7 best cheap laptops of 2024: Tested and reviewed

How we tested

Mashable staff tested all of the laptops in this guide (we tried a previous version of the Framework Laptop 13). At minimum, this involved inspecting their build quality and using them for a variety of real-world tasks for several weeks at a time. We worked with different kinds of documents, checked emails, watched videos, took photos on their webcams, participated in video calls, listened to music (via Spotify), played games (if possible), and experimented with any unique software features or use cases they claimed to support.

Additionally, we ran industry-standard benchmark software testing on a handful of the newer laptops featured here (specifically the Lenovo Yoga 7i 14, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3, the HP Chromebook Plus 15.6-inch, and the Acer Nitro V 15). We recently started implementing these benchmarks in our testing, and you can expect to see them in all of our new laptop reviews going forward:

Performance benchmarks

We evaluate the overall performance of our testing units by putting them through the pertinent version of Primate Labs’ Geekbench 6. (We use the Windows version for Windows laptops, including gaming laptops, and Android for Chromebooks.) This test measures CPU performance in a handful of common tasks, and we record the resulting multi-core scores. The higher the score, the better.

To get a sense of gaming laptops’ graphical prowess, we also play Cyberpunk 2077 on them. If they had a discrete/dedicated NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphics card (as opposed to an integrated GPU that’s built into the CPU), we do this once with its DLSS tech off and again with DLSS on. This tests their raw GPU power and their performance with AI upscaling, respectively. We follow this up with 3DMark’s Time Spy benchmark for gaming PCs and record their scores. Again, higher is better.

Battery life benchmarks

To find the laptops with the best battery life, we assess our loaners’ stamina by having them run battery benchmarks. We look to see about nine to ten hours of battery life in the Windows laptops we test, for reference, with over 12 hours being exceptional. Gaming laptops are a different story: They only need to last at least two hours per charge to get our approval. (They earn extra brownie points for reaching the four-hour mark.) Meanwhile, eight hours is our baseline for Chromebooks, and nine to ten hours is the ideal.

We used UL Solutions’ PCMark 10 battery life stress test on the Surface Laptop Go and the Acer Nitro V 15, and Principled Technologies’ CrXPRT 2 battery life test on the Chromebook Plus 15.6-inch. Both tests ran a series of apps and functions until the laptop conked out.

On the Yoga 7i, we conducted a video rundown test that involved playing a looped 1080p version of Tears of Steel, a short open-source Blender movie, at 50 percent brightness. Going forward, we will only be using this rundown method to test laptop battery life.

After evaluating each model’s performance in these tests, we made our final recommendations based on whether they offered a good overall value for the money. For the purposes of this guide, we defined a “cheap laptop” as one that costs less than $1,000. We made a lone exception to this rule for the Framework Laptop 13 ($1,049): It requires a bigger upfront investment, but it’ll save you money on repair and replacement costs for years to come.

Finally, it should be noted that these aren’t the only cheap laptops we’ve tried — we’re constantly testing and assessing new models across different categories, and many don’t make the final cut. With that in mind, you can expect this guide to evolve on a pretty continuous basis. We’re always on the lookout for new top pick contenders.


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