In today’s fast-paced, technologically driven world, owning a reliable and efficient laptop is crucial for work and leisure. However, with the plethora of available options in the market, finding the perfect device to suit your needs without breaking the bank can be challenging. Fortunately, there are numerous high-quality and affordable choices out there. This guide will help you navigate the best laptops under $1200 that offer outstanding performance, sleek designs, and innovative features to cater to your computing requirements.
Although most laptops in this category lack advanced features in premium models, they perform well for everyday use. In this guide, we have carefully curated a list of the top 5 laptops that offer excellent performance, premium features, and great value, all within a budget of $1200. Whether you’re a student, professional, or casual user, here are our top 5 picks for laptops will impress you with their performance, durability, and versatility:
- Best Overall: Apple 2020 MacBook Air Laptop M1 Chip
- Best for Gaming: Acer Nitro 5
- Best Portable: Dell New Inspiron 15 5505
- Best 2-in-1: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5
- Best for Professionals: HP Envy 17T (2021)
Best Overall: Apple 2020 MacBook Air Laptop M1 Chip
- Can handle professional photo and video editing
- Long-lasting battery for routine work (18 hours)
- Powerful M1 chip with an 8-core CPU for faster performance and 8GB of RAM
- Stunning 13.3-inch Retina display with sharp visuals and vibrant colors
MacBooks are proprietary Apple laptops with impressive performance. Most Apple products are known for their high price tags, so having a Macbook within the $1200 range is a plus for Apple users. The 2020 Apple MacBook Air Laptop has exceptional features and performance. It is powered by an Apple M1 chip, one of the best chips in the market.
Besides the powerful performance, this laptop has a low power consumption compared to other laptops with the same performance. Its 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage provide sufficient space for large files and enhance performance. The Apple MacBook Air Laptop boasts a compact 13.3-inch display, which may be smaller than some of its competitors but is known for its high image quality, thanks to Apple’s exclusive retina display technology.
Despite its smaller size, the MacBook Air promises an impressive battery life of nearly 18 hours, which is rare for a laptop in this budget range. Running on macOS, similar to your iPhone’s operating system, the MacBook Air offers flawless compatibility with other Apple products. Additionally, its fanless design makes it one of the thinnest laptops available while effectively managing temperature levels to stay within design limits.
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Best for Gaming: Acer Nitro 5
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card
- 12th Gen Intel Core i7-12500H processor
- 15.6-inch full HD IPS display with 144Hz refresh rate
- 16GB DDR4 3200MHz memory
- 512GB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
- Ethernet E2600 and Wi-Fi 6 AX1650
Gaming requires a laptop with a robust processor and graphic cards for fast and efficient performance. Thankfully, the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-58-57Y8 series features all that and much more, making it up for the task. The powerful 12th Gen Intel Core i7-12500H processor provides incredible performance allowing you to dominate the game without lag or interruptions. It comes with the latest NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, an impressive GPU with fantastic architecture, high tensor cores, and ray tracing cores. With support for DirectX 12 Ultimate, you will get mind-blowing visuals for an immersive gaming experience.
The pictures are lifelike thanks to the 15.6-inch full HD IPS display with sharp visuals and an incredible 144Hz refresh rate. This gives you a lag and stutter-free gaming experience as you can respond fast without delays. Acer Nitro 5 packs a lot of storage for your games and other computer files to run applications smoothly.
You can also connect wirelessly with the latest Bluetooth and Wi-Fi standards to share files, download content or play games online. Ethernet, HDMI, USB, and headphone or speaker jack ports are also available.
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Best Portable Option: Dell New Inspiron 15 5505
- Adaptive thermals allow your laptop to adjust its thermal profiles depending on whether it is in your hands, on your lap, or on a desk
- Thin and lightweight at 3.72 pounds
- 15.6-inch full HD, anti-glare LED-backlit WVA display
- 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD
- Ryzen 7 4700U CPU
Dell is a household name in the laptop industry. Their Inspiron 15 5505 model is popular for its impressive features and lightweight and sleek design. Retailing at $955.00 on Amazon, this model is affordable and appealing in design, making it a good fit for budget-conscious users.
The laptop features an adaptive thermal technology that intelligently detects thermal conditions and adjusts to every situation accordingly. So if you are using it on your lap, it switches to a lower profile to ensure it generates less heat. If placed on a desk, it rumps up its full power potential. Its integrated AMD Radeon RX Vega 10 graphics card and ample 16GB RAM make it well-suited for casual gaming and other demanding applications.
The best thing about this laptop is its thin and light construction design, making it easy to carry anywhere. The thin design does not compromise its cooling system. It still packs dual fans to keep the heat low when in use. Dell New Inspiron has an impressive 15.6-inch FHD 1920 x 1080 Anti-glare LED-Backlit display with thin bezels for an expansive display area. You can enjoy clear visuals at this resolution rate for a smooth viewing experience. Another unique thing about this laptop is the Waves MaxxAudio Pro which delivers high-quality and powerful audio output through its speakers.
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Best 2-in-1: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5
- 2-in-1 laptop and tablet
- Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor
- 15.6-inch 4K HDR IPS touchscreen display
- NVIDIA GeForce MX450 2GB GDDR6 graphics
- 16GB RAM and 1TB PCIe SSD
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 is a 2-in-1 laptop with a sleek and minimalist design. It is an ideal choice for users who value the flexibility of using it both as a laptop and a tablet. This laptop is powered by the mighty Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor. This is a top-of-the-line CPU that delivers lightning-fast performance with its four cores and eight threads, clocking at speeds of 2.8GHz base and up to 4.7GHz turbo boost. Paired with the NVIDIA GeForce MX450 2GB GDDR6 graphics, this laptop provides up to 2.5 times faster performance than integrated graphics, making it perfect for resource-intensive tasks such as photo editing, video editing, and gaming.
