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Cheap Laptops The best value budget laptops under £300

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Laptops come in many shapes and sizes, so choosing one can be a challenge. Here's a round-up of the best-equipped we could find for less than £300.

The most important parts to check when choosing a laptop are the ones that are hard to upgrade: the processor, screen and graphics card. Paying a little more for a machine with a newer processor is often wise, as it'll be more future-proof.

Note: Due to the popularity of this site's weekly email, deals listed here can sell out at speed.

All the laptops listed come with full wi-fi capabilities, Windows 7 Home edition, and a minimum of 1GB RAM, though you can upgrade in most cases.

What do you get for this budget? The machines below are perfect for day-to-day tasks such as online banking, shopping and sending emails.

However, if you want to play the latest high-res games, edit videos or run any other processor-hungry app, expect to struggle with these laptops.

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Acer Aspire 5349
£300 in-store at Sainsbury's

This Acer Aspire is only £299.99 at Sainsbury's*, with free in-store collection (or pay £4.95 to get it delivered). It's ideal for those needing the basics, and it has a decent spec at an affordable price.

How good is it? The Aspire 5349 has a dual-core Intel processor perfect for running Office applications, checking emails and browsing the net. If you want to play online games or stream movies online, it's worth looking for something with a higher spec and faster processor.

It also has an integrated 0.3MP webcam and mic, and three USB ports.

Processor: Intel GMA dual-core B815, 1.6GHz
Hard drive: 500GB
Optical drive: DVD +/- RW Drive (read/write CD & DVD)
Display: Widescreen 15.6" (resolution 1366 x 768)
Weight: 2.4kg
Graphics: Intel GMA graphics card (integrated)
Included software: Windows 7 Home Premium
Warranty: One-year manufacturer warranty

Fujitsu AH530 Lifebook
£283 online at BHS Direct

Known for its well-built, reliable PCs and laptops, you can order Fujitsu's AH530 Lifebook from BHS Direct* for £283 and get it delivered free.

How good is it? It's a sturdy, robust model with a more-than-adequate dual-core Pentium P6200 2.13GHz processor, and has a decent amount of storage courtesy of its 320GB hard drive, though only 2GB of RAM.

It has a 4-in-1 memory card reader, which takes SD cards, memory sticks, memory stick PROs and SDHC memory cards. This makes uploading and sharing photos and files a lot easier. It also has a 1.3MP webcam at the top of the screen and an integrated microphone, so you can stay in touch with everyone using the internet.

Reviews have suggested that the laptop battery does not last the full six-hour life that Fujitsu claims, however.

Processor: Intel Pentium dual core P6200 2.13GHz
Hard drive: 320GB
Optical drive: DVD +/- RW Drive (read/write CD & DVD)
Display: Widescreen 15.6" (resolution 1366 x 768)
Weight: Unknown
Graphics: Intel HD graphics (integrated)
Included software: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit
Warranty: One-year manufacturer warranty

Lenovo Essential G575
£300 in-store at Currys

The Lenovo Essential G575 is £299.99 and can be reserved and picked up from Currys* for free, or delivered for an extra £5.95.

It has a basic spec with a dual-core AMD C-50 1GHz processor, 320GB hard drive and decent HD onboard graphics, meaning it's well suited to everyday general use. However, reviewers have described its keyboard as "clunky" and its build-quality "iffy".

There is also a nifty 0.3MP integrated webcam for keeping in touch with friends and family, and an in-built DVD-RW, letting you watch DVDs, listen to CDs and make your own.

Processor: AMD C-50 1GHz
Hard drive: 320GB
Optical drive: DVD +/- RW Drive (read/write CD & DVD)
Display: Widescreen 15.6" (resolution 1366 x 768)
Graphics: Intel Mobile GMA 4500M graphics with 1GB memory (integrated)
Included software: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit
Warranty: One-year manufacturer warranty

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Quick glossary

  • Processor: The bit that crunches the numbers - the single most important thing to consider when choosing a laptop.

  • RAM: Random Access Memory, the memory programs draw from to run smoothly. The more RAM, the quicker you can expect your software to run.

  • Hard drive: The bit that stores all your data. It is measured in gigabytes (themselves comprised of 1024 megabytes). You should be looking for around 150GB as a minimum, but bear in mind you can always add an external drive later if you need to.

  • Optical drive: The drive that reads optical media: CDs and DVDs. Most laptops are now capable of writing and rewriting discs as well as playing them, so you can record whatever you like on them (though keep 'em out of the sun afterwards or they'll stop working).

picture of laptop delivery peopleNeed more memory?

Memory retailer Crucial has a handy tool on its site for selecting the right type of RAM for any laptop; you just need to input the name and brand.

Its prices are often competitive too, though it's always worth searching elsewhere (once you've found the right type) to make sure you've got the absolute best price.

Want software too?

Unfortunately. grabbing good hardware's only half the battle. Big software manufacturers will happily relieve you of any leftover cash in exchange for their wares.

You can avoid them if you know where to look. There are so many great, free-to-use equivalents of office suites, graphics programs, and other software that you may never need pay for one again. See our Free Office Software article for a complete rundown of the best.

The same goes for anti-virus/spyware and other security software. Don't be scared into buying big corporate programs. Check out their no-spend equivalents in the Free Anti-Virus & Safety Software guide.

Want something more basic?

If you're just looking for a portable laptop for basic things such as emailing, word processing and web surfing, you may well be better off considering one of the new range of smaller "netbook" laptops. They shouldn't replace a desktop or laptop PC, but they'll certainly complement it. Read Cheap Netbooks for the latest top picks.

You've only included laptops from big suppliers. Why?

The power of this site means we can only feature laptops that are in plentiful stock. You may be able to beat these prices by going to local and smaller computer retailers and asking them if they can beat the deal you've seen here. Give it a go, but make sure you're getting the same spec, as most models are available with various options.

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