The school year is back on after the holidays, and regardless of how you might feel about that, one thing all students can agree on is the importance of having a good laptop for doing classwork — and for winding down with some streaming or gaming after class. But computers aren’t cheap, and we don’t have to tell you that money can be tight when you’re a student, so if you need a new machine for work and/or play and you’re on a budget, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got a hand-picked selection of the best cheap student laptop deals available this month. Better still, each one costs less than a grand — and most can be had for much less than that. Check them all out below, and maybe grab one for yourself.
HP Chromebook 11 – $98, was $199
- Portable size
- Long battery life
- Relatively durable for its size
While some would say that the HP Chromebook 11 is a bargain bin computer, the truth is that it’s a surprisingly good all-arounder for the price point, even if it may not wow anybody.
In terms of specs, they’re about what you’d expect for a computer that you can pick up for just a couple hundred bucks. The CPU is an AMD A4, a basic mobile processor but more than enough to run ChromeOS. While you aren’t going to be a productivity powerhouse on the Chromebook 11a, you will be able to handle most productivity software you can get on ChromeOS, which is really what this computer is designed for. More importantly, the 11.6-inch screen with a 1366 x 768 is big enough to feel bigger than your average tablet while not so big that it becomes weight and a distraction.
As for the other specs, you get 4GB of RAM, so don’t open a dozen browser tabs, and 32GB of internal storage, which should be enough for most use cases, but you can always supplement it with one of our external hard drive deals. Interestingly enough, the Chromebook 11 does have an AMD Radeon R4 integrated GPU, which, while not the most powerful graphics out there, should be able to handle a few games from the Play store here and there.
Ultimately, the Chromebook 11 was created as a budget-friendly all-around device for those who really need a device to study (or even work) but can’t afford to drop several hundred dollars. On the bright side, it’s also pretty good for other general tasks, such as streaming, browsing, and even some light mobile gaming, so it’s a great deal overall.
Gateway 11.6-inch 2-in-1 notebook — $159, was $200
- Extremely affordable
- 2-in-1 laptop and convertible (tablet)
- Windows 10 Home
- 8.5 hours of battery life
This Gateway isn’t going to be playing the latest games, but that’s okay, it will definitely handle casual browsing, productivity apps, and schoolwork with ease. It’s running Windows 10 Home, has an Intel Celeron N4020 1.1GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage. Best of all, it offers up to 8.5 hours of use on a single charge, plenty of time to last through the school day, and maybe even beyond.
Additional features include Bluetooth 4.0, a built-in microphone and webcam, a MicroSD slot for additional storage, a mini HDMI output so you can connect to an external display, and it’s a 2-in-1 laptop. The latter means that you can prop it up, use it as a traditional laptop with keyboard, or even fold the keyboard back to use it like a tablet.
It makes for an excellent portable machine that you can take back and forth between home, work, or school, and it’s slim so it will fit nicely in a backpack or stow bag. You can’t beat the price either.
Lenovo Ideapad 3i 15.6-inch touch laptop — $350, was $500
- Large multitouch HD display
- 256GB solid-state drive
- Thin and ultra-lightweight
- Built-in media reader
With a 15.6-inch multitouch HD display, 8GB of system RAM, Intel UHD graphics, and Intel Core i3, this laptop is ready to rock, roll, browse, play, and stream. Of course, it can handle any productivity apps you need it to run, and comes with Windows 11 Home.
The 256GB solid-state drive offers a ton of storage space for a laptop of this caliber, but it also has a built-in media reader for both expandable storage and for connecting external media — like if you need to transfer documents, files, photos, and more. WiFi 6 offers blazingly fast wireless speeds, with excellent bandwidth as long as you have a good connection.
HDMI output allows you to expand viewing to external displays, plus the built-in webcam has a privacy shutter — to block out unwanted viewers. The dual-array microphone picks up your voice clearly on Zoom calls, or while you’re streaming. But above also the ultra thin and lightweight design, at just 4.07 pounds, means it’s portable and easy to carry or stow. Perfect for those with on-the-go lifestyles like a best-in-class student.
