We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies as per our policy which also explains how to change your preferences.

Best Budget laptops

Best laptops for under £300

By Michael Passingham

Article 1 of 3

Cheap doesn’t necessarily mean cheerful, but we’ve found plenty of cheap laptops over the last few years that come in at £300 or under. Here’s how to choose a cheap laptop, plus some top Which? Recommendations.

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

Anybody who’s so much as glanced at Which? will know how much we love to discuss budget versus economy. Is paying less for a product actually worthwhile when a pricier option will last longer and perform better? 

In the world of laptops, false economy is rife, and we see plenty of cheap laptops that fail to achieve what we’d expect a laptop to do, despite appearing to be a great deal.

Of the laptops reviewed in 2017 and 2018, the lowest score we’ve given to a sub-£300 laptop is 41% (earning it a Don’t Buy), while we’ve also handed out scores in excess of 70%.

The difference between a good and a bad cheap laptop can be stark; with terrible touchpads and screens the most common offenders. Even picking a brand might not get you far - the 41% and 70% scores we awarded in recent months were both given to laptops made by the same company.

The models we’ve selected for this guide might not be the highest-scoring models we’ve reviewed, and are instead, but they are the ones our experts believe offer the best value at the time of writing.

Browse our laptop Best Buys to see the models that impressed us the most. 

The pros and cons of cheap laptops

If you’re thinking of buying a cheap laptop, you should know what you can and can’t do with your new machine.

Pros:

  • Portability: Very cheap laptops also tend to be very small and thin, which means they often weigh around 1kg and sometimes even less. They’re also typically very thin, meaning they should, and can slide into even the smallest of bags.
  • Battery life: Because these laptops feature low-power processors, they often have exceptionally long battery life; some of the best models we’ve tested easily last more than 10 hours. This means they can last all day, so you won’t get caught short if you’re out for longer than you expected.
  • Cheerful designs: Budget laptops tend to feature more colourful, slightly ruggedised designs. While this won’t ever make or break a laptop, it can be a nice bonus.

Cons:

  • Performance: The main downside to cheap laptops is their speed. You’ll find most cheap laptops with Intel Celeron and Atom processors. The very latest models perform fine when web browsing with a few web browser tabs open, but they will slow down significantly if you try to have several programs running at once. Read more about processor brands in our guide to Intel, AMD and Nvidia.
  • Screen quality: This isn’t the case across the board, but some cheaper laptops have screens that are significantly duller with lower resolutions than their more expensive counterparts. This isn’t a universal truth, however, and some ultra-cheap laptops have impressive screens. Our reviews reveal all.
  • Low storage: Small and cheap laptops, especially Chromebooks, don’t have much in the way of storage. If you have a large collection of files, you should keep them backed up on an external USB hard drive. These laptops are also best for working on documents stored in Cloud services such as Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

Now you know what to expect from a budget laptop, here are our top recommendations.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.

Best laptops under £300

Typical price £250.00
Which? score 69%
Reviewed Nov 2017
Ease of use:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Performance:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Screen quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Processor:
Member exclusive
Claimed storage capacity (GB):
Member exclusive
Screen size (inches):
Member exclusive
Operating system:
Member exclusive

This tiny 10-inch laptop can be bought for under £300 in several retailers. It weighs under 900g and is the ideal travel companion for taking notes, writing documents or sending emails. Its 360-degree hinge means it can also be used as a tablet.

Typical price £190.00
Which? score 65%
Reviewed Feb 2016
Ease of use:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Performance:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Screen quality:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Processor:
Member exclusive
Claimed storage capacity (GB):
Member exclusive
Screen size (inches):
Member exclusive
Operating system:
Member exclusive

This cheap 11-inch laptop lets you flip it into a tablet, thanks to its 360-degree hinge. It has a great touchscreen and the battery should last all day. Performance isn’t fast, but it’s fine for light use.

Typical price £199.00
Which? score 62%
Reviewed Sep 2018
Ease of use:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Performance:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Screen quality:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Processor:
Member exclusive
Claimed storage capacity (GB):
Member exclusive
Screen size (inches):
Member exclusive
Operating system:
Member exclusive

It's one of the cheapest Windows 10 laptops around, and it's very likeable. There's nowhere near enough stroage, though.

Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of October 2018.

Cheap laptops to avoid

Like many tech products, buying at the lower end of the market is fraught with risk. Cheaper models can often be slow, with poor quality screens and imbalanced specifications that could leave you frustrated with sluggish performance. 

Doing your research is especially important here to avoid buying a dud.

Top two laptops to avoid

Typical price £219.00
Which? score 45%
Reviewed Aug 2018
Ease of use:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Screen quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Sound quality:
1 out of 51 out of 5
Features:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Processor:
Member exclusive
Ram (GB):
Member exclusive
Claimed storage capacity (GB):
Member exclusive
Screen size (inches):
Member exclusive

This brand is apparently popular on Amazon, but our tests reveal this budget laptop is a complete false economy. It’s slow, poorly made and the battery life is awful. Other than that, it’s great.

Typical price £250.00
Which? score 41%
Reviewed Jun 2017
Ease of use:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Screen quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Sound quality:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Features:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Processor:
Member exclusive
Ram (GB):
Member exclusive
Claimed storage capacity (GB):
Member exclusive
Screen size (inches):
Member exclusive

A cheap laptop that skimps on the processor, speakers, keyboard, screen, and…well, just about all the components. Cheap? Yes. Cheerful? Oh dear no.

Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of August 2018.

The Which? Laptop test

Which tests laptops like no other publication in the UK. For each laptop we test, we buy two models ourselves for use in our accredited laboratory. No freebies means no dependency on a good relationship with laptop manufacturers.

Our laptop experts assess each computer in over 200 individual areas, creating an overall rating from the factors you see on our review pages.

For more, read how we test laptops.

SHARE THIS PAGE