Buying a new computer can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not technologically savvy. If you don’t know what to look for, or if you know you just need something simple, it can sometimes be hard to shake the feeling that the sales rep at Best Buy isn’t taking you for a ride.
So many thoughts can be running through your head: “How much should I be looking to spend?” “How good do I need my laptop to be?” “What do all of these technical terms mean?” This makes keeping your laptop cheap feel even harder. Not to worry though, we’ve compiled this list of the absolute best laptops under $800 so you can stay within your price range and feel confident when you make your purchase.
Carry on reading or jump straight to our best laptop that costs less than $800.
- What Should I Look for When Buying My Laptop?
- Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Laptops
- #1: Asus Vivobook 15 (All-Purpose)
- #2: Acer Swift 5 (Portable and Capable)
- #3: MSI GF63 Thin (Best Gaming Laptop)
- #4: Lenovo Chromebook Duet Best Low Cost
- #5: HP Pavilion X360 (Best for Multitasking)
- On a Budget? Try These:
- What Specs Should I Look for in My Laptop?
- Verdict: Your Best Laptops Under $800
What Should I Look for When Buying My Laptop?
In today’s day and age, laptops aren’t just a luxury anymore; they’re a necessity. Everyone needs a laptop, but not everyone needs the same laptop. That’s why we used a variety of criteria to assess what the best budget laptop is for your exact wants and needs. We’ve broken down these criteria below so you don’t have to take our word for it. Learn what you should be looking for to find a laptop that fits your needs.
Criteria #1: Speed. Above all, we all want our laptops to be one thing: fast. Whether you’re going to be gaming all night, streaming movies with your friends and family, or you just need a laptop to browse the web and get your work done, you want to do it quickly. If you’re old enough to remember early operating systems and dialup, you know how frustrating it is to stare at loading screens instead of using your computer. Luckily, no decent laptop today should give you that problem.
There are two main factors that contribute to the speed of a laptop: its processor, and its RAM, or Random Access Memory. The processor is basically the engine of a computer. It is constantly running in the background as long as the computer is on, and doing the brunt of the work for any task. If one given task is proving to be too much for your laptop, it usually means your processor isn’t up to the job.
RAM is your laptop’s short-term memory. RAM is used for speed and multitasking, so if the fifteen different programs and tabs you have open seem to be slowing down your laptop, you probably want more RAM. While both RAM and your computer’s internal memory are measured in gigabytes, RAM will always be a much smaller number, with the average for most laptops being about 4 GB of RAM, 8 GB being very good, and anything more than that being remarkable.
Criteria #2: Battery life.A laptop without a decent battery life is essentially a desktop. If you need your computer for your daily commute, if you travel a lot, or if you just hate feeling plugged into one spot while you work at home, you’re going to want a battery that lasts. Battery life varies a lot from laptop to laptop, with some computers being able to hold a charge for close to a day, while others can barely last a few hours. If it’s important to you to stay away from the charger, you’ll need to make sure to look at the specs of your laptop before you buy it and make sure the battery life is up to your standard.
While we’re on the topic of battery life, here’s a quick pro-tip: avoid charging your laptop overnight or overcharging it. This burns out the battery and will cause it to hold a charge for decreasing amounts of time.
Criteria #3: Size. Just like with battery life, if your laptop is too big to bring anywhere, it’s not really much of a laptop. While to some extent, the more powerful laptops are on the bigger side, modern technology and miniaturization have made it so that even the best laptops should still be reasonably portable. And, as we’ll discuss more below, the smaller laptops tend to have certain advantages over the large ones besides just being lighter to carry.
Criteria #4: Price. You’re here because you’re on a budget. The $800 limit we set gives you plenty of room to splurge, but you might not be interested in spending every cent of that. While prioritizing performance, this list was made with saving in mind. What’s nice for most casual computer-users is that price and size tend to have a direct positive relationship, so as you make efforts to save, the laptops you find yourself looking at will be smaller and easier to bring along on your commutes, business trips, and vacations. If your main priority is keeping your computer small, you’ll notice that finding laptops under $800 is a breeze, and you’ll actually catch yourself struggling to find a laptop over $800.
Criteria #5: Memory. Although it may seem of the utmost importance, especially if you’re used to devices like smartphones and smartwatches, almost every laptop has enough memory on its SSD (Solid State Drive) that the average user has no need to worry. The two standard SDD sizes are 256 GB and 512 GB, with even the smaller 256GB SSD being sufficient, especially as cloud services become more prominent and memory becomes less of a premium. That’s why this criterion is so low on this list.
However, if you don’t like relying on Internet access, have a lot of games, movies, or pictures on your laptop, or just don’t like seeing that you’re almost out of memory, having a large SSD can be a big selling point for you. Although there are times where it may be cheaper to buy a laptop with a smaller SSD and simply buy an external hard drive to go with it.
