• Dell XPS 13 9380 (Intel i5-8265U, 8GB RAM)

  • Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-DSM4T

  • How We Tested

  • What You Should Know About Budget Laptops

  • Other Budget Laptops We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Laptops Under $1,000 of 2020

  1. Best Overall

    Dell XPS 13 9380 (Intel i5-8265U, 8GB RAM)

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Value

    Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-DSM4T


    • Excellent battery life

    • A beautiful display and keyboard

    • Affordable price point


    • More expensive than most Chromebooks

    • Doesn't run full Windows or Mac apps

    Skip to the full review below
Dell XPS
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Dell’s XPS 13 is easily the best laptop you can buy right now. Its screen is 13 inches on the diagonal, but it has razor-thin bezels, meaning the whole package is smaller than most other 13-inch laptops—making it super portable.

Best Overall
Dell XPS 13 9380 (Intel i5-8265U, 8GB RAM)

Dell’s XPS 13 is easily the best laptop under $1,000 you can buy right now. Its screen is 13 inches on the diagonal, but it has razor-thin bezels, meaning the whole package is smaller than most other 13-inch laptops—making it super portable, thin, and light. Its trackpad and backlit keyboard are some of the best on the market, and its battery life is enough to get you through a full workday at just over 7 hours, according to our tests. It only comes with USB-C ports (so you’ll need adapters for your old USB-A peripherals and flash drives), and the included McAffee junkware is disappointing, but these tiny flaws are easy enough to overlook when everything else is so good.

We tested Dell’s config with an i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, which technically comes in a little over a grand—but the extra cost made it the most powerful laptop we tested, and since none of its parts are upgradeable except the SSD, buying this step-up config will likely save you money in the long run. (Plus, we’ve seen it go on sale for under a grand if you’re willing to wait.) If you’re on a tight budget and need a laptop now, consider checking out last year’s model with comparable specs, or—if you don’t need that much power—drop down to the build with an i3, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. Just be careful, because 8GB of RAM is almost a necessity thanks to memory-hungry browsers like Chrome, and you can’t upgrade your RAM down the line—though you can swap out the SSD if you find you need more storage later.

Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

With its aluminum finish and chrome trim, the C434T looks and feels like a premium product minus the premium price tag.

Best Value
Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-DSM4T

If you want to save some money and can get by with Chrome OS—which is actually very doable in this day and age—Asus’ Chromebook Flip is the best Chromebook you can buy right now. It costs well under a grand but has the build quality of Windows laptops twice that price, and even includes a 14-inch touch screen that folds all the way back so you can use it as a tablet. (And with the ability to run Android apps in Chrome OS, it makes a rather usable tablet.)

Asus is able to price it so well because Chromebooks just don’t need the same specs as their Windows counterparts. The Flip C434 only has an Intel Core m3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage—which is expandable through a microSD card slot—but it runs incredibly smoothly. If you tend to open a lot of tabs, it’s worth upgrading to the model with 8GB of RAM for a little extra. The keyboard is comfortable and responsive, the display is sharp, and it boasted the best battery life of all the laptops we tested, coming in at just under 8 hours. Plus, with Chrome OS, you’re basically free from viruses and bloatware, which is a nice perk if you’re tired of maintaining Windows. I wish the trackpad were a bit more precise (and Chrome OS’ sensitivity settings could be better), but in terms of bang for your buck, it doesn’t get much better than this.


  • Excellent battery life

  • A beautiful display and keyboard

  • Affordable price point


  • More expensive than most Chromebooks

  • Doesn't run full Windows or Mac apps

How We Tested

Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Here at Reviewed, we test laptops for their processing capability, graphics, battery life, and screen brightness. To do this, we use a mix of industry-standard and custom-made tests as well as specialized lab equipment in our Cambridge, MA testing facility.

The Tester

I’m Whitson Gordon, and I’m a freelance tech writer charged with testing laptops here at Reviewed. I’ve been writing about tech professionally for almost 10 years, from building computers to setting up smart homes, and served as the editor-in-chief of Lifehacker and How-To Geek before freelancing for publications like the New York Times, PCMag, and Reviewed. This isn’t just my day job—it’s my calling. I’m obsessed with researching, testing, and finding the best possible gadget in a given category—so much so that my brother made it a central joke in his best man speech at my wedding.

