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Article updated on May 31, 2024 at 6:13 AM PDT

Best Budget Laptop for 2024

Find a great laptop for less: We've tested the best budget laptops on the market to find the options worth your time and money.

Our Experts

Written by 
Joshua Goldman
Matt Elliott
Lori Grunin
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops | Desktops | All-in-one PCs | Streaming devices | Streaming platforms
Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography | PCs and laptops | Gaming and gaming accessories
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Our Picks

$467 at Amazon
An Acer Aspire 5 laptop on an orange countertop with a green background.
Best budget laptop overall
Acer Aspire 5
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$699 at Walmart
M1 MacBook Air on a table
Best budget MacBook
Apple MacBook Air M1
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$790 at HP
HP Pavilion Plus 14 on a purple background.
Best budget OLED laptop
HP Pavilion Plus 14
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$300 at Acer
Acer Aspire Go 14 laptop on a black desk mat against a gray wall
Best super-cheap budget laptop
Acer Aspire Go 14
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$880 at HP
The 2023 HP Pavilion Aero 13 laptop open and facing to the right and sitting on a dark blue couch.
Best budget Windows ultraportable
HP Pavilion Aero 13
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$800 at Best Buy
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 at an angle against a gray wall
Best budget gaming laptop
Acer Predator Helios Neo 16
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What's the best budget laptop overall?

The Acer Aspire 5 is our pick for the best budget laptop. Acer knows how to make affordable laptops that don't make you feel like you're missing out. We love the Aspire 5 line for its performance, battery life and wonderful array of features, all with a base price of under $500. Available in 14-, 15.6- and 16-inch sizes, the line can be configured to fit your budget and match performance requirements, from everyday basics to gaming and content creation. prices can go up to about $1,000, but the quality of the product always surpasses the laptop brand's price tag.

While you can feasibly find a decent laptop for under $500, you may need to do some comparison shopping and exercise some patience as you wait for a holiday sale or discount. Apart from a sale, you may need to shell out closer to $700 to find a durable laptop that'll handle more than simple email correspondence and web browsing. You won't find any current MacBook models at these prices direct from Apple; its current MacBook Air lineup starts at $999 for the M2 model, but the M1 MacBook Air from 2020 is a Walmart exclusive for just $699 and a good deal for students and others on tight budgets.

So, what should you be looking for in a good, budget laptop? Using CNET editors' decades of experience testing and reviewing laptops, we've compiled a roundup of the best budget laptops below.

Best budget laptops of 2024

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Showing 6 of 6 Results
$467 at Amazon

Best budget laptop overall

Acer Aspire 5

The Acer Aspire 5 continues to be one of the best Windows laptop deals around. Available in 14-, 15.6- and 17.3-inch sizes, I am partial to the 15.6-inch size because it's relatively compact and lightweight but still full-featured. Acer has a wide range of configurations to choose from, starting at less than $400. This budget laptop also features a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, Ethernet and an HDMI port. Aside from internal components, the Acer Aspire 5 has changed little since we reviewed it last in 2020. We tested a 2023 model, currently just $499, and it still has excellent performance and features for its price.

$699 at Walmart

Best budget MacBook

Apple MacBook Air M1

This model has been surpassed, but not replaced, by the newer M2 and M3 models. Now it's available at Walmart for $699, which is a hefty $300 less than its original price. It's also $300 less than the M2 Air and $400 less than the M3 model.

For many years, this Apple laptop was everyone's favorite laptop. It was reasonably priced, thin, light and built like a tank. It could last for years and take lots of falls and bumps. You get only two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, but for most people that's enough, as long as you can get a whatever-to-USB-C dongle. It's a great pick for students looking for a speedy and stylish do-it-all laptop.

$790 at HP

Best budget OLED laptop

HP Pavilion Plus 14

It’s great to see OLED displays reach the budget class. With greater contrast and more accurate and vibrant colors than an  LCD display, an OLED panel is one of those things that once you see it, you can’t unsee it and go back to being satisfied with a basic IPS LCD.

HP’s 14-inch Pavilion Plus is an affordable and customizable laptop that lets you upgrade to a high-res 2.8K OLED display and still keep the price at less than $800 with HP’s usual discount. The 14-inch size is small enough for travel but big enough that you won’t feel cramped while working, and the laptop’s all-metal chassis looks sharp and feels solid.

