Find out the 23 Best Budget Laptops from $200 to $600

| July 31, 2015 | (0)

The Best Budget Laptops?

By that, I mean the laptops that offer the best features at 8 price points ranging from $200 to $600.

Why write this article?

How much time do you have to research the best computer?

Many of us don’t have much time to read, or the knowledge to understand, detailed laptop specifications nor reviews and just want to know:
What’s the best  budget laptop for my needs?

I’m here to help you with this article. I believe that you deserve the computer that is the best for your needs. That way, your computer is working for you and not the other way around. This allows you to focus your full potential on realizing what you want, without being limited by your computer.

With 15 years of experience with computer hardware, researching, always up-to-date research with the newest parts, performance and prices, I know what matters in a computer.
See my About page for more information on me, Mathieu Bourgie, and this website, Hardware Revolution

Here are the features that I evaluate in order to make my recommendations:

1. Price
2. Performance: CPU, RAM, Storage, Video Card and Wireless Adapter
3. Screen: Size, Resolution, Matte or Glossy, Panel type (TN, IPS, etc.), Brightness, Contrast, Viewing Angles and Color Accuracy
4. Portability: Dimensions, Weight, Real-life battery life during average web browsing?
5. Usability: Keyboard: Layout, Key size, Travel/Pressure, Key Shape and any additional Function keys. Touch pad quality, trackpoint, backlit keyboard, numpad, Operating System, which ports are offered, Webcam resolution, sound quality, optical Drive, noise levels.
6. Reliability: How solid is the chassis? Are the temperatures under load reasonable? How solid are the screen hinges? Is the keyboard spill-resistant? Overall manufacturer long-term reliability? How easy is it to service the laptop?
7. Warranty: Warranty length? What does the warranty cover?

I then recommend laptops that I think are the best at a given price, according to those features that I evaluated on the hundreds of laptops that I’ve considered during the research that I do to write this article.

I offer to you the result of that research, by making recommendations for the best budget laptops at 8 price points ranging from $200 to $600.

Alternatives recommendations:

I also suggest alternative recommendations, with clear explanations as to why they are interesting alternatives.

My goal:
Help you easily choose the best laptop for your needs and budget.

Put all of this together and you get this article. Because if you’re about to buy a laptop, might as well get the one that offers the best features possible for your budget, right?

Looking for a different kind of laptop?

Visit the Best Laptops For Your Money category page, for all our articles on laptops.

The Toshiba Chromebook 2, equipped with a high-quality 1920 x 1080 IPS screen, only $280!

The Toshiba Chromebook 2, equipped with a high-quality 1920 x 1080 IPS screen, only $280!

A few reminders:

I’ll use this opportunity to remind you that this article is only a guideline for the is based on the best prices that I’ve seen on July 31st 2015, from B&H, NewEgg and/or Amazon.

Prices and availability change all the time. While I can’t keep up with ever changing prices, I can suggest to you great laptops that you won’t regret buying as long as its in the same price range.

Summary

Click on any of these links to jump to the section that interests you. Alternatively, scroll down to see them all, in the same order as they are presented here.

The Best Budget Laptop for:

  1. $200
  2. $250
  3. $300
  4. $350
  5. $400
  6. $450
  7. $500
  8. $600

Upgrade your laptop:

  1. Upgrade to Windows 10 for free!
  2. Upgrade the RAM
  3. Upgrade the hard drive to a larger/faster model or to a SSD
  4. USB DVD and Blu-ray External Burners
  5. The Best WiFi Routers, WiFi Adapters and Bluetooth Adapters

Best Laptop for $200

ASUS EeeBook X205TA

- $191.91 – Blue (Amazon)
- $194.95 – Blue (B&H – International Shipping)
- $199.99 – Gold (Newegg)

About the ASUS EeeBook X205TA

– Includes Microsoft Office 365 license for a year
– Up to 12 hours battery life
– Windows 10 upgrade available
– Very thin and only 2.16lbs

Are you looking for an highly portable laptop, with a long battery life, to go on the Internet, check your e-mails, use Microsoft Office and do other simple tasks?
The ASUS EeeBook X205TA is designed for that type of workload. As long as you don’t expect more than that, you’ll be happy.

It’s not a powerful desktop PC, not a desktop replacement, not a workstation nor a gaming PC, so don’t expect to run like one either.

It’s good for what it’s designed for, but if you ask more of it, it will definitely slow down.

1 year free subscription to Microsoft Office 365 included!
That’s right, you get a one year subscription to Office 365 included with the laptop. Yes, for free.

1TB of online storage for one year for free
You also get 1TB of OneDrive storage for free for the first year.

Pros:

  1. Lowest cost for a laptop: Less than $200!
  2. Highly portable: 11.3″ x 0.69″ x 7.6″, 11-12 hours of battery life, only 2.16lbs! Small and light power adapter too.
  3. 1TB of OneDrive online storage (free for the first year)
  4. Silent: Fanless and no moving part
  5. Runs cool, so you can use it on your lap without getting uncomfortable.
  6. Bluetooth 4.0
  7. 97% of a full sized keyboard. Keys have a good travel.

