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The best cheap laptops, starting at $350

Buying a new laptop for work, home, or school doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune -- get features like long battery life, a high-resolution display, and more for less with our picks.
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer on

Shopping for a cheap laptop doesn't have to be a chore -- respected brands like MSI, Lenovo, and Asus offer budget-friendly laptops for work, school, and even gaming. And while more affordable laptops won't blow anyone away with their displays or use any high-end components, you can still find solid options offering decent battery life as well as plenty of storage for photos, documents, and your most-used programs. 

Also: Best laptops

To help you find the best cheap laptop for your needs, ZDNET did research and hands-on testing to develop this list. Our pick for the best cheap laptop overall is the MSI Modern 14 for its 9-hour battery life, 12th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, and lightweight design. You can keep reading below to find out more about the MSI Modern 14 as well as our other picks.

The best cheap laptops of 2023

Pros & Cons
  • Decent battery life
  • Lightweight
  • 12th gen Intel Core i3 CPU
  • No discrete GPU
  • Only one USB-C port
More Details

MSI Modern 14 specs: Display size: 14 inches | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Resolution: 1080p | Touchscreen: No | RAM: 8GB| GPU: Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics| CPU: Intel Core i3-1215U | Storage: 512GB SSD | Battery life: 9 hours

The MSI Modern 14 is a well-rounded, affordable laptop that's great for home use, office work, and students. The 14-inch display provides 1080p resolution as well as a 60Hz refresh rate for smoother playback for streaming and video calls. The laptop is built with a 12th generation Intel Core i3 CPU and integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics for enough power and performance for typical office or classroom work as well as web browsing, streaming, and data entry. 

You'll be able to connect all of your peripherals via Bluetooth or USB for better control over your laptop as well as most-used programs. And with the Modern 14 weighing in at just under 3 pounds, it's lightweight enough to take with you on your work or school commute without bogging you down. The 9-hour battery life means you can work all day before you need to plug in.

Pros & Cons
  • 10 hour battery
  • Connect up to 2 external displays
  • Under $500
  • Can't be user upgraded
  • May not be best choice for specialized learning
More Details

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3i specs: Display size: 15.6 inches | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Resolution: 1080p | Touchscreen: Yes | RAM: 8GB | GPU: Intel UHD | CPU: Intel Celeron N4500 | Storage: 128gb eMMC/SD card | Battery life: 10 hours

ZDNET reviews editor Kerry Wan did hands-on testing of the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3i, and tapped this laptop as his top pick for students. Wan praised the Flex 3i for handling streaming, video meetings, and content creation with minimal risk of overheating or data bottleneck. With a starting price that sits well below $500, the Flex 3i is a great, budget-friendly option for elementary, high school, and even college students looking for a reliable laptop that won't break the bank. It's built with an Intel Celeron N4500 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage across an eMMC drive and SD card. And since this laptop uses ChromeOS, you'll be able to sync your files to Google Drive or other cloud storage services to free up local drive space for documents, files, and photos.

The 15.6-inch display gives you 1080p resolution and a 60Hz refresh rate for smoother playback; and you can connect up to two external displays via USB-C for more room to multitask while researching school projects. And with a battery life of up to 10 hours, students will be able to use their laptops the entire school day before they need to think about recharging.

Review: Lenovo Flex 3i

Pros & Cons
  • 12-hour battery life
  • 144Hz refresh rate
  • User upgradeable
  • Wi-Fi 6 support
  • Dolby Atmos audio
  • 12-hour battery only for web browsing/office work
  • No Thunderbolt input support
More Details

Asus TUF A15 specs: Display size: 15.6 inches | Refresh rate: 144Hz | Resolution: 1080p | Touchscreen: No | RAM: 8GB | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti | CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 6800H | Storage: 512GB SSD | Battery life: Up to 12 hours

It can be difficult to find a gaming laptop that's budget-friendly, but thankfully the Asus TUF A15 offers everything you need for a great gaming experience without making you spend a fortune. This laptop is built with an AMD Ryzen 7 6800H CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD for all of the power, performance, and storage you need for a modest game library. And if your needs change in the future, you can upgrade RAM, storage, the CPU, and GPU separately as needed.

