In today’s world, laptops under $250 can be incredibly productive devices that aren’t just practical, they’re long-lasting as well. There are three kinds of laptops on this list: dated Macbooks, Chromebooks, and Windows laptops. Each has their strengths and weaknesses.
For most people, a Chromebook is a superb way to go. These devices are much faster than their Windows counterparts even if they have the specs; Chrome OS is a ligthweight operating system and it can run much more effectively than Windows can on a similar machine.
For those who need Windows for whatever reason, affordable laptops with Windows installations are usable, but not as smooth or pleasant as Chromebook. Still, their value is pretty undeniable as you won’t be pigeon-holed into using only web apps. Finally, there’s an older Macbook model on this list. Buying used Macs can be a good idea if that Mac has a replaceable hard drive and you can throw in an SSD. If you do this, you can be off to the races with a dependable machine – but with some limitations; for instance, some software won’t work.
Still, I personally have a 2007 Macbook and I enjoy it greatly for word processing and basic browsing. If you love OSX and tinkering, this can be an option worth looking at.
All that out of the way, here’s the top 5 best cheap laptops under $250.
1. Acer Chromebook
If you’re not familiar with the differences between a laptop and a Chromebook, here’s what you need to know. Chromebooks run on Google’s ChromeOS. Therefore, a Chromebook has some limitations that a regular Windows laptop does not, including the fact that many apps won’t work on your Chromebook without a Wi-Fi connection. Despite some limitations, Chromebooks remain a great laptop option for Google fans, and for people who already do a lot of work on documents in the cloud. This Acer Chromebook is a smart buy if you can handle the constraints and are on a budget.
2. Apple MacBook MB061LL/A 13.3″
While old Macbooks may not seem as nice as a new Chromebook, the shocking fact is that these little PCs can be a lot more pleasant to use with one key upgrade: changing out the hard drive. For $50 or so ($49.99 SSD), plus the price of installation (another $100 max), one is looking at spending about $240 to take a 2007 polycarbonate Macbook to new, usable status. Now this may seem absurd, most of our consumer intuition says that new is better, however, the 2007 Macbooks (assuming you can find one in good condition) have a retro chic appearance, comparable processing power to a Chromebook, and have a full operating system with much more storage space.
Of course, this option means that you won’t have access to the newest Mac software and many new apps may not work (though everything within the browser will). Still, I can personally vouch for souping-up an old Macbook. It makes for an affordable and attractive Chromebook alternative with serious hipster credibility. That said, it’s more geared toward the tinkering crowd than your average student.
Price: ~$240 ($100 plus $140 of upgrades and installations)
3. HP Stream 14″ (Certified Refurbished)
For those who need a Windows PC, but want to spend as little as possible, the HP Stream achieves just that. Let’s be clear: this is not nearly as fast as a Chromebook, but it does run a complete version of Windows 10 and that’s very impressive at this price. If you need apps like Microsoft Works or even light Photoshop use, the HP Stream can get the job done – just don’t expect it to be quick or super smooth.
This laptop boasts a 1366 x 768 resolution screen which isn’t a ton of pixels, but it’s fine for most use cases; that said, you wouldn’t really be able to use multiple applications at the same time on a system like this. In addition, it has pretty good IO, including 1 USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0, an HDMI out and an SD card reader. Not bad for the price! It’s a machine with real compromises, but if you need Windows and you’re a patient person, this is a very affordable device that can get the job done.
4. Samsung Chromebook Notebook Exynos 5250
Another Chromebook worth considering is this attractive model from Samsung. Boasting a screen that’s nearly a foot wide, this big laptop feels expansive, despite some of the limitations that come with relying on ChromeOS. While it has just a 16 GB solid state drive and 2GB RAM, you can get more storage through Google Drive.
5. Lenovo N32 11.6″ Touchscreen Laptop
For those who want a laptop that can open to 180 degrees, has a full Windows install, and a touch screen, this Lenovo model offers a ton of value at a low price. Of course, don’t expect too much: it’s for basic Windows use and just like the HP Stream above, it will struggle with intensive tasks like gaming or editing photos. That said, this is a great device for a variety of use; users love the display, 360 degree hinge, microSD card slot, and full HD display. Plus, it’s pretty rugged, especially for a clamshell.
Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
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