Disclosure: I only recommend products that I would use myself. This post contains affiliate links so that, as an Amazon and B&H Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you. Prices for B&H as of March 9th 2021. Click on Amazon links to see current prices. Prices and availability are subject to change.

The Best Budget Laptops?

Many don’t have the knowledge to understand detailed computer specifications and just want to know: “What’s the best laptop for my needs and budget?

By the best, I mean reliable laptops that offer the best performance at prices up to $999.

With 20 years of experience with computer hardware, keeping up with new products and ever-changing prices, I’m here to help you find the best deals. See my About page.

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, according to those features that I evaluated on hundreds of laptops.

A worldwide guide!

B&H offers worldwide shipping, while Amazon links should direct you to your local Amazon site (USA, UK, Germany, etc.)

Looking for all our articles on laptops?

Visit the Best Laptops For Your Money category page.

Summary: Best Budget Laptops

Click on any of these links to jump to the section that interests you, or scroll down to see them all, in this order.

  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/tablet: 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 15.6″ laptop: If you want a “normal” laptop, with a 15.6″ screen and a numpad
  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

Chromebook: Simple, inexpensive, secure, Chrome OS

What are Chromebooks?

Chromebooks are laptops that run the Chrome Operating System (OS) instead of Windows or Mac OS.

While using a Chromebook is different from a Windows or Mac laptop, if you have an Android device or have used Chrome before, you’ll feel just at home. Even if that isn’t the case, it’s easy to learn.

If you use your laptop to browse the web, check your e-mails, go on social media, watch Netflix and listen to Spotify, a Chromebook is a computer that is simple to use. Perfect for less tech-inclined familly or as a second computer.

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.
6- Highly secure and with automatic updates, you’re unlikely to run into any virus or malware problems.

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.

About the Acer Chromebook 514

Quad-Core Intel Celeron N3450/4GB RAM/64GB storage: – Click here to see the price on Amazon

WARNING:
Avoid the Intel Celeron N3350 CPU Acer Chromebook 514 and other Chromebooks equipped with it.

While it may appear as an attractive less-expensive alternative, the model equipped with the Celeron N3350 CPU offers anemic performance. There are other less expensive alternatives too, but I don’t recommend them because they feature awfully low-performance Intel Atom or AMD low-end dual-core CPUs or only 2GB of RAM, which wasn’t good enough years ago, let alone now!

I recommended at least the quad-core Celeron N3450 and 4GB of RAM.

So the Acer Chromebook 514 is the least expensive Chromebook that I recommend. Despite its low price, it feels like a much more expensive and modern laptop, with few compromises.

Featuring:
– An aluminium build, which is better than a cheap plastic chassis.
– A full HD 1920 x 1080 display, with an IPS panel for wide viewing angles, good contrast and colors and a none reflective finish.
– Charging through an USB Type-C port.
– A backlit keyboard
– A good trackpad
– Battery life is rated at an excellent up to 12 hours.
– Flash storage, for very quick boot and instant resume from sleep.

Its main downside is limited CPU performance: You get an Intel Celeron N3450 Quad-Core 1.1-2.2Hz CPU. While it is no powerhouse, it is significantly better than lower end dual-core models, but still no match for a modern Intel Core or AMD Zen CPU. That said, the Chrome OS uses much less resources than Windows or MacOS, so everyday performance is adequate for web browsing, checking email, documents, social media, etc.

As long as you don’t multitask heavily and don’t mind not having the fastest CPU, this Chromebook offers amazing value for the price.

Want more CPU performance? See the higher-end Acer Chromebook 714 or the HP below, available with Intel Core architecture CPUs.

Pros:

  1. Least expensive recommendation
  2. Intel Celeron N3450 Quad-Core 1.1-2.2GHz CPU: Not a powerhouse but significantly better than lower end dual-core models
  3. 4GB of RAM: Enough for web browsing and a few apps
  4. Three USB ports: Two USB Type-C with charging and Displayport output support and one USB 3.0 ports
  5. Great battery life of up to 12 hours.
  6. Aluminum build
  7. WiFi 5 802.11ac 2×2 Dual-Band
  8. Bluetooth 4.2
  9. Quite portable for a laptop with a 14″ display: 12.72 x 9.13 x 0.67″ and 3.09lbs
  10. Full HD 1920 x 1080 display
  11. IPS panel, meaning that you get wide viewing angles, good contrast and colors
  12. Touchscreen
  13. microSD card reader

Cons:

  1. RAM is soldered: You cannot add RAM
  2. No numpad.
  3. Storage is soldered and there’s no available M.2 slot to add a SSD. There’s a MicroSD slot and you can use Google Drive too.