Cons:

  1. The Intel Atom Z3735E is not a powerful CPU; don’t expect it to be able to do heavy multitask or to run heavy applications like Adobe Photoshop without significant lag.
  2. Only 2GB of RAM; don’t expect to heavily multitask, run many applications at the same time, nor to have a lot of web browser tabs open at the same time without slowdowns.
  3. Touchpad is average at best
  4. Speakers are okay, not great
  5. Screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution and a TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles. Expected at this price point.
  6. Limited onboard storage (32GB) with only 17.5GB available. You get 1TB of OneDrive storage for free for one year, you can also use a SD card and/or an external drive.
  7. WiFi limited to 802.11n with a single stream, 2.4GHz only and only 20MHz channel: Good for Web browsing, slow for file transfers over the network.
  8. No VGA output, only Micro-HDMI. Get a Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable if you want to connect a HDTV or an external monitor.
  9. No LAN port, so you’re limited to 802.11n 2.4GHz wireless network: Expect 54-72Mbps realistically, less if you’re far from your wireless router.
  10. No optical drive, so if you want to listen to music on audio CDs or to DVDs or Blu Ray disks, you’ll need to use an external USB optical drive.
  11. No Numpad
  12. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like, but forget gaming on this laptop.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Specifications:

Components
ASUS EeeBook X205TA
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit with Bing
CPU Intel Atom Z3735E Quad-Core 1.33-1.83GHz Turbo
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
11.6″ 1366 x 768 LED backlit, Anti-Glare (Matte)
Yes
Intel HD Graphics
RAM
Max RAM
2GB DDR3L
None, soldered onboard, not upgradable
Storage 32GB eMMC + 1TB of OneDrive storage (free for the first year)
Optical Drive None
Audio Integrated microphone
Two Stereo Speakers
Networking No LAN
802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0
Ports microSD Card Reader
1/8″ (3.5 mm) Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack
2 x USB 2.0
micro-HDMI output
Dimensions
Weight
11.3″ x 0.69″ x 7.6″
2.16lbs
Battery Life 11-12 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Laptop for $250

Toshiba Satellite C55-B5100

- $259.89 at Amazon
- $299.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

About the Toshiba Satellite C55-B5100:

The Toshiba Satellite C55-B5100 offers a considerable step up in performance compared to the ASUS EeeBook X205TA-DS01, thanks to being equipped with a faster CPU and twice the memory (4GB of RAM vs 2GB for the ASUS EeeBook X205TA-DS01). This will allow you to run multiple applications simultaneously without having to wait on your laptop as much.

It’s also equipped with a much larger 500GB hard drive, making it ideal to store your music, pictures and video.

Overall, it is usable for listening to music, watching videos, web browsing, e-mails and Office.

Pros:

  1. Low cost for a 15.6″ Windows 8.1 laptop equipped with 4GB of RAM
  2. Good battery life: 6-8 hours of web browsing.
  3. Quiet
  4. Runs cool, so you can use it on your lap without getting uncomfortable.
  5. Bluetooth 4.0
  6. Numpad
  7. 500GB hard drive
  8. DVD drive
  9. LAN port, but limited to 100Mbps
  10. VGA and HDMI output

Cons:

  1. Bay Trail Celerons CPUs are not powerful CPUs; don’t expect to multitask much or to run heavy applications like Adobe Photoshop.
  2. Screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution and a TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles. Expected at this price point.
  3. Average build quality: This is a $250 computer, as long as keep your expectations reasonable, you’ll be happy.
  4. Prone to fingerprints
  5. RAM cannot be upgraded
  6. Poor speakers: They aren’t very loud.
  7. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like, but forget gaming on this laptop

Click here to go back up to the summary

Specifications:

Components
Toshiba Satellite C55-B5100
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit with Bing
CPU Intel Celeron N2840 2.16GHz-2.58GHz Turbo Dual-Core
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1366 x 768 LED backlit, Anti-Glare (Matte)
Yes, HD
Intel HD Graphics
RAM
Max RAM
4GB DDR3L 1333MHz
Not upgradable
Storage 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive
Optical Drive Yes, DVD burner
Audio Integrated microphone
Two Stereo Speakers
Networking 10/100Mbps LAN
802.11b/g/n WiFi
Bluetooth 4.0
Ports SD Card Reader
1/8″ (3.5 mm) Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack
1 x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
HDMI Output
VGA Output
Dimensions
Weight
15″ x 10.2″ x 1.03″
5.29
lbs
Battery Life 6-8 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative best laptop for $250:

Acer Aspire E 11 ES1-111M-P2YU

11.6″ lightweight laptop that can be upgraded

- $260.76 at Amazon
$242.49 at B&H (International Shipping)

Least expensive laptop that you can upgrade its RAM and hard drive to turn it into a small and very capable laptop:
As it is configured, with only 2GB of RAM, the Acer Aspire E 11 ES1-111M-P2YU offers limited capabilities.

However, this Acer laptop can be a formidable lightweight laptop if you upgrade its RAM to 4GB or preferably 8GB, thanks to its relatively powerful CPU at this price point, the Intel Pentium N3540 Quad-Core 2.16-2.66GHz.

See the end of the article for my recommended RAM upgrades.

Even better if you replace the hard drive by a much faster SSD. See the best SSDs for your money article for my recommendations.

The hard drive is relatively easy to replace, requiring you to remove the bottom panel of the laptop to access it.

Upgrading the RAM is a longer process, as the RAM slot is located on the other side of the motherboard, requiring you to disassemble the laptop to get to it. It’s not that complicated though, here’s an excellent video that walks you through it.

Pros:

  1. Highest performance CPU at this price point: Intel Pentium N3540 Quad-Core 2.16-2.66GHz
  2. Least expensive laptop that can be upgraded
  3. Good battery life: Expect 6-7 hours.
  4. SD card reader
  5. USB 3.0 port
  6. Highly portable: 11.5 x 0.8 x 8.3″ and only 2.84lbs
  7. Quiet
  8. Runs cool, so you can use it on your lap without getting uncomfortable.

