While modern laptops can pack hardware that makes yesterday's desktops blush, not everyone needs all of this power – and not everyone has the budget. 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 is important to note that despite the large selection, some sacrifices have to be made to keep the price as low. You cannot expect these systems to have top-notch hardware, and fancy features are kept to a minimum. It's no surprise that the best options tend to be Chromebooks as well as some Windows laptops.
Buying guide for laptops
However, we would not recommend any of these systems if they do not offer adequate performance and battery life. So you can buy any of the following systems with the certainty that they will serve you well – just not as quickly as their more expensive counterparts.
Inspiron 15 3000
Most budget laptops on our list use Google's Chrome OS. However, this doesn't mean that you can't buy a Windows 10 laptop at prices that are equally affordable on the wallet.
For this minimal investment, you get a well-designed laptop with a lot of useful ports, a reasonable weight of over 4.80 pounds given the 15.6-inch HD display (1,366 x 768), and just under an inch thick . The most cost-effective version features an Intel Pentium CPU that is fast enough for basic productivity work, 4 GB DDR4-2666 MHz RAM and options for 1 TB SATA memory or 128 GB PCIe SSD – all while staying within budget.
The screen resolution doesn't quite make it to Full HD, but everything about this model is solid and good business for the average user. There are also plenty of ports, including USB 2.0, two USB 3.1 and HDMI, but unfortunately nothing as advanced as USB-C. The battery has also been redesigned to extend its lifespan and reduce charging problems after multiple uses.
Acer Chromebook 15
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The Acer Chromebook 15 is ranked in our manual as the best affordable Chromebook and has a rare 1080p IPS display. Most inexpensive devices are limited to 720p. This makes it the Chrome OS laptop with the largest display on this list (15.6 inches), which can affect portability but certainly contributes to productivity and media viewing.
Internally, the Chromebook 15 has an Intel Celeron N3060 processor, paired with 4 GB of memory and 32 GB of solid-state memory. There's a 16GB version for those who want to save a few dollars, but there isn't a big price difference between the two, and doubling onboard storage is a worthy upgrade.
This is a larger laptop than some of the others on this list and weighs just under 5 pounds. It also moves above and below our $ 300 cutoff. However, the battery life is much more impressive and is more than nine hours under the right circumstances. Given the size and resolution of this display, this is a good run and great for simple work and media viewing.
Read our full Acer Chromebook 15 review
HP Chromebook 14
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends
The HP Chromebook 14 offers a simple price-performance ratio: a 14-inch Chromebook that is portable but robust and equipped with powerful hardware. Inside you will find an AMD A4 processor, 4 GB RAM and a 32 GB SSD plus microSD card slot.
In terms of connection, you get two USB-C charging ports – an unusual addition to affordable Chromebooks. The two-cell battery is not the best on our list, but is suitable for multi-tasking for several hours, which is enough for school and work.
HP has also given this Chromebook an attractive, blue-tinted finish that sets it apart from its silver and black brothers – even if the bezels are a bit bulky.
Read our full HP Chromebook 14 review
Asus Chromebook C202
The Asus Chromebook C202 was developed for schoolchildren and middle school children and offers them a robust and reasonably powerful laptop. Some of the features and hardware of the other items in this list may not be included, but they can withstand the needs of everyday use better than most others.
Internally, it has an Intel Celeron N3060 processor, up to 4 GB of memory and 16 GB of flash memory. The screen is small and measures only 11.6 inches with a resolution of 1,366 x 768, but has an anti-glare coating and the small form factor supports portability.
This Chromebook weighs only 2.2 pounds, making it the lightest on this list. With an average battery life of around 10 hours, it is more than powerful for a school day.
With a sturdy frame, rubber protection, non-slip handles and a leak-proof keyboard, this laptop is designed for regular use in harsh environments. It's not the fastest Chromebook on the market, but it's impressive for such a hard, small package.
Lenovo IdeaPad Duet
Lenovo's IdeaPad Duet is a great 2-in-1 device for those who like the idea of the iPad but want something even lighter that was bundled with a keyboard and created with Chrome OS. The 10.1-inch HD screen has a high-quality design and hides 4 GB of RAM, a 64 GB SSD and a MediaTek Helio P60T processor. The design is durable and the battery is designed for 10 hours. It has held up admirably among our tests. If you want a lightweight Chromebook that you can treat as a tablet anytime, this is one of the best options on our list.
There is a single USB-C connection, but unfortunately no 3.5 mm audio jack for headsets. Therefore, you have to rely on Bluetooth for this laptop. The keyboard is a bit tight, too, but that fits in with the area of these little tablet-based models. If you'd like to pay a little more, consider the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 as a possible alternative as it is much faster and has a much more responsive keyboard.
Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review