These are the best cheap laptops you can buy in 2021

These are the best cheap laptops you can buy in 2021

The best laptops out there pack mouth-watering specs and premium features in some stunning designs that are still light and portable. For tech enthusiasts like us here at XDA, they’re what makes the tech industry so fun and interesting. But all of those high-end pieces of hardware are not something everyone can afford, and if you’re on a smaller budget, it can be easy to look at those laptops with envy. Don’t fret, though — there are some great laptops out there with much more affordable prices, and in this article we’ve rounded up the best cheap laptops you can buy so you still get a good experience without breaking the bank.

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First off, let’s set some ground rules. We’re setting our budget at $700, though if you want to go lower, we also have an article focused on the best laptops under $600. We’re also relying on sales for many of these, and that’s because in this price range it can truly be worth it to look out for a sale. Many high-end laptops that might normally cost almost $1,000 can often be found discounted to prices in this range, and they’re going to give you a fantastic experience. Of course, that means they fit our price range at writing time, but you may find slightly different prices when you’re reading this.

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Best overall laptop: HP Pavilion Aero

Front view of HP Pavilion Aero 13

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the HP Pavilion Aero is at the top of this list. This is one of HP’s newest laptops, and it’s got pretty much everything you could ask from an affordable laptop wrapped up in a design that’s still premium in a few ways. It launched at an official MSRP of $750, but you can find it for much less — right now it’s just $550, which is an absolutely fantastic deal.

So, what do you get for that price? For starters, you get an AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor, starting with a 6-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 5600U with boost speeds up to 4.2GHz. This is already a fantastic processor for this price range, and you’re going to get great performance for just about any daily task related to work, school, or just web browsing. Plus, you get 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD in the base configuration, and overall, this is a really strong combination of specs for the price you pay. And because it’s so heavily discounted right now, you have some wiggle room for upgrades in that $700 budget if you want even more.

But the Pavilion Aero doesn’t stop there. It also comes with a 13.3-inch display that comes in a tall 16:10 aspect ratio, which is usually something you only find in premium laptops. That extra vertical space is great for productivity, and the base model already comes in Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) resolution, so it’s very sharp right out of the gate. To sweeten the deal, though, you can upgrade to a super-sharp Quad HD+ (2560 x 1600) panel for just $30. Either way, the screen goes up to 400 nits of brightness, which means it’s going to be decently visible outdoors, something many laptops at this price tend to cut corners on.

A fault of the Pavilion Aero, however — and this will be a common theme on this list — is the webcam. It’s a 720p camera, so the quality won’t be the best out there, and it doesn’t support Windows Hello facial recognition, either. Instead, you get a fingerprint reader below the keyboard, which is still nice, but not quite as convenient.

In terms of design, the Pavilion Aero 13 looks like a fairly standard clamshell, but it’s actually made of magnesium, something you don’t see a lot on cheaper laptops. This allows it to be very light, weighing less than 2.2lbs, and it’s also relatively thin at just over 17mm. Something else that’s unique to the Pavilion Aero is that it comes in four color options to choose from, so you can choose what suits your style the best. The colors are all fairly subdued, but considering so many laptops barely give you any options at all, this is still nice to see.

Finally, there are the ports. You get one USB Type-C port (3.2 Gen 2), two USB Type-A ports (3.2 Gen 1), HDMI 2.0, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. That’s a setup that covers all the basic needs you might have, though it doesn’t support Thunderbolt because it’s an AMD-powered laptop. The USB ports could be faster, but if you just want to connect a mouse or transfer files occasionally, it works well.

With all of that, there’s no doubt that the HP Pavilion Aero is one of the best cheap laptops you can buy right now, and it has earned our recommendation.

    The HP Pavilion Aero is powerful and light laptop with a premium-feeling design and a great display.