I’m particularly picky about laptops, which need to achieve a delicate balance of processing power, battery life, portability, and build quality. If a keyboard, trackpad, and hinge aren’t going to stand the test of time, then the laptop isn’t worth buying. Thankfully, manufacturers have innovated a lot in recent years, finding new ways to stand out from the pack.

The Tests

Here at Reviewed, we test laptops for their processing capability, graphics, battery life, and screen brightness. To industry-standard mix of industry standard and custom-made tests as well as specialized lab equipment in our Cambridge, MA testing facility. We use popular benchmarks like Geekbench and 3DMark to gauge how well the laptop multitasks, runs games, and more.

For battery testing, we set them up to continuously cycle through various websites at right around 60% brightness (200 nits) until they run out of power, estimating how much work you can get done on a single charge. We also use each laptop for an extended period of time, rating each on factors like build quality, price, portability, and design.

What You Should Know About Budget Laptops

One grand may seem like a lot of money, but when it comes to laptops, it’s really the midrange price point, which means you have to make some choices. Usually, this comes down to a few main characteristics:

  • Performance: The CPU, graphics chip, RAM, and storage inside your PC determine how well your computer can multitask, handle intensive tasks like gaming, and store all your files. The better the specs, the snappier the laptop will feel as you work.

  • Build Quality: Not only do you want a laptop that can take a beating (since you’ll probably be lugging it around with you), but you want one with a well-built keyboard and trackpad since they’re your primary form of interaction with the machine. A poor trackpad or finicky keyboard can really kill the experience.

  • Touch Screens, Portability, and Features: 2-in-1s have gained in popularity, but that touch screen and pen cost money to include. Similarly, cramming all those powerful components into a small, easy-to-carry package can often cost more than a larger laptop with fewer design constraints.

When spending around a grand, it’s hard to get everything in one package--you usually have to sacrifice somewhere, especially as you move down the price chain. It’s all about finding a balance that fits your needs, even if that means a few sacrifices.

In addition, consider which operating system you need. Windows is still the dominant OS these days, and if you’re going to play games, edit photos and videos, or need certain software for work, you’ll probably stick with Microsoft’s offering. If you spend all your time on the web, though, a Chromebook may serve you better than you’d think—between Netflix, Gmail, Google Docs, and even online photo editors like Pixlr, you can do almost anything in a browser, and many of those web apps even work offline for those rare occasions you don’t have Wi-Fi. Chromebooks have the advantage of being cheaper (since they don’t need as much processing power) and virtually virus-free (since they run Linux under the hood). My main laptop is actually a Chromebook, and as a companion to my Windows desktop at home, it serves me very well—I can even access my Windows PC from my Chromebook through Chrome Remote Desktop.

From there, you’ll need to look a bit deeper at the form factor. You’ll usually find laptops in one of three main sizes, measured by the diagonal length of the display:

  • 13 inches and under: These smaller laptops are great for carrying around, and more than suitable for light work like writing papers and browsing the web.

  • 15 inches: Mid-sized laptops are a bit less portable, and won’t necessarily work in space-constrained spaces like airplane seats. But the larger display is useful for photo editing and watching videos.

  • 17 inches: This is very large, and only recommended if you are doing video editing or other intensive work that requires a lot of screen real estate—and you don’t mind lugging it around.

There can still be varying sizes within those categories—for example, the XPS 13’s smaller bezels make it much smaller than most 13-inch laptops—and sizes in between, like the 14-inch Lenovo Yoga C930. But in general, picking a size range you’re comfortable with can help narrow down the field.

You’ll also want to consider how many USB ports the laptop has, whether you need HDMI and Ethernet, and how comfortable the keyboard and trackpad are to use—this can vary quite a bit from model to model, and it’s important to get something responsive and durable.

Finally, you’ll need to consider the guts—the processor, graphics chip, RAM, and storage that determine your laptop’s capabilities. For browsing the web and using office software, lower-power chips like Intel’s i3 and i5 are more than adequate. 4GB of RAM is usable in a Chromebook, though even web browsing can eat up RAM these days, so 8GB is recommended if you tend to open lots of tabs, use lots of browser extensions, and want a laptop that’ll last you well into the future—I wouldn’t generally advise 4GB for most Windows users these days.

If, on the other hand, you run more intense workloads—whether that means heavy photo and video editing or running the latest PC games—you’ll want something with a bit more “oomph.” Intel’s higher-end i7 processors will make those video encodes run noticeably faster, and a dedicated graphics card will ensure your games run smooth as butter (instead of choppy like a bad flipbook).

