Microsoft Surface Pro 2 being used in waiting room
Microsoft
Update, 01/29/2023: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and are confident these are still the best budget laptops you can buy.

What to Look For in a Budget Laptop in 2023

You can get an awesome laptop on a budget. It’s all about identifying your priorities: What is most important to you in a laptop, and what are you willing to compromise on?

For example, suppose you’re looking for an affordable workhorse or a gaming laptop. In that case, you should prioritize internal hardware specs while being ready to make trade-offs regarding battery life or the screen’s color saturation.

On the other hand, if you need a portable and compact device for carrying around and doing everyday tasks, powerful innards aren’t as crucial as a lightweight design, excellent battery life, and good build quality.

When discussing hardware to look for in a budget laptop, we recommend aiming for at least a newer Intel i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 CPU. If you have a higher budget, you should be able to snag a device sporting a faster processor, such as the Ryzen 5 5500U,Β Core i5-1130G7, or even something like theΒ Core i7-1160G7.

Regarding memory,Β 8GB of RAM is the minimum you should aim for because it allows for proper multitasking and snappy navigation through the operating system. 16GB of memory is what we recommend for a workhorse laptop or a gaming device so that it can handle the increased workload.

For storage, if you rely on cloud-based storage and stream your music, movies, and TV shows, 128GB of internal storage should give you enough breathing room. But if you’re a gamer or someone who likes to have their favorite music or video content available locally, we wouldn’t go lower than 256GB of storage, unless you want to carry around an external hard drive.

If you’re a gamer looking for a gaming laptop, your primary target should be a device with an RTX 3060 and 16GB of memory. If those machines are out of your budget, pivot to the RTX 3050 Ti but keep aiming for a device with 16 gigs of memory.

One thing to know is that the most frequent corner cut by manufacturers in the budget laptop segment is the screen, with many devices coming with dim panels that feature slightly washed-out colors. If you need accurate colors on your display for your work, you may have to eat the cost of a non-budget laptop.

Finally, you should only look for a laptop with a 1080p resolution display. Devices sporting 768p or lower screens usually come with a plethora of downsides, and we don’t recommend them.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much RAM does a laptop need?

While 4 gigabytes of memory is a bare minimum for a modern laptop, we recommend avoiding those laptops unless you can’t stretch your budget enough to afford a device with at least 8GB of memory.

How much storage space does a laptop need?
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For a Chromebook running the web-based Chrome OS, even 64 gigabytes of internal storage can be enough for most users. But a Windows or Mac device should have at least 128GB of storage space.

What price range is best for a budget laptop?
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You can find a solid budget laptop for around $500. If you need more than 8GB of memory, a roomy 512GB SSD, or a bright screen with vivid colors, you should aim for devices costing around $700-$800.

Gamers can find a budget laptop for $1000 or a bit less but in that case, be ready for significant compromises regarding every piece of hardware. Trade-offs include only 8GB of memory, a measly 256GB SSD, or a dim screen with noticeable ghosting and washed-out colors.

How do I connect a laptop to a TV or monitor?
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The easiest way is to use an HDMI cable. Just hook it to your laptop’s HDMI port and then to the HDMI port of your monitor. If you don’t have an HDMI port on your monitor, look for HDMI adapters that can work with DisplayPort or DVI ports. If your laptop has a USB-C port with DisplayPort functionality or a Thunderbolt port, you can use a USB-C cable to connect the two.

How long do laptops last?
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We don’t have a definitive answer to this question because numerous variables canΒ affect laptop longevity. Assuming that the laptop in question doesn’t suffer from an irreparable issue at one point in its lifetime or isn’t a defective unit, it will last you as long as its performance is good enough for your needs.

How do I right-click on a laptop touchpad?
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If you own a laptop with a good old trackpad with two physical buttons, press the right button to perform a right-click action. If your laptop has a touchpad with no discernible physical buttons, in most cases, you should click on the lower right portion of the touchpad to perform the right-click action.

