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The 7 Best Budget Laptops for Working from Home (or Remotely) 2023

The 7 Best Budget Laptops for Working from Home (or Remotely) 2023

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Congratulations, my friend — you’ve done it.

You’ve finally ditched the office.

Whether you’ve escaped part-time or you’re a proud full-time work-from-homer, I bet you can already taste the freedom.

There’s just one thing holding you back from complete work-from-home domination…

The right laptop.

The right work-from-home laptop can make or break your experience. As a remote professional, you depend on it for your livelihood every day. 

You need it to be fast, comfortable, and reliable — but without costing an arm and a leg. That’s a tall order.

To speed up your research, our tech experts at Project Untethered dug deep into the data, sifting through mountains of specs, reviews, and prices to narrow down your best options.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

✔️ The 7 best budget laptops for working from home (or remotely).
✔️ 5 essential features to consider before buying a WFH laptop.
✔️ Specific recommendations based on your unique needs.
✔️ Creative tips for shaving down your purchase price.

Let’s dive in.

Best Budget Laptop for Working from Home Comparison Table

Work-From-Home Laptop Buying Guide

Before diving into the nitty-gritties of each laptop, let’s look at the spec and features to look out for while shopping.

It’s much easier to compare laptop models when you know exactly what you’re looking for. 

Battery life

laptop set up on garden
Cute desk…but how are you gonna charge?

Outlets aren’t always an option. You might think you’ll always have a plug handy in your home office, but odds are you’ll end up working in other parts of your house (or outside your house) from time to time.

Some budget WFH laptops don’t have the best battery life — after all, you get what you pay for. So before buying, pay close attention to this spec.

Think about your workday and what you can get done. If you never work more than 8 hours at a time, look for a laptop that will last 8 hours or more per charge. Keep in mind that the more you stress the computer, the faster the battery will drain. 

If you work with heavy graphics and power-intensive computing tasks, you might want a longer-lasting battery. For example, the Macbook Air has an 18-hour battery life, which should last you an entire day (or two) no matter what you throw at it.

Weight

As a remote worker, you want a laptop you can take on the go. The last thing you need is a heavy computer and a bunch of accessories weighing you down. 

If you’re on a strict budget, you may have to make sacrifices in the weight department. But some models are certainly less back-breaking than others.

The average weight of the laptops on this list is roughly three pounds — the equivalent of a 12-pack of small apples. By the time you add in all of your accessories, hauling around your laptop bag can be a workout. 

If you’re worried about weight, both the MacBook Air and ASUS Zenbook clock in below this three-pound average.

Travel-Friendly

Thinner is generally more travel-friendly. But how sturdy and rugged is this computer? Just because it’s pretty and has shiny things doesn’t mean it can take a beating. 

One way to research ruggedness is to Google “[COMPUTER NAME] drop test”. 

As an extreme example, this guy dropped a MacBook 1,000 feet out of a helicopter. Check out what happens:

Ideally, you’ll avoid dropping your laptop out of a helicopter, but knowing you chose a rugged option gives peace of mind.

Hardware Features

Freelance writers require different specs than graphic designers or video editors. Make sure the remote work laptop you buy is capable of meeting all of your business needs.

CPU

The CPU is the family of processors your computer uses to complete tasks. The more “cores” (and power of these cores) translate into a faster and smoother running machine. 

For Intel, i3 is going to be the worst you should tolerate. This is fine for writers, but people doing heavier work should opt for the i7 or AMD equivalent.

RAM

RAM is short-term memory. The more RAM, the faster your machine can run. 4 GB is the bare minimum and anyone doing graphic design or editing video should get as much as they can — 16 GB is optimal.

Hard Drive

The days of clunky hard drives are over. Most laptops these days come equipped with solid-state drives (SSDs). This means your computer saves faster and boots up quicker. 

Look for a minimum of 256 GB. Depending on what programs and files you work with, this memory can disappear quickly. 