The 15.6-inch display gives you 1080p resolution for crisp detailing and rich colors while the 144Hz refresh rate helps prevent screen tearing and stuttering during intense action scenes. The Asus TUF A15 also sports an impressive 12-hour battery life for web browsing and an industry-standard 4 hours for gaming; this makes the TUF A15 a great choice for anyone looking for a laptop that can pull double duty at the office and as a gaming rig. 

HP Envy x360
Pros & Cons
  • Excellent battery life
  • 2-in-1 laptop
  • Multiple configuration options
  • Touchscreen display
  • No discrete GPU
  • No Intel option
More Details

HP Envy x360 specs - Display size: 15.6 inches | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Resolution: 1080p | Touchscreen: Yes | RAM: Up to 16GB | GPU: Integrated AMD Radeon | CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 7 7730U | Storage: Up to 1TB SSD | Battery life: Up to 13.25 hours

A 2-in-1 laptop can be a great option for anyone looking to streamline their device line-up. The HP Envy x360 features a special hinge that allows you to use it as a traditional laptop or as a tablet for drawing and taking notes. You can configure the Envy x360 with up to an AMD Ryzen 7 7730U processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD for all of the power, storage, and performance you need for work and home use. 

The 15.6-inch display supports multi-touch inputs so you can zoom, scroll, and pan more easily within programs as well as use supported stylus inputs for note-taking or digital drawing. And with a battery life that tops out at just over 13 hours, you'll be able to work all day and well into the evening before you need to even think about busting out your charging cable.

Pros & Cons
  • Decent battery life
  • 17-inch display
  • Supports second display via HDMI
  • No integrated webcam
  • Heavy (4.6 pounds)
More Details

Asus Vivobook 17 specs: Display size: 17 inches | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Resolution: 1080p | Touchscreen: No | RAM: 8GB | GPU: Integrated Intel UHD | CPU: Intel Pentium 8505 | Storage: 256GB SSD | Battery life: 7 hours

If you prefer a large screen on your laptop for work, web browsing, or streaming, the Asus Vivobook 17 gives you a 17-inch display with 1080p resolution for clearer detailing as well as a 60Hz refresh rate for smoother playback. The laptop is built with an Intel Pentium 8505 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, making it an almost-perfect option for home or office use. And with an HDMI input, you can set up a secondary display for more space to multitask. It also features Bluetooth connectivity for wireless peripherals like mice and headsets for a clutter-free workspace. The Asus Vivobook 17 also features a decent, 7-hour battery life, allowing you to work almost all day before needing to recharge.

What is the best cheap laptop?

My pick for the best cheap laptop is the MSI Modern 14. It's built with a 12th generation Intel Core i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM, integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, and a 512GB SSD. The 14-inch display gives you crisp 1080p full HD resolution as well as a 60Hz refresh rate for smoother playback. And with Bluetooth, USB, and HDMI connectivity, you'll be able to set up all of your peripherals, displays, and storage devices to create the ultimate workspace.

Best cheap laptop




MSI Modern 14


12th gen Intel Core, Intel Iris Xe

8GB, 512GB SSD

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3i


Intel Celeron N4500, Integrated Intel 

4GB, 128GB eMMC/SD card

Asus TUF A15


Up to AMD Ryzen 7 6000 series or Intel Core i7, Up to Nvidia Geforce RTX 3050 Ti

8GB, 512GB SSD

HP Envy x360


AMD Ryzen 5 7530U, AMD Integrated Radeon 

8GB, 256GB SSD

Asus Vivobook 17


Intel Pentium 8505, Intel UHD integrated graphics

8GB, 256GB SSD

Which cheap laptop is right for you?

The first decision you need to make is whether you want a Windows machine or a Chromebook running ChromeOS. Both operating systems have their strengths: Windows offers continuity from the desktop experience, while ChromeOS offers simplicity. Think about how you intend to use the laptop when making this choice. 

Some of these systems run Windows 10S, which is a version of Windows 10 that can only run apps from the Windows app store. This has both pros (increased security and reliability) and cons (fewer options), so bear this in mind if you plan to take this path.

Next, prioritize what you want from the hardware. The $350 price point won't buy you everything, so you're going to have to choose which features you value most. Do you absolutely need a big display, more storage, or more RAM?

Buy this best cheap laptop...

If you need...

