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Laptops are invaluable for productivity, entertainment, and portability, but finding the best one under $200 is a harder challenge. If you're on a strict budget, you may need to make some compromises on specs or display, but that doesn't mean you need to buy a clunker. We researched a reviewed a number of laptops for those with a tight wallet, evaluating their display's, performance, battery life, and more. You should also take a look at Chromebooks and our list of best laptops under $500 if you're looking at affordable options.
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.
Lightweight and compact size
Easy to use
Decent battery life
The slow speed
Gets hot easily
Windows 10 Home S mode
Finding a laptop at a price that won’t break the bank is easier than you may think. Lenovo has provided a budget-friendly option that will serve all your basic laptop needs. With an 11.6-inch screen, 4GB of memory, and loaded with Windows 10 Home in S mode, the Lenovo 130s is capable of doing all the things that you can expect from a laptop. While you may need to make some adjustments — like switching out of S mode to download things not in the Windows Store — it’s still an ideal choice for the budget-conscious laptop user.
Its compact size is perfect for travel or working on the go and you’ll have no trouble streaming entertainment (so long as you aren’t trying to do multiple streams at once, of course). The Lenovo 130s is a great choice for those who aren’t looking to do more than browse or stream.
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.
Fast speed for browsing and startup
Tough and durable against accidental drops
Chrome OS isn't for everyone
The power adapter seems a little loose
Whether you're streaming or playing, it’s important to actually see what you’re doing. And when searching for a bigger screen on a small-screen budget, it may be hard to get exactly what you’re looking for without breaking the bank. The Acer CB3-532 is an exception. With it, you can get 15 inches of prime display real estate at a price point you can't ignore.
This big-screened Chromebook comes with Chrome OS, 4GB of memory, and a 16GB eMMC hard drive. It’s got all the basic capabilities you can expect from a laptop and will keep you browsing or streaming for hours on end. It’s also surprisingly fast for a budget lappy. You’ll get a capable device with a screen size to meet all your basic computing needs.
Compact and lightweight design
Great for Microsoft Office
Slow processing and some lag while internet browsing
Memory and storage doesn’t last, especially with big Windows updates
Taking care of your most basic business needs shouldn’t be an expensive task and Lenovo has you covered. The Lenovo IdeaPad 210s is perfect for all your basic computing needs and makes doing business on the go simple. Like the other affordable laptop options, it has an 11.6-inch display, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB eMMC of flash memory. It can’t hold a lot so it’s best for those looking to type up reports, assemble PowerPoint presentations, and browse the web.
Its lightweight and compact design make it easy to travel with and it has a decent battery life as well. Like most smaller screens, the resolution isn't the highest, but for word processing or project work, it’s great. It also comes with Windows 10, which can leave you with updates that eat into your storage space. Just be sure to clean up your old files to stay on top of storage issues you may face. But when you need to get a project done or keep up with emails while you’re out of office, this is the best laptop under $200 you can find.
14-inch screen with a clear picture
Lightweight and perfect for traveling
Plenty of storage space
Poor sound quality on the speakers
Slow startup and setup
When it comes to gaming on a laptop, it’s usually to go with the higher-priced options to get ideal specs and capabilities. But not all games are created equal, and for some looking to play older games without investing in an expensive setup, there’s a laptop that can meet your gaming needs. The Asus X441BA has 500GB HDD which means you’ve got plenty of room for basic programs and games from 2014 and older. While you’ll need to run them at their lowest settings, it’s still going to give you the gaming experience you’re looking for without breaking the bank.
This laptop also has a 14-inch display screen which means you’ll get a crisp, clear picture on a screen that allows you to really enjoy your games. Plus, a 4GB DDR4-2400 SDRAM means you can multitask when you’ve taken a pause from gaming and want to browse or stream. With the right settings and keeping your programs to a bare minimum, you may even get away with playing games like Fortnite or Minecraft. Still, if you’ve got old games you love and want to play without dropping thousands of dollars, the Asus X441BA has you covered.
"The Asus X441BA won't let you play demanding games, but with the right settings it can handle games like Fortnite and Minecraft without too much difficulty." — Alice Newcome-Beill, Associate Commerce Editor
The best laptop under $200 is the compact, kid-friendly HP Stream 11. With its light weight, speedy browsing and productivity, and nine-hour battery life, it's the best affordable laptop to get provided you don't mind the small screen. Also worth of mention is the Lenovo 130S. it's similarly lightweight, has specs that can handle basic productivity, and decent battery life. If you don't mind the limitations, the HP Chromebook 11 is a good option if you don't need the Microsoft Office suite.
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.
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.