While modern laptops can come packing hardware that would make desktops of yesteryear blush, not everyone needs all that power — and not everyone has the budget for it. Just because your future laptop is cheap doesn’t mean it has to be slow or incapable. Some of the best laptops under $300 are impressive little machines.
It’s important to note that as great as the choices below are, some sacrifices need to be made to keep the price so low. You can’t expect to have top-tier hardware in these systems, and fancy features are kept to a minimum. It’s no surprise that the best options are typically Chromebooks, as well as some Windows laptops.
However, we wouldn’t go ahead and recommend any of these if they didn’t offer decent performance and battery life, so you can buy any of the following systems with the confidence that they will serve you well — just not as quickly as their more expensive counterparts.
Inspiron 15 3000
Most of the budget laptops on our list run Google’s Chrome OS, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a Windows 10 laptop at prices that are equally easy on the wallet.
For that minimal investment, you’ll be getting a well-designed laptop with a ton of useful ports, a reasonable weight of 4.80+ pounds given the 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) display, and a thickness that measures just less than an inch. The least expensive version offers up an Intel Pentium CPU that’s fast enough for basic productivity work, 4GB of DDR4-2666MHz RAM, and options for 1TB of SATA storage or 128GB of PCIe SSD — while still staying within budget.
The display resolution doesn’t quite make it to full HD levels, but everything about this model is solid and a good deal for the average user. There are also plenty of ports, including a USB 2.0, two USB 3.1, and HDMI, but unfortunately nothing as advanced as USB-C. The battery also has a redesign that simplifies it to help increase durability and reduce charge issues after multiple uses.
Acer Chromebook 15
Ranked as the best budget Chromebook in our guide, the Acer Chromebook 15 packs a rare 1080p IPS display — most budget machines are limited to 720p. That also makes it the Chrome OS laptop with the largest display on this list at 15.6 inches, which might impact portability but certainly helps with productivity and media viewing.
Internally, the Chromebook 15 packs an Intel Celeron N3060 processor, paired up with 4GB of memory and 32GB of solid-state storage. There is a 16GB version for those who want to save a few dollars, but there isn’t much difference in price between the two, and doubling the onboard storage is a worthy upgrade.
This is a larger laptop than some others on this list, weighing in at just under 5 pounds. It also moves above and below our $300 cutoff. However, battery life is much more impressive, lasting upwards of nine hours in the right circumstances. Considering the size and resolution of this display, that’s a good run, and makes this great for simple work and media viewing.
Read our full Acer Chromebook 15 review
HP Chromebook 14
HP’s Chromebook 14 has a simple value offering: A 14-inch Chromebook that’s portable but sturdy, with capable hardware. Inside, you’ll find an AMD A4 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 32GB SSD plus microSD card slot.
Connection wise, you get two USB-C charging ports — an uncommon addition in affordable Chromebooks. The two-cell battery isn’t the best on our list, but it’s still good for several hours of multitasking, which is sufficient for school and work use.
HP has also given this Chromebook an attractive blue-tint paint job, which helps its stand out from its silver and black brethren — even if the bezels are a little on the chunky side.
Read our full HP Chromebook 14 review
Asus Chromebook C202
The Asus Chromebook C202 is designed for students and middle-school children, giving them a rugged and reasonably powerful laptop to work with. It might not pack some of the features and hardware of the other entries on this list, but it can withstand the rigors of day-to-day use better than most.
Internally, it sports an Intel Celeron N3060 processor, up to 4GB of memory, and 16GB of flash storage. Its screen is on the small size, measuring in at just 11.6-inches with a resolution of 1,366 x 768, but it does sport an anti-glare coating and the small form-factor aids its portability.
This Chromebook weighs in at just 2.2 pounds, so it’s the lightest on this list, and with an average battery life of around 10 hours, it’s more than capable of lasting throughout a school day.
With a tough frame, rubber guards, easy-grip handles, and a spill-resistant keyboard, this laptop is designed to handle regular use in a rough environment with ease. It’s not the fastest Chromebook out there, but it’s impressively capable for such a tough, little package.
Lenovo IdeaPad Duet
Lenovo’s IdeaPad Duet is an excellent 2-in-1 for those who like the idea of the iPad, but want something even lighter. We appreciate that it’s bundled with a keyboard and comes with Chrome OS. The 10.1-inch HD screen has a high-quality design and hides 4GB of RAM, a 64GB SSD, and a MediaTek Helio P60T processor. The design is durable, and the battery offers 10 hours of run time: It held up admirably under our testing. If you want an extra-lightweight Chromebook that you can treat as a tablet whenever you wish, the IdeaPad Duet is one of our top choices.
You won’t find multiple USB-C ports here (there’s just one), and a 3.5mm audio jack is noticeably absent, too. Fortunately, you can use Bluetooth to connect just about any accessory. Which is handy since the keyboard is a bit cramped, like other tablet-based models. A slightly pricier option that we’d also recommend is the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5. It’s considerably faster and has a much more responsive keyboard, too — worth the cost if you have room in your budget.
Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review