Cheap Laptops: Good Deal or Waste of Money?
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Everyone wants to get more for less. This is true when it comes to saving money on groceries The 3 Best Online Coupon Sites to Save You Money The 3 Best Online Coupon Sites to Save You Money Coupon sites are one of the best and easiest ways to save when shopping online. From quick deals to guides on how to control your budget, here are the best coupon resources on the Web. Read More gaming on the cheap 6 Ways To Game On The Cheap [MUO Gaming] 6 Ways To Game On The Cheap [MUO Gaming] Playing video games isn't the harmful activity some politicians and media outlets would have you believe, otherwise every single gamer out there would have psychological problems brought on by their hobby. However, playing video games... Read More , and certainly when buying a new computer. Computers can be extremely expensive. Which is why they’re one of the biggest areas where people strive to save money.

You might be tempted to buy a cheap laptop hoping to save some money up front, but the lack of quality could cause problems in the future. Let’s look at the situations in which cheap laptops shine, and where they fall flat. In the end, you’ll be able to decide if you should shell out the extra cash Are You Wasting Money If You Buy An Expensive Laptop? Are You Wasting Money If You Buy An Expensive Laptop? The average consumer buys a laptop that costs about $600, a behavior that’s persisted for years. Yet there are also laptops on the market which cost two or even three times as much. Are they... Read More  for a higher-end machine.

What Are You Buying the Laptop For?

This probably won’t surprise you, but people buy laptops for a variety of reasons. Some people buy Macs no matter the cost Drinking the Kool Aid: 8 Reasons People Love Their Macs Drinking the Kool Aid: 8 Reasons People Love Their Macs When you can buy a laptop for under $500, and a Chromebook will satisfy most people's computing needs, why do people insist on spending well over $1000 on a Mac? Read More because they value the Apple experience. Others might just need to access email on the go. Still others buy a machine with a touch screen so they can mock up drawings quickly.

Many people who spend the least money possible on a laptop What's the Cheapest Laptop I Can Get Away With? What's the Cheapest Laptop I Can Get Away With? What's the cheapest laptop you can get away with? $100. A Benjamin gets you bottom-of-the-barrel hardware with enough horsepower to cover basic computing tasks. But don't expect anything approaching quality. Read More do so because they either don’t have the money for something more expensive or because they don’t see a more expensive model as worth the cost.

Thus, we need to ask what you need out of your machine first. If you just need basic internet access for email and news, a cheap Chromebook will get you by just fine How to Decide If a Chromebook Is Right For You How to Decide If a Chromebook Is Right For You Is a Chromebook for everyone? In a word: No. There is a time and a place for a Chromebook. If you are contemplating this laptop replacement, there are a few things you should consider first. Read More . Conversely, if your profession requires editing HD video every day, a Chromebook won’t do for you at all. Keep that in mind while you’re shopping for a new laptop.

Areas That Often Suffer in Cheap Machines

Chances are, your needs probably fall somewhere between the above extremes. You don’t need the most powerful machine ever, but you need something beyond the basics. Let’s talk about the computer aspects that commonly take a hit when you buy a cheap laptop so you understand what you’re paying for.


A screen’s resolution Graphic Display Resolutions - What Do The Numbers Mean? [MakeUseOf Explains] Graphic Display Resolutions - What Do The Numbers Mean? [MakeUseOf Explains] Display resolutions can be a rather cryptic business, with multiple standards used to describe the same display resolution in 10 different ways. All of those technical terms tend to change based on the display's purpose... Read More dictates how many pixels it can show at once, and thus how clear the picture is. For reference, 1080p is 1920 x 1080 while 4K is 4096 × 2160. A lot of cheap computers display in something like 1366 x 768, which isn’t great. Everything you do on your PC, from editing spreadsheets to watching videos, looks worse on a cheap screen.

Another way that the screen suffers is overall size. If you don’t hook your laptop up to an external monitor How to Use Two Monitors: 3 Steps to a Multiple Monitor Setup How to Use Two Monitors: 3 Steps to a Multiple Monitor Setup You'd think that all you'd have to do is plug any video display into the computer port on your laptop or PC. Well, it's a little more complicated than that. Read More and the screen is only 11 inches, you won’t have much room to work with.

Hard Drive

Your computer’s hard drive is where all of your data is saved, and in cheap machines, you can run into two problems.

The first is low disk space. Average laptops now ship with a 500 GB hard drive. While this sounds like a lot, you won’t actually get the full 500 GB for yourself. If you plan on keeping lots of games, videos, and programs on your system, you could run out of space fast. You can always purchase an external hard drive to get more space, but that’s an additional cost.

Second, the traditional hard disk drives in cheap machines are much slower than newer solid-state drives. While SSDs are more expensive and don’t offer the huge capacities of HDDs, they offer incredible performance. With a cheaper laptop, you won’t get the faster boot times, app launching, and file transfer speed that come with an SSD 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD The world of home computing is moving towards solid state drives for storage. Should you buy one? Read More .


