Best cheap laptops in 2021

Best cheap laptops in 2021

The best cheap laptops provide solid performance, long-lasting battery life, and a lightweight, unobtrusive design all at a price that will make your wallet smile. If you’re looking for sub-$1000 options, we’ve compiled a list of the best, including the best business laptops with the mobility needed for working on the go, the best gaming laptops that let you dive into some of the top games of last year, and the best 2-in-1 laptops for jumping between laptop and tablet.

There are plenty of factors to consider depending on what you want out of the laptop. For example, if you’re not looking to run particularly demanding programs, you could buy something with a lesser CPU. And if you have no plans to play any games, that instantly reduces the amount of cash you’ll have to put down.

This list of the best budget laptops will help you find the right device for you, whatever your needs may be.

What is the best cheap laptop? 

The best cheap laptop of 2021 is the HP Envy 13, making it the best ultrabook on the market today for its price. Starting at $799, the new HP Envy 13 is our favorite thanks to its sleek, portable design, bright 4K and 1080p display options, and fast performance. New to the latest model is a webcam kill switch and fingerprint sensor for those who value security and privacy. And unlike its predecessor, the latest Envy 13 has great speakers.  

The HP Envy 13 is the best laptop for anyone who wants a premium machine but is trying to save a buck. Its sibling, the HP Envy x360 13, is also on this list for those after the best cheap 2-in-1 laptops. It’s an absolute steal for what it dishes out. 

In the case of the Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA ($999 reviewed, $949 starting), the secret sauce is Intel’s new Tiger Lake chips. Under Intel’s new Evo initiative, Intel Tiger Lake chips offer more powerful performance, longer battery life, and the introduction of Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6. Plus, you get the added bonus of the ZenBook’s beautiful yet durable chassis. 

There’s plenty of great contenders on this list though, so check out the best cheap laptops of 2021 below. 

The best cheap laptops you can buy today 

  1. Dell XPS 13 (2020)
  2. HP Envy x360 13 (2020)
  3. HP Envy 13
  4. Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA
  5. Dell G5 15 SE
  6. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
  7. Asus Chromebook Flip C434
  8. Acer Swift 3 (2020, AMD Ryzen 7 4700U)
  9. Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch)
  10. HP Stream 11 (2018)
  11. Lenovo Chromebook Duet
  12. HP Chromebook 14 (Intel)

Best Laptops of the Year

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

1. Dell XPS 13 (2020)

The best cheap thin notebook under $1,000

CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7 | GPU: Intel® Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256 SSD | Display: 13.4-inch 1920 X 1200 Infinity Edge | Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.6 pounds

Slim, ultraportable design

Strong performance

Bright, 16:10 display

Great battery life

Lacks legacy ports

Starts at $979

No matter how you configure it, the Dell XPS 13 (2020) is the best cheap laptop you can buy. Even if you opt for the $979 configuration of Dell’s flagship notebook (the only one under $1,000) you’ll still get a stunningly slim chassis, a gorgeous InfinityEdge display, and solid internals that include a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor and a battery that can last almost 11 hours.

No matter what we put the Dell XPS 13 (2020) against, it always comes out on top. We’ve pitted this affordable beast against the Macbook Pro, Asus ZenBook 13, HP Envy x360, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, MacBook Air (2020), and HP Spectre x360. Regardless of what we compare it to, the Dell XPS 13 (2020) always provides the most consistent combination of performance and mobility.

See our full Dell XPS 13 review.

Best Cheap Laptops 2021: HP Envy x360 13

The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000, offering similar benefits to the Spectre at a lower price. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

2. HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

The best cheap 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U | GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Outstanding performance

1080p display is bright and vivid

Stylish and compact aluminum design

Long battery life

No IR camera

The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000 and one of the best 2-in-1 laptops on the market. While it doesn’t come with a stylus (neither does the Surface Pro), the Envy can seamlessly transition  into tent or tablet mode. What makes this such a fantastic value is its entirely aluminum design and Herculian AMD Ryzen processors. 

In our testing, we found that an Envy x360 13 with a Ryzen 5 4500U CPU can outperform laptops with 10th Gen Intel chips. This specific Envy costs just $800 and can outmuscle laptops that cost well over $1,000, including the exorbitant MacBook Pro. Moreover, the Envy x360 13 has a bright, vivid 13.3-inch display and a comfortable keyboard. 

There is very little we don’t like about the Envy x360. If you can get over the lack of a Thunderbolt 3 port and IR camera, then it is the ultimate money-saving laptop.

