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The Best Budget Laptops?

By that, I mean the laptops that offer the best features according to their category, at multiple price points up to $900.

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 19 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 multiple price points up to $900.

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 all our articles on laptops?

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

Summary

Click on any of these links to jump to the section that interests you.

The best mid-range laptops:

  1. Chromebooks: Inexpensive, runs Chrome OS, simple to use, secure
  2. Ultrabooks: Lightweight, small, thin, great battery life. Ideal for traveling.
    Standard screen ultrabook: If you want a lightweight laptop. 
    – 2-in-1 convertible screen: 360 degree hinge touchscreen, use it as a tablet, tent, etc.
    – Detachable screen 2-in-1 ultrabook: Detach the screen from the base, use it as a tablet.
  3. Apple Macbook: The iconic Apple laptops.
  4. Gaming laptops: The best gaming performance at a given price.
  5. Traditional 14-15.6″ laptop: Larger screens than ultrabooks but a bit heavier too
  6. 17.3″ entertainment: Laptops with an even larger 17.3″ screen and good speakers.
  7. Business laptops: Security, solid build, easy to service, fairly powerful, portable
  8. Power Users: Ideal for photo/video/3D editing: High-performance CPU, RAM, storage.
  9. Workstations: Powerful, reliable and with workstation-class video cards

Upgrade your laptop:

  1. Upgrade the RAM
  2. Upgrade the storage
  3. External Storage Drive

Prices for B&H as of  October 10th 2019. Click on Amazon links to see prices. Note that I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Prices and availability are subject to change.

Chromebook: Simple, inexpensive, secure, Chrome OS

About Chromebooks:

They are simple to setup and secure:
1- Setup is very simple and only takes a few minutes.
2- Your computer starts in a few seconds.
3- Installing software, through the Google App store, is easy.
4- No concern with updates, or complicated software installation, the OS does it for you automatically.
5- Battery life is generally above average to exceptional, depending on the model.

The Chrome OS is one of the most secure OS on the market. It includes security features such as sandboxing and categorizing websites that may be harmful. Chromebooks are outstanding at catching malware and viruses, so you’re unlikely to run into any problems of this sort.

Inexpensive and you can download many free applications:
Chromebooks are inexpensive computer compared to laptops running Windows, especially compared to Macbooks!

Need Office programs like Word, Excel, etc.? Google Docs offer Google equivalent for free, with automatic saving online, Google Drive to save and share your documents and the Google App store.

Chrome OS is a lightweight OS, so laptops running it boot quickly, feel snappy and are easy to use. If you’re looking for an inexpensive, great looking, simple to use and highly portable computer to browse the web, listen to music, read/write documents and stream videos, you should highly consider a Chromebook.

They are such great inexpensive laptops that we have a dedicated article for Chromebooks:
Find out the Best Chromebooks

Ultrabooks: Thin, lightweight

The Best Standard screen ultrabooks:

Cheap laptops that I recommend avoiding:

Yes, there are slightly less expensive laptops but I don’t recommend them for one of the following reasons:
Anemic CPU performance: Any laptop with an Intel Atom, AMD A9-9420e (or the like of low power old AMD SOC CPUs) or Intel Celeron dual-core CPU should be avoided.
Lack of storage: Laptops with 32GB of storage should be avoided: It’s not enough storage for Windows and you’ll have issues with updates.

Samsung Notebook Flash

White: – $399.00 at B&H
Grey: – $399.00 at B&H
Peach: – $399.00 at B&H

Note: Slower CPU variant to avoid:
I only recommend the model equipped with the Intel quad-core Pentium N5000. Avoid the much lower performance models equipped with the dual-core Intel Celeron N4000.

About the Samsung Notebook Flash:

An highly portable (8.64 x 12.69 x 0.67″) lightweight (3.02lbs) laptop that offers up to 10 hours of battery life, the Samsung Notebook Flash might be a good choice.

I say that this laptop might be a good choice because well let’s face it, to reach that low of a price, there are compromises of course.

It’s fine for web browsing, email, social media, Office (Word, Excel, etc.), watching video, listening to music and other light tasks, but don’t expect it to run modern games or heavy applications.

Equipped with a 13.3″ screen with a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080, an integrated fingerprint reader and a better design that doesn’t look like a generic inexpensive laptop.

The CPU, an Intel Quad-Core Pentium Silver N5000 1.1-2.7 GHz CPU, is no powerhouse, but it ain’t that bad either. While no match for Intel Core CPUs, it’s better than other, dual-core, Intel Celeron CPUs.

You only get 4GB of RAM, which will limit you to running only a few apps and web pages.

You only get a 64GB eMMC storage drive, with Windows using a good part of it, so storage is limited and can fill up pretty quickly. On the plus side, it’s solid state storage, so the compute is more responsive and more resistant to shocks than with an hard drive. You can add more storage using the MicroSD card slot.

Got $100 more? Need more CPU power, more RAM, more storage or a backlit keyboard?
See the Acer Swift 3 laptop below. There are 2 performance levels, the least expensive being only $100 more than the Samsung Flash Notebook and offering far better performance!

