Under $500 and fit inside a backpack
Remember when we were lucky if there was a computer in each classroom? Now, having a laptop for a student is a must. Laptops aren’t cheap though, and there are so many choices. So how do we know which laptop to get for our kid?
Even before reading our list, talk to the teachers. They may have a standard for laptops. At the very least, they can say what programs and operating systems (OS) the school uses, and what the kids do with them.
Our criteria for the best budget laptops for school work is simple but strict.
- It must be priced under $500. The lower the price, the better for most folks.
- Small enough to fit in a backpack with books, but big enough to use comfortably.
- The laptop should be capable of 6 hours of use on a full charge.
- Bluetooth is a must. Watching videos is now necessary for homework, and if your kid can wear Bluetooth headphones it makes for a quieter night for you. Face it, they’re going to be listening to music and watching Disney + too.
Most laptops already have all the necessary ports, like USB and HDMI, DisplayPort, or VGA. WiFi is in everything, too. Any other special feature is a bonus at this point.
Super thin, with a bright 15.6 inch HD display, the Acer Aspire 5 hits a sweet spot between bare basics and full-featured. It’s powerful enough for most student tasks in high school through to college. Only animators and computer science students might need more.
It’s got enough memory and graphics supports to even run some decent games. Add up to 7.5 hours of battery life and you’ve got one of the best budget laptops.
Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 3200U
RAM: 4GB DDR4
Storage: 128GB SSD
Display Type: Full HD IPS 1920 x 1080
Graphics Processing: Vega 3 Co-processor
Ports: 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Port, 2 USB 2.0 Ports & 1 HDMI Port with HDCP support
OS: Windows 10 Home in S Mode
Battery Life: ~7 hours
This one is at the top end of the budget at $449.99. For that, the Lenovo Flex gives a 14-inch touch display and, as the name suggests, can be flipped right over to allow the use of it as a tablet.
It’s capable of running most apps a student would use. With the flexing capability, it’s probably best in the hands of high school or college students. Being able to fold over backward does create more opportunities for accidental damage.
Processor: Intel Pentium Gold 5405U
RAM: 4GB DDR4 2400MHz
Storage: 128GB SSD
Display Type: 14.0” HD Multi-touch
Graphics Processing: Integrated Intel UHD 610 Graphic
Ports: 2 x USB 3.1** (1 x always on), USB-C, Card reader, HDMI, Audio jack
OS: Windows 10 Home in S mode
Battery Life: ~8 hours, can fast-charge up to 80% in an hour
Some people shy away from Chromebooks because they believe their kids need to have Windows to use Microsoft Office. For most students, the Microsoft Office apps for the ChromeOS will do more than they’ll need.
This Chromebook has a huge 15.6-inch touchscreen, unusual in the Chromebook world. Chromebooks are a bit different, but they’re more than capable of serving most college students as well as elementary school students. Perhaps more importantly, it has an aluminum chassis making it a durable option.
Processor: Intel Quad-Core Pentium N4200
RAM: 4GB DDR4 RAM
Storage: 64 GB eMMC (embedded MultiMediaCard)
Display Type: 15.6″ Full HD Touchscreen
Graphics Processing: Intel Integrated Graphics
Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.1, combo headphone and speaker jack
OS: Chrome OS
Battery Life: ~6.5 hours
The most portable and most affordable budget laptops on this list is the Lenovo 130S. It does have a smaller screen, at 11.6 inches and it does lack a bit in horsepower compared to others on this list. However, it does have Windows 10 with a 1-year Office 365 subscription included.
This is a great option for taking notes in class. At this price, it’s also suitable for younger elementary students.
Processor: Intel Celeron N4000
RAM: 4 GB DDR3
Storage: 64 GB eMMC
Display Type: 11.6” HD 1366 x 768
Graphics Processing: Intel UHD Graphics 600
Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1, 1 x HDMI Output
OS: Windows 10
Battery Life: ~8 hours
The laptops so far don’t have a lot of storage. They depend on the abundance of cloud storage available these days. But sometimes, there is a need to be able to store large amounts of files locally.
If your student needs that, this may be the best budget laptop for them. It’s a capable computer with a 2 TB hard drive.
Processor: AMD A9-9425 Dual-Core
RAM: 8 GB DDR4-1866 SDRAM
Storage: 2 TB 5400 rpm HDD
Display Type: 15.6″ diagonal HD SVA BrightView WLED-backlit
Graphics Processing: AMD Radeon R5 Graphics
Ports: 1 HDMI 1.4, 1 headphone/microphone combo; 1 RJ-45; 1 USB 2.0; 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 (data only)
OS: Windows 10 Home
Battery Life: ~9 hours
Are These Really the Best Budget Laptops?
‘Best’ is a subjective term because your needs could be completely different from the criteria. Also, these exact models may not be available in your region or country.
We believe this is a solid, well-researched, good start to finding the best budget laptop for you or your kids.