The Best Laptops Under $200 of 2018

By Ashley Barry-Biancuzzo and Brendan Nystedt

Great news! If you only have $200 to spend on a laptop, 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, sub-$200 laptops commonly ship with HD displays, 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 $200 target, but everything we recommend can usually be had at or around $200 from popular retailers.

The result? After months of testing, our top pick is the Acer Chromebook 11 (available at Amazon for $269.99), with a separate recommendation for the Asus Chromebook C202SA-YS02 as our favorite Chromebook. These two, along with a handful of others that we like, prove that you can get quite a bit for your money these days.

— 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 June 28, 2018

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Acer Chromebook 11 Best Overall
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Acer Chromebook 11 CB311-8H-C5DV

Acer

Acer Chromebook 11 CB311-8H-C5DV

Best Overall

With its killer looks, snappy performance, and lightweight body, this Acer Chromebook has a lot going for it. 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 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.

Acer Aspire 1 (A114-31-C4HH)

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Acer Aspire 1 (A114-31-C4HH)

Okay, so, even though this Acer laptop is a little over $200, 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, it 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

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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 may be worthwhile.

Samsung Chromebook 3

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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 utalitarian 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

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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 awhile 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

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Asus Chromebook C202SA-YS02

Best Chromebook

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 $200. 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

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

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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. For $80 more, 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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