Pros:

  1. Least expensive recommendation
  2. Intel Pentium Silver N5000 Quad-Core 1.1-2.7GHz CPU: Not a powerhouse but significantly better than dual-core models
  3. Easy secure login with Windows Hello and the fingerprint reader
  4. Available in multiple colors
  5. MicroSD card slot : Useful to expand the storage capacity.
  6. 3 USB ports, including one USB Type-C
  7. Great battery life of up to 10 hours.
  8. HDMI output to connect your display on a external screen.
  9. WiFi 5 802.11ac 2×2 Dual-Band
  10. Bluetooth 5.0
  11. Speakers are fairly good for a budget laptop
  12. Highly portable: 8.64 x 12.69 x 0.67″ and 3.02lbs
  13. Full HD 1920 x 1080 display

Cons:

  1. Only 4GB of RAM, which will limit you to running only a few apps and web pages.
  2. Windows 10 S. Microsoft Edge is the default web browser and you can only install apps from the Microsoft store. You can and probably should upgrade to the regular Windows 10.
  3. No numpad.
  4. Limited storage capacity : 64GB, you’ll have about 20-30GB of free space left. Removing pre-installed bloatware is highly recommended. Storage can be extended with a micro SD memory card.
  5. Storage is soldered and there’s no available M.2 slot to add a SSD
  6. Keyboard isn’t backlit
  7. No touchscreen
  8. Poor webcam quality: VGA (640 x 480) resolution, grainy.

Acer Swift 3

i5-8250U/256GB: – $499.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
i7-8550U/512GB: – $629.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Acer Swift 3

Available in 2 configurations:
1. Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core / 256GB
2. Intel Core i7-8550U Quad-Core / 512GB

The best bang for your buck:
This is the least expensive ultrabook without major compromises. Compared to the model above, you get significantly higher CPU performance, twice the RAM with 8GB, a Full HD 1920 x 1080 high resolution display with an IPS panel for wide viewing angles and better color accuracy, a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader and a great battery life, at up to 13 hours. All of this starting at $499!

Performance wise, you have the choice between two CPUs:
1. Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core 1.6-3.4GHz
2. Intel Core i7-8550U Quad-Core 1.8-4.0GHz

For web browsing, email, social media, basic Office (Word, Excel, etc.), watching video, listening to music and other light tasks, the Core i5 is perfectly fine.

If you intend to multi-task, run heavier programs or simply plan on keeping your laptop for a long time, the Core i5 is still fine. The Core i7 will show its worth in more demanding tasks, such as photo editing or if you simply want outstanding performance along with more storage.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with great CPUs: Core i5-8250U Quad-Core 1.6-3.4GHz or Core i7-8550U Quad-Core 1.8-4.0GHz
  2. 13.3″ screen with Full HD 1080p 1920 x 1080 resolution
  3. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light
  4. IPS panel: Great contrast, vibrant colors and large viewing angles.
  5. 8GB of DDR4 RAM allows you to run a good amount of programs at once and do several tasks.
  6. 128, 256 or 512GB SSD for a more responsive system and a faster booting speed.
  7. Excellent battery life: Up to 13 hours
  8. MicroSD card reader: Useful to copy photos from a camera, expand the storage capacity, etc.
  9. 1 x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0 and 1x USB 3.1 type-C port (with Displayport support)
  10. 720p HD (1280 x 720) webcam
  11. HDMI output
  12. Sleek build
  13. Fingerprint scanner for extra authentication security, easy login with Windows Hello
  14. Backlit keyboard
  15. Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac); Dual-Band (2.4 & 5 GHz) with MU-MIMO support
  16. Bluetooth 5.0
  17. Highly portable: 12.16 x 0.63 x 8.43″  and 2.87lbs

Cons:

  1. No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
  2. No numpad, as is usually the case in 13.3″ laptops
  3. RAM is soldered and cannot be upgraded

ZenBook 13 UX331FAL

– $799.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Incredibly light and powerful!

Replacing the ASUS UX330UA-AH55, the ASUS UX331FAL offers the same great features that made me recommend its predecessor (and the one before!), with a few improvements:
1. You now get a more powerful CPU:
– The previous model came with the Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.6-3.4GHz CPU.
– This model comes with the Core i7-8565U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.8-4.6GHz CPU.
The significantly higher Turbo frequencies greatly improves single-threaded performance, making your computer more responsive and faster overall.
2. It’s significantly lighter and more portable: The old model was 2.6lbs and 8.7 x 12.7 x 0.5″, this one is only 2.17lbs and 12.2 x 0.5 x 8.5″!
3. 25% longer battery life: You now get up to 15 hours, as opposed to 12 hours before.

So, to resume, an high-end Core i7 CPU, weight a hair over 2lbs thanks to a solid magnesium-aluminum alloy, a 15 hours battery life, with a 1920 x 1080 IPS screen, a backlit keyboard and a fingerprint reader.