Criteria #6: Graphics. This is our last criterion on the list, and it’s the lowest down because it’s more niche and to some people, it’s simply not a necessity. However, to other users, it’s absolutely critical, and that’s why we’ve included it on the list. Which graphics your computer can handle is all determined by its graphics card, and if you have a sub-par graphics card, even with a high-end processor, laptops will start to lag and buffer when watching HD videos or playing graphics-intensive video games. If you can’t go back to standard definition or you need to play the newest and best video games, you need to make sure you buy a laptop with a high-end graphics card.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Laptops
We used the criteria listed above while taking into account the different uses people generally have for their laptops to determine the best laptop tailored to your needs. The three different categories of use that we considered are “general leisure,” “work and commuting,” and “gaming.” Each of these categories has different needs, and thus were all assessed differently.
For general leisure, you’ll want to make sure that your laptop has a good processor – the Intel Core series Intel Core i5 is good, with the Intel Core series Intel Core i7 processor being even better – and a lot of RAM. This will stop your computer from slowing down when there’s a lot going on.
For work and commuting, you’ll mostly want to focus simply on size and battery life, as you’ll generally be doing simple tasks on your laptop such as browsing the web, writing emails, and creating word documents.
For gaming, you’ll want everything but the kitchen sink. You’ll need the best processor – at least the Intel i7 processor – a lot of RAM, and a high-end graphics card. This is also the only time when 256 GB might not cover it, depending on how many games you have or plan on or storing on your SSD. Abandon all hopes of keeping your laptop small if you want to game. A 14″ inch display just won’t be big enough. You’ll want at least a 15.6″ inch display, but ideally, you’ll find a display of 17″ inches.
And without further ado, here are our best laptops under $800.
#1: Asus Vivobook 15 (All-Purpose)
Our number one pick for a reason, the Asus Vivobook 15 laptop manages to stay under the $800 mark and do it all at the same time. One of the best laptops on the market regardless of price, this laptop runs on the Windows 10 Home operating system and comes with a wide 15.6″ inch display, but it weighs about 4.3 pounds, so while it should still fit in your bag relatively easily for longer trips, you probably won’t want to carry it around every day.
The Asus Vivobook is powered by the high-end Intel i5 processor and has a very solid 8 GB of RAM, which means it should be more than capable of handling all of your demands and will be able to multitask without any noticeable lag. With a 512 GB SSD hard drive, you won’t need to worry about downloading pictures or videos with this laptop. The average user would have to try hard to fill up that much space.
With a battery that lasts only up to five hours, the battery life is the only category where the Vivobook falls a little flat (besides maybe its size). While this battery life is enough that you won’t be constantly grabbing for your charger, it might not be up to longer trips such as flights, and if a long charge is important to you, you can easily find laptops with better battery life.
The Asus laptop is powered by the high-quality NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics processing unit. Coupled with its strong processor and a large amount of RAM, you’ll have no problem getting the full HD experience or running most video games.
Coming in at around $700, this high-end laptop comes close to our $800 limit, but it’s more than worth it. This laptop is the true jack of all trades, and it will meet all of your computing needs. The only time you should notice any dip in performance with this laptop is if you’re doing high-demand tasks such as video editing or intense gaming.
#2: Acer Swift 5 (Portable and Capable)
The honest truth is that the Acer Swift 5 is almost identical in most regards to our number one pick. It’s completely on par with the Vivobook, excelling in some places and falling short in others. This section will focus on showing the difference between our two best laptops so that you can make your own decision.
Reason #1 to Choose This Laptop: Portability
Coming in at just 2.14 pounds – just about half the size of the Vivobook 15 with a 14″ inch display, you won’t even notice this laptop in your bag. Whether you’re a daily commuter who needs their computer or you’re constantly traveling and hate leaving your laptop at home, this high-end laptop lets you stay on the go without sacrificing performance.
Reason #2 to Choose This Product: Battery Life.
The Acer Swift 5 has an impressive 8 hours of battery life, and those three hours over the Vivobook go a long way. With this laptop, it’s no big deal if you forgot your charger in the morning, and you’ll be able to stay busy or entertained on even the longest trips without access to an outlet.
These two top laptops are equal in RAM, with both having 8 GB, and run on the same Intel Core i5 processor. Other than price (the Asics costs about $30 more than the Vivobook) the main reasons we gave the edge to the Asus laptop on this list are that its internal memory is double the size and that its graphics card is superior to the of the Swift 5. However, the Acer computer’s Intel Core i5 and graphics card should still be up to all but the most demanding gaming tasks, and if you simply can’t say no to that sleek design and extra battery life, the Acer Swift 5 is the laptop for you.
