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Best cheap laptop 2024: Our favourite budget Windows laptops and Chromebooks

Looking for a budget laptop that doesn't cost the earth? These are the best cheap laptops on the market today

There’s no reason to spend a fortune on a new portable PC when the best cheap laptops can hold their own against more expensive competition.

Many of the best budget laptops now offer impressive specifications without wallet-busting price tags, meaning you don’t need to limit your search for a budget machine to the realms of older, second-hand or refurbished laptops.

Below, you will find a comprehensive buying guide for buying a laptop for less than £800, and an up-to-date list of our favourite cheap laptops, complete with prices, specifications and links to the reviews so you can read more about them.

Best cheap laptops 2024: At a glance

Best overallAcer Swift Go 14 (2023) (~£649)Check price at Currys
Best for gamingMedion Erazer Crawler E40 (~£800)Check price at Currys
Best ChromebookAsus Chromebook Plus CX34 (~£400)Check price at Amazon

How to choose the best cheap laptop for you

Should I buy an old laptop?

There is no need to buy an outdated or second-hand laptop to get something good these days. Indeed, we’d recommend buying as new as you can afford, because it’s more likely to be quicker, and more efficient.

Don’t, however, assume that just because it’s a new model, it’s worth buying. At the lower end of the market in particular manufacturers have a habit of using older chips and wrapping them up in new bodies – these are the machines to avoid, if possible because they’ll be slower and less responsive than those with more modern components.

If you’re a little uncertain about swapping to one of the laptops listed below, here’s a checklist of things that a useable cheap laptop must have/do.

Windows 11: Unless you’re going for a Chromebook, the single most important thing to watch out for when buying a cheap laptop is that it runs the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system – Windows 11. Ideally, you want a laptop that comes with Windows 11 pre-installed; if it’s anything else, steer clear.

Ports and sockets: The last thing you want to do is snag a bargain on a cheap old laptop only to find that it doesn’t have any modern connectors. To make sure that the laptop you’re buying can connect to your TV, for example, check that it has an HDMI or DisplayPort video output, rather than an outdated VGA port.

If you’re the type who has loads of files on external storage, you might also want to check that it supports USB 4 or Thunderbolt 4 for faster file transfers and has an SD or microSD card slot. It’s also worth noting the type of USB ports a cheap laptop has. Some have only USB-A ports, others the newer USB-C and some employ a mix of both. Pick a cheap laptop that offers ports that support whatever accessories you intend to use your laptop with.

Physical specifications: Old laptops are often heavier and larger than current models. There’s nothing wrong with a larger screen, but if you need portability, it’s worth looking at how much the laptop you’re eyeing up actually weighs – and whether it will fit into your rucksack.

What kind of specifications should I look for?

A laptop’s internal components will determine what it can do, and how fast it can do it. As a general rule, even the best cheap laptop will be slower than an expensive one, and won’t be able to multitask as effectively or play demanding games.

READ NEXT: The best budget gaming laptops

CPU: Unless you’re a bit of a tech-head, you won’t need to worry too much about the complexities of the Central Processing Unit (CPU). Ultimately, cheap laptops aren’t famed for their processing power, and you certainly won’t be given much choice over what kind of CPU your laptop ships with.

Many super-cheap laptops house quad-core Celeron processors – these are Intel’s cheap processors and are used to keep the cost down. At around the £500 mark, you will start seeing laptops incorporating more powerful Intel Core i3 and i5 core CPUs, along with AMD’s equivalents, the Ryzen 3 and Ryzen 5.

You should only be interested in the quad-core bit: this indicates that the laptop is better suited to running multiple processes at once – useful for office workers who run programs other than Google Chrome and Slack.

Also be aware that Intel updates its CPUs frequently (usually annually) and you should try to avoid laptops with older CPUs inside. We’d recommend four years as an absolute maximum age when purchasing even a budget machine.

That’s not the easiest thing to do by eye, but if you search for the release date of the CPU, using the full model name –which will look something like: Intel Core i7-1250U (2022) or AMD Ryzen 5 6600U(2022) – you should get an idea of how old the CPU is.

RAM: Random Access Memory sounds complicated, but it’s really just a measure of exactly how many tasks your laptop can handle at once (the more, the better). Some applications, particularly games, have a minimum required RAM, below which they will not function as intended.

Some cheap laptops will have 4GB of RAM, which is enough for work but too little for demanding multitasking, photo/video-editing tasks or gaming. If you can afford it, we recommend choosing a laptop with at least 8GB of RAM.

Storage: Budget laptops have less onboard storage than their high-end counterparts but many come with Solid-State Drives (SSDs), which will speed up your laptop considerably.

