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If you’re shopping for a laptop on a tight budget, it’s important to determine what kind of features are most important to you. Many of these devices have cut corners to keep the price low, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on specs like processing power, display quality, and storage. If you want to use this laptop for productivity tasks or schoolwork, a decently-fast processor and good battery life might be the most important features. If you want to use it primarily for web browsing and media streaming, you may opt for something with less storage and a larger, sharper screen.
At the under-$200 price point, it’s also worth considering a budget tablet or 2-in-1 device. These devices often have less on-board storage but tend to have better display quality. (And you can usually buy an attachable or wireless tablet keyboard to achieve laptop-like functionality.) That being said, there are still more traditional laptop options available at this price point. We’ve done the research to round up the best laptops out there in the $200 price range.
Great battery life
Light and portable
So-so screen quality
Chrome OS can be limiting
As far as budget laptops go, the Lenovo 100e Chromebook checks quite a few boxes. Its compact size and lightweight — just 2.7 pounds — make it super portable. The 11.6-inch screen is on the smaller size but provides enough real estate for basic productivity tasks. And with 4GB of RAM, this little Chromebook has enough processing power to keep things running quickly and smoothly.
The Lenovo 100e was designed with students in mind, so it’s suitable for users of all ages. Its rugged build makes it particularly tough against drops and scratches, and the spill-resistant keyboard makes it a safe bet for kids and coffee-drinking multitaskers alike. Because it’s a Chromebook, the 100e runs Google’s Chrome OS, which can feel like a somewhat pared-down operating system if you’re used to more full-featured PCs. But for those that use Google services like G Suite, Gmail, and Google Drive, the single Google sign-on makes for a particularly streamlined experience. It’s speedy, stays powered all day, and is built to last, which is why it’s our top pick for laptops in this price range.
Compact and lightweight size
Fast browsing and word processing
Smooth and clear sound from built-in speakers
Due to the screen size, images can appear washed out
Windows 10 Home S mode restrictions
Programs will take up the majority of your memory
When looking for a budget-friendly laptop, it’s important that you find a machine that can meet all your expectations. Thankfully, HP has the answer. The HP Stream 11 is a perfect choice whether you’re seeking to work or play with your new laptop. With its 11.6 inch display, 4GB memory, and up to 9 hours of battery life, this laptop will be perfect for you at home or on the go. Equipped with Windows 10 Home, you’ll have the power of a PC at your fingertips without that high-dollar price tag. However, it is also in S mode which limits software compatibility to the Windows app store.
Whether you’re streaming, playing, or tackling spreadsheets, the HP Stream 11 can handle it all. Compact and powerful, it's both the perfect first computer the kids and an easy-to-use system for those who aren’t as tech-savvy.
Sturdy and durable
Simple and low maintenance
Chrome OS limits what sort of programs and extensions you can use
Slow processor and not a lot of memory
Chromebooks are notorious for being low-price and excellent options for those in need of a basic laptop. The HP Chromebook 11 is no exception. This machine comes with an 11.6-inch display screen, 2GB of memory, a pair of USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, HDMI-out, and a headphone/microphone combo jack. It is equipped with an HD webcam.
In other words, it's great for those who are just looking to browse the web, do light streaming, or do some work in Microsoft Office. However, as expected, it has some limitations including Chrome OS, which limits you to programs and extensions available from the Chrome Web Store. But when you just need something to keep up with basic computing needs, this is a perfect option. It’s also a durable machine so you can even consider it a great choice for the kids.
"The HP Chromebook 11 is the ideal student's laptop. The closed-down operating system makes it ideal for simple web browsing and word processing." — Ajay Kumar, Tech Editor
Lightweight and compact
Limited capabilities; best for just browsing and light streaming
When it comes to being school-ready, knowing that the student in your life needs a laptop to stay on top of their studies can be a little worrisome. After all, computers can be so expensive. But there’s a way to ensure your academic scholar gets all that they need at a price you’ll love. The Samsung XE500C13 is here to keep them on-task and caught up on all their school work.
With up to 11 hours of battery life, after a single charge, they can bring it to class and work all day until they come home. The 11.6-inch screen makes this laptop the perfect size for carrying in their backpack and moving around between classes. Better yet, it has a spill-resistant keyboard for any cafeteria mishaps. As a Chromebook, it does have its software limitations, but for the student needing to write essays or do online homework, it’s an excellent option.
Long-lasting battery life
Quick browsing capability
Storage and memory issues
When sending your kids off to college, you want to make sure they have everything they’ll need to succeed. While doing so can sometimes be an expensive undertaking, their laptop doesn't have to be. Enter the Asus TBCL432B. This 11.6-inch screen machine comes with 4GB of memory and 32GB eMMC flash memory, making it compatible with mobile devices like phones and tablets.
It comes pre-installed with Windows 10 S, but it’s easy to switch out of S mode to allow your student access to programs they might not find in the Windows Store. A lightweight and compact design makes it ideal for travel. Whether they’re working in the library or in their dorm, your college student can move around and set up with ease, wherever their destination. It also has a decent battery life of up to 10 hours on a single charge.
While it won’t be able to keep up with performance-hungry apps, it comes in handy for writing essays, completing online homework, and tackling research projects. Since its capacity is limited, though, you might want to look into external storage devices in case it runs out.
Drop-resistant up to 4 feet
Automatic security updates
For kids involved in at-home learning, the ASUS Chromebook C202SA is an excellent computer for schoolwork. With a tough-as-nails design and excellent battery life, this little laptop can last all day through both work and play. The C202SA protects your investment with drop resistance up to 4 feet and rubber bumpers that allow for better grip. The spill-resistant keyboard also has extra-large characters to help kids who may still be learning to type. These features are a benefit for kids, but they also give the C202SA a somewhat childlike appearance that may not appeal to older users.