See our HP Envy x360 13 (2020) review 

HP Envy 13

At under $1,000, the HP Envy 13 is the best Ultrabook value around.  (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

3. HP Envy 13

CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620/Nvidia GeForce MX250 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.1 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Attractive, portable chassis

Fast performance

Bright display

Poor battery life (on 4K model)

No Thunderbolt 3

Starting at $749, the new HP Envy 13 is one of our favorite sub-$1,000 thanks to its sleek, portable design, bright 4K and 1080p display options, and fast performance. New to the most recent model is a webcam kill switch and fingerprint sensor for those who value security and privacy. And unlike its predecessor, the latest Envy 13 has great speakers that can fill the room with a loud and satisfying sound.

All these perks make the Envy 13 one of the best laptops for anyone who wants a premium machine, especially if you’re trying to save a buck. Our only reservations with the HP Envy 13 are that the 4K model doesn’t last very long on a charge and that the Envy x360 13, its 2-in-1 sibling, is just a little bit better.

See our full HP Envy 13 review.

Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX324EA offers great power and longevity thanks to Intel’s new 11th Gen chips. (Image credit: Future)

4. Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA

The best battery life in a cheap laptop

CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Display: 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 display | Size: 11.9 x 8 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 2.5 pounds

Sleek, lightweight frame

Powerful overall and gaming performance

Excellent battery life

Very comfortable keyboard

Weak speakers

There’s just something about a ZenBook. They’re beautiful, tend to be incredibly slim and lightweight, and thanks to Asus, have some aces up their digital sleeves. In the case of the Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA ($999 reviewed, $949 starting), the secret sauce is Intel’s new Tiger Lake chips. Under Intel’s new Evo initiative, Intel Tiger Lake chips offer more powerful performance, 14 hours of battery life, and the introduction of Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6. Plus, you get the bonus of the ZenBook’s beautiful, yet durable chassis. 

You can also expect solid gaming performance with this ZenBook 13, although we don’t necessarily recommend playing demanding AAA titles with it. You could manage around 56 frames per second with something like Hades, but you’ll have trouble jumping into Control without changing the graphic settings to low.

See our full Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA review

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

With its understated good looks, surprising powerful gaming and overall performance and comfortable keyboard, the Lenovo Legion Y545 is our top cheap gaming laptop. (Image credit: Future)

5. Dell G5 15 SE

The best cheap gaming laptop

CPU: AMD 4th Gen Ryzen 5 4600H 6-core | GPU: AMD Radeon RX 5600M | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | Display: 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 | Size: 14.4 x 10 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 5.5 pounds

Excellent performance

Strong graphics

Great battery life

Colorful display

Chunky design

The Dell G5 15 SE (2020) offers solid gaming and excellent overall performance packed into a chunky chassis. Thanks to an AMD Radeon RX 5600M GPU and an AMD 4th Gen Ryzen 5 4600H CPU, the Dell G5 15 SE is the best cheap gaming laptop out there, and does a good job of  keeping its competitors at bay. While the design is a bit heavy and uninviting, its powerful specs make up for it.

The laptop’s discrete Ryzen graphics serve up a surprising amount of power, with above-average results. And when you’re not gaming, the laptop’s 4th Gen AMD processor is more than capable of allowing you to create spreadsheets, do some light video-editing and, of course, watch some movies on the beautiful 1080p display. And despite its price, the laptop also delivers a comfortable keyboard and excellent battery life. In short, if you’re in need of a good gaming laptop that won’t break the bank, look no further.

See our full Dell G5 15 SE review.

Best Cheap Laptops 2021: Surface Pro 7

Microsoft’s latest flagship detachable, the Surface Pro 7 adds 10th Gen CPUs and a USB-C port to a proven formula.  (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

6. Microsoft Surface Pro 7

The best cheap business laptop

CPU: 10th gen Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD or Iris Pro | RAM: 4GB/8GB/16GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel | Size: 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches | Weight: 1.7-1.74 pounds

Speedy performance

Colorful display

Comfortable (optional) keyboard

USB-C port

Less battery life than predecessor

The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 improves upon the excellent Surface Pro 6 and gives it a power boost. While battery life takes a hit, the new 10th Gen CPUs provide outstanding performance in our synthetic and real-world testing. 

The design hasn’t changed, but the Surface Pro 7 now has a USB-C port for charging and connecting peripherals. Microsoft still sells the comfortable Alcantara-clad Type Cover and the super-responsive Surface Pen, which makes it easy to draw or take notes on this tablet’s vivid and bright 12.3-inch display. Unfortunately, the stylus and keyboard are sold separately.

There is still room for improvement. For example, the Surface Pro 7’s display bezels are chunky and storage/RAM upgrades are inexplicably expensive. Still, this is one of the best 2-in-1 devices around, and an excellent choice if you plan on traveling. 

See our full Surface Pro 7 review. 