Cons:

  1. Requires upgrades to be a good choice
  2. Only 2GB of RAM, which can and should be upgraded.
  3. No optical drive
  4. No Bluetooth
  5. No LAN
  6. No VGA output
  7. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like, but forget gaming on this laptop

Best Laptop for $300

Acer Aspire V3-112P-C2HF

- $316.97 at Amazon
- $289.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

About the Acer Aspire V3-112P-C2HF:

Pros:

  1. More powerful processor than $200 and $250 recommendations: Intel Celeron N2940 1.83-2.25GHz Quad-Core
  2. Touchscreen
  3. Fanless: Silent
  4. Gigabit LAN port
  5. Highly portable: 11.5 x 0.9 x 8.3″ and 3.06lbs.
  6. Great battery life: 7 hours
  7. 4GB of RAM that can be upgraded to 8GB (2x4GB) by adding a 4GB stick of DDR3 SO-DIMM RAM.

Cons:

  1. Screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution and a TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles. Expected at this price point.
  2. While the CPU is more powerful than lower-end alternatives, it’s no match for Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 series.
  3. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like, but forget gaming on this laptop
  4. No optical drive
  5. No numpad
  6. No Bluetooth
  7. 5400rpm hard drive
  8. Only two USB ports: One USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0


Specifications:

Components
Acer Aspire V3-112P-C2HF
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit
CPU Intel Celeron N2940 1.83-2.25GHz Quad-Core
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
11.6″ 1366 x 768 Touchscreen
Yes
Intel HD Graphics
RAM
Max RAM
4GB (1x4GB) DDR3
2 slots, maximum 8GB
Storage 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive
Optical Drive None
Audio Integrated microphone
Stereo Speakers
Networking 10/100/1000Mbps LAN
802.11b/g/n Wifi
Ports SD Card Reader
Headphone or Headset Two-in-one 3.5mm jack
1 x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
11.5 x 0.9 x 8.3″
3.06lbs
Battery Life 7 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative best laptop for $300 #1

Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35-B3340

13.3″, Chromebook, Full HD 1080p IPS Screen

- $279.00 (Amazon)
$279.00 (B&H – International Shipping)

Think that all budget laptops come with crappy 1366 x 768 TN screen with dull, inaccurate colors and terrible viewing angles?

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is an exception: It comes with a 1920 x 1080 Full HD screen with an IPS panel. IPS means full viewing angles, great contrast and accurate, vibrant colors!

It also features an Intel Celeron Processor N2840 Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.16-2.58GHz CPU, which sips power so that the laptop can provide a battery life of up to 9 hours. With 4GB of RAM, you’ll be able to open plenty of web tabs without any slowdowns.

With the Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 7260 adapter and Bluetooth 4.0, you get high performance and reliable connectivity.

About Chromebooks:

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is unlike any laptop that you have ever used, as a matter of a fact this won’t be like anything you have ever used. Simply put: This is just a web browser through and through, with apps. The laptop is more current now so more then ever, with “cloud computing” becoming the latest trend in the market, Chromebooks are literally made for cloud computing.

If you have an Android phone, used Gmail, and regularly used many of Google’s applications, you’ll feel just at home with the Chromebook. Even if that isn’t the case, it’s easy to learn.

Setup is very simple and only takes a few minutes. No need concern yourself with updates, patches, anti-virus software, or even software installation, the OS takes care of it for you automatically. All applications are used through the web browser (you’ve guessed it: Chrome), with Google Docs for office apps, Google Drive to save and share your documents and Google App store.

Thanks to the ChromeOS, the laptop is very snappy and easy to use. Really, if you’re looking for an inexpensive, great looking, simple to use and highly portable computer to browse the web, listen to music, write documents and stream videos, you should highly consider the Toshiba Chromebook 2.

For those who are brand new to Chrome, it will take some time adjusting to the strange new Chrome surroundings, having to work mostly within a browser and relying on the Chrome App Store, but it doesn’t take long to see the benefits of a cloud based laptop that does those everyday tasks so effectively and with minimal fuss.

Alternative best laptop for $300 #2

ASUS Transformer Book T100

32GB Tablet PC with a keyboard dock that has a 500GB hard drive

$304.95 at Amazon

Pros:

  1. Detachable 2 in 1: The computer is contained entirely in the tablet, which can be docked to the keyboard.
  2. 1 year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 included
  3. IPS 10-point touchscreen: Beautiful colors, full viewing angles
  4. Long battery life: Expect 9 to 11 hours.
  5. 500GB hard drive, in the dock. Can be upgraded/replaced by a SSD
  6. Micro SD card reader: Useful to expand the storage capacity.
  7. USB 3.0 on the keyboard dock
  8. Bluetooth 4.0
  9. Highly portable: 10.3 x 0.4 x 7.0″ and only 2.40lbs for the whole package. The tablet on its own is lighter of course
  10. 30-Day Zero Bright Dot Guarantee ensures ASUS will replace tablet if display has bright dots or dead pixels

Cons:

  1. Weak processor: The Intel Atom Z3775F is a quad-core processor running at 1.46GHz, with Turbo frequencies up to 2.39GHz. While the Atom processor offers far better performance than it used to, it’s still at the bottom of Intel’s stack of CPUs when it comes to performance, offering lower performance than Celeron, Pentium and Core ix CPUs. It’s fine for web browsing, text editing, basic Office and the like.
  2. 1366 x 768 resolution
  3. Only 2GB of RAM, which cannot be upgraded: Forget multitasking

Like the idea of a very lightweight 2-in-1 ASUS Transformer Book T100 but want a screen with a 1920 x 1200 resolution and 64GB of onboard storage? See the ASUS T100 Chi – $364.99 at B&H (International shipping)

Best Laptop for $350

Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 L15W-B1120 Convertible 2 in 1 Touchscreen Laptop:

- $361.07 (Amazon)
$399.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

The price of the Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 L15W-B1120 has dropped by roughly $40 at Amazon compared to two months ago, in the last update of this article. Two months ago, it used to be $399 and it was my main recommendation for $400. It has now become my main recommendation at the $350 price point instead. A good deal just became better.

