and log you in through Windows Hello. It can lock the computer when you step away, too. 

The webcam supports AI auto-framing, a feature that uses face detection to automatically keep your face centered in the frame. If you prefer a manual approach, however, Dell’s software lets you choose from a 65, 78, or 90-degree field of view. 

One major feature is missing from the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam: a microphone. Dell claims it removed this feature because it expects shoppers looking at a premium webcam will already have a high-quality external microphone. 

This camera is unusually sturdy. The case is made of metal and magnetically attaches to the two included mounts. One mount can perch the webcam on your monitor while the other can attach to a tripod. The camera also includes a magnetic privacy shutter. Dell is confident in the Ultrasharp Webcam’s durability and backs the camera with a three-year warranty.

The best webcam for streaming

A man presenting in a meeting at his home using the Razer Kiyo Pro that is attached to his monitor

The Razer Kiyo Pro performs well in low light and can record or stream at up to 60 frames per second.

Pros: Hefty and versatile mount, extensive camera control options, can record or stream at 60 frames per second

Cons: 4K is not supported, autofocus can be indecisive

The Razer Kiyo Pro is an excellent webcam for streamers and content creators. It’s bulky and attached to a hefty, versatile mount that’s compatible with a tripod. The Kiyo Pro looks and feels more “Pro” than its competition. It also has an excellent built-in microphone.

The Kiyo Pro lacks the distracting artifacts and compressed colors that plague many webcams. It copes with low-light situations well, with minimal noise and an exceptional ability to balance uneven lighting. It can record at up to 1080p resolution at up to 60 frames per second, which is ideal for streamers who want the framerate of their webcam footage to match that of their stream. 

Sadly, 4K resolution is not supported. That’s a disappointment given the Kiyo Pro‘s price. However, most video conferencing and streaming platforms don’t support 4K, so this may not be a serious problem for you.

The Kiyo Pro has a wide-angle lens that supports three field-of-view options: 103, 90, and 80 degrees. This makes the camera more flexible, as you can use a wide field of view to highlight your background or crop in tighter to keep attention on your face. Overall, the field of view skews wider, which can be a disadvantage if you want to keep your background out of the shot.

Razer’s Synapse software offers extensive image quality customization. You can adjust brightness, color, sharpness, and focus, among other options. Synapse was the most versatile and attractive webcam software we tested, though its long list of options can be overwhelming to new users.

What should you look for when buying a webcam?

Field of view

This is the observable area a camera can display, described in degrees. A higher number translates to a wider field of view and a broader, more expansive perspective. A narrow field of view is often best because it highlights your face and obscures the background, but a wide field of view is helpful when a webcam needs to show multiple people at once. 

Most webcams have a field of view between 60 and 90 degrees. We think a field of view between 70 and 80 degrees is best for most people, but a webcam with an adjustable field of view is even better.  

Resolution 

A webcam’s resolution describes the number of pixels it can capture. Nearly all webcams use the same shorthand descriptions as the TV industry: 720p, 1080p, and 4K. 

A higher resolution can lead to a sharper, more detailed image, but don’t give this specification too much weight. Most video conferencing software maxes out at 1080p and, in practice, often displays a resolution below that, so other aspects of image quality make more impact.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

High Dynamic Range captures a wider range of color and lighting when compared to older, “standard” SDR video. Many new webcams, like the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam and Razer Kiyo Pro, claim that HDR can improve performance in extreme lighting. We’re rather skeptical of that claim. While using HDR did seem to impact performance, the improvement was rarely significant. 

Windows Hello compatibility

Windows Hello is Microsoft’s biometric login feature, which includes facial recognition. You can use a webcam that supports Windows Hello to log in simply by sitting in front of the camera. Though not essential, it’s a useful feature that eliminates the hassle of typing in a password or PIN. 

AI Auto-Focus

Several new webcams, including the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam and Anker Powerconf C300, use AI face recognition to automatically detect your face and keep it centered in the frame. In practice, this works as an alternative to setting a manual field of view. AI auto-focus can automatically crop a wide field of view to keep you centered. This feature is handy if your background is cluttered or distracting.

Tripod mounting

All the webcams recommended here include a built-in mounting system that balances the webcam on top of your monitor. Many webcams can also attach to a tripod’s mounting screw. Look for this feature if you want more flexibility in how you position the webcam.

Can you use a smartphone instead of a webcam?

A smartphone can deliver great video quality and good audio quality, though it varies significantly between phones. You’ll need a tripod with a smartphone mount to hold the phone.

It’s also not as simple as connecting your smartphone to your computer with a cable. You need an app that can stream video from your smartphone to your computer. Popular options include iVCam, DroidCam, and EpocCam. These apps can provide excellent video and audio quality. 

Most apps offer a free version, but this often comes with major limitations or restrictions, so you’ll likely want to pay for the full version. Pricing varies significantly between apps. Some charge a one-time fee, while others bill annually. 

Compatibility limitations can be annoying, especially if you own a Mac or a Chromebook. EpocCam is compatible with Windows and macOS computers, but it’s not available on Android. IVCam and DroidCam are available for Android and iPhone but only work with Windows PCs.

Can you use a digital camera instead of a webcam?

A digital camera can deliver excellent video quality that far exceeds any webcam. Audio quality can be spotty, though, as the microphone on a camera isn’t designed to reject or muffle background noise. Most digital cameras are large and must be mounted to a tripod.

Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony all have software tools that make select cameras compatible with Windows PCs and, in some cases, Macs. These tools don’t support every camera made by each manufacturer, so refer to the software’s documentation to see if your camera is supported.

Alternatively, you may use a digital camera with HDMI-out as a webcam by connecting it to a video capture device. Very few computers have this built-in, however, so you’ll likely need to purchase a video capture device to enable this on your PC.

What else we considered

We tested numerous webcams at a variety of price points. Logitech’s C920 HD Pro shut out many of these webcams with its reliable, attractive image quality and modest pricing, but most of the alternatives we tested offer at least acceptable video quality and could be worth buying when sold at a discount.

  • Anker Powerconf C300 ($129.99): The Anker Powerconf C300 is a great 1080p webcam with solid image quality and support for AI auto-focus. It also offers good audio quality, making it a solid choice for most situations. The Powerconf C300 is spoiled by its pricing, which is awkwardly wedged between the Logitech C920 HD Pro and Logitech Brio.
  • Aukey PC-LM1E ($59.99): This is among the most affordable 1080p webcams available, dropping as low as $21.80 on sale. Its video quality is acceptable, but the built-in microphone picks up so much background noise that it’s borderline unusable. It’s a good value pick if you always use a headset, however.
  • Logitech C925-e ($99.99): The Logitech C925-e is a slightly tweaked model of the C920 HD Pro with a more modern look. It’s often more expensive than the C920 HD Pro, however, and offers no improvement in image quality. If you find it on sale, however, it’s a great pick.
  • Logitech C922x Pro Stream ($99.99): The C922x Pro Stream is an entry-level streaming webcam that competes with the Kiyo Pro. It can handle 1080p at 30 frames per second or 720p at 60 frames per second. It’s a good webcam, but we prefer the Razer Kiyo Pro or, if you’re on a budget, the Kiyo.
  • Logitech C930e ($129.99): The C930e is a C920 HD Pro with an expanded field-of-view. Logitech pitches this camera as an ideal choice for conference rooms, but the C920 makes more sense for individual use.
  • Logitech C920S Pro HD ($69.99): The webcam is a C920 HD Pro with a privacy shutter. Its official MSRP is less than the C920 HD Pro but it’s often more expensive at retailers. Still, pick this one up if you find a deal.
  • Logitech Streamcam ($169.99): The Logitech Streamcam targets streamers and content creators with 1080p video at 60 frames per second. It can also record in a vertical aspect ratio, which is unusual for a webcam. Its video quality falls short of the Razer Kiyo Pro, however.
  • Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 ($39.95): We last tried this camera back in 2012. It’s an ancient 720p webcam that doesn’t stack up with modern options. Buy the Logitech C270 HD instead.
  • Microsoft LifeCam Studio ($99.95): This camera was released in 2010, making it the oldest included on this list. You can still buy it today, often on sale with pricing similar to the Logitech C920 HD pro. The C920 is superior, so buy it instead.
  • Microsoft Modern Webcam ($69.99): Microsoft’s Modern Webcam is a new challenger to the Logitech C920 HD Pro. It can record at 1080p at 30 frames per second and offers support for HDR, but it doesn’t have the dual microphone found in Logitech’s option. The camera is compact and includes a tripod mount.
  • Razer Kiyo ($99.99): Razer’s more affordable Kiyo streaming camera can handle 1080p at 30 frames per second or 720p at 60 frames per second. It’s not a bad webcam but it’s leagues behind the Kiyo Pro in video quality, and the Logitech C920 HD Pro is better for video conferencing.

