In recent years, budget laptops have morphed from clunky gray slabs of plastic with creaky hardware to efficient Chromebooks and Microsoft Windows-based systems that offer respectable specs, increasingly sleek styling, and significant cost savings. While the performance of cheap laptops is still decidedly modest, the best ones are quite capable of most everyday computing tasks: emailing, web surfing, creating documents, and streaming movies and shows online.
Now that consumers are getting used to cloud computing, laptop makers are content to sacrifice on-board storage. Gone are large mechanical hard drives, replaced by faster, more compact eMMC drives. The result: Even cheap laptops are getting leaner and lighter. Some manufacturers also offer clearer, crisper displays with full 1080p high definition, and a few are incorporating relatively new technologies such as USB-C ports and support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi, both faster than their predecessors.
Cheap laptops may not impress serious techies looking for feature-packed machines with lightning-fast processors, but their low prices, able productivity, and easy portability will entice many thrifty yet discerning shoppers, particularly students heading off to school. Cheapism.com's top picks under $500 include traditional laptops, Chromebooks, and even a convertible laptop/tablet hybrid with touchscreen technology.
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