No matter who you are, I recommend erring on the side of more storage rather than less—people often underestimate how much space they’ll fill up with all their music, photos, and videos over time, and it’s a hassle to lug an external drive around. Storage can be expensive, though, so if you can’t afford a 256GB solid-state drive, consider buying a laptop with an SD card slot and using a high-capacity card for cheap, expandable storage. Keep in mind internal upgradeability, too—many modern laptops solder their components onto the motherboard, meaning you can’t swap in more RAM or a bigger storage drive down the line. So either buy a laptop that keeps its components separate or spend a bit more to buy the specs you’ll need in a couple years—not just what you need right now.

Other Budget Laptops We Tested

Acer Nitro 7 (AN715-51-752B)

Just because you're buying a gaming laptop on a strict budget doesn't mean you have to skimp on the features. The Acer Nitro 7 is an excellent example of how to save money and equip yourself with the kind of hardware that will play your favorite games and help you get things done.

The Nitro 7 has the latest Intel Core i7-9750H processor along with an Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card and 16GB of RAM. Like its pricier competition, it also offers a 15.6-inch Full HD display with 144Hz refresh rate, which means games are as smooth as they are on our high-end pick. While it wasn't a significant performer in our benchmarks, it was still pretty capable of maintaining high frame rates in games like Metro 2033 and Rise of the Tomb Raider. It boasts impeccable battery life, too, with up to four hours of continuous use before it requires a charge.

Perhaps the only caveat of the Nitro 7 is the same issue that plagues other gaming laptops. The lack of physical buttons on the trackpad makes it hard to play some games without an additional mouse.

Dell G5 (2019, i5-9300H, 24GB RAM, 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD, GeForce 1650)

College kids and entry-level gamers alike might find the Dell G5 with a Core i5-9300H and Nvidia GTX 1650 suits their needs for both work and play. The Dell G5 is a nice machine for resting on your desk or joining you in class. It's comfortable to type on, can manage a little over five hours of battery life for productivity tasks, and offers a whopping 1TB of hard drive space for your data and games, in addition to a 256GB SSD for keeping Windows 10 operating smoothly.

Lenovo Yoga C930-131KB

There aren’t a lot of Windows-based 2-in-1s at this price point, but Lenovo’s Yoga C930 comes in a little over a grand on Lenovo’s website, so we thought it prudent to include it here. (And again, we’ve seen it drop below $1,000 when on sale). Besides, you get a lot for your money: an i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, all in a metal chassis that feels very premium. The webcam even has a built-in privacy slider. The 14-inch, 1080p multi-touch screen folds all the way back for tablet mode usage, though its brightness was rather low at 253 nits, which is a tad dim in outdoor usage. The trackpad is top-notch, though, and the speakers sound surprisingly great, which is not something most laptops this size can claim.

The keyboard feels similarly high quality, though it has a lower travel distance to keep the laptop thin, which impedes the typing experience somewhat. Battery life was quite solid, not quite reaching the 7 hours of the XPS 13, but enough to get you through the day. The C930 isn’t quite as portable as the XPS thanks to its 14-inch screen, and despite its larger size, it still only manages one USB port and two USB-C Thunderbolt ports with a headphone jack, which seems low. The inclusion of McAfee is something I could have done without, too. Still, these are fairly minor quibbles, and if you want a Windows-based 2-in-1 for around a grand, the C930 is a pretty great machine.

Lenovo ThinkPad X360 20Q0-002VUS

Lenovo’s ThinkPad line may conjure up visions of old, bulky business laptops with red nubs on the keyboard, but they’ve come a long way in the past few years. The red TrackPoint nub is still there for those who like it, but there’s also a more modern trackpad that’s smooth and precise. The keyboard is similarly solid with decent key travel and satisfying tactile feedback, the 13-inch display has decently thin bezels on the side, and the fingerprint scanner is convenient for logging in without typing a password. Lenovo even includes a privacy slider for the webcam, which is a nice touch.

The i5 model we tried also had the second-best CPU performance of all the laptops we tested, though its battery life was more in the middle of the pack at about six and a half hours. Most disappointingly, the display at this price point is rather low resolution, and the matte finish can make colors look washed out compared to glossier alternatives (though it does have less glare). But with 8GB of RAM, an upgradeable SSD, ports galore, and no junkware, it’s a powerful choice for the worker who needs to get things done.