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Best cheap 15-inch laptop: Dell Inspiron 15 5510

If you want a slightly bigger laptop and more power to boot, the Dell Inspiron 15 5510 is a great choice. This model comes with more powerful Intel processors and other solid specs that make this a great choice in this price range. Dell says this laptop usually costs $790, but you can get it for just $650 right now, and for that price, this is a fairly cheap laptop, and one of the best ones at that.

First off, the Dell Inspiron 15 5510 isn’t your typical 15-inch laptop in terms of performance. It actually comes with Intel’s H35-series processors, specifically an Intel Core i5-11320H. Compared to standard laptop processors, this one has a higher power rating of 35W, and it has four cores, eight threads, and boost speeds up to 4.5GHz, which it can maintain more easily thanks to the higher TDP. Plus, it still includes Intel Iris Xe graphics so you can run some more GPU-focused workloads on it. You also get 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage in the base model, but with the current discounts, you can upgrade to 16GB of RAM and still be under $700.

The 15.6-inch display comes in a typical 16:9 aspect ratio, which is still the most common in laptops at this price. It may not be as good for productivity, but you probably won’t care if you haven’t used a taller screen before. Plus, this is still a great aspect ratio for watching videos or movies. As for the resolution, it’s a Full HD (1920 x 1080) display, so it’s decently sharp for a laptop of this size.

As you’d expect, the camera on the Dell Inspiron 15 comes in 720p resolution, and it doesn’t support Windows Hello facial recognition. It does have a fingerprint reader built into the power button, though, so unlocking the PC should still be pretty convenient if you want it to.

Design-wise, the Dell Inspiron 15 5510 doesn’t do a whole lot to stand out. The exterior comes in a “platinum silver” color, and the keyboard base is “titan grey”, which admittedly looks very nice and manages to be a bit distinct from the typical silver or black laptops out there. Speaking of the keyboard, it includes a full number pad, which is seldom seen on 15-inch laptops, and some users might appreciate that. It’s just under 18mm thick at its thickest point and it weighs 3.6lbs, so it’s not the most portable laptop, but it’s not super heavy either, so you can still take it with you on the road.

The port selection on the Dell Inspiron 15 5510 is also fairly solid. You get one USB Type-C (3.2 Gen 2×2) port, two USB Type-A (3.2 Gen 1) ports, and HDMI 1.4, a headphone jack, and a full size SD card slot. This isn’t far off from the Pavilion Aero we above, but the USB Type-C port is twice as fast, while the HDMI port is less capable. The HDMI port can still run a 4K display at 30Hz or a 1080p display at 120Hz, so it’s still pretty good.

If the bigger screen is something you value a lot, the Dell Inspiron 15 is one of the best cheap laptops you can find today. In addition to a solid display, it also has powerful performance and a solid selection of ports that make it great for just about anyone.

    The Dell Inspiron 15 is powered by Intel's powerful H35 processors and has a sharp 15.6-inch display.

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Best convertible: HP Envy x360 13

HP Envy x360 13

If you’re like me and you love convertibles, the HP Envy x360 is a fantastic choice at this price. The Envy family is actually still part of HP’s premium lineup, but it’s more affordable than the Spectre models, and thanks to discounts, you can get it for under $700 right now. As such, this is one of the best cheap laptops you can buy at writing time, especially if you want a convertible.

Performance-wise, this is yet another AMD-powered laptop, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Once again we’re looking at an AMD Ryzen 5 5600U in the base model, which means you get 6 cores and 12 threads with boost speeds up to 4.2GHz. Additionally, you get 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage, which is a solid combination for a convertible at this price. You can’t upgrade any of this without going past our budget, but most people shouldn’t need to. This will already give you a pretty good experience.

The same can be said for the display, which is a 13.3-inch panel in the classic 16:9 aspect ratio, which you may like or dislike depending on what you’re used to. It comes in Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080) which, for a screen of this size, is very sharp. Another great thing about it is that the base model already has 400 nits of brightness so you can use it outdoors without much of a problem, something laptops often skip out on in this price range. Of course, it’s a convertible, so it also supports touch and pen input.

