Best Budget Laptops for Designers & Creatives

Top 15 Budget Laptops for Designers & Creatives in 2021


While everyone would love to take out an Apple MacBook or a Dell Precision laptop when they start working every day, unfortunately not everyone can afford a high-priced laptop. That shouldn’t mean you can’t get a great-performing laptop at a great price.

We feel like you should always be able to get a great product without having to take out a second mortgage to afford it. With our list of the Best Budget Laptops for Designers & Creatives in 2021, we’ve made sure to choose laptops that not only provide you with great performance but without breaking the bank as well.

You can jump straight to the list or scroll down further for some help on how to choose the right budget laptop for your needs.

 

Top 15 Best Budget Laptops for Designers and Creatives in 2021

A budget-friendly laptop can be as impressive as any other laptop that you spend a month’s pay on. The key is to make sure that it comes with the specifications that you need for your work. We feel that our list of the best budget laptops for 2021 accomplishes this. Check out our choices below.

The prices above are approximate. Live rates are below.

Can you afford more? See our post:

The Top Budget-Friendly Laptops in 2021 Compared

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New Microsoft Surface Go 2 – 10.5″ Touch-Screen – Intel Pentium – 8GB Memory – 128GB SSD – Wifi -…

Lenovo Chromebook Duet, 2-in-1, 10.1″ WUXGA (1920 x 1200) Display, MediaTek Helio P60T, 4GB LPDDR4X…

2019 New Dell Inspiron 11 Convertible 2 in 1 Chromebook , 11.6″ HD Backlight Touch IPS Display,…

Acer Aspire 5 A515-44-R41B, 15.6″ Full HD, AMD Ryzen 5 4500U Hexa-Core Mobile Processor with Radeon…

HP Chromebook 11, 11.6″, Celeron, 4GB, 16GB, Chrome OS

CPU

1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060

Screen

10.5” PixelSense Display with touchscreen

10.1″ FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS touchscreen

11.6-inch, HD (1366 x 768) touchscreen

15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) Acer ComfyView Widescreen LED-backlit IPS Display

11.6-inch diagonal HD SVA Anti-glare WLED-backlit

Best 2-in-1 Budget Laptop

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Title

New Microsoft Surface Go 2 – 10.5″ Touch-Screen – Intel Pentium – 8GB Memory – 128GB SSD – Wifi -…

Screen

10.5” PixelSense Display with touchscreen

The best overall budget laptop

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Lenovo Chromebook Duet, 2-in-1, 10.1" WUXGA (1920 x 1200) Display, MediaTek Helio P60T, 4GB LPDDR4X...

Title

Lenovo Chromebook Duet, 2-in-1, 10.1″ WUXGA (1920 x 1200) Display, MediaTek Helio P60T, 4GB LPDDR4X…

Screen

10.1″ FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS touchscreen

The best affordable 2-in-1 laptop

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2019 New Dell Inspiron 11 Convertible 2 in 1 Chromebook , 11.6" HD Backlight Touch IPS Display,...

Title

2019 New Dell Inspiron 11 Convertible 2 in 1 Chromebook , 11.6″ HD Backlight Touch IPS Display,…

Screen

11.6-inch, HD (1366 x 768) touchscreen

The Best No-Fuss Budget Laptop

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Acer Aspire 5 A515-44-R41B, 15.6" Full HD, AMD Ryzen 5 4500U Hexa-Core Mobile Processor with Radeon...

Title

Acer Aspire 5 A515-44-R41B, 15.6″ Full HD, AMD Ryzen 5 4500U Hexa-Core Mobile Processor with Radeon…

Screen

15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) Acer ComfyView Widescreen LED-backlit IPS Display

The best budget laptop in a small package

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HP Chromebook 11, 11.6", Celeron, 4GB, 16GB, Chrome OS

Title

HP Chromebook 11, 11.6″, Celeron, 4GB, 16GB, Chrome OS

CPU

1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060

Screen

11.6-inch diagonal HD SVA Anti-glare WLED-backlit

 

The Top 15 Budget-Friendly Laptops in 2021

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 laptop

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14

An extraordinary blend of performance and value

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 | Graphics: AMD Integrated Graphics | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 14″ FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS touchscreen | Storage: 256GB

A 2-in-1 convertible laptop, the IdeaPad Flex 5 14 laptop from Lenovo offers you a great computing performance that would cost twice as much from other manufacturers. With good connectivity options, a strong chassis, and a keyboard that’s comfortable to use, the Flex 5 is an incredibly well-designed option. The display, while a good size at 14 inches, could be brighter and overall the laptop itself might be better if it were a tad lighter, the Flex 5 is a great laptop at an incredible price.