More powerful CPUs: Acer Chromebook 714

– Core i3-8130U 4GB RAM, 128GB: – Click here to see the price on Amazon
– Core i3-8130U 8GB RAM, 64GB: Click here to see the price on Amazon / $614.49 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
– Core i5-8250U 8GB RAM 64GB: Click here to see the price on Amazon / $719.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Acer Chromebook 714

The Acer Chromebook 714 is basically an higher-end version of the Acer Chromebook 514 recommended above.

You still get the aluminum build, an excellent 12 hours battery life as well as the Full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS display.

What you gain are more powerful CPU, more RAM, more storage, a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader, USB Type-C ports and a micro-SD card reader.

You lose the HDMI output, but get Displayport output from the USB Type-C, so you just need an adapter if you want HDMI output.

Choose between 3 hardware configurations, in order from slowest to fastest:
2. Intel Core i3-8130U Dual-Core / 4 threads 2.2-3.4GHz, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage
2. Intel Core i3-8130U Dual-Core / 4 threads 2.2-3.4GHz, 8GB of RAM and 64GB of storage
3. Intel Core i5-8250U Quad-Core / 8 threads 1.6-3.4GHz , 8GB of RAMand 64GB of storage

Which one should you pick? Well, it depends on what you need and want. If you only want to browse the web and install a few apps, the entry-level option is fine. If you plan on having many tabs open, opt at least for the mid-level option, with its 8GB of RAM. If you want the highest performance for the fastest computing experience possible with this Acer Chromebook, opt for the Core i5-8250U model.

Pros:

  1. Relatively high performance CPUs
  2. 4GB or 8GB of RAM
  3. Three USB ports, including Two Type-C ports
  4. Great battery life of up to 12 hours.
  5. Aluminum build
  6. Backlit keyboard
  7. Charging through USB Type-C
  8. Displayport output through USB Type-C
  9. WiFi 5 802.11ac 2×2 Dual-Band
  10. Micro SD card reader
  11. Bluetooth 4.2
  12. Numpad on the 15.6″ model
  13. 14″ model: Highly portable for a laptop with a 14″ display: 12.7 x 9.4 x 0.7″ and 3.53lbs
  14. Full HD 1920 x 1080 display
  15. IPS panel, meaning that you get wide viewing angles, good contrast and colors
  16. Decent storage capacity : 64 or 128GB

Cons:

  1. RAM is soldered: You cannot add RAM
  2. No numpad on the 14″ model
  3. Storage is soldered and there’s no available M.2 slot to add a SSD. There’s a MicroSD slot and you can use Google Drive too.
  4. No touchscreen

2-in-1 convertible Chromebook, fanless, 13MP camera, built-in pen

12.2″ Samsung Chromebook Plus V2

32GB of storage: – Click here to see the price on Amazon
64GB of storage: – Click here to see the price on Amazon

About the Samsung Chromebook Plus V2

The Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 is my recommendation if you want a convertible 2-in-1 Chromebook.

Processor wise, you get an Intel Core m3-7y30, a 2 cores / 4 threades Core CPU with Turbo frequency up to 2.6GHz. With its 4.5W TDP, it sips power for a long battery life and it is fanless.

Speaking of battery life, it is rated at a great 10 hours. You also get a 13MP camera, with autofocus, a rare thing on laptops.

The display is a fantastic 16:10 ratio Full HD 1920 x 1200 IPS touchscreen.

Of course, this being a 2-in-1 laptop, you can flip the screen back and use it as a tablet.

There’s a built-in pen, with 4096 levels of pressure and tilt.

Pros:

  1. Fanless
  2. Built-in pen, 4096 levels of pressure and tilt
  3. Intel Core m3-7y30 Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.0-2.6GHz CPU
  4. 4GB of RAM: Enough for web browsing and a few appsFour USB ports, including Two Type-C ports
  5. Great battery life of up to 10 hours.
  6. Charging through USB Type-C
  7. Displayport output through USB Type-C
  8. WiFi 5 802.11ac 2×2 Dual-Band
  9. Micro SD card reader
  10. Bluetooth 4.0
  11. Highly portable: 11.35 x 0.67 x 8.20 and 2.98lbs
  12. Full HD 1920 x 1200 touchscreen display
  13. IPS panel, meaning that you get wide viewing angles, good contrast and colors
  14. 32GB or 64GB of storage capacity
  15. 13MP camera

Cons:

  1. RAM is soldered: You cannot add RAM
  2. Keyboard isn’t backlit
  3. Storage is soldered and there’s no available M.2 slot to add a SSD. There’s a MicroSD slot and you can use Google Drive too.
  4. Plastic build, but a good quality one

More powerful CPU, fingerprint reader and RAM that can be upgraded

14″ HP Pro c640

– $778.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping) 

About the HP Pro c640

The HP Pro c640 offers even higher performance, along with a fingerprint reader, more USB ports, a HDMI port and much better top firing speakers.