Cheaper machines will often come with cheaper eMMC flash storage instead, which isn’t a problem, but will typically slow down the loading of applications quite a bit.

Also, we recommend you avoid any laptop with less than 128GB of space as this may cause issues with Windows updates.

How different are Chromebooks to regular laptops?

Chromebooks use Google’s own operating system, Chrome OS, which differs from the Windows (or Linux or MacOS) systems you may be used to. Laptops that run on Chrome OS still have a desktop, a file browser and an applications menu but they rely heavily on cloud storage and internet applications such as Google Docs and Sheets.

These days, however, that’s not a big limitation and the advent of game streaming services such as Xbox Cloud Gaming and GeForce Now means you can even play some pretty advanced titles on fairly lowly hardware. Chromebooks are perfect for this and there are even models designed specifically for the purpose.

It is possible to run Linux apps like Gimp and LibreOffice on Chromebooks, if you prefer not to have to rely on an internet connection. And these days you can also install Android applications via Google Play. However, you can still work offline (ie not connected to the internet) if you stick with Google’s office working apps, and all the work will be backed up as soon as you’re back online.

The beauty of a Chromebook, however, is that ChromeOS is less demanding than Windows 11, which means Chromebooks can get by with dual-core or quad-core processors, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage and still remain responsive.

It is still worth looking out for more power, all the same, and here any machine with the “Chromebook Plus” should help you narrow down your choice. These laptops come with much higher base specifications across the board.

READ NEXT: The best Chromebooks to buy

How we test cheap laptops

We have years of experience testing and using laptops, but to make sure we’re being as objective as possible in our reviews we put every laptop we’re sent for review through a battery of tests.

We benchmark performance using a selection of different software tools, both in-house and third party. We test storage speed, recording sequential transfer speeds, thermal performance and we measure a laptop’s display capabilities using an X-Rite colorimeter.

Because battery life is also crucial we test this, setting the screen brightness to a predetermined level and putting the laptop in flight mode. We also ensure we use every laptop for a selection of day-to-day activities so we can assess ergonomics and usability.

The best cheap laptops you can buy in 2024

1. Acer Swift Go 14: Best cheap ultracompact laptop

Price: From £649 | Check price at Currys

Acer Swift Go 14 on a desk facing slightly to the left

The Swift Go 14 range from Acer offers excellent value at less than £800 compact and you can choose from a host of configurations, including OLED and IPS screens without or without touch and several different CPUs from both Intel and AMD. For outright value, the Intel Core i5-13500H model with a Full HD touchscreen for £799 is our recommendation.

The 14in 1,920 x 1,200 IPS touchscreen in this model can’t match the 2.8K 16:10 OLED panel in the pricier Swift Go 14 when it comes to brightness and colour saturation but it’s not at all bad with 100% sRGB gamut coverage. Above the screen sits a superb 1440p webcam, while performance from the 12-core Intel Core i5-13500H processor is sprightly, to say the least.

Getting ten hours from a full charge of the battery is easy and there’s an impressive level of connectivity for an ultraportable with two Thunderbolt 4 ports and an HDMI 2.1 video output and 6Ghz Wi-Fi 6E connectivity. The downsides are rather raucous speakers and a shallow keyboard, but they don’t knock the shine off what is otherwise an excellent little – in price and dimensions – laptop.

Read our full Acer Swift Go 14 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-13500H; GPU: Intel Iris Xe; RAM: 8GB; Display size: 14in; Display resolution: 1,980 x 1,080; Display type: IPS 60Hz; Storage: 512GB SSD; Dimensions: 313 x 218 x 15mm (WDH); Weight: 1.25kg

Check price at Currys

2. HP Pavilion SE 14: Best cheap Windows laptop under £500

Price: £449 | Check price at Currys

HP Pavilion SE 14 open, facing slightly to the left

HP’s 14in Pavilion SE isn’t always available for under £500. Depending on when and where you look, you’ll see it for sale at anything between £449 and £599, but if you want a decent compact laptop with modern underpinnings it’s a good buy, even at the upper end of this scale. At £449 or £499 (we’ve seen it at both prices while writing this roundup), it’s seriously good value.

Considering the price, the basic components are surprisingly up-to-date and high-end, with an Intel Core i5-1335U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. The keyboard is good, too – both solid and positive. The display is a little drab, but it’s a 1,920 x 1,080 IPS affair, which is very much not a given at this sort of price. Even more surprising is the 1080p webcam, which is better than some you’ll find on laptops costing four times the price.