One thing that doesn’t stand out here is the webcam which is still using a 720p camera and no Windows Hello facial recognition. This one does have a privacy shutter so you can cover the camera when you’re not using it. You also have a fingerprint reader built into the keyboard itself, though, so at least it’s always within reach while you’re working.

The design of the Envy x360 13 is what you’d expect of a premium convertible, and that’s a good thing. It’s a metal laptop, and a fairly thin and light one at that. It weighs 2.96lbs, which isn’t bad at all for a metal convertible, and at 16.51mm, it’s not overly thick, either. As a bonus, the laptop comes in two color options, black or white. They’re not particularly flashy colors, but they’re still a bit more interesting than the silver most laptops use. Also, this is a 13-inch laptop with a number pad built in, that’s impressive.

As for ports, the Envy x360 13 packs a decent supply, but it’s lacking HDMI output. You get a USB Type-C (10Gbps) port, two USB Type-A (5Gbps) ports, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. If you’re not interested in multi-monitor setups, this is probably fine, but the lack of HDMI is a bit of a shame. The USB Type-C port does support display output, though, if you have an adapter or a compatible monitor.

It’s obviously not perfect, but the HP Evy x360 has a lot going for it. It’s a relatively thin and light convertible with a great display and performance, and you can’t ask more much more than that at this price point.

    The HP Envy x360 is a premium, yet affordable convertible laptop with solid performance and a great display.

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Best cheap business laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad L13

Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Gen 2 blue background

Any laptop can be used for work, but if you’re interested in a true business laptop, the ThinkPad L13 is one of your best cheap options. This is a fairly modern laptop with the iconic ThinkPad design and some important features like a Windows 10 Pro license (with a free upgrade to Windows 11). Like most business models, there are a few configurations available, but we’re focusing on a specific model that’s heavily discounted right now and costs roughly $676.

This model comes with an Intel Core i5-1145G7 processor with vPro technology, which includes some additional performance and increased security features for business users. It’s also a quad-core, eight-thread processor with boost speeds up to 4.4GHz, so it’s going to handle all your work tasks gracefully. Plus, it has Intel Iris Xe graphics. On top of that, you get 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, which is a solid combination when you consider everything else the laptop has.

And what it has includes a 13.3-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. As we’ve mentioned, this is fairly standard on most laptops in this price range, so this isn’t very surprising. It’s a sharp panel, but the brightness maxes out at 250 nits, so using it outdoors won’t be the greatest experience. Still, if you’re working in an office or at home, it will do.

One thing going against this laptop, especially if you’re a remote worker, is its webcam. Once again, it’s a 720p camera with a privacy shutter some users will appreciate, and there’s no Windows Hello facial recognition on this model. It does have a fingerprint reader, though, so at least you have that option for unlocking your PC.

On the flip side, the ThinkPad L13 will feel like home if you’re a long-time ThinkPad fan. This model comes in a silver color, but it keeps the iconic red accents of the ThinkPad family, plus a fan-favorite feature, the pointing stick. It’s placed right on the keyboard, and you get duplicate mouse buttons below it, too, a staple of ThinkPad laptops. Aside from that, it weighs 3.06lbs and measures 17.6mm thin, so it’s decently portable, as you’d expect.

As for ports, that’s usually one of the strengths of business laptops, and the ThinkPad L13 delivers a solid experience. You get two USB Type-C ports, one of them supporting Thunderbolt 4 –meaning you can use a Thunderbolt dock to expand your ports even further — two USB Type-A (3.2 Gen 1) ports, HDMI 2.0, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. There’s also a proprietary mechanical docking connector, which is where the Thunderbolt 4 port is also included, but you can use that port without the proprietary connector.

Now, Lenovo has a configurator where you can fully customize your laptop, including a black model and an IR camera,  but just matching these specs will take the price to over $1,000, so it really pays to buy this pre-configured model.

    This model of the ThinkPad L13 includes powerful Intel processors and features aimed at business users.

