The Best Laptops Under $200 of 2019

By Ashley Barry-Biancuzzo and Brendan Nystedt, February 16, 2017, Updated February 22, 2019

Great news! If you're on a tight budget, your options are far better than they used to be. While these machines aren't built for hardcore gaming or video editing, they're more than enough for web browsing and writing papers.

These days, laptops under $200 commonly ship with HD displays and full Windows 10, but some great options use Google's ChromeOS instead. Many also come with a free year of Microsoft Office 365 or bonus Google Drive storage—perfect for the students they're targeting.

To find the best of this affordable bunch, we researched and went hands-on with the best cheap laptops we found. While some picks remain more or less the same from when we did our original guide in 2016, we found plenty of fresh models to choose from this year. Granted, some models have an MSRP higher than our two hundred dollar target, but everything we recommend can usually be had at or around two hundred dollars from popular retailers.

The result? After months of testing, our top pick is the Acer Chromebook 11 (available at Amazon for $259.99). Between the lightweight frame and an attractive color scheme, there’s a lot to love. This one, along with a handful of others that we like, proves that you can get quite a bit for your money these days.

These are the best laptops under $200 ranked, in order:

  1. Acer Chromebook 11 CB311-8H-C5DV
  2. Acer Aspire 1 (A114-31-C4HH)
  3. Lenovo IdeaPad 120S
  4. Samsung Chromebook 3
  5. HP Stream 11-y010nr
  6. Asus Chromebook C202SA-YS02
  7. Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ
  8. Dell Inspiron 11 3162
— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Updated February 22, 2019

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Acer Chromebook 11 Best Overall
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Acer Chromebook 11 CB311-8H-C5DV

Product Image - Acer Chromebook 11 CB311-8H-C5DV
  • Editors' Choice

Acer Chromebook 11 CB311-8H-C5DV

Best Overall

With its killer looks, snappy performance, and lightweight body, the Acer Chromebook 11 has a lot to offer. When I first laid eyes on it at CES 2018, I couldn't believe it was a Chromebook, as they're typically known for their generic designs. Not only is the indigo blue exterior absolutely gorgeous, the plastic shell feels pretty rugged too. But while we love the long battery life and low price point, we still had a few gripes.

The display is a lot dimmer than we like. It's an acceptable display, especially for an 11-inch screen, but it's not going to blow you away. The sound quality is also underwhelming. Lower tones aren't as crisp as they are on other machines.

Minor nitpicks aside, we think it's a great choice for the budget-conscious buyer. If you need an inexpensive machine for everyday tasks (like browsing the web and so on), you can't really get much better than this.

How We Tested

Here at Reviewed, we test graphics, processing power, battery life, and screen brightness. In other words, we try to push every laptop beyond its limits. We use popular benchmarks to test internal components such as Geekbench, 3DMark, and Metro 2033. This is how we gauge how well the laptop multitasks, responds to input commands, runs games, and more. As for battery testing, we set them up to continuously cycle through various websites at 200 nits brightness until they run out of power. This tells us how much juice you’re getting on a single charge. We also take into account build quality, price, portability, and design.

The Tester

I’m Ashley Barry-Biancuzzo and I’m the primary laptop reviewer here at Reviewed. Though Reviewed has been testing laptops for a couple of years now, I seized control of this beat (cue evil laughter) in 2017. It’s the perfect category for me because I’ve been playing around with laptops ever since I was a kid. While I like playing games and browsing the web as much as the next person, the tinkerer in me loves getting a good look at the internal components, as it kind of looks like a miniature metropolis inside the shell. For me, a good laptop needs to be the perfect balance of design and function. If it doesn’t excite you in some way, then what’s the point? The more innovative it is, the better.

