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.

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The 5 best Bluetooth speakers of 2021 for listening to music outside and around the house

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Bluetooth speakers come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges.
  • The Sonos Move is our top pick thanks to great sound, reliable voice control, and solid battery life.
  • For more speaker recommendations, check out our roundup of the best speaker deals.

A great listening experience for all your favorite music services shouldn’t be limited by pesky wires. While the days of carrying around a boom box on your shoulder are by and large over, you can still get quality wireless music in the form of a Bluetooth speaker.

Thanks to Bluetooth support, these speakers are able to play music from other Bluetooth-enabled sources, like a smartphone or laptop, without any cables. Whether you’re getting a speaker for use around the house or a day at the park, there’s almost certainly a Bluetooth speaker for you. But there are a number of things to consider before you buy, including size, battery, durability and, of course, sound quality.

With all of those factors in mind, we’ve selected the best Bluetooth speakers you can buy for a variety of needs. Since most people purchase Bluetooth speakers for their portability, all of our picks feature built-in batteries for listening on the go.

Here are the best Bluetooth speakers:

The best Bluetooth speaker overall

Sonos Move

The Sonos Move looks good, sounds great, and offers multi-room audio as well as voice control with Alexa and the Google Assistant.

Pros: Attractive design, integrates with other Sonos speakers, excellent audio quality, Alexa and Google Assistant with Wi-Fi

Cons: A little expensive, a bit heavy

Sonos has long been a leader in the wireless speaker market, and the company now has a Bluetooth-enabled model called the Move. With an excellent design, awesome sound quality, and support for two digital assistants, the Move is one of the most fully featured Bluetooth speakers you can buy.

The speaker offers a ton of bass, coupled with crisp clarity and detail in the high end. That makes it excellent for listening to music. The Move can even be calibrated using Trueplay tuning technology to suit different environments and locations.

The speaker has a charging station where you can keep it most of the time, but it’s designed to be portable too, so you can take it outside or move it around the house. It’s a bit heavy compared to most portable speakers, but it’s nice to have the option. It’s rated for around 11 hours of battery life, so it should easily get you through a day of listening.

Like other Sonos speakers, the Sonos Move is also smart. You can choose to use either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, plus it integrates perfectly with Sonos’ other speakers, allowing for multi-room audio. 

But what about the downsides? The speaker is a little pricey, and you won’t get access to all of its smart features unless you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

The best Bluetooth speaker for portability

Bose

The Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II is easy-to-use, offers 17 hours of battery, features a convenient handle for travel, and it sounds good, too.

Pros: Good sound, versatile design for portable use outdoors and around the house, long battery life

Cons: A bit pricey, lacks Wi-Fi support

There are a number of things that make the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II such an ideal portable option, from its great sound to its nice design.

The design is reminiscent of smart speakers, so it’ll look right at home in any tech-savvy person’s house. On top of that, it offers extremely easy-to-use controls, with six buttons located on the top for things like volume and Bluetooth control. Bose also added a handle to make it easy to bring the speaker with you outside or around the house.

We tested the previous-generation model and were impressed by its great sound quality and how easy it is to move from room to room. It delivers ample volume and deep bass without distorting. 

This newer version is nearly identical to the one we tested, but features an upgrade from IPX4 water resistance to an IP55 rating. It also supports an extra hour of battery life for up to 17 hours of play time — the longest of any speaker on our guide. 

The speaker even has some smart features, including Bluetooth pairing with voice prompts, the ability to take calls, and access to Siri or Google Assistant from your phone. That said, the speaker doesn’t have Wi-Fi so it doesn’t support a built-in digital assistant.

The best waterproof Bluetooth speaker

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

The UE Boom 3 is well designed and sounds pretty good, but it’s also water resistant, making it great for use by the pool or at the beach.

Pros: Good sound quality, nice design, waterproof, can float

Cons: High frequencies aren’t as detailed as other speakers

Looking for something that you can take to the beach or use by the pool without fear of it breaking due to water damage? The UE Boom 3 is the way to go. 

The speaker may not sound as robust as the Sonos Move, but it still sounds good, especially considering how small it is. The UE Boom 3 offers decent bass response, along with a well-tuned mid-range, and a solid amount of clarity in the high frequencies. One of the best things about it is that it can also get super loud, which is great for use outside.

It’s relatively small and portable, and it’s available in a range of different colors. On the side, you get buttons for controlling volume, while on the top there are controls for things like Bluetooth pairing and power. 

The UE Boom 3 is built for use near water. The speaker is not only waterproof, but it’s also designed to float, so you won’t have to worry about losing it at the bottom of the pool. The Boom 3 is capable of being submerged in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes, so it shouldn’t break due to water damage.