Dell Inspiron 3511 15.6-inch touch laptop – $390, was $600
- Touchscreen display
- Long-lasting battery
- Built-in media reader
- Comes with Windows 11
While we need to make certain concessions and compromises when it comes to budget computers, one thing we generally don’t like compromising on is usability, and that’s where the 15.6 inch touchscreen of the Inspiron 3511 comes in. With a Full HD resolution and reasonably good size, it provides for a large amount of screen real estate for your apps and productivity, and not only that, but the larger size also means you get a relatively big keyboard to type on, which is always appreciate with a budget computer. Even better, the trackpad is surprisingly nice to use as it tracks well and is pretty big, so you won’t have to do some weird hand gymnastics to control your mouse. We’ll also mention the 720p webcam at the front, which is excellent if you need to do Zoom meetings with classmates for projects and whatnot.
In terms of pure specs, you get a Core i5-1035G1 CPU which is powerful enough to run most productivity software comfortably. Similarly, you get yourself 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, which is much more than a cheap Chromebook. For graphics, you get an integrated Intel UHD Graphics, which might let you play some simple indie games or games that don’t require a ton of resources. Or, you could just grab one of our desktop monitor deals to help with some extra productivity and screen real estate. Either way, the Inspiron 3511 works well across a variety of needs, whether it’s study, entertainment, or general use.
Overall, the Inspiron 3511 is a great alternative to tablets and Chromebooks, especially if you want something with a bigger screen and keyboard but don’t want to go over a $400 budget.
Apple MacBook Air M1 – $899, was $999
- Powerful M1 chip provides perfect performance
- Great battery life
- Lovely keyboard to use
- Runs completely silent
The M1 Apple Macbook Air hardly requires any introduction, although this year’s entry into the interval releases and updates is a rather large one, and that’s due to the inclusion of the M1. In fact, this is the first version of the Macbook Air that drops Intel CPUs altogether in favor of Apple’s M1 chip, adding the sort of detail and integration that only a company with complete control over the design could.
One of the first things you’ll notice with the new Macbook Air is that it makes hardly any noise at all, which is impressive given the performance of the M1, which can sometimes equal or even beat Intel’s Tiger Lake architecture. Pair that with the 8GB of RAM, and you get a laptop that is enjoyable to use and that can handle most productivity software handily, and the 256GB internal storage is also nice to have although slightly on the smaller side, so grabbing one of our external hard drive deals is probably warranted.
Another big change is the new Big Sur OS, which brings some interesting UI changes and overall flow to using the computer, which works well with the updated internals to provide overall excellent performance. As for the screen, it’s a 13.3-inch Retina Display and should be no surprise that it’s gorgeous, as is expected for displays that come from Apple, and even better, it can connect up to one external monitor for that extra screen space when you’re at a desk.
Overall, the Apple Macbook Air is an excellent little laptop for students already using Apple and want a great Apple computer without spending well over $1,000 for one of the premium options. Also, much like the XPS 13 touch, it’s gorgeous and thin, which is always a plus.
This can be a complex question to answer, depending on what sort of laptop you want to get and what brand you’re going for. The obvious answer is to wait for one of the big three sales periods, with the biggest one in the summer being Prime Day, which typically lands in July. You’ll likely see a lot of great deals during then, although maybe not for Apple laptops since those sorts of deals tend to be few and far between, and they tend to happen around Apple’s release events. The next one of those will be in October, so you might see a few good Apple discounts then.
Beyond that, there’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which happen on the 25th and 28th of November respectively. You’ll also likely see some great laptop sales during those periods, especially Cyber Monday, although the caveat is that a lot of these are limited stock deals. That means that you really have to be on top of the sales for both days, and you can still miss out on a good discount if you wait too long to decide. It’s a big risk, but it might be worth checking what sort of stuff went for sale last year in your favorite shops and plan accordingly.
Of course, there are also a ton of sales throughout the year, which we like to keep on top of through our best laptop deals and best gaming laptop deals articles. Since we know that a lot of students are probably on tight budgets, we also like regularly update our best refurbished laptops deals for those who need to save money, and we even maintain some great Chromebook deals and tablet deals, both of which can sometimes be cheaper than a full-on laptop. Also, keep in mind that many retailers tend to have great sales around when school semesters start, so you might find some good back-to-school deals if you keep an eye out.
Ultimately, if the savings are minimal, it’s better to bite the bullet and get the product you want now. You never know when the discount might happen again or if it’s as steep as you expect it to be, so if it’s even $50 or $100 worth of savings, it might be a good idea to consider buying it outright. Even if the product you want does have a better deal down the road, you shouldn’t feel bad for something you couldn’t possibly know. So the guidance here is to buy what you like if you need it and can afford it and not worry too much about waiting for the potentially best deal possible.