While modern laptops can come packing hardware that would make desktops of yesteryear blush, not everyone needs all that power — and not everyone has the budget for it. Just because your future laptop is cheap (you can get a cheaper laptop during Black Friday laptop deals) doesn’t mean it has to be slow or incapable. Some of the best laptops under $300 are impressive little machines.
It’s important to note that as great as the choices below are, some sacrifices need to be made to keep the price so low. You can’t expect to have top-tier hardware in these systems, and fancy features are kept to a minimum. It’s no surprise that the best options are typically Chromebooks as well as some Windows laptops.
Laptop buying guide
However, we wouldn’t go ahead and recommend any of these if they didn’t offer decent performance and battery life, so you can buy any of the following systems with the confidence that they will serve you well — just not as quickly as their more expensive counterparts.
Acer Chromebook Spin 311
Acer takes full advantage of the Chromebook’s portable potential with this 11-inch, 2-in-1 laptop that’s perfect for on-the-go task management. It runs with an Intel Celeron N4000 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. Like many Chromebooks, this lightweight laptop works best when combined with cloud services, but you always can add an SD card or other external storage of your own if you prefer to keep things local.
Battery life on this model maxes out at 10 hours, while ports include both two USB-A 3.0 connections and two USB-C 3.1 connections, which should be enough to handle any array of accessories (check out the bundle to see what exactly you can pair with the laptop when you buy). This Chromebook also supports dedicated MU-MIMO wireless connections, although unfortunately there’s no Wi-Fi 6 compatibility.
A Chromebook likeaids with quick work, where shifting into a tablet or tent mode may be particularly handy to share ideas or sketching a quick note. If you like the idea of an affordable Chromebook but aren’t a huge fan of the 2-in-1 style, then check out our sturdier Acer Chromebook selection below.
HP Stream 11 (2020)
The Stream is a dream for students working from home — or any classroom or dorm where an affordable, project-focused laptop is an important accessory. HP has done an excellent job with the design of this 11-inch model, which is both portable and durable.
Inside, the laptop relies on a dual-core Intel Celeron N4000 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. These specs help keep the price down while still enabling plenty of useful features, although you may find it useful to embrace cloud storage and web apps to help keep storage from filling up too quickly. For connections, the laptop offers both two USB-A 3.1 ports and a single USB-C 3.1 port plus HDMI.
Note that while these specs may invoke the idea of a Chromebook,actually offers Windows 10 S Mode. S Mode is a lighter version of Windows that fits this style of portable laptop well, but also is very limiting when it comes to what apps you can use. Fortunately, you can always choose to disable it: Just make sure your downloads aren’t too demanding!
Acer Chromebook 15
Ranked as the best budget Chromebook in our guide, the Acer Chromebook 15 packs a rare 1080p IPS display — most budget machines are limited to 720p. That also makes it the Chrome OS laptop with the largest display on this list at 15.6 inches, which might impact portability but certainly helps with productivity and media viewing.
Internally, the Chromebook 15 packs an Intel Celeron N3060 processor paired with 4GB of memory and 32GB of solid-state storage. There is a 16GB version for those who want to save a few dollars, but there isn’t much difference in price between the two, and doubling the onboard storage is a worthy upgrade.
This is a larger laptop than some others on this list, weighing in at just under 5 pounds. It also moves above and below our $300 cutoff. However, the‘s battery life is much more impressive, lasting upwards of nine hours in the right circumstances. Considering the size and resolution of this display, that’s a good run, and makes this great for simple work and media viewing.
Read our full Acer Chromebook 15 review
Asus Chromebook C202
The Asus Chromebook C202 is designed for students and middle-school children, giving them a rugged and reasonably powerful laptop to work with. It might not pack some of the features and hardware of the other entries on this list, but it can withstand the rigors of day-to-day use better than most.
Internally, it sports an Intel Celeron N3060 processor, up to 4GB of memory, and 16GB of flash storage. Its screen is on the small side, measuring in at just 11.6-inches with a resolution of 1,366 x 768, but it does sport an anti-glare coating and the small form-factor aids its portability.
This Chromebook weighs in at just 2.2 pounds, so it’s the lightest on this list, and with an average battery life of around 10 hours, it’s more than capable of lasting throughout a school day.
With a tough frame, rubber guards, easy-grip handles, and a spill-resistant keyboard, the can handle all sorts of situations and still do the job seamlessly. It’s not the fastest Chromebook out there, but it’s impressively capable for such a tough, little package.
Lenovo IdeaPad Duet
The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is ideal for those wanting the versatility of a convertible tablet on a budget. It features a portable and lightweight design and even comes preloaded with Google’s stable Chrome OS. It’s a great laptop that offers tablet functionality, even when you don’t feel like bringing your keyboard along.
All that portability is due to the 10.1-inch HD screen, which houses all the laptop’s critical components. When you take your screen on the go, you’ll have access to 4GB of RAM, a 64GB SSD, and a MediaTek Helio P60T processor. The battery offers 10 hours of run time and held up admirably under our testing.
There are, of course, drawbacks with portability. Since there isn’t a 3.5mm audio jack and there’s only one USB-C port, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet can be more challenging to get used to. On the plus side, you’ll have the ability to use Bluetooth to connect to a wide variety of accessories.
The standard keyboard can feel a little claustrophobic, so users may want to make an upgrade to a full-size Bluetooth keyboard. The IdeaPad Duet is still an excellent option if you’re looking for an extra-lightweight Chromebook that has the ability to easily be turned into a tablet.
If you aren’t shopping on a strict budget, you might be more satisfied with the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5. While it has a higher price point than the , it boasts some pretty cool added features.
Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad Duet review