Best Laptops Under $600 Windows Central 2021
Although the allure of a premium laptop can be strong, there are plenty of more affordable options — like Microsoft's Surface Go — that will provide a solid PC experience. The smallest Surface available is built to the same high standard as other Surface devices, with a beautiful high-res display, folding kickstand, and optional Type Cover and Surface Pen for a full 2-in-1 experience. If it's not quite what you're looking for, there are plenty of other laptops available for less than $600.
- Best Overall: Microsoft Surface Go
- Runner-up: Acer Aspire E 15
- Best 4K: Chuwi LapBook Plus
- Best Convertible: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14
- Best 17-Inch: Dell Inspiron 17 3785
Best Overall: Microsoft Surface Go
The Surface Go might look a bit underpowered when you take a look at the spec sheet — and it's not going to match up to the performance found in most other laptops in this list — but its perks definitely outweigh its downsides.
Performance hardware includes up to an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y processor (CPU), 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), which is enough to tackle everyday productivity tasks and even some light gaming. The addition of 4G LTE options means you can stay connected just about everywhere, and you'll get a full workday of battery life from a charge.
The 10-inch display is beautiful, with an 1800x1200 resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio. It works with the Surface Pen to deliver a phenomenal inking experience, and you can add a Type Cover to turn it into a true laptop. Use the IR camera for secure sign-in through Windows Hello, and connect accessories with USB-C, Surface Connect, a microSD card reader, and 3.5mm audio jack.
- Optional LTE connectivity
- Premium compact design
- Beautiful touch display with inking
- Great battery life
- IR camera for Windows Hello
- Limited ports
- Might not have enough power
Runner-up: Acer Aspire E 15
It might come with some bulk, but the Acer Aspire E 15 is a solid, well-rounded laptop that comes at a very attractive price. It even comes with an optical drive for anyone out there still using discs or burning DVDs. Other ports include two USB-A 3.0, USB-A 2.0, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, USB-C, and 3.5mm audio jack. That's a great selection, and you should have no problem connecting your favorite accessories.
For performance hardware get an 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 256GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, and a dedicated NVIDIA MX150 GPU for some added power. If you're interested in gaming and don't want to go in on a true gaming laptop, this is a great alternative that should have just enough power to deliver a smooth experience for non-intensive games.
Battery life hits about 10 hours if you're simply going about productivity tasks, which are made easier in some cases with a full keyboard with number pad. While a lot of budget laptops stick with an HD display, you get 1080p here for a much crisper picture; just don't expect perfect color reproduction.
- Dedicated NVIDIA MX150 GPU
- 8th Gen Intel Core CPU options
- Full keyboard with number pad
- 15-inch FHD display
- A lot of ports, including optical drive
- Relatively bulky size
- Display is average
Best 4K: Chuwi LapBook Plus
If you're looking for a laptop on which you can watch movies and TV and don't mind a lack of performance, Chuwi's LapBook Plus should be a great choice. It comes stocked with an Intel Atom x7-E3950 processor (CPU) that leaves a lot to be desired, hitting multi-core performance similar to the Pentium Gold CPU in the Surface Go. Even with 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD it's not going to be enough to get into any specialized work, but it's balanced out by a beautiful 15.6-inch 4K display.
It's non-touch so you won't get any inking capabilities, but it hits 93% sRGB and 72% AdobeRGB color reproduction for a great look. It also manages to reach about 350 nits brightness, which makes the glossy finish a lot less obvious when working in a well-lit space. Everything looks good on this display, and it's all contained in a unibody aluminum chassis that's quite sleek.
The keyboard has plenty of travel and a backlight for working overtime, plus the Precision touchpad is enormous for improved productivity. Rounding things out is decent port selection, including USB-A 3.0, USB-A 2.0, Micro HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack, and microSD card reader. The 36.5Wh battery allows for about four hours of video streaming before needing a charge.
- Attractive unibody aluminum design
- Enormous Precision touchpad
- Backlit keyboard with number pad
- 4K display with excellent color
- Decent port selection
- Performance could be a lot better
- Camera and speakers are average
Best Convertible: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14
Instead of a 2-in-1 with detachable keyboard and touchpad, Lenovo's IdeaPad Flex 14 is a true convertible with 360-degree hinges. This allows you to rotate the lid and display around for tent, stand, and tablet modes depending on the task at hand. The 14-inch 1080p touch display has a glossy finish and will work with an active pen, but don't expect superb color reproduction. Lenovo saved some money here to deliver an otherwise sleek laptop with good performance.
Get inside an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U CPU with 12GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256GB PCIe SSD, enough hardware to tackle just about anything you toss its way without getting into anything specialized. Battery should last about five hours before needing a charge, which could be a lot better. It does, however, have rapid charge capabilities, delivering about an 80% charge in just less than an hour.
The keyboard has large keys with lots of travel, and it's complemented by a Precision touchpad. Also included is a fingerprint reader for logins through Windows Hello. Ports include two USB-A 3.1, USB-C 3.1, HDMI 1.4, a 3.5mm audio jack, and an SD card reader.
- Large Precision touchpad and comfortable keyboard
- Webcam shutter
- Thin, sleek build
- Respectable performance
- Capable of inking
- Underwhelming display
- Battery life could be better
Best 17-Inch: Dell Inspiron 17 3785
Some people find that any display less than 17 inches just isn't big enough, whether it's for productivity or media purposes. Dell's Inspiron 17 3793 delivers for those people, bringing a 17.3-inch FHD display with IPS panel. It's non-touch and won't bring any inking capabilities, but it has enough space for serious multitasking.
Performance-wise you get 12GB of DDR4 RAM and a 1TB SATA hard-disk drive (HDD), offering up relatively slow but plentiful storage. And keeping everything together is an AMD Ryzen 5 2500U CPU with four cores and a clock speed up to 3.6GHz. You should have no problems going about standard productivity work, including word processing and web browsing.
The laptop has a full-size backlit keyboard with number pad, and the Precision touchpad is big enough for easy Windows 10 gestures. There's plenty of space for ports, including USB-A 2.0, two USB-A 3.1, HDMI 1.4, RJ45 Ethernet, SD card reader, and 3.5mm audio jack. There's likewise an optical drive so that you can burn DVDs.
- Huge 17.3-inch display
- Strong performance and sizeable storage
- Plenty of ports
- Backlit keyboard and Precision touchpad
- Introductory models have low-res display
- Battery could be a lot better
Microsoft's Surface Go is certainly not the most powerful option on this list, but it will still deliver an experience that those comfortable with Core i5 or Core i7 laptops can appreciate. It's not the right device for getting into specialized work, like editing video or high-level gaming, but it's ideal for more common tasks. If you need to check email, do some sketching with a Surface Pen, browse the web, or watch movies, the Go is standing by with about seven hours of battery life.
The 10-inch touch display with 1800x1200 resolution lives up to Surface standards (it's gorgeous), and it works equally well in tablet mode or notebook with a Type Cover attached. Above the display is an IR camera that provides increased security through Windows Hello. All you have to do is look at your PC and it will log you in.
The Go's USB-C port can be used to connect to myriad devices, including a docking station, and it has a microSD card reader and 3.5mm audio jack to round things out. You can add LTE connectivity to stay connected everywhere, but keep in mind it might push it over the $600 mark.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as 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.
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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