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The best budget laptops for 2019

A cheap laptop isn’t the same as a poorly made laptop. They aren’t hand-me-downs, knockoffs, or used computers from thrift stores. The best budget laptops are affordable, brand-new computers that get the job done without digging too deeply into your pockets.

We’ve reviewed hundreds of laptops, so we know what to look for in a laptop regardless of the price. The best budget laptop you can buy is the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333, which starts at $850. It does everything that laptops hundreds of dollars more expensive can do — and in some cases, it does it even better. But if your budget is a bit lower, or if you want to be able to game on your laptop, we’ve included options for you below as well.

At a glance

Product Category Rating
Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 The best budget laptop 4 of 5 stars
Acer Aspire E 15 The best laptop under $600 4 of 5 stars
Acer Chromebook 514 The best budget Chromebook 4 of 5 stars
Dell G3 Gaming Laptop The best budget gaming laptop 3.5 of 5 stars
Microsoft Surface Go The best budget 2-in-1 3.5 of 5 stars

Asus ZenBook 13 UX333

The best budget laptop

The best budget laptops for 2019

Why you should buy this: It’s fast, portable, affordable, and gets fantastic battery life.

Who’s it for: Everyone except gamers.

Why we picked the Asus ZenBook 13 UX333:

You might not expect quality from a laptop that costs less than a new flagship iPhone, but this ZenBook is a pleasant surprise. The newest ZenBook 13 enjoys the same all-metal unibody chassis, and now it is barely more than half an inch thick and has shed half a pound to weigh in at two and a half pounds. The latest version packs in the same surprising amount of horsepower into its small and inexpensive package. Featuring an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, the ZenBook easily outperforms its nearest competitors running old hardware.

Better still, the laptop is a real pleasure to use. It has an excellent keyboard — one of the best on a 13-inch laptop at this price. It also offers a spacious touchpad and a 1080p non-touch display with extremely thin bezels. The display has been improved to offer extraordinary contrast no matter the price, along with an impressive increase in its color gamut. This isn’t a 2-in-1, so you won’t be swinging the ZenBook 13 UX333’s display around for use as a tablet, but its focus on conventional use helps Asus offer this system at a budget price. The incredible battery life is the cherry on top.

The Asus ZenBook UX333 is good or great in all important metrics, which is why we gave it our Editors’ Choice award. It’s not just one of the best budget laptops, it’s among the best laptops at any price.

Our full Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 review

Acer Aspire E 15

The best entry level option

The best budget laptops for 2019Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: Great performance for the price, with plenty of hardware options.

Who’s it for: Those who want a full Windows laptop, without the hefty price tag.

Why we picked the Acer Aspire E 15:

Typically, the lower down the pricing scale you go with laptops, the more sacrifices you have to make. With the Acer Aspire E 15 though, those sacrifices are surprisingly minor. Sure, it might have a pretty heavy chassis compared to many of its lightweight contemporaries, but for the kind of performance you get for this price, it’s an excellent budget laptop.

In our testing, we found it remarkably productive for its price point thanks to its 8th-generation Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM. If you opt for the version with the Nvidia MX150 discrete graphics chip, then it even works well for entry-level gaming too.

Yes, its bezels are thick, but they wrap around a full HD display with surprisingly great contrast. It also has decent battery life, a comfortable keyboard, and easy upgrade paths through more and faster RAM and expanded storage, so you don’t even need to buy the top configuration right from the start.

All in all, the Acer Aspire E 15 is a great, full Windows laptop that costs as little as some Chromebooks. You can’t ask for much more in a budget laptop.

Our full Acer Aspire E 15 review

Acer Chromebook 514

The best budget Chromebook

The best budget laptops for 2019Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s extremely affordable, with a great screen, and all-day battery life.

Who’s it for: Anyone on a budget who doesn’t mind sacrificing looks for function.

Why we picked the Acer Chromebook 514:

Chromebooks — laptops that run Google’s Chrome OS — have become popular budget choices over the last few years, and many have won us over as well. The Acer Chromebook 514 is a great example of their strengths. It has a 1080p display, a limited, but fast enough Intel processor, and plenty of memory. No Windows notebook comes close to touching its value, and with battery life that will last all day, it’s supremely portable.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 514’s low price brings some limitations — you won’t find a budget Chromebook in this price range with a fast solid-state drive or an optional discrete GPU — but they aren’t necessities for the typical Chrome OS user. Its CPU isn’t blazing fast either, but it’s quick enough for everyday tasks.

