The Best Budget Laptops?

By that, I mean the laptops that offer the best features at 10 price points ranging from $200 to $750.

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 10 price points ranging from $200 to $750.

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 $270!

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 November 9th 2015, from B&H, NewEgg and/or Amazon.

Prices and availability change daily. 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 they are 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
  9. $700
  10. $750

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

$194.00 – 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 laptop, not a desktop replacement, not a workstation nor a gaming PC, so don’t expect it 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″, only 2.16lbs! Small and light power adapter too.
  3. Long battery life: 11-12 hours of battery life
  4. 1TB of OneDrive online storage (free for the first year)
  5. Silent: Fanless and no moving part
  6. Runs cool, so you can use it on your lap without getting uncomfortable.
  7. Bluetooth 4.0
  8. 97% of a full sized keyboard. Keys have a good travel.

Cons:

  1. The Intel Atom Z3735E is not a powerful CPU; it is not adequate for heavy multitasking or to run demanding 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: Fine 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

Best Laptop for $250

DELL Latitude E6420

$279.99 at Newegg

Looking for a laptop that can handle a variety of tasks thanks to a  relatively powerful CPU, 8GB of RAM and that can boot quickly thanks to a SSD?

What if I told you that you can get that in a very solid chassis, with metal hinges and a spill-resistant keyboard, for only $269.99?

Act quickly, this deal is valid today only, November 9th.

Pros:

  1. Highest performance CPU at this price point: Intel Core i5 2520M Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.5-3.2GHz
  2. 8GB of RAM
  3. 120GB SSD for fast boot ups and a more responsive system
  4. DVD Burner
  5. HDMI and VGA outputs
  6. Windows 7 Pro, which can be upgraded to Windows 10.
  7. Very solid laptop
  8. Metal hinges
  9. Spill-resistant keyboard
  10. Matte screen

Cons:

  1. No numpad
  2. Average battery life: Expect 3-4 hours.
  3. 4 x USB ports, but all USB 2.0. One of them is a USB/E-SATA combo port.
  4. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like, but forget gaming on this laptop
  5. Refurbished laptop, comes with a 1 year warranty.
  6. Heavy, close to 6 lbs

Alternative best laptop for $250 #1

Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35-B3340

13.3″, Chromebook, Full HD 1080p IPS Screen

Click here to see the price on Amazon
$269.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

Think that all budget laptops come with a 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 #2: 11.6″ lightweight laptop that can be upgraded

Acer Aspire E 11 ES1-111M-P2YU

$259.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

Inexpensive laptop that you can upgrade its RAM and hard drive to turn it into quite capable small and lightweight 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 8GB, thanks to its decent CPU at this price point, the Intel Pentium N3540 Quad-Core 2.16-2.66GHz.

See the upgrade the RAM section 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. Good 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. Fanless: 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

Lenovo Thinkpad T410

– $289.99 at Newegg

About the Thinkpad T410:

Pros:

  1. Older but still relatively good CPU: Intel Core i5-540M Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.4-2.93GHz
  2. Two pairs of dedicated mouse left and right buttons
  3. Trackpoint
  4. Excellent keyboard
  5. Gigabit LAN port
  6. 128GB SSD for fast boot ups and a more responsive system
  7. Four USB 2.0 ports
  8. FireWire 400 port
  9. ExpressCard/34 slot
  10. 5-in-1 card reader
  11. Lid made from ABS plastic, carbon-fiber reinforced plastic bottom, internal roll cage.
  12. Metal screen hinges
  13. Easy to service and to upgrade
  14. 4GB of RAM that can be upgraded to 8GB (2x4GB).

Cons:

  1. Screen with a 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, but forget gaming on this laptop
  3. Refurbished laptop: 90 days warranty and the battery life may be short.
  4. Storage capacity is limited, due to the 128GB SSD.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative best laptop for $300 #1

ASUS Transformer Book T100HA-C4-GR

64GB Tablet PC with a keyboard dock

Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $294.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

Pros:

  1. Detachable 2 in 1: The computer is contained entirely in the tablet, which can be docked to the keyboard.
  2. IPS 10-point touchscreen: Beautiful colors, full viewing angles
    4GB of RAM allows you to run a few programs at once.
  3. Long battery life: Expect up to 12 hours.
  4. Micro SDXC card reader: Useful to expand the storage capacity.
  5. USB 3.0 type-C
  6. Bluetooth 4.0
  7. Highly portable: 10.4 x 0.3 x 6.9″ and the tablet is .72 inches thin. The tablet (1.28lbs) and keyboard together weights only 2.28lbs for the whole package.
    Fast charge: 0 to 80% charge in 2 hours.
  8. 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 i3/5/7 CPUs. Comparable to a high-end processor found in a smartphone or tablet, it’s fine for web browsing, text editing, basic Office and the like.
  2. Screen resolution is limited to 1280 x 800.
  3. Limited amount of ports: One Micro USB, one USB Type-C, one micro HDMI and one full-size USB 2.0 port on the keyboard dock.