You still get an aluminum build, an excellent 12 hours battery life as well as the Full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS display.

You also get the ability to upgrade the RAM from 8GB (soldered onboard) to 16GB by adding a 8GB DDR4 2666MHz stick in the empty RAM slot.

Pros:

  1. Intel Core i5-10310U Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.6-4.4GHz CPU
  2. 8GB of RAM: Plenty enough for pretty much any usage on a Chromebook
  3. Empty RAM slot allowing you to upgrade to 16GB by adding a 8GB stick.
  4. Four USB ports, including Two Type-C ports
  5. Great battery life of up to 12 hours.
  6. Aluminum build
  7. Backlit keyboard
  8. Charging through USB Type-C
  9. Displayport output through USB Type-C
  10. WiFi 6 802.11ax 2×2 Dual-Band
  11. Micro SD card reader
  12. Bluetooth 5.0
  13. Top firing speakers
  14. Fingerpring reader
  15. Highly portable for a laptop with a 14″ display: 12.8 x 8.07 x 0.65″ and 3.31lbs
  16. Full HD 1920 x 1080 display
  17. IPS panel, meaning that you get wide viewing angles, good contrast and colors
  18. Good storage capacity for a Chromebook: 64GB

Cons:

  1. Storage is soldered and there’s no available M.2 slot to add a SSD. There’s a MicroSD slot and you can use Google Drive too.
  2. No touchscreen
  3. Maximum display brightness is rated at 250 cd/m2, which can be a bit low if you go outdoors

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.

MSI Modern 14

– Click here to see the price on Amazon

About the MSI Modern 14:

An highly portable (12.68 x 0.63 x 8.74″) lightweight (2.62lbs) laptop that offers 8-9 hours of real life web browsing battery life, the MSI Modern 14 is a great all-around laptop.

Processing power wise, you get a 1.6-4.2GHz quad-core/8 threads Intel Core i5-10210U, capable of handling the vast majority of tasks.

You also get 8GB of RAM and unlike most ultrabooks, the RAM can be upgraded. There are two RAM slots, one occupied with a 8GB stick and the other one is empty.

Equipped with a 14″ screen with a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080, with 100% sRGB color coverage. You also get a full-size SD card reader.

Pros:

  1. Intel Core i5-10210U Quad-Core/ 8 threads 1.6-4.2GHz CPU
  2. 8GB (1x8GB) of RAM
  3. Empty RAM slot
  4. RAM can be upgraded up to 64GB
  5. Full size SD card slot
  6. 4x USB ports, including two USB Type-C
  7. Great battery life of up to 8-9 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. Highly portable: 8.64 x 12.69 x 0.67″ and 3.02lbs
  12. Full HD 1920 x 1080 display
  13. IPS panel with 100% sRGB color coverage
  14. Backlit keyboard

Cons:

  1. Webcam on the bottom bezel makes for an unflattering angle
  2. USB Type-C ports don’t support charging, Displayport nor Thunderbolt
  3. Older Intel CPU: Newer 11th generation offer improved performance

Samsung Galaxy Book Ion

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $799.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Samsung Galaxy Book Ion

Ultra thin and light!
This is the lightest and thinning recommended laptop. It weights a mere 2.14lbs and is only .46″ thick.

On top of that, you get an excellent QLED display with a high maximum brightness.

Of course, the battery life is outstanding: Up to 22 hours!

Pros:

  1. Core i7-10510U Quad-Core 1.8-4.9GHz
  2. 13.3″ screen with Full HD 1080p 1920 x 1080 resolution
  3. IPS panel: Great contrast, vibrant colors and large viewing angles.
  4. Maximum brightness of 600nits
  5. 8GB of DDR4 RAM allows you to run a good amount of programs at once and do several tasks.
  6. 512GB SSD for a more responsive system and a faster booting speed.
  7. Outstanding battery life: Up to 22 hours
  8. MicroSD card reader
  9. 1x USB type-C / Thunderbolt 3 that supports Displayport output
  10. 2x USB Type-A ports
  11. 720p HD (1280 x 720) webcam
  12. Sleek build
  13. Backlit keyboard
  14. Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)  MU-MIMO
  15. Bluetooth 5.0
  16. Highly portable: 2.14lbs
  17. Fingerprint reader

Cons:

  1. RAM is soldered and cannot be upgraded

The Best 2-in-1 convertible screen ultrabooks

i5-1035G1/8GB RAM/128GB SSD: – Click here to see the price on Amazon
i5-1035G1/8GB RAM/512GB SSD: – $659.00 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
i7-1065G7/8GB RAM/256GB SSD: – $849.00 on B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5

Available with multiple configurations, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 is an excellent all around 2-in-1 convertible laptop.

