9 great laptops under $1300 Canadians can buy right now
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While some require an expensive laptop with all of the bells and whistles to meet our high-powered business and personal needs, from video editing to gaming, however, for most people, a simple computer for surfing the web, word processing, and other tasks might suffice. In these situations, budget laptops are a perfect and affordable option.
These "budget laptops" typically come in at under $1,300 for a decent configuration yet still have plenty of killer features to help you get the job done.
Our team in the U.S. reviewed several budget laptops that you can buy in Canada with similar specs. They put the computers through their paces, checking everything from performance to battery life, responsiveness and screen resolution. Here's what they discovered.
1. Sleek and Sexy: Apple MacBook Air (2020)
We loved the aluminum chassis and Retina screen of the earlier 2020 Intel MacBook Air, and this 13-inch version comes with the same body. While we would love to see some upgrades, like maybe a thinner bezel, in the next iteration, there's no denying that when it comes to build quality, Apple is second-to-none.
At the heart of this laptop is Apple's M1 processor, which marks the only significant change between this model and the mid-2020 Intel-based version, along with a fanless design. Apple delivered on its promise that the M1 chip would be amazing enough to warrant a switch, thanks to the 7,667 points in Geekbench 5, indicating that this laptop performs better than most premium laptops we have tested over the years that are twice its price. Available with an 8-core CPU and 7- or 8-core GPU and 256 or 512GB SSDs, we wish the computer had more ports: it only comes with a pair of Thunderbolt ports and four USBs.
Battery life, however, was the most astonishing feature of the MacBook Air (2020). While typically, our battery tests yield significantly less than the rated battery life, we recorded over a dozen hours – much more than the nine hours we predicted (the rated battery life is 15 hours). Bottom line: this shattered the record for the longest battery life we have ever seen with a laptop, which was 9 hours and 44 minutes with the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3. We were able to use this laptop for days without charging it. Amazing!
The Apple MacBook Air (2020) was easily one of the most surprising laptop releases in years; it's tough to imagine any Apple lover not falling in love with it.
Get the Apple MacBook Air (2020) at Best Buy Canada starting at $1,299.99
2. Generous Screen: HP Envy x360 15-ed1008ca
Beautiful in design, The HP Envy x360 is a dream for anyone who needs a laptop with a bigger 15.6" screen but doesn't want something that will break the bank. The convertible laptop has sturdy hinges, so it can be used in various modes to accommodate the task at hand. However, we did find it to be a little heavy.
An AMD Ryzen processor powered the model we tested, while the Canadian equivalent uses an Intel Core i5. With the AMD processor, we found it to be as powerful as laptops that are twice its price, ideal for photo and video editing tasks and even light gaming. The model we tested and the version in Canada come with Windows 10 Home and 8GB RAM, but in Canada, you can only get the 1TB SSD option (which adds to the bottom line price) versus the 256GB we tested. Battery life was decent and the laptop lasted just under seven hours in our tests.
We'd confidently call this laptop one of the best 15" models in its price range. While it doesn't rival the Apple MacBook Air, it does stand with competitors like the Dell XPS 15.
Get the HP Envy x360 15-ed1008ca with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 1TB SSD from Best Buy Canada for $1,199.99
3. Ultimate Power: Microsoft Surface 3 (VGY-00001)
Slim and portable, this fantastically designed laptop has a beautiful high-resolution touchscreen display with a 3:2 aspect ratio which is perfect for web browsing. Complementing the gorgeous screen is a smooth and accurate trackpad and a quiet backlit keyboard with 1.3mm of key travel. That's a decent amount of travel for typing longer documents, though not as deep as we'd like. The keyboard, however, does have a bit of flex to it, and the fabric could discolour over time. Microsoft says you can clean it with soap and water every few months to keep it in tip-top shape. Additionally, there's face recognition for quick and easy logins.
