The best cheap Windows laptops for 2024

While we at Engadget test and review a number of new Windows laptops every year, the cheapest laptops don’t often make headlines. You won’t find expensive panels in these machines, nor will they include the latest high-powered graphics cards or ultra-thin and light designs. But they have their place and are good at many things. And it’s important to note that not everyone needs a professional-grade laptop—they just need the best machine that fits their budget.

Companies like Acer, Dell, and Lenovo make a lot of inexpensive Windows laptops, which can be great for those who use their computers mainly to check email, shop online, and occasionally video chat with friends and family. It can also be great for kids who have no business touching their parents’ expensive daily driver. We’ve tested a number of budget Windows laptops – below are our favourites, and we’ve got some buying advice for anyone looking for a cheap Windows laptop that packs a punch.

What about Chromebooks and tablets?

You may be inclined to recommend Chromebook or a tablets for anyone considering a budget Windows laptop. Those instincts aren’t wrong, but Chromebooks and tablets aren’t the best buys for everyone. Tablets are the most portable, but they’ll only work for the most mobile-savvy users, like kids who grab smartphones from their parents because they’re flexible enough to do so. Tablets can be as expensive as the cheapest Windows laptops, and that’s without a mouse or keyboard.

Chromebooks are a good alternative for those who live mainly in a browser, you have to give up the indispensable “traditional desktop”. Chrome OS is a more limited operating system than Windows when it comes to the apps you can install and run.

Windows laptops work well

Bangkok, Thailand - August 20, 2020: A computer user taps Microsoft Edge, a web browser developed by Microsoft, on Windows 10 to open an application.Bangkok, Thailand - August 20, 2020: A computer user taps Microsoft Edge, a web browser developed by Microsoft, on Windows 10 to open an application.

Wachiwit via Getty Images

What can you realistically do on a cheap Windows laptop? Very little, especially if you’re doing one thing (or a limited number) at a time. They can browse the web, check email, stream video, and more. great for. All of this can be done on Chromebooks, but Windows laptops have a huge advantage in Microsoft Office. Yes, although there is a browser-based version, the native, desktop apps are a must-have for many and will run smoothly on even the most stripped-down budget laptop. The only caveat is that if you’re multitasking in Excel or working with large datasets or lots of photos and graphs in Powerpoint, you may experience some slowdown on lower-powered devices.

When it comes to specs, the bright spot for Windows laptops is memory. Even the most affordable devices have at least a 128GB SSD. This is useful if you prefer to store your most important files locally on your laptop. Conversely, cheaper Chromebooks often have less storage because they’re based on the assumption that you’ll store all your documents in the cloud. Not only is this less convenient when you need to work offline, but it also limits the size of apps and files you can download. So, Chromebooks aren’t the best for catching up on Netflix shows before a long trip or using as a gaming laptop.

Windows also has thousands of apps that you can download from its app store. Chromebooks have the ability to download some Chrome apps, numerous browser extensions, and Android apps, but the quality control is… not up to par. Android apps in particular are often not optimized for Chrome OS, which complicates the user experience. Windows may not have as many apps as Android, but at least the experience is fairly standard.

Windows also allows you to download programs directly from the developer and use other sources. You can run Adobe Creative Suite, certain VPNs, and programs like GIMP, Audacity, and ClipMate on a Windows device, which is simply not possible on Chrome OS. Chromebooks limit you to apps and programs from the Play Store and Chrome Extensions, relegating others to unused icons that don’t take up space in your Downloads folder.

What to look for in a budget Windows laptop

While you can do a lot on a Windows laptop for less, you should set your expectations accordingly. The biggest downside when buying a budget laptop (of any kind, really) is limited power. Many Windows laptops under $500 run Intel Celeron or Pentium processors, but you can find Core i3/i5 and AMD Ryzen 3/5 processors at the higher end of the price spectrum.

Features to look for in a Windows laptop under $500

We recommend getting the most powerful CPU you can afford, as this will dictate how fast the computer will feel overall. RAM is also important because the more you have, the easier it will be for your laptop to manage things like dozens of browser tabs while editing a Word document and streaming music in the background. However, with sub-$500 laptops, it’s better to get the best CPU you can afford rather than a laptop with a ton of RAM, since the CPU is comparable to cheap Windows laptops (if you’re editing RAW images or 4K video, more RAM and 500 you want to invest in a laptop that is more than $).

