While everyone would love to take out an Apple MacBook or a Dell Precision laptop for their graphic design work, unfortunately not everyone can afford a high-priced laptop. That shouldn’t mean you can’t get a great-performing laptop at a great price.
We feel like you should always be able to get a great product without having to take out a second mortgage to afford it. With our list of the Best Budget Laptops for Graphic Designers & Creatives in 2021, we’ve made sure to choose laptops that not only provide you with great performance but without breaking the bank as well.
You can jump straight to the list or scroll down further for some help on how to choose the best budget laptop for graphic design.
Top 15 Best Budget Laptops for Graphic Designers and Creatives in 2021
A budget-friendly laptop can be as impressive as any other laptop that you spend a month’s pay on. The key is to make sure that it comes with the specifications that you need for your work. We feel that our list of the laptops accomplishes this. Check out our choices below to find the best laptop for artists & designers.
- Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 — The best budget laptop blending performance and value (Editor’s Choice)
- Apple MacBook Air — The best budget Apple MacBook (Editor’s Choice)
- Acer Chromebook 714 — The best laptop for G-Suite aficionados
- Samsung Chromebook 3 — The best waterproof laptop
- Acer Swift 3 — The best Windows laptop for Apple fans
- Microsoft Surface Go 2 — The best 2-in-1 budget laptop
- Lenovo Chromebook Duet — The best ultra-budget laptop
- Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1 — The best budget-friendly 2-in-1 laptop
- Dell Inspiron 11 3180 — The best laptop for non-Chrome fans
- Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 Chromebook — The best budget laptop for videos
- Asus Vivobook 15 — The best budget laptop with great specs and price
- Acer Nitro 5 — The best budget laptop for gaming
- HP Chromebook 11 — The best budget laptop in a small package
- Acer Chromebook 14 — The best budget alternative to the MacBook Air
- Acer Aspire 5 — The best mid-range budget Laptop
Can you afford more? See our post:
What is the best budget laptop for graphic design?
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 is the best budget laptop for graphic design. Have a look at our comparison table to find the one which fits your requirements best.
The Top 15 Budget Laptops in 2021
1. Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 Laptop (Editor’s Choice)
An extraordinary blend of performance, flexibility, and value
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 | Graphics: AMD Integrated Graphics | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 14″ FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS touchscreen | Storage: 256GB
A 2-in-1 convertible laptop, the IdeaPad Flex 5 14 laptop from Lenovo offers you a great computing performance that would cost twice as much from other manufacturers. With good connectivity options, a strong chassis, and a keyboard that’s comfortable to use, the Flex 5 is an incredibly well-designed option.
The display, while a good size at 14 inches, could be brighter and overall the laptop itself might be better if it were a tad lighter, the Flex 5 is a great laptop at an incredible price making it one of the most affordable laptops for graphic design. We consider this laptop the best budget laptop for designers and artists because of its extraordinary blend of power, flexibility and value.
|➕ Strong performance||➖ Heavy for a 14-inch ultraportable (3.3 lbs)|
|➕ Excellent value||➖ Dim display (only 250-nit)|
|➕ Durable body|
|➕ Touch input is supported|
|➕ The webcam comes with a privacy shutter|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- Thin, light, and stylish – This 2-in-1 laptop weighs just 3.64 pounds and is only 0.82" thick. It's soft and comfortable to the touch, with a durable paint that creates a better user experience....
- The 10-point, 14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS touchscreen allows the Lenovo Flex 5 14" 2-in-1 laptop to be comfortable, fun, and easy to use. It's also great to look at, with 4-side narrow bezels
- The 360⁰ hinge lets you use your 2-in-1 touchscreen laptop in whatever mode works best for you; Use it in 'Laptop' mode for everyday computing, 'Tent' mode for sharing things, 'Stand' mode for...
- Enjoy up to 10 hours of battery life, plus quick charge to 80% in just 1 hour
- Powered by the AMD Ryzen 5 4500U mobile processor with Radeon graphics, you have the performance to do more, from anywhere. With more cores, you'll experience responsiveness that leaps into action for...