What we look forward to testing

The demand for webcams in 2020 has encouraged several companies to re-enter the market with new offerings. We can only confirm two models so far, but our sources hint that several additional options from major brands will hit store shelves in 2021.

  • Elgato Facecam ($199.99): The Elgato Facecam targets streamers and content creators. Its specifications and construction mirror the Razer Kiyo Pro. Both capture 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second and include a Sony Starvis image sensor tuned for low light performance (the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam also uses this sensor). It does not include a microphone.
Read the original article on Business Insider

How to shop for the best laptop for school 2021

white laptop and black mortarboard graduation cap pattern on blue background

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

  • Consider your budget and how you’re planning to use your device when buying a new school laptop.
  • Students should also look for education discounts and consider the resources available on campus.
  • It’s also important to consider whether a MacBook, Chromebook, or Windows PC is best for your needs.

As a college student, your laptop is your lifeline. Whether you’re working on a paper, watching movies in bed, or blasting music before a night out, your laptop is at the center of almost everything you do.

That’s why picking out the right one is so important. There’s a lot to consider when shopping for a laptop, but there are two key questions that will guide most of your decisions: What do you intend to use it for, and how much are you willing to spend?

There are many other factors, but those two questions should be at the center of your search. A student studying history or English, for example, will experience very different workloads than those pursuing a major in graphic design or video production.

Here’s a look at what to consider when buying a laptop for school.

Know what you’re getting for your money

dollar bills money

Budget is the biggest consideration when searching for a new laptop. The best laptops usually cost around $1,000 or more, but you can find worthwhile picks below that price point.

Laptops that cost around $1,000 will typically have the latest processors from Intel in the Core i5 or Core i7 line, which means they should offer fast performance and last for at least the typical four years of study. These laptops also usually have high-quality durable designs, 13-inch screens that have a resolution of at least 1080p, and enough memory and storage to handle most workloads. It’s good to think of $1,000 as a baseline price for a new laptop.

Laptops in the $300 to $600 range will typically come with less powerful processors and usually top out at 8GB of memory (RAM). Laptops closer to the $300 end of the spectrum or lower will probably run on an Intel Celeron or Pentium processor, meanwhile you’re likely to find Intel Core chips closer to the $600 range. Many devices in the price bracket will be Chromebooks, which are best for those who just need a laptop for getting online and using Google’s suite of apps like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Sheets.

If you’re spending $2,000 or more on a laptop, you can expect to start seeing options for features like dedicated graphics, Intel Core i7 or Core i9 processors, larger screens with sharper resolutions, at least 512GB of solid-state storage, and at least 16GB of RAM. Most students won’t need to spend this much on a laptop unless they’re planning to use it for gaming in their spare time.

Learn about the tech resources available on campus first

Working on computer
Young food blogger entrepreneur writing blog post and working online on laptop from home office.

Even if you are planning to pursue a major that might require heavy-duty computing, most colleges have computer labs on campus and allow students to rent tech equipment. The facilities will vary depending on the campus, and schools known for specializing in certain fields like technology or design may have more advanced computer labs than others. 

Regardless, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about the resources available on-site before investing in your own computer. Make it a priority to see the computer labs during a campus visit, conduct some online research by browsing the college’s website, or even reach out to the admissions office for more information if you have questions. 

This will help you gain a better understanding of whether you’ll be using your personal computer for the majority of your classwork, or if you’ll be able to rely on the school’s resources for more demanding workloads.   

Look for student discounts before you buy.

College student graduation

Many laptop makers offer special deals and discounts for students, so be sure to browse their education programs before buying. 

  • Apple offers year-round education discounts that take $100-$200 off the price of a MacBook laptop depending on the model. As part of its special back-to-school promotion running through September 27, Apple is also throwing in a free pair of standard AirPods. 
  • Acer’s student discounts provide a 10% discount and free shipping for those who qualify. 
  • Dell also slashes 10% off the prices of select electronics for students in addition to offering other sales on laptops for the back-to-school season.
  • Lenovo offers a 5% discount, but that doesn’t apply to products that are on doorbuster or clearance sales. 

Check out our full guide to the best back-to-school discounts for more deals.

Decide whether a Mac, Windows PC, or Chromebook is best for you

Microsoft's Windows 11 software being shown on the screens of various laptops.
Microsoft’s Windows 11 update will better bridge the gap between laptops and tablets, an ambition it’s pursued for almost a decade.

Aside from budget, choosing the right operating system is the most important decision you’ll make when buying a new computer. For most people, this decision comes down to which software they’re most comfortable and familiar with. But each operating system offers certain benefits that are worth considering.

Windows

Windows is the most popular laptop operating system and offers the most flexibility. You can find Windows devices at almost any price range, unlike MacBooks which start at $899 for the newest MacBook Air with a student discount. Certain Windows laptops are also available in 2-in-1 designs with touchscreens that allow them to serve as both laptops and tablets. That could make Windows a better choice for those who plan to use their laptop for entertainment, too.

Mac

Apple’s macOS is the operating system that powers MacBook laptops. If you own an iPhone, you might feel most comfortable with macOS since Apple’s smartphone and laptop software share many apps and features. For example, iPhones and MacBooks each have apps like iMessage, Safari, Maps, Mail, and Calendar. Plus, you can pick up from wherever you left off in most of Apple’s apps when switching between iPhone and Mac through a feature called Handoff. 

Chrome OS

Chromebooks, on the other hand, run on Google’s Chrome OS. It’s a very simple operating system that’s designed around using web-based apps like Google’s Chrome browser, Google Docs, and Google Sheets. They’re best for those who just want an affordable laptop for getting online and performing basic tasks like notetaking, researching, and web browsing. If you don’t anticipate needing much software for your schoolwork other than Google’s web browser and word processor, a Chromebook might be the right choice for you.

Choose a laptop with the right specifications for your needs

MacBook Air red open

Next, you’ll want to think about factors like how much processor power you need and what size you’re looking for in a laptop. Here’s a rundown of the most important specifications you should consider during the shopping process.

Processor and memory

A laptop’s processor is the biggest factor in determining its performance. Most laptops run on Intel processors, but you’ll occasionally find some powered by AMD chips as well.

In general, it’s best to avoid buying a laptop with a processor that’s more than two generations old. That’s because you want to make sure your laptop remains fast and capable for at least four to five years. Investing in technology that’s several years old could result in you spending more money in the long run since you might have to replace it sooner than expected.

When it comes to memory, you’ll ideally want a machine with at least 8GB of RAM. The RAM often determines how good your computer is at juggling multiple tasks, such as opening dozens of tabs in a web browser, and buying a laptop without enough RAM could result in slower performance under heavy workloads.