About the Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 L15W-B1120:

Pros:

  1. The least expensive laptop equipped with a 128GB SSD (Solid state drive FAQ here). This means that your laptop will start and shutdown more quickly, that programs will launch faster and that your laptop will feel more snappy overall.
  2. Touchscreen
  3. Fanless: Silent
  4. 360 degrees screen hinge allows you to use this laptop in a laptop, stand, tablet, tabletop and presentation mode.
  5. Highly portable: 11.4″ x 7.8″ x 0.86″ and 2.9lbs.
  6. Physical volume button on the right side.
  7. Decent battery life: 4-5 hours
  8. Bluetooth 4.0

Cons:

  1. Screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution and a TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles. Expected at this price point.
  2. Compared to the lower priced Dell Inspiron 3000, the CPU performance in the Toshiba Satellite is quite lower. The Toshiba, with the Intel Pentium N3540 2.16-2.66GHz Quad-Core is based on the Bay Trail architecture, which is optimized for a lower power usage, at the cost of lower performance. The Intel Core i3-5005U 2GHz Dual-Core+Hyper-Threading, featured in the Dell, is based on Intel’s newest high-performance Core 5th generation architecture, Broadwell.
  3. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like, but forget gaming on this laptop
  4. No optical drive
  5. No numpad
  6. Storage is limited to 128GB. The SSD can be upgraded, but this requires you to disassemble the laptop.
  7. No LAN RJ-45 port
  8. Only two USB ports: One USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0

Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
Toshiba Satellite Radius 11 L15W-B1120
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit
CPU Intel Pentium N3540 2.16-2.66GHz Quad-Core
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
11.6″ 1366 x 768 Touchscreen
Yes: HD
Intel HD Graphics
RAM
Max RAM
4GB (1x4GB) DDR3 1333MHz
Not upgradable
Storage 128GB M.2 SSD
Optical Drive None
Audio Integrated microphone
Stereo Speakers
Networking 802.11b/g/n Wifi
Bluetooth 4.0
Ports Card Reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm 2-in-1 combo jack
1x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
11.4″ x 7.8″ x 0.86″
2.9lbs
Battery Life 4-5 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative best laptop for $350 #1

Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series I3543-000BLK

Intel Core i3 CPU and DVD Burner

- $379.99 at Amazon

About the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series I3543-000BLK:

Pros:

  1. Powerful processor for this price range: Intel Core i3-5005U 2GHz Dual-Core+Hyper-Threading. Based on the newest Broadwell architecture from Intel. A good starting point for the minimum performance that you want for photo editing or for basic Office work.
  2. 500GB drive, which can be upgraded to a SSD of course.
  3. Gigabit LAN port
  4. Looks and feels more durable than other laptops at this price range. It’s a good simple look, doesn’t look cheap. That’s a pro to me, as a professional.
  5. Good battery life: 4-7 hours, depending on the screen brightness and your usage.
  6. 4GB of RAM that can be upgraded to 8GB (1x8GB) by replacing the 4GB stick by a 8GB stick. See the RAM upgrade section for my recommendations.
  7. DVD Burner
  8. Bluetooth 4.0
  9. Numpad

Cons:

  1. The screen has a 1366 x 768 resolution
    The screen is equipped with a TN panel: Compared to higher-quality IPS panels, you get lower contrast, you have to adjust the screen at the right angle to see properly and the colors aren’t represented as accurately.
  2. 5,400rpm hard drive offers low storage performance compared faster alternatives such as a 7,200rpm hard drive, an hybrid hard drive or a SSD. Mind you, you can upgrade it if you want to. See the Upgrade the hard drive to a larger/faster model or to a SSD section for more info.
  3. Integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like, but forget serious gaming on this laptop.
  4. Not the most portable option: 15.0 x 1.0 x 10.0″ and 4.8lbs. That said, considering that it’s a 15.6″ laptop with a numpad and a DVD drive, it is light.
  5. Many people complain about this laptop having a trackpad that isn’t that great. You might want to consider getting an external mouse for a better experience.

Alternative best laptop for $350 #2

Toshiba Satellite C55T-B5349

Intel Core i3 CPU, DVD Burner and International Shipping

- $379.00 at B&H

About the Toshiba Satellite C55T-B5349

Similar to the Dell Inspiron (Core i3 CPU, DVD Burner) and it’s available from B&H, who delivers internationally.

It has a slightly lower performance CPU and its LAN is limited to 10/100.

Alternative best laptop for $350 #3

ASUS Transformer Book T100 Chi

- $364.99 at B&H
- $369.00 at Newegg

Pros:

  1. Detachable 2 in 1: The computer is contained entirely in the tablet, which can be docked to the keyboard.
  2. 1 year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 included
  3. IPS 1920 x 1200 10-point touchscreen: Beautiful colors, full viewing angles
  4. Long battery life: Expect 9 to 11 hours.
  5. 64GB onboard storage
  6. Micro SD card reader: Useful to expand the storage capacity.
  7. USB 3.0 on the keyboard dock
  8. Bluetooth 4.0
  9. Highly portable: 10.3 x 0.4 x 7.0″ and only 2.40lbs for the whole package. The tablet on its own is lighter of course
  10. 30-Day Zero Bright Dot Guarantee ensures ASUS will replace tablet if display has bright dots or dead pixels

Cons:

  1. Weak processor: The Intel Atom Z3775F is a quad-core processor running at 1.46GHz, with Turbo frequencies up to 2.39GHz. While the Atom processor offers far better performance than it used to, it’s still at the bottom of Intel’s stack of CPUs when it comes to performance, offering lower performance than Celeron, Pentium and Core ix CPUs. It’s fine for web browsing, text editing, basic Office and the like.
  2. Only 2GB of RAM, which cannot be upgraded: Forget multitasking

Best Laptop for $400

Acer Aspire Switch 11 SW5-171-325N 11.6″ Touchscreen 2-in-1:

$399.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

About the Acer Aspire Switch 11 SW5-171-325N:

Affordable 2-in-1 tablet + keyboard dock computer:
325N model: This is a special Microsoft Signature version. It does not have all the Acer bloatware and trialware. Pretty much clean install.