$300 at Acer

Best super-cheap budget laptop

Acer Aspire Go 14

For just $300, Acer’s entry-level Aspire Go 15 holds its own against other budget models that cost twice as much or even more. The design cannot be described as enticing or exciting, but it's functional and unlikely to offend. Performance from the quad-core AMD Ryzen 3 7000 series CPU and 8GB of RAM suffices for basic use, and battery life is surprisingly long.

The 14-inch display features a modern 16:10 aspect ratio and is sufficiently bright, but it suffers from poor viewing angles that might take some getting used to before you settle on the right angle to position the display. Another drawback is the tight storage of the laptop’s meager 128GB SSD. Neither drawback is a deal breaker when you consider the bargain-basement price. The Aspire Go 14 provides great value with its acceptable build quality, capable performance and long battery life.

$880 at HP

Best budget Windows ultraportable

HP Pavilion Aero 13

HP packed a lot of value into the Aero 13: Eye-pleasing magnesium-aluminum chassis, strong processing performance, long battery life, a bright, colorful display and a weight of just 2 pounds (0.94 kilograms). The Aero starts at around $900 but is frequently available on sale for less than $600. The overall design and features have not changed from the original we reviewed in 2021, but now the Aero 13 offers AMD Ryzen 5 7000 series CPUs.

$800 at Best Buy

Best budget gaming laptop

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16

Like other gaming laptop makers, Acer has two lines: a budget-friendly Nitro series and midrange and premium models that carry the Predator label. Oddly enough, it's under the latter you'll find our budget gaming pick: the Helios Neo 16. It's strikingly similar to the Acer Nitro 16 but with slightly better build quality and graphics performance. The only place it really faltered was its speakers, which put out disappointingly flat audio with nonexistent bass.

The Predator Helios Neo 16 we reviewed with RTX 4050 costs $1,200. That is high for a budget gaming laptop. The trick is to be patient and wait for a sale, which happens regularly, and the price drops to $830.

Other laptops we've tested

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED Q425: It's a boon to get an OLED display in such a portable package with great battery life for roughly $1,000, but the fit and finish feel decidedly midrange.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12: The latest X1 Carbon has many charms, but they will remain out of reach for many business buyers constrained by budgets.

Dell XPS 16 9640: Dell's new 16-inch XPS model offers a unique design backed by strong performance and surprisingly long battery life. Just be prepared to pay for its many configurable charms.

Alienware m18 R2 Gaming Laptop: When you're this big, the sky's the limit.

Dell XPS 14 9440: The radical look is sure to turn heads, but some of the daring design elements could be turn-offs. 

HP Omen Transcend 14: Neither a featureless slab nor a carnival of lights, HP's latest 14-inch Omen has its own unique flair. It doesn't scrimp on substance, either.

Lenovo Slim 7i: With an OLED display and a solid build, this is a rugged option for mainstream shoppers, but other touches are decidedly midrange.

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus 7440: For a reasonable $1,000, this 14-inch Dell model based on an Intel Core Ultra CPU lets you be productive and remain portable

Alienware m16 R2: This middle-class option for mainstreaming gaming fares better than average and is a sensible option for 1440p play.

Acer Predator Triton 14: With fast performance and a bright HDR screen, this mainstream 14-inch gaming laptop can be a great gaming value.

M3 MacBook Air 13: Apple's 2024 MacBook Air update is a straightforward performance boost to power you through the future of work, school and play at home or away.

Lenovo LOQ 15: Lenovo's entry-level model is the opposite of flashy, but it's got good performance and it's one of the cheapest RTX 4050 models (at least on sale).

HP Victus 16: It’s speedy and svelte, but gamers on tight budgets deserve more than this laptop's basic 60Hz panel.

Acer Nitro 16: With a roomy 16-inch, 16:10 display that's surprisingly bright and vibrant and powered by a full-octane RTX 4050 GPU, the Nitro 16 delivers the goods for gamers on tight budgets.