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Latest Price on Amazon:


Lenovo Flex 5 14″ 2-in-1 Laptop, 14.0″ FHD (1920 x 1080) Touch Display, AMD Ryzen 5 4500U Processor,…

  • Thin, light, and stylish – This 2-in-1 laptop weighs just 3.64 pounds and is only 0.82″ thick. It’s soft and comfortable to the touch, with a durable paint that creates a better user experience….
  • The 10-point, 14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS touchscreen allows the Lenovo Flex 5 14″ 2-in-1 laptop to be comfortable, fun, and easy to use. It’s also great to look at, with 4-side narrow bezels
  • The 360⁰ hinge lets you use your 2-in-1 touchscreen laptop in whatever mode works best for you; Use it in ‘Laptop’ mode for everyday computing, ‘Tent’ mode for sharing things, ‘Stand’ mode for…
  • Enjoy up to 10 hours of battery life, plus quick charge to 80% in just 1 hour
  • Powered by the AMD Ryzen 5 4500U mobile processor with Radeon graphics, you have the performance to do more, from anywhere. With more cores, you’ll experience responsiveness that leaps into action for…

 

Acer Aspire Switch 3 laptop

Acer Aspire Switch 3

The perfect laptop for those looking for a Surface Book 3 alternative

CPU: 1.10GHz Intel Pentium Quad Core N4200 – Intel Core i3 7100U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 505 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.2-inch, 1,920 x 1,200 IPS LCD touchscreen | Storage: 64GB – 128GB eMMC

Many designers love all of the features that the Surface Book 3 offers but not the price. A great alternative is the Aspire Switch 3 from Acer. Like the Book 3, the keyboard that the Switch 3 comes with is already included, and with multiple configurations, USB-C port, an Intel Pentium processor, and up to 128 GB of storage, the biggest benefit is its extremely affordable price when compared to the Surface Book 3.

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Acer Chromebook 714 laptop

Acer Chromebook 714

A great laptop for G-Suite aficionados

CPU: 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8130U | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 14″ (1920 x 1080) ComfyView IPS Multi-Touch Screen | Storage: 64GB – 128GB eMMC

Because of their cost-efficient design, Chromebooks haven’t made an impact in the business world as it has with students and classrooms. The Chromebook 714 from Acer hopes to buck that trend with its affordable price and aluminum chassis. With fancy business features such as Google Assistant and a fingerprint reader, and also includes an Intel Core i3 processor and a 1080p, 14-inch touch screen makes it a great choice for boardrooms or workspaces. The only downside is that the display is a little less brilliant than we would like but overall, the Chromebook 714 from Acer is a great budget laptop for everything you need to do.

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Latest Price on Amazon:


Acer Chromebook 714 CB714-1WT-3447, 8th Gen Intel Core i3-8130U, 14″ Full HD Touchscreen, 8GB DDR4,…

  • Plus Chromebooks offer fast performance, smooth video calls and ample storage.
  • Chromebook runs on Chrome OS – an operating system by Google that is built for the way we live today. It comes with built-in virus protection, updates automatically , boots up in seconds and continues…
  • All the Google apps you know and love come standard on every Chromebook, which means you can edit, download, and convert Microsoft Office files in Google Docs, Sheets and slides.
  • With the Google Play Store, you can access a rich library of apps, games, music, movies, TV, books, magazines, and more, all from your Chromebook.
  • CB714-1WT-3447 comes with 14” Full HD Touch Display, Intel Core i3-8130U, 8GB DDR4 Memory, 64GB eMMC, Google Chrome, Up to 12-hours Battery Life.