Best Budget Laptop Overall: Acer Aspire 5

Family using Acer Aspire 5
Acer

Pros

  • Fantastic hardware for the price
  • Solid build quality
  • Slim and portable
  • Great upgradability for a budget device

Cons

  • Dim screen with slightly washed-out colors

We did say before that budget laptops come with at least a few compromises. However, the Acer Aspire 5 is almost the whole package. For around $500, you’re getting an excellent CPU, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD. All that is packed inside a slim body boasting remarkable portability.

The positives continue with features such as Wi-Fi 6 and a USB 3.2 5Gbps Type-C port. The full-size keyboard’s average but perfectly suited for longer typing sessions. The touchpad is fine, and the speakers are serviceable.

The cherry on top is the AMD Ryzen 5500U CPU that you won’t usually find on such an affordable laptop. This CPU is powerful enough for any task you might throw at it, and its integrated GPU is decent enough to allow for some light gaming.

When it comes to budget laptops, something’s got to give. In the case of the Aspire 5, you’ve got a bit gloomy display with lukewarm color saturation and middling battery life.

If you require more memory and storage but want to keep the snappiness of the Ryzen 5500U, you can either add a stick or RAM and an extra SSD—the Aspire 5 features a slot for an extra 2.5-inch storage device—or check out our budget 2-in-1 laptop pick.

Best Budget Laptop Overall

Acer Aspire 5

Slim, slick, and surprisingly powerful the Acer Aspire 5 is almost a complete package and a steal at this price. The screen could've been better, but that's about the only visible smudge on this fantastic budget laptop.

Best Budget Laptop for Gaming: ASUS TUF Dash 15

Person carrying ASUS Tuf 15 Dash
ASUS

Pros

  • Superb gaming performance for the price
  • 512GB SSD
  • MUX switch
  • Thunderbolt 4 support
  • Decent upgradability

Cons

  • Disappointing screen

While the ASUS TUF Dash 15 is at the upper limit of what we’d call a budget gaming laptop, its gaming performance justifies the higher price.

The NVIDIA RTX 3060 & AMD Core i7-12650H can run newer AAA titles with good graphical settings at 60 frames per second. If you prefer multiplayer titles, you can look forward to playing any current esports title at Dash 15’s screen maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. Overall, this laptop offers killer gaming performance.

Superb gaming performance is coupled with Wi-Fi 6, a MUX switch, a solid keyboard and trackpad, a rich selection of ports, Thunderbolt 4 support, a 512GB NVMe SSD, and 16GB of DDR5 memory. The battery life sitsΒ at around 7-8 hours for light tasks. The TUF Dash 15 can only give you about an hour of juice if you plan on playing games while away from the charger.

The weakest point of the ASUS TUF Dash 15 is the screen. The 15-inch 1080p panel suffers from poor maximum brightness and slightly washed-out colors, but that’s an issue you’ll find on most budget—and even some mid-range—gaming laptops on the market.

The Lenovo Legion 5i is an all-around better device than the TUF Dash 15 but noticeably pricier. However, since Lenovo does sales throughout the year, you should check their website and snag the RTX 3060 version of the Legion 5i if you find it at the same or lower price than the TUF Dash 15 sells for.

Best Budget Laptop for Gaming

ASUS TUF Dash 15

If you're after the best possible gaming performance in a budget gaming laptop look no further. The ASUS TUF Dash 15 packs a 12th-gen Core i7 CPU, an RTX 3060 GPU, and 16GB of DDR5 memory; enough to run the latest AAA games with high details and at 60 frames per second.

Best 2-in-1 Budget Laptop: Lenovo Flex 5

Lenovo Flex 5 on pink and yellow background
Lenovo

Pros

  • Powerful hardware
  • Superb portability
  • Excellent touch screen capability
  • Comfortable keyboard

Cons

  • Screen could've been brighter
  • Average build quality

The Lenovo Flex 5 is the king of budget 2-in-1 laptops that offers an unbeatable overall package for a price that’s easier to digest than its competitors. Its hardware is top-notch for the price, featuring the AMD Ryzen 5 5500U CPU, 16GB of DDR4 memory, and a 256GB SSD.