In general, a laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM is plenty for most tasks. But an Intel Core i3 laptop will also suffice if your budget is a little tighter and you don’t anticipate that you’ll be using your laptop for much more than browsing the web and watching Netflix. It’s common to see Chromebooks with lower-end specs when it comes to the processor and RAM because they’re only meant for basic tasks like these. 

Display quality

Just like anything else, your laptop’s display quality and size depends on how you intend to use it. If you’re mostly using your laptop for writing papers, taking notes, and conducting research, you probably don’t need a super high-resolution screen. Many laptops come with a screen resolution of at least 1080p, which is all you really need for basic word processing and research. 

If you’re already planning to spend $1,000 or more on a laptop for other reasons, like the processing power, your laptop will probably have an even sharper display with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 or 2,560 x 1,200. Touchscreens can also add to the price, so consider whether that’s a priority for you before buying. Some laptops come with the option to upgrade to a 4K display, but it’s usually more money than it’s worth, especially considering it can impact battery life. 

Size

Many laptops come with 13-inch screens, but you can also find larger models with 15-inch or 17-inch screens, and smaller-sized 11-inch laptops. Larger-sized models are more expensive and usually come with more powerful processors, while smaller-sized laptops are tailored for convenience and portability and are generally equipped to only handle the basics. 

Laptops with 13-inch screens fall right in the middle and usually offer the best combination of screen space and portability for most people. 

Consider how you plan to use your laptop before deciding which size is right for you. Is having a device that’s lightweight enough to squeeze in a small bag and carry around campus your main priority, or are you planning to primarily use your laptop at your dorm room desk?

Storage

Many laptops come with at least 128GB or 256GB of storage, except for Chromebooks since they rely on cloud storage. This should be enough storage for most people, but students working with large video files and photos might want to upgrade to a laptop with 512GB or more. 

Just remember that storage drives up the price, so it’s important to carefully consider how much you need. If you’re not sure how much storage to get, you can always opt for a laptop with 128GB or 256GB and purchase an external hard drive later if you need it. 

Our guides to the best laptops

Dell XPS 13 2

Still not sure where to start? Check out our laptop buying guides for our favorite picks.

The best laptops for college students

The best laptops overall

The best budget laptops

The best Chromebooks

The best MacBooks 

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Cisco’s CEO says he expects computer chip shortages to last for another six months

Semiconductor manufacturing.
Nvidia semiconductor manufacturing.

Cisco’s chief executive Chuck Robbins said the global shortage of computer chips is expected to last for most of this year.

“We think we’ve got another six months to get through the short term,” he told the BBC.

Supply-chain disruptions in semiconductors have impacted many tech firms, caused by a surge in demand for electronics prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and chip shortages at large production facilities, The Financial Times reported.

This has prompted providers to build out more capacity, Robbins told the BBC. And “that’ll get better and better over the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.

Expansion of capacity will be vital as demand soars. The shortage is a big problem, Robbins said, “because semiconductors go in virtually everything.”

As a result of the dwindling supply, makers of smartphones, televisions, and home appliances have seen delays in production, The disruptions are also affecting the production of other domestic appliances such as toasters and washing machines.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only possible factor in computer chip supply shortages. At the start of this month, the US added Chinese supercomputing companies to its export blacklist for assisting the Chinese military, Reuters reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Apple’s new iMac is faster, bigger, and more colorful than before – here’s how it compares to the 2019 iMac

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Apple iMac 2021
  • Apple’s new 24-inch iMac marks a major redesign of its desktop computer.
  • The 2021 iMac features a bigger 4.5K Retina screen, fun color options, and Apple’s powerful M1 chip.
  • The 2019 model, meanwhile, has a smaller 21.5-inch 1080p display and a slower Intel-based processor.

Apple has officially unveiled its new 24-inch iMac with prices starting at $1,299. The redesigned desktop boasts several major upgrades over the previous 21.5-inch model, which Apple currently lists with a $1,099 starting price.

The 2021 iMac is the first to feature Apple’s powerful M1 chip. It also comes in a variety of color options and boasts a higher resolution screen. Compared to the older model, the new iMac includes a redesigned keyboard with Apple’s Touch ID processor as well.

Apple says the improved specs should translate to up to 85% faster CPU performance compared to the 21.5-inch iMac, as well as twice the GPU performance. The new iMac’s base model costs $200 more than the 2019 starting model, but the added power and bigger screen could be well worth the higher price.

A full verdict will have to wait until we get our hands on the new iMac in the coming weeks, but we’ve been impressed by Apple’s M1 chip in the new MacBook Air. If the 2021 iMac offers a similar leap in performance, it could be a very worthy desktop upgrade.

Below, we’ve compared some of the key starting specifications for the new 24-inch iMac versus the 21.5-inch model.

24-inch iMac (2021) versus 21.5-inch iMac (2019)

Specifications 2021 iMac 2019 iMac
Starting price $1,299 $1,099
Display 24-inch 4.5K Retina display 21.5-inch 1920 x 1080 LED display
Processor 8-core Apple M1 chip 2.3GHz dual‑core Intel Core i5
GPU 7-core GPU Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
Memory 8GB of RAM 8GB of RAM
Storage 256GB SSD 256GB SSD
Camera 1080p FaceTime HD camera with M1 image signal processor FaceTime HD camera
Speakers Six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers Stereo speakers
Colors Blue, Green, Pink, Silver Silver

iMac (small)

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 4 best budget laptops in 2021 for working, learning, and gaming

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The Pixelbook Go is our top pick because of its smooth performance, quality keyboard, and sharp webcam.
  • The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 is a solid choice for those who want a reliable budget 2-in-1 laptop.
  • The laptops listed are ideal for basic productivity, though we’ve included a gaming option as well.
  • Check out the best laptop deals for more savings.

It used to be that if you wanted a laptop with power and features, you needed to spend $1,000 or more.

While top-of-the-line models still fall in that price bracket, budget laptops in the $300 to $700 range are more than capable of everyday tasks. That’s all thanks to improvements in processors, graphics, and other chipsets, as well as standardization in features like USB and HDMI.

There are a few important factors you need to consider before making a purchase, such as operating system preferences, size, and above all else: what you intend to use it for.

We consider a “budget” laptop to cost about $650 or less, but we aim to recommend models that are even cheaper when possible. Gaming laptops are an exception because they typically cost more than general-purpose laptops.

Here are the best cheap laptops of 2021:

The best budget laptop overall

Google Pixelbook Go

The Google Pixelbook Go‘s ease of use, excellent keyboard, and long battery life make it a top choice for those who prioritize simplicity in a laptop. 

Pros: Excellent keyboard, long battery life, 1080p webcam, decent screen

Cons: Upgrade options are expensive, no biometric login

Google’s Pixelbook Go is one of the priciest options on this list, but there’s a good reason why. It nearly matches premium laptops that are almost double its price in a few ways, particularly when it comes to keyboard quality, general ease-of-use, and battery life.  

Google’s “Hush” keyboard is part of what makes the Pixelbook Go stand out, offering a comfortable yet unobtrusive typing experience that even rivals that of Lenovo’s laptops, as our full review mentions. It even has a 1080p webcam, a rare find even on laptops that cost over $1,000. That’s especially important now that we’re spending more time video conferencing and socializing virtually.

The base model comes with an Intel Core m3 processor (CPU), 8GB of memory (RAM), and a Full HD (1080p) touch screen. You’ll also get two USB-C ports, and Google says it should last for 12 hours on a single charge.

Like other Google laptops that have come before it, the Pixelbook Go is a Chromebook — meaning it’s designed for those who primarily use their laptops for web browsing, note taking, and other light tasks like streaming YouTube or Netflix. It runs on Google’s Chrome OS, a lightweight interface optimized for security and speed that’s designed to work best with an Internet connection. You can, however, access Google Play Store apps and save documents, spreadsheets, emails, and other data for offline use. 

