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Best cheap laptops 2020: We rate the best-selling deals on Amazon

It's harder to find a good deal these days, but these picks will give you few regrets.

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The best cheap laptop deals these days are harder to find, as anyone who can afford a laptop is getting one to work or study from home. We're here to help. Prices have inched up since the pandemic hit, but there are still decent deals to be had online, even if corners are cut here and there to hit a price point.

Your job is to find the one that checks off the most boxes for your needs—and doesn’t saddle you with features (or lack thereof) that you’ll regret in a year. We’ll show you what to look for by highlighting which budget laptops among the best-sellers currently listed at Amazon. Just remember that pricing and availability can change rapidly because of the unprecedented demand. 

We haven’t necessarily tested these specific machines (we’ll let you know if we have), but we’ve seen enough similar ones to have a good idea of the pros and cons. We’re also focusing on 14-inch and larger laptops, because part of the great deal should be getting a decent-sized display.

The best cheap laptops on Amazon

Lenovo Flex 5 14 81X20005US

lenovo flex 5 14 81x20005us

The Lenovo Flex 14 81SS000DUS is priced above our maximum, but we wanted to mention it anyway because of what’s inside: a Ryzen 5 Pro 4500U processor. This is part of the Ryzen 4000 generation from AMD that's up-ending the balance of power in laptop CPUs. As our Gordon Mah Ung wrote recently of another Ryzen 5 4500U-equipped laptop, "In multi-core performance, only Intel’s 10th-gen Core i7-10710U, with its six cores and 12 threads, outruns the Ryzen 5 4500U. That mid-range Ryzen 5 even holds its own against the four-core, eight-thread Core i7-1065G7 found in so many premium laptops." This is a CPU you won't regret. 

The configuration is generally good otherwise, with generous RAM and storage, plus an included pen for the touchscreen. This is a 360-degree convertible, so you can use it as a clamshell laptop, tablet, or portable movie screen. The weight is reasonable, and the display resolution is a decent 1080p. We noticed there’s no ethernet, but if all you use is Wi-Fi it’s a small loss.

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U

Memory: 16GB of DDR4 RAM

Storage: 256GB SSD

Display: 14-inch diagonal width, 1920x1080 touchscreen with included digital pen

Graphics: Radeon Graphics

Connectivity: One USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 3.1 Type-A, HDMI, SD Card reader, audio jack

Dimensions: 12.66 x 8.56 x 0.82 inches

Weight: 3.63 pounds

 

HP 15-inch FHD Laptop 15-dy1036nr

hp 15 inch fhd laptop 15 dy1036nr
This laptop costs a little more than our typical bargain, but you're getting a lot of future-forward features for the money. The 10th-gen Intel Ice Lake processor has the power to perform CPU-intensive video encoding and editing chores, a rare capability at this price.
 
Another productivity bonus with a laptop this big is a full numeric keypad. You also get the latest Wi-Fi 6 wireless technology (for which you'll need a Wi-Fi 6 router to enjoy fully) and HP Fast Charge, which charges the battery to 50 percent in up to 45 minutes.
 
Full-fledged Windows 10 Home is an important detail to note. A lot of cheaper laptops offer only Windows 10 S, which limits you to apps from the Microsoft store. 
 
CPU: Quad-core Intel 10th-gen Core i5-1035G1
 
Memory: 8GB DDR4 RAM
 
Storage: 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
 
Display: 15.6-inch, 1920x1080 (Full HD) resolution
 
Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics
 
Connectivity: One USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, HDMI 1.4b, SD memory card, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5
 
Dimensions: 14.11 x 9.53 x 0.71 inches
 
Weight: 3.75 pounds

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14 81W0003QUS

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14 81W0003QUS

This Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14 has a great price, so don't expect it to have cutting-edge features. But even if what you get is a bit older, it's still good:

After years of putting out subpar mobile chips, for instance, the AMD Ryzen 5 3500U in this laptop could finally claim to be competitive with Intel's Core i5-8250U, a stalwart CPU that can easily handle mainstream productivity. The integrated Vega GPU also promised to be more powerful than the Intel UHD 620 graphics that comes with the Core i5-8250U. 

The IdeaPad 3 14 also comes with Windows 10 Home, and that's an important detail. Many cheaper laptops these days come with Windows 10 S, a version of Windows 10 that restricts you to applications found from the Microsoft store. Check the specs on any cheap laptop carefully, ands do your best to avoid the limited Windows 10 S.  

This traditional clamshell laptop has no touchscreen, and the screen probably isn't very bright (a common bargain trait). But the 14-inch diagonal size and Full HD (1920x1080) resolution are a good match, and the side bezels are thin. We also noticed a manual privacy shutter on the webcam, which is a handy feature for when you don't want to be on Zoom. Don't expect advanced connectivity on a laptop this inexpensive (there's no USB-C), but the hard drive is a good size and the weight is reasonable. We don't see any battery specs, but if you're using this mostly near AC then it's not a big deal.

