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 sunrise alarm clocks for waking up gently in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Sunrise alarm clocks use light and natural sounds to help you fall asleep and wake up more gently.
  • I tested seven sunrise alarm clocks, consulted two doctors, and used my background in sleep research to find the best.
  • Our favorite is the Philips Smartsleep Connected because it’s very customizable and analyzes bedroom conditions.

If you’ve ever woken up to a traditional alarm clock, you know that a blaring alarm early in the morning can be quite jarring. Sunrise alarm clocks (sometimes called wake-up lamps) simulate a natural and gradual sunrise with a range of soft orange and yellow LED lights for a gentler wake up experience. The simulated natural light from these devices can purportedly help with your mental health, too. Many wake-up lamps combine light therapy with sound meditation and breathing techniques to create a more calming sleep environment and help regulate circadian rhythms – the natural ebb and flow of hormones that tell us when to go to sleep and when to wake up.

Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine, told us that the gentle stimulus from sunrise alarm clocks starts getting the body out of deeper sleep stages, and closer to wakefulness. “Whether it’s a gradual sound or light alarm, wake-up lamps can help better prepare the body to wake up more gently, with less startle,” Dimitriu said.

Sunrise alarm clocks can also help reduce the effects of sleep inertia, that drowsy, disorienting feeling that a lot of us experience after abruptly waking up. “Sudden awakenings can lead to sudden changes in cortisol and other neurotransmitters that could cause problems,” said Dr. William Winter of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine. “Waking up with a gradual increase in wake-promoting light makes a lot of sense,” Winter said, which is why sunrise alarm clocks might be a better option than regular alarm clocks.

In addition to consulting two experts, I leaned on my own experience in sleep science for this guide. I previously managed a sleep laboratory for two years and continue to contribute to sleep research. I’ve presented some of my research at Eastern Psychological Association and have tested products for SleepScore Labs. Given my research background, I think it’s important that any new product you bring into your sleep routine be backed by research. That’s why I tested seven sunrise alarm clocks, using each for three consecutive days and nights to evaluate how effective, easy use, and durable they are. You can read more about how we tested here.

Here are the best sunrise alarm clocks in 2021

The best sunrise alarm clock overall

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 philips smartsleep connected

The Philips Smartsleep Connected can help you fall asleep gently and wake up on time with stunning sunset and sunrise simulations. It monitors your sleep environment and makes recommendations to improve it.

Pros: Smartphone connected; allows you to customize duration, color, sound, and intensity of wake-up and wind-down programs; makes recommendations for improving sleep environment; can set up to 16 alarms

Cons: Occupies a lot of space on nightstand, does not play music via Bluetooth, not a good option for those who prefer manual controls 

The Philips Smartsleep Connected is a relatively large sunrise lamp that sort of resembles a glowing donut. Its controlled almost entirely from your phone an app (available for iOS or Android).

The app allows you to customize “wind-down” and “wake-up” profiles with your preferred sound, light intensity, and duration, and I found it very easy and intuitive to use. The stunning sunset simulation was my favorite feature: the brightness gradually decreases from beautiful hues of bright yellows to soft reds, and is accompanied by natural relaxing sounds that fade away with the sunset. Your personal sunset can last anywhere from five minutes to an hour and you can choose from four color schemes with inviting names such as “Caribbean red” and “Nordic white,” and four nighttime ambient sounds like “soft rain,” “summer lake,” or even your preferred FM radio station. 

I woke up to “summer birds” and an “island red” sunrise with warm red and orange lights that distributed nicely throughout the bedroom. The combination made me feel like I was on vacation. You can also set up to 16 alarms; a useful option for people who tend to hit the snooze button. 

The device also tracks your sleep habits and and lets you know if your bedroom is too hot, humid, bright, or loud for optimal sleep. Other features guided meditations, a night light, back-up battery in case of power failures, USB charging dock for your devices, an AUX cord to play music from your phone, and a bright reading light. Unfortunately, you can’t wake up to music from your phone or anything else connected through the AUX cord, and it does not play music via Bluetooth. 

The technology has been backed by research: in a 2010 study, participants reported easier rising; better mood, productivity, and quality of social interaction; and reduced sleep inertia after using Philips sunrise lamps.

I’ve now used the device for many months. I still love falling asleep and waking up with this sunrise alarm clock, and in the winter months I’ve noticed that it’s light therapy has helped lessen the effects of my seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In all, its customization and user friendly app make it the best choice if you’re investing in one of these wake-up devices. 

Read our full review of the Philips Smartsleep Connected

The best mid-priced sunrise alarm clock

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 Hatch restore

The Hatch Restore has the most light options and sleep sounds of any model we tried and they’re all fully controlled through its multifunctional Hatch Sleep app.

Pros: More than 30 sound options and 20 light options to choose from, guided meditations, fully personalized sleep and wake-up routines through the app

Cons: Not a good option if you don’t like to rely on an app, doesn’t play music, guided meditations only available with subscription, must be connected to Wi-Fi to use

The Hatch Restore sunrise alarm clock connects via Bluetooth to your phone and, with the free smartphone app (available on the Apple App Store and on Google Play), you can set your personalized bedtime routine and more than 18 alarms. Setting up the Hatch is easy even though it doesn’t come with traditional instructions. Instead, the box contains a small card with a link to the instructions online. There are so many features to choose from, including a bedside reading light, guided meditations, sleep stories, wind-down profiles, and sleep routines; all of which are fully customizable. It has more than 30 soothing sleep sounds and many more light therapy options than any of the products we tried, including nighttime shades, warm oranges, and soft relaxing pastels, which I loved while listening to meditations. What’s great about the Hatch is that users can fully personalize every part of their sleep schedule according to their preferences; you can add up to 10 steps to create a routine to fall asleep. 

My routine consisted of three simple steps. First, I got into bed and read my book using the coral nighttime light for 30 minutes while listening to the “sea wind” sound. Then I wound down with a soft pink light and the “meeting sleep with ease” meditation. Finally, I fell asleep to an orange light and the sound of rain. You can also set how long each step is. I was concerned about the digital clock display being too bright during the night, but you’re able to turn it off completely or set it so that it will turn off by itself at your preferred time — a great feature for total darkness that also contributes to a good sleep environment. I also really enjoyed the variety of the guided meditations, which include breathing techniques, body scans, and relaxing sleep affirmations. The Hatch is well-designed with a nice half-moon shape that simulates a natural sunrise and, at 7.5 inches long, it didn’t take up too much of my nightstand. It’s a good device with a lot of light and sound options to create your own sleep routines. 

