The best cheap laptops don’t make too many sacrifices when it comes to quality and performance. We’d all have the latest and greatest Ultrabooks if we could afford them, but lots of us can’t — or just don’t want to — hand over thousands of dollars for a computer. Fortunately, there are a lot of choices for the budget-conscious laptop buyer that still provide a great Windows 10 experience. The Surface Go 2 from Microsoft is a versatile, affordable 2-in-1 device that is also one of the best laptops under $500. There are a bunch of other great cheap PCs that we’ve rounded up here.
Best Overall: Surface Go 2
The Surface Go 2 might be tiny, but it’s a rather versatile laptop with enough performance from an optional Core m3 processor (CPU) to get through most productivity work. Baseline models start with an Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y CPU, which is still enough power for casual use. Compared to the original Go, the Go 2 improves Instant On capabilities, it has a thinner bezel, and the display is larger.
This is a typical 10.5-inch Surface display with 3:2 aspect ratio, 1920×1280 resolution, touch functionality, and Surface Pen compatibility. Thanks to the 2-in-1 form, you can use the device as a tablet for drawing and writing. Attaching a Type Cover with touchpad and keyboard turns it into a notebook with rear stand deployed.
You get front- and rear-facing cameras, optional LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi 6, and dual 2W stereo speakers. Ports include USB-C, 3.5mm audio, Surface Connect, and a microSD card reader. This is a fantastic device for anyone who is always on the move, and its starting price of $400 places it well within the cheap range despite a premium build.
Premium design with rear stand
Core m3 makes a huge difference
Outstanding display with thinner bezel
Optional 4G LTE
Battery life just below 7 hours
Pentium 4425Y model is underpowered
Surface Go 2
From $400 at Microsoft
From $353 at Amazon
From $400 at Best Buy
Surface Go 2 gets a much-improved processor that finally delivers on speed, but without making battery life worse. Thinner bezels and a larger display go a long way to improve usability. With options for 4G LTE and a premium build, there is still nothing like Surface Go. Unfortunately, battery life and a small price bump demonstrate the limits in this category for Windows laptops.
Powered By AMD: HP ENVY x360 13
The HP ENVY x360 13 is so good that it almost beats out the premium HP Spectre x360 lineup in terms of what we’re recommending. But for the case of cheap laptops, it’s an easy inclusion. The ENVY x360 employs a high-quality metal chassis with a lid that can rotate all the way around for tablet mode. The 13.3-inch touch display has a 1920×1080 resolution, and it can be had with up to 1,000 nits brightness. It also supports inking with an included active pen.
AMD Ryzen 5 models are cheaper, but they’re also harder to find. Still, a model with an AMD Ryzen 7 4700U CPU starts at just $750. And you get plenty of extra features, including a fingerprint reader, Bang & Olufsen audio tuning, very good port selection, and comfortable keyboard and touchpad. Ports include USB-C, two USB-A, and a microSD card reader.
Battery life hits somewhere around eight hours, and performance is excellent thanks to the Ryzen 4000 Mobile chips. Overall, this laptop looks and feels great, it offers stellar AMD performance, and it’s priced to sell.
Comfy keyboard and touchpad
Pen is included
16:10 or 3:2 display would be better
Powered By AMD
HP ENVY x360 13
From $750 at HP
AMD’s latest Ryzen processors now power HP’s budget-friendly ENVY x360 convertible PC. The low price, excellent performance, and overall premium-feeling design make it easy to recommend as one of the best budget convertibles around.
Premium Notebook: Surface Laptop Go
If you appreciate the design and quality of the Surface Go but don’t want a 2-in-1 device, the Surface Laptop Go might be a better choice. It’s essentially a Surface Laptop that’s been shrunk down and made lighter thanks to a polycarbonate base. And while it might not have a high-res display typical of Surface products, it still nails a bunch of the core features you want.
Typing is good despite the lack of a backlight, the touchpad tracks smoothly, audio is good, and the display is colorful and bright. It’s sized at 12.4 inches with a 1536×1024 resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio. It’s touch-enabled, but it’s not compatible with the Surface Pen.
You can expect around eight hours or more of battery life from the Laptop Go, which is respectable considering the 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1 CPU. This PC will be able to handle some relatively heavy productivity work. Ports include USB-C, USB-A, 3.5mm audio, and Surface Connect.
