These are the best budget laptops under $1000

A cool grand (or even less) is more than enough capital to secure yourself some impressive portable power.

Asus VivoBook S15 (S533)
ASUS VivoBook
4 out of 5 stars
  • Check
    Great horsepower to price ratio
  • X
    Thunderbolt 3 port would have been nice
Dell Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1 Laptop
3.5 out of 5 stars
  • Check
    CPU delivers great performance
  • Check
    Solid build, despite plastic materials
Acer Spin 1 SP111-33-C5HL
4 out of 5 stars
  • Check
    Best in class screen
  • X
    Lags behind in battery life
Kogan Atlas 2-in-1 D500 Laptop
3 out of 5 stars
  • Check
    Respectable grunt, Win 10 Pro
  • Check
    Starts at $289
Adam Matthew
Writer and Researcher
Read More
August 03, 2020
5 min read

It's a sad but true fact that you'll need to get things done in transit. Sometimes that can mean smashing out a deadline on a train, because the boss is expecting results by the time you disembark. Other times, it might mean the other side of the coin – snatching some entertainment on a plane ride before you land back in those corporate salt mines again.

All that being said, identifying a decent laptop for a buy can be a more dangerous minefield than composing your next budget report. There's a lot of fluff out there – gaming branding this and marketing buzzwords that, all designed to divorce you of your reason and your hard-earned monies. The simple fact is this: you can indeed drop no more than a grand on your next lappy and walk away with something that's quality. Sure, you won't be able to use it to code SKYNET into being, nor shall you run the games of tomorrow in 12K resolution. You will however be sufficiently equipped to keep the boss off your case and a smile on your dial during those long commutes

The best laptop under $1000

Asus VivoBook S15
ASUS VivoBook
Quick specs
  • 14-inch display
  • Intel Core i5-10210U processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • USB-C, USB 3.1 and HDMI
  • Great horsepower to price ratio
  • Robustly built and stylish looking chassis
  • A Thunderbolt 3 port would have been nice

Be it style, affordability or performance, Asus basically delivers on all fronts with the VivoBook S15. Honestly, the only downside we can see to it: all of those colourful, Gen Z luring externals on offer might not be viewed favourably by the older curmudgeons out there. And really, who cares what they think?

For a modest outlay you're getting some very decent specs – an Intel Core i5-10210U processor, 8GB of memory, integrated Intel UHD Graphics, and a 512GB M.2 solid-state drive make for a damn good start to any laptop package. That's also backed by some generous port connectivity (2 x USB 2.0, a 3.0 and an SD card reader). Finally, the build quality on offer here is robust, and the battery life outstrips its closest competitors. All in all, we say viva le Vivo.

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)

The next best laptop under $1000

Dell Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1 Laptop

If you're not leaning towards gaming as a must-have feature of your new laptop, Dell's Inspiron 5000 is also worth a look. The Intel Core i3-1005G1 Processor (4MB Cache, up to 3.4 GHz) is horsepower enough for most tasks, but having UHD Graphics with shared graphics memory means you won't be throwing around a serious number of polygons anytime soon. Basically, you'll be limited to very casual or browser-based games.

Not to worry, though. Dell Inspiron is more focused on having a stylish design that outclasses its contemporaries, and having a spill-resistant keyboard that's backlit is always appreciated when you're out on the go. Admittedly, the IPS touchscreen on offer could stand to be a few nits brighter, but is more than acceptable given the company it has in this class of laptop.

Dell Inspiron 14 5000 2-in-1
Pro Bullet Great performance
Pro Bullet Solid build, despite plastic materials
Pro Bullet 2 x 4K external screens via USB-C
Con Bullet Screen could be brighter

The best laptop under $500

Acer Spin 1 SP111-33-C5HL

Make no mistake, when you halve the price you're willing to pay, the horsepower gets a chop as well. All that being said, something like the Acer Spin 1 can still service most of your needs (providing that doesn't extend to cutting edge gaming or GPU stressing video production). For most things, the 1.1 GHz Intel Celeron dual-core and 4GB of memory will get you where you need to be.

The real bells and whistles of this unit include an active, pressure sensitive stylus that will be sure to please the Rembrandts among you. There's also something to be said for a better than usual build quality for laptops in this class – a gunmetal-gray aluminium chassis and a snappy keyboard are always appreciated. Even better, the panel you get is one of the surprisingly sharpest we've seen in a class where blur and lower resolutions are the norm.

Acer Spin 1 SP111-33-C5HL
Pro Bullet Best in class screen
Pro Bullet Surprisingly solid build quality and design
Con Bullet Lags behind the competition in battery life and storage

The best gaming laptop under $1000

MSI Alpha 15 Laptop

While it's certainly nowhere near MLG levels of power, you can get a lot of headshotting done with an MSI Alpha 15. Having an AMD Ryzen5-3550H Processor perched on your knees is certainly nothing to sniff at. That Radeon RX 5300M with 3GB GDDR6 can render some gorgeous worlds, too, if you have the Steam catalogue to throw at it.

Even better, you have all the accoutrements any self-respecting gamer / streamer would expect – webcam, a 4K capable HDMI out and a fancy backlit keyboard. We also love that there's some future proofing dependability here as well, given you can bump up the 8GB DDR4 to a whopping 64. Encase it all in a well-built chassis that bears the usual “gamer aggressiveness” and you've got a lot to be pleased with after not putting down very much money at all.

MSI Alpha 15 Laptop
Pro Bullet 144Hz display is a head turner
Pro Bullet Per key lighting is rare at this price point
Pro Bullet Very respectable gaming performance for the outlay
Con Bullet AMD CPU a step behind Intels in the same class

Best super-budget laptop

Kogan Atlas 2-in-1 D500 Laptop

Now it's time for our absolute bargain basement pick of the litter. We think pinching pennies while getting reasonable performance can be totally achieved with this 2-in-1 solution from Kogan. You'd be surprised by the tasks you can achieve with the humble Intel Celeron® Processor N3350, plus 64GB EMMC and 4GB RAM. You can also easily switch between tablet and laptop mode with this well-performing (though sub HD) 10.1” screen.

Other things to note include an always-handy Micro SD card slot, a mini HDMI that'll let you do presos or project games up onto a larger TV easily (thanks to Windows 10). Basically, if you can put up with a slightly creakier build quality and the loss of the odd bell and whistle, you should absolutely chart a course for an Atlas.

Kogan Atlas 2-in-1 D500 Laptop
Pro Bullet Respectable grunt
Pro Bullet Ultra-fast USB 3.0 charging
Con Bullet 720p screen is a lower screen resolution than we'd like
Con Bullet 2-in-1 battery life is usually better

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.

Adam Matthew
Written by
Adam Matthew

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