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Best cheap gaming laptop: HP Pavilion Gaming 15z

HP Pavilion Gaming 15 laptop

If you’re on the other side of computing and you’re more interested in play than work, the HP Pavilion Gaming 15 is a great affordable choice for gamers on a budget. It doesn’t have the most powerful hardware, of course, but it’s good enough to run a lot of games, including more modern ones, as long as you’re willing to tweak some settings.

int terms of performance, this is naturally one of the most powerful laptops on this list. It comes with AMD’s 45W Ryzen processors, specifically a Ryzen 5 5600H with six cores, 12 threads, and boost speeds up to 4.2GHz. This is different from the Ryzen processors in the other laptops on this list, which were only 15W. The higher power rating means the laptop can run faster for longer, so it’s ideal for gaming and other demanding workloads. Backing up that processor is an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of dedicated memory. While it won’t blow you away if you’ve seen high-end gaming laptops, it’s good enough for playing all kinds of games at solid frame rates. Rounding things out, we have 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD in the base configuration.

As the name suggests, the Pavilion Gaming 15z has a 15.6-inch display, and it comes in Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution, regardless of the model you choose. The base configuration has a 60Hz panel, and it also maxes out at 250 nits of brightness. That means using it outdoors won’t be amazing, and the refresh rate doesn’t scream gaming, but it’s not like you need a high refresh rate to enjoy most games.

Currently, the laptop is starting at just under $600, and that means you have some wiggle room for upgrades, but you have to be selective about them. A 144Hz panel costs an extra $20, and you can go up to 16GB of RAM for another $80, for example. Upgrading the storage is also an option, but you’ll have to choose your priorities. A processor or GPU upgrade aren’t possible, at least within our budget, but frankly, those aren’t the areas you should be concerned about here.

The webcam on the Pavilion Gaming 15z is yet another 720p camera and there’s no Windows Hello facial recognition. In fact, there’s no Windows Hello support at all, as there isn’t even a fingerprint reader here. That’s a big letdown, though it obviously depends on how much you care about biometric authentication.

Being a relatively powerful and cheap gaming laptop the Pavilion Gaming 15z isn’t exactly small, and it’s not meant to be the most portable machine around. It weighs 4.37lbs and it’s 23.62mm thick, so it’s not the kind of laptop you can carry around all day if you’re walking around everywhere. Not comfortably, at least. In terms of looks, it has some elements of the typical “gamer” aesthetic with some angular edges, but it’s not overly done. The base model comes with a green backlit keyboard and HP logo, though, which you may find a little obnoxious. On the bright side, a number pad is included if that’s something you’re interested in.

Finally, in terms of ports, the Pavilion Gaming 15z has a solid range of connections, but the USB ports aren’t very fast. There’s a USB Type-C (3.2 Gen 1) port, two USB Type-A ports (one USB 3.2 Gen 1, one USB 2.0), HDMI 2.0, gigabit ethernet, a headphone jack, and a full-size microSD card reader. The HDMI and Ethernet ports have pretty high bandwidth, which possibly explains why the USB ports aren’t as fast as some other laptops. Plus that USB 2.0 port is probably meant for you to plug in a mouse for gaming, and it works just fine for that.

All in all, the HP Pavilion Gaming 15z is far from a high-end laptop, but if you want to play some modern games without breaking the bank, this is a great way to enjoy them, even if it requires changing some settings. It’s one of your best options if you want a cheap gaming laptop.

    For gamers on a tight budget, the HP Pavilion Gaming 15z is a great option to run most modern games.

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Best cheap 17-inch laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad 3i

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i 17

Some of us like small screens, and some like really big screens. If you’re one of the latter and you’re in the market for a cheap 17-inch laptop, the IdeaPad 3i is probably one of your best options.

First off, it comes with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor with four cores, eight threads, and boost speeds up to 4.2GHz. This processor also includes Intel’s Iris Xe graphics, so you can do some light GPU tasks on this machine, too. In addition to that, you get 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, giving you plenty of storage space for files and solid overall performance. This is still one of Intel’s latest processors, and the rest of the specs are in line with or better than other laptops on this list.