Getting all of this performance and functionality for only $400 is fantastic.

Pros:

  1. The least expensive laptop equipped with a Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
  2. Powerful CPU for a tablet, the Core i3-4012Y, which is a 1.5GHz dual-core + Hyper-Threading CPU capable of handling 4 threads at the same time.
  3. Flip, rotate, or detach in a snap. The Aspire Switch 11’s Acer Snap Hinge uses the force of magnetism to provide a latch-less docking solution that lets you snap the tablet and keyboard apart, and back together again
  4. 1920 x 1080 IPS panel Touchscreen: High resolution, great viewing angles and accurate colors. Cornilla 3 Glass cover
  5. Good battery life for a 11.6″ laptop: Expect 5-6 hours of web browsing, 7 hours for text editing.
  6. You get 4GB of memory (RAM), enough to have many tabs in your web browser and a few programs running at the same time, unlike computers limited to 2GB.
  7. It’s light-weight: 3.28lbs for the whole package
  8. 128GB SSD drive: Makes the laptop far faster to boot, feels more responsive, instant resume, programs launch very quickly, more shock-resistant and no noise.
  9. SSD uses the M.2 connector and can be upgraded
  10. The screen can be detached and be used as a tablet
  11. VGA and HDMI outputs.
  12. SD card reader
  13. Latest generation 802.11ac WiFi
  14. Bluetooth 4.0

Cons:

  1. Top-heavy design, meaning that you can’t lean the screen back too far, or it will fall backward.
  2. Audio isn’t that loud nor good
  3. RAM cannot be upgraded.
  4. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like, but forget gaming on this laptop
  5. Keyboard is average
  6. No optical drive
  7. No LAN RJ-45 port
  8. Only two USB ports: One USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0

Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
Acer Aspire Switch 11 SW5-171-325N
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i3-4012Y 1.5GHz Dual-core + HT
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
11.6″ 1920 x 1080 IPS Touchscreen
Yes, Full HD 2MP
Intel HD 4200 Graphics
RAM
Max RAM
4GB LPDDR3
4GB
Storage 128GB SSD M.2
Optical Drive None
Audio Integrated microphone
Stereo Speakers
Networking 802.11b/g/n Wifi
Bluetooth 4.0
Ports Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm 2-in-1 combo jack
1x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
Micro-HDMI Output
MicroSD card reader
Dimensions
Weight
11.7 x 1.0 x 8.1″
3.38lbs
Battery Life 5-6 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative best laptop for $400

Lenovo Edge 15

Alternative: 15.6″ Full HD touchscreen, Core i5 CPU, 6GB RAM, 1TB Hard drive, backlit keyboard:

$419.00 (B&H – International Shipping)

Featuring a 1920 x 1080 15.6″ Full HD touchscreen, an Intel Core i5-4210U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.7-2.7GHz CPU, 6GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and a backlit keyboard.

Yes, all of that for only $419.00!

Its screen can rotate 300° to vary between laptop mode and stand mode.

Best Laptop for $450

HP 350 G2

$439.99 at Amazon

About the HP 350 G2:

The HP 350 G2 is ideal as an inexpensive business laptop or for anyone looking for a powerful, yet inexpensive laptop.

Pros:

  1. Powerful processor, capable of handling demanding tasks: Intel Core i5-5200U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-2.7GHz
  2. 500GB hard drive that spins at 7200rpm, faster than most hard drives found in laptops.
  3. 4GB of RAM that can be upgraded to 16GB (2x8GB).
  4. Good battery life: 5-6 hours
  5. Laptop is easy to service and upgrade
  6. VGA Output
  7. Battery can be swapped.
  8. Optical drive
  9. Numpad
  10. Fingerpring reader
  11. Spill-resistant keyboard
  12. Matte (non-reflective) screen

Cons:

  1. TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles. Expected at this price point.
  2. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like. Forget about gaming.
  3. So-so sound system
  4. 0.9″ thick and 5.09lbs: Not the lightest portable

Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
HP 350 G2
OS Windows 8 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i5-5200U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-2.7GHz
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1366 x 768 Matte
Yes, 720p HD
Intel HD 5500
RAM
Max RAM
4GB (1x4GB) DDR3L 1600MHz
2 Slot, maximum 16GB
Storage 500GB Hard Drive running at 7200RPM
Optical Drive DVD Burner
Audio Two integrated Microphones
Integrated Stereo Speakers
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n Wifi
Bluetooth 4.0
Ports Card Reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm 2-in-1 combo jack

2x USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
LAN
VGA Output
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
15.1 x 0.9 x 10.4″
5.09lbs
Battery Life 5-6 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Laptop for $500

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E550 20DF002YUS

- $469.99 at Amazon
- $475.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

About the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E550 20DF002YUS:

The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E550 is a solid and reliable laptop that will last you many years without any problem.

