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Best Budget Laptop: The top choices we’ve tried and tested

Laptops can be expensive, but these days you don’t need to sink a fortune to get a decent one for basic tasks, or lightweight gaming, if you shop wisely.

This is where we’ve decided to step in and help you out. Our team of experts review a lot of budget laptops each year, ranging from some excellent Chromebooks to beefier Windows machines and from these reviews we’ve compiled this list of top contenders.

Of course, one budget laptop isn’t going to fit everyone, so we’ve made sure to pick a wide selection, taking into account convertible Chromebooks that also double up as tablets, as well as some good all-rounders, too.

We’ve also made sure to focus on the things that matter the most when it comes to picking a budget laptop such as how bright and clear the display is, how responsive it feels for productivity tasks, and how long the battery lasts.

To get these real world results, our team of experts has used each laptop for at least a couple of weeks, as well as using equipment such as colorimeters and benchmark software to provide accurate and comparable results, which may play an integral role in your buying decision.

If you can’t find a budget laptop that you like from our list right now, we’d suggest bookmarking this page as we’ll be updating this list frequently as more exceedingly good affordable laptops pass through Trusted Labs. If a budget laptop isn’t what you want specifically, you may also want to check out our Best Laptop, Best Ultrabook or Best Student Laptop lists for a wider survey.

How we test

Learn more about how we test laptops

Every laptop we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, performance, screen quality and battery life. 

These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how well it runs the most frequently used apps. 

We also make sure to use every laptop we review as our primary device for at least a week to ensure our review is as accurate as possible.

Surface Laptop Go

Best all-round budget laptop
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Pros

  • Incredible value
  • Small and classy design
  • Excellent performance
  • Comfortable keyboard

Cons

  • Low-resolution display
  • No keyboard backlight
  • No fingerprint scanner on base configuration

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go remains a particular favourite budget laptop for us, especially given its status as a handy all-rounder in the sub-£600 price bracket.

This comes thanks to its light and slender frame that weighs in at just 1.1kg, which we found to make it extremely portable and a great option for those on the go a lot, such as students. In addition, whilst its polycarbonate plastic construction may make it seem cheap, the Surface Laptop Go feels durable. This is because the plastics are blended with harder-wearing aluminium on the keyboard cover and top of the lid.

Inside, a 10th-gen Intel Core i5 processor ensured the Surface Laptop Go breezed through basic productivity tasks during testing. We never had any issue typing up work with a load of browser tabs open. Interestingly, the Surface Laptop Go boots up in Windows 10S mode, which gives you more of a locked-down ChromeOS style experience, but you can upgrade for free to proper Windows 10, which we’d say is a majorly worthwhile upgrade. Do note though that the SSD read and writes are a little slow, with them being half that of the Honor MagicBook 14. The base model’s 64GB of storage also feels stingy, especially for the £549 asking price.

The battery life here isn’t bad either, with the Surface Laptop Go packing enough juice inside to last for 8 and three-quarter hours in our PC Mark 10 office benchmark test. It’s longer-lasting than the more powerful Surface Laptop 3, which is rather good, but on par with other Windows laptops of this price.

Just watch out for the low res display, which clocks in at 1536 x 1024, which is some way below a Full HD resolution. We found this causes pixels to look noticeably visible during testing when viewing shows on Netflix, although it must be said this panel is also punchy in terms of its brightness given the high 400 nit figure and decent 1184:1 contrast, we detected when using our trusty colorimeter.

There is a new Surface Laptop Go coming out soon, the Surface Laptop Go 2, which we haven’t had our hands on just yet, but for now, the original is a great choice.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Surface Laptop Go review

Lenovo Chromebook Duet

Best 2-in-1 budget laptop
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Pros

  • Very affordable price
  • Bundled keyboard offers versatility
  • Superb screen for video content
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Lack of headphone jack
  • Poor speaker quality
  • Keyboard is uncomfortably small

If it’s a versatile 2-in-1 device you’re after, then the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is an excellent option.

