These are the best budget laptops under $1000
HP Pavilion 15
Best under $1000Check DealAffordable and powerfulGood storage and SSD
Microsoft Surface Go
Best under $500Check PriceImpressive displayKeyboard costs extra
Acer Nitro 5
Best budget gamingCheck PriceGreat battery lifeSolid performance
Dell Inspiron 11 3000
Best low-budgetCheck PriceGood grunt on a budgetStarts at $424
We live in a fast-paced world where being able to get things done on-the-go can really give you an edge. Obviously this mostly applies to work, where deadlines can overflow and lengthy commutes home on public transport can be repurposed into make-up sessions for outstanding projects. Also, don’t underestimate the therapeutic benefits of being able to use the same said commute as time to decompress with a good movie, TV show or gaming session. Laptops. Is there anything they can’t do?
And the answer to that rhetorical question is: a lot actually, if you don’t know your hardware. We’re here to look beyond the brand names, marketing buzzwords and shiny outer casings to get you the best performance for your buck. Assuming you’re not some sort of Bond villain out remotely decrypt CIA firewalls, a thousand clams is more than enough money to get the average person a more than decent laptop experience, be they a gamer, a creative or a consumer looking for a 50/50 split of entertainment and workhorse.
Best laptop under $1000
HP Pavilion 15-CX0009TX
- 15.6-inch display
- Full HD
- 256GB SSD
- GeForce GTX1050 graphics card
- Display panel: IPS
- Wide-angle HD webcam
- Affordable but also powerful
- Lots of ports
- Good storage and SSD
- A bit noisier than we’d like
Don’t let the “gaming” part of the moniker dissuade you if you’re a straight-laced professional. HP isn’t exactly the first name hardcore gamers think of when choosing their rigs (it’s not even the second, or third). This Pavillion is boardroom friendly – dressed for business on the outside while being a decent entertainment-dispensing beast on the inside. You can thank the grunt of a 8th gen Intel i5-8300H Quad Core Processor (@ 2.2 GHz) plus a GeForce GTX 1050 GPU for that. And whether you’re hunting discrepancies in spreadsheets or noobs in Overwatch, it’s all going to be a cinch to spot on this lovely 15.6” 1080p IPS screen that sacrifices minimal viewing real estate to a bezel.
Even better, you’ve got a generous amount of storage to play (or work) with, and that’s 256 GB of SSD, which is roughly 15x faster than your typical OG hard drive. Speaking of speed, you’re going to be blessed with the transfer velocity of USB 3.1, USB-C ports and 8 GB of DDR4 RAM. Last but not least, there’s the convenience of being able to vid conference with your corporate taskmasters via a wide-angle HD webcam, and creatives will love the rare inclusion of an in-built multi-format digital card reader.
How to shop for budget laptop
- Define your needs first: Something for entertainment? Or a powerful workhorse?
- Don’t focus purely on grunt; storage and SSDs are just as important…
- …because external HDDs aren’t exactly viable on-the-go.
- Know that gaming off mains power comes with a big performance hit.
- Do you really need that fancy (battery draining) RGB lit keyboard?
- Aggressive “Hardcore Gamer” aesthetics might not impress your boss
- Gamers ought to suss out the display lag of their screen (sub 4ms is ok)
Next best laptop under $1000
Acer Aspire 5 15.6-inch HD Core i7-10510U Laptop
Coming in for a close silver medal is this aspirational offering from Acer. If your idea of entertainment doesn’t stretch to 3D-intensive gaming, the sacrifice of a dedicated graphics card for a faster CPU (in this a case an i7) is an acceptable trade-off. Sensible, business-like aesthetics are the fashion with the Aspire 5, though you still get the incredibly useful backlit keyboard for late night deadline crunches. Another upside is a much lighter unit with a sleeker form factor.
Unfortunately, you’re just not going to get things done quicker with this runner up. Having a 1TB HDD sure seems like it beats the heck out of 265GB of SSD, but you’re going to miss that lighting quick access speeds and reliability. Likewise, your connectivity is down to USB 2.0 (480Mbps instead of 10Gbps).
TL;DR: if your wants and needs lean more towards owning an “office away from the office” with some occasional Netflix on the side, the Aspire 5 has got you more than covered.
Best laptop under $500
Microsoft Surface Go 64GB
Let’s be brutally honest: if you’re looking for a laptop at this price range, you’d best be a student or small business owner who has next to no dreams of booting up modern AAA games, or fully wielding the resource-heavy offerings of Adobe’s Creative Cloud. The Go is here to serve the niche that is “just enough horsepower to get some Microsoft Office-based work done”. And maybe servicing the odd TV binge and/or 2D indie gaming session.
Go in with that mentality, and you’ll not feel the major sacrifices of this tablet / laptop hybrid as much. First of all, you’ve got to weigh the screen size drop from the typical 15” to 10” here versus some increased portability and the convenience of a frankly beautiful looking touchscreen. Likewise, 64GB of storage won’t stay available for long and 4GB of RAM will limit what you can run, but the Go offers you conference calling types with superior means to report back to home base (think: multi-facing cameras and 1080p Skype capability).
End of the day, the Surface Pro might not tick every box for every user, but it’s darn good value for money for most folks.
Best gaming laptop under $1000
Acer – Nitro 5 Notebook – I5/2.3GHZ – 8GB – 256GB SSD – 15.6″ FHD
Let’s be clear from the get-go, gaming in this price range is going to rule out the modern AAA games being released. That said, anything released, say, two or three years ago should run respectably at medium graphics settings on this, a budget-minded offering that punches well above its weight. Yes, if you don’t mind a pretty plasticy housing, a basic feeling keyboard and slightly tinny sounding speakers, the Nitro 5 can deliver a whole lot for a lot less. (To be fair, those last two peccadilloes can be shored up with a decent mouse and some headphones).
Beyond that, there are some decent innards in the form of an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, a GeForce GTX 1050 with 4GB and 16GB of RAM. You’ll also get a fast performing OS installed on a 128GB SSD, plus a 1TB HDD to store all of those Steam specials you impulse bought (and proceeded to never play).
Best super-budget laptop
Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 (2019)
Here we are, penny pinchers. Dell’s Inspiron 11 3000, the absolute best laptop/hybrid we think you can get for an incredibly low retail price.
Admittedly, this little do-er won’t set any hardware aficionado’s hair on fire with its AMD A9-9420e Processor (1.8 GHz), Radeon R5 Graphics with AMD APU. But you’d be surprised with what this little beast can run, though it has to be noted that your visuals are going to be slightly sub HD.
Likewise, the diminutive 32GBs worth of storage might give you cause for pause, but it can be supplemented with 100GB of cloud storage to free things up. That and you have external-based recourse here with a surprisingly decent 3.0 USB port and a microSD card reader.
Basically, if you can put up with creakier build quality, the Inspiron 11 is a small package that can achieve pretty big things.
More budget laptops we considered
Some other quality budget picks that didn’t make the cut include the HP Stream 11 (think: a fanless design that sacrifices grunt to deliver 10 hours worth of battery life).
We also didn’t mind the Lenovo IdeaPad S130, a remarkably stylishly designed cheap-o option that at the very least sells the outward appearance of being more expensive than it is.
Lastly, do not make the mistake of underestimating Samsung’s Chromebook 3, a online-only solution designed to keep all of your apps and docs via Google’s Chrome OS.