The screen’s a bit dull, which isn’t great for a 2-in-1 device. However, the competition’s also offering 2-in-1 budget devices with similarly dingy screens that, unlike the Flex 5, aren’t coupled with 16GB of memory or a CPU as powerful as the Ryzen 5500U.

On the flip side, the screen’s touch capability’s great. Navigating the operating system is delightful, thanks to excellent precision and fast response time. There’s also support for the Lenovo stylus if you don’t like cleaning the screen from fingerprints every five minutes.

Another plus for this budget 2-in-1 laptop is superb portability thanks to the lightweight design and slim body. Luckily, the keyboard and battery life weren’t victims of slimming down the chassis. Both are excellent for a budget 2-in-1 device, especially battery life, which can stretch up to 10 hours under light load.

Aside from the dim screen, Lenovo has cut corners regarding the webcam and microphone, as well as the build quality, which is average. Still, even with these downsides, the Lenovo Flex 5 14 is an excellent budget 2-in-1 laptop.

Best 2-in-1 Budget Laptop

Lenovo Flex 5

The Lenovo Flex 5 is a snappy 2-in-1 laptop that beats competitors when it comes to hardware specs with a highly enjoyable keyboard to boot. Its screen isn't the best in the world but the touch screen experience is enjoyable enough to redeem its less than ideal maximum brightness.

Best Touch Screen Budget Laptop: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

Microsoft Surface Go 2 on grey background
Microsoft

Pros

  • Terrific screen
  • Unbeatable build quality
  • Admirable keyboard
  • 3:2 display aspect ratio is perfect for working and browsing the web

Cons

  • Ports? What ports?
  • Poor battery life

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is an ultra-portable version of the popular Surface Laptop that features a phenomenal touch screen compared to its peers in the budget market.

The star of the show measures 12.4 inches in diameter and features a nonstandard, 3:2 aspect ratio that’s perfect for browsing the web and working in text processors. Add great colors, high brightness, and an excellent touchscreen experience, and you’ve got an impressive device for everyone looking for a touchscreen budget laptop.

The hardware inside the chassis is good enough for light tasks, and 8GB of memory is plenty for multitasking. As long as you don’t try to compile code or edit HD videos, you’ll be fine. The Surface Go 2 includes an admirable keyboard that’s a joy to type on and, in line with other Surface devices, superb build quality.

As for the downsides, you’ve got disappointing battery life and poor port selection, the latter of which being a problem with Surface devices for quite some time.

Despite its shortcomings, the Surface Go 2 is an attractive touch-screen laptop that will be your perfect companion if you’ve got your demands in check. If the 256GB version is too pricey for your budget, you can buy the 128GB model that costs $100 less.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 has a fantastic touch screen with 3:2 aspect ratio, excellent keyboard, and unbeatable build quality, making it a great touch-screen laptop.

Best Budget Laptop for Students: ASUS VivoBook 16X

ASUS Vivobook 16X on purple background
ASUS

Pros

  • Potent hardware, especially the CPU
  • Big, 16:10 display
  • 512GB PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD
  • Comfortable keyboard

Cons

  • The screen's not great in regards to colors and max brightness

The ASUS VivoBook 16X is built for students on a budget planning to use the device they purchase for a long time.

The AMD Ryzen 5600H CPU is a tad old but still a performance beast—a well-rounded choice for using CAD programs or compiling code. You’ve also got 16GB of DDR4 memory. That’s not a perfect amount of memory for the aforementioned scenarios but enough to get you through most projects.

The rest of the package is solid for the price. This includes a comfortable keyboard, serviceable touchpad, and okayish build quality. The screen’s not that great in color and brightness, but its 16-inch size and 16:10 aspect ratio are pretty handy for writing essays or combing through Google Scholar.