That said, if you’re on a tight budget, you may find that buying this extra external SSD hard drive is cheaper than upgrading the internal storage of a laptop.

WFH laptops vs. desktops 

Before diving into each laptop, you might wonder why anyone who works from home would want a laptop over a desktop in the first place. 

Well, several reasons. 

Many professionals who work from home don’t work from home all the time. Others like to get out and go to coffee shops or co-working spaces to prevent their social tanks from drying up. 

Digital nomads who failed to pick up a wifi hotspot for travel might have to bike or walk miles to get the service they need.

If you fall into this category, you probably want a laptop — better yet, a laptop for digital nomads specifically. 

If you’re 100% sure you’ll never have to bring your work outside your house for the next five years, you could opt for a desktop to save money. But it severely limits your flexibility. 

Best Budget Laptops for Working from Home in 2023

Below is my list of the best budget laptops for working from home in 2023. 

“On a budget” means different things to different people. So I’ve organized recommendations by price range and brand.

Best laptops for working from home under $1000

A thousand bucks is a lot of cash to some people, so if you’re looking for the cheapest option possible, skip down to #3.

That said, when you consider build quality and calculate cost based on expected lifespan, sometimes slightly higher priced models end up being cheaper over the long run.

For example, if you buy a $400 laptop that breaks after two years, you would have been better off buying the $800 model that lasts for five. Of course, nobody can predict the future.

It’s also worth considering your output. If a higher-end laptop increases your productivity and allows you to finish your work faster (or earn more), that could be considered a discount.

Time is money, after all. 

1. MacBook Air – Best All-Around Laptop for Work from Home

Dimensions (H x W x D): 0.63 x 11.97 x 8.36 inches
Weight: 2.84 lbs (1.29 kg)
Storage: 256GB SSD
RAM: 8GB
Processor: Apple M1 chip
Ports: Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (x2)
Battery Life: Up to 18 hours

After 20+ hours of research, there is a clear winner — the MacBook Air M1 is the best budget laptop for working from home — at least for most people.

2023 Update: Apple has now released a newer version with an M2 chip (Amazon, Best Buy), but if you’re on a budget, it’s really not necessary. I still personally use the Air M1 for all my work, and it’s epic.

It’s not the cheapest laptop on the list, but its quality, longevity, and usability make up for it.

In fact, this is the exact laptop I use to work remotely. It checks all of the boxes.

It’s incredibly lightweight, weighs in at 2.8 pounds, and has a ridiculous 18-hour battery life that’ll let you work from anywhere. 

Power goes out at home? You can still work. 

Stuck on the runway? You can still work. 

Living van life off-the-grid with limited house batteries? You can still work. 

With 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of solid-state memory, your machine fires up in just a few seconds. And unlike older versions of the Air, the M1 is packed with power. That means it can take on pretty much any tasks you throw at it without a flinch. 

(Although if you do high-end graphic design and ultra HD video editing every day, the MacBook Pro might be a better option — which slides you above the “budget” range). 

As far as durability, did you see the helicopter drop video above?

The slightly annoying part of the MacBook Air is that it only comes with two USB-C ports. That means you will almost certainly need to buy an extra laptop port adapter to plug in all your devices.

But carrying a tiny adaptor around with you isn’t the end of the world. Just keep it in your laptop case so you never lose it.

Who should buy the MacBook Air?

Everyone! Kidding. Kinda. The MacBook Air is the best all-around option for most people working from home. 

It can handle most remote work applications with the exception of heavy graphic design work. (Tests show that it technically can handle it, but it’s not quite as fast as more expensive laptops). 

The only reason to avoid it is if you simply hate Apple products, or if your company uses Windows-only software.

While it’s slightly more expensive than some other options, Macs are known to hold their value and last many years. I bought a 2009 MacBook in college and later sold it to my brother — he still uses it today, 13 years later!

