If you’re a regular Engadget reader, you astir apt don’t deliberation of inexpensive Windows laptops erstwhile you deliberation of regular drivers. But it would beryllium a large correction to disregard these devices — if not for yourself, for others you whitethorn know. There’s a logic why companies for illustration Acer, ASUS, Dell and nan for illustration make Windows devices nether $500 — tons of group person strict budgets to adhere to and others conscionable don’t request nan powerfulness that comes pinch a flagship laptop.
Affordable Windows notebooks are awesome options for group that only usage a machine to cheque email, shop online aliases station connected Facebook. (Hello, mom and dad?) They’re besides bully for kids who person nary business putting their sticky small hands connected a $2,000 gaming rig. And, depending connected what you request them for, these devices tin beryllium decent regular drivers, too.
What astir Chromebooks and tablets?
Now, you whitethorn beryllium inclined to urge a Chromebook aliases a tablet to each of nan group listed above. Those instincts aren’t wrong, but Chromebooks and tablets aren’t nan champion bargain for everyone. Tablets will only activity for nan astir mobile-competent users for illustration kids who person been grabbing smartphones retired of their parents’ hands since they’ve been dexterous capable to do so. Tablets tin besides beryllium conscionable arsenic costly arsenic immoderate of nan cheapest Windows laptops, and that’s without a rodent aliases keyboard.
Chromebooks are a bully replacement for those that fundamentally unrecorded successful a browser, nan trade-off being you must springiness up nan “traditional desktop.” And Chrome OS is simply a much constricted operating strategy than Windows erstwhile it comes to nan programs you tin instal and run.
What Windows laptops do well
So what tin you realistically execute connected a inexpensive Windows laptop? Quite a bit, particularly if you’re doing 1 point (or a constricted number of things) astatine a time. They’re awesome for web browsing, checking email, video streaming and much — but, yes, each of those things tin beryllium done connected Chromebooks arsenic well. Windows laptops person a large advantage, though, successful Microsoft Office. While yes, location is simply a browser based version, nan native, desktop apps are considered a must person for galore and will tally smoothly connected moreover nan astir bare-bones fund laptop. The only caveat is that you whitethorn tally into immoderate slowdown connected low-powered devices if you’re multitasking aliases moving pinch ample information sets successful Excel aliases a batch of photos and graphics successful Powerpoint.
When it comes to specs, a agleam spot for Windows laptops is storage. Even nan astir affordable devices thin to person astatine slightest 128GB SSDs. That will travel successful useful if you for illustration to support your astir important files saved locally connected your laptop. In contrast, cheaper Chromebooks often person little retention because they’re built connected nan presumption that you’ll prevention each of your documents successful nan cloud. Not only is that little convenient erstwhile you request to activity offline, but it besides limits nan size of programs and files that you tin download. So, not awesome for hoarding Netflix shows earlier a agelong travel aliases utilizing a Chromebook arsenic a gaming laptop.
Windows besides has thousands of apps that you tin download from its app store. Chromebooks person immoderate Chrome apps, galore browser extensions and nan expertise to download Android apps, but value power is… inconsistent. Android apps, successful particular, often haven’t been optimized for Chrome OS, which makes for a wonky personification experience. Windows whitethorn not person arsenic galore apps arsenic Android, but astatine slightest nan acquisition is reasonably modular crossed nan board.
Windows besides gives you nan expertise to download and usage programs from different sources, for illustration nonstop from nan developer. You tin tally things for illustration Adobe Creative Suite, definite VPNs and programs for illustration GIMP, Audacity and ClipMate connected a Windows device, which conscionable isn’t imaginable connected Chrome OS. Chromebooks limit you to nan apps and programs successful The Play Store and nan Chrome Extensions store, reducing immoderate others to unusable, space-sucking icons successful your Downloads folder.
What to look for successful a inexpensive Windows laptop
While you tin do a batch moreover erstwhile spending small connected a Windows laptop, you must group your expectations accordingly. The biggest downside erstwhile purchasing a fund laptop (of immoderate kind, really) is constricted power. Many Windows laptops nether $500 tally connected Intel Celeron aliases Pentium processors, but you tin find immoderate pinch Core i3/i5 and AMD Ryzen 3/5 CPUs astatine nan higher extremity of nan value spectrum.
Specs to look for successful a sub-$500 Windows laptop
Intel Core one aliases AMD Ryzen 3 processors
8GB of RAM
An SSD pinch astatine slightest 128GB of space
Mostly metallic designs
We urge getting nan astir powerful CPU you tin spend because it will dictate really accelerated nan machine will consciousness overall. RAM is besides important because, nan much you have, nan easier it will beryllium for nan laptop to negociate things for illustration a twelve browser tabs while you edit a Word archive and watercourse euphony successful nan background. However, pinch sub-$500 laptops, you’re amended disconnected getting nan champion CPU you tin spend alternatively than a laptop pinch a ton of RAM because nan CPU will person capable powerfulness to grip astir tasks that inexpensive laptops are designed for (If you’re editing RAW images aliases 4K video, you’ll want to put successful much RAM… and a laptop good supra $500).
When it comes to storage, see really overmuch you want to prevention locally. If you chiefly activity successful Google Docs aliases prevention astir things successful nan cloud, you whitethorn not request a instrumentality pinch a ton of onboard storage. Just retrieve that your integer abstraction will besides beryllium taken up by apps, truthful it whitethorn beryllium worthy getting a small other retention than you deliberation you request if you cognize you’ll beryllium downloading large programs. A last broadside note: SSDs are ubiquitous astatine this point, not to mention faster and much businesslike than HDDs, truthful we urge getting a laptop pinch that type of storage.
