Cheap Laptops: Critics Pick the 5 Best

Increasingly popular among small businesses, notebook computers are more affordable than ever before. Still, you want enough horsepower to go along with that low, low price. has the inside info on cheap laptops that still get the job done.

The critical consensus on the best budget laptops is that there isn’t much consensus.

When comparing the ratings from multiple tech reviewers of laptops costing $800 or less, only one model earned high scores and/or an ‘Editors’ Choice’ from multiple reviewers. That’s the Asus UL30A, which earned Editors’ Choice awards from three reviewers.

So what’s up with that? Computer vendors offer a lot of models and variations for the budget market. This can confuse consumers, of course. But it also makes it difficult for specific models to earn top marks from several reviewers. And budget models tend to come with more compromises in power, portability, or other features than more expensive laptops. Those trade-offs are usually reflected in the reviewer’s rating.

Even so, as I compared the reviews from various sites, one trend became immediately obvious. Budget laptops from Acer, Toshiba, and Asus tend to get the best reviews.

Separately, PC World recently released its reader survey on reliability and service. In the category of laptops, the vendors with the best reliability and service ratings were, in descending order: Apple, Toshiba, Acer, Gateway, Asus, Lenovo/IBM, Compaq, Sony, Dell and HP.

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