2. Apple MacBook Air (Editor’s Choice)
The best budget-friendly MacBook
CPU: Apple M1 | Graphics: Integrated 7-core /8-core GPU | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) 2,560 x 1,600 LED-backlit display with IPS technology | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD | Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 inches
Oh, we know you’re gonna scream at us that a MacBook really doesn’t fit the definition of “budget-friendly” but when compared to the rest of Apple’s lineup, the MacBook Air is a great budget-friendly option. Packed with the Apple-developed, ARM-based M1 chip, the MacBook Air provides you with a laptop that performs amazingly and has the tech to back it up.
Available in three different colors, the MacBook Air is likely at the high end of many frugal designer’s budgets but if you can muster up enough to buy it, you’ll walk away completely satisfied. This is one of the most affordable Apple laptops for graphic design.
|➕ Great retina display||➖ Limited choice for ports (only 2 USB C available)|
|➕ Latest generation keyboard along with touch trackpad||➖ No touchscreen option available|
|➕ Great performance with Apple’s new M1 processor|
|➕ Touch ID is available|
|➕ Great battery life|
|➕ Sound quality is great in comparison to other MacBook|
Latest Price on Amazon:
A great laptop for G-Suite aficionados
CPU: 8th Generation Intel Core i3-8130U | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 14″ (1920 x 1080) ComfyView IPS Multi-Touch Screen | Storage: 64GB – 128GB eMMC
Because of their cost-efficient design, Chromebooks haven’t made an impact in the business world as it has with students and classrooms. The Chromebook 714 from Acer hopes to buck that trend with its affordable price and aluminum chassis. With fancy business features such as Google Assistant and a fingerprint reader, and also includes an Intel Core i3 processor and a 1080p, 14-inch touch screen makes it a great choice for boardrooms or workspaces.
The only downside is that the display is a little less brilliant than we would like but overall, the Chromebook 714 from Acer is a great budget laptop for everything you need to do.
|➕ Smooth performance||➖ ChromeOS has limitations|
|➕ Excellent battery life||➖ The screen could use a brightness boost|
|➕ Full HD screen||➖ Somewhat heavy|
|➕ Build looks classy|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- Plus Chromebooks offer fast performance, smooth video calls and ample storage.
- Chromebook runs on Chrome OS - an operating system by Google that is built for the way we live today. It comes with built-in virus protection, updates automatically , boots up in seconds and continues...
- All the Google apps you know and love come standard on every Chromebook, which means you can edit, download, and convert Microsoft Office files in Google Docs, Sheets and slides.
- With the Google Play Store, you can access a rich library of apps, games, music, movies, TV, books, magazines, and more, all from your Chromebook.
- CB714-1WT-3447 comes with 14” Full HD Touch Display, Intel Core i3-8130U, 8GB DDR4 Memory, 64GB eMMC, Google Chrome, Up to 12-hours Battery Life.
Great for anyone who’s ever spilled a drink
CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB DDR3 | Screen: 11.6 inch (1,366 x 768), 16:9 | Storage: 16GB flash memory solid state
Like many of us, if you’re currently working from home and either has young children or tend to be a bit clumsy, you know how much damage a drink spilled on a laptop can do. While it’s unlikely that Samsung designed the Chromebook 3 with this in mind, it certainly helps.
Along with a water-resistant keyboard, the Chromebook 3 can help you work all day long with battery life in the neighborhood of 11 hours. At just over 2.5 pounds, the Chromebook 3 is a high-quality laptop that is a great work option and can stand up to an accidental coffee spill.
|Nice, bright screen||➖ Weak speakers|
|Reliable battery life|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- Up to 11 hours battery life on a single charge
- Built in security Features ensure you're protected from viruses and Malware
- 11.6 inches HD anti reflective Display
- Spill resistant keyboard protects against accidental Damage
- Intel Celeron N3060 Processor with 2G Memory and 16GB storage
A great combination of value and performance
CPU: Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.5-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
If you’re an Apple fan but not a fan of their high prices, the Swift 3 from Acer is one of the few budget laptops available that comes with an Intel Core i5 processor that is near equivalent to the MacBook Pro released a few years ago. Among the best Acer laptops available right now, it costs roughly half the price of an Apple MacBook. This is one of the most affordable laptops for graphic design.