Unlike some sunrise alarm clocks, the Hatch does require users to download the app and to have a stable Wi-Fi connection in order to use the device; without either, it’s basically useless. All its features are controlled through the Hatch Sleep app, but the device itself includes a few soft-touch buttons for volume and brightness. Unfortunately, many of the guided sleep meditations can only be accessed by subscribing for $49.99 a year or $4.99 a month (though the first six months are free). Another thing to note is that the device doesn’t immediately connect to your smartphone every time you open its companion app; it usually takes a few seconds to connect. I personally did not have an issue waiting five seconds for the app to open but other users might find it annoying. It also does not play music or radio.

The best sunrise alarm clock on a budget

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 iHome

The iHome Zenergy Dream Mini produces a soft sunrise and will gradually wake you up with your favorite song. For the price, it’s packed with a lot of features that will help you wake up in a better mood. 

Pros: Lots of customizable options, pairs with Bluetooth to play music from your phone, won’t take up too much space on your nightstand

Cons: The light intensity might be too low for some, most functions cannot be controlled through a smartphone, only two alarms

The iHome Zenergy Dream Mini is a tiny sleep therapy machine packed with tons of features and customizable options. The instructions include really useful tips on how to properly meditate with the device and a brief section on the importance of maintaining good circadian rhythms.

What I love about the Zenergy Dream Mini is the option to wake up to my own Spotify playlist; a feature that other wake-up lamps I tested lack. The mini device paired up quickly and smoothly with my iPhone every single time with no issues, and I was able to wake up to a gentle simulated sunrise and my favorite song. The sound quality is honestly pretty good for such a small device. However, even though you can choose and play your music through Bluetooth, this device does not have an accompanying app, so you can’t control any other features with your smartphone.

Instead, you control most of its functionality through 15 buttons on the top of the device. It has a lot of options that have to be set up manually but the instructions are helpful and the settings are fairly easy to navigate. The time also has to be set up manually but will purportedly adjust during daylight saving time automatically, and the built-in battery maintains the time and alarm settings in the event of a power outage. One of its key features is the “ZENERGY” button, which activates calming sounds accompanied by gentle, colorful lights. It is customizable with the “fall asleep” and “stay asleep” buttons, which let you choose from a nice selection of sound and light options including a guided breathing meditation, 13 relaxing sounds, and nine calming light therapy cycles. My favorite is the “heart” sound because it promotes steady breathing patterns and pairs well with the “breath” light color therapy.

The snooze button is large and strategically placed in front of all the buttons, so I didn’t have to struggle to hit snooze in the morning. However, you can only set two alarms and snooze only lasts up to nine minutes. The light from this mini device might also be too soft for some individuals who need brighter hues in order to wake up. Still, this sunrise alarm clock is priced much lower than other options and offers great functionality if you’re just starting to dabble in light therapy.

The best portable sunrise alarm clock

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 Casper Glow LIght

The Casper Glow Light is uniquely designed as a wireless, portable night light, and uses intuitive gestures and a streamlined design to create a beautiful and simple experience.

Pros: Beautiful warm lights, portable, pairs with multiple Glow Lights for a bedroom light show, intuitive and easy to operate with simple gestures

Cons: Lacks sound, requires smartphone app for expanded features like setting sleep and wake times

Casper Glow Light is a small portable cylinder that can be easily controlled with just a few gestures: flip to turn on, rotate to increase and decrease the amount of light, and wiggle to turn on the night light. The device is small, softly lit, and smartly designed with gentle, warm hues of light for better sleep.

The light charges wirelessly and pairs with an app that is also very simple to use. While you can operate the light without it, the app (available on the Apple App Store and on Google Play) is a must if you want to set wake-up and wind-down times, which cue a sunset or sunrise that can last from 15 to 90 minutes.

One of the unique features of the Glow Light is that it synchronizes with other Glow Lights to make pretty light shows. Once you have more than one, you can name each and “group” or “ungroup” them through the app. I used two lights together and found they set a very tranquil mood.

The night light feature is very useful for when you wake up and want to avoid turning on bright lights that could disrupt your ability to fall back to sleep. The light was easy and fun to carry around during the night when I went on a mission downstairs to get a glass of water. It’s made with polycarbonate to resist bumps and endure falls, so is great for kids to use as well. 

Falling asleep with my pair of Glow Lights was such a treat. The soft, warm lights create a tranquil sleep environment, gradually dim to slowly relax you, and then turn completely off for total darkness. The Casper Glow Lights are made with high-quality warm LEDs that were effective in waking me up gently. However, the device focuses solely on effective light therapy and, unlike other models we tested, it completely excludes sound. It might not be the best option for heavy sleepers who require some noise to wake up; you’ll still need to set a phone alarm if you really need a rise out of bed. That said, it’s a beautiful device that makes for a very tranquil bedroom environment.

Read our full review of the Casper Glow Light

The best sunrise alarm clock with all manual controls

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 Phillips wake up

The Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light has a unique spherical design that creates a beautiful sunrise simulation, and features many of the same premium settings as the more expensive Philips Smartsleep Connected. 

Pros: Creates the best sunrise simulation, very user-friendly and simple, fully manual

Cons: Very limited sound options, doesn’t have an app if you’re someone who prefers a connected device

A less expensive option from Philips, the Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light has fewer customizable options and features than the Philips Smartsleep Connected and is completely manual; no app needed. I recommend this one if you’re looking for something simple, but still high-quality and efficient. It’s one of Philips’ best selling sunrise alarm clocks because of its impressive colored sunrise simulations and relaxing sunsets.

I had no problem setting the time and alarms with the easy-to-follow instructions. Falling asleep to this lamp was very relaxing; the sunset simulation therapy works just as well as the Philips Smartsleep Connected and the display automatically dims as the room gets darker, great for cocooning yourself in total darkness. Waking up with this lamp was such a pleasant experience; the gradual and natural sunrise simulation increased in the span of 30 minutes until it completely flooded my bedroom with beautiful, rich, orange and yellow lights and the gentle sounds of “Nepal bowls.” You can choose from five different natural wake-up sounds including beautiful “birds” and “ocean waves,” or your preferred FM radio station. The snooze feature is unique: a single slight tap anywhere on the device snoozes the lamp for nine minutes.  

It’s also one of Philips’ sunrise alarm clocks that is clinically proven to help you feel more ready for the day, and I have to admit that it did a great job at waking me up feeling refreshed in the morning. I personally prefer this Philips model’s smooth, spherical shape and smaller size over the Philips Smartsleep Connected, although I wish it connected to the app for more customization. I missed the extra features in the Philips Sleepmapper app when I used this model, like the sleep environment monitoring and extended customization. I hope Philips comes out with a new sunrise alarm clock that features all of the Philips Smartsleep Connected options but is shaped like this model to simulate that beautiful, natural sunrise.

