Welcome to our weekly updated pro guide to the best cheap gaming laptops available for under $500 based on sales, pure hardware power, retailer discounts, professional reviews, and benchmarks. Cheap gaming laptops are as mythical as unicorns in the eyes of most gamers and finding them online can be a real chore. We spend hours of research […]
Best Cheap Laptops 2015 / 2016
Last Updated:November 27, 2016
Welcome to our weekly updated series on the best cheap laptops based on consumer feedback, hardware power, design and raw value for money.
Laptops are becoming faster and faster year in and year out -luckily fierce competition from manufacturers and retailers drives prices own and allow us as consumers to take advantage of major discounts and get more computing power for less. To help narrow your search down we’ve created weekly updated guides covering laptops in various price brackets from laptops under $400 all the way down to laptops under $100 and everything in-between. Our guides are updated regularly with new deals on cheap laptops on sale for the budget conscious and are focused strictly on laptops that stand out the crowd and deserve a spot in the limelight in the battle for the best budget laptop, either through hardware power, outstanding design, or a mixture of both. Unfortunately most major tech blogs and competitors rarely cover laptops within these price ranges which means for now our research is limited mainly to user reviews and direct consumer feedback. Needless to say in many cases this can be even more valuable. Mobile gamers will also want to checkout our popular guide to cheap gaming laptops which offer some additional deals aimed at budget gaming connoisseurs.
How We Decide
We pool reviews and data from hundreds of products to come up with our regularly updated budget laptop buying guides designed to fit any budget and ensure budget conscious users get the most bang for their buck without skimping on the features that are most important to them. Our team are dedicated to finding the best deals possible and our unique ranking score for each laptop takes into account user reviews across a host of leading retailers as well as leading publishers. Whether you are looking for an all-purpose home computer or an on-the-go portable netbook, we’ve got you covered.
Top Laptop Under $400
The Asus F555LA-AB31 is a new addition to the Asus family. Sporting a crystal clear 15.6” matte Full HD display that is viewable from nearly all angles, the F555LA is perfect for media enthusiasts. The award winning Asus Sonicmaster sound paired with the brilliant display make watching HD content a pleasant experience, although some users did report minor screen bleed around the edges. Asus have included their Ice Cool technology which keeps the touchpad and palmrest area of the laptop nice and cool at all times for ergonomic comfort while typing. Another great advantage is Windows 10 being pre-installed which is far better at utilizing hardware efficiently allowing for better performance than windows 8.1. While not the fastest on the market, the Intel Core i3 coupled with 4GB of DDR3 RAM make for an all round pleasant computing experience running basic day to day apps for a bargain price.
- 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels (TN)
- 5 hours battery life
- 4.6 lbs
- Full-HD Screen
- Great price
- Good sound
- Slight screen bleed
- Hard drive not easy to replace
- Dim display
At this price you are getting a great performing Windows 10 laptop with a FHD screen and fast wireless connectivity. Only slight screen bleed at the bottom and basic users will struggle to upgrade the hard drive.
from $339.99 (as of 23-10-2016 16:59 UTC) Details
Top Laptop Under $300
While most budget 15.6-inch laptops weigh in at over 5 pounds, the ASUS VivoBook X540SA is noticeably lighter and weighs in at just 4.41 pounds. Its sturdy plastic construction is quite rugged and will easily withstand being carried around on a daily basis. The battery life is also a lot better than some of its competitors and some users have reported run times of over 7 hours off of a full charge. Realistically you can look at 5-6 hours of web browsing or word processing and 3-4 hours while streaming videos. Powered by an Intel Quad Core Pentium N3700 processor and 4GB of RAM, the ASUS VivoBook X540SSA will easily cope with basic tasks at home or at the office. But the installed 4GB of RAM is soldered to the mainboard and you will only be able to install another 4GB RAM module. But 8GB of RAM is more than sufficient for the needs of most basic apps and for the limitations of the Pentium processor. The 500GB mechanical hard drive offers a decent amount of space to store your files and your installed apps, but it is a slower 5400rpm drive. You can upgrade to a faster drive, but it is not necessary for this budget friendly laptop. You get a standard 1366 x 768 display, which offers great image quality, but the viewing angles are not as good as IPS displays. The display offers impressive image quality for video playback and you can comfortably stream videos at 720p. The superfast USB 3.1 Type-C port allows you to connect to a host of next generation devices and peripherals, which helps in future proofing the ASUS VivoBook X540SA.
