Most Popular: Acer Aspire E 15
Another computer offering an excellent balance of modern hardware, performance headroom, features, and the price is the Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-576-392H). Though hitting its budget price means there’s a lot of plastic to be found, some of it has been given a metallic appearance for a classier look.
Inside, the machine delivers an Intel Core i3-8130U processor. Given its low price, it’s nice to see such a modern CPU. That processor is paired with 6GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory and a 1TB hard drive. Both the memory and hard drive are stored inside an easily accessible compartment, so if you want to upgrade them, you can. There’s even a DVD-RW drive included.
Continuing to surprise us at this price point is the Acer Aspire’s 15.6″ display (hitting Full HD resolution) and the inclusion of 802.11ac Wi-Fi along with an all-day battery, a USB 3.1 Type-C, two USB 3.0 ports, and an SD card reader.
Best Overall: ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6″
Dropping hundreds of dollars on a laptop that’s bound to be dropped itself might seem a bit stressful, but a rugged laptop like this ASUS Chromebook will surely put your nightmares to rest. It houses an Intel Celeron N3060 Processor with 2M Cache, up to 2.48 GHz, plus 16GB of flash storage. (You’ll also get 100GB of free Google Drive storage for the first two years.) Its 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 anti-glare display tilts back 180 degrees for viewing at all angles.
Being a Chromebook, it’s not as powerful as other machines on this list, but what it lacks in brains it makes up for in brawn. It has 3 millimeters of reinforced rubber around its edges, which passes the 3.9 feet drop test, and a spill-resistant keyboard that can endure about a quarter-cup spill. On top of that, its durable and modular design makes it easy to swap in and out parts, should it need repair.
Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Go
It’s hard to argue against the success of Microsoft’s Surface lineup, and the Go is no exception. When in tablet mode, the 10-inch PixelSense touchscreen display is ideal for reading, writing, and games. With 1800 x 1200 resolution, the text is crisp and clear. Add one of the available Microsoft Type Covers and the Go instantly becomes a highly capable desktop-like computer. Running Windows 10 S, the Go has complete access to Microsoft’s Marketplace for downloading thousands of applications. For business users, Microsoft’s entire suite of Office products runs superbly.
Weighing a mere 1.3 pounds, the Go is easily the most portable Surface yet. Its diminutive size doesn’t mean scant battery life either as it provides up to nine hours of daily use. Whether it’s a business or personal device, the Go has plenty of protection built-in. Microsoft Defender protects against malware attacks while parental controls offer parents peace of mind. With Microsoft stores popping up in malls all over the country, you also have the option of bringing the Go right into a brick-and-mortar location for tech support.
Best for College Students: 2018 Lenovo Ideapad 320 15.6″
Lenovo delivers an excellent everyday laptop at a value price point, combining the latest generation of Intel processing with a high-definition 15.6-inch screen. The computer is powered by an Intel Celeron N3350 dual-core processor with 4GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive. The computer also includes a DVD drive, a 4-in-1 memory card reader for easy transfer of files, as well as Bluetooth 4.1 and USB 3.0 port. Expect fast streaming, thanks to the latest 802.11ac wireless internet. The computer is also great for college students looking to watch movies in their dorm room, with a 15-inch anti-glare screen that looks great from every angle.