What else we tested

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 What else we considered

I tested seven sunrise alarm clocks as part of this guide and unfortunately, some didn’t make the cut. 

What we don’t recommend and why

Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 ($159.00): The Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 doesn’t connect to an app and setting it up manually took me multiple tries and many minutes, as it comes with a set of lengthy, non-intuitive instructions that involve a lot of clicking around on the device. The daily alarm has to be turned on manually every single night before going to bed; if you fall asleep before you do, you’re out of luck for your morning alarm. The sound options are interesting, to say the least. I chose to wake up to “kittens purring” because the other options were not exactly what I would prefer waking up to; for example, there was “ping-pong,” “steam train,” “goats,” and “café,” among the 15 odd sounds. Made by a British company, the device only provides a 24-hour clock, which is somewhat inconvenient if you’re used to a 12-hour clock. That being said, the device and its lights do simulate a nice sunset and sunrise. The light progression is smooth and it has gentle levels of brightness. Although it has a lot of customizable options, they can be quite frustrating to set up.

AMTOK Smart Wake Up Light ($45.99): I was excited to try this smart sunrise alarm clock because of its voice control function. However, setting it up was so complicated and time-consuming that I quickly got discouraged. First, it comes with two sets of instructions with different information on how to connect the device to your phone, but neither appeared to be up-to-date to the model I was testing. Second, it only supports 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi networks, which transmit data at lower speeds and are prone to interference; likely why it failed to wake me up in the morning on multiple occasions. While the device has features that you can control through the app, they’re very limited; just a few sound and light options. The color loop option is nice but I found its light intensity somewhat dull and not very relaxing. It’s a device that you have to learn to get used to — if you have the patience. 

Methodology

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 Our methodology

In addition to interviewing sleep experts Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine, and Dr. William Winter of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, I did hands-on testing with seven different sunrise alarm clocks. As a sleep researcher who managed a sleep lab for two years, part of my research involved investigating strategies to reduce sleep inertia (like using sunrise alarm clocks), so I also relied on my own background in sleep research and product testing to evaluate each product over several nights. I tested each sunrise alarm clock according to the following criteria: 

Setup: For each of the lamps, I paid close attention to how difficult or easy it was to set up on my nightstand. I noted how accurate and helpful their instructions were and what it was like to set the time and alarms. I also evaluated how heavy they were and how much space they occupied on my bedside table. 

Performance: I used each wake-up lamp for a minimum of three consecutive days and nights to get used to the routine and noted whether or not they woke me up on time and with the features (such as sound and light color) I chose. I took notes on what it was like to fall asleep with their wind-down features, and paid particular attention to the wake up experience. I woke up at the same time every morning with each alarm clock to keep my experiences consistent, and noted how I felt and how much sleep inertia I experienced. I also evaluated the sound and light quality of each, and how easy or difficult it was to snooze the back-up alarm (if it had one).

Special features: I tested out any additional and unique features of each sunrise alarm clock, such as speakers, Bluetooth integration, guided meditations, and accompanying mobile apps. I noted whether or not these extra features were actually helpful and easy to use. 

Durability: In order to test how durable and resistant each alarm clock was, I knocked every one off my nightstand and checked to see if any parts came loose or broke. Fortunately, all of them passed this test. I also took note of each product’s materials and their warranty. 

Long-term use: Since original testing, I’ve continued to regularly use our top picks and will report back about their durability over time.

What we’re testing next

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 What we look forward to testing

We’re continuing to research and test the best wake up lamp alarm clocks; here are some models on our horizon.

  • Hatch Rest+ ($89.99): Hatch recently came out with a new Hatch Rest+ smart lamp. Its features include a sound machine, night light, and a “time-to-rise” feature that cues your child when it’s time to sleep and when it’s okay to get up. It also has an audio monitor, backup battery, and you can control it with Amazon Alexa (but not Google Home). You can even “dress it up” with cute coverlets to make it fun for babies and children. It’s received a ton of great reviews from parents and I’m excited to test its integration with Alexa. 
  • Lexon Miami Sunrise Wake Up Lamp  ($79.90): I really want to try this sunrise alarm clock because it’s shaped just like the Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light HF3520/60 and costs a fraction of the price. It’s very sleek and modern looking and comes in three color options. 
  • TITIROBA Wake Up Simulation ($35.99): This wake-up lamp, which is the least expensive I’ve seen, has received a lot of really great reviews. Some of its features include five natural sounds, a backup battery, “eye-care” adjustable lights, digital LED clock, and touch control. It’s simple and equipped with only a few features but it might be worth a try if you’re on a budget. 
  • LittleHippo Children’s Trainer Sounds Machine ($49.99): This one might be a great option for kids. It’s a cute design that uses colors and digital “facial expressions” to teach children when it’s okay to get out of bed and when it’s time to go to sleep. Its “wake” feature works just like a sunrise alarm clock, glowing to indicate the start of the day. It also has child-friendly alarms, nap timers, and a night light. It has great reviews and I’d love to compare this one to the Hatch Rest+.  
  • Bodyclock Luxe 750DAB (£199.00): I really want to give Lumie another shot. To be fair, the Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 that I tested was designed years ago, but is one of the few models currently available in the United States. There is a newer version with more sound options, Bluetooth for streaming music from smartphones, higher-quality sound, and a glass lamp cover — a feature that I imagine produces a beautiful sunrise simulation. Currently, this Lumie model is only available in the UK. 

FAQs

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 FAQs for Wake Up Lights

What are the benefits of sunrise alarm clocks?

The light therapy implemented in these wake-up lamps helps regulate cortisol and melatonin production, two important hormones that are essential in controlling sleep/wake cycles. It can be difficult for some of us to adapt to season changes, especially in the winter when days get shorter and nights get longer. The shift from bright summer days to long, dark winter months can have an impact on circadian rhythms, sometimes resulting in seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

New technology has also affected our circadian rhythms by restraining the natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin as a result of constant exposure to artificial blue lights from our phones, TVs, and computers.

Regular daily alternation of light and darkness is essential in order to maintain good quality sleep. Sunrise alarm clocks have “wind-down” features that encourage a healthy production of melatonin at night by mimicking a gradual sunset, while the “wake-up” cycles encourage the production of cortisol in the morning by simulating a natural and gradual sunrise that prepares you for wakefulness. The wake-up and wind-down features can be equally important in helping maintain a healthy sleep cycle.

How does a sunrise alarm-clock compare to a traditional alarm?