- 15.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixels (TN)
- Windows 10 Home
- 6 hours battery life
- 4.41 lbs
- USB 3.1 Type-C
- Decent battery life
- 4GB of onboard RAM can’t be removed
- Slightly underpowered processor
- Slight keyboard and display flex
- Only two full size USB ports
The ASUS VivoBook X540SA offers great value for money and even features a USB 3.1 Type-C port. But the Intel Pentium processor is slightly underpowered for more intensive multitasking and you only receive two full size USB ports.
from $251.00 (as of 22-10-2016 01:00 UTC) Details
Top Laptop Under $200
If you are looking for a small laptop for basic tasks such as web browsing, Skype and word processing, then the HP 14-an013nr might be right for you. The HP 14-an013nr is an updated version of the HP 14-an010nr and you now get a Full-HD IPS display. While the HP 14-an010nr only offers a 1366 x 768 TN display, the new and improved display on the HP 14-an013nr offers richer colors and wider viewing angles. You now get a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080, which is a vast improvement over its predecessor. The AMD Qaud Core E2-7110 and 4GB of DDR3L RAM will not win any awards, but it will easily cope with everyday basic tasks. While it does have an eMMC solid state drive, it is tiny and only offers 32GB of storage space. With Windows 10 installed, you will only have about 15GB of internal storage space to use. We recommend at looking at a Cloud based storage option or an external drive to store your multimedia files. The entry level Radeon R2 graphics is by no means a gaming GPU, but you will be able to play Sims 4, World of Warcraft and Counter Strike: Go on the lowest of settings. The battery life is not as good as we had hoped and users have reported an average battery life of around 5 hours, which will mean carrying your power cord around with you.
- 14 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels (IPS)
- Windows 10 Home
- 5 hours battery life
- 3.86 lbs
- Full-HD IPS display
- Compact size
- Limited storage space
- Slightly under powered
- Weak graphics chip
- No optical drive
The HP 14-an013nr is an affordable 14-inch laptop that offers a Full-HD IPS display. But the tiny solid state drive cannot be upgraded and users are not left with much space with Windows 10 installed.
from $219.99 (as of 16-01-2017 13:45 UTC) Details
Top Gaming Laptop Under $300
The cut throat budget laptop market has seen many great laptops being offered by most of the big name brands. Acer is no stranger to the budget market and has been releasing laptops for the budget conscious buyer for a number of years. What you won’t get with the Acer Aspire ES1-572-31XL is a high performance gaming laptop, but you will be able to play some of your favorite classics. The integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 graphics chip will even allow you to play Diablo III and CS: GO on medium graphics settings. But don’t expect to be playing the latest AAA titles on this machine, it’s more suited to the casual gamer. The Acer Aspire ES1-572-31XL is powered by a Skylake Intel Core i3-6100U processor and 4GB of RAM, which will cope with basic tasks with ease. But the 4GB of RAM is slightly underpowered with Windows 10 and it will struggle with certain games. Luckily Acer has made it quite easy to access the internal hardware to upgrade the RAM, we recommend at least 8GB of RAM for smoothest performance. The 1TB mechanical hard drive offers ample storage space for college papers, photos and even your videos. To cut costs Acer has used a 5400rpm drive, which for day-to-day use is more than acceptable, but users who are after faster Windows boot and app loading times can easily upgrade the hard drive to a hybrid or solid state drive.
- 15.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixels (TN)
- Windows 10 Home
- 6 hours battery life
- 5.29 lbs
- 1TB of storage space
- Skylake i3 processor
- Bright and sharp display
- Easily upgradable
- Only one USB 3.0 port
The Acer Aspire ES1-572-31XL is a budget friendly laptop for basic home users and college students. Though the hardware is slightly underpowered for photo or video editing.
Pro Tips For Making Your Decision
Depending on what you plan on using your new laptop for there are various specs to look out for that may influence your purchasing decision. Although budget laptop users won’t need to get too involved with the technical details as the market for low-end hardware is relatively small, a basic understanding of what everything means and what to look out for based on your unique needs will give you the edge when making your decision.