It bears mentioning that where the Acer shines is in its combination of portability and performance. As we mentioned above, portability and price tend to go hand-in-hand, with the Swift 5 being the exception to the rule. So if portability is your only priority, there are far cheaper options available for you, which we’ve highlighted below.
#3: MSI GF63 Thin (Best Gaming Laptop)
Is gaming a hobby for you? Or a lifestyle? For some (myself included) gaming is not a side-benefit of a computer, it’s the entire reason for owning one. Intense gaming demands nothing but the absolute best from your laptop, and if you need a top-of-the-line gaming laptop but can’t shell out $1000, you have to go with the MSI GF63 Thin.
Like any good gaming laptop, this MSI laptop prioritizes one thing above all else: power. Powered by the Intel Core series Intel Core i7 processor and its GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics processing unit, which is far superior to the Intel UHD of the Acer Swift 5 or the HP Pavilion X360 (lower on this list), the GF63 is as strong as they come. It also has 8 GB of RAM, so you won’t have to close all your windows before booting up your game, and has an elite dual-fan cooling system with four exhausts and seven pipes to make sure your laptop doesn’t overheat mid-game.
Added onto all of that, the MSI has 4 USB ports so you can connect any and every add-on you need. Why choose between your fan, headphones, mouse, and flash drive when you can have them all? In terms of function, this laptop is right up there, if not superior, to the Vivobook and the Swift 5.
The biggest drawback of this computer is its internal storage hard drive. It comes with a 256GB SSD, and if you’re storing your games on the SSD directly, this memory could get used up quicker than you think. You could find yourself needing an external hard drive.
Gaming laptops are the best laptops out there when it comes to power and function, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you should buy one if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for. The GF63 has the option for a 15.6″ inch display, or for a larger 17.3″ inch display. This larger option will take up a lot of space, and even the smaller option weighs a whopping eight pounds, weighing more than twice as much as the Asus or Acer laptops on our list.
Beyond that, the RAM size and processing strength can be found in other laptops. It’s only the graphics card that really separates this gaming laptop from the pack. If you need your laptop for more pedestrian uses, you won’t want to be lugging this baby around every day.
All of that said, if you are looking to game through the night, the MSI GF63 Thin laptop is one of the best – if not the best – gaming laptops under $800. Whether you’re playing League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, or Assassin’s Creed, this laptop will get the job done for about $700, so you’ll have $100 left over to buy that new game you have your eyes on. We’re only sorry if buying this laptop takes away any excuses you used to have for losing. Gaming laptops run a little more expensive than your standard laptop, so to find one this good for an affordable price is truly a treat.
#4: Lenovo Chromebook Duet Best Low Cost
As we mentioned earlier, if you’re reading this article, it’s because you want to save. If cheap – and only cheap – is what you’re looking for, then look no further than this Lenovo 2 in 1 laptop and tablet. Powered by the Google Chrome operating system, this laptop gives you nothing but the basics and rewards you by charging you a measly $300, shaving more than 50% of the price off of our $800 benchmark.
Cheaper laptops (or in this case laptop/tablets) are also usually the smaller ones, and the consolation prize for your efforts to be frugal comes in the form of portability. This laptop has a compact 10″ inch display, and even when in “laptop mode” the Lenovo Chrome Book weighs just two pounds and only one pound when in tablet mode. It will also be able to tough it out for even the longest trips with its amazing 13.5-hour battery life.
All things considered, the Duet has a very impressive 4 GB of RAM which will be able to handle more than a few tabs, and its decent 128 GB SSD is still more than most people will have to worry about filling up. Storage and speed should not be your priorities if you went with this laptop/tablet as your choice, but you won’t find yourself reeling and regretting that you didn’t splurge for a more powerful device.
With the unbeatable price as its selling point, where this 2 in 1 laptop and tablet shines is its battery life. If you’re dead set on getting the best laptop, then you should go with a different option. But if you’re not very picky and don’t need one of the best choices, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and find that your decision to save wasn’t all that much of a compromise when it came with thirteen hours of battery life and an almost pocket-sized two-pound device.
#5: HP Pavilion X360 (Best for Multitasking)
For the scatterbrains, multitaskers, and wanderers, RAM is the name of the game. If you’re constantly opening up articles to read later, sending videos, gifs, and memes while video chatting, or peaking at your other tabs while watching Netflix, you’ll need all the RAM you can get. And if your current laptop is having trouble keeping up with your multitasking habits, then you should look into buying the HP Pavilion X360.