Equipped with a matte (non-reflective) screen and an excellent Thinkpad keyboard; it offers up to 9 hours of battery life.

You also get a processor that offers good performance, the Intel Core i3-4005U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.7GHz,

4GB of RAM is fine for web browsing, video playback, text editing, Office and the like. If you multi-task a lot, or run heavy programs, you can easily upgrade the RAM with a 8GB or 16GB memory kit.

The 500GB hard drive runs at 7,200 rpm, which offers better performance than most notebook hard drives that run at 5,400rpm.

This being a Thinkpad, you can easily upgrade the memory and/or hard drive. The battery is swappable too.

It also comes with Windows 7 Professional, so if you’re not a fan of Windows 8/8.1, this is an ideal choice for you!

Pros:

  1. Fairly powerful processor, capable of handling somewhat demanding tasks: Intel Core i3-4005U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.7GHz
  2. 500GB hard drive that spins at 7200rpm, faster than most hard drives found in laptops.
  3. 4GB of RAM that can be upgraded to 16GB (2x8GB).
  4. Windows 7 Pro
  5. Long battery life: 7-9 hours
  6. Laptop is easy to service and upgrade
  7. Solid screen hinges
  8. Solid laptop
  9. Screen with a matte finish
  10. One of the best keyboards on the market
  11. Keyboard is spill-resistant
  12. VGA Output
  13. Battery can be swapped.
  14. Optical drive
  15. Numpad
  16. Fingerpring reader

Cons:

  1. TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  2. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like. Forget about gaming.
  3. So-so sound system
  4. 1.1″ thick and 5.21lbs: Not the lightest portable in its class

Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E550 20DF002YUS
OS Windows 7 Pro 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i3-4005U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.7GHz
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1366 x 768 Matte
Yes, 720p HD
Intel HD 4400
RAM
Max RAM
4GB (1x4GB) DDR3L 1600MHz
2 Slot, maximum 16GB
Storage 500GB Hard Drive running at 7200RPM
Optical Drive DVD Burner
Audio Dual Array Microphones
Stereo Speakers
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n/ac Wifi
Bluetooth 4.0
Ports Card Reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm 2-in-1 combo jack

2x USB 3.0 (1x always-on charging)
1x USB 2.0
LAN
VGA Output
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
14.8 x 1.1 x 10.1″
5.21lbs
Battery Life 7-9 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative best laptop for $500 #1

Dell Inspiron 3000 Series I3148-6840SLV:

Highly portable, premium aluminium build, switch between laptop, tablet, tent or stand modes, 11.6″ IPS touchscreen:

- $469.00 (B&H – International Shipping)

For the price, the Dell Inspiron offers a fantastic build quality with style.

You get solid 360 degrees hinges that lets you switch between laptop, tablet, tent or stand modes.

This is a highly portable 11.6″ laptop. Light at only 3.1lbs and only 0.7″ thick. For a tablet, it can get heavy, but it’s more than a tablet and it’s definitely more powerful and versatile than a tablet.

It’s also much more enjoyable and efficient to type with a physical keyboard compared to a virtual keyboard on a touchscreen.

Speaking of the touchscreen, it’s equipped with an IPS panel, meaning that you get great viewing angles, better contrast and more accurate colors.

It’s also available as a 13.3″ model, with a backlit keyboard and a built-in stylus, see the model right below.

Alternative best laptop for $500 #2

Dell Inspiron 7000 Series I734-750SLV:

Premium aluminium build, 13.3″ IPS touchscreen, switch between laptop, tablet, tent or stand modes, backlit keyboard, built-in stylus:

- $478.64 (Amazon)

Compared to the 11.6″ model, it has the same thickness, but weights half a pound more, at 3.6lbs. Still, that makes for one of the lightest 13.3″ laptops available on the market.

How to choose between the two dell computers, the 11.6″ and 13.3″?
– The 11.6″ model is lighter, at 3.2lbs vs 3.7lbs
– The 13.3″ model that weights 0.5 pound offers you a larger screen, a backlit keyboard and a built-in stylus.

Alternative best laptop for $500 #3

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series i7537T-1122sLV:

Intel Core i5 CPU, premium aluminium build, 15.6″ touchscreen, backlit keyboard, 4 USB ports:

$524.98 (Amazon) – Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series i7537T-1122sLV 15-Inch

High-quality forged aluminium laptop. You don’t get the 360 degrees hinges like the two Dell above, but you get a more powerful Core i5 CPU, a larger 15.6″ screen (TN panel unfortunately), 4 USB ports and a numpad.

With a look similar to the Apple Macbook Pro, it’s a great looking laptop. Ideal if you want a great looking computer to make a good impression, without spending more money.

It’s simple, unobtrusive, nothing that distracts you from your task other than 2 small LEDs on the front of the case, one for power, one for storage activity.

It has 4 USB ports! Very useful if you want to dock it and use it with an external display, keyboard, mouse, external drive, smartphone, MP3 player and/or a USB sound card.

Note that this laptop doesn’t have an integrated DVD drive, to make it lighter and thinner. If you want one, you must get an external USB optical drive. See the USB DVD and Blu-ray External Burners section of this article for my recommendations.

Alternative best laptop for $500 #4

DELL Latitude E6520:

Intel Core i7 Quad-Core CPU, 8GB RAM, 120GB SSD, workstation solid build, 15.6″ screen, backlit keyboard, Windows 7 Pro:

$504.99 at Newegg

Pros:
Getting such a powerful CPU, the Intel Core i7-2720QM (Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading, 2.2-3.3GHz), with 8GB of RAM and a 120GB SSD in a solid laptop with a backlit keyboard for only $500 is pretty much a steal in my opinion.

