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
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 1366×768 suffices for an 11-inch or 13-inch display, but starts to look grainier on 14-inch displays and upward. Get Full HD (1920×1080) 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.