MSI Cyborg 15 Review: It's one of the lowest-cost RTX 4050 laptops, but the Cyborg 15's GPU is restricted from running at full power, which puts a cap on 3D performance. And its display disappoints, too. 

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Review: Standout profiling and calibration for its class make Asus' first OLED in the line stand out from the crowd.

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2 Review: It breaks with the ThinkPad tradition in many ways without abandoning the things that make it a ThinkPad.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 8 Review: This 14-inch two-in-one for business users is compact for easy travel yet big enough to get work done, but Lenovo's display options for it miss the mark.

Acer Swift Go 14 (2024): Intel's new Core Ultra CPU gives this unassuming 14-inch laptop great battery life and a bit of a speed boost, with potential AI acceleration down the road.

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How we test budget laptops

The review process for laptops consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our reviewers. This includes evaluating a device's aesthetics, ergonomics and features with respect to price. A final review verdict is a combination of both objective and subjective judgments. 

We test all laptops with a core set of benchmarks, including Primate Labs Geekbench 5 and 6Cinebench R23PCMark 10, a variety of 3DMark benchmarks (whichever can run on the laptop), UL Procyon Photo and Video (where supported), and our own battery life test. If a laptop is intended for gaming, we'll also run benchmarks from Guardians of the Galaxy, The Rift Breaker (CPU and GPU) and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Budget laptops tend to have components that don't lend themselves to more advanced content creation -- such as a discrete GPU with sufficient memory -- so we don't typically run graphics-intensive performance tests on this class of laptops.

For the hands-on, the reviewer uses it for their work during the review period, evaluating how well the design, features (such as the screen, camera and speakers) and manufacturer-supplied software operate as a cohesive whole. With budget laptops, especially, we concentrate on how well they work given their cost and where the manufacturer has made tradeoffs to reach the price.

The list of benchmarking software and comparison criteria we use changes over time as the devices we test evolves. 

You can find a more detailed description of our test methodology on our How We Test Computers page. 

How to choose a budget laptop

There are a ton of models under $1,000 on the market at any given moment, and a large fraction of those are under $500. As long as you manage your expectations when it comes to options and specs, you can still get quite a bit from a budget laptop model, including good battery life and a reasonably lightweight laptop body. (If you're replacing an old Windows laptop that's not up to running Windows anymore, consider turning it into a Chromebook.) 

Price

If the statistics Intel and PC manufacturers hurl at us are correct, you'll be holding onto this laptop for at least three years, so don't skimp if you can afford to stretch your budget a little to better specs. 

Even better, think about a laptop with a replaceable battery (if you can find one), upgradable memory (although memory is usually soldered to the motherboard), graphics card and storage, or all of the above. If you do, trawl the user reviews and comments for people's experiences with upgrading a particular model. Sometimes they require proprietary parts or require accessing hard-to-access locations in the system.

For a cheap gaming laptop, you'll still have to break the $500 ceiling to support most games. The least expensive budget laptops suitable for a solid gaming performance experience -- those with moderately powerful discrete graphics processors -- will run you closer to $700. Here are our recommendations if you're looking for the best gaming laptop under $1,000. If you like to live on the bleeding edge, cloud gaming services such as Nvidia GeForce Now and Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate's Cloud Gaming will let you play games on laptops with specs that hit the under-$500 mark. 

A bright spot is you don't have to settle for a traditional clamshell laptop with a fixed display and keyboard. You can also get a convertible laptop (aka, a two-in-one), which has a screen that flips around to turn the screen into a tablet, to position it for comfortable streaming or to do a presentation. 

You can also try to make your current laptop last a little longer. If you need something to tide you over for a few months, dig into possible places to buy refurbished machines and explore nonprofit or educational discounts if you're eligible.

Windows, Mac or Chromebook

You won't find cheap laptop prices for a MacBook or any other Apple laptop. At best you can get the current entry-level model of the MacBook Air for $999. On sale, you may be able to get it for less than that, but it will never reach truly "budget" territory. Even an iPad will run you more than $500 once you buy the optional keyboard (although it might work out to less if you look for sales on the tablet or keyboard), which is above our budget here. A base-model iPad with an inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard and a cheap stand for the iPad might suffice. 