The Tests

The first thing we do is push the graphics card (a circuit board that controls what you see on the display) and the processor (the brains of the laptop) to its limits. That means we run cinematic movies and games to test the graphics card and a program that simulates everyday workloads to test the processor. These tests determine how well the laptop multitasks, runs visually demanding games, responds to input commands, and so on. The next thing we do is record the screen brightness with a CS-200, a handheld device that measures luminance. The brighter the screen is, the better.

The final test is the battery test. First, we unplug the laptop and adjust the brightness to 200 nits. We then set it up to continuously cycle through popular websites like Amazon and Twitter until the battery dies. What we’re trying to do here is simulate how an average person might use the laptop. This is how we figure out how much juice you’re getting on a single charge. We also factor in build quality (does the screen have any flex?), portability (under three pounds is ideal), and design (sometimes an eye-catching color scheme really makes a difference).

What You Should Know About Under $200

While there are more options now than ever, these laptops still aren’t without their shortcomings. When it comes to deciding what type of laptop you want, there’s not much variety here. Most machines under two hundred dollars are traditional clamshell laptops, meaning the screen is on the upper portion of the machine and the keyboard is on the bottom. You won’t really see any fancy convertible laptops (laptops that flip and fold) in this price range. That said, clamshell laptops have been around for ages and are really popular among college students and business people just starting out.

The display size is another thing to consider. For example, an 11-inch display is going to be much lighter than a 15 or 17-inch. So, if you need something that’s light and portable, a laptop with a larger display just isn’t going to cut it. However, displays have higher resolutions and that means a sharper picture. If you’re a photo or video editor, you’ll probably want a bigger screen so you can see all those minute details. If you just need a lightweight machine for research or writing papers on, an 11-inch display should do you just fine, especially if you’re taking it from class-to-class.

The next thing we need to discuss is the operating system. Windows-based machines run more software and offer a wider variety of apps. You can also do more with them offline. Chromebooks, on the other hand, offer a more stripped-down experience and that’s not a bad thing. These generally inexpensive machines run ChromeOS (aka Google’s default browser), have long battery life, and are largely virus-free. The only drawback is that you need a reliable WiFi connection, as these laptops are web-based, so you can’t do much offline. It’s a bummer, but I wouldn’t say it’s a deal-breaker, as the pros outweigh the cons for me.

Last but not least, let’s talk about the guts. I’m going to be real with you. A budget laptop just isn't going to perform like a gaming laptop. Most of them are outfitted with Intel Celeron processors and have very little storage, meaning you won’t be able to play games on high or ultra settings. You can't store a ton of pictures and videos, either. They also usually have about 2GB of RAM, which isn’t great for multitasking. If you’re going to get a laptop in this price range, we’d recommend you try to get at least 4GB of RAM. Inexpensive laptops are fine for browsing the web, watching YouTube, and running basic programs like MS Word, but that’s about it. If your usage is light, then it should suit your needs. Just know what you’re getting into at this price range.

Other Laptops Under $200 We Tested

Acer Aspire 1 (A114-31-C4HH)

Product Image - Acer Aspire 1 (A114-31-C4HH)

Acer Aspire 1 (A114-31-C4HH)

Okay, so, even though this Acer laptop is a little over our target price, we think it deserves an honorable mention.

If you're looking for a Chromebook-like laptop that runs Windows, the Aspire is a great choice. Not only is it priced affordably, but it also has a full-sized keyboard as well. Plus, according to various reviews, battery life is good, averaging about nine hours or so. That's more than a full work day right there.

But while there's a lot we like, it's not without its flaws. Between the 4GB of RAM and 32GB of flash memory, you'll probably run out of space sooner rather than later. If you don't mind using online storage, the Aspire 1 is perfect for basic tasks like checking e-mail and web browsing.

Lenovo IdeaPad 120S

Product Image - Lenovo IdeaPad 120S

Lenovo IdeaPad 120S

This inexpensive Lenovo laptop doesn't look cheap, that's for sure. The mineral gray color scheme is simple and chic and perfect for young professionals. If you look closer, you'll see a cool speckled pattern on the lid. Did I mention that it weighs a little under three pounds, too?

