Budget laptops – are they worth it? Well, yes. If you shop savvy, do your research, and know what you need. Expensive laptops are intended for those who require a tonne of processing power, RAM, and storage space. These high-performance machines are there for people who will be running resource-heavy applications for video and image editing, 3D modelling, or even gaming.
If you, like most people, aren’t intending to spend hours rendering 4K footage or battling it out with your buddies on Apex Legends, then the specifications you require lower considerably, and with them, the laptop’s price. This means that even when you are on the tightest of budgets, there is still a laptop for you, offering all the functionality you need.
We have rounded up the best budget laptops to help you find what you need. All of our low-cost picks cover the basics. You will be able to browse the internet, ping off emails, and catch up on your favourite streaming on-demand shows.
Once you've picked one up, be sure to read below for our quick tips on getting the most out of your new laptop.
Looking to keep your connectivity but drop the keyboard? Why not consider a mini tablet – they are impressively little devices, offering plenty of convenient and cutting edge features. Read our round-up of the best mini tablets now.
The best budget laptops
1. Lenovo IdeaPad 1
The Lenovo IdeaPad 1 is a great little everyday laptop with a HD screen measuring 11.6-inches. The brain of the laptop is an AMD Silver 3050e - Amazon's description is inaccurate on this point, but have no fear as the 3050e is a pleasantly nippy little chip that along with the 4GB RAM delivers the right speeds for day-to-day use. It's pretty light at 1.4kg, so can easily be transported or moved around the home. The battery life runs to around eight hours. If you're wanting to store loads of files, consider grabbing some cloud storage, SD card or some external memory - this ones only got 64GB onboard. CPU: AMD Athlon Silver 3050e (2.8GHz)RAM: 4GBBattery life: Up to eight hoursMemory: 64GB eMMCWebcam: Yes, with a physical shutterWeight: 1.4kg
2. Acer Chromebook 315 CB315-2H
This 15.6-inch screen Chromebook does not feature Windows, because it runs using the Google Chrome OS. This is perfect for browsing the web, writing some emails, and catching up on some streaming services. There's a 12-hour battery, and 64GB onboard memory, on top of any Google Cloud storage. For the tech enthusiasts, there's 4GB of RAM available and the CPU is AMD's A6-9220C. Bolstered by the inclusion of both USB 3 and future-proofing USB-C ports, this is a great laptop for the price.CPU: AMD A6-9220C (1.8GHz)RAM: 4GBBattery life: Up to 12 hoursMemory: 64GB eMMCWebcam: YesWeight: 1.8kg
3. Acer Aspire 3 A4
The Acer Aspire 3 A4 is a bit of a more sizeable offering, with a 15.6 screen with full HD clarity. Inside, the laptop in carrying an AMD A4 processor and 4GB RAM. This pairing is ideal for those looking to use the Aspire 3 for daily university or administrative work. The HDD boasts a very generous 1TB of storage, and will be capable of storing movies, images, documents, and essential updates without trouble.CPU: AMD A4 (2.2GHz)RAM: 4GBBattery life: Up to 8 hoursMemory: 1TB HDDWebcam: YesWeight: 1.8kg
4. HP Stream 11
HP's Stream 11 is a surprisingly capable laptop, considering its very modest Intel CPU and 2GB RAM. While anyone purchasing this shouldn't be expecting lightning-quick multitasking performance, it can easily run Microsoft Office programs, stream, or be used for internet browsing. The battery is good too, lasting until just shy of 14 hours. It comes with 32GB of internal storage, so users will be reliant on some cloud storage (luckily 1TB OneDrive storage is included for one year) or a microSD expansion. As a child's first laptop, or for light users needing only the essentials, the HP Stream will serve well.CPU: Intel Celeron N4000 (1.1GHz)RAM: 2GBBattery life: Up to 13.5 hoursMemory: 32GB eMMCWebcam: YesWeight: 1.05kg
5. HP Chromebook 14
The HP Chromebook 14 replaces Windows with the Google Chrome OS, a largely cloud-based operating system using Android apps, making for a very efficient 14-inch laptop. The AMD A4 processor and 4GB RAM has plenty of grunt for daily tasks, and the 32GB internal memory can be expanded via a microSD card or cloud solution. The battery life spans to just over 10 hours, and can be quickly topped up via the speedy USB-C connection. The screen is of an excellent quality, the keyboard is lovely to type on, and the Bang & Olsen speakers are a nice touch. All in all, we are very fond of this laptop.CPU: AMD A4-9120 (2.2 GHz)RAM: 4GBBattery life: Up to 10.5 hoursMemory: 32GB eMMCWebcam: YesWeight: 1.57kg
Tips for getting the most out of your budget laptop
Budget laptops have lower specifications than higher-priced models. They often have limited hard drive space, processor speeds, and RAM space - but this doesn’t mean you can’t maximise their performance. Here are a few simple tricks for getting the most out of your budget laptop:
Uninstall unused and unneeded programs
Unused programs take up space and can slow down general laptop performance – especially if they are set to automatically update. Uninstall these programs as soon as possible to free up memory.
