Producing an ultra-portable laptop that costs less than £500 inevitably involves some compromises, and the 13in Samsung Series 5 won’t win any awards for performance or battery life. Even so, it’ll handle most routine computing tasks perfectly well and its neat, lightweight design makes it a genuine ultra-portable without being ultra-expensive.
HP's Pavilion 11 Touchsmart is a good model to consider if you're after a laptop that's small, yet well featured. It's not overly fast, but it has enough grunt for basic Web, communications, and multimedia tasks.
The limited battery life is disappointing, but that's not a fatal flaw since a large laptop like the G505s isn't going to spend a lot of time out and about anyway. Other features, such as performance, screen quality and the comfortable keyboard, are all good for a laptop in this price range, making the G505s a good option for people who need a reliable workhorse laptop for around £500.00.
Despite its low price, Asus gets all the basics right with the X501A, providing a sturdy, portable laptop with good battery life. It’s no speed demon, but if you just need a basic laptop for undemanding tasks then the X501A provides excellent value for money.
Our only real complaint about the S200E is the annoyingly reflective screen. Performance and battery life are respectable rather than outstanding, but the S200E offers an attractive, lightweight design and build quality that are rarely seen in laptops costing less than £500.
It’s nice to see Sony making a real effort to produce a decent budget laptop, and the attractive display and speakers on the Sony Vaio Fit 15E make it a good choice for entertainment and web browsing. However, it is fairly heavy and battery life is relatively modest too, which means that the Fit 15E is probably more suited to life at home than in a backpack.
This is not an iPad killer, or even a rival to the Surface Pro 2. But at £349 it is a compelling deal. The Asus Transformer Book T100T is a compact device that offers true functionality and decent performance. And it is a truly portable office PC. Much more updated netbook than desirable gadget, students, school children, home PC users and office road warriors could easily spend more and get less.
The Latitude 3440 is designed for work rather than play, and that means its talents lie in certain keys areas: the Haswell processor delivers reasonable application and games performance and excellent battery life, and the keyboard and touchpad are excellent. It’s one of the slimmest and lightest machines in this group, too, but it’s also got the best build quality. The middling screen and speakers count against the Dell, but it excels in more key areas than any other machine here – and that makes it a worthy all-round winner.
The Pavilion 14 provides good performance and value for money, and would be a good choice for students or other people who need a capable laptop but can't stretch to £400 or £500. Battery life could be better, though, so it's not the best choice if that's your main priority.
The Acer Aspire V3-571 laptop is a great example of just how much can be achieved within the constraints of a severely limited budget.
The size and weight of the Lenovo Z580 mean that it’s not the most portable of laptops, and will probably spend most of its time indoors. However, its strong performance and low cost makes it an excellent choice for anyone that needs a powerful desktop-replacement system for use at home or in the office.
The Inspiron 14z does a really good job of cramming a fully featured laptop into a compact, lightweight design. It's no gaming rig, but its good performance and battery life make it an attractive option for anyone on a tight budget.
The C55D is clearly an entry-level laptop that offers basic levels of performance and image quality. Battery life was surprisingly good, and the ability to store plenty of music and video on its terabyte hard disk means that it could work as a low-cost entertainment system around the home or in the garden when the summer arrives.
The TE69 looks and performs like a low-cost laptop. Its performance and screen quality are merely adequate, and if you can afford more than £400 then there are certainly better alternatives that are only slightly more expensive. However, the EasyNote TE69 can still handle routine web browsing and running most office tasks well, and it’s not a bad choice if your budget can’t stretch to even £400.
You can’t expect too much from a laptop costing less than £300, but the Advent Tacto does manage to get the basics right. Its performance, screen quality and battery life rival those of a number of more expensive laptops, so it’s a great choice if you’re on a really tight budget and need a lightweight laptop.
The Samsung Book 9 Lite certainly has its flaws – its low-grade display means limited viewing angles that would be unacceptable in anything other than a budget laptop. However, its performance is rescued by that solid-state drive, while its attractive slimline design and impressive battery life are unmatched by just about any other laptop in this price range.
The Lenovo Flex tries to be different with its semi-convertible design, but can't quite pull it off at such a low price. The folding design is handy for watching video, and the limited battery life is less a major weakness for a large laptop that will stay at home. However, the overall performance of the Flex is weak even for a budget laptop, so it can only be recommended for basic tasks such as web browsing, streaming video and word processing.
The M50-A-11Q provides very respectable performance, battery life and build quality at a competitive price. It's not perfect, and the screen's limited viewing angles are a clear weakness. Even so, it's well worth considering if you're on a tight budget and looking for a good, basic laptop that can handle most day-to-day computing tasks for less than £500.
The Asus impressed with its smart, svelte design and its good keyboard and trackpad, and it's got better speakers than its main rival. But it falls behind the competition in several key areas.
The X552CL isn't perfect, and the limited viewing angles of the screen definitely leave room for improvement. However, it does provide good performance for a laptop in this price range, and the inclusion of the GT 710M makes this one of the few budget laptops we've seen in recent months that can actually handle some decent 3D gaming action.
