Cheap laptops are hot items right now, especially at the £200 to £300 price point. The current UK economy has persuaded many manufacturers to lower their prices, which is good news if you’re looking to buy a budget laptop right now. But which is the best laptop under £300 in the UK today?
In this comparison, we’ll be looking for laptops with the right balance of battery life, screen size, RAM and storage space. Is that possible for under £300? The answer is: yes, absolutely!
Today’s budget laptops have enough power to run all your day-to-day tasks, with enough left to play simple games and even some light video editing. We’ve looked at the 20 best laptops under £300 in the UK today and we’ve chosen five great models to show you, so let’s get to it!
Best Laptops Under £300: Our 5 Top Picks for 2020
Here’s a list of the laptops we’ll be looking at in this review:
- Acer Chromebook 314
- Asus Vivobook E402 YA
- Lenovo Chromebook C340-11
- HP Chromebook 14
- Lenovo Ideapad Duet
But before we get into the specifics, it’s important to know what specs are available in the £250 to £300 price range. So let’s take a quick look at those first.
What to Look For in a Budget Laptop Under £300
1. Processor (aka CPU, or Central Processing Unit)
The processor is the main engine of your laptop. Generally speaking, the more you spend, the more powerful the processor; meaning faster calculations and improved performance.
At under £300, the most common processor you’ll find will be an Intel Celeron. If you find a laptop with an Intel Core i3 or i5 inside — snap it up fast! The other main chip manufacturer is AMD, who are usually seen as second best to Intel. However, the newest range of AMD A-, FX or E-series chips are very well specced, and in some cases perform better than their Intel equivalents. Confusingly, AMD refers to their processors as AMUs, or Accelerated Processing Units, but the meaning is the same.
Some cheap laptops use older-generation CPUs, particularly Intel’s Pentium ranges. We’d recommend avoiding these in most cases, as the rule of thumb is to go for the best and most modern processor you can. But many manufacturers choose to use these older processors because they‘re cheaper, meaning they can spend more on other components such as the display or the amount of RAM. So look carefully at all the other specs before you dismiss these models out of hand.
2. Graphics Cards (aka GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit)
The GPU deals exclusively with the processing needed for displaying everything on your screen. More expensive laptops have a dedicated GPU, often adding a few hundred pounds to the cost.
At the sub-£300 level you won’t find a dedicated graphics card under the hood; instead the main CPU will have integrated graphics. This is not a bad thing, as having graphics on the same chip as the main CPU keeps the assembly costs down. A laptop with integrated graphics is still more than capable of playing HD movies and streaming YouTube — it will only start to struggle if you try to run graphics-intensive apps, such as off-line 4K video editing.
3. Memory (aka RAM, or Random Access Memory)
RAM is best described as a computer’s brain. Every time your laptop performs a task, it’s using RAM. The more RAM a computer has, the more data it can work on at any given time; which translates to faster performance.
Just like with CPUs and graphics cards, there are different types of memory, as well as different quantities. The minimum quantity you should consider is 4 GB of memory (RAM is measured in GB, which is short for ‘Gigabyte’), but ideally you should be looking at 8 GB of memory, which is the sweet spot.
The most common type of RAM is DDR4, which replaced the older DDR3. Practically every laptop manufactured today uses DDR4 RAM, so it’s not that much of a concern. (But it’s worth checking that you’re not buying a laptop with DDR3 RAM because it will almost definitely be an older model.)
4. Storage (aka HD, or Hard Drive)
Storage is simply the total amount of data your laptop can hold on its internal drive. If RAM is like a computer’s memory, then storage is the book your computer ‘reads’ to get information into that memory. The more storage, the more pages of the book available; which in real terms means more programs, videos, music and documents.
Back in the day, data was stored on rotating disks, a bit like old vinyl records. This was known as SATA storage. A read/write laser had to physically move to various points on the disc, whilst it was spinning, to access or create data. Nowadays, most storage is either SSD (‘Solid State Disc’, with no moving parts), or the cheaper eMMC (‘embedded Multi-Media Card) which you can think of as a memory card which has been ‘soldered’ directly onto the CPU chip.
eMMC is technically a form of SSD because there are no moving parts, but there’s no real speed gain over the old rotating disks. If your budget will stretch to it you should always go for SSDs, which are up to three times faster than the old SATA standard.
At the £300 price point, it’s hard to find laptops with more than 64 GB of SSD storage, although you can usually upgrade this using an external memory card. An important point to remember is that 64 GB of storage might not sound like a lot, but in practice it’s adequate.