All models are equipped with a 14″ touchscreen with a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a fingerprint reader. Also standard is the backlit keyboard and a battery life up to 10 hours.

CPU wise, you have two choices, all based on the modern Intel Ice Lake architecture:
1- The Core i5-1035G1, a 1.0-3.6GHz Quad Core/ 8 threads CPU, which is a significantly upgrade compared to the Core i3.
2- The Core i7-1065G7, a 1.3-3.9GHz Quad-Core / 8 threads CPU, which is a small improvement compared to the Core i5. Unless you need all the performance that you can get, the Core i5 option is more cost effective.

You have the choice between only 4GB of RAM, which will limit you to running only a few apps and web pages, or 8GB, which is sufficient for most tasks and some multi-tasking. Note that the RAM is soldered and cannot be upgraded, so unless you’re tight on money, I’d opt for 8GB of RAM.

Storage wise, you have the choice between 128, 256 or 512GB of storage. Unless you store everything online, 128GB isn’t much, with Windows using a good part of it, so storage can become limited and can fill up pretty quickly. 256GB is an appreciable ammount and ought to be sufficient unless you install many program and have a significant media collection, in which case 512GB might be a better idea.

Pros:

  1. Inexpensive 2-in-1 convertible laptop
  2. 128-512GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  3. 2-in-1 convertible screen to switch to laptop, display, tent or tablet mode for whatever suits your needs.
  4. Touchscreen with VA display panel for good contrasts, colors and fairly large viewing angles.
  5. Full size SD card reader
  6. Backlit keyboard
  7. Webcam
  8. 3 USB ports: 2x USB Type-A and 1x USB  Type-C with Power Delivery
  9. HDMI output
  10. WiFi6 802.11ax MU-MIMO
  11. Battery life of up to 10 hours

Cons:

  1. No RJ-45 LAN Ethernet port
  2. No numpad
  3. RAM is soldered and cannot be upgraded

ASUS 13.3″ ZenBook Flip 13 UX363EA-DH51T

Core i5-1035G1 1.0-3.6GHz:
– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $949.99 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

Compared to the laptop above, you get a lighter, more portable laptop with a longer battery runtime.

Compared to the laptop above, CPU performance is higher for single-threaded tasks, such as web browsing and everyday responsiveness, with the Intel Core i5-1135G7, based on Intel’s latest Tiger Lake CPU architecture, which runs at significantly higher frequencies. The i5-1135G7 also features Intel’s higher-end integrated graphics.

You also get a pen, along with two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Pros:

  1. Intel Core i5-1135G7 Quad-Core/ 8 threads 2.4-4.2GHz
  2. M.2 PCIe 512GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  3. 2-in-1 convertible screen to switch to laptop, display, tent or tablet mode for whatever suits your needs.
  4. 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM.
  5. Great battery life: up to 16hrs.
  6. Thin and light : 12 x 8.3 x 0.47″ and 2.87lbs
  7. Touchscreen with OLED display panel for better contrasts, accurate colors and larger view angles.
  8. Included pen
  9. microSD card reader
  10. Backlit keyboard
  11. HD Webcam.
  12. 3 USB ports: 2xUSB Type-C/Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB 3.0 Type-A
  13. HDMI output
  14. WiFi6 802.11ax MU-MIMO
  15. Bluetooth 5.0
  16. Dedicated volume and power buttons
  17. Good keyboard

Cons:

  1. RAM is soldered and cannot be upgraded
  2. No RJ-45 port

2-in-1 Detachable screen ultrabook

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

128GB + Type Cover included: – $799.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)
256GB + Type Cover included: – $999.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Microsoft Surface Pro 7:

Note that there are higher-end models available, but they are outside the price range discussed in this article.

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

You get up to 10.5 hours of battery life.

