Computers represent some of the most sophisticated technological progress of the 20th and 21st Centuries, and they continuously play a major role in making our lives easier. You would think that they would all be budget-friendly, but this is surprisingly not the case.
We live in a world where everything is increasingly costly, and your money is always stretched thin, forcing you to find ways of spending your money as wisely as you can. You are not alone if you want to buy all products and services at a reasonable price, but sometimes it can prove to be a difficult task when you are looking for laptops that are friendly to a tight budget.
While the task is challenging, it is possible to get some good options that will still serve you well, despite the trade-offs that you will get. We have tested plenty of these options, and our findings show that they will solve your daily tasks, while also leaving you with some funds in your bank account.
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Lenovo Thinkpad T500 laptop
ASUS Chromebook C202 laptop
Intel Celeron N3060
8 hours 35 minutes
Acer Chromebook 11 N7 laptop
Intel Celeron N3060
10 hours 35 minutes
Dell Chromebook notebook laptop
Intel Celeron N2840
9 hours 9 minutes
High performance RCA Viking Pro
1.3GHz Quad core
Best laptops under 150 dollars reviews
Lenovo Thinkpad T500 laptop – our choice
This laptop is among the latest refreshes from the Lenovo’s T-Series. Since it combines the latest DisplayPort connection, ATI Hybrid graphics, and Intel goodies, it has plenty to offer you compared to other ThinkPads.
- Uses a Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz processor
- Power source is a 10.8V 4.53Ah Li-ion battery
- Default memory is 2 GB, upgradeable to 8 GB
- 3 USB slots
- Display screen of 1280×800
Its design is slightly different compared to previous Lenovo models, even though these changes are not as obvious to the untrained eye. Its right side has a gentle slope, though the difference here is that its rubber feet have gone through some changes because they have a softer feel compared to before. The expansion and upgrade is still very easy, and you can remove its 5 screws and then remove the keyboard and palm rest.
This laptop includes an Intel T9600 processor that has a cache 6 MB and clocking 2.8GHz. Even though the SSD is not the latest one, the inclusion of a 7200rpm hard drive will help to transfer data at a faster rate. It also performs very well in gaming, unlike what you would expect from budget laptops.
Its cooling system also works very well without producing a lot of annoying noises – even during gaming session.
- Quiet and remains cool under normal conditions
- Very powerful mechanism
- The battery life is very good for a notebook of its size
- Very impressive switchable graphics
- The screen brightness is not as high
- The keyboard has a flex
This laptop is a great improvement from its predecessor, the T61, as it has a faster processor, larger touchpad, a better graphics card, and better cooling. The only thing we do not like about it is that the manufacturer messed up with the keyboard, as it is not as nice as what it used to be before.
ASUS Chromebook C202 laptop – best for students
This laptop may be cheap, but it is very durable, and is a great fit when you need to buy your child a laptop they can use and will last without breaking due to accidental drops. The chassis has a very durable design – in fact, it might be the most durable option on this list – as it can take its fair share of bruises and bumps.
- Anti-glare display of 1366×768
- Lightweight body weighing 2.65 pounds, RAM of 4 GB and flash storage of 16 GB
- Runs on Chrome OS, which allows you to access the Google Play Store
- Spill-resistant keyboard
- 180-degree hinge
Even though the ASUS C202 is small in size, it does give the feeling that it can take quite the punch. Its dotted plastic bottom and lid are enclosed by a rubber ring that will serve as a protective shield against damage. The grey plastic and blue rubber make the laptop look classy as well, and a navy-blue bezel surrounds the 1366×768, 11.6-inch display.
In terms of its keyboard, this might just be the best keyboard we have seen so far from a budget Chromebook. The typing experience is very comfortable, thanks to the distance between the keys being 2.1mm, and the pressing force being 60 grams of force. The only part we did not particularly enjoy was the ultra-sensitivity of the touchpad due to the default settings, making it challenging to control the pointer movement and speed – though you can rectify this in the settings.