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500U

Memory: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM

Storage: 256GB SSD

Display: 14-inch diagonal width, 1920x1080 resolution (FHD) touchscreen

Graphics: Radeon Vega 8 Graphics

Connectivity: Two USB 3.0 Type-A, one two USB 2.0 Type-A, HDMI, audio jack, miniSD

Dimensions: 12.88 x 9.49 x 0.78 inches

Weight: 3.3 pounds

Acer Aspire 5 A515-43-R5RE

acer aspire 5 a515 43 r5re

This Acer Aspire 5, one of a large family of affordable laptops, has two features that make it a great deal:

1. Its Ryzen 5 Pro 3500U processor isn't from the latest and greatest Ryzen 4000 generation, but it's still a solid chip: AMD claims it's faster than Intel's Core i5-8250U, a stalwart CPU that can easily handle mainstream productivity. The integrated Vega GPU should also be a lot more powerful than the Intel UHD 620 graphics that comes with the Core i5-8250U. 

2. Windows 10 Home. Many cheaper laptops these days come with Windows 10 S, a version of Windows 10 that restricts you to applications found from the Microsoft store. Windows 10 Home gives you the freedom to run any software you'd like. Look for it, and do your best to avoid the limited Windows 10 S.  

This is a basic clamshell laptop with no touchscreen, and the screen probably isn't very bright (a common bargain trait). But it's nice and big, with an adequate Full HD (1920x1080) resolution (don't go any lower than that on a screen this size!). The configuration is generally good and includes a dropjaw ethernet port, but no USB-C. The weight is reasonable. The battery life of "up to 7.5 hours" is nothing special these days, but if you're using this mostly near AC then it's not a big issue.

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 3500U

Memory: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM

Storage: 256GB SSD

Display: 15.6-inch diagonal width, 1920x1080 resolution (FHD) touchscreen

Graphics: Radeon Vega 8 Graphics

Connectivity: One USB 3.1 Type-A, two USB 2.0 Type-A, HDMI, audio jack, lock port

Dimensions: 14.31 x 9.74 x 0.71 inches

Weight: 4 pounds

Budget laptops: The features that matter

Based on the current top-selling budget laptops on Amazon, here’s what you should expect to see in the major components: 

Operating system: Windows 10 is Windows 10, right? Not if it's Windows 10 S, a lower-cost version of the OS that restricts you to apps from Microsoft's Windows Store. If all you do is use Office and a browser, you might not care. But if you wish to use, oh, most other non-Microsoft software, you will care deeply. Look closely at the specs for any cheap laptop and avoid Windows 10 S if you can. 

CPU: Huzzah! Now that Intel’s 10th-gen mobile CPUs are here, we’re seeing more and more discounted laptops with perfectly good 8th-gen parts in them. Look in particular for the Core i5-8250U and the (modestly revamped) i5-8265U, a pair of quad-core processors that can ably juggle mainstream tasks. You may also see some 9th-gen Intel CPUs in the mix, and we’ve even had a laptop with a 10th-gen processor sneak onto our list; that said, we currently consider 8th-gen chips to be a much better value.

At the bargain-basement price points, however, you’re still going to see more 7th-gen, dual-core Intel Core processors; lower-end Intel chips like the Celeron and Pentium Gold; and a sprinkling of AMD’s older mobile CPUs. Those lower-end Intel and older AMD parts tend to have anemic performance, so manage your expectations (and stick to basic computing needs).

Memory: You’ll see 4GB or 6GB of RAM, but our top picks focus on 8GB or better, which will give you the capacity to run multiple applications or browser tabs simultaneously. 

Storage: You’ll see a lot of hard drives and some lower-capacity (128GB) SSDs. If you’re on a budget, a slow hard drive with greater capacity could be a better deal than a fast SSD that’s barely got room for the operating system and a few applications.  

Display: Display quality is one area where vendors often skimp to hit a price point. Do your best to balance size with resolution. We advocate for a 14-inch or 15.6-inch display size, but a 13.3-inch display results in a more portable unit. An 11-inch display size is a compromise—too skimpy for viewing documents or videos. An HD resolution of 1366x768 suffices for an 11-inch or 13-inch display, but starts to look grainier on 14-inch displays and upward. Get Full HD (1920x1080) resolution if you can. You won’t always see a maximum brightness spec, but we consider 250 nits to be a reasonable level. Anything less will limit your ability to work in brighter environments (let alone outdoors). Viewing angles could be limited, which is tolerable unless you routinely need to share your screen. 

Graphics: Expect integrated graphics that will manage everyday imagery well, but not gaming or other graphics-intensive tasks. 

Connectivity: Good news: The bulkier laptops you often see in this price range have plenty of room for ports. You should see USB-A ports, but note that those using the USB 2.0 spec are more limited in capability than those using the USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 specs. You might not see USB-C, full HDMI, or ethernet, but we look for models that have those ports.

Dimensions and weight: Many cheaper laptops are larger, heavier models. Anything over 3.5 pounds may not be something you’ll want to carry past the living room. 

Condition: Some cheap laptops are affordable because they’re “refurbished”—in other words, they’re used. You actually stand to save a tidy sum with these discounted models, and you needn’t worry that it’ll arrive on your doorstep with greasy fingerprints and a crack in the screen. They’re generally cleaned, tested, and restored by the manufacturer or reseller to “like-new” condition—you’ll probably have a tough time telling a refurbished item from a brand-new model. Amazon even has its own “Renewed” program, with stringent standards for selling refurbished products on the site. Keep in mind, however, that refurbished laptops usually have a much shorter warranty than new ones—think 90 days or so, rather than a year or two.

Know what you want and shop smart

After seeing what kinds of cheap laptops we’d actually recommend, you should have enough knowledge to shop for yourself. Keep in mind your priorities, whether it’s display size, storage capacity, weight or more, and you should be able to find a good deal. 

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