Many sunrise alarm clocks are equipped with all the features we all like in traditional alarm clocks — a radio or music player, custom or multiple alarms, and yes, even a sound alarm if you need it. The key difference is that sunrise alarm clocks use gentle light and sound to help you wake up before resorting to the louder noises that are typical of a standard alarm clock.

Waking up to the loud, obnoxious sound of a traditional alarm clock is not only unpleasant and irritating, but it’s also quite unhealthy. “If we train ourselves to wake up suddenly, with a jolt, this can become a problem for any other time we wake up in the night, making it hard to fall back asleep,” said Dimitriu.

That abrupt wake-up experience can also cause stress levels to suddenly increase, often aggravating long-term issues like chronic anxiety. Winter also advises waking up gently because sudden awakenings can cause sudden blood pressure surges, possibly leading to heart issues.

Your chances of waking up with sleep inertia — that debilitating groggy, drowsy feeling that occurs as a result of a sudden, often startling transition between sleep and wakefulness — also increase if you wake up to a traditional alarm clock. Sleep inertia makes it very difficult for some people to get out of bed, and often puts people in a bad mood for the rest of their day. “Gradual alarms (sound or light) are excellent solutions to wake people gradually,” said Dimitriu, since these softer alarms offer a gentler, more gradual and natural wake-up experience.

What features should I look for when choosing a sunrise alarm clock?

There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a sunrise alarm clock. One very important aspect to consider is the brightness level of the lamp. If you’re a heavy sleeper you might need a sunrise alarm clock that has bright lights to effectively wake you up in the morning.

Another important factor is alarm sounds: most sunrise alarm clocks have several sound options and some (like the Casper Glow light) lack this feature completely. If you’re a heavy sleeper you may want to opt for a device with many sounds. Or, if you are a “snoozer,” you might want to consider a sunrise alarm clock that allows you to set multiple alarms like the Philips Smartsleep Connected, which offers up to 16 alarms just in case you like to hit snooze more than once.

Finally, consider your personal needs; if you’re uncomfortable operating smartphone-enabled technology, you may prefer a sunrise alarm clock with manual functions right on the machine. On the flip side, if you want a very custom experience, you may like a lamp that offers many different colors and sounds that are controlled through a phone app.

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The 5 best toilet seat bidets we tested in 2021

  • Bidet toilet seats and attachments can offer a more thorough clean than toilet paper alone.
  • We tested 22 bidets and determined that the Coway Bidetmega 400 was the best for most people.
  • The water maintains a comfortable temperature and custom pressure, and the bidet is easy to use.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

At its most basic, a bidet sends a stream of water toward your nether regions to clean them. It’s more hygienic and economical than toilet paper. Although there are variations of bidets, bidet toilet seats and attachments are the most popular options in the United States.

With bidet toilet seats, you can continue to use your existing seat and easily adjust the water pressure and temperature to your preference. There’s no need for electricity and installation is relatively straightforward as far as home DIYs go – which you can read about here.

We tested 22 bidet toilet seats over the course of several months to determine the best ones to buy. You can read how we tested them here, and get right into our top recommendations below.

Here are the best bidets in 2021

The best bidet toilet seat overall

best bidets 2021 Bidetmega

For a reasonable price, the Coway Bidetmega 400 Electronic Bidet Seat offers all of the common high-end amenities, including a nightlight, warm air dryer, and an intuitive remote controller.

Pros: Strong water pressure, water heated up to 97 degrees in our tests, easy to use, heated seat, warm air dryer, adjustable nozzle positions for front and rear washes, easy to install

Cons: Remote doesn’t pair with seat automatically, minimal one-year warranty

The Bidetmega 400 Electronic Bidet Seat is one of three Coway bidets I tested for this guide, this one came out on top because it received high marks in every category except warranty. It only has the industry-standard one-year warranty, while a few other units in our guide offer longer.

The Bidetmega 400 heated water up to a comfortable 97 degrees Fahrenheit in my tests and produced strong enough pressure for a thorough cleaning. Plus, there are four temperature options and three pressure strengths to set the water flow to your needs. The basic functions are intuitive to use with the handy remote control, though I was a little annoyed that the remote didn’t automatically pair with the seat once I powered it up. I had to reference the user manual for that step.

The seat fits my toilet well and stays in place. It’s wider than most, which I appreciated because I have a larger posterior. The lid of the seat was also supportive and comfortable for sitting. 

The Bidetmega 400 features most of the amenities you’d expect from a high-end bidet toilet seat. The blue night light illuminates the toilet bowl, which makes it easy to find in the dark. The dryer has four levels of heat and gets plenty hot. It does an excellent job of drying after washing, which minimizes the need for toilet paper. There are also four levels of seat heating — up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit — or you can keep it off to save energy.

Lastly, the 400 has three preprogrammed cleaning modes: basic, active, and soothing. Basic is designed for general use. The active mode moves the stream of water around for a more thorough cleaning, while the soothing mode offers more gentle care. The Bidetmega 400 is my main bidet, and I prefer active mode.

The best bidet toilet seat for custom water flow control

best bidets 2021 Omigo bidet

With the Omigo Luxury Bidet Toilet Seat, you can control the nozzle position, pressure, and spray width to customize the water flow to meet your needs.

Pros: Three-year warranty, three spray width options, seven nozzle positions for the front and rear, easy to use remote controller, strong pressure, simple installation

Cons: Lid is unpleasant to sit on, need to have an outlet near the toilet or an extension cord to operate (as is the case with any electric unit)

What sets the Omigo Luxury Bidet Toilet Seat apart from other bidets in our guide is the adjustable spray width. You can pick from three settings, ranging from a targeted cleaning to a broader wash. Additionally, as with all bidet seats, you can adjust the water pressure, which gets plenty strong. The Omigo Luxury offers seven nozzle positions in both the rear and front, which is more than most electric seats. Alternatively, you can choose to have the nozzle oscillate.

The easy-to-use remote, numerous features, and overall design remind me of my previous favorite bidet, the Brondell Swash 1400, which has been surpassed by a few worthy contenders, including other Brondell models. The Omigo Luxury is about $65 cheaper than the Swash 1400, and in my tests, it did a better job of heating water. I also found the heated seat and air dryer stayed plenty warm.

The Omigo Luxury has an outstanding three-year warranty so you can count on it lasting. Plus, the installation process was seamless, and the seat fit my bowl perfectly and stayed put. 

The biggest negative for me is the lid design. It has a 270-pound weight limit, and it’s angled forward so much that it’s unpleasant to sit on. The seat is nice and has a 330-pound capacity, but don’t plan on sitting on the lid while clipping your toenails or performing other tasks.