It's easier to find inexpensive Chromebooks than cheap Windows laptops, making them one of the most popular budget laptops on the market, although we're also seeing a lot more Chromebooks in the $500-to-$1,000 range and more Windows laptops in the $500 range. Those Windows systems are frequently repurposed Chromebook configurations that really aren't up to running Windows comfortably. 

Google's ChromeOS isn't nearly as power-hungry as Windows, so you can get by with a lower-end processor, slower storage and less screen resolution or RAM; just a few of the components that make a laptop expensive. The flip side is Chrome and Google apps are more of a memory hog than you'd expect, and if you go too low with the processor or skimp on memory, the system will still feel slow. 

While Chromebooks can run ChromeOS-specific and Android apps, some people need the full Windows OS to run heftier applications, such as video-editing suites. With that comes a need for a faster processor with more cores, more memory -- 8GB RAM is the bare minimum, although 16GB is preferable -- and more storage for applications and the operating system itself. 

ChromeOS is also a much different experience than Windows; make sure the applications you need have a Chrome app, Android app or Linux app before making the leap. Since Chromebooks are cloud-first devices, you don't need a lot of storage built-in. 

That also means if you spend most of your time roaming the web, writing, streaming video or playing Android games, they're a good fit. If you hope to play Android games, make sure you get a touchscreen Chromebook. 

Size

Remember to consider whether having a lighter, thinner laptop or a touchscreen laptop with a good battery life will be important to you in the future. Size is primarily determined by the screen, which in turn factors into battery size, laptop thickness and weight. 

Ultraportable laptops, generally 13 inches or smaller, are a rarity below $700. It turns out, making things smaller doesn't always equate to cheaper. Generally, you'll find budget laptops at 14-, 15.6- and 17.3-inch sizes. Also, because of their low prices, 11.6-inch Chromebooks are attractive. We don't recommend that size for any but the youngest students.

In the budget price range, you have to watch out for screen terminology when it comes to specs: An "HD" screen may not always be a truly high-definition screen. HD, which has a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, is called "Full HD" so marketers can refer to lesser-resolution displays (1,280x720 pixels) as HD. In Chromebooks, HD usually refers to a screen with a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. On the upside, the boom in 14-inch laptops trickles down to this price range, which allows for more FHD options in that size. 

A frequent complaint we see is about "washed-out" looking displays with poor viewing angles. Unfortunately, that's one of the trade-offs: A lot of these use TN (twisted nematic) screen technology, which is cheap but meh. Look for IPS (in-plane switching) LCDs which are better for off-angle viewing, brightness and color. 

Processor, memory and storage 

A lot of Windows laptops in this range use AMD Athlon and lower-end A series or Intel Celeron and Pentium processors to hit the lower prices. We don't recommend going with an Athlon instead of a Ryzen or a Celeron/Pentium instead of a Core: Windows is too heavy for them, and in conjunction with the 4GB memory a lot of them have, you may find them abysmally slow at best. 

SSDs can make a big difference in how fast Windows performance feels compared with a spinning hard disk, although thankfully old hard disks have become a lot rarer. Not all SSDs are equally speedy and cheaper laptops typically have slower drives. If you need to go with a smaller drive -- they tend to max out at 256GB in this price range -- you can always add an external drive or two (or five, for some of us) at some point down the road or use cloud storage to bolster a small internal drive. 

For memory, we highly recommend 16GB of RAM (8GB absolute minimum). RAM is where the operating system stores all the data for currently running applications, and it can fill up fast (for example, right now Chrome is taking up 7GB of my memory). After that, it starts swapping between RAM and SSD, which is a bit slower. A lot of sub-$500 laptops have 4GB or 8GB, which in conjunction with a slower disk can make for a frustratingly slow Windows laptop experience. Also, many laptops now have the memory soldered onto the motherboard. Most manufacturers disclose this, but if the RAM type is LPDDR, it is soldered on and can't be upgraded. Some PC makers will solder memory on and also leave an empty internal slot for adding a stick of RAM. You may need to contact the laptop manufacturer or find the laptop's full specs online to confirm. 

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Laptop FAQs

How much do good laptops cost?