It also has a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution IPS display that’s more than good enough for web browsing and productivity work, 8GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC flash storage. The keyboard is particularly noteworthy with a very satisfying feel when typing and the backlighting is tastefully done so you can easily run this device in the dark.

You will have to get used to Chrome OS too. It’s not as functional as Windows, and it works best when you have an active internet connection, but it’s much more fleshed out today than it was in the past. If you find yourself using a lot of Google web services and watching streaming services like Netflix, a Chromebook like the 514 could be a great way to save a lot of money on your next upgrade.

Our full Acer Chromebook 514 review

Dell G3 Gaming Laptop

The best budget gaming laptop

The best budget laptops for 2019Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It offers solid gaming performance for less than $1,000.

Who’s it for: Gamers, and only gamers.

Why we picked the Dell G3 Gaming Laptop:

Although gaming laptops are typically quite expensive, the Dell G3 Gaming Laptop is a great example of why they don’t need to be. Starting at around $700, you get an Intel Core i5-8300 CPU, a GTX 1050 graphics chip, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB of hybrid-HDD storage, with options for faster CPUs, more powerful graphics, extra and faster storage, and memory if you don’t mind spending a little more. You can now even bump up to next-gen components such as 9th-gen processors and 16-series graphics cards, though those configurations start at $950. Every model comes with a 15.6-inch, 1080p IPS display.

With decent build quality and good performance in a relatively light chassis, the G3 offers an all-around solid gaming package at an impressively competitive price. It does have its weak points, most notably a less than stunning display — it’s dull, but still looks good enough if you crank up the settings. Similarly, the storage options aren’t the quickest, but those are sacrifices that are worth making to keep the price down on such a capable gaming machine.

There are far better gaming laptops out there, but we’d struggle to find one that’s as powerful as Dell’s G3 at this price point. It’s a fantastic, budget gaming machine.

Our full Dell G3 Gaming Laptop review

Microsoft Surface Go

The best budget 2-in-1

The best budget laptops for 2019Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s quick, lightweight, and versatile.

Who’s it for: Anyone who needs the on-the-go mobility of a small, 2-in-1.

Why we picked the Microsoft Surface Go:

The Surface Go may be limited by its small size and low-powered Intel processor, but it offers something never before seen in the Windows world: A truly budget-minded 2-in-1. Its build is every bit as strong as its older brother, the Surface Pro, and it boasts a beautiful, bright display to boot. The best part? It’s actually thin and light enough to be held in one hand like a proper tablet.

While performance doesn’t feel as smooth as on something like an iPad or even a Chromebook, those devices can’t do quite as many things as the Surface Go, which runs a full version of Windows 10. On the battery front, it’s a bit lacking. That’s its most unfortunate compromise since this is a device made for portability. Also, we still wish the excellent keyboard and Surface Pen came bundled in.

But even with its fair share of faults, it’s absolutely the best budget 2-in-1 you can buy.

Our full Microsoft Surface Go review

Should you buy now, or wait?

Intel’s 8th-generation Core processors are commonplace today and make for a small, but noticeable improvement over their predecessors. Those gains were achieved by cramming more cores into the processors, which is why we now have quad-core Core i7 chips in much smaller laptops than we had in the past. That’s great news for anyone in the market for a mid-range laptop, and as we’ve seen with the Asus ZenBook UX330UA, those processors are already finding their way into low-priced models.

On the other hand, both Intel and AMD are gearing up to release their next generation of mobile processors. AMD’s Ryzen 3000 mobile lineup shows a promising selection of both dual-core and quad-core processors with boost clocks as high as 4GHz. Additionally, Ryzen 3000 mobile CPUs will include Vega graphics cores, which should be more capable than Intel’s commonplace on board GPUs. That said, Intel’s 9th generation mobile chips will likely offer higher clock speeds and overall performance when announced, though their release date is still up in the air at this time.

How do we test laptops?

We judge laptops on a wide variety of factors including the processor, storage solution, and graphics performance, battery life, and display quality. We test these components with objective tools, rather than trying to rely on our subjective impressions. For more information on our test procedures, check out our full guide to how we test laptops.

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