We’ve selected the five best laptops under $1,000 you can buy to save you the hassle of endless research. Landing at the $1,000 laptop price zone equates to many configuration options. We’re not talking about a budget-minded laptop — we’re talking about a laptop with a fair amount of bells and whistles.
If you’re like us, your laptop has become a highly personal but necessary component of your life. How do you know what configuration variables are essential when selecting a new laptop? Laptops have numerous user-selectable configurations. What size, weight, CPU, GPU, memory, battery life, display size, and operating system do you want? What do you need?
Just take a look at our roundup of the five best laptops under $1,000:
- Best Overall Laptop: Microsoft Surface Pro 8-13″ Touchscreen
- Best Gaming Laptop: ASUS TUF Dash 15
- Best Portable Laptop: 2020 Apple MacBook Air M1
- Best 2-in-1 Laptop: Lenovo Flex 5i 13 Chromebook 2-in-1
- Best Professional Laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga 2-in-1
#1 Best Overall Laptop: Microsoft Surface Pro 8-13″ Touchscreen
Microsoft’s Surface laptops have been in the marketplace since 2012. They’re a preeminent favorite among users and IT support staff. Well known for its versatility, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8-13″ Touchscreen platform allows users to select the best configuration for them, from gaming to spreadsheets, graphic intensive processing to video streaming.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is about as close as you can come to an Apple MacBook without buying a Macbook! The laptop runs on Windows 11. It has a 13-inch (2880 x 1920 pixels) display screen, an Intel 4.8 GHz Core i7 processor, and 16 GB of RAM. Microsoft specifies that the battery life lasts 12 to 16 hours on a single charge.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 could be a better laptop. Users have complained that the battery life falls well short of 16 hours. The external I/O has a 3.5 mm audio jack and two Thunderbolt 4 ports — zero expandable storage options.
Still, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is a great all-around choice for a laptop that provides a little bit of functionality for all users.
Check out the Microsoft Surface Pro 8-13″ Touchscreen on Amazon.
Best Gaming Laptop: ASUS TUF Dash 15
What fun is laptop gaming if you’re always stuck at home? The ASUS TUF Dash 15 takes gaming on the road! The ASUS TUF Dash 15 provides the ability to perform “serious” work during the day (spreadsheets, email, video conferencing, etc.) and gaming at night.
ASUS TUF Dash 15 is an excellent choice for students or business travelers who want to own one laptop capable of two completely different functions. The laptop ships with Windows 10 but includes a free upgrade to Windows 11.
A 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080 pixels) display screen, an Intel 4.8 GHz Core i7 processor, 512GB SSD, 8 GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU are plenty of reasons to investigate this powerhouse. The battery life is listed at 16.6 hours.
Users mention that Dash’s battery life specification needs to be more accurate and that 4-6 hours of gaming is a much more realistic expectation. There’s a general sense of unhappiness with the laptop’s noise when gaming due to the GPU fans.
The ASUS TUF Dash 15 has a good “starting” RAM and SSD configuration. If you determine you’d like to have additional RAM or a larger SSD, upgrades are easy. The ability to upgrade is an excellent option! The RAM (8GB DDR4) may be upgraded to 40GB DDR4. An additional M.2 SSD slot allows for an additional SDD install, up to 1TB.
Check out the ASUS TUF Dash 15 on Amazon.
Best Portable Laptop: 2020 Apple MacBook Air M1
A laptop doesn’t need to be the “latest and greatest” model to excel. The 2020 Apple MacBook Air M1 crushes the competition at a price that’s hard to believe. The MacBook Air M1 will land on your doorstep with Mac OS, a 13.3-inch Retina display (2650 X 1600 Pixels), an M1 CPU (processing times 3.5 times faster than the previous models), 256GB SSD (512GB, 1TB, or 2TB available), and 8GB of Unified Memory (16GB available). The battery life is listed at an eyepopping 18 hours.
The chief complaint about the M1 (or M2) is the inability to upgrade the SSD or memory. It’s an Apple thing. You’ll need to determine what configuration you need before you purchase the M1. Choose wisely. Once you’ve accepted the order, there’s no return for upgrades. The next upgrade will be the next complete device/laptop you purchase.