Best Laptop for $350

ASUS F555LA-AB31:

Click here to see the price on Amazon

The ASUS F555LA-AB31 offers amazing value for the money: A laptop equipped with a relatively powerful Core i3 CPU and a screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution at the $350 price point is unheard of.

About the ASUS F555LA-AB31:

Pros:

  1. Equipped with an Intel Core i3-5010U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.1GHz CPU.
  2. Screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution
  3. Screen with a matte finish, so no reflection
  4. Body finish that prevents fingerprints
  5. 2x USB 3.0 ports, 1x USB 2.0 port, HDMI and VGA Output
  6. 802.11 ac WiFi
  7. 4GB of RAM (soldered) that can be upgraded to 12GB, by adding a 8GB stick. RAM has a hatch for easy upgrading.
  8. DVD Burner
  9. Numpad
  10. Decent battery life: 4-5 hours
  11. Bluetooth 4.0
  12. ASUS IceCool Technology features a unique internal layout that keeps palm rest surface temperatures consistently at a below body temperature level.
  13. ASUS includes a 1 year international warranty which also covers Accidental Damage Protection including liquid spill, drop, fire surge and more.
  14. Intel HD 5500 integrated video card: Older games are playable at low settings. Fine for web, office and the like.

Cons:

  1. Screen with a TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  2. 5,400rpm hard drive. Upgrading the hard drive requires you to disassemble the laptop. There is a video on Youtube titled “Asus F555L Disassembly for Hard Disk Replacement” that shows how, but it’s not as easy as it could be, unfortunately.
  3. No LAN RJ-45 port

Click here to go back up to the summary

Best Laptop for $400

HP 350 G2

Click here to see the price on Amazon

About the HP 350 G2:

The HP 350 G2 is ideal as an entry-level workstation laptop or for anyone looking for a relatively powerful, yet inexpensive laptop that’s easy to service and upgrade.

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 and HDMI Output
  7. Battery can be swapped.
  8. Optical drive
  9. Numpad
  10. Fingerpring reader
  11. Spill-resistant keyboard
  12. Trackpad that features dedicated left and right click buttons
  13. 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

Alternative best laptop for $400 #2

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E550 20DF002YUS

Click here to see the price on Amazon
$469.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

About the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E550 20DF002YUS:

Compared to the HP G2 alternative above, you get a performance hit from the slower and older Core i3 CPU, but you also get a longer battery life. It’s also available from B&H, who ships internationally. 

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.

Best Laptop for $450

Lenovo Edge 15:

$429.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

About the Lenovo Edge 15:

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

Featuring a 1920 x 1080 15.6″ Full HD touchscreen which can rotate 300° to vary between laptop mode and stand mode, 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.

Pros:

  1. The least expensive laptop equipped with a Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
  2. Good performance CPU: Intel Core i5-4210U, which is a 1..7-2.7GHz dual-core + Hyper-Threading CPU capable of handling 4 threads at the same time.
  3. The screen can rotate 300° to vary between laptop mode and stand mode.
  4. 1920 x 1080 IPS panel Touchscreen: High resolution, great viewing angles and accurate colors.
  5. Good battery life: Expect 5 hours of web browsing
  6. You get 6GB of memory (RAM), enough to have many tabs in your web browser and a few programs running at the same time
  7. RAM can be upgraded to 16GB
  8. 1TB hard drive
  9. Backlit keyboard
  10. 720p HD webcam
  11. HDMI output
  12. SD card reader
  13. Latest generation 802.11ac WiFi
  14. Bluetooth 4.0

Cons:

  1. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like, but forget gaming on this laptop
  2. No optical drive
  3. 5.06lbs: Not the lightest laptop

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative #1:

Dell 11.6″ Inspiron 11 3000 Multi-Touch 2-in-1 Notebook (Silver or Gold):

$449.99 at B&H (International Shipping)

About the Dell 11.6″ Inspiron 11 3000

The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is an highly portable laptop, weighting in at a touch over 3 pounds.

Equipped with an IPS touchscreen, 360 degree screen hinges and a physical volume button, it’s a good lightweight choice to browse the web, listen to music and videos.

Compared to the main recommendation for $450, the Lenovo Edge, the Dell Inspiron is definitely more portable, thanks to its smaller dimensions and its far lower weight.

It has a significantly less powerful CPU, but overall will feel more responsive when booting or launching programs, thanks to the SSD.

In other words, the Lenovo is larger, more powerful and has a higher screen resolution (1920 x 1080 vs 1366 x 768) and the Dell is significantly more portable.

