Best cheap laptops under £500
False economy is rife in the world of laptops. We see plenty of cheap models that may look like a great deal, but simply fail to perform.
The truth about budget laptops is that if you're paying less then £500, you'll have to make some compromises. We've seen sub-£500 Best Buy models in the past, but they're few and far between. But just because a laptop doesn't earn our highly prized Best Buy accolade, it's by no means an indictment of its value for money.
In this article, we’ll take you through our top picks of the best laptops for less than £500, and give our expert tips on where you can make compromises – and where you shouldn't. We'll also outline what to look for in a cheap laptop for a child.
Best cheap laptops
Laptops for less than £200: If you’re looking for a decent laptop that costs less than £200, you won't get many bells and whistles, but there are a few options available that have scored well in our tests. Ultra-cheap laptops are often best suited to more basic computing tasks such as writing documents and sending a few emails.
Laptops for less than £300: Up the budget to £300 and you’ll start to find higher-scoring models with faster processors and better screens.
Laptops for less than £500: If your budget can stretch to £500, you'll find a lot more to choose from. Models often have faster Intel Core i3 – and, at a stretch, i5 – processors, as well as speedy solid-state drives (SSDs) and vibrant Full HD screens.
Top laptops under £500
Below, we've gathered the very best laptops for less than £500, ranked by Which? test score. We've been sure to pick out the best models for less than £300 and less than £200, too, in case your budget is very tight.
We select and update these products monthly, and, where possible, the price is updated daily. The product selection was last updated in May 2021.
Cheap laptops to avoid
Shopping at the budget end of the market is not easy. We've named the worst offenders as Don't Buys, because of poor performance, battery life, display quality, or often all three. The Don't Buy laptops below are definitely models to avoid.
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 of cheap laptops
- Portability: Very cheap laptops under £300 tend to be small, which means they often weigh around 1kg or less. They’re also typically very thin, so should slide into even the smallest of bags.
- Battery life: Because these laptops have low-power processors, they often have exceptionally long battery life. Some of the best models we’ve tested easily last more than 10 hours, so you shouldn't get caught out if you’re away from a power source for longer than you expected.
- Cheerful designs: Some budget laptops have more colourful, slightly rugged designs. While this won’t ever make or break a laptop buying decision, it can be a nice bonus.
Cons of cheap laptops
- Speed: While laptops costing around £500 will be fast enough for almost everyone, if you cut the budget much more than this, speed will suffer. The very latest models are fine when web browsing, but they will slow down significantly if you try to have several programs running at once. Most very cheap laptops have lower-end Intel Celeron and Atom processors. Read more about processor brands in our .
- Screen quality: 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 laptop reviews reveal all.
- Low storage: Small and cheap laptops, especially Chromebooks, have little storage. These laptops are best for working on documents stored in cloud services such as Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. If you have a large collection of photos and videos, you might need to keep them on an external USB hard drive. If you’re buying a Windows laptop with 32GB of storage or less, you'll need to also buy a micro-SD card to increase storage to prevent Windows 10 updates from causing problems.
Cheap laptops for children
Our reviews assume the laptop user is an adult or an older student (university or sixth form age, for example), who will have certain minimum requirements.
If you're buying for a younger child who only needs a laptop to do their homework, you can spend as little as £150 on a new budget model that should be up to the job. That’s not to say you should completely ignore our reviews, as few budget laptops excel in our tests, but it does mean you can be a little more flexible.
That said, you should aim to buy a laptop that’s not too old. Cheap laptops from a few years ago were slow when they launched and might feel even slower today, as programs and the web have become more demanding for older computers.
What to look for in a cheap laptop
Here are the minimum specs to look for if you’re buying for a younger child and have a budget of less than £200.
- Operating system: Windows 10 S or ChromeOS
- Processor: Intel Celeron or Pentium
- Memory: 4GB Ram
- Storage: 64GB of storage (Windows) or 32GB of storage (ChromeOS)
We'd recommend a smaller, 11-inch screen (to make the laptop easy and safe to carry around). Avoid big, heavy laptops that a child will struggle to carry.
Also steer clear of:
- Processor: Intel Atom and older Intel Celeron processors (look out for model number starting with N3, such as N3060, as these are old and slow).
- Memory: 2GB Ram (it's just not enough).
- Storage: 16GB storage (this will get full up very fast).
If you opt for Windows 10 S, your computer will only be able to install apps from the Microsoft Store. This means there's much less chance of your child accidentally downloading an app that’s actually a virus or full of spam. You can also set up their Microsoft account to be a 'child' account linked to your own account, so you can limit what they're allowed to do with the laptop.
We’d recommend sticking to models from well-known brands, sold by trusted retailers, as you can more easily guarantee that they’re new and have a valid warranty. You'll also have access to a dedicated customer-support service via the manufacturer’s website.
Buying a no-name brand from an online marketplace such as Amazon Marketplace or eBay, for example, means you might get little or no support. Some brands don’t even have websites, making them impossible to contact.
Getting a good deal on a cheap laptop
Laptop deals are a dime a dozen if retailers' special offers are to be believed, but just because a deal exists, doesn’t mean it’s special. Indeed, sometimes the 'sale' price is simply the usual price but with a big red label on it.
We've put together a full guide on laptop deals, including five top picks updated monthly, and a full suite of advice on how to get the best out of the UK's biggest retailers.