Surface GoSource: Windows Central

Best Affordable Laptops Windows Central 2019

We'd all have the latest and greatest Ultrabooks if we could afford them. But lots of us can't — or just don't want to — hand over thousands of dollars for a computer. Fortunately, there are a lot of choices for the budget-conscious laptop buyer that still provides a great Windows 10 experience, such as the incredible Microsoft Surface Go.

If you're on the hunt for a new laptop, then Black Friday is a perfect time to shop, and it's getting really close. Some of the laptops featured here will likely see discounts come Black Friday. If not, there will be some awesome alternative deals, and we're frequently updating our buyer's guides to ensure we're offering the best buying advice and featuring the best deals to help you save money.

Best overall — Microsoft Surface Go

The Surface brand is desirable, and thanks to the Surface Go, it's no longer out of reach for folks on tighter budgets. The base model is easily a match for any other low-cost laptop, with the added bonus of a touchscreen with inking support. Inking is important because the size of the Surface Go makes it a truly spectacular digital notebook when used with something such as Microsoft OneNote.

The Intel Pentium processor, 64GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM are perfect for lighter computing needs, and while the optional Type Cover will get the best experience from it, it's not a compulsory purchase. You can alternatively just use any wired or wireless keyboard you may already have to type on the Surface Go and save the money.

The Surface Go is a proper Surface but with a much more attractive price. And that's what makes it so special, it's a Surface for everyone.

Pros:

  • All-day battery life.
  • Kickstand built-in.
  • Touchscreen with inking.

Cons:

  • Keyboard not included.
  • Windows 10 Tablet Mode is average.
  • Quite small.

Best overall

Microsoft Surface Go

A high-end experience with an affordable price

This is a proper Surface in every way, it's just smaller and much more affordable, and that makes it hard to beat.

Best for school — ASUS VivoBook E203MA

ASUS E203MASource: ASUS

The VivoBook E203 11.6-inch notebook from ASUS brings some of the style of the company's more expensive models at a really affordable price. It's not all good looks, though, as underneath you'll find a dual-core Intel Celeron processor, up to 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage.

Despite the size, there's still a full-size keyboard, a microSD slot, HDMI out, USB-C, and full-size USB ports. The display is on par with competitors at 1366x768. And with all-day battery life, you'll be able to head out for the day and leave the charger at home. It's durable, too, which makes it great for taking to school.

ASUS has a long reputation for making quality laptops and that's true even here on the entry level products. The keyboard is particularly good, and it feels very much like what you'd find on a more expensive ASUS laptop. It makes typing all day a very pleasant experience, which is especially important if you're pounding the keys all day on school work.

Pros:

  • All-day battery life
  • Superb keyboard
  • Great port selection

Cons:

  • Low internal storage
  • Lower resolution screen
  • Quite small

Best for school

ASUS VivoBook E203MA

A great laptop for getting school work done

ASUS makes great quality laptops, and this one is affordable and tough enough to give your kids to get all their school work done, even if they leave the charger at home.

Best large screen — Chuwi Herobook

Chuwi HerobookSource: Chuwi

Chuwi is a Chinese brand you might not be familiar with but that is putting out some really great, really affordable Windows 10 hardware. The Herobook has a 14.1-inch anti-glare display, which makes it one of the larger cheap laptops available. The addition of anti-glare is a nice bonus feature and makes looking at it all day that little bit more comfortable.

You'll also find an Intel Atom quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage with an m.2 SSD slot to expand it. Many cheap laptops have microSD card slots that you can use to expand storage, but that's not good enough for Chuwi. For easily less than $100, you can put in a proper SSD that you can actually use to store applications and large files on, without the headache of slow data transfer.

It has a full-size keyboard and a decent trackpad, too, not to mention plenty of ports and a large battery that should last most days away from a charger. The build quality is excellent, and it's truly amazing that you can get a good 14-inch laptop for this price.

Pros:

  • All-day battery life
  • Large display
  • SSD expansion slot

Cons:

  • No USB-C
  • Lower resolution screen
  • No full-sized SD or HDMI

Best large screen

Chuwi Herobook

A larger screen with a small price

The Herobook proves it's possible to have a good laptop with a larger screen without jacking up the price. It's good by any standards.

Best convertible — HP ProBook x360 11 G1

HP ProBook 11 G1Source: HP

A convertible laptop doesn't belong here, right? Wrong. HP's super-affordable x360 ProBook does, with its 11.6-inch, 1366x768 resolution touch display. It's hard to deny the appeal of a touchscreen that folds around. A laptop like this has lots of versatility, for example, being folded over like a tent to give you that perfect angle for watching a movie without the keyboard in your eyeline.

You'll get an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage. Not only that, but there's plenty of full-size USB ports, an SD card slot, and an HDMI output, which makes this cheap convertible notebook great for getting things done.