What’s not to like?
The RAM is soldered, so you cannot add more.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with a quite powerful Intel Core i5-8265U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.8-4.6GHz CPU.
  2. 13.3″ screen with Full HD 1080p 1920 x 1080 resolution
  3. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light
  4. IPS panel: Great contrast, vibrant colors and large viewing angles.
  5. 8GB of DDR4 RAM allows you to run a good amount of programs at once and do several tasks.
  6. 256GB SSD for a more responsive system and a faster booting speed.
  7. Excellent battery life: Up to 15 hours while surfing the web with WiFi.
  8. MicroSD card reader: Useful to copy photos from a camera, expand the storage capacity, etc.
  9. 2 x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 3.1 type-C ports
  10. HDMI output
  11. Stylish aluminum build.
  12. Fingerprint scanner for extra authentification security, easy login with Windows Hello
  13. Backlit keyboard, with 1.4mm of key travel.
  14. Precise and responsive touchpad
  15. Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac); Dual-Band (2.4 & 5 GHz) MU-MIMO 2×2\
  16. Bluetooth 5.0
  17. Highly portable: 2.17lbs and 12.2 x 0.5 x 8.5″
  18. Relatively powerful sound, for a small laptop.
  19. USB 3.0 to RJ45 Cable is included
  20. One year accidental damage protection warranty with ASUS.

Cons:

  1. No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
  2. No numpad, as is usually the case in 13.3″ laptops
  3. USB Type-C port doesn’t support Displayport nor Thunderbolt 3
  4. SSD is the SATA type, not the higher-performance PCIe, but this can be explained by the lower power usage of SATA SSDs, resulting in a longer battery life
  5. RAM is soldered and cannot be upgraded
  6. Webcam only has a 480p resolution
  7. HDMI output is 1.4 variant, limiting refresh rate to 30Hz with a 4K display.

The Best 2-in-1 convertible screen ultrabooks

ASUS Vivabook Flip 14 TP412UA-DB21T

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $449.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the ASUS Vivabook Flip TP412UA-DB21T

A good choice if you are looking for an inexpensive convertible laptop that can do everyday tasks such as emails, web, documents and movies while being highly portable and having a good battery life.

It is equipped with an Intel Pentium Gold 4451U 2 cores/4 threads 2.3GHz CPU, which is fine when it comes to everyday tasks. It offers significantly higher performance than Atom and Celeron CPUs found in low-cost laptops, as it’s based on the same high performance architecture as the Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs found in higher-end laptops.

Despite its low cost, you still get a touchscreen with a Full HD, 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with an Intel Pentium Gold 4451U 2 cores/4 threads 2.3GHz CPU.
  2. 128GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  3. One empty SO-DIMM RAM slot allows you to add RAM
  4. 2-in-1 convertible screen to switch to tablet mode for whatever suits your needs.
  5. 14″ sized touchscreen in a 13.3″ sized body
  6. SD card reader.
  7. 720p HD Webcam.
  8. 4 USB ports: 3x Type-A and one Type-C
  9. HDMI output to plug your device on a external screen.
  10. Dedicated volume buttons
  11. Fingerprint reader
  12. Thin and light: 12.9 x 8.9 x 0.7 inches and 3.3lbs
  13. Up to 10 hours battery life
  14. WiFi and Bluetooth
  15. 1 year accidental damage warranty covers drops, fire, spills

Cons:

  1. The CPU doesn’t support Turbo, so it cannot go beyond 2.3GHz, unlike Core i3/5/7/9 CPUs.
  2. 4GB of DDR4 RAM is on the low side, but there’s an empty RAM slot to add RAM.
  3. Despite the IPS panel, maximum brightness is fairly low and the covered color space isn’t that wide.
  4. No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
  5. Windows 10 S: Can be upgraded to Windows 10 Home Signature Edition (no bloatware) for free
  6. No numpad

Lenovo Flex 14 81SS000DUS

– Click here to check the price on Amazon

About the Lenovo Flex 14 81SS000DUS:

If you are looking for a convertible laptop that offers significantly better overall performance than the above recommendation, this is the model you are looking for.

It is equipped with the much more powerful AMD Ryzen 5 3500U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.1-3.7GHz CPU. Compared to the CPU in the ASUS above, you get twice the number of cores, as well as higher frequencies, resulting in higher performance in all cases.

You also get a lot more RAM, with 12GB and more, as well as higher performance storage, with a 256GB NVMe SSD.

