HP TECH TAKES /...
Exploring today's technology for tomorrow's possibilities
Best HP Budget Laptops
November 24, 2018
Given just how many options are available, the search for a new laptop can be a difficult one. That’s particularly true when you’re shopping on a budget and looking to get the best bang for your buck without sacrificing performance.
Fortunately for consumers, HP® has an extensive range of prices and configurations across its home laptops and work laptops. With so much variety available, your budget doesn’t have to be an insurmountable barrier to a laptop that’s reliable and easy to use.
HP® also offers loads of choices for customization across most of its tech, not just with their budget laptops. While you shop, you’ll find many customizable models singled out within a particular family or line. These laptop models have extra information indicating that they feature a deep selection of optional hardware or peripherals to choose from before checkout.
How to balance cost versus performance in a laptop
Even with strong choices available to you, figuring out how to balance your own unique needs with budget constraints can be quite challenging. And it’s made that much more difficult if you don’t fully understand the hardware you’re considering.
To help prepare yourself before shopping, you should find the answers to a few simple questions that relate to how you generally prefer to use your laptop.
By mapping out your priorities in advance, you can save on overall costs because you know how to compare different features. You’ll also know with certainty what is absolutely necessary for you to have, and when it may be safe to make sacrifices.
How much memory and processing power do you want?
While more is typically better when it comes to technology, what does that mean for your own needs? RAM (random access memory) is what your computer will use to load programs and run applications. Having enough RAM is the difference between the smooth operation of your laptop and frustrating slowdowns and crashes.
For demanding routines that handle a lot of complex software, it's a good idea to start with at least 8GBs of RAM. 16GBs is a great mid-range option if you can afford it. However, for those interested in cloud-based computing, the importance of memory decreases because storage and more complex processes often aren’t reliant on your physical device.
Still, for the most demanding routines, you can future-proof yourself a bit if you focus more on next-gen processor options from AMD or in the i5 range or above when considering laptops with Intel® processors. With less intensive workloads that revolve around only occasional use though, you won’t need to worry too much about getting the latest processor model or the one with the most cores.
Does your preferred laptop model have enough storage?
Internal storage can be a less sensitive consideration because external hard drives are now both compact and affordable. That being said, it can still come into play if you prefer a streamlined routine without peripherals or if you need the quickest possible access to your files.
If you don’t mind using cloud storage or working with external solutions, internal storage won’t be a big priority for you. Depending on your multimedia habits, actively keeping your laptop’s built-in hard drive clean and clear can often offset the need for deeper storage space anyway.
What are your gaming and streaming habits?
For less intensive gaming and streaming routines, laptop models with integrated graphics - designed to share memory with their CPU - are often adequate. But if you need more power, pay attention to graphics card options and be sure to check out the section explaining HP OMEN gaming laptops below.
While a graphics card does factor into plenty of other activities, you may not need a medium or high-end card if you’re multimedia habits are more casual.
Do you need more flexibility and portability?
For some users, one of the main considerations is preserving a high degree of mobility when choosing the right device. Whether it’s for work or travel, a crowded workspace, or just a long commute on foot, there are plenty of reasons to keep your eye out for a compact model.
Many of HP’s notebook lines boast thin and light designs in addition to long battery life for when you’re stuck away from a power source. But there are other factors to keep in mind if flexibility is paramount.
To preserve the utmost freedom as far as your style of work and preferred computing routine, you’ll also want to consider some of HP®’s 360-degree convertible laptop models. Otherwise known as detachables or convertibles, these 2-in-1 laptop designs feature strong hinges to support a variety of work modes and combine the best features of a laptop and tablet.
Focus on your routine
Whatever you choose, make sure to stay focused on how you’ll actually use your device. For example, your choices for the best budget laptops for students will no doubt differ from the best budget gaming laptops.
Be sure to think about portability if you spend a lot of time on foot, and definitely consider screen size if you stream a lot or mostly use your laptop for homework or simple work projects. Again, it all depends on you.
1. The accessible HP Chromebook line powered by Google
Developed in partnership with HP® and Google, the HP Chromebook line is an impressive effort that balances cost and performance by using the power of the cloud. This series of computers combines the advantages of mobile and cloud-based computing to reduce costs and provide an experience that still stacks up against other notebooks.
How does it work?
The HP Chromebook runs on Google’s streamlined Linux-based Chrome OS, with the notebook’s primary interface being the familiar Google Chrome browser.
Doubling down on its web optimizations, the laptop is further bolstered by the variety and efficiency of the Google Play store. From there, you can curate your entire experience by adding software for both general and more specialized tasks.
Whether you're looking for programs to handle basic office work or for more complicated jobs like photo editing, the HP Chromebook has an app for that. It even features a range of offline utilities to choose from when you need to work without an internet connection.
Design and hardware configurations
The HP Chromebook is available in two size configurations, the compact 11-inch HP Chromebook and the larger 14-inch HP Chromebook, for when screen real estate is a priority. You’ll also find optional Full High Definition (FHD) and Corning® Gorilla® Glass features as part of the touch screen variants.