|➕ Great build and sturdy frame||➖ Hardware is average|
|➕ Bright display|
|➕ Long battery life|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- 10th Generation Intel Core i5-1035G4 Processor (Up to 3 7GHz) | 8GB LPDDR4 Memory | 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
- 13 5" Acer VertiView 2K 2256 x 1504 Widescreen IPS LED-backlit Display (3 2 aspect ratio) | Intel Iris Plus Graphics
- Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802 11ax | Backlit Keyboard | Fingerprint Reader | Up to 16 Hours Battery Life
- 1 - USB 3 1 Type C port (up to 10 Gbps) DisplayPort over USB-C Thunderbolt 3 USB Charging DC-in 1 - USB 3 1 Gen 1 port (featuring power-off charging) 1 - USB 2 0 port & 1 - HDMI port
- Co-Engineered for Mobile Performance by Intel and Acer
Best 2-in-1 Budget Laptop
CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 10.5” PixelSense Display with touchscreen | Storage: 64GB – 128GB SSD
The Surface Go 2 is the second iteration of Microsoft’s tablet PC line is improved over the first release and is one of the best tablets that run Windows available. A worthy competitor for conventional laptops and tablets such as the Apple iPad, the Surface Go 2 has been improved with better battery life, better performance, and a slightly bigger screen make this a great versatile tablet and more capable than an iPad and with its affordable price, is more than worthy of having a spot on our list.
|➕ Great battery life||➖ Lack of USB C port (only one available)|
|➕ Solid design|
|➕ Dual studio mic is available|
|➕ Kickstand available|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- Starting at just 1.2 pounds (not including Type Cover), with new 10.5” touchscreen.
- Battery life up to 10 hours. Perfect for browsing, shopping, emails, and homework
- Tablet portability, performance and laptop versatility with adjustable Kickstand and Signature Type Cover.
- Stay connected with included USB-C port and headphone jack. Full HD front- and rear-facing cameras let you make crisp, clear calls to friends and family, or take and share great photos.
- Hi-res touchscreen is perfect for browsing, playing, and binge watching.
The best budget-friendly laptop
CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T | Graphics: ARM G72 MP3 800GHz | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 10.1″ FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS touchscreen | Storage: 64 – 128GB
You can spend way too much time going over specs when you’re looking for a great budget-friendly laptop. Let’s make it a tad easier. The Chromebook Duet from Lenovo is a great, straightforward laptop that you can easily use for web browsing or streaming your favorite show and throw it into a backpack when you’re done. While it’s technically a tablet, the Duet is far more powerful and a great choice for a budget-friendly laptop.
|➕ Have handy tablet gestures||➖ Moderate performance|
|➕ Decent cameras||➖ Only one USB port|
|➕ Great battery life||➖ The headphone jack is not available|
|➖ The memory card slot is lacking|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- This ultraportable 2-in-1 Chromebook includes a fast and stable plug-and-play detachable keyboard enabled with 5-point pogo pin and magnet design
- Take it with you everywhere. Thin and lightweight the Chromebook Duet offers up to 10 hours of battery life (2)
- The unique dual-tone design with aluminum alloy on the tablet is a standout design with sophisticated fabric texture on the stand cover you'll be stylish productive and practical
- Fast secure and easy to use: This touchscreen Chromebook boots up quickly with just your Google login to give you access to all of your cloud-based documents email and more
- With the 10 1" FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS display and stunning colorful details you won't sacrifice for great visuals; The 10-point multi-touch touchscreen is also USI pen compatible (pen sold separately)
The best affordable 2-in-1 laptop
CPU: Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 11.6-inch, HD (1366 x 768) touchscreen | Storage: 32GB-64GB eMMC
Finding a Chromebook at an affordable price is great, finding one that’s also a 2-in-1 convertible laptop as well is a steal. The Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1 laptop from Dell may not be the most powerful Chromebook out there but it comes with good performance, high-quality durability is easy to use and most importantly, it comes at a great price. With an 11.6 inch screen, you can handle any project that comes your way.
