Think you’ll need a new laptop since the old one is throwing too many errors? Maybe you don’t want to spend that much on a new machine. It’s quite OK to shop on a budget.

Budget laptops are not a bad thing. They evolved so much that by today’s standards a budget laptop was high-end just a few couple of years ago.

Now you can buy full-featured, ultralight laptops for a fraction of what they used to cost in the past.

Hardware and Features

You don’t have to worry about getting a slow laptop for little money nowadays. Processors have evolved past the point where basic tasks seemed too much to handle. You can buy a budget laptop and use it to do common tasks.

You can browse the web, write papers, watch movies without running into any problems. Integrated GPUs have evolved too. They can run online games pretty well.

Demanding 3D games will still need a high-end GPU. As long as you’re not getting a gaming laptop, you should be fine.

RAM has become quite cheap. Most budget laptops come with at least 4GB of RAM installed now. I suggest you get a laptop with at least 4GB of RAM and expansion options. That way you can invest down the path on a RAM upgrade, should the need arise. This will provide you with more performance and allow you to run many tasks at the same time.

Battery life is another important aspect that’s often overlooked. Battery technology hasn’t evolved that much in recent years. Manufacturers are producing stronger batteries that last a bit more on a single charge. You should expect a battery life of at least 3-4 hours for a budget laptop, and settle for nothing less.

Storage is another important thing. Here you’ll run into two main options. Either get a laptop with a few hundred GB of storage or one that uses Flash storage. Flash storage doesn’t rely on spinning disks to store information. It’s also faster than traditional HDD storage options. Their capacity is in the tens of GB range, but this won’t be a problem.

Budget laptops that use Flash storage come bundled with free cloud-based storage. This way you’ll have access to your information on all connected devices. Keep in mind that you’ll need an active internet connection to use the cloud storage feature.

Connectivity is important. Budget laptops will carry common USB 2.0 ports and some might even carry USB 3.0. They will also use an SD card slot and 802.11n WiFi connectivity.

If you can find a laptop that also carries an HDMI port, then you should consider that a big plus. This will allow you to extend your screen to a secondary display or projector.

Chromebooks and Hybrids

Moving to the ultralight laptop category, we run into Chromebooks and hybrid laptops.

Chromebooks are netbooks that run the Chrome Operating System, from Google. In recent years they saw massive upgrades. You can find low-priced Chromebooks with a strong processor, 4GB of RAM and an SSD installed.

These systems also offer a longer battery life. Like all connected devices, you’ll need easy access to wireless networks. Chromebooks’ storage space is quite low. It relies more on cloud storage than its installed drive.

Hybrids are laptop/tablet combinations. These convertible notebooks allow you to switch between the laptop and tablet functionality fast. Some of them will fold the keyboard to the back of the screen. Others function with a docking keyboard which you can take away.

Now that you know what your options are, you can start looking for these specs the next time you visit a store or browse through online shops.

We’ve built a small guide for the best 15-inch laptops under $500 where we’ve explored the specs you should keep an eye out for, along with 10 cheap laptop models we recommend right now.

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