 

Samsung Chromebook 3 laptop

Samsung Chromebook 3

Great for anyone who’s ever spilled a drink

CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB DDR3 | Screen: 11.6 inch (1,366 x 768), 16:9 | Storage: 16GB flash memory solid state

Like many of us, if you’re currently working from home and either has young children or tend to be a bit clumsy, you know how much damage a drink spilled on a laptop can do. While it’s unlikely that Samsung designed the Chromebook 3 with this in mind, it certainly helps. Along with a water-resistant keyboard, the Chromebook 3 can help you work all day long with battery life in the neighborhood of 11 hours. At just over 2.5 pounds, the Chromebook 3 is a high-quality laptop that is a great work option and can stand up to an accidental coffee spill.

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Acer Swift 3 laptop

Acer Swift 3

A great combination of value and performance

CPU: Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.5-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD

If you’re an Apple fan but not a fan of their high prices, the Swift 3 from Acer is one of the few budget laptops available that comes with an Intel Core i5 processor that is near equivalent to the MacBook Pro released a few years ago. Among the best Acer laptops available right now, it costs roughly half the price of an Apple MacBook.

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Latest Price on Amazon:

Sale


Acer Swift 3 Thin & Light 13.5″ 2256 x 1504 IPS Display, 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G4, 8GB LPDDR4,…

  • 10th Generation Intel Core i5-1035G4 Processor (Up to 3 7GHz) | 8GB LPDDR4 Memory | 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • 13 5″ Acer VertiView 2K 2256 x 1504 Widescreen IPS LED-backlit Display (3 2 aspect ratio) | Intel Iris Plus Graphics
  • Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802 11ax | Backlit Keyboard | Fingerprint Reader | Up to 16 Hours Battery Life
  • 1 – USB 3 1 Type C port (up to 10 Gbps) DisplayPort over USB-C Thunderbolt 3 USB Charging DC-in 1 – USB 3 1 Gen 1 port (featuring power-off charging) 1 – USB 2 0 port & 1 – HDMI port
  • Co-Engineered for Mobile Performance by Intel and Acer

 

Microsoft Surface Go 2 laptop

Microsoft Surface Go 2

Best 2-in-1 Budget Laptop

CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 10.5” PixelSense Display with touchscreen | Storage: 64GB – 128GB SSD

The Surface Go 2 is the second iteration of Microsoft’s tablet PC line is improved over the first release and is one of the best tablets that run Windows available. A worthy competitor for conventional laptops and tablets such as the Apple iPad, the Surface Go 2 has been improved with better battery life, better performance, and a slightly bigger screen make this a great versatile tablet and more capable than an iPad and with its affordable price, is more than worthy of having a spot on our list.

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Latest Price on Amazon:

Sale


New Microsoft Surface Go 2 – 10.5″ Touch-Screen – Intel Pentium – 8GB Memory – 128GB SSD – Wifi -…

  • Starting at just 1.2 pounds (not including Type Cover), with new 10.5” touchscreen.
  • Battery life up to 10 hours. Perfect for browsing, shopping, emails, and homework
  • Tablet portability, performance and laptop versatility with adjustable Kickstand and Signature Type Cover.
  • Stay connected with included USB-C port and headphone jack. Full HD front- and rear-facing cameras let you make crisp, clear calls to friends and family, or take and share great photos.
  • Hi-res touchscreen is perfect for browsing, playing, and binge watching.

 

Lenovo Chromebook Duet laptop

Lenovo Chromebook Duet

The best budget-friendly laptop

CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T | Graphics: ARM G72 MP3 800GHz | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 10.1″ FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS touchscreen | Storage: 64 – 128GB

You can spend way too much time going over specs when you’re looking for a great budget-friendly laptop. Let’s make it a tad easier. The Chromebook Duet from Lenovo is a great, straightforward laptop that you can easily use for web browsing or streaming your favorite show and throw it into a backpack when you’re done. While it’s technically a tablet, the Duet is far more powerful and a great choice for a budget-friendly laptop.

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Latest Price on Amazon:

Sale


Lenovo Chromebook Duet, 2-in-1, 10.1″ WUXGA (1920 x 1200) Display, MediaTek Helio P60T, 4GB LPDDR4X…

  • This ultraportable 2-in-1 Chromebook includes a fast and stable plug-and-play detachable keyboard enabled with 5-point pogo pin and magnet design
  • Take it with you everywhere. Thin and lightweight the Chromebook Duet offers up to 10 hours of battery life (2)
  • The unique dual-tone design with aluminum alloy on the tablet is a standout design with sophisticated fabric texture on the stand cover you’ll be stylish productive and practical
  • Fast secure and easy to use: This touchscreen Chromebook boots up quickly with just your Google login to give you access to all of your cloud-based documents email and more
  • With the 10 1″ FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS display and stunning colorful details you won’t sacrifice for great visuals; The 10-point multi-touch touchscreen is also USI pen compatible (pen sold separately)

