Best budget laptops 2016 UK: budget laptop buying advice

We like a bargain, especially when we're spending our own money and while a laptop might be an essential device to have around, you probably don't want to be eating into any savings on it and risk not being able to afford that holiday you've been dreaming of. Also see: Laptop Advisor

Although we review many mid-range and high-end laptops, there are plenty of cheaper options out there in the market. We review and rank them with the same care and attention so here you can find the best budget laptop for your needs.

The situation is better than it has been in terms of what you can get for your money in the laptop market. With the rise of smartphone and particularly tablets, laptops have become more affordable and with better specs to tempt consumers.

You're still not going to get anything mind blowing but it's amazing what you can find for under £300 or even £200.

Chances are you're looking for a budget laptop for a specific task. Perhaps the best budget laptop for video editing, the best budget laptop for music production or even the best budget laptop for playing Minecraft and other games. There's also a chance you're looking for the best budget laptop with an SSD or the best budget laptop with good battery life.

Well we can't promise anything but you might find something which suits your needs without blowing your bank balance. Typically, it's hard to get something which is capable of demanding tasks like these examples within a tight budget and we'll explore why.

Also see: Best laptops 2016 UK

Best budget laptops 2016 UK: Which processor for a cheap laptop?

Which specs are important depend on what you want to do with your laptop. Some users may need tonnes of storage over everything else, while others will need as much power for the money as possible. Below we've outlined what you should expect and look for in each area of a budget laptop. Also see best convertible laptops and tablets 2016 UK.

Screen

Starting with the screen, you firstly need to decide on a size. Most laptops will be 13- or 15in which will be a happy medium for most but you can also go smaller or larger if you want something even more portable or if it rarely needs to move at 11- or 17in.

Remember that the size of the screen will have an impact on things like the weight of the laptop and other things like the keyboard and even how many ports can be fitted.

It's typical to find a budget laptop with an unexciting resolution of 1366x768 but if you can find higher then you'll be much better off. You're unlikely to find a matt finish but it's preferable to glossy which reflects lights all too easily and even yourself when you're trying to work or watch a film.

Processor

As you know, the processor is the heart of the computer and which chip sits at the core of a laptop is going to have a large impact on how smoothly it runs.  You might well find many with an Intel Celeron or similar and these are to be avoided unless your workload is going to be very light.

You're better off looking for either an AMD A-series or Intel Core i processor if you can – and some of the laptops in this chart do offer this. The most powerful and efficient chips are currently Intel generations codenamed Haswell, Broadwell and Skylake and can be found in some budget laptops.

See also: AMD vs Intel.

Go for the best you can find within your budget, especially if you're aiming to do demanding tasks like edit video. Don't worry too much about clock speed although higher is better for getting things done quickly. Often manufacturers and retailers will advertise the Turbo speed rather than the regular.

We run various benchmarks on every laptop to make sure you read the full review to see the results and what they mean for daily usage. The processor will also have an impact on battery life, something else which we test and you can find results and analysis in the individual reviews.

Storage and memory

Don't get confused between storage and memory. The latter is simply space to store programs and files while the latter is temporarily storing information while you're doing things.

In both cases it's better to have as much as possible. A lot of budget laptops will come with a decent 1TB of traditional storage via a hard drive but only come with 4GB of RAM (random access memory). You're unlikely to find an SSD (solid state drive) or more than 8GB of RAM but these are things you might be able to upgrade yourself – the latter being easier to DIY if there is a spare slot.

Read best cloud storage if you need additional space.

Other specs

When buying a budget laptop make sure it's got exactly what you need (as well as the best specs possible as outlined above).

Depending on what you need it for, you might need to make sure it has an optical drive for playing or burning CDs/DVDs. Also make sure it's got the right ports such as HDMI, Ethernet and USB – don't just assume it has them all.

Try and get the best wireless tech, too, with the latest being 11ac which will help for streaming content such as music and video over the internet. If you want to watch or listen, also make sure the speakers are decent unless you're happy to use headphones.

Software

Bear in mind that not all the laptops here are running full-blown Windows. The cheaper laptops can run Windows with Bing ((it's the same thing as standard Windows, but Bing is set as the search engine by default), Ubuntu or Chrome.

Any budget laptop that comes with Windows 8.1 is upgradable to Windows 10 for free but the other options are legitimate. Just remember that a Chromebook is designed for online use.

For more details on Chromebooks see our best Chromebooks round-up.

Best budget laptops 2016 UK: I can't find this laptop 

At the time of writing every one of the laptops listed here is available to buy in the UK. However, the budget laptop market is extremely volatile, and retailers tend to secure limited stock of any model so there's a chance it can go out of stock without us noticing – we check as often as we can.

Also remember that laptop makers will make many slight variations/models of the same laptop, with subtly different product codes. These are called SKUs and although the laptop looks the same, the specs are different so one might have a better processor or hard drive. We can't choose what model we're sent so when you're browsing retailers, it might vary.