The best high-end bidet

best bidets 2021 BioBidet

If you have extra money to spend and are looking for a bidet that provides nonstop warm water, the Bio Bidet Bliss BB2000 Smart Toilet Seat is an attractive solution.

Pros: Strong water pressure, vortex wash, attractive appearance, continuous warm water, hot air drying, heated seat, five nozzle positions for each the front and rear, three-year warranty

Cons: Unintuitive remote control, the nightlight is positioned on the side rather than illuminating the bowl interior

In my testing, the Bio Bidet Bliss BB2000 Smart Toilet Seat performed in all categories. It has an attractive appearance with a stainless-steel look. The remote control with its large, easy-to-read screen is the fanciest I’ve seen. 

My favorite part was the intensity of the water pressure. There are five pressure levels, including a “vortex wash” that is designed to “stimulate bowel movements” with its enema-like pressure. Sensitive individuals will want to avoid this feature, and everyone else should proceed with caution, but testing showed that it works as advertised.

There are three water temperature levels, but even on its highest setting, the BB2000 only got up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This is warm enough for most tastes, but at this price point, I would have liked to have seen higher temperatures. Fortunately, the water stays consistently warm, even during longer cleans.

Installation was a breeze: It only took me about 10 minutes (not counting the time I needed to remove the old seat) and I appreciate that the mounting plate keeps the seat in place without wiggling. The Bio Bidet Bliss is covered by a three-year full coverage warranty. 

The biggest negatives I could find were the nightlight and confusing operation. Instead of a night light in the toilet bowl, the BB2000’s night light is on the side illuminating the on-seat controls. This might be helpful when sitting on the toilet but it’s less so when taking aim while standing up in the middle of the night. Also, I didn’t find the remote control to be intuitive. I had to leaf through the user manual to figure out the symbols and how to access all of the functions. 

The best budget bidet

best bidets 2021 Brondell bidet

The Brondell LE89 Swash Electronic Bidet Seat has many high-end features, including warm water cleaning, hot air drying, and a heated seat, without a high-end price.

Pros: Water gets up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit, heated seat, warm air drying, five front and rear nozzle positions

Cons: Pressure could have been stronger, no remote, the lid isn’t comfortable for sitting

I’ve tested half a dozen Brondell bidets over the years and the Swash 1400 was my main bidet for a long time, but during testing, the LE89 Swash Electronic Bidet Seat worked nearly as well for less than half the price. I was particularly impressed with how hot the water got in my tests — it reached 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

The heated seat and air dryer also achieved high temps. Plus, there are several comfort settings so you can go with lower temps or even choose Eco Mode, which provides a good balance of electricity use and comfort.

Installation should take you less than half an hour, and you can do it with nothing more than a flathead screwdriver, though you might also want a wrench. I liked how securely the seat fit my toilet bowl without any movement, and it looks nice on my toilet. However, the lid tilts forward and isn’t the best for sitting on for long periods.

Aside from a few specialized settings, the controls are intuitive to use, but I don’t like that they’re installed on the seat so you have to turn to your right to see them. There’s no remote controller. This might be a problem for individuals with mobility issues. 

The only other negative I found was I would have preferred more powerful water pressure, but I like it stronger. Most people will find that the LE89 is powerful enough for their needs. More sensitive individuals will appreciate the softer end of the five pressure settings.

The best non-electric bidet

best bidets 2021 Tushy bidet

If you don’t have an electrical outlet near your toilet or just want to give a bidet a try before investing more money, the Tushy Spa Premium Warm Water Bidet Attachment is a stylish, versatile solution.

Pros: Doesn’t require electricity, the water gets as hot as your water heater can supply, strong pressure, virtually limitless nozzle positions, nine color options

Cons: Easy for kids to squirt water all over; no high-end features like a heated seat, dryer, nightlight, etc.

For the most part, non-electric bidets aren’t as good as electric varieties. However, the non-electric attachments do have their benefits. I think the Tushy Spa Premium Warm Water Bidet Attachment exhibits all of the superior features of the power-free units. 

The attachment has a hose that connects to the hot water inlet under your sink. After installing the hose, you may want to tape it to the floor to avoid a tripping hazard. Since you are relying on your home’s hot water, the attachment can provide water as hot as your heater is capable of supplying. For me, it was 113 degrees Fahrenheit, which is too hot, but it’s easy to adjust the bidet’s flow to a more moderate temperature. 

If having a hot water hose running along your floor doesn’t sound appealing, you can choose the Tushy Classic, which doesn’t have warm water. Alternatively, you can skip installing the warm water hose of the Spa altogether.

The Tushy Spa also allows you to control the water pressure intensity and the nozzle position. Since both functions rely on levers, there are virtually infinite intensities and positions, and the pressure at its strongest is much more than you’ll need. You’ll want to be careful you don’t turn it on too high.

Since there are so few functions, the Tushy Spa is easy to use and much less expensive than an electric seat. Plus, since it’s just an attachment, you can use it with any toilet seat you want. Another great thing about Tushy is its nine color options. 

Read more about Tushy products

What else we considered

best bidets 2021

We tested nearly two dozen bidet toilet seats and attachments while researching this guide.

What else we recommend:

Brondell GoSpa ($9.98): This one is for the serious bidet fans who want a portable option. The GoSpa stayed in my overnight bag and use to do with me anywhere I’d travel. It’s a travel bidet with a 13.5-ounce reservoir/bottle attached to a nozzle. You fill the bottle with tap water before you sit on the toilet. Once you’re done, you aim the nozzle at the area you want to clean and squeeze the bottle for a makeshift bidet experience.  

Brondell Swash S102 Non-Electric ($124.99): This is one of the best non-electric bidet toilet seats I tested. The S102 features a warm water hookup that attaches to the hot water connection under your sink — like the Tushy Spa. The pressure is outstanding, and the overall appearance looks nice. However, the unobtrusive knobs can be hard to read, and as with other non-electric toilets, you’re missing a lot of features that make bidets a luxury experience.

Toto C100 ($333.27): I tested three Toto models for this guide, and they’re all very good. The C100 has plenty of options for drying, heated seat, nozzle position, and water temperature. The seat fit my toilet well and didn’t move around, and the controls are intuitive. However, the controls are attached to the unit so you have to turn to make adjustments.

What we don’t recommend:

Toto C200 ($429): This is similar to the C100 but uses a remote control. Unfortunately, I found the water pressure was inferior.  

