Best cheap laptops: We rate the best-sellers on Amazon and Best Buy

We found good deals for $500 or less.

leading fistful of dollars budgets money

When you’re looking for a good, cheap laptop, knowledge is power. Every budget machine (which we’re defining as Windows laptops costing $500 or less) is the product of compromise—corners carefully 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. We’ll show you what to look for by highlighting which budget laptops among the best-sellers currently listed at Amazon and Best Buy are worth buying. 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.

Both retailers’ lists change constantly, so we’ll recheck the top sellers frequently to update you on the trends. Keep reading to learn about the features that matter for any budget laptop you’re eyeballing. (This article was updated November 13, 2018, with new picks.)

The best cheap laptops on Amazon

Aspire E 15 E5-576-392H

acer aspire e15

It’s clear why this one’s been on top for a long time—you get a fair amount for the money. (See our review of the latest model.) What’s nicest is the large, high-resolution display, a rarity in this price range, even if the brightness is mediocre. It’s also nice to see an 8th-generation CPU in this bargain box, rather than a leftover from a prior era. Add to that the large hard drive and the 10-key keypad, and there’s a lot to like.

It is very heavy, though.

An ease-of-use note: The DVD-RW drive takes up most of one side, crowding most of the ports onto the other side. This could become annoying if you’re trying to hook up a lot of devices at once.  

CPU: Intel Core i3-8130U 

Memory: 6GB DDR4 SDRAM

Storage: 1TB, 5,400rpm SATA hard drive and 8X DVD-RW drive

Display: 15.6-inch diagonal width, 1920x1080 resolution

Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD 620

Connectivity: One USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, ethernet (RJ-45), HDMI

Dimensions: 15 x 10.2 x 1.2 inches

Weight: 5.27 pounds

Asus VivoBook F510UA

VivoBook F510UA

The Asus VivoBook F510UA caught our eye because you don’t normally see a laptop with specs this nice in the budget price range. (The official price is much higher.) The 1080p touchscreen is likely the lower-end of two options Asus offers (the other has a wide 178-degree viewing angle), but the resolution and touch capability are still good perks. The full 8GB of RAM is notable given that many budget laptops have just 4GB or 6GB.

The narrow bezels add refinement to the design and allow the large screen to fit into a slightly smaller chassis. The weight is reasonable. Despite the slender profile you still get a good helping of USB-C and USB-A ports, plus full HDMI. The only noteworthy thing missing compared to others in this price range is a 10-key numeric keypad.

CPU: Intel Core i5-8250U 

Memory: 8GB DDR3 SDRAM

Storage: 1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive

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

Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD 620

Connectivity: One USB 3.1 Type-C (Gen1), one USB 3.0 Type A, two USB 2.0 Type A, HDMI, SD card slot

Dimensions: 14.2 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches

Weight: 3.7 pounds


Lenovo Ideapad 15.6" HD High Performance Laptop

Ideapad 15.6" HD High Performance Laptop

This laptop caught our eye because its AMD A12 mobile CPU is about equivalent to Intel's lower-end 7th-gen Core mobile chips—in other words, it's a competent processor for mainstream tasks. It comes with a USB-C port, whereas some other budget laptops stick with USB-C. The numeric keypad is handy. It's big and heavy, though.

CPU: AMD quad-core A12-9720P

Memory: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM

Storage: 1TB, 5,400rpm SATA hard drive; DVD-RW drive

Display: 15.6-inch, 1366x768 LED

Graphics: Integrated AMD Radeon R7

Connectivity: Two USB 3.0 Type A, one USB 3.0 Type C, HDMI, media card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC), Gigabit ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi

Dimensions: 14.9 x 10.2 x 0.9 inches

Weight: 4.85 pounds

Apple MacBook Air MJVM2LL (Certified Refurbished)

apple macbook air mjvm2lla

Apple may have officially killed the 11-inch MacBook Air in 2016, but it lives on in refurbished form, including this refurbished early-2015 model, which hovers around $500 (the price bobs up and down). (Check any refurbished MacBook Air for its year of manufacture to make sure you aren't getting something too old; we've seen some as old as 2012 available.) 