This is because more and more data is being stored in the cloud, meaning you don’t need to store it locally. On top of that, applications are increasingly being run in the browser, meaning you don’t need to store any actual programs on your hard drive.
Laptops that run Google’s Chrome OS capitalise on this trend by prioritising browser use and limiting internal storage. This means cheaper manufacturing costs, which results in a whole series of very affordable laptops. Chrome OS was once seen as the poor cousin of Windows and macOS, but a recent upgrade means that Android apps can now run natively under Chrome OS. With every Google Playstore app now available to Chromebook users, Chrome OS is no longer a second-rate operating system.
If you listen to Spotify, watch videos on YouTube and use Google or Office 365 for all your documents, then you won’t need to store anything on your hard drive; which means 64 GB of storage will be more than enough for basic tasks.
5. The Display (or Screen)
The factors that influence your choice of display are size, aspect ratio, resolution and type.
Size refers to the physical dimensions of the screen, measured in inches. It’s important to note that the quoted size is always taken from the diagonal screen measurement, not the long edge. So a 14-inch display, for example, will typically have a long edge measurement of only 12.2 inches. Budget laptop screen sizes range from 11.3 to 15.6 inches, with 14 or 15 inches being the best trade-off between size and weight.
Screen size also has an impact on battery life (see below), as your laptop’s display is the single biggest power draw. The bigger (and brighter) the display, the more power it will consume.
Aspect ratio is also to do with size, but this time it refers to the long edge/short edge measurements. For watching video a 16:9 ratio is ideal, which is why you’ll find it as standard on most laptops. That being said, Microsoft have adopted a taller 3:2 ratio across their entire laptop range, and Apple’s MacBook line uses a 16:10 ratio.
Resolution is also quoted as a ratio, for example 1,920 x 1,080. This refers to the number of pixels that the screen can display, with more pixels meaning more content and a sharper image. 1,920 x 1,080 (also called ‘1080p’, ‘Full HD’ or just ‘FHD’) is the best you can expect on a budget laptop, although some budget manufacturers chose to go with a slightly-less-sharp 1,366 x 768 panel. Please note that some manufacturers describe 1,366 x 768 as an HD display. Technically they’re right, but it’s deliberately misleading.
Finally we have the type of display, meaning the choice of technology used to produce the image. The sheer range of technologies is very wide, and it’s easy to get confused!
In the world of budget laptops, you really only need to know that IPS (‘In-Plane Switching’) displays are standard. OLED (‘Organic Light-Emitting Diode’) panels are arguably much better but, for now at least, you’ll only find them on high-end desktop-replacement machines.
6. Connectivity (Ports, Wi-Fi and LTE)
All of our budget laptop choices come with USB 3.1 ports, which are backwards-compatible with the older USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 formats. Most also include USB-C, which is the current standard. For video output to a larger screen, you’ll want a laptop with an HDMI port, although USB-C is set to replace HDMI at some stage in the (near?) future.
Another useful port is an SD card slot, which will allow you to add extra storage to your laptop by purchasing an external memory card. We say “useful”, but for laptops with only 64 GB of storage, the SD card slot is practically essential.
As for Wi-Fi, the latest version (Wi-Fi 6) hasn’t yet trickled down to the budget laptop price point. Wi-Fi 5 is still the most ubiquitous option, and that’s what to look for in this review. A further option is to go for a laptop with 4G LTE support. This can push the price up, and you’ll also have to pay for a data plan, but you’ll be able to access the internet everywhere, not only places with free Wi-Fi. If you’re a bit of a digital nomad, then this is one of the best options to look for.
Moving onto Bluetooth, we recommend looking for a laptop with Bluetooth 5, the most recent version, which offers improved connections to devices such as headphones or a mouse.
7. Sound (Internal Speakers)
If we’re going to be totally honest, there’s not really much point in advising you which speaker set-up to go for. Budget laptops have budget speakers, and they’re all much of a muchness. The best you can hope for is that the onboard sound is clear and unmuffled.
This is not really a problem, as most of the time you’ll be using headphones, which will deliver a much better sound than the internal speakers ever could. And for the odd occasion when you want to watch a movie with friends, you’re better off investing in a small external Bluetooth speaker, such as the Anker Soundcore which delivers 10 watts of stereo sound with a separate bass port for around £30.
8. Battery Life
Perhaps this should have been at the top of this list because for many users, battery life is the most important factor. Budget laptops score very well here, as they often have smaller displays which consume less power and therefore offer a long battery life. The absolute minimum ‘screen on’ time to accept is 8 hours, but many of the laptops in our review will run for 10 hours or more between charges.