|➕ Compact design||➖ The sound is not that good as speakers are available at the bottom|
|➕ Great battery life||➖ The display could be better|
|➕ A newer version of Chrome OS is available|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- 11 6 inch HD(1366 x 768) Trulife LED Backlight Touch IPS Display Intel HD Graphics 400
- Intel Celeron N3060 Dual Core Processor (1 6GHz with turbo upto 2 48GHz) with 4GB Memory 32GB eMMC
- 1x Audio Jack 1x Volume Control 1x HDMI 2x USB 3 1 Gen1 1x SD card Reader
- With a 360-degree hinge this 2 in 1 adapts to your needs moment by moment Build-in HD Webcam
- Chrome OS 3-Cell battery Color Black Item weight 3 16lb
For anyone looking for something other than Chrome OS
CPU: 7th Generation AMD A6-9220e | Graphics: Integrated graphics with AMD APU | RAM: 4GB DDR4 | Screen: 11.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) TrueLife LED Backlight IPS display | Storage: 64GB eMMC
While Chromebooks tend to dominate the budget laptop market, the Inspiron 11 3180 from Dell is a great alternative if you don’t like Google’s OS. Loaded with Windows 10 S, while it’s not the fastest laptop out there, it is faster than many other budget laptops. Packed with ports to help you get work done, the Inspiron 11 comes with a microSD reader which can be rare these days. If you need a laptop to survive your hectic day, you can’t go wrong with the Inspiron 11 from Dell.
|➕ Portable||➖ Short battery life|
|➕ Spill-resistant keyword|
|➕ Comes with Windows 10|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- 11.6-inch HD (1366x768) Anti-Glare LED-Backlit Display
- 32GB eMMC Storage
- 4GB, DDR4, 2400MHz
- 7th Generation AMD A6-9220e Processor with Radeon R4 Graphics
- Windows 10 Home (64Bit) English Non-Touch LCD Back Cover - Bali Blue
Best Budget Laptop for Viewing
CPU: Intel Celeron N4020 | Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 600 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 11.6″ HD (1366×768) IPS, 10-point Multi-touch | Storage: 64GB eMMC
With its superb build quality along with a 360-degree hinge, a competent, well-designed is not only possible, but it also doesn’t have to be expensive either. With its smart almond-colored metal exterior, adequate battery life, plus an SD card reader you can use to supplement the Flex 3’s 64GB of internal storage. While it’s an affordable option for anyone, that doesn’t mean everything is great, while the display is a touchscreen, it’s not a high-quality option.
|➕ Great build quality||➖ Dull screen|
|➕ SD card reader available|
|➕ USB-C charging|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- [11.6" HD IPS Touch] With the 11.6" HD (1366x768) IPS Touch display and stunning colorful details you won't sacrifice for great visuals!
- [Intel Celeron N4020 Processor] Get the responsive performance you're looking for with an Intel processor, ample storage and a long battery life that helps you get everything done.
- [4GB DDR4 Memory for full-power multitasking] Substantial high-bandwidth RAM to smoothly run your games and photo- and video-editing applications, as well as multiple programs and browser tabs all at...
- [64GB eMMC flash memory] This ultracompact memory system is ideal for mobile devices and applications, providing enhanced storage capabilities, streamlined data management, quick boot-up times and...
- [Chrome Os] Fast secure and easy to use This touchscreen Chromebook boots up quickly with just your Google login to give you access to all of your cloud-based documents email and more.
The best mid-range specs at an affordable price
CPU: Up to Intel i7 | Graphics: Nvidia | RAM: Up to 16GB | Screen: FHD (1920×1080) | Storage: 128GB SSD – 1TB HDD
When you’re shopping for a budget-friendly laptop, the first part you need to figure out is the amount of money you’re ok spending. If you’re somewhere in that $400 to $600 range, you should take a closer look at the Vivobook 15 laptop from Asus. The entry-level specs easily outperform a lot of other Chromebooks that you would otherwise find in this price range.