Sadly, the Pixelbook Go doesn’t have the same 2-in-1 design as its pricier Pixelbook predecessor, so it doesn’t double as a tablet. It also doesn’t have any biometric login options like a fingerprint scanner, which is now fairly common on most laptops. But it’s perfect for anyone in need of a fast, lightweight laptop for basic productivity and entertainment.

The best budget Chromebook

Samsung Chromebook 4+ showcase

The 15-inch Samsung Chromebook 4+ crams an insane amount of value into its below $300 list price, with hardware and features found in laptops twice its price and within a good-looking package.

Pros: Decent display, long battery life, lots of ports

Cons: Small local storage, low amount of RAM, no top-firing speakers

Anyone looking to get the absolute most value possible out of a Chromebook that might look a bit more premium in ways than even our top pick, we suggest the 15-inch Samsung Chromebook 4+. There’s no question that this Chromebook makes for a close second to our former top pick,  Acer Chromebook 15, as the best budget laptop period.

Samsung’s Chromebook 4+ is a sharp, slight 15-inch laptop that’s wrapped in a platinum-colored plastic frame featuring a 15.6-inch, 1080p screen, with power from an Intel Celeron CPU supported by 4GB of RAM and a 32GB SSD. That’s expanded upon by two USB-C ports, one USB 3.0 port, and a microSD card reader — as well as Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.0 — for wireless connections.

This all comes driven by a battery that can reportedly last up to 10 hours and 30 minutes per outing. Finally, we love the addition of Google Assistant for voice-based search queries and other assistive tasks. While lacking biometric security and more local storage, this laptop leaves nothing else off the table. 

The best budget gaming laptop

Dell G3 laptop

The Dell G3 15 is an affordable gaming laptop with the latest Nvidia GeForce discrete graphics.

Pros: Compact design, specs on par with more expensive models

Cons: Shallow keyboard and touchpad, dim screen

If you enjoy gaming, but don’t want to shell out $1,000 for a gaming PC, the Dell G3 15 might be a decent option for you. The laptop has multiple configurations, but the base model is around $700, and it comes with Nvidia discrete graphics. 

A few factors make the G3 15 a solid option for gamers. The base model comes with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650GPU, a 10th-generation  Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB solid state drive. Those are solid specs that should be able to smoothly run most games you want to play, though you’ll want something more powerful if you’re trying to run more demanding tasks like VR. 

You can also upgrade to a version that has 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX  1660 GPU and 512GB of storage for about $970.

At 5.2 pounds, the G3 15 is lighter and more compact than most budget gaming laptops. 

In terms of ports, you have a power jack, an HDMI 2.0 port, an RJ-45 port, one USB 3.1 port, two  USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader, and a headphone jack. That will allow you to plug in a TV, as well as most peripherals you might want to use. 

However, for a computer of this price, you’ll be missing out on some features of higher-end gaming rigs. For example, reviewers found the display to be a bit dim, and the colors to be washed out. The keyboard and touchpad are also a bit shallow, something that might be important if you’ll be spending a lot of time gaming.

The best budget 2-in-1 laptop

Lenovo IdeaPad 5

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 offers solid specifications and a flexible design that allows it to double as a laptop and a tablet at a price that’s hundreds of dollars below the $1,000 mark.

Pros: Great value, good performance, durable and attractive design

Cons: Fans can get noisy, dim and lackluster display

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 is a solid choice for anyone in need of an affordable, general purpose laptop.

It has a 360-degree flexible hinge so that you can use it as a laptop or tablet, and it comes with extra features less common on laptops in this price range. These include a physical webcam shutter for privacy and a fingerprint reader for logging in. 

For $554.99, you’re getting specifications that are definitely sufficient for handling tasks such as web browsing, watching Netflix, checking email, and taking notes with ease. I’ve been testing a configuration that comes with an AMD Ryzen 5 processor, and I’m impressed with its comfortable keyboard, smooth trackpad, and long battery life. 

The IdeaPad Flex 5 comes in several different configurations that vary in availability, but elements like the reliable keyboard and trackpad should be consistent no matter which model you choose. 

That’s especially notable because the keyboard and trackpad are two areas where the gap in price between premium and mid-tier laptops can be very obvious. Lower-end models can sometimes have keyboards and touchpads that feel cheap, shallow, or finicky, but this is no problem with Lenovo’s budget 2-in-1. 

However, don’t push the IdeaPad Flex 5 too hard: the fans can get a little noisy if you have too many web browser tabs open.

What is a Chromebook?


Budget laptops we look forward to testing

Dell Inspiron 14 and 15: Dell’s new Inspiron laptops, launching on May 4, are taking a page from the company’s well-received XPS 13 laptop line. The new Inspiron models have an updated design with a nearly border less screen, making them look more modern and providing additional screen space in a compact design. They also come with improved webcams with noise reduction for clearer conference calls. Both the 14-inch and 15-inch models start at $550 and come with an 11th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB in the base models

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2: Samsung’s original Galaxy Chromebook from last year’s CES had an attention-grabbing design that’s uncommon for a Chromebook, but its high price and short battery life limited its appeal. Now, Samsung has addressed those criticisms with the Galaxy Chromebook 2, a revamped version of its Google-powered laptop that comes at a cheaper starting price of $549.99 compared to the previous model’s $999.99 price tag. With a premium design, 13.3-inch QLED touch screen, and hopefully longer battery life, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 seems like it could be a promising option for those on a budget.

Acer Chromebook Spin 514: Powered by the latest AMD’s latest mobile processors and offering 10 hours of battery life according to Acer’s claims, the new Acer Chromebook Spin 14 has potential to become one of our top picks for a budget laptop in 2021. It features a 14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touchscreen and aluminum build that could make it a compelling choice as a general-purpose laptop. It’s launching in March 2021 starting at $479.99.

Asus Chromebook Flip CX5: With a roomy 15.6-inch screen, Intel’s latest 11th generation processors, and Harmon Kardon speakers, the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 seems like a promising option for those who want a laptop for light work and entertainment. It will be configurable up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, which is a lot for a Chromebook, and should last for 12 hours on a single charge. Asus announced the Chromebook Flip CX5 at CES 2021 in January and has not revealed pricing. But a product page on Google’s Chromebook Store suggests that the version with an Intel Core i3, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage could cost $549.

How to buy a budget laptop

There are a variety of factors you should consider when purchasing a laptop, particularly how much you want to spend and what types of tasks you intend to use it for. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your decision. 

Operating system: There are a few major computer operating systems out there. You’re probably most familiar with Windows, as it’s by far the most-used operating system, but there’s also Apple’s macOS, which is found on the company’s Mac computers (we didn’t include any Macs because they didn’t meet our price requirement for a budget laptop). And, the newest, there’s Google’s Chrome OS, which is targeted to those with basic computer needs revolves around Google’s web-based apps (Chrome OS relies heavily on cloud computing, meaning that a lot of the processes happen online).

Specs and features: Some computers are more powerful than others. Things like the processor and amount of memory (RAM) will dictate how quickly your computer runs, while the amount of storage indicates how many files you can keep on your computer at once. There are also other factors, like the graphics chipset being employed. The type of software you run could also dictate how well a laptop’s components perform; for example, Google’s Chrome browser is notorious for being a memory hog.

The features have also improved. Premium components like a touchscreen and high-speed ports, like USB 3.0 and USB-C, have trickled down from high-end laptops to budget models. As you research, look for these or if the laptop is still utilizing older tech.

