Acer Aspire 1
A 14-inch 1080p display for about $200.
For a laptop that costs about $200, Acer's Aspire 1 has a lot going for it. The 14-inch display sits at a 1080p resolution — something not often found at this price — and has a 720p webcam placed above for easy video conferencing. The Intel Celeron N3450 processor (CPU) has four cores and can hit a clock speed up to 2.2GHz, plus 4GB of RAM keeps things chugging along. The 32GB eMMC storage isn't much but can be expanded using the SD card reader.
Bottom line: The best overall laptop below $300 is the Acer Aspire 1.
One more thing: Our previous pick, the CHUWI 14.1 LapBook, has been discontinued, but you can sometimes still find it for sale on Amazon, albeit for a bit more than $300.
Why the Acer Aspire 1 is the best laptop under $300
One of the biggest issues most people have with budget laptops is the low-res display, often hitting only 768p or similar. Here, though, the 14-inch Aspire 1 has an FHD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution for a crisp picture, powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 500.
The quad-core Intel Celeron N3450 CPU won't win any races, but it's certainly enough to tackle a day's light productivity tasks like word processing, web browsing, and video watching. The HDMI port also makes it easy to hook up to an external display, and USB-A 3.0 and USB-A 2.0 ports round out the selection. There's also an SD card reader to expand the internal 32GB of eMMC storage.
The Aspire 1 has a Precision touchpad and comfortable keyboard for easy typing, and the battery should last you through most of a workday. At only about $200, this is certainly a sweet package for anyone on a tight budget.
Lenovo IdeaPad 120s
Lenovo's 14-inch IdeaPad 120s comes with an Intel Celeron N3350 CPU, 4GB of DDR4 RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. This is the only configuration available, and it costs about $210. What makes it so great? The keyboard and touchpad make productivity a breeze, storage is expandable through the microSD slot, and it looks like it costs far more than it really does.
Budget laptops generally suffer from a small amount of internal storage, and while you can often add to it with an SD card, you can also take advantage of cloud storage if you're never out of reach of Wi-Fi. Here, with the ASUS L402WA (about $230), the 32GB of eMMC storage is backed up by a one-year subscription to Office 365, which includes 1TB of OneDrive storage.
The laptop also has a 14-inch, 768p display, a quad-core AMD E2-6110 CPU with Radeon R2 graphics, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and a ton of ports, including Ethernet, USB-C, USB-A, and HDMI.
Dell Inspiron 11 3000
If you can't live without a touchscreen on your laptop, the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is a great choice. The 11.6-inch display has a 1,366 x 768 resolution, and the touch functionality is responsive and precise. An AMD A6-9220e CPU comes with Radeon R4 Graphics, and 4GB of DDR4 RAM keeps things running smoothly — this laptop is great for a light workload. Rotate the screen around for tent, stand, and tablet modes, or keep it in notebook mode for when you need to get serious work done. This laptop starts at about $300 and is available in a few different colors.
Dell Inspiron 14 3000
Having multiple projects going at once demands a larger screen; the Dell Inspiron 14 has a 14-inch display at 768p. As far as RAM goes, the models come with 4GB of DDR4, which can be upgraded later to a maximum of 8GB. The Intel Celeron N4000 CPU has a clock speed up to 2.6GHz, which will handle word processing and web browsing. This laptop starts at about $180, which leaves plenty of budget for supplementing the 32GB of eMMC storage with an Office 365 subscription that includes 1TB of OneDrive storage.
Acer's Aspire 1 is a beast in the budget laptop category, but there are certainly some other quality options to choose from depending on your specific needs.
Updated August 1, 2018: I've refreshed this list to ensure you're still seeing the best budget laptops available now.
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