When it comes to performance, the base model was the most powerful laptop under a grand among the ones we tested. It comes equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB RAM, making it able to handle most typical daily workloads. The 128GB SSD leaves some things to be desired, but you can upgrade it yourself if needed. It also comes with Windows 10 Home pre-installed.
We appreciate the USB-C and USB-A ports, which help accommodate many devices during the transitional period as the industry shifts towards USB-C. However, Microsoft's proprietary charger is more annoying to use than a standard USB-C charger. It does, however, have an extra USB port in the power brick which is a nice touch as you can charge your phone simultaneously.
The laptop is rated for 7.5 hours of battery life which should be enough to get you through the average workday. The result was pretty accurate in our tests where we measured seven hours and 13 minutes but still behind many other models in its class that can run for much longer per charge.
While our reviewer had a few things to nitpick about this laptop, when it comes down to it, beyond the mediocre battery life, the great design and powerful performance rise above the negatives.
Get the Microsoft Surface 3 (VGY-00001) from Amazon Canada starting at $1,138.95
4. Big Things In Small Packages: Dell XPS 13 9310 2-in-1 (2020)
The Dell XPS 13 line has a reputation for excellent engineering, and this flagship model is no exception. It has a beautifully bright 13-inch 4K screen that is comfortable to use even outdoors, along with the same super-thin bezel you'll find in the non-touch-enabled sibling. The bezel is so thin that you really can use this laptop as a tablet, ideally with the Dell Active Pen, which is sold separately.
However, it lacks a few things in comparison to that version. It has a shallow keyboard, so it's not as comfortable to type for long periods compared with other laptops. Storage is soldered onto the motherboard, so you can't upgrade it later on like you can with the non-touch XPS 13. That means you need to think long and hard about how much storage you might need and consider opting for more to future-proof the investment.
Performance was among the best we tested, with a near-perfect trackpad and touchscreen hinge that’s as smooth as butter. Our U.S. team reviewed the version with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, which has since been replaced with an 11th-gen processor. The mid-tier model tested had 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, though other configuration options include 8 or 32GB RAM and 256GB or up to 1TB SSD). Battery life in our tests was about seven hours, which will get you through a short workday.
Even being one of the more compact models we tested, the Dell XPS 13 still bested many others in terms of performance. That's no small feat and a big checkmark for this budget laptop.
Get the Dell XPS 9310 2-in-1 with an 11th-gen processor from Dell Canada starting at $1,279.99
5. More Like a Tablet: Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Technically, this device is a Windows-based tablet, not a full-fledged laptop. But it can transform into a laptop-like device using the Microsoft Type Cover, so it warrants inclusion here.
Its screen was a stand-out among the pack with a brilliant 2,736 x 1,824-pixel resolution and 375 nits of brightness, which results in a sharp image and bright, vibrant colours. The Type Cover keyboard (purchased separately) is very slim yet decent to use for daily typing. For navigation, however, the reviewer found the trackpad to be a bit too small for their liking. The kickstand, designed to prop the tablet up like an L-shaped laptop, isn't quite as comfortable to use as a standard laptop hinge.
The model our reviewer tested was the 7th-gen version with an i7 processor and 16GB RAM though there is a more affordable option that boasts an i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
If you love the half tablet-half laptop set-up and all of the portability benefits that come with it, this tablet and Type Cover might be a good option worth considering. And for the price that sits just over a grand (a bit more with the Type Cover), it's good value for what you get. But keep in mind that you also need to factor in the Type Cover cost to use it as a true laptop, which will take you right to our $1,300 "budget" threshold, but the versatility might be worth it. You might also want to consider the Surface Pen (also sold separately).
6. Super Affordable: Acer Aspire 5 (A515-55-56VK)
When you think of "affordable laptops," the Acer Aspire 5 is a bit of a legend in the space. But even if previous generation models were fast and offered lots of storage and memory, the designs have been – let's admit it – bulky with a terrible screen and plastic chassis. That's not so with the updated version that offers a thinner design, thanks to finally getting rid of the antiquated CD burner, along with more subtle updated design cues. The result is a more conventional feel and elegant look.