Note that the type cover (keyboard) is usually sold separately but is included with my recommendations.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with an Intel Core i5-1035G4 Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.1-3.7GHz
  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. Great Battery Life: up to 10.5hrs.
  6. Highly portable, lightweight : 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33″ and 1.7lbs.
  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. 8MP rear facing and 5MP front facing cameras.
  11. 1x USB 3.0 Type-A port and 1x USB Type-C
  12. 8MP rear facing and 5MP front facing cameras!
  13. Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
  14. Bluetooth 5.0
  15. Two speakers.
  16. Dedicated volume buttons

Cons:

  1. RAM and storage cannot be upgraded

Apple Macbook

Apple MacBook Air 11 (MJVM2LL/A)

Renewed: – Click here to see the price on Amazon

About the MacBook Air 11:

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

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 M1

Renewed: – Click here to check the price on Amazon
Brand new: $999.00 at B&H

About the MacBook Air M1:

This is the newer “M1” model, with the high performance Apple M1 CPU/GPU, 8GB of RAM and high-performance SSD storage.

Amazon renewed: This means 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.

If you don’t want to mess with a refurbished Macbook, you can buy it brand new from B&H, which are a authorized Apple reseller, for not that much more money.

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

Pros:

  1. High performance and highly efficient CPU/GPU
  2. Thin and lightweight: Only 2.8lbs and 0.63″ 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. Silent: No fan
  8. Long battery life: 18 hours of web browsing (when new, renewed may be lower)
  9. Solid chassis: All-aluminum unibody
  10. Solid screen hinge
  11. Excellent trackpad, with great multi-touch support
  12. Bluetooth
  13. 2560 x 1600 High-resolution Retina display with excellent viewing angles and color accuracy

Cons:

  1. Limited amount of ports: 2 x Thunderbolt 3/ USB 4 (Supports DisplayPort) and a combo audio jack.
  2. No LAN port
  3. No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
  4. No Numpad
  5. Limited amount of storage
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Gaming / Creative Pro laptops

If you are looking for a budget laptop for gaming or as a creative pro, we have an article dedicated to that, click here to see our article on the Best Budget Laptops for Gaming and Creative Pros.

Traditional 15.6″ laptop

Acer Aspire 3:

– $549.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Acer Aspire 3:

The Acer Aspire 3 offers amazing value for the money.

It is equipped with an Intel quad-core CPU, a screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, it offers a up to 8 hours battery life and an high-performance 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD storage (no more slow hard drive!), all at a great price.

Best of all? It’s thin and light for a 15.6″ laptop, being .78″ thick and weighting 4.18lbs.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with an Intel Core i5-1035G1 Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.0-3.6GHz CPU.
  2. 8GB of RAM
  3. 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  4. Screen with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution
  5. Good battery life: up to 8 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 Type-A
  8. HDMI Output to plug in your display to an external screen.
  9. Wi-Fi 5 802 11ac
  10. Numpad
  11. Bluetooth4.2
  12. Windows 10 Home
  13. Thin and light for a 15.6″ laptop: .78″ thick and 4.18lbs

Cons:

  1. No backlit keyboard
  2. Average build quality. It’s all plastic
  3. No USB Type-C
  4. Low resolution 640 x 480 webcam

Lenovo IdeaPad 5:

– Click here to see the price on Amazon
– $649.00 at B&H (Worldwide Shipping)

About the Lenovo IdeaPad 5:

Compared to the model above, you get the same CPU, twice the RAM, a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader, a longer battery life (up to 12 hours), a better build quality and an USB Type-C port, with power delivery and displayport output. I almost forgot: A much more decent 720p HD webcam.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with an Intel Core i5-1035G1 Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 1.0-3.6GHz CPU.
  2. 16GB of DDR4 RAM
  3. Screen with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  4. Screen with an IPS panel: Good contrast, more accurate color reproduction and good viewing angles.
  5. Windows 10 Home
  6. 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD for faster boot and a responsive PC
  7. Good battery life of up to 12 hours
  8. HDMI output to connect external screens or HDTV.
  9. 3 USB port: 2x Type-A  and 1 x USB Type C with Power Delivery and Displayport
  10. SD card reader: Can be useful for extra storage or to upload media from devices such as cameras.
  11. WiFi 6 802.11ax MU-MIMO
  12. Bluetooth 5.0
  13. Numpad
  14. Backlit keyboard
  15. Fingerprint reader

Cons:

  1. RAM is soldered and cannot be upgraded

17.3″ entertainment and desktop replacement laptop
About 17.3″ laptops:

I am amazed at how many 17.3″ laptops are equipped with one of the following three annoying downsides:
– A 1366 x 768 or 1600 x 900 resolution display: I mean, come on, we can easily find 300-400$ laptops with 1080p displays nowadays, why is it so difficult to find one on a 17.3″ laptop?
– Hard Drive only: A modern laptop should be highly responsive, thanks to a SSD.
– Anemic CPU performance: Many options with ancient AMD CPUs or low performance Intel Atom CPUs.