Random access memory, or RAM, temporarily holds open programs on your computer. We’ve explained everything about how RAM works A Quick & Dirty Guide to RAM: What You Need to Know A Quick & Dirty Guide to RAM: What You Need to Know RAM is a crucial component of every computer, but it can be confusing to understand if you aren't a tech guru. In this post, we break it down in easy-to-grasp terms. Read More if you’re interested. Suffice it to say here that with a lack of RAM, you’re going to notice a huge decrease in performance.

The first result on Amazon for “laptop” has 4 GB of RAM, which is decent but not enough for running lots of programs in tandem. If you have ten programs running in the background while you have twelve Chrome tabs open and are streaming from Spotify while working in Adobe Premiere, 4 GB of RAM isn’t going to cut it.

You can only use so much RAM How Much RAM Do You Really Need? How Much RAM Do You Really Need? RAM is like short term memory. The more you multitask, the more you need. Find out how much your computer has, how to get the most out of it, or how to get more. Read More , but having 8 or 12 GB will give you a lot more breathing room than a basic 4 GB machine. Memory cleaners like CleanMem are snake oil CleanMem - A Windows Memory Cleaner That Works? CleanMem - A Windows Memory Cleaner That Works? CleanMem claims to reduce your computer's RAM usage. Even if it succeeds, you don't need it. Here's why, and what to do instead. Read More , so don’t expect to use one to compensate for lack of RAM.

Touchpad, Keyboard, and More

The three above components are the biggest hangups on cheap laptops, but there are several more items to watch out for. On a low-quality machine, you might find a touchpad that’s too small, or difficult to click. The keyboard might have an awkward layout or sticky buttons, and the built-in speakers probably aren’t great.

Batteries are another common component often sacrificed to cut costs. A budget laptop isn’t going to feature an all-day battery, so you may have to perform some shenanigans to squeeze more battery life out of a charge Get More Runtime From A Single Laptop Battery Charge Get More Runtime From A Single Laptop Battery Charge Does your laptop battery charge not last long? This guide will offer tips on how to get more runtime from a single charge, using simple Windows settings. Read More .

How Do You Decide?

We’ve discussed the needs of different folks, and the aspects of cheap machines that can cause problems. The best way to decide for yourself if you should buy a cheap machine or shell out an extra few hundred dollars is to consider how much time you spend on your computer.

If you only hop on your laptop for twenty minutes a day to check email and browse social media, you don’t need much more than the bare minimum. You’ll have to deal with slow boot times and a lackluster display, but since you won’t use it much, it’s not worth $300 more to avoid these nuisances.

However, if you spend hours every day on your computer, it’s a different story. When you use your PC for an entertainment hub, developing your hobby 17 Geeky DIY Hobbies You Can Learn in a Small Space 17 Geeky DIY Hobbies You Can Learn in a Small Space Hobbies are important for a well-rounded life, but many DIY hobbies require a lot of room for machines or materials. Here are some great options if you don't have much space to spare. Read More , or working, a slow machine can drastically worsen your experience. Squinting over a tiny screen while you wait for your computer to unfreeze is simply miserable.

We’re all about getting the most for your money, but this doesn’t always mean refusing to spend. Rather, it’s worth spending a little more money on the items you’re going to use all the time Get the Most for Your Money: 8 Apps Worth Paying For Get the Most for Your Money: 8 Apps Worth Paying For Not all app subscriptions are worth the money, but these eight could end up saving you time, money, and effort in the long run. Read More . An extra $20 for a more comfortable pair of shoes that you wear every day, or paying extra for a great pillow so you sleep better, pays for itself. The same is true of your laptop.

Future-proofing a PC you don’t use is a waste 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Future-Proof Your PC 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Future-Proof Your PC Is future-proofing your PC ever a good idea? Here are several reasons why you might want to reconsider. Read More , but suffering from slow performance on a machine you use every day wastes time and will stress you out. Compare spending $400 on a computer that you scrap after a year because it’s so slow (and have to buy another one for $400) to buying one for $700 that lasts for three years.

Do You Use a Cheap Machine?

It’s wise to think ahead when it comes to buying a new PC. It might sting to pay more money now than you were expecting, but a one-time cost for something you use every day for three years is a worthwhile investment.

If your current computer is still hanging on, check out our tips for speeding up an older machine How to Fix Your Slow Computer How to Fix Your Slow Computer Few things are more frustrating than working with a slow computer. The issue can have multiple causes. We'll guide you through the steps to troubleshoot and fix your computer's performance problems. Read More (and tools to help Top Programs That Can Make Your Computer Run Faster Top Programs That Can Make Your Computer Run Faster Your computer's performance will degrade over time. Don't let it become too slow to bear! These programs can help you keep your Windows system running nice and speedy. Read More ) so you can continue saving for a new one. Should you decide you don’t need anything fancy, a Chromebook is a dead-simple machine Everything You Need To Know About Switching To A Chromebook Everything You Need To Know About Switching To A Chromebook Chromebooks run a slimmed-down operating system optimized for getting on the web with just the Chrome browser and Chrome apps. Can you switch to a Chromebook? Read More for getting online. And don’t forget to consider the possibility that you might not even need a laptop anymore 4 Reasons Why You Don't Need a Laptop Anymore 4 Reasons Why You Don't Need a Laptop Anymore The era of laptops may be coming to an end. In fact, there are several reasons why laptops are now sub-optimal purchases. Here's what you need to know! Read More .