A Nano-edge display and the option to load the laptop with Intel’s Optane memory can help make sure all of your programs run smoothly. At this price point, you’re getting some premium features and its 15.6-inch display makes everything look incredible.
|➕ Has both an SSD and an HDD||➖ VGA webcam only|
|➕ Improved cooling solution||➖ Two of the USB ports are still USB 2.0|
|➕ Great battery life|
|➕ Fast charging is available|
|➕ Fast fingerprint sensor|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- 15.6 inch Full HD (1920x1080) 4-way NanoEdge bezel display with a stunning 88% screen-to-body ratio
- Compatible with Google Classroom; run Google Classroom on Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer 11
- Latest 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 CPU (4M Cache, up to 3.4 GHz)
- 8 GB DDR4 RAM and 128 GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
- Ergonomic backlit keyboard with fingerprint sensor activated via Windows Hello
Best Budget laptop for casual gaming
CPU: 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15″ Full HD Widescreen IPS LED-backlit display | Storage: 256GB SSD
Serious gamers, take the equipment they use just as seriously but if you’re a casual gamer on a budget, finding a solid option can be tough. The Nitro 5 from Acer may not blow you away with its specs and doesn’t have enough power to handle the big, demanding games that are out on the market today. However, when you’re looking for a budget laptop, you essentially are getting what you pay for. With a dual-fan cooling system, a comfortable and reliable keyboard, high-res display, and impressive battery life, there could be much worse options out there.
|➕ Powerful CPU||➖ Lacks SD or microSD slot|
|➕ Expandable storage|
|➕ Excellent battery life|
|➕ Wi-Fi 6 support is available|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H Processor (Up to 4.1 GHz)
- 15.6 inches Full HD Widescreen IPS LED-backlit display; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Graphics with 4 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM
- 8GB DDR4 2666MHz Memory; 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD (2 x PCIe M.2 slots - 1 slot open for easy upgrades) & 1 - Available hard drive bay
- LAN: 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN (RJ-45 port); Wireless: Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX200 802.11ax
- Backlit keyboard; Acer Cool Boost technology with twin fans and dual exhaust ports
A great laptop in a small package
CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4 GB LPDDR3 | Screen: 11.6-inch diagonal HD SVA Anti-glare WLED-backlit | Storage: 16GB eMMC
The Chromebook 11 from HP has been around the block a few times but that doesn’t mean that it can’t hold its own with its competition. An Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and a beautiful 11.6-inch display make it a great choice in the office or relaxing on the couch watching a movie. With its small weight, it’s easy to throw it in a bag and take it wherever you need to go and with an affordable price, won’t break your bank either.
|➕ Sleek design and great build quality||➖ Lacks SD card slot|
|➕ Micro USB charging||➖ Average battery life|
|➕ Great IPS display||➖ Minimal port selection|
|➖ Performance lingers slightly behind other models|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- 11.6" HD UWVA anti-glare LED slim (1366 x 768)
- Intel Celeron with Intel HD Graphics 400(1.6 GHz/2.48GHz, 2M cache)
- 4 GB DDR3L-1600 SDRAM
- Chrome System
- Max Memory: 4 GB
The best budget-friendly alternative to the MacBook Air
CPU: Intel Celeron N3160 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) display | Storage: 32GB SSD
The MacBook Air from Apple is an impressive laptop, along with its impressively-high price. Thankfully, some options are just as impressive such as the Chromebook 14 from Acer. With its slick lines, the keyboard and touchpad work well enough to handle anything you put them through and while the display may not be the most attractive, it’s still a great example of full HD. Overall, the battery life on the Chromebook is impressive with up to 12 hours of life.