Pros:

  1. AMD Ryzen 5 3500U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.1-3.7GHz CPU.
  2. Radeon Vega 8: Better integrated graphics than what Intel offers
  3. NVMe 256GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  4. 2-in-1 convertible screen to switch to laptop, display, tent or tablet mode for whatever suits your needs.
  5. 12GB of DDR4 RAM.
  6. Good Battery life: up to 10 hours
  7. Quick charge: 80% in 1 hour
  8. Thin and light : 12.91 x 9.02 x 0.7 in and 3.52lbs
  9. Physical Webcam Shutter for extra privacy
  10. Touchscreen with IPS display panel for better contrasts, accurate colors and larger view angles.
  11. Full size SD card reader
  12. Included active Pen
  13. Backlit keyboard
  14. Fingerprint reader
  15. HD Webcam.
  16. 3 USB ports: 1xUSB Type-C, 2x USB 3.0 Type-A
  17. HDMI output
  18. 802.11ac WiFi MU-MIMO
  19. Good keyboard
  20. Bluetooth
  21. Good build quality

Cons:

  1. No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
  2. No RJ-45 LAN Ethernet port
  3. No numpad

ASUS Zenbook Flip UX461FA-DH51T

– Click here to check the price on Amazon
– $849.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the ASUS Zenbook Flip UX461FA-DH51T:

Compared to the Lenovo Flex 14 above, you get an higher performance CPU, in a thinner and lighter device.

What you gain with the Lenovo is higher performance storage, with a M.2 PCIe 128GB SSD, which offers 2-3x the performance of the SATA III M.2 SSD found in the Acer Spin 5.

You also get more storage in total, thanks to the combo of the 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. So if you want high performance and lots of storage, the Lenovo Flex 5 is a more interesting solution than the Acer Spin 5.

You also get a stylus to use with the touchscreen.

On the downside, the battery life drops to 7 hours, compared to up to 13 hours for the Acer.

Pros:

  1. 8th gen Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.6-3.4GHz CPU.
  2. M.2 PCIe 128GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  3. 1TB hard drive for additional storage capacity
  4. 2-in-1 convertible screen to switch to laptop, display, tent or tablet mode for whatever suits your needs.
  5. 8GB of DDR4 RAM.
  6. Good Battery life: up to 7hrs.
  7. Thin and light : 12.77″ x 8.9″ x 0.63″ and 3.74lbs
  8. Touchscreen with IPS display panel for better contrasts, accurate colors and larger view angles.
  9. Full size SD card reader
  10. Backlit keyboard
  11. HD Webcam.
  12. Fingerprint reader
  13. 3 USB ports: 1xUSB Type-C, 2x USB 3.0 Type-A (including one with off-charging)
  14. HDMI output
  15. 802.11ac WiFi
  16. Bluetooth 4.1
  17. Dedicated volume and power buttons
  18. Good build quality, case made out of aluminum
  19. Included stylus

Cons:

  1. No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
  2. No RJ-45 LAN Ethernet port
  3. RAM is soldered and cannot be upgraded

2-in-1 Detachable screen ultrabook

Microsoft Surface Go

Renewed : – Click here to check the price on Amazon
New: – Click here to check the price on Amazon
New: $499.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
Type Cover (Sold Separately):
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $74.13 at B&H

Note that the Type cover (keyboard) and pen are sold separately.

About the Microsoft Surface Go:

Most detachable 2-in-1 computers have low performance Atom or Celeron CPUs, which are barely adequate for web browsing, let alone anything more demanding. The Microsoft Surface Go comes with higher performance Intel Pentium Gold CPU, which is based on the same architecture as Core CPUs, so it’s capable of handling everyday tasks, web browsing, Microsoft Office, video, social media, some light photo editing, etc.

If you plan on running more demanding programs or doing multitasking, go with the higher end Microsoft Surface Pro model recommended below.

Being only 0.3″ thick and 1.15lbs (tablet only), it is incredibly light and highly portable!

It comes with a gorgeous, high resolution 1800 x 1200 display, with a 3:2 aspect ratio.

If you’re looking for a low-cost alternative to the Microsoft Surface Pro, the Surface Go it is an excellent choice for the price.

For its great price and even better features, this is the best budget detachable 2-in-1 laptop on the market.

You may have noticed that there’s a lower-end model with 4GB of RAM. I don’t recommend it. 4GB is barely enough in 2019 and considering that you cannot add RAM in the Microsoft Surface, you’re better with 8GB, so that you can keep using your computer many years.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y Dual-COre 1.6GHz
  2. 128GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  3. 2-in-1 detachable screen to switch to tablet mode for whatever suits your needs.
  4. Fanless
  5. 8GB of RAM.
  6. Good Battery Life: up to 9hrs of video playback
  7. Charges fairly quickly
  8. Excellent kickstand
  9. Highly portable, incredibly lightweight : 9.7 x 6.9 x 0.3″ and 1.15lbs.
  10. High resolution 10″ 10-point touchscreen display: 1800 x 1200
  11. IPS display panel for better contrasts, accurate colors and larger view angles.
  12. MicroSD card reader to add an extra MicroSD card to add more storage for your music, videos and images.
  13. 8MP rear facing and 5MP front facing cameras!
  14. 802.11ac 2×2 MU-MIMO WiFi
  15. Bluetooth
  16. Two speakers.
  17. Dedicated volume buttons

Cons:

  1. Keyboard isn’t included
  2. Pen isn’t included
  3. RAM and storage cannot be upgraded
  4. Only 1x USB 3.1 Type-C port: You might need or want dongles
  5. CPU performance is fine for basic everyday tasks, but limited for anything more demanding
  6. Windows 10 S Mode: Can easily be upgraded to Windows 10 Home

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

– Click here to check the price on Amazon
– $779.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Note that the Type cover (keyboard) is included. 

