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Best budget laptops of 2014/2015: 34 best budget laptops reviews - best cheap laptops - best bargain laptops

The best laptops you can buy in the UK in 2014/2015 for less than £600 - often much less

The best budget laptops available to buy in the UK in 2014/2015. Best budget laptops reviews. Want a cheap laptop? Read our best cheap laptops reviews and laptop buying advice. See also: all laptop reviews

Best budget laptops: budget laptop buying advice

Everyone likes cheap when it comes to spending their own money. After all, who pays more than they need to, to get what they want? Also see: Laptop Advisor

Fewer people like cheap in the sense of cheap quality, but if you can’t spend more than £450 on a portable computer and you don’t want to play 3D games, read on for a guide to buying a cheap laptop for not much money.

When you see laptops and PCs advertised on the telly, there are usually a few specifications called out to help define what’s on offer. These typically include the main processor type, the screen size, and how much memory it has installed. And don’t forget, memory means random access memory (RAM) and should never be confused with the storage capacity of a hard-disk or solid-state drive.

Screen size is a good starting point for finding the laptop you need. Most today are sized at either around 13- or 15 inches, the viewable screen area measured diagonally; there are also some 17in models still made as gaming machines, professional workstations or all-round family entertainment centres. At smallest, you may also find some laptops with 11.6in displays. Also see: Best laptops 2014/2015 UK

The screen also gives a guide to the overall weight, helping you make a decision if portability is key to your needs. Most 13in laptops weigh between 1.3- and 1.6kg, while 15in models are usually between around 2- and 3kg.

The screen is frequently the poorest-performing component in a low-cost laptop. Alongside its physical size and resolution listed in advertisements, there’s rarely any quantitative indication of quality, helping manufacturers to fit the cheapest and lowest-grade screen they can find to pare costs. Such displays will have very low contrast ratios, and limited colour gamut, while colours will look crude and garish. These crude twisted-nematic (TN) displays also have severely limited viewing angles. Compare these to the better-grade IPS displays now common on your phone or tablet, and you’ll notice that it’s difficult to view the laptop screen from the side, forcing you to keep your head in certain positions.

Look out for the screen finish, too. Shiny screens became popular about five years ago, as they seem to have better colours and contrast, but in use these untreated gloss panels reflect daylight, bulb light and your own image straight back at you. Matt anti-glare screens are more versatile, but also beware of cheap coatings that give a sparkly, fuzzy effect to images.

The processor is the heart of the computer, although today it’s not so much performance we need – laptop chips reached fast-enough years ago – as good battery economy. Apart from the slowest chips such as the Intel Atom, almost any processor from Intel or AMD is fast enough to smoothly handle the Windows operating system and programs like Microsoft Office.

However, the cheapest chips fitted to low-cost laptops, such as AMD’s or Intel’s entry-level Celeron, also tend to be less power efficient than Core i3/5/7. This means they burn energy needlessly to do the same work, so they require a larger battery to run the same time; or more often they feature the same size batteries but have shorter usable life before running flat.

For better quality laptops fitted with the latest Intel chips and other power-saving measures, you can expect seven- to 12 hours actual battery life. Budget laptops meanwhile may run for only around two- to five hours.

The most efficient and powerful chips are currently Intel Core series, such as the i3, i5 and i7. Specifically, the latest generations, codenamed Haswell (2013) and Ivy Bridge (2012). When used in laptops, these are mostly dual-core designs, some with Hyper Threading Technology which makes them perform like even faster quad-core chips with the right programs.

Clock speed should not be used as a guide to speed any more. But clock speed of a processor does give you an idea how quickly it will drain the battery – the higher the number, the faster it’s gone. Modern laptops usually have chips running at around 2GHz or lower, and which perform as fast as the 2.5+GHz chips of a few years ago. Watch out for laptop manufacturers who only list an inflated overclock (‘Turbo’) speed, since most consumers still believe that higher numbers are always better.

And so to memory. Historically, RAM was expensive and represented a significant part of the investment in a computer. Today, however, it’s so cheap that whether your laptop has 4-, 8-, 12- or 16GB is less important, providing you can still upgrade yourself if required. Windows 7 and 8 will run fine on 4GB, although even sub-£450 laptops often come with 8GB, now that it’s such a cheap commodity.

To make a computer feel fast and responsive it’s as important that it have fast storage. The cheapest laptops do not yet feature the best option of a solid-state drive (SSD), so you must make do with a slower hard disk instead. Disks are now so cheap that laptop makers can afford to put in huge 500GB or 1TB disks; great for hoarding weeks of music and video, but don’t forget your backup plan to safeguard your personal files when the disk breaks or your laptop is stolen.

As a halfway measure, a small amount of flash and a larger disk are sometimes combined into what’s being called an SSHD (‘solid-state hard drive’), such as that fitted to the Acer Aspire in this group. This is a cost-effective way to get some of the benefits of both technologies.

Over the following pages we test and rate six laptops on sale in late 2014. Don’t expect these to be available exactly as tested when you read this, though – the budget laptop market is extremely volatile, and retailers tend to secure limited stock of any model.

Meanwhile laptop makers such as Acer, Asus, Fujitsu, HP and Lenovo will make many slight variations of the same laptop, with subtly different product codes.

Rather than asking, “what is the best laptop?” the majority of people want to know, “what is the best laptop I can buy for the cheapest price?” It's a great question, and one we’re about to answer. Here we present to you the 29 best budget laptops of 2014/2015.

34 best budget laptops 2014/2015 UK

34. Samsung NP535U3C-A02UK

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.

33. HP Pavilion 11 Touchsmart notebook

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.

32. Lenovo G505s

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.

31. Asus X501A-XX277H

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.

30. Asus VivoBook S200E

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.

29. Sony Vaio Fit 15E

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. 

28. Asus Transformer Book T100T

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.

27. Dell Latitude 3440

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.

26. Acer Aspire V3-571

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.

25. HP Pavilion 14

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.

24. Lenovo Z580

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. 

23. Dell Inspiron 14z

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.

22. Toshiba Satellite C55D-A-13U

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.

21. Packard Bell EasyNote TE69

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.

20. Advent Tacto

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.

19. Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite

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.

18. Lenovo Flex 15D

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.

17. Toshiba Satellite M50-A-11Q

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.

16. Asus V550C

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.

15. Asus X552CL

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.

14. Toshiba Satellite C50-B-IIL

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.

13. Toshiba Satellite L50-B-1DV

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.

12. HP Pavilion 15 TouchSmart (n232sa)

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.

11. Compaq CQ58

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.

10. Toshiba CB30-102

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.

9. Asus X102BA

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.

8. HP Chromebook 14

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.  

7. Fujitsu LifeBook A512

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.

6. Asus X751L

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.

5. Lenovo B50-30

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.

4. Dell Chromebook 11

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.

3. HP 255 G3

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.

2. Lenovo IdeaPad Z50-70

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.

1. Acer Aspire V 13

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.

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