Students generally only require a laptop that can comfortable browse the web, use word processing apps and watch the odd movie. Due to the mobile requirements of moving around on college or at school mobility is also a prime concern for many students so keeping your laptop lean and lightweight should also be high on your agenda. As a general rule look for laptops with 4GB or more of RAM, a portable design (11-inch or 13-inch laptops are a great idea for users who will be taking their laptop everywhere they go and don’t make sacrificing the screen real estate) and a battery life of 5 hours minimum. Chromebooks are a popular option for those looking for simplicity and who don’t require the use of any MS Office or Windows apps thanks to their mobility and quality designs.
Budget gamers are already covering in our guide to gaming laptops under $500 where you’ll find the top picks on cheap gaming laptops with decent entry level GPUs that won’t completely fry your budget. As a general rule, if looking in the sub-$400 market and gaming is not a primary concern, you can also get away with playing many older games with the integrated Intel HD graphics found on most budget laptops in our cheap laptop guides as well as the Radeon R series equivalent on AMD based laptops. In many cases it may not be worth sacrifices the portability and ease of use in favor if better graphics unless you know you will be doing a fair amount of gaming on your new laptop.
Every business owner knows how important the bottom line is. Why spend $1000 plus on an office laptop when a $400 will get the job done just fine? Business users generally have similar needs as students with word processing and other office applications at the top if the priority list, although laptops designed for office use may not require quite as much portability unless you plan on taking your laptop to meetings often. As per our student recommendations look for a laptop with at least 4GB of RAM for standard office applications and web browsing. If your business requires photo or image processing or more advanced appliations 8GB is recommended. Build quality is also an important factor for many business owners – there’s no point investing in a budget laptop if it’s going to need to be replaced in three years. Lenovo and Dell are two manufacturers who are well know for there business oriented budget laptops which may not have the sleek designs found on many competitors but are built to withstand the test of time with sturdier build quality.
If you’re planning on using your laptop mostly at home for handling all of your movies, music and other media then portability won’t be your biggest concern which means you are free to focus on areas such as screen quality and laptop audio. Unless you have an external monitor or TV lying around you may also want to explore some 17-inch options where possible. Look for a laptop with a 1 TB hard drive if possible, or at a minimum 500GB, and as above note 4GB of RAM or more as requirement for smooth performance with HD video playback and other tasks.
Hardware + Benchmarks
Your laptops hardware provides the engine for your daily computing and understanding the key components to look out for can help you make the right decision and get the best performance possible. No one likes a computer that freezes and lags under heavy load seriously hindering your ability to work and by checking benchmarks we can easily get an idea of which hardware will perform the best and which laptops therefore offer the best value for money.
Your CPU (central processing unit) is the brains of your PC and does most of the number crunching to bring your computer to life. AMD and Intel are the only two mainstream CPU manufactures and compete kneck kneck expecially in the budget market. AMD configurations are generally cheaper than Intel’s and provide excellent value for money although Intel is often still the crowd favorite.
Budget Intel Core-sereis CPU’s – Fastest to Slowest
- Intel Core i5-6200U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i3-6100H [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i3-6100U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i5-5200U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i5-4210U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i3-5010U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i3-5010U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Core i3-4030U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
Budget AMD A-series, FX-series and E-series CPU’s – Fastest to Slowest
- AMD A10-7400P [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD A8-8600P [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD FX-7500 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD A10-7300 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD A8-7100 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD A6-7310 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD A8-6410 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD A6-6310 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD E2-7110 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- AMD E1-2100 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
Intel Pentium-series, Celeron-series and Atom-series CPU’s – Fastest to Slowest
- Intel Pentium N3540 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Celeron 3955U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Pentium N3700 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Celeron N2940 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Celeron 3855U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Atom x5-Z8500 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Celeron 2957U [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Celeron N2840 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Atom Z3735F [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
- Intel Celeron N3050 [ VIEW BENCHMARKS ]
Your GPU (graphic processing unit) differs from your CPU in that in is created specifically for graphic processing in applications such as games and multimedia editing apps. Generally speaking unless you plan on playing any video games or doing any serious photo or video editing a decent graphics card is not paramount to your laptop experience. Most CPU’s these days come with integrated graphics which are built in as opposed to dedicated graphics cards which are generally found on more powerful machines. As with CPU’s, the main contenders are AMD and Intel who compete neck and neck for the market.