It also boasts integrated graphics and a variety of processor options, right up to the latest generation of Intel Celeron® processors. You have the option to increase your power as you see fit, too, with the customizable 14-inch HP Chromebook G5. It can be configured for up to 8GB of LPDDR4-2400 SDRAM and 64GB of eMMC internal storage.
No matter which size you choose, you’ll find excellent mobility because they’re both measured in mere millimeters and weigh comfortably below 4 lbs.
Among the best budget laptops for students
The HP Chromebook’s design is heavily focused on activities like office work and entertainment, and complemented by myriad applications for users to incorporate and help flesh out their personal system.
Bearing that in mind, it’s an ideal model for college students. Instead of dumping a load of extra money into standard configurations, it allows the budget-conscious to preserve the integrity of both their wallets and their day-to-day work.
With such a manageable price point, the HP Chromebook is a no-brainer for the most internet and mobile-obsessed users, too. Even those devoted to streaming or online gaming will find something to satisfy - within the bounds of performance - thanks to the built-in webcam and other elements to help you play seamlessly online.
2. The best of both worlds with HP Stream laptop
If you like the idea of the HP Chromebook but aren’t ready to make the full leap from a standard notebook to the cloud, the HP Stream laptop is designed to marry the best of both worlds. It offers the familiar bedrock of a standard Windows OS with a compact, streamlined configuration.
Each model also features a high-definition display in addition to a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 and cloud-based OneDrive storage.
The HP Stream takes a step forward with its eye-catching new color configuration as well, giving you the opportunity to personalize your device with vibrant new exterior color options.
Where to start?
While HP Stream notebooks are comparable to the HP Chromebook, a slightly bigger budget can max out your specs with the HP Stream Pro G5 11-inch laptop.
In this case, EE denotes HP’s special education edition within this series, and it’s optimized for schoolwork with up to 128GB of eMMC storage. Remember that you also get Microsoft’s cloud-based OneDrive storage, and it boasts an SD card slot for when you need more physical space.
With the same high portability as its competitors, the HP Stream features co-molded rubber edges to protect your device when you’re on-the-go.
3. Great value with the HP 15z laptop
Back in the realm of conventional PCs, the HP 15z laptop offers both surprising value and potential for customization across its specs. It has a strong starting configuration, though, that includes an AMD A9-9425 Dual-Core processor and the assurance of AMD Radeon™ graphics, which you get across all configurations.
For memory and storage, you’ll find 8GB of DDR4-1866 SDRAM and a full 1TB of HDD storage - yes, all in the starting configuration. Even better, you can choose from six different color configurations to make this laptop your own, and add touch screen functionality if you want to go hands-on with your work.
4. Convertible options with the HP ENVY laptop
If you prefer the flexibility of a 2-in-1 device, the HP ENVY x360 15t convertible laptop offers strong base specs, including a touch screen, and a variety of use modes. Built with a strong hinge, this HP ENVY is optimized for several discrete viewing modes, from a traditional layout to a handy tablet mode.
It also includes Windows 10 Pro 64, an 8th Generation Intel Core™ i5 processor, and integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620. For storage, you get a 1TB HDD while its memory options start with 16GB of Intel Optane™ RAM.
Affordable gaming options
If you think a heavy-duty gaming rig is out of reach when you’re shopping on a budget, you should know that HP® offers some of the better-equipped budget gaming laptops on the market.
You’ll find accessible gaming variants within both the HP Pavilion line and the HP OMEN family, the latter being the company’s dedicated series of gaming computers.
1. HP Pavilion gaming laptop
We start out with the HP Pavilion 15t gaming laptop, which offers a couple critical choices to make.
First, you’ll choose between 8th Generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. Next, it’s graphics, with your choice between powerful NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1050 and AMD Radeon RX 560X graphic cards.
Where memory and storage are concerned, it includes 8GBs of DDR4-2666 SDRAM and 16GBs of responsive Intel Optane memory built right into the base price. That’s in addition to 1TB of internal HDD storage.
2. HP OMEN gaming laptop
HP OMEN may be the company’s premier gaming line for both laptop and desktop PCs, but it opens up with the affordable HP OMEN 15t gaming laptop.
For just a little more than the HP Pavilion line, you get the advantage of a hybrid HDD and SSD storage configuration that offers more than 1TB of storage in total.
Also, with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card and generous 15.6-inch diagonal display, it’s a powerful and easy way to enter the world of gaming without getting bogged down by specs and tech.
Remember to focus on your needs
The fact of the matter is, these days there are plenty of budget PC options to help balance lifestyle and budget. For consumers, the focus of your search should be squarely on your needs and usage.
Generally, the goal of budget laptop shopping is to find an option that costs less, but offers the same shelf life and performance as more expensive competition. To do that, you just need a little prep and a strong notebook selection like HP®’s to find the right laptop for you.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.