It's not going to turn any heads, but the C50-B-IIL provides a perfectly usable laptop at a very competitive price. Its performance, screen quality and battery life match those of other budget laptops we've seen costing £400 - £500, making the C50 a good option for anyone that needs a reliable laptop for less than £400.
It certainly has its flaws, but a healthy price cut means that the L50 looks better value for money. It's not particularly fast but it can handle basic computing work perfectly well, and the slimmer, lighter design of this new model means that the Toshiba L50 is a bit more portable than most of its low-cost rivals. Its larger battery doesn't help its runtime and in benchmark tests it's slower than last year's model despite taking essentially the same components.
The size and weight of the Pavilion 15 TouchSmart suggest that it's more intended as a desktop replacement system for use at home or in the office. However, its all-round performance, combined with an attractive screen and optical drive, provide very good value for money, and ensure that the Pavilion 15 TouchSmart will appeal to most users on a tight budget.
It may be a bit slow, but the CQ58 will get you online for several hours at a time, and let you run Microsoft Office for less than £250.00. We'd recommend stepping up to the 4GB model if you can afford it, but the CQ58 definitely represents good value for money if you're on a really tight budget.
The usual caveat of ‘Chromebooks aren't for everyone' of course applies, but the Toshiba CB30 is a very useable and capable laptop for anyone who spends the majority of their computing time online using Google services. The increased screen size is a definite bonus over 11.6in models, even if it isn't a high-quality display, while the plastic construction keeps the weight to a portable 1.5 kg. For £250 this is a great device if your creative and privacy needs are modest.
The Asus X102BA only offers modest performance, but could still be good value for money. Its screen and build quality are above average for a cheap Windows laptop, and added extras such MS Office mean that it provides a basic, but functional laptop at a very competitive price. Battery life needs to double though to keep up with modern laptops and tablets.
There’s a lot to like about the HP Chromebook 14. It’s big, nice to use, and offers something a bit different to Chromebook users. We’d like to see an improved screen quality to really make it stand out, and maybe a firmer keyboard, but if you want a larger way to enjoy ChromeOS then this is a great place to start.
Very short battery life recommend this laptop to a life on the mains leash, although its older IO, low-res screen and chunky build still make it hard to get excited about this dated design. In its favour are relatively easy memory and drive upgrades, fairly fast main processor and an anti-glare display.
Larger-laptop seekers may find something to like in this 17.3-inch model. In its favour is a decent CPU, storage capacity and memory, and the screen is not the worst we've seen.
The Lenovo B50-30 may have a lousy screen, bendy keyboard and a processor so slow that it’s overtaken by budget Android phones of yesteryear. But as a package to compete against Google and its new Chromebook competition it looks feature-packed, thanks to a relatively huge hard disk and even a DVD drive. With a zero-cash-cost Windows operating system, things have just got interesting in the budget laptop space.
Design and build quality of the HP 255 G3 are workmanlike, but importantly the main comfort areas of keyboard, trackpad and display are quite usable, if with the usual issues of poor display quality we find at this low price. But for only £200 the HP is more than creditable as a get-you-by budget Windows laptop.
The HP Stream 11 is using the cheapest Intel chip that can run Windows comfortably, has a very limited eMMC storage card with just 20 GB available space, and includes a free version of Windows given away to PC makers to keep Google Chrome OS at bay. But the result is a surprisingly useful compact laptop, attractively styled for anyone that likes bold bright colours. It runs quick enough to surf and type, and always remains cool and silent. To use HP’s own bizarrely chinglish marketing prose, that’s got to help you ‘work from happy place’.
Acer has a winner here, leaving out dumb extras like touchscreen tech and focusing on better wireless and faster storage. The use of recent Intel chip also rewards the user with slightly better graphics and system performance, including more usable battery life. Besides these components choices, the casework and design as a whole have a simplicity that really benefits the product. Only the trackpad and display let down what could still make a budget classic.
Dell’s debut offering is pretty much exactly what most people want from a Chromebook. It’s fast, easily portable, smart looking, features a great keyboard, and even manages to add in a few bells and whistles like the two USB 3.0 ports. If Google’s vision for a laptop fits your needs, then the Chromebook 11 will make you very happy.
Acer knows how to make good, solid, reliable Chromebooks, and this model is no exception. Performance was always decent, the screen size is a welcome addition, and the long battery life makes it a great option for travelling. It’s just a shame that the display panel doesn’t quite match up to that of the Toshiba Chromebook 2, which is similarly priced but does offer a richer experience. If you can accept the screen though, the Acer Chromebook 13 is a very nice machine that will get the job done.
If you're happy to live in the cloud for the majority of your tasks, then Toshiba's Chromebook 2 is currently the best way to do it. The device is light, fast, and that screen is worth the money alone. Chromebooks are quickly coming of age, and this Toshiba model is something that could easily convert a legion of fans to the ever improving ChromeOS universe.
The Lenovo Z50-70 is a well-rounded 15-inch laptop with a full-HD display and discrete nVidia graphics that can handle better gaming than many comparable budget laptops. Its build quality is good for the price, and battery life of around five hours, plus sub-2.4 kg weight, makes it more usable as mobile workstation.