Of course, something has to give at this price, and here it’s the battery. With only 41Wh of juice, you’ll be very lucky to get to the seven-hour mark, and you can’t recharge via the system’s USB-C port, either (this doesn’t support video out, either).

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-1335U; GPU: Intel Iris Xe; RAM: 8GB; Display size: 14in; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Display Type: IPS 60Hz; Storage: 512GB; Dimensions: 324 x 215 x 18mm (WDH); Weight: 1.4kg

Check price at Currys

3. Asus Chromebook Plus CX34: Best budget Chromebook

Price: £400 | Check price at Amazon

Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 - front slight angle, open

To be put into the “Plus” category of Chromebooks, a laptop must have at least a 12th Gen Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 7000 series CPU, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 1080p webcam, a Full HD IPS display and ten-hour battery life. To get all that for just £429 is quite something, but we’ve seen the CX34 on sale for £150 less, making it the steal of the century.

It’s hard to overstate just how good the CX34 is for the money. Performance is solid, battery life is excellent, and it has a high-quality keyboard that even has a backlight. The display is a little drab, but we’ve come across far worse on laptops costing several hundred pounds more, and there’s nothing wrong with the resolution (Full HD) or the viewing angles. It’s a well-made laptop, too, and meets US MIL-STD 810H durability standards.

With the capacity to run Linux programs like Gimp and LibreOffice as well as Android apps, the CX34 is a supremely versatile laptop at a bargain basement price.

Read our full Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i3-1215U; GPU: Intel Iris Xe; RAM: 8GB; Display size: 14in; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Display Type: IPS 60Hz; Storage: 256GB UFS; Dimensions: 326 x 214 x 19 (WDH); Weight: 1.44kg

4. Acer Aspire 7: Best budget laptop with a discrete GPU

Price: £549 | Check price at Argos

Acer Aspire 7 pictured at a slight angle, facing to the right

You could argue that any laptop with a 144Hz display and an Nvidia GeForce RTX GPU is a gaming laptop but the Acer Aspire 7 only has an RTX 2050, so we’d describe it as a general-purpose laptop that can play games. That may seem like splitting hairs, but while the RTX 2050 can handle hardcore Triple-A games and Ray Tracing it can’t do both at once thanks to a relatively low 4GB of video RAM and 55W peak TGP.

Case in point, a game like Wolfenstein: Youngblood will happily run at 60fps and more with Ray Tracing but a more demanding title like Cyberpunk 2077 will demand you turn Ray Tracing off to get even a semi-decent frame rate. If you buy the Aspire 7 purely for gaming, you will likely be disappointed: a cut-price Medion Erazer E40 it is not.

It does, however, have some important strengths. To start with, you can easily add more RAM and a second SSD; the keyboard is good, as is the battery life which tested at a solid 8hrs 28mins. It’s a well-made device, too, with an aluminium lid and a solid plastic body. The killer feature is the price, though; for £749, you are getting a lot of laptop for your money, and we’ve seen it on sale for £200 less.

Read our full Acer Aspire 7 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-12450H; GPU: Nvidia RTX 2050; RAM: 8GB; Display size: 15.6in; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Display Type: IPS 144Hz; Storage: 512GB; Dimensions: 363 x 236 x 20mm (WDH); Weight: 2.1kg

Check price at Argos

5. Apple iPad 10th Gen & Magic Keyboard: Best budget 2-in-1

Price: £445 (exc keyboard) | Check price at Amazon

If you want an affordable device that’s equally at home used as a tablet or a laptop, then your best bet is the basic iPad combined with a keyboard. As a tablet, the iPad is far superior to anything running Windows 11, which does not have a finger-friendly UI. As a device for doing productive stuff, the range and quality of tablet-optimised productivity apps available for iPad leaves the Android competition in its dust.

The 10.9in 2,360 x 1,640 IPS display and Bionic A14 CPU may not be the latest or best Apple offers, but the iPad’s screen is very good and the chipset has more than enough power to dispatch everyday jobs with alacrity. You also get a brace of good-quality 12MP cameras, which puts the 720p webcams in most low- and mid-price laptops to shame.

Apple’s Magic Keyboard is excellent but if, like us, you’re not keen on the £270 price tag, the Logitech Combo Touch is nearly as good but a lot cheaper at £159.

Read our full Apple iPad 10th Generation review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Apple Bionic A14; GPU: Apple Bionic A14; RAM: 4GB; Display size: 10.9in; Display resolution: 2,360 x 1,640; Display Type: IPS 60Hz; Storage: 64GB; Dimensions: 249 x 180 x 7mm (WDH); Weight: 477g (without keyboard)

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