Best laptops under $600 Windows Central 2021
In recent years, the best laptops under $600 have come a long way. No longer do you have to choose between quality and affordability, and many of the biggest names in PC manufacturing have devices with modern hardware and a ton of features. Even some of the best Windows laptops are in the sub-$600 category, including the Surface Laptop Go. It's our top pick in this range thanks to a premium build, excellent display, and modest performance. There are also a bunch of other great options, which we've included here.
- Best overall: Surface Laptop Go
- Best 2-in-1: Surface Go 2
- Best convertible: HP Pavilion x360 14
- Best value: Acer Aspire 5 A515-55
Best overall: Surface Laptop Go
Microsoft's Surface lineup is known to be one of the best around in terms of build quality and display, so it's no surprise that there are two Surface PCs in this roundup. Our top overall pick is the Surface Laptop Go, a 12.45-inch notebook PC that's fun to use. It's essentially a smaller version of the Surface Laptop 4 for those who need something compact to travel with.
The touch display has a 1536x1024 resolution, which is lower than other Surface products. However, it still looks sharp at this size. Brightness hits 400 nits to combat glare, and you get 99% sRGB color reproduction. Bezels are thin, and the 3:2 aspect ratio gives you a tall screen with more room for productivity.
Build quality is high, as expected, with an aluminum and polycarbonate body available in three different colors. Ports include USB-C, USB-A, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a Surface Connect port. If that's not enough connectivity for you, consider grabbing one of the best USB-C adapters and hubs for Surface Laptop 4, as they will work here as well.
Performance hardware includes a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor (CPU) for modest performance. It's much better than the Core m3 chip in the Surface Go 2, important for anyone with heavier multitasking in mind. Pair it with up to 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM and a 256GB SSD. Expect around eight hours of battery life from a charge.
- Excellent hardware and design
- Core i5 has decent power
- Good battery life
- Color-accurate and bright display
- Resolution could be higher
- No keyboard backlight
Best 2-in-1: Surface Go 2
The Surface Go 2 is the best option on this list if you're looking at a 2-in-1 small enough to take with you wherever you go. It's primarily a tablet with a stand on the back, allowing you to prop it up for easier viewing. But you can also attach a Type Cover with keyboard and touchpad for a full notebook experience. The Go 2 is even compatible with Surface Pen for high-quality inking. The 10.5-inch display has a boxy 3:2 aspect ratio and crisp 1920x1280 resolution. You get about 400 nits brightness with 100% sRGB color reproduction.
Baseline models start with an Intel Pentium 4425Y CPU with OK performance, but the Intel Core m3 chip is a much better bet. Especially if you can find a model on sale since Core m3 configs start at about $630. That same model has 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, so you do get quite a bit of PC for the price.
Rounding out the features are dual webcams and an IR camera for Windows Hello, optional LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi 6, and dual speakers with solid audio. Ports include USB-C, 3.5mm audio, a microSD card reader, and Surface Connect. Check out our comparison of the Surface Laptop Go vs. Surface Go 2 for more info.
- High-res 10.5-inch display
- Wi-Fi 6 and optional LTE
- Good battery life
- Premium design
- Might not have enough performance for some
Best convertible: HP Pavilion x360 14
HP's sub-brands have come a long way, and the Pavilion x360 lineup is no doubt quite attractive for anyone who wants a budget convertible. This 14-inch option starts at $600 and has an 11th Gen Intel Core i3-11154G4 CPU, 8GB of DDR4-3200MHz RAM, and 128GB M.2 PCIe SSD. There's plenty of opportunity for upgrades if you have the budget, including up to a Core i7 CPU with Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD.
The 14-inch touch display comes in two flavors, both with an FHD resolution. The first (in this baseline model) has about 250 nits brightness, while the other option cranks it up to about 400 nits brightness. In both cases the display can rotate around 360 degrees to be used as a tablet or somewhere in between.
If you're typing all day you will likely enjoy the comfy keyboard, and the sizable Precision touchpad makes for easy pointing. Ports include USB-C, two USB-A, HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm audio, and an SD card reader. You also get Wi-Fi 6 for modern and reliable wireless connectivity.
- 11th Gen Intel Core CPUs
- Comfy keyboard and big touchpad
- Decent port selection
- Quality convertible build
- Baseline display is dim
- Core i3 CPU might not be enough
Best value: Acer Aspire 5 A515-55
Whereas the latest Aspire 5 (A515-56) model isn't recommended due to the dreadful display, you can find previous models (like the A515-55) for a very reasonable price. The 15.6-inch IPS FHD display still isn't going to blow you away, but it's perfectly usable for productivity work, email, and web browsing. And that holds true for the performance hardware as well, with a 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 CPU, 4GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 128GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD.
Ports include USB-C 3.1, two USB-A 3.1, USB-A 2.0, HDMI, and 3.5mm audio, plus there is Wi-Fi 6 for fast, reliable wireless connectivity. The keyboard is backlit, and there's a fingerprint reader for added security through Windows Hello. If you're looking for a laptop around $400, this should be a solid choice with a few shortcomings that can be overlooked thanks to the budget price.
- Can't beat the price
- FHD display
- Plenty of ports
- Wi-Fi 6
- Fingerprint reader
- Display is still a bit dull
- Keyboard could be better
If we're making some suggestions
You don't need to spend more than $600 to get your hands on a quality Windows laptop these days. There are many options out there, but our favorite is Microsoft's Surface Laptop Go. It delivers the best mix of premium quality build, color-accurate and bright display, comfortable keyboard and touchpad, and performance.
It's the perfect size at about 12.45 inches to go with you wherever you travel, but it's also big enough that you can use it for daily productivity work. And the 10th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU will be able to keep up with office tasks, with a battery that should last most of a workday on a single charge.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, accessory coverage, and the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
Daniel Rubino is the executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.
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