The best budget laptops for 2024

The best budget laptops for 2024: Indeed, you can get a decent laptop for less than $10,000. Not everyone needs or wants to spend a fortune on their new notebook, and depending on your intended use, a cheap laptop can be a better option overall. As with any reasonably priced technology, the secret to selecting the ideal laptop for you is knowing what you need it to perform and what you can live without in order to save a little money. Best of all, you could discover that getting a decent laptop at a reasonable price doesn’t require as much compromise as you initially believed.We’ve tested a bunch of budget-friendly laptops to find our top picks and gather buying advice that can guide you to the right machine for you.

What to look for in a budget laptop

First off, anything under $1,000 in the laptop category is what we at Engadget refer to as “budget.” This is due to two factors: even the most reasonably priced flagship laptops usually retail for $1,000 or more, and performance really starts to suffer if you go much lower than that (for example, $500 or less). Usually, the $500 to $1,000 range offers the finest power to price ratio. However, we’ll cover the best choices over a broad price range in this list because both the high and low ends of the budget spectrum have some great selections.

A respectable spec sheet is maybe the most important thing to look for in a low-cost laptop. The newest generation CPU chipsets may provide configuration alternatives, or you could have to choose one with a little older processor. While it’s advisable to go for a laptop with the most recent internal components, performance won’t likely suffer if you choose a device with a CPU that is one generation out of date.

In addition to CPUs, you need think about how much memory and storage you require for a daily driver. For the former, computers with at least 8GB of RAM are recommended; less RAM will make it difficult to multitask and manage all of your tabs open in browsers. In the latter case, the amount of onboard storage required is mostly determined by the number of applications, files, images, documents, and other items you plan to save locally. Generally speaking, aim to get a laptop with at least a 256GB SSD (note that Chromebooks are a little different from macOS and Windows computers). You should have adequate capacity for files and applications in addition to space for an operating system upgrade.

It’s important looking at a few key design considerations after figuring out the greatest performance you can obtain within your budget. We advise selecting a computer with a body composed primarily of metal, a screen with a resolution of at least 1080p, and a reasonably roomy keyboard and trackpad space. A built-in webcam is a feature of any decently priced laptop, however most of them only have 720p. Some of the most recent versions feature 1080p cameras, but if you find yourself using Zoom meetings frequently, you might want to think about getting a separate peripheral.

Don’t forget to look into the port status. As strange as it may sound, many laptops costing more than $1,000 will feature fewer ports than their less expensive counterparts. The newest computers have one or two USB-C connections, but if you regularly need to connect to SD cards, you could require a second adapter.

A note about refurbished laptops

Refurbished laptops are another option to consider if you need a new machine and don’t want to spend a ton of money. Buying refurbished tech can be tricky if you’re unfamiliar with a brand’s or merchant’s policies surrounding what they classify as “refurbished.” But it’s not impossible — for laptops, we recommend going directly to the manufacturer for refurbished devices. AppleDell and Microsoft all have official refurbishment processes that their devices go through before they’re put back on the market that verifies the machines work properly and are in good condition. Third-party retailers like Amazon and Walmart also have their own refurbishment programs for laptops and other gadgets as well.

The best cheap laptops of 2024


Photo by Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Apple 13-inch MacBook Air (M2)

Best budget laptop overall

Screen size: 13.6-inch | Touchscreen: No | Processor: Apple M2 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Weight: 2.7 pounds | Battery life: Up to 17 hours

The launch of the M3 MacBook Air saw the retirement of the first Air with an M-series chipset. Apple’s no longer officially selling the M1 MacBook Air (although you can still find it at other retailers right now), but it knocked down the starting price of the M2 Air to $999. The M3 MacBook Air is the best thin and light laptop for most people, but the M2 is an unmatched value for those on a budget. In our testing, we didn’t notice a huge improvement in real-world use between the M2 and the new M3 Air, and battery life is similar for both of them. The biggest differences between them are that the M3 models support Wi-Fi 6E and driving to up to two external displays when the lid is closed.

So when it comes to buying a new laptop and spending only $1,000 or less, the MacBook Air M2 is the notebook we’d recommend to most people. Not only do you get the updated Air design that’s thinner and more squared-off than before, but you also get a gorgeous 13.6-inch display, a solid quad-speaker array and, most importantly, stellar performance thanks to the M2 chip. For tasks personal and professional, this MacBook Air should have more than enough power and speed for most people (we’d even recommend it over the 13-inch MacBook Pro for many). The fact that it’s now $200 less than before simply because it’s changed places in Apple’s lineup presents a great opportunity for those in need of a new daily driver to get our previous top pick for best laptop at its new low price.

HP Pavilion Aero 13

Best budget Windows laptop

Screen size: 13-inch | Touchscreen: No | Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB | Weight: 2.2 pounds | Battery life: Up to 12 hours

Read our full review of the HP Pavilion Aero 13

If you like the general aesthetics of machines like Dell’s XPS 13 but don’t want to pay $1,000 or more, the HP Pavilion Aero is your best bet. We gave it a score of 87 in our review and compared it to Dell’s flagship laptop. It’s certainly not as sleek as that machine, but it comes pretty close with its angled profile, 2.2-pound weight and its anti-glare 13.3-inch display. Despite its keyboard being a little cramped, it’s a solid typing machine and we appreciate all of its connectivity options: one USB-C port, two USB-A ports, an HDMI connector and a headphone jack. You can currently pick an Aero 13 up for as low as $900, but they have gone on sale for even less. All of the prebuilt base models available from HP directly come with Ryzen 5 processors, and you can customize the laptop to have up to a Ryzen 7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook (2023)

Best Chromebook

Display: 14 inches FHD | CPU: 13th-generation Intel Core i3 | RAM: Up to 8GB | Storage: 128GB | Weight: 3.52 lb (1.6 kg)

Our favorite Chromebook is Lenovo’s Flex 5 Chromebook, which Engadget’s resident Chrome OS aficionado Nathan Ingraham described as a tremendous value. This laptop nails the basics, with a 14-inch Full HD touchscreen, a great backlit keyboard and a 13th-gen Core i3 processor. The latest model has an upgraded 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which when paired with the Core i3 CPU, make for a speedy, capable machine. It’s also nice to see one USB-A and two USB-C ports, six hours of battery life and a 360-degree hinge that makes it easy to use the Flex 5 as a tablet. This could be the ideal laptop for Chrome OS fans, and it’ll hit the sweet spot for a lot of other buyers out there, providing a level of quality and performance that’s pretty rare to find at this price point.

Acer Aspire 5 A515-56-347N Slim Laptop

Best laptop under $500

Screen size: 15-inch | Touchscreen: No | Processor: 11th-gen Intel Core i3 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB | Weight: 3.64 pounds | Battery life: Up to 10 hours

Acer’s Aspire 5 family is a solid Windows option if you have less than $500 to spend on a new laptop. The most recent models hit a good middle ground for most people, running on Intel 11th-gen CPUs and supporting up to 16GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage. Of course, the higher specs you get, the more expensive the machine will be — not all Aspire 5 laptops come in at under $500. But you can currently pick up a model with a 15.6-inch 1080p display, Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for about $380 (or less if it’s on sale). Design is pretty basic here, but you do get a handy number pad and a variety of ports, including one USB-C connector, three USB-A ports and an Ethernet port. We also appreciate that the latest Aspire 5s support WiFi 6, and Acer upped the estimated battery life to 10 hours.

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