If you’re thinking about an Apple laptop, you’re a trendsetter! Approximately 15% of laptop users use an Apple Laptop. 75% use laptops with Windows. It’s great to be a trendsetter, but consider how you will “cross-pollinate” documents (like MS Office products) with your non-Apple workers, clients, etc. Overall, the 2020 Apple MacBook Air M1 is an excellent laptop with great battery life and lightning-fast CPU and memory. It’s a perfect option for traveling.
Check out the 2020 Apple MacBook Air M1 on Amazon.
Best 2-in-1 Laptop: Lenovo Flex 5i 13 Chromebook 2-in-1
The Lenovo Flex 5i 13 Chromebook 2-in-1 casts a wide net for potential users and snags a lot of potential users. The Flex 5i is used interchangeably as a laptop with an operating system and keyboard, or as a tablet with a touchscreen. The Chromebook functionality strips away Mac or Windows OS, and renders any software reliant on those platforms incompatible.
The Lenovo Flex 5i ships with Google’s Chrome OS. You’ll be headed to Google Play to download any applications you wish to use. A 13.3-inch (1920 x 1080 pixels) display screen, an Intel 3GHz i3 processor, 64 GB SSD, and 4 GB of RAM round out this Chromebook. The battery life is listed as 10 hours.
Users who expect standard laptop capabilities won’t be so happy with the Lenovo Flex 5i. Cloud-based storage, not SDD storage, may be an issue for users who want local storage on their laptops.
As a Chromebook, the Lenovo Flex 5i 13 Chromebook 2-in-1 has an inherent weakness when compared directly to a standard laptop. It’s not a laptop; it’s a Chromebook.
Users who stick to casting, Zoom, Google Docs, and Kindle activities are pleased with the product and price point. A wide selection of I/O ports is available for users: USB-A 3.2 (1), USB-C 3.2 (2), Kensington nano lock slot (1), MicroSD Card reader, and a 3.5mm audio jack (1).
The wide selection of I/O ports is crucial when selecting a more expensive Chromebook. Plan your Chromebook use first, then match your Chromebook purchase to the specification you created.
Check out the Lenovo Flex 5i 13 Chromebook 2-in-1 on Amazon.
Best Professional Laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga 2-in-1
The Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga 2-in-1 is an excellent choice for students and business users. We must admit a bit of ThinkPad bias right up front. We’ve traveled the world with our ThinkPads over the years. No laptop is bulletproof, but our ThinkPads just kept going and going. Nuff said. Running on Windows 10, the laptop has a 13.3-inch display (1920 x 1080 resolution), a 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB of DDR4 RAM (you choose when you purchase), and a 256 GB SSD that can be upgraded up to 1TB.
The ThinkPad L13 Yoga 2-in-1 acts as a touchscreen laptop and a tablet. 360-degree hinges allow the keyboard to be placed face down on a flat surface, and the display screen faces ‘up.’ There’s a Thinkpad pen hiding in the silo garage. The pen automatically recharges when it’s placed back in the garage.
The ThinkPad L13 Yoga 2-in-1 is on the low end of Leovo’s ThinkPad Product line. The processor isn’t the fastest available, the memory is a bit skimpy, and the SDD could be a tad bit bigger, too. Yet, this laptop wasn’t designed as a gaming laptop or a laptop for high-end video processing. It’s a laptop for professionals. In that classification, it’s a great option to consider.
Check out the Lenovo ThinkPad L13 Yoga 2-in-1 on Amazon.
How to Pick the Best Laptop Under $1,000: Step by Step
There are many things to consider when it’s time to select a new laptop. Choosing a budget laptop is more straightforward than selecting one for approximately $1,000. As the price of the laptop increases, so do the available options.
What are you going to do with the laptop? Seriously, give this some thought before you make a purchase. Will you surf the web (only), or will you do a little gaming too? Excel or Sheets? Let’s take a gander at the performance items you should consider before dropping your hard-earned cash.
- Processor speed
- Battery life
Let’s look at each performance item in detail.