(Other options: Best Buy)

2. ASUS Zenbook 14 – Best Alternative to the MacBook Air

Dimensions (H x W x D): 14.2 x 9.3 x 0.8 inches
Weight: ‎2.87 lbs (1.3 kg)
Storage: 1TB SSD
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
Ports: USB 3.2 Type A (x1), USB 3.2 Type c (x2), HDMI, SD Reader, Headphone Jack
Battery Life: Up to 15 hours, 49-minute fast-charge to 60%

It isn’t easy, but I accept that not everyone appreciates Apple products the same way that I do. In that case, the ASUS Zenbook 14 is your best option. 

They’re ultra-slim and lightweight, hitting the scales just over 2.5 pounds — almost exactly the same as the MacBook Air.

As far as specs, this bad boy boasts a Ryzen 7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a ginormous 1 TB SSD drive.

These specs actually outshine the Macbook Air’s base model. But that’s not quite a fair comparison because this isn’t the base model of the Zenbook 14. (For the base model, which is a bit cheaper, see the Best Buy link below).

The battery life isn’t quite as good as the Air, but at 15 hours, it’s still way more than you’ll likely need in a day.

On the bright side, the Zenbook 14 packs in quite a few different ports. So unlike the Air, you won’t need to carry around an extra adapter.

This particular Zenbook 14 can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. But if you go with the cheaper base version, it’s not the best option for heavy HD video editing.

That said, you’d be hard-pressed to find any cheap work-from-home laptop that can do that.

In the end, most remote workers can get away with the base model available at Best Buy and save a couple hundred dollars. If you need heavy processing power, the souped-up version on Amazon won’t let you down.

Who should buy the ASUS Zenbook 14?

The Zenbook 14 is pretty tiny. It’s ideal for people who have smaller hands, work in tight spaces, need to pack light, or are constantly on the go. It also fits perfectly in a traveling office for digital nomads.

It can handle all of the tasks a MacBook Air can handle, especially if you upgrade the specs. That means whether you’re a freelance writer (who loves quality), a Youtuber, or a graphic designer, there’s a model for you.

(Other options: Best Buy – note the Best Buy model is cheaper but has less RAM and storage, which you may not need anyway.)

Best Laptops for Working from Home Under $500

Some of you WFH folks can get by with some really attractively priced products. If you don’t need anything fancy — just internet browsing, email, docs, and the basics — then you could potentially get buy with some even cheaper models.

3. Acer Aspire 5 – Cheapest Laptop for Working From Home

Dimensions (H x W x D): 14.31 x 9.86 x 0.71 inches
Weight: 3.97 lbs (1.90 kg)
Storage: 512GB SSD
RAM: 12GB DDR4
Processor: AMD Ryzen 3 3350U Quad-Core
Ports: USB 3.2 Type-C (x1), USB 3.2 Type A (x2), USB 2.0 Type A (x1), HDMI 2.0, headphone, Ethernet (RJ-45), DC-in for AC adapter
Battery Life: Up to 8 hours

I have a friend who swears by Acer products. He’s a hardcore bang-for-buck kind of guy, and he claims Acer is the best product at its price range. They offer both laptops and desktops at affordable prices with decent hardware.

The Acer Aspire 5 is a budget laptop that doesn’t look cheap. In fact, it’s the cheapest “true” laptop on this list. It has a sleek design, but is a bit heavier than average — weighing in at a smidge under four pounds. 

If you don’t plan on moving around much, that won’t be an issue. If you do move around, consider the extra weight an opportunity to whip yourself into shape.

As far as specs go, it boasts an AMD Ryzen Quad-Core processor, a generous 12 GB of RAM, and an upgraded 512 GB SSD.

The Aspire 5 also boasts a 15-inch display and plenty of ports, two benefits you get for that extra weight.

The battery is nothing to scoff at either, giving you eight hours of life — much higher than most laptops in this price bracket.

Despite the decent hardware, you’re not going to be doing any gaming or bitcoin mining on this thing. It’s pretty bare-bones in this area. The keyboard layout also takes some getting used to, so expect to hit the wrong keys until your muscle memory adapts.

