Home » Best budget laptops: Shop smart with our top picks – Which? News

Best budget laptops: Shop smart with our top picks – Which? News

Our laptops expert runs through the best budget laptops on the market right now, and reveals whether it’s possible to buy a Mac inexpensively.

Buying a laptop with a specific budget in mind is tricky – no matter what your price limit, there will always be upsides and downsides to a given model. Our reviews reveal exactly how each laptop compares to its rivals, but if you want a quick hit to find out which models under £500 are worth a punt, read on.


Read our guide to the best laptops


Budget laptop vs cheap laptop

Michael Passingham, Which? laptops expert

‘It might seem like picking hairs to distinguish between these two buying choices, but there is genuinely a distinction between the mindset of getting the cheapest laptop possible and getting the best one you can afford. In the long run, it will always make sense to buy the best laptop you can afford at that moment because it will be more useful for longer. We know from our annual member surveys that most people keep their laptops for at least eight years, but the very slowest laptops of 2024 are unlikely to still be frustration-free in 2032.

Some of the cheapest laptops we test have decrepit and old processors despite having only launched relatively recently. These laptops attract people who need to spend as little as possible and of course, sometimes you simply need a screen and a keyboard and don’t want to stretch your finances. However, if you can avoid the absolute cheapest, you’ll have a substantially better experience in the long run – provided you pick your model carefully. 

If you want to save money, buying a refurbished laptop can nab you a phenomenal deal, particularly on Windows 11 laptops that are guaranteed to continue getting crucial software updates until 2031 at the earliest.’


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Best budget laptops

Below we’ve picked out laptops we’ve tested at various prices – less than £500, less than £400 and less than £300. The choices below prioritise buying the quickest laptop for your money without making heavy compromises elsewhere.

Top-pick laptop under £500: Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 7435

 Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 7435

We like: Great battery life

We don’t like: The screen could be better

This 2-in-1 laptop has a 14-inch touchscreen and can be flipped around to be used like a large tablet. Dell hasn’t scrimped on the specs, it’s the best specification we’ve seen on any laptop under £500 we’ve seen in several years.

It’s often found for well under £500, depending on how generous Dell feels on a given day. It’s sold exclusively on Dell’s website, so you can go directly to Dell to find out what price it’s at right now and customise it to your liking. Don’t forget to read our Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 7435 review to get our full expert verdict and make sure it’s right for your needs.

Another smart choice under £500

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2: This 2022 laptop has dropped dramatically in price on Amazon lately and is well worth a look. It’s a unique combination of a very small laptop (12.5 inches) and a potent Intel Core i5 processor. Buy it on Amazon for £480.

Top-pick laptop under £400: Asus Vivobook Go 15 E1504GA

Asus Vivobook Go 15 E1504GA

We like: Great battery life when streaming videos

We don’t like: The webcam

You get a lot of laptop for your money with the Asus Vivobook Go 15 E1504GA. The Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of Ram and 256GB of storage is more than we’d expect for the price and is the spec we’d recommend for anyone who needs a laptop for browsing the web, working on docs and watching a few videos. 

We’ve consistently found it for less than £400. Although its theoretical recommended price is more than £600, we’ve never seen it priced as high. See the latest prices below and read our full Asus Vivobook Go 15 E1504GA review for the finer details.

Another smart choice under £400

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go: This 2020 laptop supports Windows 11, so will get updates until at least 2031 and has many of the virtues of the newer Go 2 (see above) and Surface Go 3 for a much lower price. Buy it on Amazon for £370.

Top-pick laptop under £300: Acer Chromebook 514 CB514-1W

Acer Chromebook 514 CB514-1W

We like: Nippy processor

We don’t like: The speakers

This is a good specification for £299. A reasonably recent Intel Core i3 processor coupled with 8GB of Ram and 128GB of storage should be enough for a student or home office user who doesn’t mind too much about the corners being cut elsewhere, including screen and speaker quality. 

Where speed makes the most difference to your day-to-day experience, picking a laptop like this over one with a lesser processor is a good move. The best price we’ve found is at Very and read our full Acer Chromebook 514 CB514-1W review.


On a tight budget and want some more choices? See our guide to the best cheap laptops


Can you buy a budget Mac?

Macs command a higher price than any other laptop brand. You can save money by buying second-hand or refurbished, but it’s hard to find a relatively new Mac in good condition for under £600. 

For example, the 2020 MacBook Pro with M1 processor, 256GB of storage and 8GB of Ram can be had for £669 in ‘Excellent’ condition from Back Market, although this low price seems to be something of an outlier, so you won’t always be able to find a model that cheaply. Other retailers that sell refurbished Macs include Hoxton Macs and Laptops Direct.

There are other ways to save, though: we’ve previously seen trade-in deals on Mac laptops directly from Apple itself and from retailers such as John Lewis and Currys. These happen sporadically throughout the year but can often net you a fantastic discount of more than £400, depending on the model of laptop you trade-in. 


Head to our best laptop deals guide for the biggest and best discounts, handpicked by our experts


Which affordable laptop brand is best?

In addition to testing more than 120 laptops each year, we also survey thousands of laptop-owning Which? members to see if any brands excel in terms of reliability and overall customer satisfaction.

While Dell isn’t a brand that tops our survey, we have found that for brands that sell cheaply, as well as high-end, laptops, Dell does eke out a small advantage over other big mainstream names, including Acer and HP.

See our guide to the best laptop brands for more.