Convertibles have a number of advantages over both 2-in-1s and traditional laptops, and this excellent model from HP gives all of that at a really affordable price. It also gives you Windows 10 Pro, which is no small addition at this price point.

Pros:

  • Touch display
  • Lots of ports
  • Good battery life
  • Windows 10 Pro

Cons:

  • Lower resolution screen
  • Quite small
  • No USB-C

Best convertible

HP ProBook x360

Type and touch without breaking the bank

A convertible laptop is good for both work and play, and thanks to HP, you don't have to spend a fortune to get one.

Best with optical drive — Dell Inspiron 15

Inspiron 15Source: Dell

There's still a market for laptops with optical drives, and some people simply can't make do without one. Laptops with them might be harder to find now, but even if you're on a tight budget, Dell has just the ticket, and it's got plenty of other goodies to go with it.

Besides the DVD drive, this Inspiron 15 has a 15.6-inch display, an Intel Core i3 processor, 1TB HDD and 8GB of RAM. Toss in a bunch of USB ports, HDMI and an SD card slot and you have a cheap laptop with plenty of flexibility. It's unusual to find a full Intel Core i processor on a cheap laptop such as this, so the Inspiron 15 has a little more power than some of its competitors in this price range.

An easy way to give this laptop a little extra oomph for a small extra spend, too, is to consider replacing the 1TB HDD with an SSD. For an additional $100 you can get a 1TB SSD that will make your daily life with this laptop a lot faster.

Whether you're using it for work or for leisure, with this laptop you'll be safe in the knowledge your physical media can go with you.

Pros:

  • Optical drive
  • Lots of ports
  • Core i3 processor

Cons:

  • Lower resolution screen
  • Slow HDD
  • Quite large and heavy

Best with optical drive

Dell Inspiron 15

A low-cost laptop that still plays DVDs

Laptops with optical drives are few and far between but this one will let you play your DVDs without running away with your wallet.

Best tablet —Chuwi Hi10 Air

Chuwi Hi10 AirSource: Chuwi

The Hi10 Air isn't just a tablet, it's a full Windows laptop in the body of a tablet. And it's pretty great at being both of those things. One of the standout features is the thing you spend all day looking at.

Unlike some cheap laptops or tablets, the display isn't where Chuwi saved on the asking price. The 1920x1200 resolution IPS display is fantastic. It also supports inking with Chuwi's optional digital pen. The pen is well worth getting, too, as it's only $20 and opens up a whole new world when used with apps like Microsoft OneNote.

Where the Surface Go is a product for someone who wants a laptop in the form of a tablet, the Hi10 Air is for people who want a tablet that could also be a laptop if they need it to be. It's a great digital notebook, media consumption device and when it has to be, can turn into a traditional laptop.

Pros:

  • Detachable keyboard option
  • Great display
  • USB-C

Cons:

  • Average battery life
  • Poor cameras
  • Keyboard extra purchase

Best tablet

Chuwi Hi10 Air

A great tablet from a brand you might not know

Chinese brand Chuwi is doing some great work in providing affordable, yet good quality Windows 10 products, and the Hi10 Air is the best cheap tablet.

Conclusion

The horrors of the cheap Netbook are long behind us, and now we're in a position to buy not only cheap laptops, but good cheap laptops. The Surface Go is a little pricier than some of the competition, but it's worth every penny. In fact, the Surface Go remains one of our very favorite Windows 10 machines at any price point; it's that good.

But there are also choices that make more sense for other specific requirements, whether you're hunting for a larger screen, a convertible or something solid for the kids to take to school that doesn't cost a lot. We strongly recommend each and every one of the PCs featured here.

Best of all, none of these laptops look or feel like cheap laptops. Compromises have to be made to keep the price down, but not at the expense of being a quality product.

How to shop for the best Black Friday deals on a laptop

Black Friday is an excellent time to buy a new laptop, but it's also a time to shop smart and ensure you don't jump on the wrong deal. Just because something is reduced, doesn't automatically make it a good buy. The primary considerations for choosing a laptop on Black Friday should remain the same as they would if you were shopping at any other time of the year. Consider first what size laptop you need, and what you need it for, identifying any key features such as a touchscreen with pen support, or an optical drive. If it's a laptop that wouldn't fit your needs when it's full price, money off won't make it a better choice for you.

You can expect to see Black Friday deals on laptops from all the major players, such as Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, and HP, and there will be chances to get some truly great deals. Look out for substantial discounts on older models, which will still be good performers, potentially at a significant saving to your wallet. And if you want to be really smart, make use of price tracking tools such as CamelCamelCamel before you hit the buy button to make sure that the deal you think you're getting, is actually a good deal.

Our deals team's mission is to deliver the best deals on laptops as we enter one of the busiest shopping seasons of the year, and you'll find them all here on Windows Central.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.

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