|➕ Great battery life||➖ Stiff keyboard|
|➕ Metal body||➖ No SD card slot is available|
|➕ Matte screen|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- Intel Celeron N3160 Quad-Core Processor (Up to 2.24GHz)
- 14" Full HD Comfy View Widescreen IPS LED-backlit Display
- 4GB LPDDR3 Onboard Memory, 32GB Internal Storage
- Google Chrome Operating System
- Up to 12-hours Battery Life
The Best No-Fuss Budget Laptop
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U | Graphics: Radeon Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) Acer ComfyView Widescreen LED-backlit IPS Display | Storage: 256GB SSD
Focusing on the fancy features that high-end laptops offer can be a waste of your time if they are outside of your budget. With the Aspire 5 from Acer, you get a straightforward laptop that is great for everyday use and is available at a modest price point. Available with a Ryzen 7 processor as well as a 512GB SSD, which is more than enough space found in a budget-friendly laptop. While it doesn’t excel in any one area, the Aspire 5 is a competent laptop for your day-to-day needs.
|Portable||➖ No backlit keyboard|
|Has high-quality mic||➖ Slow with internet|
|Wide selection of ports||➖ Not Ubuntu friendly|
Latest Price on Amazon:
- AMD Ryzen 5 4500U Hexa-Core Mobile Processor with Radeon Graphics (Up to 4.0GHz) | 8GB DDR4 Memory | 256GB NVMe SSD
- 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) Acer ComfyView Widescreen LED-backlit IPS Display
- 802.11ac WiFi 5 (Dual-Band 2.4GHz and 5GHz) | Backlit Keyboard | HD Webcam | Up to 10 Hours Battery Life
- 1 - USB 3.2 (Type-C) Gen 1 port (up to 5 Gbps) | 2 - USB 3.2 Gen 1 Port (one with Power-off Charging) | 1 - USB 2.0 Port | 1 - HDMI Port with HDCP support
- Windows 10 Home
7 Things to Look For When Buying A Budget Laptop
When you’re serious about your craft and want to make sure that the work you’re putting out there is the best that it can be, you want to make sure that the tech you’re using does what you need it to.
Without the right gear, your work can suffer. Now while we know you might be on a budget, there can be many things you need to know and look for when buying a laptop. If nothing else, we wanted to make sure you don’t go in uninformed.
Let’s dive right in.
1. Set A Budget
We’ve all been there. You head to the store, see the newest and brightest tech available, and get excited. Then reality sets back in and you realize that you have a budget, but can you get a good laptop on a tight budget? Let’s break it down a little bit.
- $150 to $350
While these are the least expensive laptops out there, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t quality options out there for you to choose from. Chromebooks run the Google Operating system, might not have all the bells and whistles of some more expensive options, but can still be a quality choice when you’re first starting. See our post on the best Chromebooks for designers.
- $350 to $600
You can buy a quality laptop with an Intel Core i5 or even an AMD A8 CPU plus 4 to 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive for less than $600 these days. While these specs are impressive, for the price, they can come with some exclusions such as an SSD, FullHD display, or long battery life. There are exceptions to this though such as the Acer Aspire E 15 or the Asus Vivobook which can be upgraded to an SSD.
- $600 to $900
At this point, many manufacturers will start to put features on the laptop that won’t appear on those with lower price points such as a metal finish, SSDs, or even high-resolution displays. Finding a quality laptop with the features you need without breaking the bank is very doable in this price range.
2. Operating System
Other than price, many people will end up choosing a laptop because of the operating system that the laptop runs on. Whether its personal preference because of familiarity or recommendations from a colleague, laptops are generally available with three different OS:
The laptops that Apple manufacturers are packaged with macOS. While functionally similar to Windows 10, there are subtle differences such as an Apps dock instead of a Start menu. Mac users also have Siri instead of Cortana for voice assistance. While many people tout the ease of use that comes with Apple’s operating system, the biggest downside is that the laptops that have this OS can be quite expensive. An entry point for a cheap Mac would be considering a renewed older model.
- Windows 10
With its appearance on many more laptops than both macOS and ChromeOS, Windows is considered to be the most flexible operating system out there. Appearing on a wide range of laptops from those costing $150 to thousands of dollars, the variety of features that Windows offers can make it an enticing choice. Since its release in July 2015, the improvements that have been added to Windows have made it a very popular choice for designers and creatives.
