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.
Of the laptops reviewed in the last year, the lowest score we gave to a sub-£300 laptop is 44% (making it a Don’t Buy). However, we’ve also handed out scores in excess of 70%.
If you’re looking for a laptop that costs less than £250, there are a number of 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. See our list of pros and cons further down for more.
If your budget can stretch to £500, you'll find a lot more to choose from. Models often come equipped with faster Intel Core i3 – and, at a stretch, i5 – processors, as well as speedy solid-state drives (SSDs) and vibrant Full HD screens.
Shopping at the cheap end of the market is not easy. The worst offenders are given 'Don't Buys', due to 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.
- 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 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: Some budget laptops tend to feature more colourful, slightly rugged designs. While this won’t ever make or break a laptop purchase, it can be a nice bonus.
- Performance: The main downside to very 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. Laptops around £500 will be fast enough for almost everyone, however.
- 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. If you’re buying a Windows laptop with 32GB of storage or less, you will need to also buy a micro-SD card to increase storage to prevent Windows 10 updates from causing problems.
Which brands make the best budget laptops?
Most of the big laptop brands cover a range of price points, including budget models. Find out what to look for if you have a particular brand in mind.
Cheap HP laptops
HP’s cheapest laptops are found in its Stream and Pavilion range. Stream models are brightly coloured and start from £160, typically with Intel Celeron processors, 2GB of Ram and HD screens. Pavilions, meanwhile, start from around £300 with Intel Pentium and Core i3 models with 4GB of Ram the most common up to £500. Pavilions are most often sold at Currys PC World and tend to always have some form of discount applied (see Currys PC World section below for more).
Cheap Dell laptops
Dell’s cheapest laptops are found in its Inspiron range, and the firm also has a couple of Chromebooks, too. Generally, Dell doesn’t stray into ultra-cheap Windows laptops, instead selling machines starting from around £400. These are usually larger, 15-inch models equipped to handle office tasks.
Cheap Lenovo laptops
Lenovo’s entire everyday laptop range is known as IdeaPad. Its cheapest laptops have model numbers starting with 1 and 3, with thin and light laptops getting an S on the end of their name– the IdeaPad 320S is a mid-range thin and light laptop, for example. Laptops in the 100 range tend to be very basic, equipped with 32GB of storage and Intel Celeron processors. The 300-series models tend to be upgraded to Intel Pentium,Core i3 and beyond, along with 4GB of Ram.
Cheap Acer laptops
Acer has cheap laptops in several lines. It has Chromebooks, as well as its thin and light Swift range, and everyday Aspire range. Lower numbers (Aspire ES1, ES2, 3 and 6, Swift 1 and 3) denote cheaper models, and Swift 1 generally covers most of the firm’s laptops under £500, although you may also find Intel Pentium Swift 3 machines at the upper end of the scale. There are also Spin laptops, which are 2-in-1s, and follow the same number rules as above.
Cheap Asus laptops
Asus doesn’t have a huge range of cheap laptops, but most of them are known as VivoBooks, although some retailers don’t include the VivoBook name in some laptop product listings. The very cheapest are the E Series (£180 for an E203, for example), but there are also larger models starting with X (X403, for example). These frequently have Intel Celeron processors on board, and either 2GB or 4GB of Ram.
Getting a good deal
It’s hard to ever pay the full price for a laptop, 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. Click through to our page to find out more.