 

Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1 laptop

Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1

The best affordable 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 11.6-inch, HD (1366 x 768) touchscreen | Storage: 32GB-64GB eMMC

Finding a Chromebook at an affordable price is great, finding one that’s also a 2-in-1 convertible laptop as well is a steal. The Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1 laptop from Dell may not be the most powerful Chromebook out there but it comes with good performance, high-quality durability is easy to use and most importantly, it comes at a great price. With an 11.6 inch screen, you can handle any project that comes your way.

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Latest Price on Amazon:


2019 New Dell Inspiron 11 Convertible 2 in 1 Chromebook , 11.6″ HD Backlight Touch IPS Display,…

  • 11 6 inch HD(1366 x 768) Trulife LED Backlight Touch IPS Display Intel HD Graphics 400
  • Intel Celeron N3060 Dual Core Processor (1 6GHz with turbo upto 2 48GHz) with 4GB Memory 32GB eMMC
  • 1x Audio Jack 1x Volume Control 1x HDMI 2x USB 3 1 Gen1 1x SD card Reader
  • With a 360-degree hinge this 2 in 1 adapts to your needs moment by moment Build-in HD Webcam
  • Chrome OS 3-Cell battery Color Black Item weight 3 16lb

 

Dell Inspiron 11 3180 laptop

Dell Inspiron 11 3180

For anyone looking for something other than Chrome OS

CPU: 7th Generation AMD A6-9220e | Graphics: Integrated graphics with AMD APU | RAM: 4GB DDR4 | Screen: 11.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) TrueLife LED Backlight IPS display | Storage: 64GB eMMC

While Chromebooks tend to dominate the budget laptop market, the Inspiron 11 3180 from Dell is a great alternative if you don’t like Google’s OS. Loaded with Windows 10 S, while it’s not the fastest laptop out there, it is faster than many other budget laptops. Packed with ports to help you get work done, the Inspiron 11 comes with a microSD reader which can be rare these days. If you need a laptop to survive your hectic day, you can’t go wrong with the Inspiron 11 from Dell.

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Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 Chromebook laptop

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 Chromebook

Best Budget Laptop for Viewing

CPU: Intel Celeron N4020 | Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 600 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 11.6″ HD (1366×768) IPS, 10-point Multi-touch | Storage: 64GB eMMC

With its superb build quality along with a 360-degree hinge, a competent, well-designed is not only possible, but it also doesn’t have to be expensive either. With its smart almond-colored metal exterior, adequate battery life, plus an SD card reader you can use to supplement the Flex 3’s 64GB of internal storage. While it’s an affordable option for anyone, that doesn’t mean everything is great, while the display is a touchscreen, it’s not a high-quality option.

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Latest Price on Amazon:


Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3 11.6″ HD (1366 x 768) TouchScreen 2-in-1 Laptop, Intel Celeron N4020, 4GB…

  • [11.6″ HD IPS Touch] With the 11.6″ HD (1366×768) IPS Touch display and stunning colorful details you won’t sacrifice for great visuals!
  • [Intel Celeron N4020 Processor] Get the responsive performance you’re looking for with an Intel processor, ample storage and a long battery life that helps you get everything done.
  • [4GB DDR4 Memory for full-power multitasking] Substantial high-bandwidth RAM to smoothly run your games and photo- and video-editing applications, as well as multiple programs and browser tabs all at…
  • [64GB eMMC flash memory] This ultracompact memory system is ideal for mobile devices and applications, providing enhanced storage capabilities, streamlined data management, quick boot-up times and…
  • [Chrome Os] Fast secure and easy to use This touchscreen Chromebook boots up quickly with just your Google login to give you access to all of your cloud-based documents email and more.