A simple and secure operating system, the ChromeOS from Google is found on Chromebooks. While the interface is reminiscent of Windows with an app menu, desktop, and ability to drag windows around, the main browser is Google’s Chrome browser. A downside to using ChromeOS is that some web applications don’t work all that well offline. That is changing however as newer, high-end versions of the Chromebook are now able to run Android applications.
3. Traditional laptop or 2-in-1
These days, laptops will fall into two main categories: standard notebook style and 2-in-1 hybrids that come in two different variations. A hinged version that allows you to put the device in many different configurations and a detachable that comes off the keyboard entirely.
Many of these tend to provide a better experience one way instead of the other with bend-back laptops being a laptop first while detachable offers a superior tablet experience. If you don’t see having a tablet in any form as a necessity, stick with a traditional laptop as you’ll usually get better performance for the money you will spend.
4. Screen Size & Weight
While all the power under the hood is great to have, if all that power causes you to lug around a huge laptop, it might not be worth the money. Laptops are generally categorized by the size of their display:
- 11 to 12 inches
These will generally be the thinnest and lightest laptop that you can find. The screen is between 11 and 12 inches and only weighs around 2.5 to 3.5 pounds.
- 13 to 14 inches
Laptops of this size will provide the best combination of portability and usability. This is especially true if you find a laptop that weighs less than 4 pounds.
- 15 inches
Usually weighing around 4.5 to 6.5 pounds, 15-inch laptops are the most popular choice for those who want a laptop with a larger screen but isn’t so heavy to be a burden when carrying it around
- 17 to 18 inches
If you have a laptop that stays primarily on your desk and isn’t carried around much, a laptop with a 17 or 18-inch screen can provide you with the processing power you need to do high-quality work without needing a desktop computer.
5. Keyboard & Touchpad
Having the best laptop in the world, no matter how much it costs, can mean absolutely nothing if the keyboard doesn’t fit your hands the right way. A good laptop keyboard should offer tactile feedback, enough space between the keys, and when you press a key, it should move vertically enough to make it feel satisfying.
- See here for our list of top external keyboards.
The touchpad shouldn’t give you a jumpy cursor and also responds well to your movements as well as multitouch gestures like pinch and zoom. Some manufacturers still provide a pointing stick between the G and H keys. This can be helpful as it will allow you to navigate your laptop’s screen while keeping your fingers on the home row of the keyboard.
6. Specifications (What’s Inside)
When you look at the specs that a laptop has, it can be a little daunting at first. There are a lot of letters on display and it can be tough to know what each one of them means and what you should pick. While there can be some debate over the screen size you should choose, for designers and creatives, focusing more on three areas will help you choose a quality laptop in your price range.
In essence, the processor is the brain of every laptop that is being used and it can handle the complex calculations that the operating system, software, and the apps that you’re running plus user input and data. Having the right processor can help keep your computer working at lightning speed and handle multiple applications at once. This can be seriously beneficial if you’re working on graphic design, video, or photo editing projects.
b) Memory and Storage
In terms of size, there aren’t many options out there when it comes to memory, budget-friendly laptops will typically come with either 2 or 4GB of memory and some can even come with 8GB of memory, although that’s not as common. The more memory your laptop comes with, the faster your laptop will be at managing multiple open applications. For graphic design work, that generally requires having multiple programs open, you’ll want to shoot for at least 4GB but ideally 8GB or more is recommended.
Most Adobe Creative Cloud programs require 4-8GB of RAM to run efficiently so if you plan to run Adobe CC then opt for a Windows machine, unless you’re OK using the lighter mobile versions of Adobe’s apps. See here for the latest Adobe CC discounts.
Storage can come with a few different options that you can choose from. The two most popular options are Solid State Drives (SSD) and Hard Disk Drive (HDD). While an SSD is the fastest performer when it comes to storing your data, compared to HDD’s they are much more expensive and only offer medium storage space of 128GB and more while an HDD can offer much more storage at 1TB or more.
If you work in any kind of creative field, such as graphic design or video editing, a laptop with a smaller display does more to hurt your work than help it. Even though you’re looking for a budget-friendly laptop, you should look for a laptop as close to 15 inches as possible. A 17-inch laptop would be excellent to own but could end up being way out of budget.