Running the Intel Core i5 processor, this laptop comes standard with 8 GB of RAM, but also has an option for 12 GB of RAM and even an incredible 16 GB of RAM. Though it’s an extra $40 for the 12 GB-RAM version and an extra $90 for the best 16 GB-RAM version, if you make the investment, you’ll find that your new laptop will run twenty programs the way most laptops run five programs. The X360 is a laptop that can multitask as much as you can.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the X360 is a one-trick pony. This laptop gives you much more than just a lot of RAM. With its Intel Core i5 processor, Intel UHD graphics, and its 256 GB SSD (with an option to pay more for 512 GB) the X360 can hang with even the best laptops. It also has a beautiful 14 inch display, and a very impressive 3-cell, 41 Wh lithium-ion prismatic battery that will give you between five and eight hours of battery life.
This laptop costs just below our 800 dollar limit – if you elect for the full 16 GB of RAM and less if you pick the 12 GB-RAM option. If you decide you want the standard 8 GB of RAM then it becomes even more affordable. However, at that point, you’re probably better off going with one of the other laptops on our list. Remember, RAM is only one part of the equation, and while this computer’s large amount of it is noteworthy, it still won’t be able to handle intense tasks that require a stronger processor and graphics card.
This laptop can also be beefed up in other ways. For example, you can elect to upgrade the Intel Core series Core i5 processor to the Intel Core i7 version, or you could upgrade the SSD, but that would bring it over our $800 limit. With the HP Pavilion X360, you get what you pay for, and if you go with the 12 GB RAM version or the 16 GB RAM version, what you’re paying for is one of the best multi-tasking laptops money can buy.
On a Budget? Try These:
While every laptop on this list costs at most $800, your particular budget might be lower than that. The purpose of this article is to help you save on your new laptop, so in this section, we’re breaking down our selections by price. Keep reading to find the best laptop at the price point you’re looking for.
#1 Budget: Asus Vivobook 15
Here is a quick recap of the Asus: a top of the line NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics processor unit; a high-end AMD R5-3500U main processor that can handle your most demanding tasks; 8 GB of RAM so you can let your mind wander a little; and a 512GB SSD so you can download whatever you want. The Asus Vivobook 15 is the laptop that has it all. This computer is one of the best laptops under $800, or even over $800 for that matter. Spending a little less doesn’t have to mean settling. The Vivobook 15 is amongst the best laptops money can buy.
#2 Budget: HP Pavilion X360
While you’ll have to elect for the stripped-down version with only a 256 GB SDD and “only” 8 GB of RAM to keep this laptop under $700, what you’re left with is still a very capable laptop that will do everything you need and a little extra. Its Intel UHD graphics processing unit combined with its Intel Core i5 processor should be able to handle your gaming and video editing needs. (If it can’t, the MSI GF63 Thin is calling your name.) Its long battery life of up to eight hours will keep you from feeling bogged down. All of this plus a nice 15-inch display puts the Pavilion X365 up there with the best laptops under $800, and you’ll even have money leftover.
#3 Budget: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
This 2 in 1 laptop and tablet is the only choice for anyone on a tight budget. While it might be a little behind the pack by modern standards, a machine that can do what the Lenovo Duet can do used to take up an entire room, and even more recently – just ten or fifteen years ago – you still would have needed a desktop to find this kind of processing power. With 128 GB on the SSD and 4 GB of RAM, this laptop (or is it a tablet?) will meet all your needs. With its amazing battery life, the Duet can’t be beat when it comes to portability either. If you’re on a budget, a commuting student or working professional, or a world traveler, the choice is obvious.
What Specs Should I Look for in My Laptop?
While we hate to see you go, we’re writing this article not just in the hopes that it will help you decide which laptop to buy now, but also that you won’t need any help buying laptops in the future. In pursuit of that goal, here is a quick recap of some takeaways you should have from this article:
A relatively smaller 256 GB SSD is not necessarily a deal-breaker, as 256 GB is still plenty for most people.
If you want to be able to multitask and run several programs at once look at the processor and the amount of RAM (which stands for Random Access Memory).
For the best gaming experience, you’ll need a strong processor, a good GPU (graphics processing unit), and a lot of RAM.
Cheaper laptops tend to be smaller, with better battery life. So if that’s what you’re looking for, no need to break the bank.
Verdict: Your Best Laptops Under $800
Broken down by your needs, here are the best laptops under $800 no matter what you’re looking for.
Amongst laptops under $800, the Vivobook 15 is the cream of the crop.
The best graphics, the best Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a cooling system that can handle it all. This laptop is the ultimate gaming experience.
Everything you can want from a laptop with the portability of a tablet, all for an unbeatable price.
We hope this list is helpful. Remember, parts of this list are subjective, and while these are our top 5 best laptops under $800, you might conduct some of your own research and find that you disagree. We encourage you to use the information from this article and your new-found knowledge of computers to do your own research and make your own decision.