However, if you choose a laptop with a touchscreen, the battery life takes a hit. This is because the touch sensors in the screen need to be always on, and this draws power. So for touchscreen laptops, such as the popular 2-in-1 models, you should expect 6 hours as a benchmark, although 7 to 8 hours is more common (and more appreciated!)
A Summary of What to Look For in a Budget Laptop
Here’s a quick summary of the above, which you can refer to when looking at our list of best laptops under £300.
- Processor (CPU): Intel Core i3 (Core i5 is better!) or AMD A-, FX- or E-series. Intel Celeron chips are older but adequate.
- Graphics Card (GPU): No separate GPU at lower prices — integrated graphics only (Intel HD Graphics or AMD APU).
- Memory (RAM): 4GB of DDR4 RAM is the bare minimum, 8GB is preferable.
- Storage Capacity (Hard Disk): 128 GB SSD is preferable, but 64 GB is acceptable (especially for Chrome OS laptops). eMMC storage is OK but should come with an external SD card slot.
- Display (Screen): Resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 ( ‘Full HD’) is preferable, 1,366 x 768 is acceptable
- Connectivity (USB Ports, WiFi, etc): USB 3.0 and USB Type-C are essential, HDMI is also important. Wi-Fi should be version 5, but version 4 is adequate, and/or 4G LTE. Bluetooth version 5 is the only acceptable standard.
- Sound (Internal Speakers): You get what you get!
- Battery Life: 8 hours minimum, 10 hours expected. Subtract 2 hours for touch-enabled screens.
One More Thing About Specifications
In our review list below, we’ve included Amazon links to the exact models we’ve looked at. However, specifications are constantly changing, and one model may have three or four slightly different versions.
There’s not much ‘wiggle room’ in the prices we’ve displayed, as the profit on budget laptops is very low. So if you suddenly find one of our listed laptops for £50 less from another supplier, please check every single detail before you commit — the new laptop you’re about to buy may be a lesser-specced or older version.
Our Top 5 Best Cheap Laptops (under £300)
Acer Chromebook 314
We’re starting with a model from Acer, a well-known manufacturer with a wide product range. This model is a Chromebook running ChromeOS, and it’s one of the most powerful and well-designed examples for under £300.
The chassis is a very high-quality plastic, which keeps the costs down, but it’s hard to tell as it looks like aluminium and feels like a premium machine. In the same vein, Acer have included a Gorilla Glass touchpad, which is usually only found on high-end laptops. The keyboard has a great feel and it’s also backlit, which is another plus.
The display uses a 14-inch panel with full HD resolution (1920 x 1080), and the IPS screen offers the expected superb viewing angles and an excellent gamut of colours. At the top of the display is an HDR webcam, which is another option usually reserved for more expensive models.
Under the hood is an Intel Celeron dual-core N4000 processor with 4 GB of DDR4 RAM and integrated graphics, and you also get a generous 64 GB of eMMC storage, rather than the 32 GB seen on other models. Connectivity is also better than average, with two USB-C ports, two USB 3.0 ports and a MicroSD slot, although there is no HDMI port. Wi-Fi is provided by an Intel Gigabit card running Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.0 ensures good connections with external headphones and speakers.
The main feature that sets this model apart is the superb 12.5-hour battery life, which is one of the highest we’ve seen at this price point (although if battery life is your main requirement, take a look at the Lenovo Ideapad Duet below!)
- Great battery life
- Full HD (1080p) display
- 64 GB eMMC storage
- No HDMI port
Asus Vivobook E 402 YA
This budget 14” Ultrabook from Asus runs Windows 10 Home S and includes a 1-year license for Microsoft Office 365 Personal Edition, all for less than £200!
Firstly, let’s deal with the ‘S’ appended to Windows 10 Home. This is a protected version of Windows, and will only run apps downloaded from the Microsoft store. Many users don’t understand this, and at first you might see some negative reviews. However, it’s very easy to switch out of ’S’ mode, giving you access to every Windows application.
With that confusion out of the way, let’s look at the laptop itself. The first thing you’ll notice is the design, which is very classy for such an affordable model and comes with a modern blue colour scheme. It’s also very compact for a 14-inch laptop, with dimensions of just 13.4” x 9.2” and a thickness of less than one inch.
The keyboard has an impressive 1.6mm of travel (1.3mm is more usual at this price range) and the keys themselves are full-size chiclet, but the material used is cheap plastic and pro typists might feel a bit uncomfortable. That being said, it’s fine for day-to-day use and for typing up the occasional 5000-word report or essay.