Bookmark now: Black Friday 2016 deals

13 best budget laptops 2016 UK

13. Toshiba Satellite C55-C-175

Toshiba Satellite C55-C-175
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 13 October 15
  • RRP: £395 inc VAT

The Satellite C55-C includes a recent Haswell processor but elsewhere the budget cuts show, especially the poor screen. Upgrading is not feasible so don’t expect to easily fix the limited memory or slow disk storage later.

Read our Toshiba Satellite C55-C-175 review.

12. HP Chromebook 14

HP Chromebook 14
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 14 October 14
  • RRP: £259 inc. VAT

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.  

Read our HP Chromebook 14 review.

11. Asus X553SA

Asus X553SA
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 30 May 16
  • RRP: £279.99 inc VAT | USD $265

The Asus X553SA is a lesson in the sacrifices you need to accept when buying a bottom-rung laptop. Parts of the build are basic, the screen has some issues and — the real kicker — it doesn’t feel fast. Cheap phones and cheap tablets can often feel almost as fast as their expensive relatives, but the X533SA is unmistakably slower than a Core-series laptop. Those who don’t need to buy on the high street would do better by searching online for a Core i3-powered laptop from an earlier generation. Haswell and Broadwell i3 laptops can often be found online at similar prices, and will get you much less compromised performance. At this price, buying ‘old’ is often better than buying new. Of course, much of this is not Asus’s fault. Considered among its peers, the Asus X553SA is a serviceable laptop whose design covers most low-end use bases, and its look happily swerves between serious and fun depending on which colour you go for.

Read our Asus X553SA review.

10. HP Stream 11

HP Stream 11
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 2 April 15
  • RRP: £179 inc. VAT

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’.

Read our HP Stream 11 review.

9. Dell Chromebook 11

Dell Chromebook 11
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 13 October 14
  • RRP: £239 inc. VAT

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.

Read our Dell Chromebook 11 review.

8. Acer Chromebook 13

Acer Chromebook 13
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 19 March 15
  • RRP: £219 inc. VAT

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. 

Read our Acer Chromebook 13 review.

7. Toshiba Satellite CL10-B-100

Toshiba Satellite CL10-B-100
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 31 July 15
  • RRP: £200 inc VAT

The little Toshiba has the best build and weighs less than half the 2 kg+ of most budget laptops. It may not measure well in benchmarks but the flash drive means the machine feels more responsive in normal use. Add your own SD card and the CL10 becomes viable.

Read our Toshiba Satellite CL10-B-100 review.

6. Dell Inspiron 11 3000

Dell Inspiron 11 3000
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 23 June 16
  • RRP: £179.99 inc VAT

If you're after a budget laptop that'll let you work on the go and last all day, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is one of your best options. It's comfortable to type on, has a practical screen and its battery life is great among Windows laptops. Just make sure you're ready for its humble performance first. Windows 10 does feel quite slow, making the Dell Inspiron 11 3000's best-fit use as a typewriter for checking your emails as you nip between free Wi-Fi spots across town. If you can't put up with a bit of lag, consider getting a Chromebook instead.

Read our Dell Inspiron 11 3000 review.

5. Dell Vostro 15 3000

Dell Vostro 15 3000
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 30 July 15
  • RRP: £442.80 inc VAT

Battery life is disappointing and screen quality is poor. Application performance measures well but it often felt slow to respond in actual use. Corners have been cut but overall the Dell Vostro is a workable machine that leads with the latest Intel silicon.

Read our Dell Vostro 15 3000 review.

4. Toshiba Chromebook 2

Toshiba Chromebook 2
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 13 February 15
  • RRP: £269 inc. VAT

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.

Read our Toshiba Chromebook 2 review.

3. Asus X555LA-XX290H

Asus X555LA-XX290H
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 28 July 15
  • RRP: £300 inc. VAT

Asus has restricted build and component quality to fit the attractive £300 price point, but all the essentials work well together. The Haswell Intel chip means overall performance is better than any Celeron-based competition in the Asus X555LA-XX290H.

Read our Asus X555LA-XX290H review.

2. HP 255 G4

HP 255 G4
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 7 January 16
  • RRP: £269.99 inc VAT ($319.99)

The HP 255 G4 is a budget 15.6in Windows laptop with budget build and performance. We found no single serious flaw and it should get the job done eventually, making it ideal if you're on a tight budget and don't need lots of speed or a high-quality screen.

Read our HP 255 G4 review.

1. HP 250 G4

HP 250 G4
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 24 June 16
  • RRP: £299 inc VAT

Those after something flashy may not find an awful lot of appeal in the HP 250 G4. However, it’s one of the best-value, low-cost laptops you can find right now. As well as having a very good CPU for an affordable machine, it has loads of storage, good build quality and plenty of RAM. HP’s upgrades are keenly-priced too. Spend a bit more and you’ll get a surprisingly fast machine with a good-size SSD. You’ll need to spend considerably more to get good screen quality, though. While the display here is practical, poor colour and contrast don’t make it a good fit for an entertainment device.

Read our HP 250 G4 review.