Best Low-Price Laptops
You can find a decent computer for less than $300, as long as you understand the trade-offs
If you primarily browse the web, work on word-processing files, and watch YouTube clips, you might not need a pricey flagship laptop. In fact, for $300 or so, you can buy a Windows 10 machine that works just fine for your needs. We’ve assembled a list of some of the best low-price laptops.
Will one of these computers be a good choice for editing videos? Absolutely not. But several are highly portable, with an 11-inch screen, and they have impressive battery life.
If you’re looking at very low-price laptops, you might also consider a Chromebook. Those machines have advantages, too, and they are becoming more versatile now that they are starting to use Google Play Store apps.
What you get with a Windows 10 laptop is a more traditional operating system with a smaller learning curve, and the ability to use applications that aren’t available for Chromebooks.
The VivoBook E200HA is a portable and affordable small laptop. Weighing in at 2.1 lbs, it’s a great coffee shop or travel companion for the on-the-go consumer.
While its Atom processor powers the laptop to only a fair performance rating, the machine costs just $200. And in our testing, it ran for 15 hours between charges.
The machine has a slender 32GB of storage, so users would be wise to invest in a low-profile flash drive or to use cloud services like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or Google Drive to store photos, videos, and other large files.
The latest HP Stream 11 shares the same name with a previous model, but it has more going on under the hood. The RAM doubles to 4GB and battery life improves by a third, to more than 12 hours. The processor is faster, too.
The price is around $200. As with every machine listed here, this is a laptop for browsing the web, posting on social media, and streaming movies—don’t go trying to play video games and do 3D modeling on it.
Public service announcement: Check the model number before you buy, because there are still a few of the older models floating around. You want the new-and-improved version.
If we had a “best bang for the buck” award, it might go to the Lenovo Thinkpad N22. Priced at only $170, it is the least expensive model in the Consumer Reports ratings, but it performs as well as competitors that cost twice as much.
Here’s a nice bonus: This is one of the few laptops you can buy with a matte screen, which reduces glare and makes things easier when you want to work on the patio.
The speakers are a particular weakness of this laptop, so one accessory we’d recommend is a pair of headphones or an external speaker, to improve both volume and sound quality.
The Dell Inspiron I3452-600BLK has a 14-inch screen, making it a solid choice for users who want a little bit more screen real estate to work with.
It’ll run all day too, with a tested battery life of more than 12 hours. And the laptop also weighs a lot less than similarly sized models, coming in at 3.5 pounds. In terms of performance, it will handle routine tasks well.
While it lacks an optical drive for burning CDs or DVDs, this Inspiron has a built-in memory card reader for digital photography, three USB ports, and an HDMI-out for connecting to an HDTV.
The Lenovo 300 will please consumers looking for a laptop to stream video, supplying a decent 17-inch screen for about $300. The built-in speakers really aren’t bad, but anyone looking for an optimal sound experience might want to add speakers or use headphones.
Unlike other budget models, the 300 has a full-sized keyboard that’s pleasant to type on, with a dedicated number pad and a well-positioned touchpad, so it’s easy to reach.
This laptop has a gigabit ethernet port, letting you hardwire it to your router for uninterrupted Netflix streaming, unlike many newer laptops