As expected, this model of the IdeaPad 3i has a 17.3-inch display, and it comes in the typical 16:9 aspect ratio. The resolution is Full HD (1920 x 1080), which is decently sharp, and definitely the best you’ll find in a laptop at this price. 17-inch displays won’t look super sharp at this resolution, but it’s perfectly usable. The display also reaches 300 nits of brightness, which is alright. You’ll likely need to max out the brightness to see anything outdoors, but it should still be usable.

Above the display there’s yet another 720p webcam, and once again, there’s no Windows Hello facial recognition support. Instead, a fingerprint reader is built into the power button, so you’re not completely missing out on the convenience of Windows Hello. The camera also has a privacy shutter for the more privacy-conscious users.

Design-wise, the IdeaPad 3i looks fairly standard, coming in a dark Abyss Blue color that looks very subdued and shouldn’t stand out too much. being a 17-inch laptop, it’s obviously not very light, weighing in at 4.63lbs, but portability is probably not your first priority with a laptop like this. It does manage to come in just under 20mm thin, so it should still fit easily in a laptop bag or backpack.

As for the ports, the IdeaPad 3i comes with one USB Type-C (3.2 Gen 1) port, two USB Type-A ports (one USB 3.2 Gen 1, one USB 2.0), HDMI, an SD card reader, and a headphone jack. The setup covers most of the basics, but the lack of Thunderbolt or faster USB ports is a bit of a bummer. Still, it should get the job done for most people.

17-inch laptops don’t come cheap, and they usually make a few more compromises than their smaller siblings. However, with the current discount, you’re really not missing out on much with this bigger model, and it’s an easy recommendation if you.

    The Lenovo IdeaPad 3i is a solid 17-inch laptop with powerful specs and a Full HD display.

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Best tablet: Surface Go 3

Front view of Surface Go 3 on bricks

If what you want is more of a tablet that can also serve as a laptop, the Surface Go 3 is pretty much unchallenged in this price range. It’s a budget tablet, but it makes some careful choices to offer a premium experience in aspects that are the most important. It starts at just under $400, so you also have room for some upgrades.

The performance is one area where the Surface Go 3 makes some sacrifices, but it still offers a solid experience. The base model comes with an Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y processor with two cores and four threads, as well as boost speeds up to 3.4GHz. That’s not on par with the Intel Core and AMD Ryzen processors on this list, but it should still be good enough for basic tasks like web browsing and writing up documents. You also get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage in the base model, but these are two areas where we recommend upgrading. The $700 budget is fairly generous, and for $550, you can go up to 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, which we absolutely recommend. There’s also a model with a faster processor for $630.

Where the Surface Go 3 excels, however, is the display. Across all configurations, you get a 10.5-inch Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) display, which is very sharp and bright. It also comes in the signature 3:2 aspect ratio of the Surface family, and it’s one of the very few laptops you’ll find with a tall display like that. This aspect ratio is great for productivity and reading, so whether you’re browsing the web or working, it’s going to serve you well. Of course, it also supports touch and the Surface Pen, which is sold separately.

The Surface Go 3 also stands out from the pack thanks to its fantastic webcam. The front-facing camera on the Surface Go 3 is a 5MP sensor capable of recording 1080p video, which means it’s already far ahead of any other laptop on this list. Not only that, but it actually supports Windows Hello facial recognition, make it very easy to unlock the PC just by looking at it. And there’s even another camera on the back, this time being an 8MP sensor also with 1080p video. For students with online classes, or even if you’re just trying to call far-away relatives, this is great to have and it makes the Surface Go 3 really stand out.

Being a small tablet, the Surface Go 3 is also easily the most portable device on this list. It’s made of magnesium, which allows it to be just 8.3mm thin and weigh just 1.2lbs. This is truly a device you can take anywhere, and you can even slip it into a large handbag. Of course, that’s without the keyboard, which is also sold separately, but even if you add that, it’s easily the most portable device on this list.