Best Cheap Chromebook 2021: Asus Chromebook Flip C434

Best Chromebook under $1,000: Asus Chromebook Flip C434 (Image credit: Future)

7. Asus Chromebook Flip C434

The best cheap Chromebook

CPU: Intel Core m3-8100Y | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Display: 14-inch, 1080p touch screen | Dimensions: 12.6 x 8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Sleek, premium design

Thin display bezels

Vivid, 14-inch touch screen

Long battery life

Mixed performance

The best overall Chromebook, the Flip C434 is an excellent successor to the Flip C302CA, our previous top pick. Not only does its super-small bezels allow Asus to fit the laptop’s large, 14-inch screen into a smaller chassis than you’d expect, but that screen is both bright and colorful. On top of that, its aluminum design provides a more premium feel than most Chromebooks. Oh, and I almost forgot: it lasts about 10 hours on a single charge, which blows its competition out of the water.

However, it is plagued by a few issues, like a finicky touchpad. And for a Chromebook, the Flip C434 is admittedly quite pricey ($569) in comparison to a competitor like the Samsung Chromebook 3 ($179). Even then, the price difference is worth it if you have a bit of extra cash to dish out, as the Flip C434 is powerful.

See our full Asus Chromebook Flip C434 review. 

Best cheap laptops 2021: Acer Swift 3 AMD Ryzen 7 4700U

The Acer Swift 3 AMD 2020 blew us away with its fast speeds and high performance. (Image credit: Future)

8. Acer Swift 3 (2020, AMD Ryzen 7 4700U)

The best cheap laptop with high performance

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4700U | GPU: Radeon Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 | Size: 12.7 x 8.6 x 0.63 inches | Weight: 2.6 pounds

Beastly performance

Amazing CPU for price

Great battery life

Fingerprint scanner

Dim display

The Acer Swift 3, the one with the AMD Ryzen 7 4700U CPU, blew us away with its overall performance on our Geekbench 5.0 benchmark. Not only did the Acer Swift 3 outdo the laptops within its price range, but it also outperformed some top-tier, premium laptops such as the Dell XPS 13.

The Acer Swift 3 also has good battery life. You’ll get more than 11 hours from the Acer Swift 3, which will last you a whole day. Equipped with a powerful CPU and great battery life, the Acer Swift 3 will only set you back $649, which is totally unheard of nowadays. However, for the price, you’ll have to sacrifice having a brilliant screen because the Acer Swift 3 has a dim display.

Still, the Acer Swift 3 will give you a lot of bang for your buck. We highly recommend it.

See our full Acer Swift 3 review.

Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch) review

If you’re looking for an affordable laptop with solid performance and long-lasting battery life, the Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch) is more than worth it. (Image credit: Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch) review)

9. Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch)

The longest battery life in a cheap 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 | Size: 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.6~0.7 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Strong performance

Epic battery life

Powerful speakers

Vivid display

Keyboard and touchpad are mediocre

Display could be brighter

The Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch) is not only affordable, but it’s powerful. For $649, you can expect stellar performance, long lasting battery life, and a colorful 14-inch display wrapped up in a gorgeous aluminum exterior. However, the 266-nit display isn’t as bright as we would hope, putting it quite a bit below it’s category average.

You’ll also want to prepare for an unsatisfying keyboard and inaccurate touchpad. We also weren’t impressed with its limited number of ports. There’s a USB Type-A Port and headphone jack on the right side, while two Thunderbolt 3 ports sit on the left side.

However, if you can look past these issues, you can expect a pair of powerful speakers that emit a full and satisfying sound, incredible performance that holds up against competitors, and nearly 13 hours of battery life.

See our full Lenovo Yoga 7i review.

Best cheap Laptops 2021 HP Stream 11

The HP Stream 11 (2018) is rare mostly because it’s a Windows laptop that’s around $200. Combo that with long battery life and decent performance, it’s the best laptop under $300 you can buy. (Image credit: Future)

10. HP Stream 11 (2018)

The best cheap laptop under $300

CPU: Intel Celeron N4000 | GPU: Intel UHD 600 GPU | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB eMMC | Display: 11-inch, 1366 x 768 | Size: 11.8 x 8.1 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.5 pounds

Long battery life

Better performance than competitors

Insanely cheap

Washed out low-res display

Awful webcam

The HP Stream 11 is one of the best laptops under $300 and the best Windows 10 laptops you can find at this price. The Stream’s cute, 11-inch chassis is packed with all-day battery life and relatively strong performance. You shouldn’t expect much out of the Stream 11, but its Intel Celeron N4000 processor with 4GB of RAM was able to handle 10 Microsoft Edge tabs as well as a 1080p YouTube video. Of course, you should expect some serious slowdown if you try to do anything more intensive.