Pros:

  1. Powerful processor, capable of handling demanding tasks: Intel Core i5-5200U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-2.7GHz
  2. 128GB SSD makes the computer boot faster, program launch more quickly and the system feels more responsive.
  3. Great battery life: 7.5-8.5 hours
  4. Fanless design
  5. Despite its small size, you still get 3 USB ports (2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0)
  6. HDMI Output
  7. Solid laptop
  8. Solid hinges that allows you to flip the screen all the way back, allowing you to use this laptop as a tablet.
  9. 0.83″ thin and weighs just 3.1lbs: Highly portable
  10. IPS panel touchscreen: Great viewing angles, great contrast and accurate colors.
  11. 720p HD webcam
  12. Physical volume button

Cons:

  1. Screen is limited to a 1366 x 768 resolution.
  2. No optical drive.
  3. Intel Pentium N3700 CPU: 1.6-2.4GHz Quad-Core low power CPU. The CPU is adequate for everyday tasks such as Internet browsing, office applications, listening to music, watching video, but may struggle with more demanding software.
  4. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, office and the like. Forget about gaming.
  5. No numpad

Best Laptop for $500

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:

$499.99 at Newegg

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

Or perhaps you’re simply looking for a solid laptop that can take a beating and will work without any problems for many years?

The HP Elitebook 8460W is a great option, for only $499.99.

Pros:

  1. A powerful CPU, the Intel Core i7-2630QM (Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading, 2.0-2.9GHz),
  2. 500GB hard drive that spins at 7200rpm, faster than most hard drives found in laptops.
  3. 8GB of RAM that can be upgraded to 16GB (2x8GB).
  4. The OS is Windows 7 Pro, which can be upgraded to Windows 10 for free.
  5. AMD FirePro M3900 1GB workstation-class video card
  6. Laptop is easy to service and upgrade
  7. Solid screen hinges
  8. Solid laptop
  9. Screen with a matte finish
  10. Excellent keyboard
  11. Keyboard is spill-resistant
  12. VGA and Displayport Output
  13. Battery can be swapped.
  14. Touchpad with on/off button, two-way scroll, gestures, two pick buttons; Pointstick with two additional pointstick buttons
  15. 2 x USB 3.0 1 x USB 2.0 charging 1 x eSATA/USB combo
  16. SD/MMC slot
  17. 1 x Express Card/54 1 x Smart Card Reader
  18. 1x IEEE 1394
  19. Fingerpring reader

Cons:

  1. TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  2. No optical drive
  3. 1.25″ thick and 4.9lbs: Not the lightest portable in its class, but this is to be expected with this much CPU power and that level of solidity.
  4. 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.
  5. WiFi is limited to 802.11g. You do get a LAN Gigabit port and you can upgrade the wireless card if you want to.
  6. This laptop is refurbished. It comes with a 90 days warranty, which in my experience, is enough time to cover the vast majority of issues that a laptop can develop after you receive it.

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative best laptop for $500 #1

Best Laptop for $600

HP Pavilion 13-s128nr x360 13.3-Inch Full-HD 2-in-1 Laptop

Click here to see the price on Amazon

About the HP Pavilion 13-s128nr x360:

The HP Pavilion 13-s128nr x360 is an outstanding laptop for $615, that offers a lot of pros and few cons.

Pros:

  1. Powerful latest generation processor, capable of handling fairly demanding tasks: Intel Core i5-6200U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-2.8GHz
  2. Decent video card performance: Capable of running older games and some newer games on low settings.
  3. SSD offers better performance (PC boots and program launch faster, system is more responsive), higher reliability and is more shock proof than a hard drive
  4. 8GB of RAM
  5. Outstanding battery life: Up to 11 hours and 45 minutes
  6. 13.3″ Touchscreen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution and a 360 degrees hinges, allowing you to use this laptop as a laptop, stand, tent mode or as a tablet.
  7. IPS panel: Great contrast, accurate color reproduction and large viewing angles.
  8. HDMI Output
  9. 802.11 ac WiFi
  10. Bluetooth 4.0
  11. Great speakers
  12. 3.77lbs

Cons:

  1. Storage capacity is limited due to the 128GB SSD. You have about 85GB available after booting.
  2. No optical drive

Click here to go back up to the summary

Alternative laptop for $600 #1:

ASUS X555UB-NH51

$609.99 at Newegg

About the ASUS X555UB-NH51:

The ASUS X555UB-NH51 comes with a latest generation Intel Core i5 6200U CPU and a Geforce GT 940M dedicated video card, making it an excellent entry-level gaming laptop.

Compared to the HP above, you lose the responsiveness that comes with the SSD, you can’t flip the screen to use this laptop in various modes and you get a shorter battery life.