Kohler C3-430 ($496.50): The water consistently stayed at the temperature I wanted, the pressure was strong and adjustable, and the remote control was easy to use once I get the hang of it. But, at this price point, I’d expect the bidet to have a dryer. I also couldn’t get this to stay securely in place.

Kohler C3-230 ($974.25): This has a dryer, but it didn’t perform as well as the C3-430 in other categories. I couldn’t get it to stay in place either.

American Standard Advanced Clean SpaLet 2.0 ($357.44): American Standard has been a trusted name in the bathroom fixture space for nearly a century. The SpaLet 2.0 is a quality unit with excellent warm water and pressure cleaning. Plus, it has plenty of options for a custom wash. However, I feel strongly that if you’re going to be spending more than $300 on a bidet seat, it should be able to dry you, and this model doesn’t have a dryer. 

Our testing methodology

I installed 22 bidets on my Mansfield Waverly Toilet and put them through several tests. The most important bidet factors to consider are performance, ease of use, and adjustment options.

Here are the main attributes we look for and how we test them:

Ease of use: There are three types of controls used on most bidet seats: on-seat buttons, on-seat dials, and remote controls. The easiest to use are the remote controls because you need to twist to your right to view the other two options, which may be a deal-breaker for individuals with mobility issues. Another way to make bidet seats easy to use is to have clear, simple-to-understand graphics or words that tell you what each button is for. I examined the controls myself and also questioned my wife about her experiences to see if she could figure out the functions without reading the user manual.

Pressure: Whether washing dishes or using a hose, anyone who has used water to clean knows that stronger pressure means an easier, more thorough cleaning. Well, the same is true using a bidet. Since I don’t have a device for measuring PSI, this was a subjective test based on my personal experiences. I tend to like very strong pressure. If a unit was strong enough for me and featured at least three pressure adjustment options, including a gentle flow for sensitive people, then it received high marks.

Water temperature: Upping the temperature of the water you’re cleaning with will also help. So, I looked for bidet toilet seats that can produce hot water, usually around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not so hot that it will scald you, but warm enough to get the job done. I tested the temperature by running the bidet on its highest water temperature, collecting the water in a container, and measuring it with a probe thermometer. I also looked for at least three temperature options in addition to ambient.

Seat fit and look: If the seat doesn’t fit right on your toilet, it won’t function properly and will look awful. I took notes on how easy it was to securely install the seat. I also assessed how good the seat felt on my posterior and whether the lid was supportive and comfortable to sit on. Lastly, I looked at how attractive it looks on the toilet. Were the cords and hoses sticking out everywhere? Did the controls look ugly or intimidating?

Nozzle positions: We’re all made differently, and we all have different preferences. Bidets should have enough nozzle positions to deliver water right where you want it without making you move around a lot.

Extra features: The best bidets have several less-than-necessary features that just make bathroom trips more enjoyable. At the top of the list is drying. Next is a heated seat, especially on those cold winter mornings. And, if you have a youngster in the house, you’ll want a bidet that only activates when significant pressure is applied to the seat, like when you’re sitting on it. Otherwise, your young one can send water everywhere.

Warranty: All but four of the bidets we tested have one-year warranties. The four outliers have three-year warranties, and each cost more than $500. In my 5+ years of owning bidets, I’ve never experienced a malfunction, but if you are particularly risk-averse, you may want to choose a bidet with a longer warranty.

What we’re looking forward to testing

In addition to testing our picks for long-term performance, here are the models we are currently testing or looking forward to testing:

  1. Bio Bidet Discovery DLS ($899.99): This is the first bidet toilet seat I’ve tested that automatically opens and closes the lid. Additionally, it has all the features of high-end models, including a remote, warm air drying, a nightlight, and a five-year warranty.
  2. Bio Bidet USPA A8 Serenity ($549): This is another candidate for our best overall category with its full array of high-end features, including a remote, heated seat, and consistent warm water.
  3. Brondell 33Swash LE99 ($289.99): This is similar to our budget pick, the LE89, only it uses a remote instead of side controls so it will be interesting to see if it has the same high performance at an affordable price.
  4. Toto Washlet C2 ($675): This is an update to the C100 so it’ll be interesting to see how the new features perform and whether it outperforms our other picks.
  5. Toto Washlet C5 ($780): This is an update to the C200 so it’ll also be interesting to test the new features. 
  6. Whisper Bidet ($79): This is a relatively new brand of bidets, so it’d be good to compare it to industry heavyweights like Toto and Brondell.
  7. LUXE Bidet Neo 120 ($36.27): This has a lot of good reviews from Amazon, but reviews can be misleading, so I’d like to test the quality and see how it holds up given its affordable price.
  8. Brondell S1000-EW Swash 1000 ($579.99): There are a lot of high-end features with this bidet, such as self-cleaning stainless steel nozzles and an instant heating system. This would offer a good comparison to our current high-end pick. 
  9. Bio Bidet BB-1000 ($499): Bio Bidet makes our best budget pick but this is more expensive and has features like a heated seat, self-cleaning retractable nozzle, and drying function. 
  10. Ruiling ATK-1186 ($41.99): Handheld bidets are less popular than seats and attachments, so it’ll be interesting to see how this type compares to the others. Installation doesn’t look too hard and the price is among the lowest you’d find for a bidet.
  11. SmartBidet SB-1000 ($241.99): Despite the generic plastic-y look, this has a lot of good reviews, so I’d want to put this through our tests and see how it performs.
  12. GenieBidet ($109.98): Non-electric bidet seats aren’t very popular and I’ve mostly seen non-electric bidet attachments. It’s also relatively affordable as far as bidet seats go.
  13. Kohler Novita ($246.87): The curved look is a bit different from other bidet seats I’ve tested. Kohler is also a household brand that more people might be familiar with than, say Bio Bidet, so it might be appealing for those who are new to the bidet world.

FAQs

How do you install a bidet? 

All bidet seats and attachments get their water from the same source your toilet does. So, while each manufacturer may have slightly different instructions, the basic installation process includes the following steps:

  1. One step the manufacturer doesn’t include is that you should clean your toilet and the surrounding area before you get started. You want a clean working area!
  2. Remove the toilet seat that is currently on your toilet.
  3. Turn off your toilet’s water supply (usually located by the wall or floor near the toilet.)
  4. Flush the toilet once or twice to get as much water out of it as possible.
  5. Disconnect the water supply hose where it attaches to the toilet’s tank. You may want a bucket handy to catch any water still in the hose.
  6. Connect the T-valve that comes with the bidet to the hose and the toilet tank.
  7. If you have a bidet attachment, you will now mount it to the toilet as you reinstall your seat. If you’re installing a bidet seat, you’ll install the mounting plate and snap the seat into place.
  8. Make adjustments to the positioning so that the front of the seat lines up with the front lip of the toilet bowl.
  9. Connect the T-valve to the bidet using the hose that comes with the bidet.
  10. Turn on the water supply and check for leaks. If there are leaks, turn the water supply off and make sure the area leaking was screwed in properly. Hand tightening is usually enough, but you may need to use a wrench to gently tighten the connection a little more if the threads are properly seated and you’re still getting a leak. 
  11. Wash your hands and enjoy bidet life!

