How to buy a budget laptop without getting ripped off?

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In the PC world, companies love to tout expensive laptops. But neither everyone can afford nor do they have the use of such expensive laptops. Even a $500 or Rs. 40,000 laptop is capable of serving you well for years. There’s just one problem: the brands. They have flooded the market with hundreds of slightly tweaked configurations to maximize profit. Choosing the right budget laptop is pretty difficult if you don’t know what to look for. Worry not! We’re here to help you out with How to buy a budget laptop without getting ripped off.

This guide can help you buy a budget laptop without getting screwed on its specifications. So let’s get started.

Operating System: Windows or Chrome?

The most important choice to make is the operating system. Budget laptops either run on Microsoft Windows or Google ChromeOS. The latter is often less expensive, with budget Chromebooks sold for as little as $125 or Rs. 20,000.

ChromeOS is a fast, smooth, simple, and easy-to-use operating system ideal for people with a good internet connection. You can access most apps and services online and have a more limited selection to choose from. This is best for students as it can help with online classes and homework.

Windows is versatile, powerful, and functional. It offers you access to thousands of applications to handle just about any task. Most keyboards, mice, and displays are designed for Windows first, though they can also be used with ChromeOS. However, Windows isn’t as smooth as ChromeOS and it requires a powerful laptop to run well. If you’re someone who wants to do heavy-duty works such as video-editing, gaming, or starting their own business, then go for Windows.

Still, if you can’t make a decision then stick with Windows.

Processor: Intel Core I3 or AMD Ryzen 3 (or better)

Budget laptops are sold with a variety of low-end processors that you’d never see on expensive PCs. If you come across processors from MediaTek and Samsung then avoid them. As these processors are based on old designs and performance.

One best-selling laptop on Amazon is Lenovo’s Chromebook C330 that has MediaTek MT8173. Intel’s Celeron and AMD’s Athlon processors are not much better than MediaTek. Laptops with these processors can hit prices below $200, but quicker machines remain affordable. You can find Intel Core i3 and AMD Ryzen in laptops that start at $300. That’s worth the money.

RAM: aim for 8GB, but less can also work

RAM or Random Access Memory is important for multitasking and more demanding applications. The sweet spot for a budget laptop is 8GB. Apps that require more RAM might not perform well on a budget laptop for other reasons anyway.

However, 8GB of RAM will push on the upper end of a $500 budget. If you have a choice then go for it otherwise you might have to settle for less. Many budget laptops have 4GB or 6GB.

Honestly, that’s totally fine. Even 4GB of RAM is fine for web browsing, writing term paper, online shopping, personal accounting, etc. But if you want to do photo or video editing then 4GB won’t work for you.

Hard Drive: aim for 128GB SSD or Better

Look for a hard drive with at least 128GB of storage. This amount is pretty tight, but it’s manageable if you stick with cloud storage for large files. 256GB of storage is better but you’ll have a hard time finding it under $500.

Budget laptops typically offer a solid-state hard drive instead of an old-fashioned hard disk drive. Although you’ll find some budget laptops especially Chromebooks with 32GB or 64GB eMMC hard drive instead of a solid-state drive. This solid-state storage delivers poor performance. Though eMMC storage is fine for Chromebooks, never buy a Windows laptop with eMMC storage.

Display: 1080P or Bust

Most laptops have a 1080P display aka 1920×1080 resolution. However, some budget laptops shave costs with a display resolution of 1366×768. If they’re tricky, they’ll advertise this as an HD resolution without specifying the pixel count. We don’t recommend you to buy it. In 1366×768 or HD resolution, the display will look grainy and pixelated.

What about display size? Most people should spring for a 14 or 15-inch laptop. A 13 inch is a good option if you plan on taking the laptop with you while traveling or commuting. Don’t buy a laptop smaller than a 13-inch display.

Graphics: 3D gaming is out of reach (mostly)

If you want to play PC games on your budget laptop then you’ll have to stick to older games and 2D titles. Budget laptops don’t have graphics hardware separate from the processor. You can play some 3D games like Counter-strike or League of Legends but not more visually demanding games. Although a laptop with AMD’s Ryzen 5 5500U can handle some modern games like Grand Theft Auto V at low-detail settings.

About everything else:

The specifications that we have covered are the key decisions you’ll face. Battery life, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, performance are also some of the other factors but those elements differ less between laptops. A budget laptop will have an average of 4-6 hours of battery life. It’ll also have passable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and it’ll weigh around 4-5 pounds.

A budget laptop can handle a huge variety of tasks and remain useful for years. It won’t beat a luxury laptop on performance but surely can beat it on value.

I hope this article was helpful and you'll be able to find a laptop that suits best of your interests. Also, if you want to read similar articles then here are a few recommendations for you guys. 

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