That 2-in-1 design means the Chromebook Duet is immensely portable and one of the lightest laptops we’ve ever tested, with a mass of just 450g. This makes it a great choice for people on the go, and those who crave the power of a standard ChromeOS laptop with the convenience of a tablet. The keyboard cover it comes with is therefore detachable, which means if you just want this as a tablet, the Chromebook Duet can definitely work as one.

The 10-inch touchscreen on offer is also great for the price, with some vibrant colours that worked well in testing for a variety of tasks, be it for binging episodes of BoJack Horseman, or for a small session of cloud gaming. Darker scenes were a little bit of a challenge for the Chromebook Duet, but for the most part, the panel was definteiy usable.

In addition, the eight-core Media-Tek Helio P60T processor offered some speedy real-world performance for basic tasks such as general web browsing. Don’t be fooled by the lower-end benchmark scores with the Chromebook Duet, as they definitely don’t tell the whole story.

Moreover, the battery life is also something to behold, with it lasting a total of 13 hours regular use before dying. This puts it way above its price range, with it even beating off Chromebooks that are several times more expensive, as well as more premium ultrabooks such as the Dell XPS 13 OLED.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Lenovo Chromebook Duet review

Acer Chromebook Spin 513

Best classic Chromebook
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Pros

  • Super-light and portable design
  • Sharp display with decent colours
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Whisper-quiet performance

Cons

  • Flat speakers
  • Mediocre performance
  • No keyboard backlight

The Acer Chromebook Spin 513 is an exceedingly good budget laptop and certainly represents one of the best Chromebooks out there today.

Its Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c processor breezed through basic work during testing such as web browsing or using Google Docs to write some work up, and there were little signs of slow-down even with a load of tabs open. The fact this is an Arm-based laptop also means it requires less in the way of cooling, and offered some excellent thermal; performance with no real noise either. There’s even the ability to put in a compatible SIM card to give you 4G connectivity, should you need it.

This is also an immensely light full-size Chromebook, with it tipping the scales at just 1.2kg. We found this meant it to rather portable and easy to carry around during testing, and also lent itself to mean the Spin 513 also looked rather sleek. Moreover, its port selection turned out to be pretty good, with no real compromises despite the slim frame. In addition, this is also a convertible laptop, so if you want to flip the screen over and use it as a tablet, then Acer does allow you to do so.

On the point of screens, the 13-inch panel on offer with the Spin 513 offers some great viewing angles thanks to it being an IPS display. We also found it to offer up some punchy colours thanks to a total 318 nits of brightness, and its Full HD resolution allowed for a good level of detail and clarity, whether we were binging shows on Amazon Prime Video or getting on with some work,

The Spin 513 also has an excellent battery life, with it managing to last for just over 13 hours in our battery test, meaning you could even stretch to let the Spin 513 last for nearly two working days, which is brilliant.

Reviewer: Reece Bithrey
Full review: Acer Chromebook Spin 513 review

Acer Chromebook 314

Best budget Chromebook
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Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Sturdy construction
  • Good port selection
  • Fantastic battery life

Cons

  • Flat colours and dim display
  • No touchscreen
  • ChromeOS could provide some limitations

If you’re after a really affordable Chromebook that still offers some great features and functionality, then the Acer Chromebook 314 is one of the best out there.

While its dual core Celeron CPU may sound behind the times, we found it to be perfectly adequate for day-to-day tasks, and offer up some snappy performance in basic tasks. Combined with this, the 4GB of RAM on offer here provided enough headroom to open a few programs and Chrome tabs without too much of a noticeable slowdown. The only real issue here internally is the 32GB of eMMC storage, which felt a little stingy. If you’re somebody who has a few big files and needs to install a lot of programs, then you may be left with little to no space left.