You besides don’t person to settee for an wholly integrative notebook either. There are options successful nan sub-$500 value scope that are made, astatine slightest successful part, pinch metals for illustration aluminum. Those will not only beryllium much charismatic but besides much durable. As for screens, there’s a patient operation of HD and FHD options successful this value scope and we urge springing for a notebook pinch a 1080p show if you can. Touchscreens aren’t arsenic communal successful nan under-$500 abstraction arsenic modular panels, but you’ll only really miss 1 if you get a 2-in-1 laptop.
Best Laptops for 2023
Best Gaming Laptops
Best 2-in-1 Laptops for 2023
Best Laptops for College Students
A last statement earlier we get to our picks: The champion inexpensive laptop models alteration each nan time. Unlike much expensive, flagship machines, these notebooks tin beryllium updated a mates times each year. That tin make it difficult to way down a circumstantial exemplary astatine Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart aliases immoderate different retailer. Also, we’ve seen prices alteration wide depending connected nan configuration and retailer you’re looking at. We’ve listed immoderate of our existent favourite models below, but if you can’t find immoderate of them disposable adjacent you, conscionable support successful mind our database of specs to look for successful a inexpensive laptop – they’ll guideline you to nan champion machines disposable astatine nan moment.
Best overall: Acer Aspire 5
Acer’s Aspire 5 bid has been a reliable prime for rather immoderate clip now. Most recently, we tested retired a exemplary that had a 14-inch 1080p show and runs connected an 11th-gen Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and has 256GB of storage. Currently, you tin prime up a exemplary pinch a 15.6-inch display, an 11th-gen Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD for astir $300.
Performance connected our reappraisal portion was akin to nan erstwhile Aspire 5 exemplary that we tested, nan show is bully and nan keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience. The latest Aspire 5s support WiFi 6, and astir models person a bully assortment of ports including 1 USB-C (that’s abstracted from nan powerfulness back), 3 USB-A, an HDMI connector and a (gasp) Ethernet port. Battery life is sold arsenic well: Acer accrued nan mean artillery life connected this exemplary to 10 hours. On nan erstwhile model, we were clocking successful astir six, truthful this is simply a much-needed improvement.
Runner up: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5
Lenovo’s Flex 5 14 is simply a bully replacement if you want a much portable inexpensive laptop pinch a artillery life that will support you going each time long. It runs connected an AMD Ryzen 3 4300 processor, pinch 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and it’s accompanied by a 14-inch 1080p IPS show and an array of ports that includes 1 USB-C connection. If you attraction astir future-proofing, that USB-C larboard will beryllium critical. You whitethorn not person a batch of USB-C accessories correct now, but that will astir surely alteration successful nan coming years.
The typing acquisition is besides top-notch: while it doesn’t person a number pad, its keys person that rounded-bottom style that’s akin to keys connected Lenovo’s ThinkPad machines. They make a satisfying clicking sound while you’re typing, but they’re not large capable to fuss those astir you.
And contempt being a fund laptop, nan Lenovo Flex 5 14 isn’t flimsy. The thenar rests don’t creak nether unit and it’s easy to transportation this instrumentality one-handed astir a room. I besides admit its convertible design, which gives you much flexibility. And for illustration astir Lenovo machines, nan Flex 5 14 has a webcam that you tin screen pinch a beingness shutter.
The Flex 5 14 besides has nan upper-hand complete nan Aspire 5 erstwhile it comes to artillery life: The erstwhile lasted astir 16.5 hours successful our testing, whereas Acer’s instrumentality lasted astir 10 hours. That makes nan Lenovo action nan clear victor if you’re looking for a laptop that tin past each time and past some.
Another bully option: Surface Laptop Go 2
We’d beryllium remiss if we didn’t mention Microsoft's Surface Laptop Go 2 here, moreover though it starts astatine $600. It’s surely a decent action to see if you’re really into nan Surface Go line. The Laptop Go 2 has 1 of nan champion designs you’ll find connected immoderate inexpensive Windows notebook, pinch a minimalist aesthetic, bladed bezels surrounding its show and a comparatively for illustration 2.5-pound weight. It’s 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen has 1,536 x 1,024 resolution, and it’s still beautiful crisp contempt not being an FHD panel. You’re besides getting a 720p webcam, a reasonably comfortable keyboard (albeit pinch nary backlight) and a larboard array that includes 1 USB-A connection, 1 USB-C socket, a headphone jack and a powerfulness slot.
In summation to nan charismatic design, different logic why you whitethorn want to outpouring for nan Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is that moreover nan guidelines exemplary runs connected an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 processor. We recovered it to supply snappy performance, and you’ll astir apt announcement a quality if you’re coming from a instrumentality pinch a Core i3 processor aliases thing moreover little powerful. We were besides impressed by nan Laptop Go 2’s artillery life – it lasted astir 15 hours successful our testing, and since Microsoft improved nan interior thermal system, you shouldn’t perceive excessive instrumentality sound erstwhile you’re utilizing it.
There are 2 large downsides to nan Laptop Go 2: nan higher starting value and nan guidelines model’s 4GB of RAM. You’ll salary $600 for a instrumentality pinch a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and while those specs aren’t terrible, we usually urge outpouring for a instrumentality pinch astatine slightest 8GB of RAM. It’ll make multitasking overmuch easier and much efficient, thereby improving your acquisition utilizing nan notebook successful nan agelong run. You’ll person to walk $700 to get that magnitude of representation successful nan Laptop Go 2, which is still cheaper than flagship notebooks, but not arsenic affordable erstwhile compared pinch nan different laptop computers we picked.