In terms of features, this laptop is equipped with Intel Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, providing solid and reliable wireless connections and up to 3 times faster file transfer speeds compared to Wi-Fi 5. The SuperSpeed USB Type-C port offers a blazing-fast data transfer rate of 5Gbps and supports Display and Power Delivery functionalities. The laptop also features a convenient fingerprint reader for secure login. It also comes with an integrated 720p webcam with a privacy shutter for added privacy and a backlit keyboard for easy typing in low-light conditions. It also has a 4-in-1 card reader for versatile data transfer options and 2x 2W speakers with Dolby Audio for an immersive audio experience.
The laptop boasts a stunning 15.6-inch 4K HDR IPS display with a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels, a brightness level of 500nits, and HDR 400 support, delivering vibrant and lifelike visuals with rich colors and deep blacks. The 2-in-1 touch display offers versatility, allowing for seamless switching between laptop and tablet modes. The NVIDIA GeForce MX450 2GB GDDR6 graphics provide smooth and crisp visuals for multimedia and gaming.
This laptop has also been professionally upgraded to 16GB of RAM, ensuring smooth multitasking and efficient performance. It comes with a generous 1TB PCIe SSD storage, providing ample space for storing files and ensuring fast boot times and smooth operation.
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Best for Professionals: HP Envy 17T (2021)
- 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor
- 17-inch full HD touchscreen display
- 16 GB DDR4-3200 and 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
- Wi-Fi 6 AX 201 (2x2) plus Bluetooth 5
- Up to 10 hours of battery life
If you are looking for a high-performance laptop for creative work or any other professional use, HP Envy 17T 2021 is the right pick. It is powered by the 11th Generation Intel Core i7, which is faster, power efficient, and highly portable than its predecessors. It comes with Windows 11 Pro preinstalled, giving you access to many productivity tools.
The large 17-inch full HD touchscreen delivers quality visuals with precise details. Its large screen provides impressive screen real estate sufficient for your creative tasks. It features an adaptive thermal technology that intelligently adjusts temperatures according to your chosen profile. Its robust aluminum build makes it durable enough to withstand everyday usage. Security-wise, the laptop contains an unhackable camera shutter for privacy purposes. The backlit keyboard will help you remain productive even when working in a low-lit environment.
HP Envy 17T 2021 packs a 4-cell 55 Wh Li-ion prismatic battery. This provides up to 10 hours of battery life on a single charge. This will ensure you remain productive throughout the day, even when working on the go.
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How to Pick the Best Laptops Under $1200
A laptop is a significant investment, and you must consider what matters to you before picking one over the other. If you are in the market for a sub $1200 laptop, it is important to consider the following before making your choice:
- Graphics Card
- Storage and RAM capacity
- Battery Life
The CPU is often called the computer’s brain because it handles the applications and processes. The processor’s speed is the most important thing to consider, as it will determine your laptop’s efficiency. Look out for the latest high-speed CPUs, which pack larger cores and threads for better performance.
GPUs are mostly considered if you are looking for a gaming laptop. However, other applications like screen recording and video editing require GPUs for effectiveness. Ensure you go for a laptop with advanced GPU capabilities like ray-tracing and support for modern features such as DLSS. Laptops in this category mostly come with integrated graphics cards, which may not be as powerful as a dedicated graphics card. Hardcore gamers might need to consider a dedicated GPU for better performance.
The quality and the size of the display are crucial factors to consider. Some laptops have ultra-thin bezels, giving a large screen real estate sufficient for multitasking. Also, 4K laptops provide high resolution and refresh rates resulting in stunning visuals. This is important for gamers who want to stay fully immersed in the game without interruptions. Some models have a touchscreen function, especially convertible laptops, for easy use on the go. Be sure to pick laptops with at least a 13-inch display for efficiency.
Storage and RAM Capacity
RAM significantly impacts the performance of your laptop. Low RAM capacity may slow down when running many applications simultaneously. This may affect your time to complete tasks, negatively affecting your productivity. The storage depends on the use case. The good thing about the best laptops under $1200 is that most come with sufficient storage capacity. So if you work on larger files or download lots of content, you can still get a perfect choice in this category. SSD storage is better at booting speed than traditional hard drives.
Due to their portability nature, laptops require a long battery life for extended use. It will be of no use to have a laptop with high performance but poor battery life. You can only experience its performance when it is powered. Therefore if you are constantly on the move, look for a laptop with at least 10 hours of battery life. A good battery life for gaming laptops is between 3 and 4 hours as the dedicated graphic card they use is power intensive.
What to Know Before Buying Laptops Under $1200
Although all the laptops have the same budget cap, it can be difficult to know the best choice. Popular brands continually update their laptops and realize new models with better features and specifications. Therefore, it is important to establish your need and buy a laptop that fits your requirement. If you are buying a gaming laptop, ensure it has a dedicated graphics card, fast processor, high resolution, and frame rate for an immersive gaming experience. Check out the connectivity options like Bluetooth and wifi configurations, Ethernet port, HDMI, USB, and SD card slots. Other important factors are durability, form, size, weight, and additional features such as touchscreen, stylus pen, and convertibility.
Using a Laptop Under $1200: What It’s Like
A laptop under $1200 is suitable for casual gaming, streaming, and other lightweight applications. Most laptops in this price range have decent performance with fast processors, GPUs, and battery life. Although they might not offer all the features of their high-end counterparts, these laptops’ performance is sufficient for their price point.
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