Best Inexpensive™ Laptop Computers for 2020

If you or someone you love will be heading to college soon, a laptop will be absolutely essential. Nowadays, a student’s computer is just as important as his or her student ID. But where to start?

College is expensive enough so it’s important to shop smart. But not to worry. I  have done the hard part figuring out our picks for Best Inexpensive™ laptops for students—and others—looking for the best quality at the best value.

First, determine what your student will need in a laptop. Not sure? Here’s a quick list of what I believe the typical college student needs in a computer:

  • Write papers
  • Access the Internet
  • Email
  • Store photos and music
  • Stream Netflix, YouTube, movies, and videos
  • Zoom and Skype with friends and family

Both of my picks below—one Chromebook and one Windows-based—are best for college and graduate students, but they’ll work for those in high school, too. And you can expect these laptops to last at least five years, which in most cases will take a student through an entire college or grad school experience.

 Best Inexpensive Chromebook Laptop

By way of review, a Chromebook is not a brand name per se, but rather a type of laptop computer or notebook that runs Chrome OS as its operating system.

A Chromebook is designed to be used while connected to the Internet. This is not a problem as WiFi is expected as part of today’s campus or online learning experience both from an educational as well a social perspective. Students expect fast WiFi so that they can learn anytime and anywhere on campus or off—as well as always be available for friends and family. There are many brands of Chromebooks.

All Chromebooks have this one thing in common: They run countless Google apps (software) for Chromebooks and those apps are all free.

Just keep this in mind: a Chromebook is not a Microsoft Windows or a MAC computer. Chromebook is a much better (and so much cheaper) in many situations. A Chromebook operates with Chrome OS which is secure, fast, and super simple.

A Chromebook laptop is ideal for anyone who wants to be able to write papers, surf the Internet, communicate by email, stream movies and videos and manage lots of photos and collect tons of music, relying on cloud storage (as opposed to hard drive storage) of documents and files. Chromebooks have become so popular, they now outsell Apple’s range of Macs.

Asus Chromebook Flip C302 2-in-1

While not the cheapest Chromebook out there, I believe this Asus Chromebook is the best for the money. It works as both a laptop and notebook, flipping into either style, thanks to its flexible 360-degree hinge.

Super powerful with 4GB RAM, Intel Core m3 processor, and long-life battery rated up to 10 hours, this Chromebook starts up in seconds and lasts all day, up to 10 hours. Weighs just 2.65 pounds. Backlit keyboard and touchscreen. A dream machine! Also available with Intel Core m5 and Intel Core m7 for those who require a more robust machine.


Best Inexpensive Windows Laptop

Asus ZenBook UX330UA

For those enrolled in classes requiring the student to have a Windows-based laptop to download powerful software so it’s onboard, this Asus ZenBook is my pick. This is a beautiful machine offering a super-long battery life.

This laptop is super lightweight with latest 8th Gen Intel Processor, 8GB RAM, 256 GB solid-state drive (SSD); 13.3 inch screen with full HD, backlit keyboard, touchpad, and battery up to 12 hours. Comes with Windows 10 Home pre-installed. For the money, you just can’t beat this Asus ZenBook.

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6 replies
  1. TwHess says:

    The forced obsolescence of Chromebooks has always been a deal breaker for me. Almost seems . . .unAmerican.


  2. Debbie says:

    I agree with Cath. Your definition of inexpensive is much different than mine. There is no way I would spend that kind of money! I have a 17″ Acer that is now 15 years old and still going strong and a 5 yr old 17″ HP i bought to replace it in case the Acer died and I only paid about $200 for them when they went on sale.

  3. Cath says:

    Your definition of inexpensive is much different than mine. There are other good Chromebooks out there at least 1/3 cheaper, if not more. Also, keep in mind that Chromebooks have an expiration date, so be aware of how much money you’re spending now. If you buy one for almost $600 now, you may have to buy a new one just two years from now.

    • Mary says:

      My choices for Best Inexpensive are always based on considerable research and based on more than just the prive. You’re right there are cheaper Chromebooks, but they just don’t hit all the marks for me. It’s OK if you don’t agree! All opinions welcome.

      • Cath says:

        Perhaps using the word “inexpensive” should be replaced with a phrase like “bang for your buck” or something. I understand hitting all the marks, but the more marks you hit, the more expensive it gets. I do appreciate your research and the work you do (big fan!) but there is a comparable Chromebook (Acer Spin 311) for $270 on Amazon vs $550 for the Asus Flip C302.

    • Sarah says:

      I mean, if you’re looking for only cheap, just go see what Walmart has to offer and buy the cheapest thing you can find. What Mary is doing is checking out all the specs and showing us the best value. A cheap laptop is not going to give you what you need, unless you just need a Facebook machine. Thank you Mary, for your research. My daughter has been using her techie brother’s hand me down laptop which is dying. I’m in the market for a new one.


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