This laptop is also incredibly portable, weighing in at 2.5 pounds and measuring just 0.7 inches thick. And even though its keyboard can be a little cramped, it offers decent key travel. You won’t find a better Windows laptop for under $200.

See our full HP Stream 11 (2018) review.

Best Cheap Laptops Lenovo Chromebook Duet

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a budget-friendly miniature 2-in-1 laptop with nearly 13 hours of battery life. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

11. Lenovo Chromebook Duet

The best cheap Chromebook under $300

CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T | GPU: ARM G72 MP3 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Display: 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 | Size: 9.6 x 6.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2 pounds

Lasts long on a charge

Comes with keyboard/kickstand

Colorful display

Decent performance

Cramped keyboard

At first glance, The Lenovo Chromebook Duet (reviewed at $279) looks like an innocuous journal, but open that bad boy up, and it’s a small laptop with a colorful 10.1-inch display. 

But this device’s transformative capability isn’t its only alluring feature — the Lenovo Chromebook Duet lasted almost 13 hours on our battery test, which beats the 10-hour average runtime for Chromebooks. The price is another big selling point of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. For under $300, you can own a lightweight machine that can endure all your intensive web multitasking.

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet sports a 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1200 display that’s impressively colorful. However, the tablet’s screen has chunky bezels that might turn you off if you’re seeking a more modern look. But the Duet is a budget-friendly Chromebook, so we can concede the lack of slim bezels as a reasonable trade off.

See our full Lenovo Chromebook Duet review.

Best cheap laptops 2021 HP Chromebook 14

Thanks to its 1080p display and comfortable keyboard, the HP Chromebook 14 (Intel) is one of the best laptops under $300 — not to mention the best Chromebook for its price. (Image credit: Future)

12. HP Chromebook 14 (Intel)

The best cheap HP Chromebook under $300

CPU: Intel Celeron N3350 | GPU: Intel HD 500 GPU | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB eMMC | Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 | Size: 13.3 x 8.9 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 3.3 pounds

Long battery life

1080p display

Attractive chassis

Below-average performance

Display could be more vibrant

The Intel version of the HP Chromebook 14 is a solid improvement over its AMD counterpart, making it one of the best laptops under $300. For just under $300, you get an attractive laptop with a 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 display, which is an incredibly rare combination at this price point. To top it all off, HP’s Chromebook 14 features a comfortable keyboard and a battery that will stay powered up for an entire workday. The laptop endured for a very good 9 hours and 18 minutes on our battery test. 

Armed with an Intel Celeron N3350 CPU and 4GB of RAM, the Chromebook 14 has enough power for simple day-to-day tasks, but don’t try running demanding apps on this budget machine. If you’re looking for a Chromebook that doesn’t scream elementary school, then the HP Chromebook 14 is the one to get.

See our full HP Chromebook 14 (Intel) review.

How we test the best cheap laptops 

To evaluate whether a laptop is worth your hard-earned money, we run industry-standard performance benchmarks such as Geekbench and 3DMark as well as a variety of real-world tests that we’ve developed in our labs. This includes the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which surfs the web at 150 nits of brightness until a laptop runs out of juice, as well as a custom spreadsheet test that measures a laptop’s processing power. For more on our process, see this page on how we test laptops.

How to find the best cheap laptop 

When shopping for the best affordable laptops there’s a lot to consider. Here’s a good breakdown on how to find the best laptop for you.

What’s your budget?

Sure you can find some diamond-in-the-rough, decent Windows laptops and high-quality Chromebooks for under $500, but you may have to deal with a low-performing CPU or a poor multitasker. If you’re a light laptop user, those will be OK, but if you need something more powerful, you may aint to aim higher — the best mainstream laptops typically cost more than $700. If you can, we suggest aiming for the $700 to $900 range.

Do you want a 2-in-1 or a clamshell?

If you enjoy the awesomeness of converting your laptop into a tablet, then the 2-in-1 laptops are a good choice. But keep in mind that most times, you’ll be able to get a lower price and stronger-performing features with a traditional laptop.

How much battery life do you need?

If you’re on the go, you’re going to need to make sure you snag a laptop that lasts more than 10 hours.  But if you’re a homebody or you’re tied to your desk all day, perhaps you can sacrifice some battery life and save some money in the process. Check out our longest-lasting laptops list.

What specs do you need? 

Aim for a Core i5 CPU if you want decent performance. Memory and storage, you should aim for 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. As far as display, don’t get anything less than 1080p screen — your eyes will thank you later.

You can spend a lot of time delving into specs, but here are the key components to think about. If you just want really good mainstream performance, go for a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1080p screen.

Gamers and content creators should be on the market for a laptop with discreet graphics, but finding a high-performing GPU under $1,000 might not be an easy task. 

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