So many 17.3″ options are disqualified from the get-go due to the presence of one of these deal breakers.

About the ASUS VivoBook 17 S712:

Ryzen 3 3250U Dual Core: – Click here to see the price on Amazon
Ryzen 7 3700U Quad Core: – Click here to see the price on Amazon

A great 17.3″ laptop, available with two configurations:
1. AMD Ryzen 3 3250U, a Dual-Core / 4 threads 2.6-3.5GHz CPU, 12GB of RAM and a 256GB PCIe SSD
2. AMD Ryzen 7 3700U, a Quad-core / 8 threads 2.3-4.0GHz CPU, 12GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD

To complete the package, you get a full HD IPS 17.3″ display, all at a reasonable price. You get a SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system. It’s also lightweight for a 17.3″ laptop, weighting in at only 5.07lbs.

If you want more performance, see the model recommended below.

Pros:

  1. Decent or good CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 3250U Dual-Core / 4 threads 2.6-3.5GHz or AMD Ryzen 7 3700U Quad-core / 8 threads 2.3-4.0GHz
  2. 256 or 512GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  3. Empty 2.5″ drive bay allows you to add a second SSd or hard drive
  4. 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution
  5. IPS panel means wide viewing angles
  6. Windows 10 Home
  7. 1x USB Type-C, 2 xUSB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 Type A
  8. HDMI output to connect your display to an external display.
  9. MicroSD card reader
  10. WiFi 5 802.11ac
  11. 12GB of DDR4 RAM
  12. Webcam
  13. Numpad
  14. Backlit keyboard
  15. Lightweight for a 17.3″ laptop: 5.07lbs

Cons:

  1. No integrated DVD drive, but you can always plug in an external USB drive
  2. No Ethernet RJ-45

About the HP ProBook 470 G7:

– $889.00 at B&H

If you insist on having an integrated DVD drive, Ethernet Rj-45 and or a full-size SD card reader, the HP Probook 470 is a good alternative to the laptop recommended above.

Like the model above, you get a latest generation Intel quad-core CPU, 8GB of RAM, a full HD IPS 17.3″ display, enough RAM and modern high-performance storage, all at a reasonable price.

You still get a 256GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system, but no hard drive, but there’s a 2.5″ 7mm drive bay available for you to add a hard drive or SSD if you wish to.

You also get a dedicated graphic card, the AMD Radeon 530 with 2 GB GDDR5, but this is an entry-level graphic card, not a powerhouse. You can still play older games at a low resolution with low graphic settings.

It’s still lightweight for a 17.3″ laptop, weighting in at 5.2lbs.

Pros:

  1.  Great CPU: Core i7-10510U Quad-core + Hyper-Threading 1.8-4.9GHz
  2. 256GB SSD for fast boot and a more responsive system.
  3. 1TB hard drive
  4. 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution
  5. IPS panel means wide viewing angles
  6. Screen with Matte finish
  7. Windows 10 Home
  8. 2 xUSB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 Type A
  9. HDMI output to connect your display to an external display.
  10. SD card reader
  11. WiFi 5 802.11ac
  12. Bluetooth 5.0
  13. 8GB of DDR4 RAM
  14. Two RAM slots, one occupied with a 8GB stick and the other one is free
  15. HD Webcam
  16. Numpad
  17. Backlit keyboard
  18. Lightweight for a 17.3″ laptop: 5.2lbs
  19. Dedicated entry-level graphic card: AMD Radeon 530 with 2 GB GDDR5
  20. Integrated DVD drive
  21. Ethernet RJ-45 port
  22. Dedicated mouse buttons
  23. Battery life up to 13.5 hours

Cons:

  1. On the thicker side: 0.96″ thick. To be expected considering the integrated DVD drive
  2. No USB Type-C is 2020 is disappointing

Business laptops

HP 14″ EliteBook 445 G7:

Standard 250 cd/m2 45% NTSC 1080p display:
– AMD Ryzen 5 4500U 6 cores/ 8GB RAM/ 256GB SSD: – $748.95 at B&H
– AMD Ryzen 5 4500U 6 cores/ 16GB RAM/ 256GB SSD: – $772.95 at B&H
– AMD Ryzen 7 4700U 8 cores/ 8GB RAM/ 256GB SSD: – $842.50 at B&H
– AMD Ryzen 7 4700U 8 cores/ 16GB RAM/ 512GB SSD: – $949.00 at B&H

