Smartphones and tablets may have taken over much of people’s screen time, but most people still need to use a “real” computer sometimes—and for many, that means a laptop. For school and office work, for spreadsheets and video editing, there’s just no good substitute for a decent keyboard and a big screen. But which laptop you should get depends a lot on how often you’ll use it, what you’ll use it for, and (of course) how much money you can afford to spend on it.
Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM 15.6-Inch FHD Notebook
The Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) is your ideal budget-desktop replacement laptop, but it comes with some of the latest features including a seventh-generation (Kaby Lake) processor and a good number of ports. It may not stand out, but it’s what you need to have the work done, thanks to its 15-inch Full HD screen, strong performance and excellent battery life.
The Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) is a basic desktop-replacement laptop, powered by Intel’s seventh-generation (Kaby Lake) processor, with performance that pushes it from average to the top of the class. So far, it probably isn’t what you picture when you think “dream computer,” but as far as desktop-replacement budget laptops go, it will get the job done…and done well. The 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-7100U processor.
A Full HD 15.6-inch and respectable battery life are more than adequate for everyday tasks (at home, college or office) or enthusiast-level multimedia consumption. The Aspire E 15 is clad in a fashionable cross-hairline top cover that mimics a metallic look, but for the budget category we don’t expect anything metallic; here everything is plastic. The chassis measures roughly 1.19 by 15.02 by 10.2 inches (HWD), and weighs 5.3 pounds.
ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6″
The 11.6″ C202SA Series 16GB Chromebook from ASUS is an education-focused notebook designed for a classroom environment. It features a rugged enclosure, capable of withstanding the drops and hardships of a student’s typical use both in and out of the classroom. Powered by a 1.6 GHz Intel Celeron N3060 Dual-Core processor and 4GB of 1066 MHz DDR3L RAM, the C202 Chromebook can handle multitasking as well as quickly accessing frequently used files and programs.
When tasked with a heavier workload, the CPU can reach a burst frequency of 2.48 GHz. Work efficiently and play comfortably with the 11.6″ anti-glare display, driven by integrated Intel HD graphics. Its 1366 x 768 HD resolution will let you enjoy crisp and clear HD content while its anti-glare coating provides comfortable viewing even under sunlight. Furthermore, it has a 180-degree hinge so you can easily share what’s on your screen.
Use its HDMI port to connect an additional display for even more screen real-estate and multitasking capabilities. The C202 Chromebook is equipped with 16GB of flash eMMC storage. While it may not be a lot, you can connect external storage solutions such as flash drives and hard drives using its USB ports. You can pair compatible wireless peripherals to this notebook using Bluetooth 4.2 technology.
Samsung Chromebook 3, 11.6″, 4GB RAM
The 11.6″ 16 GB Chromebook 3 from Samsung is a slim and lightweight notebook designed to provide you with a keen balance of capable computing and mobility. Powered by a 1.6 GHz Intel Celeron N3060 Dual-Core processor and 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM, the Chromebook 3 can handle multitasking and everyday computing needs such as checking emails, watching videos, and composing papers.
The Chromebook 3 has an 11.6” (1366 x 768) anti-reflective HD screen driven by integrated Intel HD Graphics with a 180 degree hinge for easy screen sharing. You can even output video using its HDMI port. For storing files and programs, it is equipped with 16GB of eMMC flash storage, a specification commonly seen on many Chromebooks. When space runs low, you can attach additional storage options using its USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, and micro SD card slot.
Connect to the Internet using 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and additional peripherals using Bluetooth wireless technology. It also has a built-in webcam, microphone, speakers for video chat capabilities, along with a single microphone and headphone combo jack. The operating system installed within Chromebooks is Chrome OS.
Acer Chromebook 14, Aluminum, 14-inch Full HD
The inexpensive Acer Chromebook 14’s aluminum body is much nicer than the plastic competition. The matte-finish, 14-inch full HD IPS display is a great size for work and play, but still keeps this laptop’s footprint small enough for commuting. The Acer Chromebook 14 stands out for its stylish design and big screen at an affordable price. If you’re looking for a classier Chromebook, this is it.
Chromebooks — laptops running on Google’s Chrome operating system — are more known for being small and cheap than for stylish design. The majority of them have 11.6- or 13.3-inch screens and are plastic, which keeps the prices low. That’s what makes the Acer Chromebook 14 all the more remarkable: Not only does it have a 14-inch screen, but it’s thin and clad in aluminum.
