I review PCs for a living and this $300 laptop does more than an iPad for less

 Acer Aspire Go 15 review unit on desk.
Acer Aspire Go 15 review unit on desk.

I review a lot of laptops here at Tom's Guide, and it's rare to find a great one for under $500.

I know because we're constantly looking for good models to recommend in our list of the best budget laptops, and it's a little harder than it ought to be. Luckily I stumbled upon a gem this week while reviewing the Acer Aspire Go 15, a no-frills 15-inch Windows laptop that costs just $299.

And hey, in a lot of ways you get what you pay for with this laptop. This flawed gem comes with an older Intel Core i3-N05 CPU, 8GB of low-power LPDDR5 RAM and only 128GB of storage. It's cheap UFS (Universal Flash Storage) memory too, which is the kind of memory you more often find in tablets and smartphones. Plus, the 720p webcam sucks and the washed-out screen doesn't have great color accuracy.

The $299 Acer Aspire Go 15 is more useful and functional than an Apple iPad that costs $449, which makes it easy to recommend.

But I can forgive a lot for a full-featured laptop that costs less than an iPad. The $299 Acer Aspire Go 15 is more useful and functional than an Apple iPad (2022) that costs $449, which makes it easy to recommend for students, families, writers, and anyone that needs a cheap, functional laptop for writing and browsing the web.

And hey, I know iPads are luxury devices designed to sit on your coffee table rather than your desk. They're great for watching videos, browsing the web and reading comics. But using one to write or create anything has always felt like a hassle to me, even with pricey accessories like the Magic Keyboard. The Acer Aspire Go 15, on the other hand, feels designed for productivity and little else.

Acer Aspire Go 15 (2024) review unit on a desk playing Logan Lucky
Acer Aspire Go 15 (2024) review unit on a desk playing Logan Lucky

For starters, the Aspire Go 15 has a surprisingly comfy keyboard that feels spacious and satisfying to type on. The size of the laptop allows Acer to squeeze in a full keyboard, including a thin number pad on the right-hand side, without squashing the keys so close together that they're uncomfortable for my big mitts. It's such a nice keyboard that I'd rather type on this laptop than the Dell XPS 16 ($1,899) I recently reviewed, despite the fact that Dell's laptop is bigger and more expensive.

Another advantage the Acer Aspire Go 15 has over pricier, fancier laptops is its versatile complement of ports. The Go 15's chunky aluminum exterior is studded with a pair of USB-A ports (one on either side), a USB-C port, an HDMI out and a 3.5mm audio jack. That's more ports than you get on many of the best laptops on the market, including Dell's newly-revamped XPS laptops and some of the best MacBooks Apple sells.

This allows you to use a broad variety of accessories with the Aspire Go 15 without having to worry about carrying dongles, adapters or USB hubs that take up space in a bag. While it would be nice to have a microSD card reader on there too, just for good measure, the low-powered Aspire Go 15 isn't well-suited for editing photos, video or other media anyway.

Acer Aspire Go 15 (2024) review unit on desk, ports facing camera
Acer Aspire Go 15 (2024) review unit on desk, ports facing camera

And finally, the Acer Aspire Go 15 offers good battery life that should give you some peace of mind when carrying it all day. Ideally you should be able to use it for a full day of work or school without lugging a charger along, since the Go 15 lasted over 10 hours in the Tom's Guide battery test.

Acer Aspire Go 15: $299 @ Amazon

This Acer Aspire Go 15 is a great value, giving you everything you need to write or do homework for $299. While the components are cheap and the webcam isn't great, you do get a (dim) 15.6-inch 1080p display, a nice comfy keyboard, plenty of ports and good battery life.View Deal

Now that's not record-setting or anything, but it's pretty darn good for a Windows machine given that even some of the best Windows laptops struggle to last that long. Sure, 10 hours pales in comparison to the 12-18 hours Apple's MacBooks deliver, but for $299 it's nice to get a laptop that's fairly power-efficient and reliable.

You get more than you pay for

I hate to keep bringing up the price, but that really is the most standout feature of this laptop.

The Acer Aspire Go 15 isn't the first or only great budget laptop on the market, but it packs a lot of useful features into a surprisingly light (3.86 pounds) and slim (0.74 inches thin) package.

You have to compromise on some aspects, including performance, screen and camera quality, but in return you get a workhorse that will see you through a day at the coffee shop or the office equally well. And while the 720p webcam and 1080p screen aren't high-quality, they're more than good enough for remote learning.

In short, the Acer Aspire Go 15 is a great value. You won't get the best, but you'll get more than you paid for.

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