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. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.

Coronavirus Read our latest advice
Reviews based on facts
Our rigorous tests find the facts, and our impartial reviews tell you the truth about how products perform. First month £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel anytime.
Try Which?
12 November 2020

Best cheap laptops under £500

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


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%.

In this article, we’ll take you through our top picks of the best laptops to buy for less than £500, £300 and £250. This article is updated monthly.

Alternatively find the best laptop for you in three easy steps using our tool.



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.

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?.

Best laptops under £250

Sign up to reveal product image
62%
£180.00
Reviewed

This laptop can be found for under £200 at various retailers. It won't set the world alight but for the money, it's one of the best-value laptops we've tested in recent months.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
62%
£337.95
Reviewed

Like most cheap 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 just need the basics, it's a fine choice.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
60%
£199.00
Reviewed

This sub-£200 laptop delivers the basics pretty well, and while it shares many of the same complaints that other bargain laptops have, it just performs well enough to make it onto our ultra-cheap recommendations.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in

At this price, you’ll start to find higher-scoring models with faster processors and better screens. Plenty of Chromebooks show up in this price range, but you’ll also see a smattering of Windows models.

Best laptops under £300

Sign up to reveal product image
63%
£349.00
Reviewed

This 11-inch Chromebook puts up a good fight against more expensive rivals. It's not the fastest computer around, but we liked its keyboard and its battery life, which combine together to make it a fabulous, compact note-taking laptop for students at both school and university.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
60%
£299.00
Reviewed

You get a lot of laptop for your money, with this large 15-incher 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.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in

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.

Best laptops under £500

Sign up to reveal product image
70%
Best Buy
£400.00
Reviewed

If you’re looking for a laptop for less than £400, look no further than this one. It has a thin and lightweight design, a Full HD screen and performance that’s good enough for all your daily computing tasks. What’s more, it’s the cheapest Best Buy we’ve tested in almost three years. Read our full review for the verdict on this budget machine.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
68%
£449.00
Reviewed

For the money, there’s not much better than this laptop that can deliver this level of speed along with a decent screen and solid keyboard and touchpad. For the money, this is one of our favourites.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
65%
£399.00
Reviewed

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.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
62%
£349.00
Reviewed

If you’re buying this laptop as a homework accomplice for a child, its small size and versatile design make this 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.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
61%
£529.00
Reviewed

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

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in

 

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.

Laptops to avoid

Sign up to reveal product image
45%
Don't buy
£199.00
Reviewed

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.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
45%
Don't buy
£329.00
Reviewed

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.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
44%
Don't buy
£299.00
Reviewed

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.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
43%
Don't buy
£299.00
Reviewed

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

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in
Sign up to reveal product image
43%
Don't buy
£199.00
Reviewed

This budget laptop has some pretty major flaws that mean even its low price doesn't make it an attractive prospect. Terrible battery life and very slow performance are but two of its many downsides.

Sign up to reveal product
First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time
Already a member? Log in

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 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.

Cons:

  • 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 best laptop deals page to find out more.

If you're wondering whether Apple is for you, our guide can help you choose between an Apple MacBook, Windows PC and Chromebook.

View all Laptops