Limit startup programs
Some computers are plagued with long startup times, and often this is as a result of programs that automatically load up when Windows starts. Skype, Microsoft Outlook, iTunes, and Spotify are all common offenders, but there are hundreds more. Stopping these programs is a really simple process. You can either go into a program’s settings, or use the Task Manager. There’s a quick tutorial on HowToGeek.com that explains all you need to know.
Google Chrome OS users won’t need to worry about this, as the OS’s startup time is often around seven seconds.
Windows users, ditch the Google Chrome browser
Chrome is one of the most popular and fastest internet browsers around, but it's heavy on resources, particularly RAM. This means that a laptop could easily start to grind, with a slow performance and even increased temperatures. To help maximise performance, considering Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge.
This is essential if a laptop has less than 4GB of RAM.
Choose you internet security wisely
Full internet security is essential, however many offerings will bloat a device's storage or really slow down all of its processes and boot time. It can be tempting to load up and carry on with the security packages bundled with a new purchase. Our advice is that you shouldn’t just settle.
If your laptop has limited processing power, opt for a package that isn’t heavy on resources. Check out our guide to see which 2020 internet security package is best for you and your system.
Quick Tech Guide
What is Windows 10 S mode?
Windows 10 S mode is a streamlined version of Windows 10, which can be a cumbersome and resource-heavy operating system. S mode improves security, and only allows apps from the Microsoft Store to be downloaded, and Microsoft Edge to be used for browsing. For the general user, this will not be a problem – if you’d like to find out more, visit Microsoft’s S mode FAQ.
What is Google Chrome OS?
Google Chrome OS is a cloud-based operating system, where the majority of the applications and programs are web-based. It might sound complicated and super-techie, and it is behind the scenes, but for end-users, it’s straight forward. The benefits include super-fast startup times, and lower-cost laptops as onboard memory is not as important.
You’ll need access to an internet connection to get the most out of a Chromebook – some useable apps, programs, and files can be stored locally, but most will need to be on the cloud.
If you primarily use web-based services like internet browsers, Google Docs and Sheets, MS Office Online, and music and video streaming services, then Chrome OS might be for you.
A Central Processing Unit, or CPU, is the brain of a device, processing and executing instructions. CPUs typically often consist of multiple cores, and the higher the number of cores the more processes it can carry out, improving performance. CPU is clock speed is also important, and is measured in GHz. In theory, the higher the GHz number, the better and quicker a computer can operate.
Random Access Memory, or RAM, is a short-term memory component that temporarily holds information for quick access by the CPU. The data will be related to programs and services that are in use. The more RAM available, the more quick-access information there is for the CPU, thereby improving computer performance.
What is the difference between HDD, eMMC, and SSD memory?
Hard drive disks (HDD) are mechanical, writing, and reading information on spinning disks (or platters) via an actuator arm, which moves across the platter. The platters are broken down into a series of tracks and sectors. It's within these that data is stored and addressed with a location.
Solid State Drives (SSD) write and read using electronic flash memory, much like USB flash drives. Data is stored in grids and blocks, and though the process is more complicated than in HDD, the available space is utilised more efficiently thanks to a series of processes that go on behind the scenes.
Embedded Multi-Media Controller (eMMC) is similar to SSD in that it uses flash memory. These units tend to be smaller and cheaper than SSD units. They have a similar speed to SSD, but they have lower transfer rates. Windows Central describes the reason for this as follows: “Think of it like a road — the more lanes there are, the more cars you can move at a time. eMMC is a single lane each way, while an SSD is a multi-lane highway.”
HDD is reliable, though they are large and rely on mechanical procedures to store, write and read memory. SSD is a newer technology and uses no moving parts: it's far quicker at data retrieval, is smaller in size, and runs more efficiently. SSDs are popular within the gaming community due to their rapid load times. HDDs are cheaper, and are available with much larger storage capacities. eMMC is popular in budget laptops, smartphones, and tablets due to its small size and price, though its storage capacity tends to much lower than an SSD.