About the Microsoft Surface Pro 6:

Compared to the Surface Go, the Surface Pro offers a much more powerful CPU, larger higher-resolution display and a longer battery life:
– The Intel Core i5-8250U, with twice the cores (4) and threads(8) and the inclusion of Turbo, allowing the CPU to boost from its base frequency of 1.6GHz all the way to 3.4GHz.

You get a larger 12.3″ 10-point touchscreen display with a 2736 x 1824 resolution.

You get up to 13.5 hours of battery life.

Another pro is that the Type Cover is included.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with an Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.6-3.4GHz
  2. 128GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  3. 2-in-1 detachable screen to switch to tablet mode for whatever suits your needs.
  4. 8GB of RAM.
  5. Excellent Battery Life: up to 13.5hrs.
  6. Highly portable, lightweight : 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.3″ and 1.71lbs.
  7. High resolution 12.3″ 10-point touchscreen display: 2736 x 1824
  8. IPS display panel for better contrasts, accurate colors and larger view angles.
  9. MicroSD card reader to add an extra MicroSD card to add more storage for your music, videos and images.
  10. 5MP (2592 x 1944) rear facing and 2MP (1920 x 1080) front facing cameras.
  11. 1x USB 3.0 Type-A port and one Mini-Displayport
  12. 8MP rear facing and 5MP front facing cameras!
  13. Bluetooth
  14. Included keyboard (Type Cover)
  15. Two speakers.
  16. Dedicated volume buttons

Cons:

  1. RAM and storage cannot be upgraded
  2. No USB Type-C

Apple Macbook

Apple MacBook Air 11 (MJVM2LL/A)

 

Renewed: – Click here to check the price on Amazon

About the MacBook Air 11:

This is the smaller variant, the 11-inch Macbook Air. I also recommend the 13-inch model below.

This is an Early 2015 model. Mind you, it is nearly identical to the 2017 model, the 2017 model only offering a very slight bump in CPU performance.

This is a renewed item, meaning that it has been restored to work and look like a new product, with minimal to no signs of wear, by a specialized third-party seller approved by Amazon. This is my recommendation if you want an Apple Macbook at the lowest cost possible. There are less expensive options, but with only 4GB of RAM, which is not enough nowadays.

This laptop is highly portable, solid, reliable, has a good excellent battery life, great backlit keyboard and an excellent trackpad.

Pros:

  1. Least expensive Macbook laptop.
  2. Thin and lightweight: Only 2.38lbs and 0.11-0.68″ thick. Perfect if you’re traveling and often on the move.
  3. It’s an Apple computer: Mac OS X, Time Machine backup (automatically backs up system data to an external hard drive), many built-in apps, highly reliable, excellent customer service
  4. Excellent keyboard, great for typing
  5. Backlit keyboard
  6. High-end performance storage makes your computer feel more responsive.
  7. Very quiet: The fan is hardly audible, unless you push the CPU to 100% for a long time.
  8. Long battery life: 12 hours of web browsing (when new, used will be undoubtedly lower)
  9. Solid chassis: All-aluminum unibody
  10. Solid screen hinge
  11. Excellent trackpad, with great multi-touch support
  12. MagSafe power connector which automatically detaches from your laptop if you pull on it, preventing your Macbook from accidentally falling if you trip on the power cord.
  13. Bluetooth

Cons:

  1. Limited amount of ports: 2x USB 3.0, one ThunderBolt 2 (Mini DisplayPort via Thunderbolt port) and a combo audio jack.
  2. Low screen resolution: Only 1440 x 900 resolution. Poor compared to the Macbook 12″ or Macbook Pro with their high-resolution Retina displays.
  3. Average CPU performance: Fine for web browsing, music, Office work and lightweight programs. Not ideal for heavy photo/video editing, heavy multitasking or demanding programs where high sustained CPU performance is required. You’ll want a more powerful CPU and possibly more RAM for better performance, so consider a Macbook Pro instead.
  4. Limited GPU (graphic card) performance. Forget playing modern video games or 3D rendering: you want a dedicated video card for that. Once again, a Macbook Pro would be a better option.
  5. No LAN port
  6. No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
  7. No Numpad
  8. Limited amount of storage
  9. Limited amount of RAM: 8GB is fine for web browsing, music, Office work and lightweight programs. Not ideal for heavy photo/video editing, heavy multitasking or demanding programs.
  10. The Macbook Air RAM cannot be upgraded: It’s soldered. The SSD storage can be upgraded if you have the right tool, don’t mind following a guide to disassemble your Macbook Air and a guide to copy your data.
  11. Renewed: According to Amazon: “Product works and looks like new. Comes with a 90-day warranty. Renewed products are pre-owned products not Apple certified but have been inspected and tested by Amazon-qualified suppliers. Box and accessories may be generic. All products on Amazon Renewed come with a minimum 90-day supplier-backed warranty.”

