How to buy a budget laptop without getting ripped off
PCWorld|January 2022
Even the cheapest laptops are expensive. Shop smart with this guide.
MATT SMITH

PC brands love to tout expensive, high-end laptops, but history has shown most people buy a budget laptop. And why not? A $500 laptop can be a capable machine that will serve you well for years.

There’s just one problem: The brands are on to you. They’ve flooded the market with hundreds of slightly tweaked configurations designed to maximum profit. Choosing the right budget laptop is pretty difficult if you don’t know what to look for. It can get especially tricky with sale models, as you’ll often find retailers trying to offload less desirable older or poorly configured models among all the deals.

Our guide can help you buy a budget laptop without getting screwed on its specifications. If you’re looking for more concrete buying recommendations across a mix of budgets, our roundup of the best laptop deals can also help (fave.co/33Lcczj).

OPERATING SYSTEM: WINDOWS OR CHROMEOS?

The most important choice you must make is the operating system. Budget laptops run MicrosoftWindows or Google ChromeOS. The latter is often less expensive, with budget Chromebooks sold for as little as $125.

ChromeOS is a fast, smooth, simple operating system ideal for people with a good internet connection, a preference for Google services, and basic expectations. You will access most apps and services online and have a more limited selection of apps and services to choose from.

Windows is versatile, powerful, and functional. It offers you access to hundreds of thousands of applications to handle just about any task. Most keyboards, mice, and displays are designed for Windows first, though they may also work with ChromeOS. Windows isn’t as smooth as ChromeOS and it requires a more powerful laptop in order to run well.

Can’t make a decision? Stick with Windows. Its broad app support means it’s never a bad option.

PROCESSOR: STICK WITH INTEL CORE I3 OR AMD RYZEN 3 (OR BETTER)

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