Sureview 1000 cd/m2 100% sRGB 1080p display:
– AMD Ryzen 5 4500U 6 cores/ 8GB RAM/ 512GB SSD: – $861.95 at B&H
– AMD Ryzen 7 4700U 8 cores/ 8GB RAM/ 256GB SSD: – $959.95 at B&H

HP 3-Year Next Business Day Onsite Hardware Support: – $107.50 at B&H

About the HP 14″ EliteBook 445 G7:

Featuring an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U 6 cores/12 thrads or Ryzen 7 4700U 8 cores/16 threads CPU, equipped with the AMD Radeon Vega graphics, combined with 8GB or 16GB of RAM and a 256GB or 512GB PCie NVMe SSD drive, this laptop is highly powerful, capable of handling everyday Office tasks, as well as more demanding photo editing when equipped with the Sureview display, while being reliable.

Do you have a preference for an Intel-powered laptop? See the Intel powered HP Elitebook recommended below.

Security wise, you get storage User Password Protection, Power-On Password, Infineon TPM Software Professional Package and a Fingerprint 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 3.5lbs, it’s also fairly lightweight, without sacrificing build quality.

You get the choice between two displays. Both are Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080) display with a IPS panel, meaning wide viewing angles and good contrast. The entry-level one has lower maximum brightness and a more limited color gamut coverage. It is fine for basic Office work. If you plan on editing photos and need proper color coverage, opt for the Sureview display, which can get 4x times as bright and covers 100% of the sRGB color space.

Despite all this processing power, battery life is rated at up to 15.25 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 445 an excellent business laptop.

Pros:

  1. Good quality build, mix of aluminum and plastic
  2. TPM encryption, power-on password, storage password
  3. Fingerprint smart card reader for better authentication security.
  4. Equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U Six Cores/12 threads 2.3-4.0GHz or Ryzen 7 4700U 8 cores / 16 threads 2.0-4.1GHz CPU.
  5. Windows 10 Pro
  6. 8GB or 16GB of DDR4 RAM that can be upgraded up to 32GB (2x16GB).
  7. Screen with IPS panel: Good contrast and large viewing angles.
  8. Display resolution is 1920 x 1080
  9. 256GB or 512GB PCIe high-performance SSD.
  10. Empty 2.5″ 7mm drive bay, to add another storage drive
  11. 4x USB ports: One Type-C, with Displayport and power delivery, and three Type-A
  12. HDMI 1.4 output
  13. RJ-45 LAN Ethernet port
  14. HD 720p webcam
  15. SD card reader
  16. Bluetooth and 802.11ac WiFi
  17. Good keyboard and touchpad
  18. Backlit keyboard
  19. Silent under light load, still quiet under heavier loads
  20. Touchpad and surrounding areas stay cool under heavy load.
  21. Good speakers, located above the keyboard, firing upward

Cons:

  1. No numpad
  2. No optical drive
  3. No dedicated mouse buttons
  4. No maintenance hatch, you must remove the bottom cover to access the hardware.
  5. Bottom of laptop can get hot under heavy loads, if you rest your laptop on your lap.
  6. Glossy display

HP 14″ EliteBook 440 G8:
– No touchscreen: – $919.00 at B&H
– With touchscreen: – $969.00 at B&H
HP 3-Year Next Business Day Onsite Hardware Support: – $107.50 at B&H

About the HP 14″ EliteBook 440 G8:

Featuring an Intel Core i5-1135G7 quad-core + Hyper-Threading 2.4-4.2GHz, equipped with Intel Iris Xe integrated 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 storage User Password Protection, Power-On Password, Infineon TPM Software Professional Package and a Fingerprint 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 3lbs, it’s lightweight, without sacrificing build quality.

Battery life is rated at up to 14.75 hours (at idle), but realistically expect up to 10-12 hours of web browsing.

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 440 an excellent business laptop.

