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8 best laptops under £250 that are real value for money

Fast, light and durable, these latest models are sure to impress

Although power users will need to look elsewhere, for many of us, a highly affordable laptop is more than enough ( The Independent/iStock )

You can’t beat a laptop. Sure, tablets can do lots of things they couldn’t before, and if you attach a keyboard they become almost like a laptop substitute. But there’s something about how a laptop operating system is designed for the familiar screen and keyboard form. Although power users will need to look elsewhere, for many of us, a highly affordable laptop is more than enough.

When choosing a laptop at the bottom end of the price range, it’s important to understand what comes with it. You won’t get the most advanced processor or most capacious storage from the cheapest models. However, the advent of cloud computing, where much of the heavy lifting is done in remote servers rather than on your device, means these restrictions may not matter.

Screen sizes tend to be smaller when prices are lower, so a super-affordable laptop may not be the best video playback machine, and may be lower resolution than a tablet, for instance.

There’s nothing from Apple at this price range but the other two operating systems, Microsoft Windows and Google’s Chrome OS, are featured here. Windows has a wider range of programs and Chrome works best when you are connected to the internet, though it’s much more capable offline than it used to be.

When testing these laptops, we’ve considered the specifications, design and build quality to decide which models were good value for money.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Lenovo ideapad S130 81J20076UK: £199.99, John Lewis & Partners

Operating system: Windows 10
Storage: 64GB​
RAM: 4GB​
Processor: Intel Celeron N4000​
Display size: 14in

This is a great price for a laptop with a 14in display. It’s thin and light enough to be easily portable and though build quality isn’t as good as on a pricier machine, it’s highly usable. The keyboard does flex quite a bit, but it’s good enough for typing on. Where it stands out is the storage – at 64GB it’s generous for this price and it has a decent 4GB of RAM. The display is not high resolution but at least has an anti-glare finish so it’s easy to see. The price includes a year’s subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal.

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Acer CB3-431 chromebook: £209.99, Amazon

Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Storage: 32GB​​
RAM: 2GB​​
Processor: Intel Celeron N3060​​
Display size: 14in

The full HD resolution display looks great here with a glare-free finish and is large enough, at 14in, to make a good video playback device. This laptop looks great thanks to an aluminium alloy shell with a pleasingly textured metallic finish; this makes it both lightweight and reasonably tough. Battery life is pretty good, at over seven hours, and although this is not a powerhouse, it’s great for basic computing and watching video. Mind you, the speakers aren’t great, so a pair of headphones will sound better.

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Lenovo ideapad S340: £249, Currys PC World

Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Storage: 64GB​
RAM: 4GB​
Processor: Intel Celeron N4000​
Display size: 14in

The 64GB storage is more than enough for this laptop as it’s a Chrome OS machine, so it stores files in the cloud. Although the plastic casing doesn’t feel premium, it keeps the weight down and is still a solid build. It usefully has two USB-C connectors, so many people will be able to charge their smartphone from the laptop. This machine also has a full HD display which, although not overly bright or attractive, is better than many at this price.

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Asus chromebook C223NA: £199.99, Argos

Operating system: Google ChromeOS
Storage: 32GB
RAM: 4GB​
Processor: Intel Celeron N3350
Display size: 11.6in

The small display on this laptop makes it especially portable and lightweight, though it makes it less than ideal for watching video for any extended period of time. Like the ideapad S340, connections here include two USB-C sockets as well as the more standard USB-A. One of the advantages of USB-C is it can be used to charge the laptop, which is useful if you don’t have the charger with you as other chargers with the same connector should work in a pinch. Performance is OK, though it slows down if you have multiple tasks running at the same time. Battery life is good at over seven hours.

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HP stream 14-ax000na: £239, Amazon

Operating system: Windows 10
Storage: 32GB​
RAM: 4GB​
Processor: Intel Celeron N3060​
Display size: 14in

If you fancy an alternative to beige or grey laptops, the bright blue casing on the HP is appealing and eye-catching. But don’t worry, the keyboard is white, so it’s easy to read. Although storage and RAM are basic, you can augment this with a cheap SD memory card, which almost tucks right into the laptop so you can leave it there all the time. Battery life is good – HP claim it’s eight hours and the reality is not far off – and the build quality is decent.

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Asus VivoBook E406MA: £229.99, Argos

Operating system: Windows 10
Storage: 64GB​
RAM: 4GB​
Processor: Intel Celeron N4000​
Display size: 14in

Although the storage is nothing to write home about, the VivoBook is an efficient machine so it delivers strong battery life, up to 10 hours when browsing the internet, for instance. The 14in display is adequate rather than outstanding, but it is good enough to watch a TV programme, say. Many other aspects such as a springy keyboard and average build quality are typical of the price range. But it’s the battery life that stands out.

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HP 11-v0001na: £179.99, Argos

Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Storage: 16GB​
RAM: 4GB​
Processor: Intel Celeron N3060​
Display size: 11.6in

This laptop has very little storage and much of that is taken up with the Windows operating system, so you really need to buy external storage such as a memory card, even though most of your files will be stored on Google’s servers rather than your own computer. Still, it has 4GB of RAM, which is not always the case at this low price point. This really pays off in terms of improved performance and speedier responsiveness. The keyboard is comfortable, if a little cramped.

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HP stream 11.6: £179.99, Argos

Operating system: Windows 10
Storage: 32GB​
RAM: 2GB​
Processor: Intel Celeron N4000​
Display size: 11.6in

Like the other HP stream above, this is a very keenly priced laptop. The light build and smaller display makes this good for carrying around and the battery life is better than others in our round-up, not least because the display, being relatively low resolution, doesn’t draw as much power. This laptop has very little operating memory, so it slows down when it’s taxed too much. Great value, though.

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The verdict: Laptops under £250 

The Lenovo ideapad S130 81J20076UK has decent performance which makes it our best buy, while the Acer is a great balance of design, portability and value. The tiny HP 11-v0001na, with its 11.6in display, is especially easy to take wherever you go.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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