The 11-inch MacBook Air offered an affordable thin-and-light laptop at a time when  Windows competitors were far clunkier. Its 13-inch cousin remains popular. This refurbished model is older, and its features are modest, but if portability is a priority for you (and you’re a Mac fan), this is a good deal for basic computing. It can be upgraded to OS X High Sierra now and OS X Mojave when it comes out this fall.

CPU: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5

Memory: 8GB of 1,600MHz LPDDR3 RAM

Storage: 128GB of flash storage

Display: 11.6-inch, 1366x768 LED

Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000

Connectivity: Two USB 3.0 Type A, one Thunderbolt 2

Dimensions: 11.8 x 7.56 x 0.11-0.68 inches

Weight: 2.38 pounds


Lenovo IdeaPad 330-17IKB 81DM

lenovo ideapad 330 17 inch

Wow: A 17.3-inch laptop for around $500. We had to check this out.

The display is a basic LED-backlit model with a resolution of just 1600x900 and integrated graphics. Still, you'll appreciate the size if you're wrestling with a large spreadsheet or a lot of photos. 

The Intel processor is a tried-and-true mobile CPU that gets the job done for mainstream productivity. The 8GB of RAM that comes with it is a good allotment; some bargain laptops come with just 4MB. 

Storage represents the biggest concession: It's a 1TB, 5,400rpm SATA hard drive. Slow. But at this price, SSD is not an option. 

The IdeaPad 330 nods to progress with one USB 3.0 type-C port.

Here are the basic specs: 

CPU: Intel 8th-gen Core i5-8250U with 1.6GHz clock speed

Memory: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM

Storage: 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive and DVD-recording drive

Display: 17.3-inch diagonal width, 1600x900 resolution

Graphics: Intel UHD 620

Connectivity: One USB 3.0 Type-C, two USB 3.0 Type A, HDMI, media card reader (SD, MMC, SDHC, SDXC), ethernet

Dimensions: 16.46 x 11.52 x 0.98 inches

Weight: 6.17 pounds

The best cheap laptops on Best Buy

HP 15-da0002dx

hp 15 da0002dx

A good CPU is hard to find in the budget range, which is why we're pleased to see a current, 8th-gen Intel Core mobile processor in this HP laptop. We've tested the Core i5-8250U in many other machines, and it delivers good mainstream performance. 

We can therefore forgive the pedestrian HD screen resolution (at least the display is a good size), the smallish SSD, and the heavy weight. On the brighter side, it offers a good RAM amount, a touchscreen, and an estimated battery life of 10.25 hours. The one serious deficit is the lack of USB-C, which could frustrate you in the future. 

CPU:  Intel Core i5-8250U

Memory: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM

Storage: 128GB SSD, DVD-RW drive

Display: 15.6-inch, 1366x768 widescreen LED

Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620

Connectivity: One USB 2.0 Type-A, two USB 3.0 Type-A, HDMI, Gigabit ethernet, Wireless-B/G/N, media card reader

Dimensions: 14.8 x 9.7 x 0.9 inches

Weight: 3.9 pounds


HP Notebook - 17-by0021dx

hp notebook 17 by0021dx

This HP notebook is one of the few 17-inch laptops you can find for around $500, so it's worth a look. The Core i5-7200U is a last-generation part with just two cores, but that's enough to run most mainstream applications. The 8GB of RAM is good. It also offers great connectivity: Gigabit ethernet as well as Wi-Fi. You probably wouldn't want to haul this 5.4-pound laptop very far, not just because it's heavy, but because its 3-cell lithium ion battery probably isn't going to last long. Still, it makes an adequate desktop replacement to move around your house. 

The other specs include a huge (if slow) hard drive, a DVD-RW drive, and plenty of USB-A but no USB-C. 

CPU:  Intel Core i5-7200U

Memory: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM

Storage: 1TB HDD, DVD-RW drive

Display: 17.3-inch, 1600x900 widescreen LED

Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620

Connectivity: One USB 2.0 Type-A, two USB 3.0 Type-A, HDMI, Gigabit ethernet, Wireless-B/G/N, media card reader

Dimensions: 16.3 x 10.7 x 1 inches

Weight: 5.4 pounds

Lenovo 130-15AST

lenovo 130 15ast

With the Lenovo 130-15AST it's all about the display, which is a nice, roomy 15.6 inches at a head-turning price point. A bigger screen can help you forget it's a budget laptop, and it sure comes in handy during an intensive study session or workday. 