The best cheap Bluetooth speaker

Anker bluetooth speaker

The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini may be super-affordable, but it still looks and sounds solid for the price.

Pros: Inexpensive, water-resistant, solid battery life

Cons: Sound quality is only decent

Looking for an inexpensive speaker that still looks and sounds pretty good? The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini may well be the way to go. This speaker may carry a budget price, but it still sounds decent and won’t break the bank.

The speaker is designed to look a lot better than other speakers in its price range. It’s a cylindrical design with a fabric covering around the side and controls on the top. Those controls include power, volume, and Bluetooth pairing. There are even LED lights on the bottom, and you can control those lights through five different lighting modes.

The design of the speaker plays into how it sounds too. The speaker can deliver 360-degree audio, so no matter where you are around it, it should sound pretty good. It definitely won’t sound as powerful as some of the more expensive speakers on our list, but it can still get pretty loud and offers a decent amount of bass.

You’ll get 12 hours of battery life out of the speaker, which isn’t bad at all, and it’s water-resistant with an IPX7 rating. 

Considering the price range, perhaps the only real downside to the speaker is that it can’t really match more expensive offerings in the audio department.

The best small Bluetooth speaker

bo beplay p2

The B&O Beoplay P2 doesn’t just sound good and feature a slick design, it’s ultra-compact, too.

Pros: Great sound, very portable, intuitive touch-controls, compact size

Cons: A little pricey for its size, could use more high-end clarity

The B&O Beoplay P2 is the perfect fit for buyers who want an ultra-compact speaker that can easily fit in a backpack or purse.

Now, generally speaking, smaller Bluetooth speakers can be a little hit and miss, but the BeoPlay P2 is a hit. That’s largely thanks to its sleek and stylish design, coupled with hidden and intuitive controls.

For example, you can double tap the speaker grill to play and pause your music, or you can program the speaker through the accompanying app to activate your digital assistant of choice, whether it be Google Assistant or Siri. That happens through your phone because the speaker doesn’t have those assistants built-in.

So how does the speaker sound? You can’t expect studio-quality sound, but it’s not bad. The speaker features mono audio and an impressive bass response for a device its size. The high-end isn’t as responsive, but it’s still not bad. 

What else we considered

JBL Flip 4

Here are other speakers we considered for our guide, and why they didn’t make our top picks.

Other Bluetooth speakers we recommend:

JBL Flip 4: The JBL Flip 4 speaker was recently one of our picks, and it’s still a fantastic Bluetooth speaker for the money. With that said, the less expensive Soundcore Flare Mini includes similar features for a more affordable price, making that model a better overall budget pick. If you’re willing to spend a little more, however, the JBL Flip 4 features a bit more power and better sound quality.

What you should look for in a Bluetooth speaker

bose portable home speaker lifestyle

When shopping for a Bluetooth speaker, there are some key factors you should keep in mind. For instance, a compact model might not be a good fit for someone who wants the best audio quality, while a heavy speaker won’t be ideal for someone who wants to take their audio on the go.

Below, we’ve broken down some main features and design elements you should look into when selecting the best Bluetooth speaker for your needs.

  • Size matters: Generally speaking, larger speakers will be louder, so they tend to be a better fit for parties and gatherings. Larger speakers also tend to have more refined audio quality with better clarity and bass. Of course, size also affects portability. If you’re looking for something you can slip in your bag and carry around easily, then a smaller speaker will be a better choice.
  • Battery life: You’ll obviously want longer battery life if you’re looking for a speaker that can last all day, but sometimes a speaker with shorter battery life will do the job — especially if you plan on being able to charge it often or even while in use. Though all of our picks include batteries, some Bluetooth speakers don’t have charging at all. If you only plan to use your speaker in one room, this isn’t a problem, but if you want portability, a speaker with a battery is a must.
  • Durability and water resistance: Durability is another important factor if you plan on carrying the speaker around a lot. Not only will your speaker last longer if it’s more durable, but it might be a little more versatile, too. For example, you probably won’t want to take a non-waterproof speaker to the pool or the beach.
  • Sound quality: Some may not care too much about how a Bluetooth speaker sounds, but others will want to ensure that they’re getting the best audio performance they can for their money. A single Bluetooth speaker is never going to offer the same quality as a true stereo speaker pair, but high-end Bluetooth speakers from brands like Sonos and Bose offer impressive performance. Again, larger models tend to have better sound, so if audio quality is a priority, you’ll likely want to avoid ultra-compact speakers. 

Check out our other speaker buying guides

Sonos Beam

The best speakers


The best smart speakers


The best soundbars

 

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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