The processor is from AMD, and it’s reassuring to see that ASUS have fitted a dual-core E2 series chip rather than the less powerful E1. The E2 CPU also comes with AMD Radeon R2 integrated graphics, which is typically more powerful than the Intel equivalent. 4GB of RAM is more than sufficient at this level, although it’s DDR3 RAM and not the newer DDR4.
The only disappointment here is the amount of eMMC storage, which is just 64 GB. ASUS offset this with a massive 1TB of Microsoft OneDrive cloud access, but it would have been nice to have a bit more local storage.
The 14-inch IPS display is adequate, but unfortunately skimps on resolution with only 1366 x 768 pixels. This is fine for working on low-res documents, but video playback can be a bit fuzzy. On the plus side, the selection of ports available is good and includes USB-C, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI and a wired mic/headphone combo.
- MS Office 365 included
- Good connectivity
- AMD E2 series processor
- Not full HD display
- Only 64 GB eMMS storage
- Display could be sharper
Lenovo Chromebook C340-11
This 2-in-1 Chromebook, an update to the popular C330, has an 11-inch touchscreen that rotates through 360 degrees to double as a tablet. The most important part of a 2-in-1 laptop is the hinge, and the new two-piece design on the C340 doesn’t disappoint. In fact, the overall build quality is a lot better than expected at this price point, with Lenovo adding a metal screen backing to replace the C330’s plastic lid.
Using the C340’s keyboard is a pretty good experience, with full chiclet keys offering a generous 1.5mm of travel. Flipping to tablet mode presents you with a responsive 11.6-inch IPS touchscreen, although no stylus is included. And although the screen bezels are quite thick when compared to a standard laptop, they prove ideal for holding the tablet without your thumbs getting in the way.
The performance of the old C330 wasn’t bad, but Lenovo have swapped out the old MediaTek processor for a dual-core Intel Celeron N4000 with 4 GB of LP DDR4 RAM, and the extra power shows! The model we reviewed comes with 64 GB of eMMC storage, which is more than enough for a Chrome OS laptop.
Ports include two USB Type-C and two USB 3.1, and a MicroSD slot and headphone jack round off the connectivity nicely (the HDMI port of the older 330 is gone, but that’s not really an issue). Three Lithium-Ion battery cells give about 10 hours of normal use, and up to 8 hours in tablet mode.
The updated Lenovo C-series remains the gold standard for affordable Chromebooks, and this model is a great improvement over the C330. If you’re in the market for a convertible laptop for less than £250, the C340 is an exceptionally good deal and we strongly suggest you check it out.
- Above-average battery life
- Excellent build quality
- Comfortable keyboard
- Only 4 GB of RAM
- Keyboard isn’t backlit
- No included stylus
HP Chromebook 14
This 14-inch Chromebook from Hewlett Packard shouts “quality” straight out of the box, which is just what you’d expect from HP. Build quality is excellent, and the chalkboard grey finish helps it to stand out from the crowd. It also feels very rugged: this is a laptop you can sling into a backpack or bag without worrying about cosmetic damage.
The processor for this model is the AMD dual-core A4-9120, which is a great choice for a budget laptop (there’s an option to replace this with an Intel Core i3, but that pushes the price to over £300). 4 GB of RAM is pretty standard, and it’s nice to see that HP are using DDR4 SD-RAM instead of DDR3 — as we’ve said, this is a quality machine.
As with other laptops in this review, HP has chosen a 1,366 x 768-resolution panel instead of a full HD display. Whilst a 1080p screen would have been nicer, the anti-glare 768p screen is surprisingly bright and vivid, and the AMD Radeon R3 Graphics card produces a better than average image. We should also mention the front-firing speakers, which have been tuned by B&O Play and are actually quite powerful for a laptop at this price.
The storage is limited to 32 GB of eMMC memory, but HP bundle a year’s subscription to Google One, which includes 100 GB of cloud storage, so you’re unlikely to run out space to store data. Connectivity includes 2 USB Type-C ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports and a standard headphone/mic combo jack. The SD slot will also accept a microSD card, which is a thoughtful addition.
Battery life is stated as over 10 hours, although in real-world conditions 8 hours is more realistic, which is good enough to take you through a day of general use.
This isn’t a powerhouse laptop by any means, but it sits nicely in the mid-range category and the HP build quality ensures a trouble-free experience. If you’re looking for an affordable laptop for day-to-day use, this HP Chromebook could be just the ticket.