Size: Laptops come in a range of different physical sizes, however, the smaller ones generally sit in the 10- to 11-inch range, while the larger ones can get as big as 17-inches. That’s handy for watching movies, but it comes at the cost of portability.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best desktop computers in 2021 for work, gaming, school, and more

  • The best desktop computers offer excellent performance, upgradability, and a great selection of ports.
  • We’ve chosen the Dell XPS 8940 Desktop as our top pick for best desktop computer.
  • We’ve also identified top desktops for other uses, such as gaming, compact spaces, and for those on a budget.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Laptops have gotten better and better over the years, but the fact remains that size matters when it comes to computers – and with the size afforded by desktop computers, you can get more power, better graphics, and more user upgradability.

When buying a desktop computer, you’ll need to consider all the usual things that you would consider for any other computer purchase. A solid processor (CPU) will keep everything you can throw at it running smoothly without stutters or crashes. Memory, also known as RAM, also plays a big role, especially if you plan on running several apps at the same time and gaming, where a computer needs to store and quickly access files associated with those apps. Last but not least is storage and if you want to keep lots of games or files on your computer, you’ll need plenty of it.

There are other considerations too. If you’re a gamer, you’ll need a solid graphics card to ensure that your games can run properly. And, you’ll want to make sure you have enough ports and a design that fits in with your style – all while staying within your budget.

No matter what you’re looking for from a solid desktop computer, there should be something on this list for you. Here are the best desktop computers money can buy right now.

Here are the best desktop computers you can buy:

The best desktop computer overall

Dell XPS 8940

The Dell XPS 8940 is relatively sleek and stylish, plus it offers solid performance at a pretty low price.

Pros: Inexpensive, lots of ports, sleek design

Cons: Not much graphics performance on low-end models

Looking for a solid all-a rounder? The Dell XPS 8940 desktop is sleek, powerful, and versatile — without breaking the bank. The computer doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a gaming PC, but for everyone else, it’s more than enough. 

The XPS 8940 is available in a series of different configurations, but the base model is still pretty powerful. You’ll get a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, coupled with 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage — all for a relatively affordable $600. Upgrade it a little, and you get serious processing power, with up to an Intel Core i9 processor, 64GB of RAM, a 2TB solid-state drive, and a 2TB hard drive. In addition, you can get up to an AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics card for the gamers out there.

There are plenty of ports on offer by the computer too. You’ll get a hefty seven USB 3.1 ports, along with a USB-C port. There’s also a DisplayPort, a HDMI port, two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, and so on. Safe to say, you should run out of ports, though most of them are on the back. And, you’ll get some additional ports if you get a graphics card, which may be helpful for your needs.

We’re not the only ones that love the Dell XPS 8940 desktop. The computer scored a very respectable 7.6/10 from PCGamer, while the extremely similar previous-generation 8930 scored 4/5 on Top Ten Reviews. The downsides? Well, there aren’t many at this price, except maybe that the graphics on the lower-end models is pretty limited.

The best gaming desktop computer

Alienware desktop

The Alienware Aurora R11 is well-designed and incredibly powerful — and as such it should be able to easily handle everything the average gamer can throw at it.

Pros: Cool design, very powerful, tons of ports

Cons: Can get expensive

Perhaps you’re looking for a workhorse, in which case it’s worth considering the Alienware Aurora R11. The computer, built by Dell, offers the top-end performance that you need to run all your favorite games, plus its design ensures that it should look pretty great on any gaming workstation. 

As you would expect, the Aurora R11 offers high-end base specs. You’ll get a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of Ram and a 1TB hard drive, plus an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card. Upgrade it to the max, and you’ll get a 10th-gen Intel Core i9 with an absolutely huge 128GB of RAM and a 2TB solid-state drive with a 2TB hard drive too. All that, with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card.

The Aurora R11 expectedly offers a pretty gamer-friendly design, too. It looks like a big oval, with blue lighting at the front. There are plenty of ports too — including three USB 3.2 ports, a USB-C port, and audio ports on the front. On the back, you’ll get a massive six USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.2 ports, a USB-C 3.2 port, and more. That’s not to mention the ports you’ll get as part of your graphics card. Safe to say you should never run out of connectivity options.

The Aurora R11 has gotten excellent reviews since its release. Notably, LifeWire hailed it as the best gaming PC of 2020, while PCMag gave it an impressive 3.5/5. The main downsides noted in these reviews were that the rig can get pricey quickly.

The best Apple desktop computer

iMac

The Apple iMac offers a powerful all-in-one design for anyone who wants to remain in the Apple ecosystem.

Pros: All-in-one, relatively powerful, multiple configurations, solid port selection

Cons: Slightly aging design, most will want to upgrade

If you love Apple’s ecosystem, then you’re probably looking for a desktop computer that will work within that ecosystem. In that case, it’s worth buying the iMac, which has long been the go-to desktop for Apple users.

The iMac isn’t just a desktop — it’s an all-in-one. That means that it has a display built into it, too, so you don’t need to buy an external monitor to use with it. No hassle required.

The iMac is pretty high-powered too. The computer comes in two sizes — a 21.5-inch model, and a 27-inch model — and while the 21.5-inch model doesn’t have the exact same specs as the larger device, it’s still relatively powerful. The base model offers a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive, while the highest end 27-inch iMac can be upgraded to offer a 10th-generation Intel Core i7, 128GB of RAM, and a whopping 8TB of solid-state storage. You’ll even get up to a Radeon Pro 5700 XT graphics card.

The iMac is beautifully designed too, like any Apple product. It’s got a stunning aluminum build that will look great on any desk. Around the back is where you’ll get ports, including four USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, an SD card slot, and a gigabit ethernet port. 

The iMac has long gotten great reviews. PCMag gave the 27-inch iMac an impressive 4/5, while Wired gave it an equivalent 8/10. The downsides? Well, notably that while the iMac looks great, it has had the same design for some time now, so it’s aging a little. Also, most will want to upgrade to at least 16GB of RAM, up from the 8GB in the base model.

The best compact desktop computer

Mac Mini with M1

The Apple Mac Mini boasts a sleek and stylish design, Apple’s new processor, and integration with the rest of Apple’s ecosystem.

Pros: Sleek design, powerful performance, works with all apps

Cons: More USB 4 ports would be nice

Unless you’re seriously against Apple’s MacOS operating system, the Mac Mini is the best compact desktop computer right now. It has a sleek and stylish design with enough ports for most, plus it runs on Apple’s all-new M1 processor, which is incredibly powerful and makes the transition seamless.

When Apple announced the transition to a new M1 processor architecture, many were concerned that apps built for Intel Macs wouldn’t work on M1 Macs, and wondered how difficult switching would be. The answer? It’s absolutely simple. Many apps now work with both classic Intel processors and Apple’s new processors, and even those that don’t can be translated in the background by Apple’s Rosetta 2 software. In other words, the worst you’ll experience is an app pausing for a second or two before opening, after which it’ll run as well as it always has. It’s actually kind of incredible.

The only other thing you might be wondering about is whether you should get 8GB of RAM or upgrade to 16GB. I’ve been using an 8GB model for a few weeks now, and find that even as a power user, it’s more than capable the majority of the time. With Mail, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Word, Podcasts, Safari, Reminders, and often both Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro open at the same time, the computer still feels responsive and quick. On the heaviest of heavy days, which included 4K video editing, the computer can sometimes skip a little, and as a result we recommend getting 16GB of RAM if you plan on using those pro-level apps. For most workflows, however, 8GB will be enough.

The only downside to this Mac Mini compared to the last generation is that it has slightly fewer ports. But you’ll still get two USB-A ports, two USB 4.0 ports (USB-C), an HDMI port, a headphone jack, and an ethernet port, which should be more than enough for most.

The best desktop computer under $500

Acer desktop

The Acer Aspire TC is inexpensive, sure, but it still offers excellent performance for a computer in its price range.