The Aspire 5 still has a mostly plastic body (you need to sacrifice something to get the price down so low, after all!), the keyboard has Chiclet-style keys, and there are tons of ports, including a full-sized HDMI, USB-C, three USB-A, and Ethernet. The screen, meanwhile, was decent but didn't rival many of the others.
The verdict after our tests? The Aspire 5 is still a great laptop if you need a lot of power, and plenty of ports, in a compact and affordable machine. It was more than fast to keep up with our day-to-day tasks. However, the laptop ran for less than the rated seven hours while browsing, which was underwhelming.
It's an option worth considering if you are truly on a very tight budget. But even then, other laptops in the same price range are sleeker in design, quicker in operation, and have batteries that will last for much longer per charge. Still, if you don't mind carrying around the charging cable and adapter, it's a decent and travel-friendly machine.
Get the Acer Aspire 5 (A515-55-56VK) from Amazon Canada starting at $728.12
7. A Decent Option: Lenovo Yoga C740
While it's still very portable, the Lenovo Yoga C740 stretches the display slightly to give you an appreciated 14 inches of viewing space. Combined with its thin body and 2-in-1 convertible touch screen design, it looks wonderful. Adding to this is the fantastic trackpad, fingerprint scanner, and decent keyboard, though the keys feel a bit more like plastic than the just slightly more expensive C940 model.
The model tested by our U.S. team has a 10th-gen Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage, making it the lowest-performing Windows laptop on this list. It comes equipped with a pair of USB-C ports and one USB-A to accommodate older devices.
Given the 2-in-1 design, the price is not bad for this model. It also has decent battery life, running for just under eight hours per charge, which will get you through a standard workday without having to rush for the power cord for that last critical hour.
Get the Lenovo Yoga C740 from Amazon Canada for $786.72
8. Power and Portability: Asus Zenbook 14
Admirably portable, this laptop doesn't have the same premium build quality as other Asus laptops though the comfortable keys stand out as soon as you open it up. The trackpad doesn't glide quite as nicely as on other laptops, notably Apple's MacBook Air. However, it’s still pretty comfortable to use, thanks to the generous width and excellent fingertip detection. However, we weren’t terribly impressed by the 14" matte 1,080p display, which seemed darker than previous-generation models while also dimmer, even at maximum brightness. We also found the colours to be more washed out than on the ZenBook 13.
The AMD Ryzen 5 processor far surpassed its predecessor in performance, arguably one of the most important factors in a laptop. It's blazing fast – much faster than the Intel Core i5-8500U processor, according to benchmarks. The lower power consumption of the Ryzen 5 processor also helps boost battery life to an impressive almost 8.5 hours. The computer also has 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD (in Canada, you can opt for the 512GB hard drive version).
The Zenbook is a good midrange laptop offering some of the best battery life and weight in its class. And when it comes to performance, it nicely combines the need for power with an uber-portable chassis that's ideal for travel.
Get the Asus Zenbook 14 from Best Buy Canada for $749.99
9: Bang For Your Buck: HP Envy x360 (13z-ay00 touch)
Beautiful in design with a pleasantly springy keyboard and the ability to transform to a 2-in-1 tablet, we were also pleasantly surprised with the brightness and vibrant colours of the 13.3" 1,080p screen, which was impressive for a laptop in its price point.
Combined with the impressive performance thanks to the powerful AMD Ryzen 5 processor (we tested the model with an AMD Ryzen 3 processor), 8GB RAM, and Windows 10 Home, the laptop is perfect for everyday tasks and occasional gaming.
It also offers pretty impressive battery life at eight hours, crushing the Intel-based MacBook Air in performance. HP hit one out of the park with this laptop.
Get the HP Envy x360 (13z-ay00 touch) from HP Canada for $1,049.99
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.