- Great build quality
- Bright and vivid display
- Better-than-average sound
- Battery life could be better
- Not Full HD (at this price)
Lenovo Ideapad Duet
For our last review, we’ve gone back to Lenovo. The Ideapad Duet is not only a great 10-inch 2-in-1 convertible with a detachable screen, but it boasts a battery life of over 20 hours. No, that’s not a typo: in real-world tests, this powerful hybrid played looped HD video for over 20 hours (actually 21 hours and 29 minutes). That’s better than most phones and a full 8 hours more than the Surface Pro X – eat your heart out, Microsoft!
The Duet definitely has some limitations — its 8-core MediaTek Helio processor is less powerful than the Intel or AMD chips used in almost every other laptop — but none of this really matters. Lenovo have taken Google’s Chrome OS and married it with a tiny but perfectly-formed 2-in-1 device: and it’s superb!
Unlike the Lenovo Chromebook (see above), this is not a 360-degree hinged convertible. Instead, the screen unit is completely detachable, giving you a great Android tablet that holds its own against more expensive models. And the IPS display offers true full HD, with an adjustable resolution of up to 1,920 x 1,200 pixels. Lenovo have fitted a 2-megapixel webcam which gives surprisingly sharp images, and an 8 MP auto-focus camera takes care of shooting photos and video footage.
With such a small form factor, the magnetically-attached keyboard is understandably cramped. However, the main QWERTY keys are slightly larger than the others, so typing is not as difficult as you’d think (but it still takes some getting used to). And talking of the keyboard, it’s included in the price along with a fully-adjustable kickstand which doubles as a cover. With some other 2-in-1s, notably the Microsoft Surface models, these are separate items; so props to Lenovo for bundling them for free.
On-board storage is limited to 64 GB of eMCP (‘embedded Memory Chip Package’), which also holds the 4 GB of DDR4 RAM. If you can find the option, we recommend paying slightly more (about £20) for an upgrade to 128 GB of data storage space. Connectivity is just one USB C-type port, which can either be used for charging or for data transfer, but the superb battery life means this port will nearly always be free. The Duet supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2, which is perfectly adequate at this price point.
As you can probably tell, we’re blown away by the Lenovo Ideapad Duet. It’s what a netbook should have been and, for the money, it’s possibly the best 2-in-1 Chromebook available today. If you were ever sceptical about Google’s Chrome OS, this little beauty might just change your mind.
- Astounding battery life
- Lightweight and very portable
- Great price for a detachable 2-in-1
- Not available in salmon pink (well, we had to think of something!)
There are a lot of manufacturers competing in the £200 to £300 price range, and you can pick up some great deals (especially if you can hang on until ‘Black Friday’, which this year falls on 27 November). Our advice is to stick to the big names, where you know the build quality will be excellent. If you need a budget laptop today, our top 5 picks represent the best value for money available in the UK right now.
Happy hunting, and please get in touch to let us know if our advice has been useful.
|Acer Chromebook 314||Acer||View on Amazon|
|Asus Vivobook E 402 YA||Asus||View on Amazon|
|Lenovo Chromebook C340-11||Lenovo||View on Amazon|
|HP Chromebook 14||HP||View on Amazon|
|Lenovo Ideapad Duet||Lenovo||View on Amazon|
What is the best laptop under £250?
If you’re looking for a Chromebook, we’ve no hesitation in recommending the Lenovo C340. If you want a laptop running Windows, then your best choice is one of the Asus Vivobook E402. Another option is to look at older refurbished models, which offer great value for money if you’re not worried about a few tiny scratches.
What is the best laptop for gaming under £300?
If you’re looking to play ‘Assassin’s Creed: Origins’ or ‘Far Cry 5’ on a budget laptop, you’re out of luck. The amount of data you’ll need to store locally is too much for laptops with only 32GB or 64GB of storage, and the integrated graphics processors will definitely struggle. (That being said, there’s a too-good-to-be-true deal for a 17.3-inch refurbished HP Omen for £300 on Amazon at the moment. There are three left, and when they’re gone, they’re gone!)
If you’re happy to restrict your gaming to Android apps or games that run in-browser, then we’d recommend buying the most powerful Chromebook you can afford, which for under £300 is probably the Lenovo C340.
What is the best laptop for under £200?
You should consider the Asus Vivobook E 402, which is on sale for under £200 at the time of writing. Another option, which we know well but didn’t include in this review, is the Lenovo Ideapad Slim 1. This is also available at Amazon.