 Everything else about this laptop is rock-bottom basic: The AMD A609225 CPU and 4GB of RAM, the Radeon R4 integrated graphics, the 500GB hard drive. 

As with some other cheap laptops we've seen, the battery life could be disappointing. The vendor estimates just 5 hours, and your mileage could vary. 

CPU:  AMD A6-9225

Memory: 4GB DDR4 SDRAM

Storage: 500GB hard drive

Display: 15.6-inch, 1366x768 LED

Graphics: AMD Radeon R4

Connectivity: Two USB 3.0 Type A, HDMI, Gigabit ethernet. Wireless-AC

Dimensions: 14.8 x 10 x 0.9 inches

Weight: 4.63 pounds

Lenovo 330-15ARR 15.6" Laptop

lenovo 330 15arr 15.6 inch laptop

When you get closer to $300 in budget laptops, you have to keep a sharp eye out for compromises in features. What's nice about this model is that you're getting a 15.6-inch display (though at a basic resolution). The Ryzen mobile CPU and 8GB of RAM are a solid setup, and the 1TB hard drive is spacious, though slow. 

The specs show two reasons why this laptop, though portable by definition, should stick close to home. For one, it's very big and heavy. More to the point, the estimated battery life is an extremely short 4.5 hours. We don't normally include estimated battery life because it's such a moving target, but if this is the best spec the vendor can come up with, it's safe to assume this can't last long away from AC. 

CPU:  AMD 2nd Generation Ryzen 3 2200U

Memory: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM

Storage: 1TB hard drive

Display: 15.6-inch, 1366x768 LED

Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 3

Connectivity: One USB 3.1 Type C, two USB 3.0 Type A, HDMI, media card reader

Dimensions: 14.9 x 10.2 x 0.9 inches

Weight: 4.85 pounds

Microsoft Surface Go (4GB/64GB)

Microsoft Surface Go alt primary

You could argue the Surface Go is a tablet rather than a laptop, but once you add the optional keyboard it's a nifty little productivity machine for an affordable price. It runs Windows 10 S, which gives you Windows productivity with a lighter touch so it doesn't weigh down performance (but you are limited to Windows Store apps). 

We reviewed the higher-end Surface Go with more memory and better storage, but that's not budget. The entry-level model is just $400, and a $99 black Type Cover will have you squeaking in right at $500 total. 

Display: 10-inch (1800x1200) IPS technology, 217 ppi, 3:2 ratio, 10-point touch

Processor: Intel 1.6GHz Pentium 4415Y (Kaby Lake)

Graphics: Intel HD 615 (integrated)

Memory: 4GB

Storage: 64GB eMMC

Ports: 1 USB-C, 1 Surface Connector, microSD, headphone jack

Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, LTE later in 2018

Cameras: 5MP front (Windows Hello-capable), 8MP rear (with autofocus)

Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches

Weights: 1.14 pounds (tablet), 1.68 pounds (tablet plus keyboard), 1.98 pounds (tablet, keyboard and charger), as measured


Budget laptops: The features that matter

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

CPU: You should expect to see lower-end dual-core Intel Core processors, and a sprinkling of AMD’s older mobile CPUs (not the company’s latest and far more interesting Raven Ridge mobile processors). Those older AMD parts tend to perform badly compared to their Intel rivals, so manage your expectations (and stick to basic computing needs).

Memory: You’ll see 4GB or 6GB of RAM, but try for 8GB if you can, so you can run more applications or browser tabs simultaneously. 

Storage: You’ll see a lot of hard drives and some lower-capacity 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. An HD resolution of 1366x768 suffices for an 11-inch or 13-inch display, but starts to look grainier (albeit still usable) on 14-inch displays and upward. 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 want 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 spec. You might not see USB-C, full HDMI, or ethernet. 

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. 

Know what you want and shop smart

After seeing what’s popular among cheap laptops, 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. 

This article was originally published November 14, 2017, by Gordon Mah Ung.

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