But if all you’ll only be using a few basic programs — with some streaming and Youtube mixed in — then it should suffice.

Who should buy the Acer Aspire 5?

The Aspire 5 is the best option for those looking for the best WFH laptop for the absolute cheapest price. (There are even cheaper older versions of this laptop, but if you go that route, the tech is likely to get outdated).

It’s fast enough with decent hardware, fairly durable, and cheap enough that breaking isn’t going to bring you to tears. You can just go buy another one.

Is it a bit clunkier than the MacBook Air and ASUS Zenbook 14?

Of course it is. But it’s also a fraction of the price. 

(Other options: Best Buy – Only more expensive i7 version available at time of writing)

4. Lenovo Chromebook Duet – Best Chromebook under $500

Dimensions (H x W x D) (Tablet + Keyboard): ‎H 9.64 x W 6.66 x D 0.71 inches
Weight (Tablet + Keyboard) : 2.03lbs (0.920 kg)
Storage: 128GB SSD
RAM: 4GB DDR4
Processor: MediaTek Helio P60T Processor (2.00 GHz, 8 Cores, 8 Threads)
Ports: USB-C (Gen 2), Volume control, Power button, 5-point pogo pins
Battery Life: Up to 10 hours

Chromebooks are slightly different from “normal” laptops. They use Chrome OS, which is an operating system that runs a lot like an Android smartphone. It is app-based, which requires lighter hardware to run properly. 

Chromebooks are for people who are just testing the waters. If you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, or with some kind of data entry gig that allows for Google products, this is your best bet. 

You can dip your toes into the pool without spending a small fortune on a computer. 

The Chromebook Duet is technically cheaper than the Aspire 5, but I wouldn’t consider it a “true” laptop.

It is a 2-in-1 laptop with a 10” screen and detachable keyboard. Think of it kind of like working on a glorified tablet.

This makes it super portable, but not super comfortable to work on full-time.

Lenovo is known for creating quality products, and this one is no different. Unlike many Chromebooks, this one comes with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive.

My only issue is the screen size. But if you’re just starting out and absolutely cannot afford anything else, this Chromebook can handle your basic needs. 

Who should buy the Lenovo Chromebook Duet?

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is the best choice for brand new online workers who are just testing the waters.

If you don’t know what the best WFH laptop is for your specific job (or haven’t even decided which job you want to do yet), then why spend a ton of money?

If you have a severely limited budget, want tablet capability, and you’re brand new to this lifestyle, then the Lenovo Chromebook Due is a solid choice.

Once you gain some traction and build your savings, you can always upgrade as needed. 

(Other options: Best Buy)

Best Laptop for Remote Work by Brand

Just like I love my Apple products and my cheapskate buddy adores Acer, there are people all over the world with different tastes in computers.

If you have a specific brand you must have, here are some great options to choose from. But if you could care less about brands, just stick with the Macbook Air, ASUS Zenbook 14, or Acer Aspire 5 above. 

5. Dell Inspiron 15 – Best Dell Laptop for Working from Home

Dimensions (H x W x D): 14.11 x 9.27 x 0.74 inches
Weight: 3.82 lbs (1.73 kg)
Storage: 250GB SSD
RAM: 8GB DDR4 RAM
Processor: 10th Gen Intel Quad-Core i5
Ports: USB 3.2 Type-A (x2), USB 2.0 Type-A (x1), SD Card Reader, HDMI, Headphones
Battery Life: Unlisted

This budget Dell laptop has an impressive 10th Gen Intel Quad-Core i5 processor.

For the money, the graphics on this computer are top-notch. It also comes with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD hard drive. All for under $500. 

So what’s the problem? It works, but users report many quirks.

For example, the fingerprint reader and touch screen sometimes decide to not respond, and it runs slightly slow compared to higher quality laptops.

That said, for the price, you can’t really go wrong — especially if you don’t need to run any power-intensive programs, like heavy video editing.

Who should buy the Dell Inspiron 15?