Pros:

  1. Good quality build, mix of aluminum and plastic
  2. TPM encryption, power-on password, storage password
  3. Fingerprint smart card reader for better authentication security.
  4. Equipped with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.4-4.2GHz CPU
  5. Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics
  6. Windows 10 Pro
  7. 8GB of DDR4 RAM that can be upgraded up to 32GB (2x16GB).
  8. Screen with IPS panel: Good contrast and large viewing angles.
  9. Display resolution is 1920 x 1080
  10. Matte screen that doesn’t reflect light
  11. 4x USB ports: One Type-C, with Displayport and power delivery, and three Type-A
  12. HDMI output
  13. RJ-45 LAN Ethernet port
  14. HD webcam
  15. microSD card reader
  16. Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac WiFi 5
  17. Good keyboard and touchpad
  18. Backlit keyboard
  19. Silent under light load, still quiet under heavier loads
  20. Touchpad and surrounding areas stay cool under heavy load.
  21. Good speakers, located above the keyboard, firing upward
  22. Lighweight: Only 3lbs

Cons:

  1. No numpad
  2. No optical drive
  3. No dedicated mouse buttons
  4. No maintenance hatch, you must remove the bottom cover to access the hardware.
  5. Bottom of laptop can get hot under heavy loads, if you rest your laptop on your lap.
  6. Maximum display brightness and color accuracy aren’t that high

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

Dell Precision 7710:

– 32GB RAM/512GB SSD: – Click here to see the price on Amazon

About the Dell Precision 7710:

If you are looking for a relatively powerful budget mobile workstation at a relatively low price, this Dell Precision 7710 is the way to go.

It is equipped with an Intel E3-1505M v5 Quad-core + Hyper-threading 2.8-3.7GHz CPU, 64GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, all of that combined with a Nvidia Quadro M2000M 4GB workstation class graphic card which comes with workstation class drivers.

Display wise, you get a 17.3″ IPS 1080p (1920 x 1080) screen, with wide angle, good contrast and 100% sRGB color coverage. For external displays, you have two outputs: HDMI and Mini-Displayport.

Unlike most older workstations, this one offers a decent battery life, you can expect 5-6 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 an Intel E3-1505M v5 Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.8-3.7GHz Quad Core CPU
  2. Dedicated NVIDIA Quadro M2000M 4GB workstation class graphic card.
  3. Windows 10 Pro
  4. 512GB SSD for improved responsiveness and booting speed.
  5. 64GB DDR4 RAM
  6. 1920 x 1080 resolution
  7. IPS panel, more accurate colors, better contrast, wider viewing angles
  8. HDMI and Mini-Displayport
  9. 4x USB 3.0 ports
  10. 1x Thunderbolt port
  11. SD card reader
  12. Great build quality
  13. Great keyboard layout
  14. Trackpoint
  15. Dedicated mouse buttons
  16. Backlit keyboard
  17. 802.11ac WiFi
  18. Bluetooth
  19. Fingerprint reader
  20. 720p Webcam
  21. Numpad
  22. RJ-45 Ethernet port

Cons:

  1. Bulky, as expected from a powerful workstation laptop
  2. Renewed

Dell Precision 5510:

– 16GB RAM/512GB SSD: – Click here to see the price on Amazon

About the Dell Precision 5510:

Compared to the model above, the Dell Precision 5100 isn’t as powerful, but you gain a much better display, a lighter laptop and a longer battery life.

Equipped with a stunning 15.6″ IPS 4K ( 3840 x 2160) touchscreen display.

The battery life is pretty good for a workstation too, you can expect 7-9 hours of web browsing.

It is equipped with an Intel Core i7 Quad-core + Hyper-threading 2.7-3.6GHz CPU combined with a Nvidia Quadro M1000M 4GB workstation class graphic card which comes with workstation class drivers.

For external displays, you have two outputs: HDMI 2.0 and Displayport 1.3 through the USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 port.

Pros:

  1. Equipped with a Intel Core i7-6820HQ Quad-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.7-3.6GHz Quad Core CPU
  2. Dedicated NVIDIA Quadro M1000M 4GB workstation class graphic card.
  3. Windows 10 Pro
  4. 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD for improved responsiveness and booting speed.
  5. 16GB DDR4 RAM
  6.  3840 x 2160 resolution
  7. IPS panel, more accurate colors, better contrast, wider viewing angles
  8. Touchscreen
  9. HDMI 2.0 and Displayport 1.3 (through the USB Type-C/Thunderbolt)
  10. 2x USB 3.0 ports and 1x USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports
  11. SD card reader
  12. Great build quality: Lid and bottom are made of dark-silver aluminum. Carbon-fiber deck with a comfortable, soft-touch finish
  13. Great keyboard layout
  14. Backlit keyboard
  15. Excellent speakers for a laptop
  16. 802.11ac WiFi
  17. Bluetooth
  18. Fingerprint reader
  19. 720p Webcam

Cons:

  1. No RJ-45 Ethernet port
  2. No numpad
  3. Awkward webcam placement
  4. Renewed

Upgrade your Laptop:

Upgrade your RAM:

RAM can be upgraded on some laptops. Do note that some laptops cannot be upgraded at all, due to their use of soldered RAM. 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.