Let’s say it upfront. Faster is better. We urge you to purchase the fastest processor you can afford. There, we said it. Why do we discuss CPU speeds if the fastest CPU is the best? In short, money. Faster is better, but faster is more expensive, too.
The processor speed you need is tied to the applications you plan to use. If you’re a gamer, you need a higher-speed processor. If you’re a spreadsheet junkie, you can (as much as it pains us to say) use a lower-speed CPU.
Most CPUs are soldered onto the motherboard in the land of laptops. You won’t be upgrading the CPU after you purchase the laptop. Even if you do manage to install a faster CPU, many laptop companies are setting software “brakes” into their algorithms that define the maximum CPU speed.
Is more memory better than less memory? Yup. The amount of memory you need is tied to the type and number of applications you run.
Are you planning to surf the web and stream a few shows? Crank out emails? Maybe stream a few shows? You can get by with a lot less RAM than you think! 8GB RAM will serve you nicely!
Were you planning to conquer the world through your Master of the Universe level gaming? MOTU gaming requires RAM — lots of it. More RAM is better than less if you play current AAA-level PC games. (Saddle up, Authur!) We recommend a minimum of 16GB if you plan to run at 4K resolution and 8GB if you plan to game at 2K resolution.
Take one of our laptops, for example. On the Dell XPS 13, we have a 128GB SSD. The SSD was big enough when we purchased the laptop four years ago. Today? It needs to be bigger! Our SSD is usually about 95% full. We’re constantly playing the game of “What shall I uninstall or delete today?”
The choice we made (based on money) is a choice that we regret today. We would have been much better served with a bigger SDD. Just saying….
If you plan to install a reasonable amount of software, a bigger SDD is your friend. Will you keep the laptop for a year and then purchase a new laptop? The default SSD size may be perfect for you.
If you plan to pick up a Chromebook, remember that you won’t install “software,” you’ll install Google applications. Chromebooks may have a MicroSD card slot where you could place a MicroSD card to expand your memory. Check into it before you buy.
Time to talk frankly. (It’s just us, no one is listening to our conversation.) We’ve outlined systems with anywhere from 10 to 18 hours of battery life. These are significant numbers, but how will you use the laptop?
If you’re a student with a heavy class load (on the same day!), you may need a laptop with a higher battery capacity. You need the juice! If you’re a traveling business person rushing from client pitch to pitch, you might need higher battery capacity, too.
Folks who perform most of their work while tied to a desk or kitchen table with an electrical outlet really don’t need laptops with gigantic batteries. We need a battery that’s good enough to cover a trip to the coffee shop, the beach, or whatever. We’ll plug the laptop back into a power supply at the end of the day or the next time we use it.
If it were our money, we’d aim for more memory or a faster CPU before spending too much on a bigger battery.
In our minds, the display is one of most users’ least essential factors in a laptop. 1920 x 1080 resolution is entirely adequate for laptop viewing. You can connect a desktop monitor with higher resolution levels if you want higher resolution.
If you’re into video editing, high-end gaming, or professional-grade photography editing, you may need a laptop with a higher-resolution monitor.
What to Know Before Buying a Laptop Under $1,000
Plan. Determine how you will use your laptop before you purchase your laptop. Make a list! Please don’t list how you could use that new shiny laptop; make a list of how you will use that new shiny laptop. Essentially, how you will use your laptop impacts the kind of laptop you purchase.
Using a Laptop Under $1,000: What It’s Like
Using one of the 5 best laptops under $1,000 you can buy today should be a pleasant experience. You’re high enough up the laptop food chain that you’ll have many hardware and software configurations to select between.
A $1,000 laptop should be structurally sturdier than a $200 laptop. A reasonable expectation is that you’ll have 3-5 years of service from a laptop that costs approximately $1,000. (If you’re very kind and gentle.)
A $1,000 laptop provides the ability to multitask applications (streaming, email, web surfing, and document editing) simultaneously. The laptop’s hardware (CPU, GPU, SSD, RAM) will last longer since it generally has more capability/ bandwidth to operate beneath its maximum power ratings due to application load.
No matter which of the best laptops under $1,000 you opt to purchase, we know you can’t go wrong with a bit of preparation and a lot of questions.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©donocaturp/Shutterstock.com.