 

Asus Vivobook 15 laptop

Asus Vivobook 15

The best mid-range specs at an affordable price

CPU: Up to Intel i7 | Graphics: Nvidia | RAM: Up to 16GB | Screen: FHD (1920×1080) | Storage: 128GB SSD – 1TB HDD

When you’re shopping for a budget-friendly laptop, the first part you need to figure out is the amount of money you’re ok spending. If you’re somewhere in that $400 to $600 range, you should take a closer look at the Vivobook 15 laptop from Asus. The entry-level specs easily outperform a lot of other Chromebooks that you would otherwise find in this price range. A Nano-edge display and the option to load the laptop with Intel’s Optane memory can help make sure all of your programs run smoothly. At this price point, you’re getting some premium features and its 15.6-inch display makes everything look incredible.

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Acer Nitro 5 (2020) laptop
Acer Nitro 5

Best Budget laptop for casual gaming

CPU: 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15″ Full HD Widescreen IPS LED-backlit display | Storage: 256GB SSD

Serious gamers, take the equipment they use just as seriously but if you’re a casual gamer on a budget, finding a solid option can be tough. The Nitro 5 from Acer may not blow you away with its specs and doesn’t have enough power to handle the big, demanding games that are out on the market today. However, when you’re looking for a budget laptop, you essentially are getting what you pay for. With a dual-fan cooling system, a comfortable and reliable keyboard, high-res display, and impressive battery life, there could be much worse options out there.

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Latest Price on Amazon:


Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop, 9th Gen Intel Core i5-9300H, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, 15.6″ Full HD IPS…

  • 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H Processor (Up to 4.1 GHz)
  • 15″ Full HD Widescreen IPS LED-backlit display; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Graphics with 4 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM
  • 8GB DDR4 2666MHz Memory; 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD (2 x PCIe M.2 slots – 1 slot open for easy upgrades) & 1 – Available hard drive bay
  • LAN: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN (RJ-45 port); Wireless: Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX200 802.11ax
  • Backlit keyboard; Acer Cool Boost technology with twin fans and dual exhaust ports

 

HP Chromebook 11 laptop

HP Chromebook 11

A great laptop in a small package

CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4 GB LPDDR3 | Screen: 11.6-inch diagonal HD SVA Anti-glare WLED-backlit | Storage: 16GB eMMC

The Chromebook 11 from HP has been around the block a few times but that doesn’t mean that it can’t hold its own with its competition. An Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and a beautiful 11.6-inch display make it a great choice in the office or relaxing on the couch watching a movie. With its small weight, it’s easy to throw it in a bag and take it wherever you need to go and with an affordable price, won’t break your bank either.

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Acer Chromebook 14 laptop

Acer Chromebook 14

The best budget-friendly alternative to the MacBook Air

CPU: Intel Celeron N3160 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) display | Storage: 32GB SSD

The MacBook Air from Apple is an impressive laptop, along with its impressively-high price. Thankfully, some options are just as impressive such as the Chromebook 14 from Acer. With its slick lines, the keyboard and touchpad work well enough to handle anything you put them through and while the display may not be the most attractive, it’s still a great example of full HD. Overall, the battery life on the Chromebook is impressive with up to 12 hours of life.

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Acer Aspire 5 laptop

Acer Aspire 5

The Best No-Fuss Budget Laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U | Graphics: Radeon Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) Acer ComfyView Widescreen LED-backlit IPS Display | Storage: 256GB SSD

Focusing on the fancy features that high-end laptops offer can be a waste of your time if they are outside of your budget. With the Aspire 5 from Acer, you get a straightforward laptop that is great for everyday use and is available at a modest price point. Available with a Ryzen 7 processor as well as a 512GB SSD, which is more than enough space found in a budget-friendly laptop. While it doesn’t excel in any one area, the Aspire 5 is a competent laptop for your day-to-day needs.

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Latest Price on Amazon:


Acer Aspire 5 A515-44-R41B, 15.6″ Full HD, AMD Ryzen 5 4500U Hexa-Core Mobile Processor with Radeon…

  • AMD Ryzen 5 4500U Hexa-Core Mobile Processor with Radeon Graphics (Up to 4.0GHz) | 8GB DDR4 Memory | 256GB NVMe SSD
  • 15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) Acer ComfyView Widescreen LED-backlit IPS Display
  • 802.11ac WiFi 5 (Dual-Band 2.4GHz and 5GHz) | Backlit Keyboard | HD Webcam | Up to 10 Hours Battery Life
  • 1 – USB 3.2 (Type-C) Gen 1 port (up to 5 Gbps) | 2 – USB 3.2 Gen 1 Port (one with Power-off Charging) | 1 – USB 2.0 Port | 1 – HDMI Port with HDCP support
  • Windows 10 Home

 

7 Things to Look For When Buying A Budget Laptop

When you’re serious about your craft and want to make sure that the work you’re putting out there is the best that it can be, you want to make sure that the tech you’re using does what you need it to.