Pros: Inexpensive, excellent port selection, solid performance for the price, customizable

Cons: Lackluster graphics performance

If you want a decent desktop on a budget, there are some great options. Namely, it’s worth considering the Acer Aspire TC, which offers excellent performance for the price, plus it can be upgraded down the line as needed.

Despite being low-cost, the Acer Aspire TC has a lot to offer. The base model of the computer comes with a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, but it can be upgraded to offer an Intel Core i7 chip, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 1TB hard drive – though of course, those specs will pass the $500 line. 

There’s a great-selection of ports on offer too. There are two USB 2.0 ports, a hefty five USB 3.1 ports, a USB-C port, two HDMI ports, and more. Safe to say, you should never run out of connectivity options on this computer. 

The Acer Aspire TC has made a name for itself for offering excellent value-for-money, and reviews reflect that. PCMag gave the computer a 4.5/5, which is a glowing score. The only real downsides to the computer are that the computer doesn’t offer great graphics performance, but that’s somewhat to be expected from a computer in this price range.

What to look for in a desktop computer

As with any computer, there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re browsing for your next desktop. For starters, you’ll want to think about the operating system (OS) that you prefer: Windows or macOS. Of course, the OS comes down to one’s personal preference. A good number of people happen to find that macOS is easier to use than Windows. However, Windows computers are on the cheaper side compared to Macs, and are widely more compatible with various programs and external devices.

You’ll also want to think about how powerful you need the computer to be. Most of the computers on this list feature Intel Core i processors (CPUs), which come in a range of models. At the most basic level, the entry-level CPU is the i3, the mid-range is between the i5 and i7, and the high-powered option is the i9. Additionally, gamers and visual media professionals need to consider the graphics card inside the computer, with the Nvidia GeForce RTX series being the highest-end graphics cards available today.

Apart from the processor, there’s memory, or RAM, which impacts the overall speed and day-to-day use as well as multitasking capability — we would recommend at least 8GB of RAM; and storage, which dictates how many files, including videos and music, can be stored on the desktop. For this, we’d recommend going for at least 256GB of space to start.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 4 best budget laptops in 2021

  • Budget laptops have come a long way and now offer better performance than ever before.
  • The Pixelbook Go is our favorite cheap laptop overall because of its great keyboard, smooth performance, and quality webcam. 
  • We’re in the process of testing more laptops throughout 2021, including new and existing budget models.
  • Read more: The best laptops of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

It used to be that if you wanted a laptop with power and features, you needed  to spend $1,000 or more. While top-of-the-line models still fall in that price range, budget laptops are more than capable of everyday tasks. 

Those who just want a machine for basic web browsing and word processing can find a promising laptop in the $300-$700 range. That’s all thanks to improvements in processors, graphics, and other chipsets, as well as standardization in features like USB and HDMI.

Of course, this is not to say all budget laptops are great – some are definitely better than average, while others aren’t worth your hard-earned cash. There are a few important factors you need to consider before making a purchase, such as operating system preferences, size, and above all else: what you intend to use it for.

For this guide, we consider a “budget” laptop to be a laptop that costs about $650 or less – we aimed to recommend those that fall below $500. Gaming laptops are an exception because they typically cost more than general-purpose laptops. 

Here are the best cheap laptops:

The best budget laptop overall

Google Pixelbook Go

The Google Pixelbook Go‘s ease of use, excellent keyboard, and long battery life make it a top choice for those who prioritize simplicity in a laptop. 

Pros: Excellent keyboard, long battery life, 1080p webcam, decent screen

Cons: Upgrade options are expensive, no biometric login

Google’s Pixelbook Go is one of the priciest options on this list, but there’s a good reason why. It nearly matches premium laptops that are almost double its price in a few ways, particularly when it comes to keyboard quality, general ease-of-use, and battery life.  

Google’s “Hush” keyboard is part of what makes the Pixelbook Go stand out, offering a comfortable yet unobtrusive typing experience that even rivals that of Lenovo’s laptops, as our full review mentions. It even has a 1080p webcam, a rare find even on laptops that cost over $1,000. That’s especially important now that we’re spending more time video conferencing and socializing virtually.

The base model comes with an Intel Core m3 processor (CPU), 8GB of memory (RAM), and a Full HD (1080p) touch screen. You’ll also get two USB-C ports, and Google says it should last for 12 hours on a single charge.

Like other Google laptops that have come before it, the Pixelbook Go is a Chromebook — meaning it’s designed for those who primarily use their laptops for web browsing, note taking, and other light tasks like streaming YouTube or Netflix. It runs on Google’s Chrome OS, a lightweight interface optimized for security and speed that’s designed to work best with an Internet connection. You can, however, access Google Play Store apps and save documents, spreadsheets, emails, and other data for offline use. 

Sadly, the Pixelbook Go doesn’t have the same 2-in-1 design as its pricier Pixelbook predecessor, so it doesn’t double as a tablet. It also doesn’t have any biometric login options like a fingerprint scanner, which is now fairly common on most laptops. But it’s perfect for anyone in need of a fast, lightweight laptop for basic productivity and entertainment.

The best budget Chromebook

Samsung Chromebook 4+ showcase

The 15-inch Samsung Chromebook 4+ crams an insane amount of value into its below $300 list price, with hardware and features found in laptops twice its price and within a good-looking package.

Pros: Decent display, long battery life, lots of ports

Cons: Small local storage, low amount of RAM, no top-firing speakers

Anyone looking to get the absolute most value possible out of a Chromebook that might look a bit more premium in ways than even our top pick, we suggest the 15-inch Samsung Chromebook 4+. There’s no question that this Chromebook makes for a close second to our former top pick,  Acer Chromebook 15, as the best budget laptop period.

Samsung’s Chromebook 4+ is a sharp, slight 15-inch laptop that’s wrapped in a platinum-colored plastic frame featuring a 15.6-inch, 1080p screen, with power from an Intel Celeron CPU supported by 4GB of RAM and a 32GB SSD. That’s expanded upon by two USB-C ports, one USB 3.0 port, and a microSD card reader — as well as Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.0 — for wireless connections.

This all comes driven by a battery that can reportedly last up to 10 hours and 30 minutes per outing. Finally, we love the addition of Google Assistant for voice-based search queries and other assistive tasks. While lacking biometric security and more local storage, this laptop leaves nothing else off the table. 

The best budget gaming laptop

Dell G3 laptop

The Dell G3 15 is an affordable gaming laptop with the latest Nvidia GeForce discrete graphics.

Pros: Compact design, specs on par with more expensive models

Cons: Shallow keyboard and touchpad, dim screen

If you enjoy gaming, but don’t want to shell out $1,000 for a gaming PC, the Dell G3 15 might be a decent option for you. The laptop has multiple configurations, but the base model is around $700, and it comes with Nvidia discrete graphics. 

A few factors make the G3 15 a solid option for gamers. The base model comes with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650GPU, a 10th-generation  Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB solid state drive. Those are solid specs that should be able to smoothly run most games you want to play, though you’ll want something more powerful if you’re trying to run more demanding tasks like VR. 

You can also upgrade to a version that has 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX  1660 GPU and 512GB of storage for about $970.

At 5.2 pounds, the G3 15 is lighter and more compact than most budget gaming laptops. 

In terms of ports, you have a power jack, an HDMI 2.0 port, an RJ-45 port, one USB 3.1 port, two  USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader, and a headphone jack. That will allow you to plug in a TV, as well as most peripherals you might want to use. 

However, for a computer of this price, you’ll be missing out on some features of higher-end gaming rigs. For example, reviewers found the display to be a bit dim, and the colors to be washed out. The keyboard and touchpad are also a bit shallow, something that might be important if you’ll be spending a lot of time gaming.

The best budget 2-in-1 laptop

Lenovo IdeaPad 5

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 offers solid specifications and a flexible design that allows it to double as a laptop and a tablet at a price that’s hundreds of dollars below the $1,000 mark.

