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Technology.

4 November 2021

Best cheap laptops under £200, £300 and £500

Big laptop brands including Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo all produce cheap laptops. We reveal some of the best – and how to pick the perfect model.
Michael Passingham
Large and small laptop

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.

Looking for the best laptop deals? Our experts have put together a complete list including models from Apple and HP.

Best cheap laptops - what you need to know before you buy

  • 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.

Also consider whether you want to include a cheap monitor to help you work more efficiently. See our pick of the best computer monitors to find out more.

Top cheap laptops under £500, £300 and £200

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. 

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

  • 71%
    £399.00

    This laptop comes in at well under £500 but has some really useful features not often found on laptops this cheap. It includes a fingerprint reader, a Full HD screen and a half decent processor, along with excellent battery life.

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  • 65%
    £329.00

    This is a great-looking and versatile Chromebook for under £500. It's faster than some of its rivals, too, with a Core m3 processor that should see it comfortably easing ahead of Celeron and Pentium-powered budget alternatives.

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  • 65%
    £399.00

    This laptop is a highly portable device that manages to offer a lot of versatility for your money. It's well worth a look.

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  • 62%
    £399.00

    This laptop might not wow with its screen performance or its physical build quality, but it's low priced, with a big screen and good battery life. While it's far from perfect, for some people it could be a good compromise between price and quality.

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  • 62%
    £199.00

    As with most budget laptops there are compromises aplenty, including cheap build quality and a dim screen. It's also only fast enough for basic tasks, but if you're on a budget and that's all you need, it's a fine choice.

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  • 62%
    £349.00

    If you’re buying a laptop as a homework helper for a child, this one's small size and versatile design make it a good choice. However, if it’s to be used by an adult with more specific demands, issues with its screen might be off-putting.

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  • 61%
    £529.00

    Yes, this laptop is often priced a little over £500, but we feel it's worth including because it's one of the fastest laptops you can buy for the money. It's not perfect, but it's well worth a look if speed is what you're after.

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  • 60%
    £129.99

    This sub-£200 laptop does the basics pretty well, and while it shares many of the same disadvantages as other bargain laptops, it performs just well enough to be one of our ultra-cheap recommendations.

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  • 60%
    £299.00

    You get a lot of laptop for your money with this large 15-incher, which is ideal to replace an ageing desktop. It runs on ChromeOS, so its slightly slow processor doesn't feel as clunky as it would on a Windows 10 machine. You get what you pay for, but the price is so low that it's worth considering purely on that basis.

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  • 60%
    £279.00

    This laptop doesn't work any miracles for a laptop at this price, but it's well worth a look if you want a cheap Chromebook with a big screen. It could be particularly good for home schooling thanks to its lightweight Chrome OS, big screen and keyboard.

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Can't see the model you're interested in? Take a look at our expert laptop reviews.

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.

  • 46%
    £329.00

    This laptop failed to impress our testers in any area, with sluggish performance, a dull screen, atrocious speakers and awful battery life combining to create something that is increasingly rare: a Don’t Buy laptop. Steer clear.

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  • 45%
    £199.00

    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.

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  • 44%
    £249.00

    This sub-standard laptop isn't terribly slow, but it lacks skills in any other area, with poor battery life, fiddly keyboard and touchpad, dull screen and terrible speakers.

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  • 43%
    £299.00

    This giant laptop is also a giant pain in the neck, thanks to poor battery life, slow performance and a dire screen.

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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 guide to Intel, AMD and Nvidia
  • 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 a student in further education ( sixth form, college or university, 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 Windows 11 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. 

You should also check it's going to be compatible with Windows 11 - use our free Windows 11 requirements checker tool. If it's not compatible, don't necessarily rule it out as it gives you the opportunity to haggle with the seller. After all, Microsoft will still support Windows 10 until October 2025, which may well suit your needs. 

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.

Chromebooks are also worth a look. In fact, your child might already use one at school, as these are popular among educational institutions. Read our guide to Chromebooks for more.

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.


Not sure whether to opt for a Chromebook or Windows laptop? Our guide on Chromebooks vs MacBooks vs Windows laptops can help you make the right choice.


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. 

Head over to our best laptop deals to find out more.