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.
Laptop buying guide
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 Stream 11
HP’s highly affordable Stream 11 can be found for under $200, leaving room for some extra customization if you prefer. While the specs can vary, affordable models include 4Gb of RAM, 32GB eMMC storage, and an Intel Atom 1.6Gz processor. The effective 11.6-inch display comes with a 1,366 x 768 resolution and anti-glare coating. The battery is also impressive for such a small laptop, offering up to 10 hours and 45 minutes on a charge.
Let’s be clear: With the slim storage options, the Stream 11 is designed to depend heavily on OneDrive and Office 365 to get things done, which makes it a good fit for a particular kind of business environment. It’s also a good choice for those who want a lightweight laptop but don’t want a Chromebook, filling an increasingly rare niche in this bracket of laptops.
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.
Acer Chromebook R 11
Although it has stiff competition from several other Acer laptops in this lineup, the Chromebook R 11 is still a solid contender under $300. It might skirt the edge of that price ceiling, but that means you get an Intel Celedon N3150 quad-core CPU running at up to 2.08GHZ, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of onboard storage. It also has great battery life, managing more than six and a half hours when running our Peacekeeper benchmark.
Although we did find its touchpad a bit difficult to use at times, the R 11 has a great hinge that lets you flip it all the way around to use as a tablet. That, combined with a decent touchscreen, means that this is a versatile 2-in-1 with a lot going for it, where many of the other entries here are “just” laptops.
Read our full Acer Chromebook R 11 review
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