Pros: Great value, good performance, durable and attractive design

Cons: Dim and lackluster display

With a convertible design, 10th generation Intel processor, and a 14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touch screen, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 is a solid choice for anyone in need of a general purpose laptop.

It has a 360-degree flexible hinge so that you can use it as a laptop or tablet, and comes with extra features less common on laptops in this price range. These include Wi-Fi 6 support, a physical webcam shutter for privacy, and a fingerprint reader for logging in. The AMD configuration of this laptop received high marks in reviews from PCMag, LaptopMag, and Digital Trends for its solid performance, excellent value, and high build quality for a laptop of its price. 

For $429.99, you’re getting a fairly recent 10th generation Intel Core i3 processor, 128GB of storage, 4GB of RAM. While 4GB is a bit on the low end when it comes to memory, these specifications are more than enough for the tasks you’d expect to accomplish with a laptop that costs less than $500, such as web browsing, watching Netflix, checking email, and taking notes.

Budget laptops we look forward to testing

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2: Samsung’s original Galaxy Chromebook from last year’s CES had an attention-grabbing design that’s uncommon for a Chromebook, but its high price and short battery life limited its appeal. Now, Samsung has addressed those criticisms with the Galaxy Chromebook 2, a revamped version of its Google-powered laptop that comes at a cheaper starting price of $549.99 compared to the previous model’s $999.99 price tag. With a premium design, 13.3-inch QLED touch screen, and hopefully longer battery life, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 seems like it could be a promising option for those on a budget.

Acer Chromebook Spin 514: Powered by the latest AMD’s latest mobile processors and offering 10 hours of battery life according to Acer’s claims, the new Acer Chromebook Spin 14 has potential to become one of our top picks for a budget laptop in 2021. It features a 14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touchscreen and aluminum build that could make it a compelling choice as a general-purpose laptop. It’s launching in March 2021 starting at $479.99.

Asus Chromebook Flip CX5: With a roomy 15.6-inch screen, Intel’s latest 11th generation processors, and Harmon Kardon speakers, the Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 seems like a promising option for those who want a laptop for light work and entertainment. It will be configurable up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, which is a lot for a Chromebook, and should last for 12 hours on a single charge. Asus announced the Chromebook Flip CX5 at CES 2021 in January and has not revealed pricing. But a product page on Google’s Chromebook Store suggests that the version with an Intel Core i3, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage could cost $549.

How to buy a budget laptop

There are a variety of factors you should consider when purchasing a laptop, particularly how much you want to spend and what types of tasks you intend to use it for. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your decision. 

Operating system: There are a few major computer operating systems out there. You’re probably most familiar with Windows, as it’s by far the most-used operating system, but there’s also Apple’s macOS, which is found on the company’s Mac computers (we didn’t include any Macs because they didn’t meet our price requirement for a budget laptop). And, the newest, there’s Google’s Chrome OS, which is targeted to those with basic computer needs revolves around Google’s web-based apps (Chrome OS relies heavily on cloud computing, meaning that a lot of the processes happen online).

Specs and features: Some computers are more powerful than others. Things like the processor and amount of memory (RAM) will dictate how quickly your computer runs, while the amount of storage indicates how many files you can keep on your computer at once. There are also other factors, like the graphics chipset being employed. The type of software you run could also dictate how well a laptop’s components perform; for example, Google’s Chrome browser is notorious for being a memory hog.

The features have also improved. Premium components like a touchscreen and high-speed ports, like USB 3.0 and USB-C, have trickled down from high-end laptops to budget models. As you research, look for these or if the laptop is still utilizing older tech.

Size: Laptops come in a range of different physical sizes, however, the smaller ones generally sit in the 10- to 11-inch range, while the larger ones can get as big as 17-inches. That’s handy for watching movies, but it comes at the cost of portability.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best budget laptops

  • Today’s best budget laptops offer more value than ever, bringing solid performance and premium designs at an affordable price.
  • Our pick for the overall best cheap laptop is the Google Pixelbook Go, which offers smooth performance, a great typing experience, and a 1080p webcam for hundreds of dollars less than many flagship devices.
  • We’ll be testing more models throughout 2021, including new inexpensive Chromebooks that were announced at CES 2021.
  • Read more: The best laptops of 2021

The smartphone may be the hub of our digital lives, but the computer still plays a key role, especially now that many of us are continuing to work and socialize from home. 

It used to be that if you want a laptop with power and features, you would need to spend more than $1,000. While you still have to spend upwards of $1,000 for the best features and performance, budget laptops are more than capable of everyday tasks. Those who just want a machine for basic web browsing and word processing can find a promising laptop in the $300-$700 range. That’s all thanks to improvements in processors, graphics, and other chipsets, as well as standardization in features like USB and HDMI.

Of course, this is not to say all budget laptops are great – some are definitely better than average, while others aren’t worth your hard-earned cash. There are a few important factors you need to consider before making a purchase, such as operating system preferences, size, and above all else: what you intend to use it for.

For this guide, we consider a “budget” laptop to be a laptop that costs about $650 or less – we aimed to recommend those that fall below $500. However, if you can afford to spend more than that, you will be able to get something more powerful and arguably better than the computers on this list.

Here are the best cheap laptops:

The best budget laptop overall

Google Pixelbook Go

The Google Pixelbook Go‘s ease of use, excellent keyboard, and long battery life make it a top choice for those who prioritize simplicity in a laptop. 

Pros: Excellent keyboard, long battery life, 1080p webcam, decent screen

Cons: Upgrade options are expensive, no biometric login

Google’s Pixelbook Go is one of the priciest options on this list, but there’s a good reason why. It nearly matches premium laptops that are almost double its price in a few ways, particularly when it comes to keyboard quality, general ease-of-use, and battery life.  

Google’s “Hush” keyboard is part of what makes the Pixelbook Go stand out, offering a comfortable yet unobtrusive typing experience that even rivals that of Lenovo’s laptops, as our full review mentions. It even has a 1080p webcam, a rare find even on laptops that cost over $1,000. That’s especially important now that we’re spending more time video conferencing and socializing virtually.

The base model comes with an Intel Core m3 processor (CPU), 8GB of memory (RAM), and a Full HD (1080p) touch screen. You’ll also get two USB-C ports, and Google says it should last for 12 hours on a single charge.

Like other Google laptops that have come before it, the Pixelbook Go is a Chromebook — meaning it’s designed for those who primarily use their laptops for web browsing, note taking, and other light tasks like streaming YouTube or Netflix. It runs on Google’s Chrome OS, a lightweight interface optimized for security and speed that’s designed to work best with an Internet connection. You can, however, access Google Play Store apps and save documents, spreadsheets, emails, and other data for offline use. 

Sadly, the Pixelbook Go doesn’t have the same 2-in-1 design as its pricier Pixelbook predecessor, so it doesn’t double as a tablet. It also doesn’t have any biometric login options like a fingerprint scanner, which is now fairly common on most laptops. But it’s perfect for anyone in need of a fast, lightweight laptop for basic productivity and entertainment.

The best budget Chromebook

Samsung Chromebook 4+ showcase

The 15-inch Samsung Chromebook 4+ crams an insane amount of value into its below $300 list price, with hardware and features found in laptops twice its price and within a good-looking package.

Pros: Decent display, long battery life, lots of ports

Cons: Small local storage, low amount of RAM, no top-firing speakers

Anyone looking to get the absolute most value possible out of a Chromebook that might look a bit more premium in ways than even our top pick, we suggest the 15-inch Samsung Chromebook 4+. There’s no question that this Chromebook makes for a close second to our former top pick,  Acer Chromebook 15, as the best budget laptop period.