Without the right gear, your work can suffer. Now while we know you might be on a budget, there can be many things you need to know and look for when buying a laptop. If nothing else, we wanted to make sure you don’t go in uninformed.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Set A Budget

We’ve all been there. You head to the store, see the newest and brightest tech available, and get excited. Then reality sets back in and you realize that you have a budget, but can you get a good laptop on a tight budget? Let’s break it down a little bit.

While these are the least expensive laptops out there, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t quality options out there for you to choose from. Chromebooks run the Google Operating system, might not have all the bells and whistles of some more expensive options, but can still be a quality choice when you’re first starting. See our post on the best Chromebooks for designers.

You can buy a quality laptop with an Intel Core i5 or even an AMD A8 CPU plus 4 to 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive for less than $600 these days. While these specs are impressive, for the price, they can come with some exclusions such as an SSD, FullHD display, or long battery life. There are exceptions to this though such as the Acer Aspire E 15 or the Asus Vivobook which can be upgraded to an SSD.

At this point, many manufacturers will start to put features on the laptop that won’t appear on those with lower price points such as a metal finish, SSDs, or even high-resolution displays. Finding a quality laptop with the features you need without breaking the bank is very doable in this price range.

You can get a top-tier laptop for over $1000. Consider looking at our top laptops for graphic designers’ posts and the best Macbooks for designers.

2. Operating System

Operating Systems

Other than price, many people will end up choosing a laptop because of the operating system that the laptop runs on. Whether its personal preference because of familiarity or recommendations from a colleague, laptops are generally available with three different OS:

The laptops that Apple manufacturers are packaged with macOS. While functionally similar to Windows 10, there are subtle differences such as an Apps dock instead of a Start menu. Mac users also have Siri instead of Cortana for voice assistance. While many people tout the ease of use that comes with Apple’s operating system, the biggest downside is that the laptops that have this OS can be quite expensive. An entry point for a cheap Mac would be considering a renewed older model.

With its appearance on many more laptops than both macOS and ChromeOS, Windows is considered to be the most flexible operating system out there. Appearing on a wide range of laptops from those costing $150 to thousands of dollars, the variety of features that Windows offers can make it an enticing choice. Since its release in July 2015, the improvements that have been added to Windows have made it a very popular choice for designers and creatives.

A simple and secure operating system, the ChromeOS from Google is found on Chromebooks. While the interface is reminiscent of Windows with an app menu, desktop, and ability to drag windows around, the main browser is Google’s Chrome browser. A downside to using ChromeOS is that some web applications don’t work all that well offline. That is changing however as newer, high-end versions of the Chromebook are now able to run Android applications.

3. Traditional laptop or 2-in-1

HP Pavilion X360

These days, laptops will fall into two main categories: standard notebook style and 2-in-1 hybrids that come in two different variations. A hinged version that allows you to put the device in many different configurations and a detachable that comes off the keyboard entirely.

Many of these tend to provide a better experience one way instead of the other with bend-back laptops being a laptop first while detachable offers a superior tablet experience. If you don’t see having a tablet in any form as a necessity, stick with a traditional laptop as you’ll usually get better performance for the money you will spend.

4. Screen Size & Weight

Laptop Screen Sizes

While all the power under the hood is great to have, if all that power causes you to lug around a huge laptop, it might not be worth the money. Laptops are generally categorized by the size of their display:

These will generally be the thinnest and lightest laptop that you can find. The screen is between 11 and 12 inches and only weighs around 2.5 to 3.5 pounds.

Laptops of this size will provide the best combination of portability and usability. This is especially true if you find a laptop that weighs less than 4 pounds.

Usually weighing around 4.5 to 6.5 pounds, 15-inch laptops are the most popular choice for those who want a laptop with a larger screen but isn’t so heavy to be a burden when carrying it around

If you have a laptop that stays primarily on your desk and isn’t carried around much, a laptop with a 17 or 18-inch screen can provide you with the processing power you need to do high-quality work without needing a desktop computer.