The only downside is that performance is a bit sluggish. The Intel Celeron N3350 processor can't really handle anything beyond writing e-mails or browsing the web. I definitely noticed some slowdown when jumping from tab to tab. So, if you consider yourself a light user, this laptop may be a worthwhile purchase.

Samsung Chromebook 3

Product Image - Samsung Chromebook 3

Samsung Chromebook 3

With its bright display and long battery life, this Samsung laptop is great for younger students. The 1366 x 768 is bright and colorful and viewing angles are pretty good. It also has all the ports you'd ever need, so you can go ahead and ditch those dongles. The design is on the utilitarian side but it's rugged and reliable, which is perfect for the classroom.

I do have one minor nitpick, though, and it has to do with the operating system. If you've primarily used Windows all your life, you'd need to live with the limitations of Chrome OS. It's kind of a learning curve, too. But if you're not married to Windows, then we'd recommend giving this Chromebook a try.

HP Stream 11-y010nr

Product Image - HP Stream 11-y010nr

HP Stream 11-y010nr

With Intel chips, Windows 10, and very affordable price tags, the HP Stream laptops have been on the radars of bargain hunters for a while now. By doubling the RAM to 4 GB, the new Stream now has a bit more breathing room, so you can multitask or open extra tabs without the system slowing down as much.

Other than that, a slightly faster Intel Celeron N3060 processor is the major addition compared to the 2017 edition. As before, you can expect a great typing experience, just enough ports to get by, and a MicroSD card slot for expanding on the 32GB that the system ships with. Perhaps this product's weakest aspect is its ho-hum 11-inch display.

Asus Chromebook C202SA-YS02

Product Image - Asus Chromebook C202SA-YS02

Asus Chromebook C202SA-YS02

If you’re shopping for an affordable laptop, Chrome OS is just as compelling as Windows. This Asus is powered by Google's simplified, browser-based operating system that's easy to use and can handle everything from writing papers in Google Docs to browsing Netflix. Android app support is also on the way, though there are a lot of bugs to smooth out.

This particular Asus Chromebook is designed to withstand extra abuse, which is peace of mind you rarely find at this price point. Beyond that, its specs are a little wimpy, but because Chromebooks don't need as much to get going as Windows, the 4GB of RAM will stretch a bit further. The big red flag is the tiny 16GB of internal storage, so you'll want to add something like a 64GB SD card to give yourself more room.

Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ

Product Image - Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ

Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ

Even though its specs don't seem that impressive, this Acer Chromebook is ridiculously popular, with a 4.2-star rating on Amazon after over 1,000 user reviews. Best of all is its price point, which starts at around $180 but we’ve seen fall closer to $160.

The specs aren’t much to write home about, though, with an Intel Celeron N2840 chip and only 2 GB RAM. It also has just 16 GB of storage, so you’ll need an SD card to add extra space. If your budget can stretch, we highly recommend checking out the Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible, which is a 2-in-1 design and better specs with double the RAM and storage, but it costs between $250 and $300.

Dell Inspiron 11 3162

Product Image - Dell Inspiron 11 3162

Dell Inspiron 11 3162

This attractive Dell got a mild upgrade since 2016, rocking a slightly faster Intel Celeron N3060 chip. We love its colorful case and modern plastic body. While its screen, keyboard, and trackpad lag slightly behind, we still think this Dell is worth scoping out, especially if you can get it on sale for less than its $200 MSRP.

Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the Inspiron 11 is that it's saddled with only 2 GB RAM. This year, it's easy to get a decent laptop with double the memory for cheap. It's a problem in day-to-day performance, and so it's best if you use apps one at a time on this Dell. If you're willing to spend a little extra, you can get this laptop in a 2-in-1 version with double the RAM, which will make for a much better experience overall.

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