The best budget laptops for 2024

The best budget laptops for 2024

Yes, you can get a good laptop without spending thousands of dollars. Not everyone wants (or needs) to spend a boatload on their next notebook, and depending on how you plan on using it, you might be better off with a cheap laptop anyway. As with most affordable tech, the key in getting the right machine for you is understanding what you need your laptop to do and the sacrifices you can make to save a bit of cash. Best of all, you may find that you don’t need to sacrifice as much as you thought to get a good laptop at a great price. We’ve tested a bunch of budget-friendly laptops to find our top picks and gather buying advice that can guide you to the right machine for you.

Editor’s Note (3/5/24): Apple just announced the new MacBook Air with M3 in 13-inch and 15-inch sizes, available now starting at $1,099. We knew this was coming: at the end of 2023, the iPhone maker updated its MacBook Pros and the 24-inch iMac to run on M3 chips, so it was only a matter of time until the latest silicon showed up in the company’s lightest notebook. The new chipset is the biggest change in the new Air machines, aside from support for Wi-Fi 6E and up to two external displays. But the additions have pushed the M1-powered Air out of Apple’s official lineup; the company’s no longer selling its first Air laptop powered by an M-series chip (although it’s still available at other retailers), and the MacBook Air M2 has now become its “budget” option with a starting price of $999. We’ll put the new M3-powered machines through their paces soon with full reviews, so you may want to hold off until then to choose the best laptop for you. However, if you’re in immediate need of a new daily driver that won’t break the bank, our current recommendations below still stand.

What to look for in a budget laptop

First, we at Engadget consider anything under $1,000 to be “budget” in the laptop space. The reason for this is twofold: even the most affordable flagship laptops typically start at $1,000 or more, and if you go dramatically lower than that (say, $500 or less), that’s where you’ll really start to see compromises in performance. You’ll typically find the best balance of power and price in the $500 to $1,000 range. But in this guide, we’ll cover top picks at a wide range of prices — there are a number of excellent options on the low and high end of the budget spectrum.

Arguably the biggest thing to look for in a cheap laptop is a decent spec sheet. You might be able to find configuration options with the latest generation CPU chipsets, or you may have to go for one that has a slightly older processor. We recommend trying to find a notebook with the most up-to-date internals as possible, but know that if you pick a machine with a CPU that’s one generation behind, it probably will not significantly affect performance.

Along with processors, you should also consider the amount of memory and storage you need in a daily driver. For the former, we recommend laptops with at least 8GB of RAM; anything with less than that will have a hard time multitasking and managing all those browser tabs. The latter is a bit more personal: how much onboard storage you need really depends on how many apps, files, photos, documents and more you will save locally. As a general rule of thumb, try to go for a laptop that has at least a 256GB SSD (this only goes for macOS and Windows machines, as Chromebooks are a bit different). That should give you enough space for programs and files, plus room for future operating system updates.

After determining the best performance you can get while sticking to your budget, it’s also worth examining a few different design aspects. We recommend picking a machine with a mostly metal body, a screen that has at least a 1080p resolution and a keyboard and trackpad area that’s relatively spacious. Any affordable laptop worth purchasing will have a built-in webcam, but most of them top out at 720p. A few of the latest models have 1080p webcams, but you may want to consider a standalone peripheral if you spend a ton of time on Zoom meetings.

Be sure to check out the port situation as well. Many laptops closer to $1,000 will have fewer ports than their more affordable counterparts (as counterintuitive as that may seem). You’ll find at least one or two USB-C ports on the newest machines, which means you may need a separate dongle if you frequently have to connect to SD cards.

A note about refurbished laptops

Refurbished laptops are another option to consider if you need a new machine and don’t want to spend a ton of money. Buying refurbished tech can be tricky if you’re unfamiliar with a brand’s or merchant’s policies surrounding what they classify as “refurbished.” But it’s not impossible — for laptops, we recommend going directly to the manufacturer for refurbished devices. Apple, Dell and Microsoft all have official refurbishment processes that their devices go through before they’re put back on the market that verifies the machines work properly and are in good condition. Third-party retailers like Amazon and Walmart also have their own refurbishment programs for laptops and other gadgets as well.

The best cheap laptops of 2024

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

By John Routledge

Founder and owner of - I'm an avid tech junkie, a lover of new gadgets and home automation. You will often find me reading, writing, and learning about new technologies. I've been featured in many leading technology magazines where I've written about my favorite topics.