This is one of the most popular budget laptops in this price range, and if you can get past the quirks, it’s perfect for anyone working from home on a tight budget.

That said, the Macbook Air and ASUS Zenbook 14 are better options if you can swing it.

They’re more of a pleasure to use, which is important if you’re working on it every day. They’re also both likely to last longer over the long run and give you fewer headaches.

(Other options: Best Buy)

6. HP Envy x360 – Best HP Laptop for Working from Home

Dimensions (H x W x D): 14.13 x 9.02 x 0.73 inches
Weight: 3.93 lbs (1.78 kg)
Storage: 512GB SSD
RAM: 16GB DDR4 RAM
Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 5625U Processor
Ports: USB 3.1 Type C (x2), USB 3.1 Type-A (x2), HDMI, Headphones, SD Card Reader
Battery Life: Rated to 9 hours, but users report less

What if a laptop could also be a tablet? What if it was lightweight(ish), faster than greased lightning, and was still attractively priced?

Well, then you would probably be looking at the HP Envy x360.

It’s got a 15” screen, which depending on your portability needs, could be a pro or a con. 

The Envy x360’s hardware is impressive with an AMD Ryzen 5, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 SSD. It weighs less than four pounds and has plenty of ports. 

The graphics card isn’t great, and there are some strong-worded complaints about the battery not lasting as long as expected. But if you’re an HP fan who wants something tablet-capable, this is the best choice for the money.

Who should buy the HP Envy x360?

The Envy x360x is best for people who want 2-in-1 tablet capabilities and have their heart set on the HP brand. It’s not the best at anything, but does everything “good enough”.

Note: You can get souped-up or souped-down versions of the Envy x360, but this seems to be the happy medium between value and performance.

(Other options: Best Buy)

7. Microsoft Surface Pro – 7 Best Microsoft Laptop for Working from Home

Dimensions (H x W x D): 12.8 x 2.68 x 9.21 inches
Weight: 1.10 lbs (0.49 kg)
Storage: 128GB SSD
RAM: ‎8GB LPDDR4
Processor: ‎Core i5
Ports: USB-C, USB-A
Battery Life:  Up to 10.5 hours

Not many people think about Microsoft when it comes to hardware. But they make computers, and these computers run their software amazingly well. The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is what you want if you’re a die-hard Microsoft lover.

This is one of the best laptops for home business since so many people rely on the Office Suite for office tasks. And at a feathery 1.7 pounds and 2-in-1 tablet capability, it’s a cinch to haul to and from the office. 

The Surface Pro also lets you choose your chip, GPU, RAM, and hard drives — but anything more than the base model will cost you dearly.

The downsides are that for nearly a grand, you’re only getting the barebones base model with a 12.3-inch display and 10.5 hours of battery life — far less than what a similarly-priced Macbook Air gives you.

In fact, if you want equal specs to the Macbook Air, you’ll pay over $1,000.

Who should buy the Microsoft Surface Pro 7?

This is probably the best laptop for a home business with tablet capabilities, but it doesn’t come cheap.

If you have the budget and love the idea of a tablet option, it’s a great choice. But for essentially the same price, you could grab the sleek and powerful Macbook Air.

(Other options: Best Buy)

Wrap Up on the Best Budget Work-From-Home Laptops

As you can see, no matter what your budget, you’ve got options.

Quality WFH laptops range from a couple hundred dollars up to well over a grand. But in almost all cases, you get what you pay for. 

The MacBook Air is hands-down the best laptop for working from home (or if you don’t like Apple, the ASUS Zenbook 14 base or souped-up model). 

Yes, you pay a little more upfront. But when you consider the total lifetime of the laptop, increased productivity and work output, and a more enjoyable daily work experience — those extra costs even out.

That said, not everyone has the upfront cash sitting around for the Air or Zenbook. And in that case, the budget-friendly Acer Aspire 5 is a perfectly decent option for the average remote worker who just needs the basics. 

If you choose one of these three options, you literally can’t go wrong. 

Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).

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