The operating system is Windows 7 Pro. You can upgrade to Windows 10 for free in the next year.

You can even upgrade the RAM (max. 2x8GB) and/or the SSD if you want to.

Cons:
– The screen resolution is limited to 1366 x 768. Consider getting an external monitor.
– Remaining storage capacity is roughly 100GB after installing Windows 7 Pro.
– This laptop is refurbished.

If you can live with that, you can get one powerful and solid workstation for only $500.

Consider getting the 240GB SSD model instead of 120GB, for only $45 more.
Here’s the same laptop, but with a 240GB SSD instead: DELL Latitude E6520 – $549.99 at Newegg

Best Laptop for $600

Lenovo Edge 15 80H1X001US

$599.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

About the Lenovo Edge 15 80H1X001US:

The Lenovo Edge 15 80H1X001US is an amazing laptop loaded for a lot of features considering is price: $599.99.

You get a 1920 x 1080 touchscreen that can be flipped by up to 300 degrees, allowing you to use this laptop as a laptop, stand and tent mode.

Equipped with a 1920 x 1080 touchscreen, an excellent backlit keyboard and offers up to 9 hours of battery life.

It’s a pretty powerful laptop, equipped with an Intel Core i7-4510U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.0-3.1GHz CPU, 8GB of memory (RAM), a dedicated video card (Nvidia Geforce 840M) and a 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive.

Pros:

  1. Powerful processor, capable of handling more demanding tasks: Intel Core i7-4510U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.0-3.1GHz
  2. Decent video card performance: Capable of running older games and newer games on low settings.
  3. 1TB hard drive
  4. 8GB of RAM
  5. Touchscreen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution
  6. Keyboard is backlit
  7. VGA Output
  8. Battery can be swapped.
  9. Optical drive
  10. Numpad
  11. Fingerpring reader
  12. 802.11 ac WiFi
  13. Bluetooth 4.0

Cons:

  1. TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  2. No optical drive
  3. 5,400rpm hard drive is holding the system back. Upgrade to a SSD for better performance.
  4. 5.06lbs: Not the lightest laptop
  5. Refurbished laptop but it does come with a full 1 year warranty from Lenovo.

Click here to go back up to the summary
Specifications:

Components
Lenovo Edge 15 80H1X001US
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit
CPU Intel Core i7-4510U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.0-3.1GHz
Screen
Webcam
Video Card
15.6″ 1920 x 1080 Touchscreen
Yes, 720p HD
Nvidia Geforce 840M
RAM
Max RAM
8GB DDR3L 1600MHz
Maximum 8GB
Storage 1TB Hard Drive running at 5400RPM
Optical Drive DVD Burner
Audio Dual Array Microphones
Stereo Speakers
Networking LAN: 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11b/g/n/ac Wifi
Bluetooth 4.0
Ports Card Reader
Headphone and Microphone 3.5mm 2-in-1 combo jack

1x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
LAN
HDMI Output
Dimensions
Weight
10.9 x 0.8 x 15.0″
5.06lbs
Battery Life 7-9 hours

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative best laptop for $600 #1

Acer Aspire R 13 R7-371T-59ZK:

13.3″ 1920 x 1080 IPS touchscreen, 4 modes (Notebook, Ezel Mode, Pad, and Display), Intel Broadwell Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD:

- $549.99 at Amazon
- $569.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

This is an highly portable laptop: 0.7″ thick, 3.31 lb and with up to 10 hours of battery life.

This is a versatile laptop, with 4 modes: Notebook, Ezel Mode, Pad, and Display.

It’s also a powerful machine, with the new Intel Broadwell 5th generation Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.

You get a 1920 x 1080 touchscreen and its an IPS panel, so you get large viewing angles, good contrast and more accurate colors.

Storage capacity is limited: The SSD offers a 128GB capacity, but after installing Windows, you’ll have roughly 100-105GB of remaining storage available space to use.

Alternative best laptop for $600 #2

HP Pavilion 17-f140nr

17.3″ 1600 x 900 touchscreen and powerful sound with Beats Audio

$589.99 at Amazon

If you want a laptop with a large 17.3″ touchscreen with a 1600 x 900 resolution and excellent sound, look no further than the HP Pavilion 17-f140nr.

Equipped with a Core i3 CPU, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive, it can handle most tasks with ease.

Ideal to watch TV, movies and listen to music, this is an excellent entertainment laptop.

Alternative best laptop for $600 #3

DELL Latitude E6520:

Intel Core i7 Quad-Core CPU, 8GB RAM, 240GB SSD, workstation solid build, 15.6″, backlit keyboard, Windows 7 Pro:

$549.99 at Newegg

Getting such a powerful CPU, the Intel Core i7-2720QM (Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading, 2.2-3.3GHz), with 8GB of RAM and a 240GB SSD in a solid laptop with a backlit keyboard for only $550 is pretty much a steal.

The OS is Windows 7 Pro.

You can even upgrade the RAM and/or SSD if you want to.

– The screen resolution is limited to 1366 x 768,
– Remaining storage capacity is roughly 205GB after installing Windows 7 Pro.
– This laptop is refurbished.

If you can live with that, you can get one powerful and solid workstation for only $550.

Alternative best laptop for $600 #4

HP Elitebook 8460W:

Intel Core i7 Quad-Core CPU, 8GB RAM, AMD FirePro M3900 1GB, solid build, 14″ 1600 x 900, spill-resistant keyboard, Windows 7 Pro:

$579.99 at Newegg

Are you a young professional who needs a workstation laptop, with a workstation-class video card, but can’t afford to spend much money?

The HP Elitebook 8460W is a great option, for only $580!