Setting a budget is a good place to start when shopping for the best laptop for yourself. Higher-end components like Intel Core i-series and AMD Ryzen processors and premium design touches like thin-display bezels and aluminum or magnesium bodies have made their way to laptops priced between $500 and $1,000. You can also find touchscreens and two-in-one designs that can be used as a tablet or a laptop -- and a couple of other positions in between. In this price range, you'll also find faster memory and SSD storage -- and more of it -- to improve performance. 

Above $1,000 is where you'll find premium laptops and two-in-ones. If you're looking for the fastest performance, the best battery life, the slimmest, lightest designs and top-notch display quality with an adequate screen size, expect to spend at least $1,000. 

Which is better, MacOS or Windows?

Deciding between MacOS and Windows laptops for many people will come down to personal preference and budget. Apple's base model laptop, the M1 MacBook Air, starts at $999. You can sometimes find it discounted or you can get educational pricing from Apple and other retailers. In general, it'll be at least $1,000 for a new MacBook, and the prices just go up from there. 

For the money, you're getting great hardware top to bottom, inside and out. Apple recently moved to using its own processors, which resulted in across-the-board performance improvements compared to older Intel-based models. The company's most powerful laptop, the 16-inch MacBook Pro, still hasn't been updated to Apple silicon. 

Again, that great hardware comes at a price. Also, you're limited to just Apple laptops. With Windows and Chromebooks (more on these below), you get an amazing variety of devices at a wide range of prices. 

Software between the two is plentiful, so unless you need to run something that's only available on one platform or the other, you should be fine to go with either. Gaming is definitely an advantage for a Windows laptop.

MacOS is also considered to be easier and safer to use than Windows, especially for people who want their computers to get out of the way so they can get things done. Over the years, Microsoft has done its best to follow suit and, with Windows 11 hereit's trying to remove any barriers. Also, while Macs might have a reputation for being safer, with the popularity of the iPhone and iPad helping to drive Mac sales, they've become bigger targets for malware.

Are Chromebooks worth it?

Yes, they are, but they're not for everyone. Google's Chrome OS has come a long way in the 10-plus years since they arrived and Chromebooks -- laptops that run on Chrome OS -- are great for people who do most of their work in a web browser or using mobile apps. They are secure, simple and -- more often than not -- a bargain. What they can't do is natively run Windows or Mac software. 

What's the best laptop for home, travel or both?

The pandemic changed how and where a lot of people work. The small, ultraportable laptops valued by people who regularly travel may have suddenly become woefully inadequate for working from home. Or maybe instead of needing long battery life, you'd rather have a bigger display with more graphics power for gaming.

If you're going to be working on a laptop and don't need more mobility than moving it from room to room, consider a 15.6-inch laptop or larger. In general, a bigger screen makes life easier for work and is more enjoyable for entertainment, and it also is better if you're using it as an extended display with an external monitor. It typically means you're getting more ports, too, so connecting an external display or storage or a keyboard and mouse is easier without requiring a hub or dock. 

For travel, stay with 13- or 14-inch laptops or two-in-ones. They'll be the lightest and smallest while still delivering excellent battery life. What's nice is that PC-makers are moving away from 16:9 widescreens toward 16:10- or 3:2-ratio displays, which gives you more vertical screen space for work without significantly increasing the footprint. These models usually don't have discrete graphics or powerful processors, although that's not always the case.

Which laptop is best for gaming or creating?

You can play games and create content on any laptop. That said, what games you play and what content you create -- and the speed at which you do them -- varies greatly depending on the components inside the laptop. 

For casual browser-based games or using streaming game services like Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming, you don't need a powerful gaming laptop. Similarly, if you're trimming video clips, cropping photos or live-streaming video from your webcam, you can get by with a modestly priced laptop or Chromebook with integrated graphics. 

For anything more demanding, you'll need to invest more money in discrete graphics like Nvidia's RTX 30- or 40-series GPUs. Increased system memory of 16GB or more, having a speedy SSD of at least 512GB for storage and a faster processor such as an Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 will all help you get things moving faster, too. 

The other piece you'll want to consider is the display. For gaming, look for screens with a high refresh rate of 120Hz or faster so games look smoother while playing. For content creation, look for displays that cover at least 100% sRGB color space or, better yet, 100% DCI-P3.