Samsung’s Chromebook 4+ is a sharp, slight 15-inch laptop that’s wrapped in a platinum-colored plastic frame featuring a 15.6-inch, 1080p screen, with power from an Intel Celeron CPU supported by 4GB of RAM and a 32GB SSD. That’s expanded upon by two USB-C ports, one USB 3.0 port, and a microSD card reader — as well as Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.0 — for wireless connections.

This all comes driven by a battery that can reportedly last up to 10 hours and 30 minutes per outing. Finally, we love the addition of Google Assistant for voice-based search queries and other assistive tasks. While lacking biometric security and more local storage, this laptop leaves nothing else off the table. — Joe Osborne

The best budget gaming laptop

Dell G3 laptop

The Dell G3 15 is an affordable gaming laptop with the latest Nvidia GeForce discrete graphics.

Pros: Compact design, specs on par with more expensive models

Cons: Shallow keyboard and touchpad, dim screen

If you enjoy gaming, but don’t want to shell out $1,000 for a gaming PC, the Dell G3 15 might be a decent option for you. The laptop has multiple configurations, but the base model is around $700, and it comes with Nvidia discrete graphics. 

A few factors make the G3 15 a solid option for gamers. The base model comes with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650GPU, a 10th-generation  Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB solid state drive. Those are solid specs that should be able to smoothly run most games you want to play, though you’ll want something more powerful if you’re trying to run more demanding tasks like VR. 

You can also upgrade to a version that has 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX  1660 GPU and 512GB of storage for about $970.

At 5.2 pounds, the G3 15 is lighter and more compact than most budget gaming laptops. 

In terms of ports, you have a power jack, an HDMI 2.0 port, an RJ-45 port, one USB 3.1 port, two  USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader, and a headphone jack. That will allow you to plug in a TV, as well as most peripherals you might want to use. 

However, for a computer of this price, you’ll be missing out on some features of higher-end gaming rigs. For example, reviewers found the display to be a bit dim, and the colors to be washed out. The keyboard and touchpad are also a bit shallow, something that might be important if you’ll be spending a lot of time gaming.

The best budget 2-in-1 laptop

Lenovo IdeaPad 5

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 offers solid specifications and a flexible design that allows it to double as a laptop and a tablet at a price that’s hundreds of dollars below the $1,000 mark.

Pros: Great value, good performance, durable and attractive design

Cons: Dim and lackluster display

With a convertible design, recent six-core processors from AMD, and a 14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touch screen, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 is a solid choice for anyone in need of a general purpose laptop.

It received high marks in reviews from PCMag, LaptopMag, and Digital Trends for its solid performance, excellent value, and high build quality for a laptop of its price. Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 5 also comes with a few extra features that are less common on notebooks in this price range, such as a fingerprint reader and webcam privacy shutter. 

For less than $600, you get an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor, which just launched about one year ago so it isn’t very old, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. While it’s a great value for the price, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The biggest common complaint among reviewers is that the display is too dim and lackluster.

Other budget laptops we considered

Lenovo Ideapad 320
  • Acer Predator Helios 300It’s impressive to see as sophisticated a gaming rig as the Acer Predator Helios 300 clock in under $1000. At 5.1 pounds, it’s more portable than a lot of gaming laptops and produces a very high refresh rate for many games, and an excellent keyboard and touchpad. It holds its own against much pricier gaming laptops in real-world gaming tests. However, while $955 is cheap among capable gaming PCs, we felt it was too close to the $1000 mark to name the Predator Helios 300 a top budget pick.
  • Asus VivoBook F510UAThe Asus VivoBook is far from the cheapest laptop on this list, but if you’re looking for something with the look and feel of an ultrabook, the VivoBook gives you good bang for your buck. It’s thin and light, at just 3.57 pounds, and with a Core i5 processor and 8GB RAM, it performs about on par with more expensive competitors in benchmark tests. However, it lacks some key features that our cheaper recommendations have, including a touchscreen and all-day battery life.
  • Acer Aspire E 15: The Acer Aspire E is a bit more expensive than some of our top picks, but it offers excellent value for its price tag. It has a ton of ports, almost 9 hours of battery life, and beats most of its competition in benchmark tests. But a bulky plastic design, lack of a touchscreen, and somewhat washed-out display keeps us from recommending the Aspire E as the best value for your money.
  • Lenovo Ideapad 320: For folks on a very tight budget, Lenovo’s Ideapad 320 is one of the cheapest Windows laptops you can buy. It comes with an Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB RAM, and a 1TB hard drive — usable, but not great specs. And with an Ethernet port, HDMI, headphone jack, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 port, it should have enough ports for most people’s accessory needs. That said, if you can afford something better, we recommend going for that instead. The 1,366 x 768-pixel display is quite low-resolution, and the battery only lasted a measly 4 hours in battery tests.
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: Microsoft has earned a reputation for making classy-looking laptops that rival the design of Apple’s devices, and that’s one of the reasons Microsoft’s budget-laptop stands out. The Surface Laptop Go is a less expensive version of Microsoft’s main laptop that comes with some compromises, like a low-resolution screen and no keyboard backlighting. But, for $549, you’re still getting an Intel Core i5 processor, which should offer plenty of power for general productivity and web browsing, particularly for those who prefer Windows over Chrome OS. However, unless you really only want a computer for light web browsing and don’t plan on saving much locally on the laptop itself, we’d recommend spending at least $649.99 for the mid-tier version with 8GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. While Microsoft’s laptop is worth pointing out, we felt the ones highlighted in this guide provided for value overall.

Budget laptops we look forward to testing

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2: Samsung’s original Galaxy Chromebook from last year’s CES had an attention-grabbing design that’s uncommon for a Chromebook, but its high price and short battery life limited its appeal. Now, Samsung has addressed those criticisms with the Galaxy Chromebook 2, a revamped version of its Google-powered laptop that comes at a cheaper starting price of $549.99 compared to the previous model’s $999.99 price tag. With a premium design, 13.3-inch QLED touch screen, and hopefully longer battery life, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 seems like it could be a promising option for those on a budget.

Acer Chromebook Spin 14: Powered by the latest AMD’s latest mobile processors and offering 10 hours of battery life according to Acer’s claims, the new Acer Chromebook Spin 14 has potential to become one of our top picks for a budget laptop in 2021. It features a 14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touchscreen and aluminum build that could make it a compelling choice as a general-purpose laptop. It’s launching in March 2021 starting at $479.99.

How to buy a budget laptop

There are a variety of factors you should consider when purchasing a laptop, particularly how much you want to spend and what types of tasks you intend to use it for. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your decision. 

Operating system: There are a few major computer operating systems out there. You’re probably most familiar with Windows, as it’s by far the most-used operating system, but there’s also Apple’s macOS, which is found on the company’s Mac computers (we didn’t include any Macs because they didn’t meet our price requirement for a budget laptop). And, the newest, there’s Google’s Chrome OS, which is targeted to those with basic computer needs revolves around Google’s web-based apps (Chrome OS relies heavily on cloud computing, meaning that a lot of the processes happen online).

Specs and features: Some computers are more powerful than others. Things like the processor and amount of memory (RAM) will dictate how quickly your computer runs, while the amount of storage indicates how many files you can keep on your computer at once. There are also other factors, like the graphics chipset being employed. The type of software you run could also dictate how well a laptop’s components perform; for example, Google’s Chrome browser is notorious for being a memory hog.

The features have also improved. Premium components like a touchscreen and high-speed ports, like USB 3.0 and USB-C, have trickled down from high-end laptops to budget models. As you research, look for these or if the laptop is still utilizing older tech.

Size: Laptops come in a range of different physical sizes, however, the smaller ones generally sit in the 10- to 11-inch range, while the larger ones can get as big as 17-inches. That’s handy for watching movies, but it comes at the cost of portability.

Read the original article on Business Insider