When it comes to storage, consider how much you want to save locally. If you primarily work in Google Docs or store a lot in the cloud, you may not need a machine with a ton of onboard storage. Remember that your digital space will also be taken up by apps, so if you know you’ll be downloading large apps, it might be worth getting a little extra storage than you think you need. One last side note: SSDs are ubiquitous at this point, faster and more efficient than HDDs, so we recommend getting a laptop with this type of storage.

You also don’t have to settle for an all-plastic notebook. There are options in the sub-$500 price range that are made at least in part from metals like aluminum. They will be not only more attractive, but also more durable. As for displays, there’s a healthy mix of HD and FHD options in this price range, and if you can afford it, we recommend getting a notebook with a 1080p display. Touchscreens aren’t as common in the sub-$500 space as standard panels, but you’d be missing out on one. 2-in-1 laptop.

See also:

A final note before we get to our picks: The best cheap laptop models change all the time. Unlike more expensive, advanced machines, these laptops can be updated several times a year. This can make it difficult to track down a particular model at Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, or any other retailer. Also, we’ve seen prices vary widely depending on the configuration and vendor you’re looking at. We’ve listed some of our current favorites below, but if you can’t find any of them near you, don’t forget our list of specs to look for in a cheap laptop — they’ll guide you to the best. machines currently available.


Acer’s Aspire 5 series has long been a reliable, budget-friendly option. We recently tested a model with a 14-inch 1080p display and an 11th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. Currently, you can buy a model with a 15.6-inch display, an 11th generation Core i3 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. 300-400 dollars.

The performance of our review unit was similar to the previous Aspire 5 model we tested, the screen is good and the keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience. The latest Aspire 5s supports Wi-Fi 6, and most models have a nice amount of ports, including one USB-C (power is separate from the back), three USB-A, an HDMI connector, and a (throaty) Ethernet port. Battery life is also solid: this model gets an average of 10 hours of battery life. In the previous version we were running on around six, so this is a much needed improvement.


  • Good performance for the price
  • Various ports are included
  • It supports Wi-Fi 6
  • Improved battery life

$347 on Amazon


Lenovo Flex 5 14 It’s a good alternative if you want a more portable budget laptop with battery life that will last you all day. It runs on an AMD Ryzen 3 4300 processor with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and it’s accompanied by a 14-inch 1080p IPS display and a host of ports, including a USB-C connection. If you care about future testing, that USB-C port will be critical.

The typing experience is also top-notch: while it doesn’t have a number pad, its keys have a rounded bottom shape similar to those on Lenovo’s ThinkPad machines. They make a satisfying click as you type, but aren’t loud enough to disturb those around you.

And despite being a budget laptop, the Lenovo Flex 5 14 is no slouch. The palm rests don’t crack under pressure and this machine is easy to maneuver around the room with one hand. I also appreciate its convertible design, which gives you more flexibility. Like most Lenovo machines, the Flex 5 14 has a webcam that you can cover with a physical shutter.

The Flex 5 14 outperforms the Aspire 5 when it comes to battery life: the former lasted about 16.5 hours in our tests, while Acer’s machine lasted about 10 hours. This makes Lenovo a clear winner if you’re looking for a laptop that can last all day.


  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Convertible design
  • Long battery life

$494 at Walmart

Photo Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Read our full review of the Surface Laptop Go 3

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 although it starts at $800 here. It has one of the best designs you’ll find on any budget Windows laptop, with a slim-bezel, minimalist aesthetic, slim bezels surrounding the 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen. While we’d prefer to see a true 1080p panel on a device like this, the 1536 x 1024 resolution on the laptop’s screen is just nice and still pretty sharp and bright.

The design of the Laptop Go 3 does not differ much from the previous model, which is a good thing. In addition to its ultra-portable look and feel, it also has an excellent keyboard and a great trackpad — two things that are key to the Surface lineup. The port case could be better, but that’s often the case with such thin and light laptops. The laptop has a USB-A connection, a USB-C port, a headphone jack and a Surface charging port.

The biggest changes are internal, with Microsoft giving the Laptop Go 3’s features a decent bump. The base model has a 12th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. The extra RAM is important here, as the base model of the previous generation only came with a paltry 4GB of storage. While the Surface Laptop Go 3’s starting price of $800 is more expensive than our other top picks, it’s worth it given the upgraded features — and it’s still cheaper than most models. flagship laptops anyway.


  • Elegant design
  • Star keyboard and trackpad
  • Good performance

  • More on the expensive side

$690 on Amazon

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