Apple MacBook Air 13 (MJVE2LL/A)

 

Renewed: – Click here to check the price on Amazon

About the MacBook Air 13:

This is the bigger variant, the 13-inch Macbook Air. I also recommend the 11-inch model above.

This is an Early 2015 model. Mind you, it is nearly identical to the 2017 model, the 2017 model only offering a very slight bump in CPU performance.

This is a renewed item, meaning that it has been restored to work and look like a new product, with minimal to no signs of wear, by a specialized third-party seller approved by Amazon. This is my recommendation if you want an Apple Macbook at the lowest cost possible. There are less expensive options, but with only 4GB of RAM, which is not enough nowadays.

This laptop is highly portable, solid, reliable, has a good excellent battery life, great backlit keyboard and an excellent trackpad.

Pros:

  1. Inexpensive, especially for a Macbook!
  2. Thin and lightweight: Only 2.96lbs and 0.11-0.68″ thick. Perfect if you’re traveling and often on the move.
  3. It’s an Apple computer: Mac OS X, Time Machine backup (automatically backs up system data to an external hard drive), many built-in apps, highly reliable, excellent customer service
  4. Excellent keyboard, great for typing
  5. Backlit keyboard
  6. High-end performance storage makes your computer feel more responsive.
  7. Very quiet: The fan is hardly audible, unless you push the CPU to 100% for a long time.
  8. Long battery life: 12 hours of web browsing (when new, used will be undoubtedly lower)
  9. Solid chassis: All-aluminum unibody
  10. Solid screen hinge
  11. SD card reader
  12. Excellent trackpad, with great multi-touch support
  13. MagSafe power connector which automatically detaches from your laptop if you pull on it, preventing your Macbook from accidentally falling if you trip on the power cord.
  14. Bluetooth 4.0

Cons:

  1. Limited amount of ports: 2x USB 3.0, one ThunderBolt 2 (Mini DisplayPort via Thunderbolt port) and a combo audio jack.
  2. Low screen resolution: Only 1440 x 900 resolution. Poor compared to the Macbook 12″ or Macbook Pro with their high-resolution Retina displays.
  3. Average CPU performance: Fine for web browsing, music, Office work and lightweight programs. Not ideal for heavy photo/video editing, heavy multitasking or demanding programs where high sustained CPU performance is required. You’ll want a more powerful CPU and possibly more RAM for better performance, so consider a Macbook Pro instead.
  4. Limited GPU (graphic card) performance. Forget playing modern video games or 3D rendering: you want a dedicated video card for that. Once again, a Macbook Pro would be a better option.
  5. No LAN port
  6. No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
  7. No Numpad
  8. Limited amount of storage
  9. Limited amount of RAM: 8GB is fine for web browsing, music, Office work and lightweight programs. Not ideal for heavy photo/video editing, heavy multitasking or demanding programs.
  10. The Macbook Air RAM cannot be upgraded: It’s soldered. The SSD storage can be upgraded if you have the right tool, don’t mind following a guide to disassemble your Macbook Air and a guide to copy your data.
  11. Renewed: According to Amazon: “Product works and looks like new. Comes with a 90-day warranty. Renewed products are pre-owned products not Apple certified but have been inspected and tested by Amazon-qualified suppliers. Box and accessories may be generic. All products on Amazon Renewed come with a minimum 90-day supplier-backed warranty.”

Gaming laptops

If you are looking for a budget gaming laptop, we have a whole article on the subject, click here to see our article on the Best Budget Laptops for Gaming and Creative Pros.

Traditional 14-15.6″ laptop

Acer Aspire 5 Slim A515-43-R19L:

– Click here to get the price on Amazon

About the Acer Aspire 5 Slim A515-43-R19L:

The Acer Aspire 5 Slim offers amazing value for the money.

It is equipped with a relatively powerful AMD Ryzen 3 3200U CPU, a screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution and an IPS panel for good viewing angles, contrast and colors, it offers a up to 7.5 hours battery life, high-performance SSD storage (no more slow hard drive!) and a backlit keyboard, all at an amazingly low price.

Best of all? It’s thin and light for a 15.6″ laptop, being .7″ thick and weighting under 4lbs!

If you want an inexpensive notebook to check the web, Facebook, Youtube, emails and the like, this is a fine choice. Want more power, a longer battery life or a more solid build? See my recommendation below.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with an AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.6-3.5GHz CPU.
  2. One empty RAM slot allows for an easy and inexpensive upgrade to 8GB (add a 4GB stick)
  3. Screen with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution
  4. Screen with wide viewing angles, good contrast and colors, thanks to the IPS panel
  5. Good battery life: up to 7.5 hours per charge, varies depending on your usage.
  6. Backlit keyboard : it’s easier to see your keys when typing where there is less light.
  7. Three USB Ports
  8. HDMI and VGA Outputs to plug in your display to an external screen.
  9. SD card reader for SD Cards : Can be useful for extra storage or to upload media from devices such as cameras.
  10. 802.11ac WiFi 5
  11. Optical drive
  12. HD webcam
  13. Numpad
  14. Bluetooth
  15. Thin and light for a 15.6″ laptop: .7″ thick and 3.97lbs

Cons:

  1. 4GB of RAM is enough for web browsing, Office and basic workloads, but you’ll need more for multitasking and heavier programs.
  2. Storage capacity is limited at 128GB
  3. No USB Type-C
  4. Only a dual-core CPU. Fine for web browsing, Office and basic workloads, but you’ll want a quad-core for multitasking and heavier programs.
  5. Average build quality. It’s all plastic and it could be better.
  6. Windows 10 in S mode; Can be upgraded for free to the regular Windows
  7. Keyboard layout could be better: the up and down arrow keys are half-size and the power button is part of the keyboard.