MSI Modern 14

A well rounded and budget-friendly laptop. It's built with a 12th gen Intel Core processor as well as integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics for everything from office tasks and homework to streaming and web browsing.

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3i

A cheap laptop for students of all ages. This Chromebook features a 2-in-1 form factor as well as a keyboard that includes the 10-key number pad for more efficient data entry.

Asus TUF A15

A budget-friendly gaming laptop. This gaming laptop retails for around $1000 and is built with An Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti graphics card.

HP Envy x360

A cheap 2-in-1 laptop. Along with a budget-friendly price, you'll also get Bang & Olufsen audio and Wi-Fi 6 support.

Asus Vivobook 17

An affordable, 17-inch laptop. The screen features ultra-narrow bezels for a better screen-to-body ratio as well as a lightweight and thin design for portability.

How did we choose these cheap laptops?

While testing and researching each laptop on this list, I kept these criteria in mind:

  • Price: While it's not exactly difficult to find budget-friendly laptops for different applications, the term "budget-friendly" means different things to different people. I did my best to ensure that all laptops featured on this list have base retail prices at or below $1,000.
  • User upgrades: Even if you're looking for a cheap laptop, it's still an investment that you'll want to last at least a few years. I made sure that each pick for the best cheap laptops is able to be user-upgraded in at least one way (RAM, storage, GPU, etc.)
  • Storage: Whether you want a new, cheap laptop for school work or gaming, having an appropriately sized storage drive is important. For each pick on this list, I made sure that their storage drives matched up to minimum specifications for popular programs used for work, school, gaming, and streaming.

Is $350 enough for a good laptop?

Don't be fooled -- $350 will not buy you monster system that can do everything. If you are looking for a system that can handle tasks like photo and video editing (or even gaming), then you are looking in the wrong place.

But, if you want a basic system capable of browsing the web (keep the Google Chrome tabs down to a minimum) or making documents and spreadsheets, then these are the systems for you.

Are desktops cheaper than laptops?

In some cases, a desktop may be cheaper than a laptop, especially if you're looking for a video-editing or gaming device. However, you'll be hard-pressed to find desktops suitable for daily use that can compete with these laptop prices.

The Envy TE01 is the most affordable HP desktop on the market, and its price starts at $450. In comparison, everything on this list is under $350. While you may get lucky with a great sale or discount coupon from certain retailers, a desktop that sells for under $400 is very, very rare.

How much RAM should a laptop have?

Deciding how much RAM your laptop should have, no matter the price, is going to very much depend on how you are going to be using your new laptop. If it's going to be a family computer for web browsing, streaming, and occasional homework assignments, a laptop with just 4 or 8GB of RAM will have more than enough power. However, if your laptop is going to be for gaming or creative work, you'll want at least 16GB to help reduce the risk of bottleneck.

How much storage should a laptop have?

Much like RAM, how much storage your laptop should have depends entirely on how you'll be using it. For very young students and casual home use laptops, a storage drive of just 128GB will be more than sufficient for documents, photos, and essential programs. For office and creative work or gaming, you'll want to opt for a laptop that has at least a 500GB storage drive to ensure that you'll have plenty of space for raw photo and video files, game libraries, and productivity software. 

Many budget-friendly laptops, like Chromebooks, offer integration with cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. This means that they'll have very small local drives, but you'll be able to free up space by transferring files to whichever cloud storage service you use. This also means that students can access assignments on other computers if their laptop is having issues or needs repaired.

Are there alternative cheap laptops worth considering?

There are plenty of options out there if you're looking for an affordable laptop for everyday use. Here's a short list of alternatives that are also solid choices:

ChromeOS now supports Steam for gaming. The Acer Chromebook 516 is built with a 12th gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD for plenty of storage, power, and performance for casual and beginner PC gamers. 

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 is a great option for students, with its exceptional portability and dual tablet and laptop form factor. The 13.3-inch display uses an OLED panel for enhanced detailing and Wi-Fi 6 support gives you faster web browsing and file transfers to and from cloud storage services like Google Drive.

The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 360 is great for anyone who wants a cheap laptop that will integrate almost seamlessly with their Samsung or Android devices. It runs on ChromeOS, and with Nearby Share and Phone Hub, it's easy to transfer files between devices.

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