Once you’ve weighed your options, check out our top five cheap laptops that are still high-quality The 5 Cheapest High-Quality Laptops for Students on a Tight Budget The 5 Cheapest High-Quality Laptops for Students on a Tight Budget There are Windows-based laptops that work well for student life and cost less than $600. Read More .

How long have you had your current laptop, and what did you end up paying for it? Let us know if you’ve had good luck with cheaper laptops or if you’ve shelled out for something top-notch!

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  1. Jasmine Holt
    January 18, 2018 at 12:14 am

    I bought a Toshiba satellite in 2015. I have been having issues with the performance since I bought it. I'm in school and am heavily reliant on the laptop to do what it's suppose to do. Man, I wasted close to $300 on a cheap computer when I could have just spent a little more and saved myself frustration. I'm in class embarrassed because my computer is frozen. I'm on blackboard sitting with 10 minutes left on a test because the computer screen has gone black and frozen. For goodness sake I couldn't even run citation machine in another tab without the computer becoming completely unresponsive. I can't tell you how long I've waited just trying to to login to Windows. How many times I've begged professors to allow me to take a exam again because my computer just gave up on life. Never again. I suffered for two years and I shall suffer no more. I am no longer a prisoner of a basic Intel Celeron processor.

    • Ben Stegner
      January 18, 2018 at 3:47 pm

      I'm sorry to hear you had such a negative experience. It's a shame because sometimes a cheaper machine is all someone can afford, but it comes with so many drawbacks in the future. Having an unreliable computer is so frustrating, especially in your case as a student.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. John S
    November 11, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Personally a cheap laptop might be fine in terms of performance for the end user. But you may end up with other compromises you wish you did not have. Such as poor battery life, terrible keyboard, bad sound quality, or lack of ports for external devices. Also screen quality typically suffers with cheaper notebooks and that to me is very important since everyone stares at the laptop for hours at a time. Also longevity comes into question with cheap laptops. My own observations of buying laptops for years is consumer grade laptops have focused more on fancy designs of late and not durability. Business grade seems to focus better on good screens, better keyboards and touchpad's and really flexible ports. Also they tend to hold up better in the long run.

  3. CMD
    December 23, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    I'd rather buy a secondhand Dell Latitude than a cheap crap Insipidron, or any of the other consumer crap. When I go cheap consumer it'll be a Chromebook, because it's cheap enough to replace and hasn't got the overhead of a full Windows OS. It is hassle-free compared with a Windows-running laptop too.

  4. Mike Walsh
    December 23, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    My old Dell Inspiron 1100 is 14 yrs old! It's been steadily upgraded as the years go past, which has kept it still usable. A P4 is pretty ancient nowadays, it's true.....but with 1.5 GB RAM and a 64 GB SSD (as well as two 64 GB 'nano' USBs for external storage), she still keeps chugging along. I've only just replaced the rechargeable CMOS battery for the first time.....and the main battery for the second.

  5. Mul
    December 23, 2016 at 5:46 am

    Had a Sony VAIO CS since 2009. Still holds up today apart from having to replace the fan twice which only cost me less than five dollars. Plays The Sims 4 and Football Manager 2016 just fine.

  6. Andy
    December 22, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    I've been using my late 2009 MacBook ever since I bought it. At a student discount it was a bit under 1000€, thanks to Upgrades to 8GB of RAM and a SSD it's still doing a really good job. Had to have the screen replaced about two years ago, but that wasn't too expensive.
    The original battery is still good enough for about 2-3h of surfing, giving power point presentations at school and so on.
    It was definitely a good buy and although its age is showing more often lately, I hope that we still can spend together a few years.
    After that I'll probably go Apple again, but that's a decision I can't make today.
    My gf bought a cheaper laptop about a year ago. Her main selling point was the color, so she's happy with it, but I would never want to have a 1366x786 display.

    • Ben Stegner
      December 23, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      I have a 2010 MacBook and with 8 GB of RAM and an SSD, it runs almost as well as a new machine. I don't use it all the time, but it's amazing that it's still kicking.

      I think you don't realize how poor low resolutions look until you experience something better :)

  7. Lou
    December 22, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Replaceable batteries is a must have if you are looking at purchasing a lower end laptop, as the battery is usually the weakest component. The last cheap laptop I owned lasted nearly 6 years, thanks to two battery replacements.

    • Ben Stegner
      December 23, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      This is a great point. Some laptops make battery replacement a cinch, while other are near impossible to remove.

  8. James
    December 22, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Chromebooks rock the laptop market. A recent Acer 17" purchase is some of the best money I've ever spent on a computer.

    • Ben Stegner
      December 23, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      I don't use my Chromebook much, but have been very pleased with it. As long as you know what it's for, it's a great machine.