HP Probook 450 G6:

– Click here to check the price on Amazon

About the HP Probook 450 G6:

If you’re looking for better performance all around, better build quality and a longer battery life, the HP Probook 450 G6 is an excellent step up and a great choice overall.

It’s equipped with a more powerful Intel Core i5-8250U 8th gen processor, which offers 4 cores instead of two, it has twice the RAM with 8GB of DDR4 RAM and twice the storage capacity with 256GB.

Its battery life is also significantly longer, with up to 13 hours!

You also get a fingerprint reader.

Finally, you get a much more solid build, with a metal base.

Pros:

  1. Intel Core i5-8265U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.6-3.9GHz CPU.
  2. 8GB of DDR4 RAM that can be upgraded up to 32GB (2x64GB)
  3. Two RAM slots: One equipped with 8GB, the other one is empty
  4. Screen with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  5. Screen with an IPS panel: Good contrast, more accurate color reproduction and good viewing angles.
  6. Windows 10 Pro
  7. Empty 2.5″ drive bay allows you to add a 2.5″ SATA III hard drive or SSD.
  8. Great battery life of up to 13 hours!
  9. HDMI output to connect external screens or HDTV.
  10. 4x USB port! 3x Type-A  and 1 x USB Type C
  11. SD card reader: Can be useful for extra storage or to upload media from devices such as cameras.
  12. 802.11 ac WiFi
  13. Numpad
  14. Backlit keyboard
  15. Fingerprint reader
  16. Bluetooth
  17. Somewhat lightweight for a 15.6″ laptop: 4.41lbs

Cons:

  1. No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
  2. Display could be brighter: Maximum brightness of 220 cd/m²

17.3″ entertainment and desktop replacement laptop

– Click here to see the price on Amazon

About the HP 17.3″ Laptop:

A great entry-level 17.3″ laptop, with a decently powerful CPU, enough RAM and modern high-performance storage, all at a reasonable price.

You get a fairly powerful quad-core CPU, with 8GB of RAM, to handle most tasks without slowing down.

You get a 256GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system and you also get a large capacity 1TB HDD, as well as a rare thing nowadays, a DVD drive.

Finally, thanks to the efficient CPU, you get up to 9.25 hours of battery life!

Pros:

  1.  Good CPU: Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-core + Hyper-Threading 1.6-3.4GHz.
  2. 256GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  3. 1TB hard drive for additional storage
  4. 1600 x 900 HD+ resolution.
  5. Windows 10
  6. 2 xUSB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 Type A
  7. HDMI output to connect your display to an external display.
  8. Ethernet RJ45 port for a direct internet connection.
  9. SD card reader : Can be useful for extra storage or to upload media from devices such as cameras.
  10. 8GB of RAM.
  11. HD Webcam
  12. Optical drive
  13. Numpad
  14. DVD drive
  15. Backlit keyboard
  16. Dedicated left and right click buttons.
  17. Access to the RAM and hard drive, to easily upgrade.
  18. Good battery life for a 17.3″ laptop: Up to 9.25hrs

Cons:

  1. TN panel: Poor contrast, not accurate color reproduction and poor viewing angles.
  2. Poor integrated video card performance: Fine for web, movies, office and the like. Forget about gaming.

Business laptops

HP 14″ EliteBook 745 G5:
– $689.95 at B&H
HP 3-Year Next Business Day Onsite Hardware Support: – $64.95 at B&H

About the HP 14″ EliteBook 745 G5:

Featuring an AMD Ryzen 7 2700U quad-core + Hyper-Threading CPU, equipped with the AMD Radeon Vega graphics, combined with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB PCie NVMe SSD drive, this laptop is plenty fast for everyday Office tasks, while being reliable.

Security wise, you get HDD User Password Protection, Power-On Password, Infineon TPM Software Professional Package, Fingerprint Reader and a Smart card reader.

The SSD (Solid State Drive) has no moving part unlike an hard drive, meaning that it offers higher performance than a traditional hard drive as well as being more reliable and shock-resistant.

Weighting in at 3.37lbs, it’s also fairly lightweight, without sacrificing build quality.

You also get an high-quality display. It’s a Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080) display with a IPS panel, meaning wide viewing angles, good contrast and more accurate colors (100% sRGB). It can also get quite bright, with a maximum brightness of 400 cd/m2.