You do get a 1920 x 1080 screen, but it’s a TN panel, meaning that you don’t get the great contrast, large viewing angles and more accurate colors of an IPS panel.

Pros:

  1. Powerful latest generation processor, capable of handling fairly demanding tasks: Intel Core i5-6200U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-2.8GHz
  2. Dedicated video card: Nvidia Geforce GT 940M
  3. 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive
  4. 8GB of RAM
  5. Screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution
  6. HDMI and VGA Output
  7. Optical drive
  8. Numpad
  9. 802.11 ac WiFi
  10. Bluetooth 4.0

Cons:

  1. TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  2. Hard drive is holding the system back. Upgrade to a SSD for better performance.
  3. 5.07lbs: Not the lightest laptop

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Alternative laptop for $600 #2:

Lenovo Edge 15 80H1X001US

$599.00 at B&H (International Shipping)

About the Lenovo Edge 15 80H1X001US:

Like the HP Pavilion 13-s128nr x360 recommended above but want more storage capacity and/or a dedicated video card to play some video games?

The Lenovo Edge 15 80H1X001US comes with a 1TB hard drive and a Geforce GT 840M dedicated video card.

On the downsides, you lose the responsiveness that comes with the SSD, you can’t flip the screen all the way to use this laptop as a tablet, you get a shorter battery life and this is an heavier laptop.

You get the 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.

You also get a backlit keyboard, up to 9 hours of battery life, along with an Intel Core i7-4510U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.0-3.1GHz CPU and 8GB of memory (RAM).

Pros:

  1. Relatively powerful processor, capable of handling fairly 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.

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Best Laptop for $700

ASUS N551JQ-EH71

$689.00 at Newegg

About the ASUS N551JQ-EH71:

The ASUS N551JQ-EH71 is equipped with a powerful CPU, the Intel Core i7 4710HQ Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.5-3.5GHz.

You also get a 1920 x 1080 15.6″ IPS screen, 8GB of RAM, a 7,200rpm 750GB hard drive, a Nvidia Geforce 845M 2GB video card and a dedicated wub-woofer.

Pros:

  1. Powerful processor, capable of handling pretty much any task: Intel Core i7 4710HQ Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.5-3.5GHz
  2. Decent dedicated video card performance: Capable of running older games and newer games on low/medium settings.
  3. 750GB 7,200rom hard drive
  4. 8GB of RAM
  5. 15.6″ screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution
  6. IPS panel: Great contrast, accurate color reproduction and large viewing angles.
  7. HDMI Output
  8. Numpad
  9. Bluetooth 4.0

Cons:

  1. No optical drive
  2. 5.95lbs: Quite heavy

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Best Laptop for $750

ASUS Zenbook UX305LA

Click here to see the price on Amazon About the ASUS Zenbook UX305LA:

The ASUS Zenbook UX305LA is pretty much the PC alternative to the Apple Macbook Air 13″.

Equipped with a 13.3″ 1920 x 1080 matte IPS screen, a quite powerful Intel Core i5-5200U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a battery life up to 9 hours, all in an aluminum body that is .6″ thin and weighs only 2.86lbs.

Pros:

  1. Intel Core i5-5200U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-2.7GHz
  2. 256GB SSD offers better performance (PC boots and program launch faster, system is more responsive), higher reliability and is more shock proof than a hard drive.
  3. 8GB of RAM
  4. 13.3″ screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution
  5. HDMI Output
  6. IPS panel: Great contrast, accurate color reproduction and large viewing angles.
  7. Dual-band 802.11 ac WiFi
  8. Bluetooth 4.0
  9. Titanium Gold Aluminum body
  10. 2.86lbs
  11. 0.6″ thin
  12. 2x USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port
  13. 1 year Accidental Damange Protection which covers drops, fire, spills, accidents.
  14. Up to 9 hours battery life

Cons:

  1. No numpad
  2. No optical drive

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Upgrade your Laptop:

Upgrade to Windows 10 for free:

Microsoft offers a free upgrade from Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 to Windows 10 until July 29th 2016. 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:

Click here to see the price on Amazon
$21.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

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

Click here to see the price on Amazon
$39.00 (B&H – International Shipping)

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

Click here to see the price on Amazon
$43.98 (B&H – International Shipping)

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

Click here to see the price on Amazon
$78.00 (B&H – International Shipping)

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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:
Click here to see the price on 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.

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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:
Click here to see the price on Amazon
$24.69 (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 – $84.95 (B&H – International Shipping)

ASUS BW-12D1S-U/BLK/G/AS 12x:
Click here to see the price on Amazon
$114.99 (B&H – International Shipping)

LG BE14NU40 14x:
Click here to see the price on Amazon
$127.95 (B&H – International Shipping)

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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 5700 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.