Excellent hardware and design
Core i5 gets the job done
Bright, color-accurate display
Good battery life
Resolution could be higher
No keyboard backlight
Surface Laptop Go
From $550 at Microsoft
From $600 at Amazon
From $550 at Best Buy
Surface Laptop Go is a smaller and more affordable Surface Laptop, and it nails all the fundamentals to deliver a surprisingly delightful computing experience. Most of that is attributable to the Core i5 processor, which results in a responsive OS. With decent battery life and compact size, this lil’ laptop is perfect for the couch, class, or boardroom.
Best Battery Life: Lenovo Yoga C640
The Lenovo Yoga C640 doesn’t offer LTE connectivity after its move away from ARM in the C630, but it’s still a sleek convertible PC with a lot to love. Introductory models start at about $700 and include a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10210U CPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD, and a 13.3-inch touch display. It would be nice if the display got a bit brighter than 300 nits, but it has perfect sRGB color reproduction.
We saw somewhere around 12 to 14 hours of battery life from this laptop, which is excellent if you’re often traveling and can’t sit by while your PC charges. And with up to a Core i7-10510U and 16GB of RAM for $850, you can add performance without going way beyond budget. The laptop is built well with an aluminum lid, and it’s sized perfectly for use as a tablet. Its top-firing speakers that flank the keyboard provide unmuffled audio, though quality could be a bit better.
The keyboard is comfortable, the Precision touchpad makes for easy pointing, and there’s a fingerprint reader for extra security. If you need a high-quality convertible with inking and excellent battery life, consider the Yoga C640.
Great typing and pointing experience
Premium look and feel
Good size and weight for tablet mode
Stellar battery life
Strong 10th Gen Intel performance
Audio could be better
Display could be brighter
Best Battery Life
Lenovo Yoga C640
From $700 at Lenovo
$800 at Best Buy
The Yoga C640 is a well-built, well-performing convertible laptop that’s available at a very tempting price. It doesn’t offer all the same features as its C630 predecessor (like LTE connectivity and dual USB-C), but it’s still a great alternative to more expensive 13-inch convertibles on the market.
Best Value: Acer Aspire 5
The Aspire 5 A515-56 from Acer is a tempting blend of modern PC hardware and affordable price. Despite the $620 price tag, you get a modern 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU with four cores, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD. The CPU includes Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics that can handle even a bit of light gaming. This is rather premium hardware in a cheap laptop.
The 15.6-inch FHD display has that extra space for easy productivity, and the comfortable keyboard and touchpad won’t hold you back. A fingerprint reader is built into the touchpad for added security through Windows Hello. Wi-Fi 6 is included, and you can expect around eight hours of battery life from a charge. There’s no Thunderbolt, but ports include USB-C 3.2, two USB-A 3.2, USB-A 2.0, and HDMI.
If you’re looking for a well-rounded notebook with modern performance hardware inside, the Acer Aspire 5 offers serious value. This is a lot of PC for the price.
Truly bargain pricing
11th Gen Intel Core CPU
Good battery life
15-inch display better for productivity
Speakers could be better
Acer Aspire 5
$620 at Amazon
$620 at Newegg
Get 11th Gen Intel hardware, 15.6-inch display, and a ton of extra features for a great price. If you want a well-rounded PC within the budget range, this is it.
When shopping around for a cheap laptop, you might be tempted to check some truly inexpensive hardware, like the best laptops under $300. This category is mostly dominated by Chromebooks, with Windows PCs sitting much more comfortably in the category of best laptops under $500. Stepping things up to around $800 or less adds a bunch of great options, including a few of the laptops we’ve rounded up in this collection.
Our overall pick for a cheap laptop is the Surface Go 2 thanks to a combination of premium build quality and design, high-end display with inking capabilities, optional 4G LTE, and the new Intel Core m3 CPU option for better performance. This PC isn’t going to dominate when it comes to performance, but it will put up a fight against productivity work and daily tasks. And thanks to its diminutive size, it’s easy to take with you wherever you go. Considering the price starts at just $400, this is an easy recommendation when it comes to PCs on a budget.
For more great PCs, be sure to have a look at our roundup of the overall best Windows laptop options out there today.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, accessory coverage, and the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
Daniel Rubino is the executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.
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