The 11.6-inch screen is small but high-definition. And with an Intel Celeron N3060 processor and 4GB of Ram, performance is speedy and it can quickly switch between apps. This laptop runs Chrome OS, which gives users access to the apps in the Google Play store along with automatic security updates.
Only 2 pounds
Several port options
Limited onboard storage
For students and commuters, a lightweight laptop can literally take the weight off your shoulders. A lot of budget laptops tend to be heavy, and at barely over two pounds the ASUS Vivobook L203MA stands out for its super-portable design. Like most of the other laptops on this list, the Vivobook sports an 11.6-inch screen, which is small but also makes it easier to fit in a bag or backpack. Its 10-hour battery life is also great for those on the go. The Vivobook includes a surprisingly wide array of port options (USB-A, USB-C, HDMI, and an SD card slot) that make it easier to connect to peripheral devices like the pesky screen in the conference room.
The Vivobook L203MA is a little bit over the $200 price point, but with an Intel Celeron N4000 Processor, 4GB of RAM, a fast Wi-Fi connection, and expandable card storage, its performance may help justify the extra expense. If you need a budget-priced laptop for business, this laptop has the specs to get the job done.
Tablet and laptop modes
Good performance for the price
With the Dell Inspiron 11 Chromebook, you get the functionality of two different devices for the price of one: fold back the screen and your laptop becomes an 11.6-inch touchscreen tablet. The screen is HD but does have some issues with brightness. While it’s thicker and heavier than a typical tablet, this is still a lot of functionality for this price range and makes it an appealing choice for those who want touchscreen capabilities.
The Inspiron 11 is a Chromebook, which means it runs Chrome OS. This could be a disadvantage for those who don’t really use Google services, but if you’re already used to applications like Gmail and Google Drive, you’ll get the convenience of the single Google sign-on plus access to the Google Play store and automatic updates. If you’re looking for a versatile laptop for everyday productivity tasks, this laptop has sufficient processing power for multitasking and enough battery life to carry you through your day without needing to stop and charge.
Large, 14-inch display
Lightweight for its size
Very limited onboard storage
Middling processing power
The HP Stream 14 is a bit outside our $200 budget, but there are so many small screens on this list that we wanted to include one roomier option. For those who like some extra screen real estate, this laptop from HP is one of the few that can be bought new in this price range. The processing power on this machine is decent but not great — the 4GB of memory will help with multitasking and app-switching, but the RAM is not upgradeable and the dual-core processor isn’t really cut out for demanding applications. At 2.8 pounds, the HP Stream 14 is surprisingly portable for its size, making it a good option for students or business people who want a larger screen for productivity tasks.
The most disappointing spec here is the onboard storage. 32GB is pretty paltry for a laptop, and HP leverages it by offering 1TB of free cloud storage through Microsoft’s OneDrive service. Unfortunately, that free trial expires after a year, so if you end up using the cloud, keep in mind that it will become an annual expense. If you currently use or want to use OneDrive, or if you already have all your files in a cloud of your choice, then the skimpy onboard storage isn’t too big a deal.
The Lenovo 100e Chromebook is an ultra-budget laptop that still delivers on what’s important: performance, battery, and portability. If you don’t need something quite so rugged (or Google-centric), we’d also recommend checking out the HP Stream 11. It checks the same important boxes and runs Windows 10 Home.
To evaluate the best affordable laptops, our expert reviewers and testers take a look at several factors. Design is a significant one, we determine build quality, ports, and screen resolution and quality, to determine if corners have been cut. For performance, we use benchmark tests like PCMark and Cinebench if they’re available to get objective measurements. We also take a general look at productivity, determining if a laptop can handle web browsing, word processing, slideshows, and other key functions. Finally, we look at the value proposition of laptops that are less than $200, stacking them up against similarly-priced rivals to make a final judgment. All the laptops we test are purchased by Lifewire; none are provided by the manufacturer.
Emmeline Kaser is a former editor for Lifewire’s commerce content. She is an experienced product researcher that specializes in the field of consumer tech.
Lauren Hill is a generalist tech writer that's written for Lifewire and other publications including Funimation and Current Digital Magazine.
Ajay Kumar is a Tech Editor at Lifewire. With over eight years of experience in the industry, he's previously been published in PCMag and Newsweek. He's reviewed everything from smartphones and laptops, to PC's and gaming consoles.
Alice Newcome-Beill is Associate Commerce Editor at Lifewire. She's been reviewing tech for years and as a big gamer she's very familiar with gaming laptops, accessories, and even built her own desktop and mechanical keyboard.
Portability - A budget laptop doesn't have to be a clunker. For under $200, you can still find a compact and lightweight laptop. Most of these will be around 11 inches in terms of screen size, and weigh between 2 to 4 pounds. This makes them ideal for slipping into your backpack and taking to school or travel.
Productivity - While most budget laptops won't be capable of intense tasks like video or photo editing, nearly all of them can handle web browsing, word processing, slideshows, and other productivity functions. The main operating systems you'e likely to encounter in both cases are Google's Chrome OS and Microsoft's pared-down Windows 10 S. Both operating systems are somewhat limited, but can let you do everything you might need for the average school day.
Battery Life - At minimum, a budget laptop should be able to handle 6-8 hours of work. That should be enough for a school day or workday, with some room to recharge in the evening. Chromebooks tend to be a bit better at preserving battery life due to their lighter OS, but the same is true of Windows 10 S laptops.