Battery life is rated at up to 12 hours.

Finally, you can buy HP 3-Year Next Business Day Onsite Hardware Support from B&H (see link above) for peace of mind that you’ll have quick support for your business laptop.

All of this makes the HP Elitebook 745 G5 an excellent entry-level business laptop.

Pros:

  1. High quality build, made of aluminum
  2. Secured BIOS with support for Intel’s Anti-Theft technology,
  3. TPM encryption
  4. Fingerprint and smart card reader for better authentication security.
  5. Equipped with an AMD Ryzen 7 2700U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.2-3.8GHz CPU.
  6. Windows 10 Pro
  7. 8GB of DDR4 RAM that can be upgraded up to 32GB (2x16GB).
  8. One empty RAM slot
  9. Screen with IPS panel: Good contrast, accurate color reproduction (100% sRGB) and good viewing angles.
  10. Display can get quite bright: maximum brightness of 400 cd/m2
  11. Display resolution is 1920 x 1080
  12. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light
  13. 3x USB 3.0 ports: Two Type-C and one Type-A
  14. Docking port
  15. HDMI output
  16. RJ-45 LAN Ethernet port
  17. HD webcam
  18. Bluetooth and 802.11ac WiFi
  19. Dedicated mouse buttons
  20. Good keyboard and touchpad
  21. Backlit keyboard
  22. Pointstick
  23. Up to twelve hours battery life
  24. Silent under light load, still quiet under heavier loads
  25. Stays cool under heavy load.
  26. Decent speakers, firing upward

Cons:

  1. No numpad
  2. No optical drive

Best Laptop for Power Users

If you are looking for a low-cost powerful laptop, see our recommendations for Creative Pros in the Best Budget Laptops for Gaming and Creative Pros article.

Workstations

HP ZBook G5:

– Click here to see the price on Amazon

About the HP ZBook G5:

If you are looking for a great budget mobile workstation at a relatively low price, the HP ZBook G5 is the way to go.

It is equipped with an Intel i5-8300H Quad-core + Hyper-threading 2.3-4.0GHz CPU combined with a Nvidia Quadro P1000 4GB workstation class graphic card which comes with workstation class drivers.

You also get 16GB of RAM, a 256GB PCie NVMe high-performance storage and a 1TB hard drive for additional storage.

Display wise, you get a 15.6″ IPS 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) anti-glare, with wide angle, good contrast and good color accuracy. For external displays, you have two outputs: HDMI 2.0 and Displayport 1.3 through the USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 port.

Of course, being a workstation laptop, it is solid, with military certification specs.

Unlike most older workstations, this one offers a good battery life, you can expect about 9 hours of web browsing.

While obviously it isn’t as powerful as more expensive options, this is a great entry-level workstation laptop without major compromises.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with a Intel Core i5-8300H Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.3-4.0GHz Quad Core CPU
  2. Dedicated NVIDIA Quadro P1000 4GB workstation class graphic card.
  3. Windows 10 Pro
  4. 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD for improved responsiveness and booting speed.
  5. 2nd M.2 slot is empty to add another SSD is you want to.
  6. 16GB (1x16GB) of DDR4 2666MHz RAM
  7. Supports up to 64GB (2x32GB) of RAM
  8. 1920 x 1080 resolution
  9. IPS panel, more accurate colors, better contrast, wider viewing angles
  10. Matte screen
  11. HDMI 2.0 and Displayport 1.3 (through the USB Type-C/Thunderbolt)
  12. 2x USB 3.0 ports and 2x USB Type-C ports
  13. Bluetooth 5.0
  14. SD card reader and a fast one at that
  15. Great build quality: Unibody, with military specs certification
  16. Trackpoint
  17. Great keyboard layout
  18. Numpad
  19. Backlit keyboard
  20. Keyboard is spill resistant
  21. Excellent speakers for a laptop
  22. Laptop stays relatively quiet at idle and isn’t particularly loud under sustained load
  23. GPU performance is not limited when the machine is running on battery.
  24. Cooling is good enough to prevent throttling due to overheating.
  25. Laptop stays relatively cool
  26. Good battery life: Expect about 9 hours of video watching or web browsing
  27. RJ-45 LAN Ethernet port
  28. 802.11ac WiFi
  29. Fingerprint reader
  30. 720p Webcam

Cons:

  1. It’s hard to find a fault considering what you get at this price point? Perhaps the CPU could be more powerful with a 6-core variant?
  2. Somewhat heavy and thick for a 15.6″ laptop, some workstations are lighter: 1″ thick and 5.73lbs

Upgrade your Laptop:

Upgrade your RAM:

RAM can be upgraded on many laptops. Do note that some laptops cannot be upgraded at all, due to their unique design. A quick google search should provide that info. Feel free to ask me in the comment section if you aren’t sure and need help figuring it all out.

External storage drive

Do you want to buy a external storage drive for extra storage or backup? Check out our recommendations for the Best External Hard Drives, SSDs and Flash Drives.

Conclusion

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article.

With this being such a long article 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.