Cheap laptops and budget Chromebooks for summer travel

Why risk taking your expensive MacBook or Surface with you on your summer adventures when you can grab a budget laptop to pick up the slack?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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ZDNET's reviewers spend weeks to months testing each laptop on this list, using it for both everyday tasks like browsing, streaming, and gaming, to more performance-intensive work like photo and video editing. We aim to give you a view into how each laptop could actually fit into your life and workflow, and the pros and cons of their various features like performance, display, and battery life.

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Summer is a time of being out an about, of adventures and hikes, of BBQs and camping. But some of us still need to get work done during the times when we're not having fun, but the outdoors can take its toll on an expensive laptop like a MacBook or Surface. Why not pick up a budget laptop or Chromebook to pick up the slack when you are away from the comfort -- and safety -- of the office? Or you can get your hands on the best technology around found on our page of the top Chromebooks.  

Also: Windows 10 PCs or Chromebook battery life disappoints? How Intel plans to fix it

There's a great selection of hardware to choose from for under $500.


HP Pavilion x360

This is a lot of hardware for $460 –--you get a 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 FHD IPS Bright View micro-edge WLED-backlit, a 2.2GHz (3.4GHz turbo) 8th gen Intel Dual-Core i3-8130U processor, 4 GB DDR4-2400 SDRAM, and 16GB Intel Octane memory (giving a total of 20GB), 1TB of storage, and an HP digital pen.

Average battery life is measured as 7 hours, which isn't fantastic, but it's enough for a good day's work.

Operating system: Windows 10


Asus C523NA

Sporting a 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 full HD display, this Chromebook offers a lot of screen real estate to get work done. However, it's also pretty portable, weighing in at a reasonable 3.8lb.

Powering this is a 2.5GHz Intel Pentium N4200 quad-core CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage.

It also comes with two USB 3.1 ports and two USB-C port (one of each on each side), so connectivity isn't a problem.

Battery life is about 6 hours, which isn't great, but remember this is a budget Chromebook.

Operating system: Chrome OS


Lenovo IdeaPad 330

This laptop offers a lot for $450: A 15.6-inch display (a downside is that the resolution is only 1,366 x 768), 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM in combination with 16GB Intel Optane memory, and 1TB of storage.

It also comes with an optical drive (remember those?) and a 4-in-1 media card slot.

On the connectivity front there are two USB 3.1 ports and a single USB-C port.

Operating system: Windows 10


Acer Spin 1

Here we have a stylish modern convertible that transforms to suit your needs. Whether you want it as a laptop, a tablet, a display, or in tent mode, the Spin 1 adjusts to suit your needs.

The 11.6-inch 1,920 x 1.080 Full HD display is a pleasure to use, and the quad-core Intel Pentium N4200 processor, Intel HD Graphics 505 GPU, and 4GB of RAM gives this the power it needs to get the job done.

And the 8-hour battery life means you can get even more done.

Operating system: Windows 10


Asus Flip C302A

This is a very stylish all-aluminum, two-in-one Chromebook from Asus that comes bundled with a number of high-end features, such as a backlit keyboard and a 12.5-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display.

It is powered by a dual-core Intel Core M3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 64GB SSD, and the battery on this is good for at least 9 hours.

And all-round performer for those who can manage with a smaller display.

Operating system: Chrome OS


Microsoft Surface Go

If portability is your thing, then the Microsoft Surface Go is a device well worth taking a look at. With its 10-inch 1,800 x 1,200 (217 PPI) display, and weighing in at only 1.15lb, this is the perfect partner to take with you on your adventures.

And the battery is good for 10 hours of work.

The tech specs of this don't look all that impressive on paper, but it's a fantastic performer. The only downside is that when you buy a $350 Surface Go, you also need to budget another $99 for a keyboard. But even at $450, it's a great package that allows you to get serious work done when on the move.

Operating system: Windows 10

Will you be buying a separate laptop or Chromebook for summer travel, or will you be taking your chances with your daily driver? Let me know!

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