Budget GPU’s – Fastest to Slowest
- Intel HD Graphics 530 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD R6 Graphics (Carrizo) [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD R6 Graphics (Keveri) [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 820M 2GB [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD Radeon HD 8650G [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel HD Graphics 520 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD R5 Graphics M240 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD R5 Graphics M320 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD R5 Graphics M230 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel HD Graphics 4600 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel HD Graphics 5500 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel HD Graphics 515 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel HD Graphics 4400 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel HD Graphics 510 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD R4 Graphics (Kaveri) [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
- AMD R4 Graphics (Beema) [ VIEW FRAMERATES ]
Your laptops RAM (or random access memory) is also an important piece of the your PC’s arsenal. RAM is like short term memory for your PC, and the more RAM you have the less change there is of your PC bottlenecking due to limited memory which can seriously hinder performance. For most users, 4GB of RAM is more than sufficient for daily use, although if using advanced applications or running multiple applications at once performance can suffer. If you find yourself running out of RAM you can always just take your laptop in for an upgrade or do it yourself. Most RAM today is standardized DDR3 RAM and on budget laptops you generally won’t find anything faster.
Display & Screen Quality
Your laptops display is another core piece of your computing experience. If your laptop suffers from poor color production or poor viewing angles this can put on a dampener on using a PC for many users. In general on budget laptops you will find only TN (thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal) displays which can offer variable quality and are almost always inferior to the IPS ( in-plane switching) technology found on more pricey laptops. That said, many budget Chromebooks have started offering IPS displays which puts these budget Chromeboons on the level of more expensive laptops in terms of raw display quality.
Screen resolution is also an important part of your display. In general budget laptops use a 1366 x 786 resolution which is currently the most used screen resolution worldwide. This is compared to the 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution found on more expensive laptops. The extra resolution provides extra screen real estate and makes entertainment and gaming more immersive. Here again Chromebooks stand out from the crowd with many budget Chromebooks offering Full HD IPS displays that are far superior to their budget laptop counterparts.
Most budget laptops come with screen sizes ranges from 11 to 15 inches, with the odd 17-inch also available for users looking for a larger display.
Design & Features
Last but not least, your laptops design, though sometimes a matter of personal preference, is also a huge influencing factor and brings up a number of practical considerations. Some users prefer more basic designs while others simply won’t be satisfied with a run of the mill design that’s too chunky or boring. The obvious consideration here is portability. If your laptop is too big and too heavy, it’s going to turn lugging your laptop around with you and having your PC on you more of a chore than its worth for some people. On the other side of the coin, many smaller laptops make sacrifices in terms of performance to achieve their incredibly lightweight form. Generally Chromebooks and Netbooks of the 11-13 inch variety are popular choices for mobile users, including hybrid tablet / laptops, with some 15-inch options also coming in under the 4.5 pound mark which is comparable to some 13-inch laptops, and again many 15-inch and 17-inch laptops coming in with much heavier weights which are clearly designed more for home or office use with minimal commuting.
In terms of features laptops come with a standard set of connectivity options including USB 3.0, USB 2.0 Ethernet, Bluetooth and Wifi but be sure to check each model to be sure it has all the options you need. Some budget laptops still offer DVD drives, although the general trend is more towards external portable DVD drives with many manufacturers opting to leave them out in favor of a more lightweight and slimmer design.
Our Gaming Laptop Guides
Now that you are well equipped, feel free to browse the guides below for our top picks. You can use this page as a reference when comparing specs and other features or drop us a line if you have any specific questions.
The LaptopNinja editorial team
HP 250 G5 X9U07UT#ABA 15.6-inch
Dell Inspiron i15RV-954BLK 15.6-inch
Dell Inspiron 15 i15RV-6190BLK 15.6-inch
HP 2000-2d49wm 15.6-inch
Dell Latitude D620 14.1-inch
Apple MacBook 13-inch 2009 13.3-inch
Toshiba Satellite C55-A5245 15.6-inch
Acer C720P-2600 Chromebook 11.6-inch
Toshiba CB35-A3120 Chromebook 13.3-inch
HP Pavilion Touchsmart 11-E010n 11.6-inch