Connectivity options are solid, as are the battery life and build quality—nothing to write home about but, overall, more than good enough for the price. If you’re a student that likes to keep every file on local storage and needs a fast SSD, you’ll be delighted to hear that under the hood, you’ve got a 512GB PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD that’s pretty snappy for a budget device.

The ASUS VivoBook 16X is a workhorse of a laptop that excels at the performance you get for the price. Other parts of the equation are far from great but good enough for most students. If you’re looking for something more affordable and don’t need the extra punchy hardware, check out the Acer Aspire 5 or the Lenovo Flex 5 14.

Best Budget Laptop for Students

ASUS VivoBook 16X

A workhorse of a laptop with unbeatable CPU for the price, more than a decent keyboard, and large, 16-inch screen, the ASUS VivoBook 16X is the right thing for every student on a budget.

Best Budget Linux Laptop: Star Labs StarLite 11

Star Labs Starlite laptop partially open
Star Labs

Pros

  • A lot of laptop for the money
  • Open warranty
  • Open Source BIOS option
  • Wide selection of Linux distros to choose from
  • 65W GaN Charger & USB-C charging support

Cons

  • Tepid CPU
  • Micro HDMI port

If you’re a Linux person looking for a budget laptop, we recommend checking out the Star Labs StarLite 11. This is a portable PC with meek hardware but lots of potential.

While you’re limited to the less-than-ideal Intel Pentium N5030 and 8GB of DDR4 memory, you can upgrade its 256GB base SSD to a 480GB or 960GB unit and still stay deep inside the budget territory.

We like that Starlab Systems offers not only six different Linux flavors, including Ubuntu, Mint, and Manjaro, but also a choice between American Megatrends and coreboot BIOS. The latter is a perfect, open-source choice for Linux fans.

Other welcome surprises on this budget laptop include an aluminum-made chassis, a minuscule 65W GaN charger, a glass trackpad, USB-C charging, and a Micro SD slot. On the flip side, you’re limited to a Micro HDMI port, which is a shame.

Overall, the Star Labs StarLite 11 is, aside from its mediocre CPU and Micro HDMI port, a well-rounded budget Linux laptop that should satisfy the needs of most budget-oriented Linux users.

Best Budget Linux Laptop

Star Labs StarLite 11

The CPU here is a bit disappointing but everything else is outstanding for the price. From a wide selection of Linux distros to the 65W GaN charger, to an open source BIOS option, the StarLite 11 is a compact winner for Linux fans on a budget.

The Best Laptops of 2023

Dell XPS 13
Best Laptop Overall
Dell XPS 13
Acer Aspire 5 A515-45-R74Z Slim Laptop
Best Budget Laptop
Acer Aspire 5 A515-45-R74Z Slim Laptop
HP Envy 13
Best Laptop for Students
HP Envy 13
Lenovo - Yoga 9i 14 2.8K Touch 2-in-1 Laptop with Pen
Best 2-in-1 Laptop
Lenovo - Yoga 9i 14 2.8K Touch 2-in-1 Laptop with Pen
Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch, M1 Pro) (2021)
Best for Photo and Video Editing
Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch, M1 Pro) (2021)
Acer Chromebook Spin 311 Convertible Laptop
Best Laptop for Kids
Acer Chromebook Spin 311 Convertible Laptop
MacBook Air (M2, 2022)
Best MacBook
MacBook Air (M2, 2022)
Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Best Chromebook
Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Dell XPS 13 (With Ubuntu)
Best Laptop for Linux
Dell XPS 13 (With Ubuntu)
Profile Photo for Goran Damnjanovic Goran Damnjanovic
Goran Damnjanovic is a freelance writer specializing in PC hardware, gaming hardware in general, and video games. He has over seven years of experience writing for various online publications, including Levvvel and EsportsHeadlines.
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