Will my bidet fit my toilet seat?

Like toilet seats, there are two shapes of bidet toilet seats — round and elongated.

The best way to determine this out is to use a tape measure and mark from the center of the bolt holes, where the current seat is attached to your toilet, to the front lip of the bowl.

Most round toilets are about 16.5 inches from where the seat attaches to the toilet to the front lip. Elongated toilets measure 18.5 inches. Many bidet seats come in both styles so you should be able to find one that matches your toilet easily. 


How does a bidet work?

Basically, a bidet squirts a concentrated stream of water at your rear or front to clean off any debris left behind after going to the bathroom. You can adjust the water pressure based on your comfort levels. While more pressure is likely to get more of the debris, it can also hurt you. So, start with gentle pressure and slowly add more based on your comfort. 

Also, the warmer the water, the better the clean. Unless you have a non-electric bidet that gets its warm water from the hot water supply under your sink, you don’t have to worry about the water getting too hot. Most models max out at around 100 degrees.


How do I use a bidet? 

If you have a bidet with a remote control or side control panel (and most do), continue to sit on the toilet and press the appropriate button — usually “front” or “rear.” Hold down on the button until you think you’re clean or let it run its timed cycle, and then pat yourself dry (or use the drying cycle if you have one). 

If you have a non-electric bidet, you’ll usually turn a knob to position the nozzle and then another knob for water pressure. You can find more specifics on usage here.


Is a bidet better than toilet paper?

“Cleaning with a bidet minimizes the amount of wiping and cleans off any residue that can lead to itching, soiling, and infection,” says Heidi Bahna, MD, a colon and rectal surgery specialist at Palm Beach Colorectal Surgery. “Excessive wiping can lead to dry cracked skin, bleeding, itching, and pain. Using a bidet can provide better hygiene and pain relief for those after vaginal delivery, those with inflammatory bowel disease, or irritable bowel with frequent bowel movements.”

Think about how you clean the rest of your body. You use water to wash your hands, bathe, and shower. You don’t just take a dry towel and wipe your body with it. In this way, using a bidet is better than using toilet paper alone.


Do you still need to use toilet paper after using a bidet?

Yes, if you want to make sure you’re clean as a whistle, you can use toilet paper. You’ll also want to use TP if your bidet doesn’t have a drying option. 


Are bidets hygienic?

“Is your toilet hygienic? A bidet is no different,” says Dr. Evan Goldstein, an anal surgeon and founder of Bespoke Surgical and Future Method. “Keeping your bidet clean is just as important as keeping your toilet clean. Nowadays, bidets are quite simple and easily cleanable with built-in mechanisms to wash the bidet after each use. They’re also attached to the same water supply as your toilet and sink, which means it’s the same water we ingest when brushing our teeth.” 

“When it comes to our bodies, we innately have good and bad bacteria inside and on the outside of our behinds,” Goldstein says. “That homeostasis is paramount to maintaining equilibrium and using bidets helps foster happy and healthy behinds.”

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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.

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The 6 best mouse pads of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A good mouse pad has a smooth surface for your mouse that ensures precise tracking of your movements.
  • Some mouse pads protect your desk, while some boast extras like RGB lighting and wireless charging.
  • The slick and durable Corsair MM 350 Pro is the best mouse pad we tested.

Mouse pads provide a smooth, uniform surface for your mouse to move properly and precisely. They’re also multipurpose, protecting your desktop and your mouse and picking up lint and dust that would otherwise attach to your mouse. They’re simple to clean, too, ensuring your workspace is up to par. Mouse pads come in different colors and materials. You can choose between a silky smooth layer that enables fast movements, or a rougher textured surface that enables greater precision. Gamers, in particular, will have personal preferences depending on the games they play and their play style, but anyone can reduce the risk of a slip or tracking error with a good mouse pad.

Some of the latest mouse pads even come with RGB lighting so you can match one with your keyboard, mouse, and rig lighting. Others offer wireless charging, which can be very handy if you have a mouse that supports it. 

I’ve tested several mouse pads, employing them for work and gaming to see what benefits they offer. I also included my son in the testing process, subjecting each mouse pad to the ultimate test of durability (that is, an 11-year-old gamer’s bedroom). 

Here are the best mouse pads of 2021

The best mouse pad overall

Corsair mouse pad

The Corsair MM350 Pro features a slick, durable surface with a non-skid base, making it our favorite mouse pad. 

Pros: Smooth surface balances speed and precision, large option to cover desktop, thick padding adds comfort, stitched edges to prevent fraying

Cons: None to speak of 

Measurements: 36.6 x 15.7 inches; 4mm thick

The Corsair MM350 Pro is a quality mouse pad, spacious enough to accommodate your mouse and keyboard, as well as protect your desktop. I also found its padded comfort helped to reduce the noise of mechanical keys clacking, as it absorbs the impact of your key presses.

The top of the pad is a micro-weave surface, and the cloth Corsair uses is silky smooth and dense. This makes it great for fast, frenetic action that requires sweeping movements. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to sacrifice much accuracy to deliver on the speed, so it’s good for precise gameplay and everyday work alike. The smooth top layer is also spill-proof and by far the easiest to wipe clean of any mouse pad I tested.  

The bottom is covered in an anti-skid rubber base that ensures the pad never slips. Its tight stitching around the edges (where cloth mouse pads usually start to fray after a while), ensures it’s designed to last. The smooth top layer is also spillproof and by far the easiest to wipe clean of any mouse pad I tested.  

You can also get the same quality design in a smaller and cheaper package by opting for the MM300 Pro, which is more of a standard medium-sized mouse pad.

The best budget mouse pad

Razer mouse pad

The Razer Gigantus V2 has everything you need in a cloth mouse pad at around $10: a textured surface, padded comfort, and a non-slip underside.

Pros: Balanced surface for speed and precision, comfortable padding, comes in multiple sizes

Cons: No stitching to protect edges, green sides might not suit everyone

Measurements: 14.17 x 10.83 inches; 3mm thick

You can’t get much for $10 nowadays, but it is enough to snag you Razer’s Gigantus V2 mouse pad. It’s a bit larger than similarly priced competitors and comfortable to rest your wrist on.