If you look closely at some budget laptops, you’ll notice that the GPU is embedded, which means that it is reliant on the standard GPU that is already on the motherboard. These also share the system’s memory, making it a less than great choice because it uses some of the memory or RAM that the system has available. Looking for a laptop that comes with discrete and dedicated graphics may be harder to find in a budget-friendly laptop but if you do any kind of graphic design or media editing, not having one will make everything harder.
e) Interface: ports and connectivity options
Many budget laptops come with a combination of Type A USB 2.0 and USB 3.1 ports and some offer both USB 3.0/3.1 ports. Although rare, there are some budget laptops available with a reversible USB-C port. Whether it’s full-size or micro, most laptops will have an HDMI port as well as a standard 3.5 mm audio jack, a 4-in-1 SD or micro SD card reader.
For wireless connectivity, it’s common to see both Dual-band AC WiFI and Bluetooth 4.1 as well as an Ethernet port, although you might not need it.
7. Battery Life
Budget laptops can come with a very good battery life that averages between 7 and 12 hours of use per charge which is more than enough for a full day of work. While there are still options out there that only offer between 4 and 6 hours of battery life, these should generally be avoided.
While none of us use our laptops for just one thing, it’s pretty unlikely that you’re gonna reach the number that the manufacturer claims you can get out of a laptop before plugging it in. In this case, look for laptops with at least 10 hours of life between charges so even in a pinch, you can get between 7 and 8 hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best budget laptop for graphic designers in 2021?
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 is the best budget laptop for graphic designers. This laptop is equipped with a powerful AMD CPU+GPU and 16 GB RAM to deliver a great computing experience. With an innovative design, it is surely a bargain.
What is the best budget laptop for photo and video editing?
HP Envy x360 is the best budget laptop for video and photo editing. The laptop has a premium finish without a premium price. With a powerful combination of processor and integrated GPU, this laptop will offer a lot to the go-to creatives and animators. The best part? It is a 15-inch touchscreen laptop for improved display and convenience.
What's the best laptop under 500?
New Microsoft Surface Go 2 is the best laptop for under $500. The performance that this tablet-sized laptop offers is exceptional. With an improved battery life over previous versions, it is a perfect pick for work on the go.
How to choose the best laptop under $500?
While looking for the best laptops under $500, you will have limited options when it comes to specs. However, there are certain points to keep in mind. First, you can go for either Chrome OS or Windows. Chrome OS is lightweight and will run smoothly on a low specs laptop. Also, you will have the option for a 2-in-1 tablet or a traditional laptop design. You can choose per your work and design requirements. Lastly, don't settle for anything less than 1080p.
Which laptop is best for artists?
Apple Macbook Air is the best laptop for artists and creatives to create delightful content. Packed with the powerful M1 chip, the lightweight laptop offers amazing performance for graphic design, 4K video editing, and much more. The battery life is also around 11 hours after a single charge, making it a good choice for artists.
What is the best-looking budget laptop?
Acer Nitro 5 is the best-looking budget laptop that is perfect for casual gaming and graphic design with minimal lag. With a dual-fan cooling system, backlit keyboard, have high display resolution, and an impressive design+build quality, this is an affordable pick.
What is the best and most affordable laptop for WFH?
Huawei MateBook X Pro is the best and most affordable laptop for your work-from-home needs. The processor and GPU are so impressive that you won't miss your office PC. The lightning speed and plenty of space with long battery life give this model an edge over the other laptops.
Choosing the Best Budget Laptop for your Graphic Design Needs
Choosing a budget laptop can be tough especially when you see higher-priced options with all the bells and whistles that you know you want. But if you look past the glitz and glamour, you’ll see on our list of the Best Budget Laptops for Designers and Creatives in 2021many very capable and affordable laptops to help you get your work done.
We hope that we’ve inspired you to take a closer look at the many different options that you have out there and realize that just because you have a budget, it doesn’t mean that you cannot be successful.
Do you use a budget laptop that’s not on our list? Let us know about it in the comments below.
Photo credits: Golubovy & Stanislaw Mikulski on Shutterstock
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