When it comes to the display screen, it might not be the sharpest we have ever seen, although it still offers a good display for a budget Chromebook – just don’t get it expecting a vast color range. The laptop’s sides have a few ports, even though these are enough for the average student. Most of these ports are on the left side, while the right side has a security lock slot, the power jack, and one of the USB 3.0 ports.
The performance is not exactly the strongest aspect, thanks to the 4 GB RAM and Intel Celeron N3060 processor, but it is enough for lighter tasks. It will last for 8 and a half hours, which is enough for a student.
- The laptop is easy to repair
- Durable build
- Great and easy-to-use keyboard
- Very good battery life
- It is heavier than the competition
- Struggles from mixed performance
This laptop is a good choice if you are looking for a student-friendly laptop due to its long battery life, comfortable keyboard, and durable design.
Acer Chromebook 11 N7 laptop – best in durability
Contrary to what you would expect in many Chromebooks, this machine feels solid and durable. Its frame is surrounded by a hard rubber, while the underside has a grip texture that prevents slipping.
- Spill-resistant keyboard and military-grade durability
- HD display screen of 11.6 inches, as well as 4 GB RAM
- Battery life of 12 hours
- Ultra-slim design of 0.87 inches in thinness, weighs 2.9 lbs.
- 180-degree lay-flat screen display
- Includes 2 USB 3.0 ports
- Uses an Intel Celeron N3060 Dual-Core processor
- Includes 2 built-in stereo speakers
The most interesting part is that this laptop actually passes 8 MIL-SPEC tests, which means it is strong enough to achieve the standards of the equipment the U.S. military uses. This also means it can withstand extreme temperatures, as well as blasts of dust and shocks. Its battery life is also impressive, as it lasts 10 hours and 35 minutes with continuous use.
In terms of display, it will get the basic job done, but it is underwhelming if you are looking for entertainment value because of the dull, low-resolution display. The touchpad, touchscreen, and keyboard will offer solid productivity though, so you can easily excuse its shortcomings. However, do not expect it to give multitasking power, due to the 4 GB RAM and 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 CPU.
- The battery life is very good
- The laptop offers a touch screen experience
- The keyboard is pill-resistant
- Durable build
- Struggles with a dull display
- Underside tends to heat up
The Acer 11 N7 aims to be a durable choice, with the added functionality of a touch screen experience to offer some interest. It struggles though because of the underside heating and dull display, although it will still do its best to solve general student computing problems on a budget.
Dell Chromebook notebook laptop – best in sound quality
This laptop is a school-oriented laptop type with an 11.6-inch screen, sufficient battery power, and a 4th Generation Intel processor to power your activities for a whole day.
- Uses an Intel Celeron N2840 Dual-Core processor
- RAM of 4 GB, and SSD storage of 16 GB
- 11.6-inch HD screen display
- Uses Chrome OS
The design is similar to what you would find in a budget Chromebook, and the hinges are stiff enough to maintain the position of the lid as you bend it. One of its good aspects is the keyboard that feels comfortable, although people with long fingernails or adult-size hands might not like it due to the slightly concave keys.
Its display might be dim, but the color reproduction ability is very strong, so it will definitely work well when you are watching videos or movies. Its touch screen is responsive as well, although the tablet and tent mode can be awkward to use at times. One of the most impressive features is the speakers, which are really good quality considering it is a budget laptop – they do not distort the sound, even at high volume.
The processor it uses (Intel Celeron N3060) is enough for web browsing and streaming, but lacks the ability to multitask. However, its battery life is good enough to last for 9 hours 9 minutes, which is impressive enough to last through the day.
- Long battery life, due to the Haswell-based processor
- Desktop-class browser
- Good speakers
- Very strong construction
- Dim screen
- Lacks a WWAN/4G option
- Narrower screen angles than an IPS display
Even though this machine is aimed to school students (similar to Chromebooks in general) it is the best budget-friendly Chromebook we have seen so far, and can also work as a primary laptop you can use at home.
High Performance RCA Viking Pro laptop – most budget-friendly option, great for 2-in-1 use
If you are looking for a hand-carry laptop, then this can be a valid option, and works well as a tablet as well.