You get:
– A powerful CPU, the Intel Core i7-2630QM (Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading, 2.0-2.9GHz),
– 8GB of RAM
– An AMD FirePro M3900 1GB video card
– 14″ 1600 x 900 matte (anti-glare) display
– Lots of connectivity: 4 USB ports, VGA and Displayport outputs, 1 ExpressCard/54, SD/MMC slot, Smart Card Reader, Gigabit LAN, Bluetooth 4.0
– Solid laptop with brushed gunmetal finish and metal hinges.
– The OS is Windows 7 Pro.

You can even upgrade the RAM and/or hard drive if you want to.

– You get a hard drive instead of a SSD, so Windows and programs take longer to load and the laptop feels a bit less responsive. Upgrading to a SSD is a great way to boost performance.
– WiFi is limited to 802.11g. You do get a LAN Gigabit port.
– This laptop is refurbished.

If you can live with that, you can get great laptop with a workstation-class video card for only $580.

Upgrade your Laptop:

Upgrade to Windows 10 for free:

Microsoft offers a free upgrade from Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 to Windows 10 for the next year. See this Microsft website page for more information on how to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. I recommend it, Windows 10 is the best Windows so far.

Upgrade your RAM:

RAM can easily be upgraded on most laptops. Do note that some laptops cannot be upgraded at all, due to their unique design. I provide that info for main recommendations, for alternatives, you can find that info on the product information page, usually under specifications. Otherwise, a quick google search on the manufacturer’s website should provide that info. Feel free to ask me in the comment section if you aren’t sure and can’t find the info.

Pick one of the following recommendations below, depending on if your laptop comes with a single stick of RAM or two, or if you can have up to 4 sticks.

My recommendations should be compatible with all the laptops recommended in this guide, all those that can be upgraded that is.

I recommend the most reliable sticks that I can find and that are available internationally.

Add a single 4GB stick: Crucial 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM:

$24.99 (Amazon)
$24.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Add a single 8GB stick: Crucial 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM

$38.99 (Amazon)
$42.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

2x4GB (8GB) kit: Crucial 8GB (2x4GB) 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM

$46.99 (Amazon)
$49.98 (B&H – International Shipping)

2x8GB (16GB) kit: Crucial 16GB (2x8GB) 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM

$84.99 (Amazon)
$85.98 (B&H – International Shipping)

Click here to go back up to the summary

Upgrade your hard drive:

You can upgrade your hard drive to a faster and/or a larger hard drive. See our article on The Best Hard Drives (HDD) For Your Money and scroll down to the best 2.5″ hard drives for my recommendations.

Do note that most laptops accept hard drives with a 9.5mm height. Some laptops, can only accept drives with a 7mm height, but those are the exception rather than the norm. Do also note that some laptops cannot be upgraded at all, due to their unique design.

Upgrade to a SSD

A SSD (Solid State Drive) is far faster than a hard drive (See our SSD FAQ), it consumes less power than a hard drive, resulting in a longer battery life. A SSD is also much more shock resistant than a hard drive is, reducing the odds of data loss if you drop or hit your laptop.

If you want to upgrade your hard drive to a SSD, I recommend that you read our The Best SSDs (Solid State Drives) For Your Money article.

I also recommend getting this Kingwin SATA to USB 3.0 adapter ($15.99 at B&H (International Shipping)), to help you transfer the content of your hard drive to the SSD, in order to minimize downtime and make your life easier. It’s compatible with pretty much all 2.5″ SATA drives.

Keep your old hard drive for external storage via an USB 3.0 enclosure:

When you replace the hard drive that your laptop came with, I recommend putting it in the Sabrent USB 3.0 2.5″ SATA Hard Drive Enclosure:
$14.99 (Amazon)
$13.40 (B&H – International Shipping)

That way you can use your hard drive for external portable storage, such as backups.

This particular enclosure comes with a retractable cable that is connected to the enclosure, so you don’t lose/forget it and it makes the whole package more compact too. It comes with an extension cord if you need it.

Click here to go back up to the summary

USB DVD and Blu-Ray Drives

If your laptop doesn’t come with an optical drive and you want one, here are my recommendations for external USB optical drives.

USB DVD Burner

There are many models of USB DVD Burners. The LG GP60NB50 8x is the one with the best customer reviews:
$27.99 (Amazon)
$24.87 (B&H – International Shipping)

USB Blu-Ray Burner

I recommend three USB Blu-Ray burner. Make sure to plug them in an USB 3.0 port to get the maximum speed possible.

In order of price and burning speed:
Pioneer BDR-XD055 6x – $79.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

ASUS BW-12D1S-U/BLK/G/AS 12x:
$114.99 (Amazon)
$114.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

LG BE14NU40 14x:
$118.11 (Amazon)
$118.11 (B&H – International Shipping)

Click here to go back up to the summary

WiFi routers, WiFi Adapters and Bluetooth adapter:

Need a WiFi router, a faster WiFi adapter or a Bluetooth adapter for your laptop? Check out our recommendations for The Best WiFi Routers, Best WiFi Adapters and Bluetooth Adapter.

Conclusion

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article.

With this being such a long article (over 7000 words) with many recommendations and alternatives, you may find some typos.

Alternatively, you may believe that there’s a better option than my recommendation.

Or you may have some questions.

In any case, please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you, to help find the best laptop for your needs and to answer your questions.

Category: The Best Laptops For Your Money

About Mathieu Bourgie: HR Founder - Computer expert with over 14 years of experience in building, fixing and modifying PCs. Over the years, I’ve developed a passion for PC hardware and now I enjoy helping others build their own PCs! In April 2008, I launched Hardware Revolution and ... Read more at my about page .