5. Keyboard & Touchpad

Having the best laptop in the world, no matter how much it costs, can mean absolutely nothing if the keyboard doesn’t fit your hands the right way. A good laptop keyboard should offer tactile feedback, enough space between the keys, and when you press a key, it should move vertically enough to make it feel satisfying.

The touchpad shouldn’t give you a jumpy cursor and also responds well to your movements as well as multitouch gestures like pinch and zoom. Some manufacturers still provide a pointing stick between the G and H keys. This can be helpful as it will allow you to navigate your laptop’s screen while keeping your fingers on the home row of the keyboard.

6. Specifications (What’s Inside)

Laptop Specs

When you look at the specs that a laptop has, it can be a little daunting at first. There are a lot of letters on display and it can be tough to know what each one of them means and what you should pick. While there can be some debate over the screen size you should choose, for designers and creatives, focusing more on three areas will help you choose a quality laptop in your price range.

a) Processor

In essence, the processor is the brain of every laptop that is being used and it can handle the complex calculations that the operating system, software, and the apps that you’re running plus user input and data. Having the right processor can help keep your computer working at lightning speed and handle multiple applications at once. This can be seriously beneficial if you’re working on graphic design, video, or photo editing projects.

b) Memory and Storage

In terms of size, there aren’t many options out there when it comes to memory, budget-friendly laptops will typically come with either 2 or 4GB of memory and some can even come with 8GB of memory, although that’s not common. The more memory your laptop comes with, the faster your laptop will be at managing multiple open applications. For graphic design work, that generally requires having multiple programs open, you’ll want to shoot for at least 4GB.

Storage can come with a few different options that you can choose from. The two most popular options are Solid State Drives (SSD) and Hard Disk Drive (HDD). While an SSD is the fastest performer when it comes to storing your data, compared to HDD’s they are much more expensive and only offer medium storage capacities of 128GB and more while an HDD can offer much more storage at 1TB or more.

c) Display

If you work in any kind of creative field, such as graphic design or video editing, a laptop with a smaller display does more to hurt your work than help it. Even though you’re looking for a budget-friendly laptop, you should look for a laptop as close to 15 inches as possible. A 17-inch laptop would be excellent to own but could end up being way out of budget.

d) Graphics

If you look closely at some budget laptops, you’ll notice that the GPU is embedded, which means that it is reliant on the standard GPU that is already on the motherboard. These also share the system’s memory, making it a less than great choice because it uses some of the memory or RAM that the system has available. Looking for a laptop that comes with discrete and dedicated graphics may be harder to find in a budget-friendly laptop but if you do any kind of graphic design or media editing, not having one will make everything harder.

e) Interface: ports and connectivity options

Many budget laptops come with a combination of Type A USB 2.0 and USB 3.1 ports and some offer both USB 3.0/3.1 ports. Although rare, there are some budget laptops available with a reversible USB-C port. Whether it’s full-size or micro, most budget laptops will have an HDMI port as well as a standard 3.5 mm audio jack, a 4-in-1 SD or micro SD card reader.

For wireless connectivity, it’s common to see both Dual-band AC WiFI and Bluetooth 4.1 as well as an Ethernet port, although you might not need it.

 

7. Battery Life

Budget laptops can come with a very good battery life that averages between 7 and 12 hours of use per charge which is more than enough for a full day of work. While there are still options out there that only offer between 4 and 6 hours of battery life, these should generally be avoided.

While none of us use our laptops for just one thing, it’s pretty unlikely that you’re gonna reach the number that the manufacturer claims you can get out of a laptop before plugging it in. In this case, look for laptops with at least 10 hours of life between charges so even in a pinch, you can get between 7 and 8 hours.

 

 

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Choosing the Best Budget Laptops for your Needs

Choosing a budget laptop can be tough especially when you see higher-priced options with all the bells and whistles that you know you want. But if you look past the glitz and glamour, you’ll see on our list of the Best Budget Laptops for Designers and Creatives in 2021many very capable and affordable laptops to help you get your work done.

We hope that we’ve inspired you to take a closer look at the many different options that you have out there and realize that just because you have a budget, it doesn’t mean that you cannot be successful.

Do you use a budget laptop that’s not on our list? Let us know about it in the comments below.

Photo credits: Golubovy & Stanislaw Mikulski on Shutterstock



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