- Allows for 2-in-1 use by detaching the keyboard easily
- Battery life goes up to 6 hours
- Uses a 1.3GHz Quad-core processor
- 10.1-inch display
- 32 GB flash memory
The screen size is 10 inches, smaller than the other options on this list. However, the visual results are still good, thanks to the screen resolution that goes up to 1024×600, and the laptop is ultra-portable due to its lightweight of only 2.9 lbs.
The processor in use here is a 4 Quad-core type, which operates at a 1.3GHz frequency. The memory small though, with a memory size of 32 GB and RAM of 1 GB, which does not allow multitasking but lets you do basic surfing. Considering that the device has a battery life of 6 hours, this should work for a young student who wants to do some school assignments without plugging in the charger frequently.
- Good keyboard size
- Very affordable
- Build is durable and good quality
- Does not allow multitasking
- Dim screen
This is a very basic laptop and will not allow for complex tasks, but it is enough to power through basic internet usage without stopping.
The laptops we do not recommend
Apple MacBook Air MC505LL/A – not as good of a battery life
The slim design of this laptop is great because it allows you to carry it around, but it does not come at an affordable cost like the other choices on this list. It has a strong build though, so this should offset the risk of carrying it from place to place in your bag. We do not like that the thick bezel surrounding the screen area, though this is more of an aesthetic issue than a major deal breaker.
There are some essentials that are missing here though – especially lack of a HDMI or VGA output, an in-built 3G wireless antenna (which you will have to buy separately), and onboard Ethernet (you will need to buy an adapter separately). The battery life is not as good either, as it only lasts 4 hours and 38 minutes – a bad idea if you are spending an entire day on your laptop without charging it.
- Slim design
- Powerful enough to work as a basic laptop
- The keyboard lacks backlighting
- Limited connections
- Underpowered CPU
- Short battery life
This is not the worst MacBook Air we have seen in the market, but it does not hold up to heavy use in the long term. You are actually better off considering other options, including its successor models in the market.
What should you look for when searching for a budget laptop?
If you have a tight budget and are struggling to find a laptop that will fit your needs, especially one that is under $150, you might want to consider getting a refurbished or used laptop. Regardless of where you decide to look, ensure you go into the market armed with sufficient knowledge of the different laptops, their specs, as well as what your needs actually are.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Stick to brands that are reputable
While it is true that the best computing brands might put out questionable products at times, and there are some underrated brands that can provide quality laptops, it is generally better to go for the brands you know. The prices might be higher, but the product might be better due to the specs involved.
When the brand is not as well-known though, it can be difficult to know whether the laptop has good components and adheres to high manufacturing standards.
Get what you need and make compromises
It is good to get the best computing devices, but you have an extra challenge: a limited budget. Because of the low prices, it is understandable if the processor is not the best, or the hard drive capacity is small – it is actually fine. The key to making a choice is making some compromises and find a laptop that addresses your basic needs. For instance, if you want to work faster, choose a laptop with a high processor, and for multitasking, get a laptop with a bigger RAM.
Among the best money-saving tactics when getting a laptop on a budget is letting go of a graphic processor – you will not need it, especially if you are not going to do video and media editing or play heavy games.
Know the aspects you cannot compromise on
Even though the laptop is on a budget, there are some essential factors you need to have in order to make your user experience smoother. Among all the factors, the processor is important to pay close attention to – even if you sacrifice the hard disk space or the screen display quality.
In order to perform at your best without causing you trouble, aim to have the laptop processor as Core i3 at the least – anything less will be too slow for some tasks.
The build quality
This is also an important thing to keep in mind. Because you are looking for a budget laptop, do not expect the design to be the most attractive aspect ever – but it must remain well-built and strong.
Avoid laptops that have too many plastic parts, because the casing of the machine is supposed to protect the inner parts without suffering damage. In addition, see how well the outer components fit together, such as the deck and chassis.
There are plenty of budget laptops in the market, ranging from Chromebooks to the classic notebooks. Regardless of your choice, take the time to see whether it is well-built and fits your needs, and it will serve you for as long as possible.