The battery life of the Chromebook 314 is also suitably fantastic, with it lasting for around thirteen and a half hours before shutting down in our video loop test. This means you should comfortably get a working day’s worth of usge before needing to charge it back up again, and if you’re clever with brightness settings, you may well get two day’s charge here, which is immense.

Of course, with a laptop this price, some corners will have had to have been cut, and in the case of the Chromebook 314, it likes in the form of its display. A 1366 x 768 resolution causes images to look grainy with some noticeable pixels, and colours can look a little flat. We found this to be noticeable during testing when binging shows on Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. There’s also no touchscreen here, which may well be a deal breaker for some.

Reviewer: Reece Bithrey
Full review: Acer Chromebook 314 review

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5

Most powerful Chromebook with convertible design
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Pros

  • Pleasant screen
  • Comfortable, quiet keyboard
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Value of high-spec models is questionable
  • Plastic touchpad
  • Weak speaker

For those after an especially powerful Chroembook, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 is a fantastic choice.

The internal components of the IdeaPad Flex 5 also provided some stellar performance for this more premium Chromebook. The Intel Core i5-10210U processor is more than serviceable for tasks like web browsing, video streaming and general working, and 8GB of RAM means you have a shedload of headroom for opening a load of browser tabs at once if you so need to.

In addition, the battery life here is particularly good, with the Flex 5 lasting for around 13 hours before conking out in our video loop test, which puts it among some of the best laptops we’ve tested. regardless of cost. This means the laptop should last you through a working day comfortably before needing to be charged back up again.

The 13.3-inch Full HD panel on the Flex 5 is also a major plus point. As well as offering a peak brightness of a respectable 350 nits, it’s also a touchscreen, which we found make this a very versatile laptop. In actual fact, it’s a better display than some Windows laptops that occupy the same £500 or so price point, including one of our favourite budget laptops, the Surface Laptop Go from Microsoft.

Just watch out for the thin-sounding speakers and plastic trackpad, which we weren’t big fans of. But if you after power in a Chromebook at a more affordable price, the Flex 5 is an excellent option.

Reviewer: Andrew Williams
Full review: 
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook review

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FAQs

What is a budget laptop?

We’ve deemed a budget laptop to encompass any portable computer that costs less than £600/$600. This could include Chromebooks, Windows laptops or even 2-in-1 convertibles.

What is the best budget laptop brand?

That’s subjective, especially since two laptops from the same brand can differ significantly in quality. Lenovo has built up a good reputation for budget laptops, while Acer offers a lot of affordable Chromebooks. But we suggest judging each individual laptop on its own merits rather than relying solely on the reputation of a brand.

Are budget laptops worth it?

It really depends on the laptop. You can find a lot of sub-par systems for less than £600, but there are also some outstandingly good value options at this price point. We suggest reading reviews for any budget laptop you consider purchasing, as specs can’t tell the whole story.

What is the best budget laptop for video editing?

If video editing is a priority, then you’ll need to increase your budget. Heavy workloads such as video editing will require a beefier performance than what Chromebooks and budget laptops currently offer. The latest MacBook Air is one the best value options for such tasks right now, but you’ll need to pay just shy of a grand for that laptop. 

Trusted Reviews test data

You can see a detailed breakdown of all the test data we collected reviewing the laptops in this list in the table below.

PCMark Battery (office)
Brightness
CrystalMarkDisk Write Speed
CrystalDiskMark Read speed
Geekbench 5 multi core
Geekbench 5 single core
Contrast
Black level
White Visual Colour Temperature
sRGB
Adobe RGB
DCI-P3
Battery Life
PCMark 10

Comparison specs

You can see a complete summary of all the laptops in this list’s specs in the table below.

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
CA RRP
AUD RRP
CPU
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Front Camera
Battery
Battery Hours
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
ASIN
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Model Variants
Resolution
Refresh Rate
Ports
GPU
RAM
Connectivity
Colours
Display Technology
Screen Technology
Touch Screen
Convertible?
Bin capacity

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Founded in 2004, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have millions of users a month from around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

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