One of the more unfortunate sacrifices of the Surface Go 3 is the ports, which is somewhat typical of Surface devices. You get one USB Type-C port, one Surface Connect port for charging and docking, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. This port setup makes sense for a tablet, so it’s hard to say it’s terrible, but when you compare it to other laptops, it’s not very capable. You’ll likely need an adapter for display output using the USB Type-C port, and the same goes for any USB Type-A peripherals you might still have.

Despite its sacrifices, the Surface Go 3 offers a fantastic experience in key aspects like the display and webcam, while still offering good enough performance and extreme portability. It’s easy to recommend, but there’s a big caveat since the keyboard and Surface Pen are sold separately. If you want either of them, you need to account for that when considering the price.

    The Surface Go 3 is a budget laptop with a great display and an ultra-portable design.

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Best Chromebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Whenever it comes to recommending a Chromebook, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 always seems to come out on top on our lists. It’s no coincidence, either. This is a great and relatively cheap laptop, but as a Chromebook, it’s one of the best you can find.

First off, there’s performance. The latest model of the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is powered by an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor with four cores, eight threads, and boost speeds up to 4.2GHz. That’s nothing new on this list, and neither is the 8GB of RAM inside alongside the 256GB of RAM. It’s when you consider the Chrome OS is mostly found on devices with old and slow Intel Celeron processors, 4GB of RAM, and as little as 32GB of storage that you realize that this is a true standout amongst Chromebooks. Google’s OS will run super smoothly on this machine, and that amount of storage is also more than enough for an operating system that relies heavily on the web and the cloud.

But what truly stands out about this laptop is its display. This is a 13.5-inch panel, and it comes in the same 3:2 aspect ratio as Microsoft’s Surface devices and some other premium laptops. That’s already great, and it gets even better when you consider the sharp 2256 x 1504 resolution, something that’s practically unheard of in this price range. Combined with the specs above, this is something you can’t really find in the Windows space for the same price. And of course, this is a convertible, so it supports touch and active pens.

What doesn’t stand out, however, is the 720p webcam, which is very similar to what every other laptop on this list has. In this case, the lack of facial recognition can also be attributed to Chrome OS not supporting it, but there isn’t a fingerprint reader either, so you’re going to have to go with a password or pin to keep your data safe.

The design of the Chromebook Spin 713 is fairly standard for a convertible, but it’s also very premium. It uses an aluminum chassis for the most part, and the display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass, so it definitely feels high-end in that regard. It’s also durable, meeting the military MIL-STD-810H durability standard. In terms of portability, it weighs 3.2lbs and measures just over 17mm in thickness, so it’s fairly lightweight and compact for a convertible of this size.

Coming around to connectivity, you get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one USB Type-A (3.2 Gen 1) port, HDMI, a microSD card reader, and a headphone jack. That’s a very complete setup, and THunderbolt 4 support is another rarity among Chromebooks, helping to make this an even more special laptop.

Overall, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a fantastic laptop, especially compared to its Chrome OS competitors. At this price, it’s an easy recommendation for you’re looking for one of the very best Chrome OS experiences on a relatively cheap laptop. If you want something a little cheaper, there’s an older model of this Chromebook that has the same great display and some weaker specs.

    The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is one of the best Chromebooks out there, with powerful Intel processors, a fantastic display, and durable design.

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Those are, in our opinion, the best cheap laptops you can buy right now. All of these are great devices for their asking price, though each of them is more geared towards a specific kind of user. We chose the HP Pavilion Aero as our best overall pick because it brings together great performance with AMD’s latest Ryzen processors, a great display with a tall aspect ratio, and a very lightweight metal build. It’s a combination you can’t really get elsewhere, and it makes this a great laptop for just about anyone.

If you’re not necessarily looking for a cheap laptop and you want Thunderbolt 4 support above anything else, check out our list of the best Thunderbolt 4 laptops you can buy today.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Editor at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.

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