Buying computing tech should not have to be a daunting task. While you have to consider a budget, you also have to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth.

Budget laptops can be quite powerful. It’s not like you have to spend a lot of money to get a decent computer. Good hardware is cheaper than ever and you can buy quite a powerful laptop even with a limited budget.

These laptops can run most basic tasks like programs from the Office Suite. They can also allow you to play online games, watch movies or other streaming videos. Since all laptops carry a webcam, you can also use them to chat with friends and family while you’re away.

The one thing you should ask yourself is what you’ll be using the laptop for. If you’re thinking about basic programs like the ones mentioned, then you can find a cheap laptop that’s perfect for such use.

If you’re into games with high detail graphics, then you should rethink your budget. Gaming laptops need a dedicated graphics card. This is because modern 3D games need extra resources to render virtual worlds in crisp detail.

The same goes for design programs. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing web design or 3D design. A designer’s laptop needs to carry powerful hardware. This is because it has to handle programs like Adobe Photoshop or CAD software.

For now, let’s just focus on what type of laptop you can get for a limited budget. First, let’s define what a budget laptop should cost.

Any laptop that’s under $500 is, in essence, a budget laptop. That’s not to say you can’t get a laptop that’s under $300, for instance.

Just know that you will find the hardware mentioned here on laptops in this price range.

Here are a few aspects you should know about any laptop to make an informed decision.

Processor

The processor of a computer is the heart of the thing. It dictates how many things it can do at once, by the number of cores it integrates. You can find 4th – 6th generation Core i3 or Core i5 processors from Intel installed on these laptops. AMD also has a few good choices. You shouldn’t opt for Celeron or Atom processors. These will not function well with software that’s a bit more demanding. While these are energy-efficient processors, they are a bit too underpowered.

RAM

The amount of RAM your laptop carries dictates just how many tasks you can run at once. Multitasking relates to this. If your laptop carries just 2GB of RAM, then you shouldn’t expect to run more than one task at a time. Going to 4GB can provide a significant boost in performance. The 6-8GB of RAM is your target here. You can find quite a few laptop models that incorporate 4-8GB of RAM. Just don’t settle for anything less than 4GB, or you’ll soon regret it.

Hard Drive

The hard drive stores all your information, media, and files. Its capacity should provide a clue about how much you can actually store.

While you can find regular HDDs on most laptops, look for the ones that carry SSDs. These are hard to come by, but you can find a few laptops that carry this type of drive. SSDs are about 10-12 times faster than regular hard disk drives. This means faster boot times and faster software loading times. They also impact just how well you can multitask.

Portability

You won’t get the latest ultrabook on a budget. That doesn’t mean you should sacrifice portability. The materials used in its construction, hardware, screen size, and battery determine the weight.

Make sure you get something you won’t dread carrying around with you.

Upgrade-ability

Now that we’ve run through three basic hardware components, we should focus on upgrade-ability. A laptop is only as good as the internal hardware. Most manufacturers allow you to install extra RAM or swap the hard drive for another one.

You should look for laptops that can be “hacked”. They should have an easy to remove back panel. This panel usually covers the RAM modules and the hard drive bay. If you’re not getting a uni-body notebook, then you should be in the clear.

You should have a basic idea of what to get by now. You can now browse online stores. Use their categories and filters to find the perfect budget laptop for yourself.

You might also want to have a look at our best 13-inch budget laptops guide. We dive a bit deeper into each of these aspects and provide you with the top 7 budget portable laptops right now.

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