Here is the CB3-431-C5FM, configuration with a full HD IPS display, Intel Celeron N3160 quad-core processor, 4GB of memory and 32GB of storage. (Note: Pricing and configuration availability varies by region and this particular configuration was not available in the UK or Australia.) These aren’t powerful components, but it’s enough for the Chrome OS and web apps. It should also be enough to run Android apps when support is added later this year, but I won’t know for sure until then.
Acer Aspire 1, 14″ Full HD, Intel Celeron N3450
The Acer Aspire 1 is a VALUE laptop that gives you access to your digital life online and media consumption for much less. Then, it tops it with a good design, a 1920-by-1080 non-IPS screen and decent battery life. The Acer Aspire 1 is a budget laptop that’s a lot less expensive than most Chromebooks. If Windows is a must-have, then it’s a safe buy without a second though.
Otherwise you’d opt for a Chromebook. It’s designed to offer easy access to your digital life online, and includes a bunch of complimentary services from Microsoft, such as Windows 10 Home, OneDrive and a month’s subscription of Microsoft Office. It isn’t a speed demon, but it does get you to the Internet, lets you process word documents and spreadsheets, and consume media on the Full HD screen.
Think of the Aspire 1 netbook as an inexpensive Windows 10-based competitor to Chrome OS-based laptops. It’s no match for the Editors’ Choice Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM, but it costs much less, and is a solid, usable value laptop for those with modest wallets and computing needs. The system is clad in a charcoal-gray polycarbonate (plastic) exterior, except for a few brushings that give the lid some texture.
Lenovo 320-15 – 15.6″ HD – AMD A12-9720P
This 320-15ABR 80XS0024US weighs in at 4.8 pounds and also features a DVD burner optical drive, stereo speakers, a 720p web camera, 802.11AC wireless and Ethernet LAN network interfaces, Bluetooth, two traditional USB 3.0 ports and a new USB-C port, HDMI video out, a media card reader, and a combo mic/headphones jack. Typical 1366 x 768 HD resolution. Energy-efficient LED backlight.
Windows 10 brings back the Start Menu from Windows 7 and introduces new features, like the Edge Web browser that lets you markup Web pages on your screen. 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 once. Holds a sizeable collection of digital photos, music, HD videos and DVD-quality movies.
5400 rpm spindle speed for standard read/write times. Integrated graphics chipset with shared video memory provides solid image quality for Internet use, movies, basic photo editing and casual gaming. Balances portability and screen size, so you get a respectable amount of viewing space without the laptop being too cumbersome for practical portability. 2-cell lithium-ion battery.
ASUS Chromebook C300SA 13.3 Inch
The light blue 13.3″ 16GB C300SA Series Chromebook from ASUS is designed for a Web-optimized experience. With a user-friendly interface, the ASUS Chromebook offers a unique computing experience enhanced by the Internet. Powered by a 1.6 GHz Intel Celeron N3060 Dual-Core processor and 4GB of 1866 MHz LPDDR3 RAM, this Chromebook can handle multitasking and everyday computing needs such as checking emails, watching videos, and composing papers.
The CS300SA Chromebook has a 13.3” display driven by integrated Intel HD Graphics and a 1366 x 768 HD resolution. You can even connect an additional monitor using its HDMI port. For storing files and programs, it is equipped with 16GB of eMMC flash storage. When space runs low, you can attach additional storage options using its two USB 3.0 ports and SD media card slot.
Connect to the Internet using 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and to additional peripherals using Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technology. It also has a built-in webcam, microphone, and speakers for video chat capabilities, along with a single audio jack. The operating system installed within Chromebooks is Chrome OS. Using Linux as a base, Google designed Chrome OS to work exclusively with web applications. Which greatly resembles the Google Chrome web browser.
HP Stream Laptop PC – 14″ HD, Intel Celeron N3060
The inexpensive HP Stream 14 is an attractive, lightweight 14-inch Windows laptop with a long battery life and performance good enough for basic productivity and streaming media. Plenty of expansion ports. Includes 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage and Office 365 Personal for one year. With the Stream 14, HP once again shows that a Windows laptop for email and online apps can be attractive and inexpensive.
A low price on a laptop can make up for a lot of shortcomings. That is, as long as those shortcomings don’t interfere with you getting stuff done. The 14-inch body is thin and it’s light at about 3 pounds (1.4 kg), but if you were hoping for something smaller. It has the same internal components as the 14, but has one less USB 3.1 port and a microSD card slot instead of the 14’s full-size slot.
The Stream is a nice-looking laptop, too, assuming you’re cool with the bright blue color. It’s all plastic with ridges on the lid that give it texture and added grip. The blue continues inside except for the bright white keyboard. With its meager 32GB of storage — only about half of which is available to use — it’s nice HP didn’t skimp on expansion options.