Asus ZenBook 13 UX333FA-DH51

Asus has pulled off some impressive design with the ZenBook 13. Its 13-inch screen is packed into a chassis that’s even smaller than the XPS 13, with more ports to boot—not to mention super-fast facial recognition instead of a fingerprint scanner. The ZenBook can also chug for almost 8 hours and can overlay a light-up number pad on the touchpad, which is a pretty clever use of space.

Its i5 configuration with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of upgradeable storage comes in at a little under a grand, which gives you some serious power for your money. But there are a few downsides to those cost savings. I wish it charged over USB-C like the XPS 13, and the trackpad is rather jumpy, which knocked it down a few notches on our list. The trackpad and keyboard also felt a little cramped, and the otherwise sharp display had a bit of ghosting during video. But while it isn’t perfect, the ZenBook deliver a powerful, super-portable laptop with flexible ports for a noticeably lower price than its competitors.

Acer Swift 5 SF515-51T-507P

When I first picked up the Acer Swift 5, I was shocked at how light it was. At just barely over 2 pounds, this is one of the lightest laptops I’ve ever seen, especially for its 15-inch size—some might find it feels “cheap” as a result, but the magnesium alloy chassis helps mitigate that somewhat. Besides, when you’re carrying a 15-inch laptop around all day, you’ll be glad for its feather-light form factor.

The keyboard and trackpad are fine but not as good as the others on this list. The keyboard’s small, shallow keys caused me to make more than a couple typos as I wrote. The trackpad is smooth but less precise than most of the other laptops on this list. Its battery life was also the worst of the laptops we tested, at five hours and fifty minutes. Still, for about a grand, you get an i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage (plus an M.2 slot for extra storage if you need it), packed into the lightest 15-inch laptop you can buy. That’s still something pretty special.

Microsoft Surface Pro KJT-00016

We’d be remiss not to mention Microsoft’s Surface line in this list, even though the well-loved Surface Pro isn’t really a laptop at all, but a Windows tablet that can do double duty when paired with the Microsoft Type Cover. We tested the 5th generation model, but the 6th generation is available bundled with a Type Cover for under a grand, equipped with an i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage, not to mention a gorgeous 2736x1824 display. The Type Cover’s keyboard is actually decent despite its slim profile, but the trackpad is a bit small, and the kickstand is a but more awkward to use than a standard laptop hinge. That said, it’s hard to find Windows-based 2-in-1s for under a grand, so if you want that mixed form factor, the Surface Pro will fit the bill—as long as you don’t plan to use it too heavily in laptop mode.

HP Chromebook X2 12-F014DX

If you’re looking for a Chromebook that also happens to be a tablet, the HP Chromebook x2 is a great choice. Between the long battery life, convertible design, and vibrant display, there’s a lot we love. My only complaint is that it’s a little heavy/bulky for a convertible and it’s not the fastest Chromebook we’ve ever tested. That said, if you’re only checking e-mail or watching Netflix, performance shouldn’t be much of an issue.

We really like that the keyboard and stylus are included. This is a nice perk because they tend to cost a pretty penny as standalone accessories. It’s more lap-friendly too, meaning it didn’t wobble quite as much as other convertibles we’ve tested. Plus, the color scheme is sharp as hell. It really looks a lot like the Google Pixelbook, but that’s perfectly fine, as imitation is considered the highest form of flattery.

Microsoft Surface Go MCZ-00001

If Surface Pro is a tablet that can double as a laptop, the Surface Go is more like a tablet that tries to pretend it’s also a laptop. This device comes with a slower Intel 4415Y processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, though there’s a more expensive version that doubles the RAM and storage if you prefer. The Type Cover is sold separately for an additional cost, and while it allows you to use the Surface Go in a laptop-esque fashion, its 10-inch size and flimsier build makes the keyboard and trackpad too small to be super effective for long stretches of typing. But if you’re looking for a Windows-based tablet with a thin keyboard cover for occasional on-the-go work, this is one of the most portable devices out there, at a very attractive price.

The Best Chromebooks
The Best Gaming Laptops
Now is the best time to buy a laptop, even if you’re not a student
Why you should never travel with a naked laptop

Meet the testers

Whitson Gordon

Whitson Gordon

Freelance Writer

Whitson Gordon is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

See all of Whitson Gordon's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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