Crafted from a textured microweave, the top layer is quite smooth to the touch and offers a good mix of speed and precision. It’s a bit smoother than the Glorious PC Gaming Race mouse pad, but not as silky as Corsair’s MM350 Pro. There’s a bright green anti-slip layer on the bottom, which shows through around the sides and in the subtle Razer logo tag. 

Unfortunately, this mouse pad lacks stitching around the edges, so there’s a risk it will fray and degrade slightly over time. On the plus side, the top layer is easy to wipe clean and feels long-lasting. My son has been using the large Razer Gigantus V2 for around three months now and it’s holding up well; after a wipe with a damp cloth, it still looks as good as new.

If the medium is too small for you, there are larger sizes to ensure you never run out of space. The biggest 3XL option is 47.24 x 21.65, but it costs five times the price.

The best oversized mouse pad

Glorious PC slide

The widespread Glorious PC Gaming Race 3XL Extended mouse pad will coat your entire desktop in mouse-friendly padding.

Pros: Largest mouse pad available, comes in multiple sizes, stitched edges to prevent fraying, machine washable

Cons: Open fabric absorbs spills and dirt

Measurements: 48 x 24; 3mm thick

If you want something big, then the largest mouse pad from Glorious PC Gaming Race has you and likely your entire desktop covered. It certainly boosts comfort, too, with its plush padded top layer. This cloth mouse pad strikes a fairly good balance between precision and speed, but leans more toward precision. It feels quite rough, compared to the Corsair MM350 Pro, but there’s a non-slip rubber base that prevents it from sliding, especially important here as more objects will be layered atop the oversized pad. 

Neat stitching around the edges helps to reduce the risk of fraying, and it is machine washable. This is vital, as the top surface is plain black and very absorbent. I found that it picked up stains and dust quite quickly as well.

The best hard mouse pad

Logitech mouse pad

If you want a mouse pad that will stay in place and deliver perfect precision,  the Logitech G440 hard mouse pad delivers.

Pros: Slick surface for speed with fine control, durable hard plastic coating, suits mice with high DPI settings

Cons: Not so comfortable to use, only one size

Measurements: 13.38 x 11 inches; 3mm thick

This compact mouse pad proves you don’t need a lot of space, especially if you ramp up your mouse sensitivity via the dots-per-inch (DPI) settings. This hard surface, with a mouse set to a high DPI, means very slight and quick movements register accurately and you can maneuver your mouse extremely quickly. 

With a polypropylene top layer, a polystyrene core, and a rubber base for added grip, the Logitech G440 provides a rigid, easy-to-clean surface with just a little give. It has a consistent surface and never slipped around while testing. A simple white G at the bottom right corner is all that breaks up the black surface, but the bottom layer is blue, which gives a subtle pop of color around the base of the pad. 

The best mouse pad with lighting

Roccat pad slide

The Roccat Sense AIMO provides a frame of glowing light around the mouse pad, an affordable option for RGB fans.

Pros: Bright programmable RGB lighting, textured surface for precision, comfortable padding, comes in two sizes

Cons: Relatively expensive compared to other mouse pads (but affordable for RGB mouse pads), must plug in, noticeable power control module at the top left

Measurements: 14.65 x 13.39 inches

I was a little skeptical about light-up mouse pads, but the Roccat Sense AIMO has won me over.

It comes in two sizes, but we tested the smaller one and realized its flexible cloth feels like others we tested, but with a twist. The big difference is that it plugs via an included Micro USB to USB-A cable and has a frame that runs around the outside (beneath the stitching), lighting up in a rainbow of colors.

This bright RGB light has two programmable zones, which you can tinker with via Roccat’s Swarm software, or you can leave it to the default behavior of cycling through the colors. It will also react to some of the devices and apps you use if you download the Sense AIMO module and leave it on the intelligent lighting setting. There are other effects available, and, if you have accompanying Roccat gear, you can sync it up with your mouse and keyboard.

Beyond the lighting, this is a cloth mouse pad that has quite a pronounced textured finish, though I found it much more comfortable than other rougher mouse pads to rest my hand on. Accuracy and speed are sufficient, though it leans towards precision. There’s also a rubberized non-slip back to prevent any slippage.

You will need a spare USB port to plug this into and it means you have another cable on your desk, which is a definite downside for me. The module the cable plugs into is also quite large, with a brightness control button on it which can be configured via the software. If you use a wired mouse this module is a potential snag point.

The best wireless-charging mouse pad

Corsair MM100

The Corsair MM1000 mouse pad will suit you well if you want a dual-purpose pick for your desk, ideal for clicking and charging. 

Pros: Charges any Qi wireless charging device, pass-through USB 3.0 port, relatively affordable

Cons: Can’t charge mouse in use, no soft surface option

Measurements: 14.17 x 10.23 inches; 6mm thick

If you’re looking for a multipurpose mouse pad that can also charge your devices, the MM1000 from Corsair is the one we recommend.  Aside from wireless charging, it adds some thoughtful extras and nails the basics of a good hard mouse pad, but there are limitations here. 

Finished in a hard textured surface that offers low friction for speedy maneuvers, the Corsair MM1000 has a large power module at the top left which needs to be plugged into a USB port. 

The wireless charging zone is a specific area at the top right and can charge any device that supports Qi wireless charging, setting it apart from competitors. With the Corsair MM1000, you simply rest your mouse on the charging spot, though you can’t boost your battery while you’re using it. 

Turning the chunky power module into a positive, Corsair has added a USB 3.0 pass-through port. Corsair also supplies USB to Micro USB, Type C, and Lightning connectors, so you can charge other devices on the charging spot.

While it is quite pricey, it doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as the competition, though you could pair one of the best wireless chargers with our budget mouse pad pick and save yourself quite a bit of money. 

What else we considered

What else we considered

SteelSeries Qck: A former top pick, this basic cloth mouse pad does the basics right, offering padded comfort with a micro-weave cloth surface and an anti-skid rubber bottom. It’s an affordable no-frills mouse pad that delivers. Starting from just $10, it’s also very affordable and another option aside from our budget pick, the Razer Gigantus V2.

Corsair MM600: This hard mouse pad has an unusual dual-sided design with one side designed for speed and the other for precision, though it’s not as affordable as some of our other picks. AmazonBasics Gel Computer Mouse Pad: While a budget option, it’s extremely small and there’s some doubt about whether wrist rests offer any benefit. If you set up your desk, chair, and position ergonomically, you shouldn’t need a wrist rest on your mouse pad at all.

Check out our other tech guides

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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