Not everyone needs the latest Dell XPS or Apple MacBook laptop for their everyday workload. The truth is that while premium laptops soak up all the limelight, most users can get by with less-powerful devices. After all, most folks spend the majority of their time browsing the web and streaming video, tasks that don't require the most powerful, or expensive, components.
Because we recommend a Core i5 CPU for any laptop that costs more than $600, we're going to look exclusively at devices under that price. We'll start with our favorite budget laptop two years standing: the Acer Aspire E 15. This clamshell laptop comes with all the specs our reader is looking for — a Core i3 CPU, 6GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD — and costs only $379.
The Aspire's 15-inch, 1080p display is sharp, although we wish it were a bit more colorful. And while the Aspire E 15 isn't the thinnest laptop around (at 0.8 inches thick), it offers a wide range of ports, including a USB Type-C input, an HDMI port, an Ethernet connection and even a DVD drive. If you plan on hauling this 5-pound laptop around, don't worry about looking for an outlet; the Aspire E 15 lasted 8 hours and 48 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits).
The Spin 3 is another Acer laptop with the specs our reader wants. This bend-back 2-in-1 comes with an Intel Core i3-8130U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 1TB, 5400-rpm hard drive. The laptop's 14-inch, 1080p glossy display is plenty sharp and more vibrant than the Aspire E 15's screen. At $499, the Spin 3 is more expensive than its clamshell sibling, but that extra wad of cash gets you a device that can transform into a tablet or stand up in tent mode.
An honorable mention goes to the Surface Go. Even though it's powered by a less capable Pentium Gold 4415Y CPU and offers a maximum of only 128GB of storage, the $400 tablet has a lot going for it. For one, the 10-inch display is as good as it gets for any device in this price range. The panel is bright, colorful and extremely sharp.
Despite the Pentium processor, the Surface Go performed well compared to other budget devices, and signing in was a breeze with the Windows Hello facial-recognition login. Although it'll cost you a pretty penny, we recommend you buy the Surface Pro's $99 Type Cover, which includes a touchpad.
Ultimately, any of these three options will get you a laptop with strong performance, a sharp display and a good keyboard — and all without emptying your wallet.
Credit: Laptop Mag
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Phillip Tracy is the assistant managing editor at Laptop Mag where he reviews laptops, phones and other gadgets while covering the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News covering 5G and IoT. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, traveling or watching soccer.