The fact of the matter is, most people use their laptops for web browsing and working on documents and if that’s all you’re doing you really don't need to drop a couple of grand on a device in order to do just that.
These days there’s plenty of Windows laptops and 2-in-1s available for under $1,000 ranging all the way from devices running Media Tech, Intel Celeron or Intel Pentium processors to the current AMD Ryzen 5 and Intel Core i5 processors. If you are willing to breach that $1,000 mark a little you might even get a last generation Ryzen 7 or Core i7.
All of these devices carry enough processing power to do most of the things you’d expect from a PC. If you really appreciate having a ton of browser windows open or you want to edit photos, music and videos then it’s probably worth investing a little more in your laptop.
T3’s Best Student Laptop page is a good step up from what you’ll get here that will allow you to complete a much wider range of creative tasks. If you want the most powerful laptop you can get your hands on for general work tasks then T3’s Best Laptop list is where it’s at.
For anyone desiring a budget laptop that’ll perform really well without forking out more money then something like a Chromebook or the restricted Windows 10 or 11 in S mode, might be a worthwhile option. You’ll lose some flexibility and adaptability for sure, but both these devices will offer battery life or performance improvements by utilising slightly less intensive programs.
This list is comprised of a wide range of value offerings and products suiting a few different budgets under (or occasionally just a fraction over) the $1,000 mark. There’s even a gaming laptop or two that come in just above this threshold that actually perform surprisingly well and will be excellent work laptops if you’re happy to carry around a bit of extra bulk.
Best laptops under AU$1,000 quick look
- Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
- Acer Swift 3X
- Microsoft Surface Go 3
- HP 15.6” 15s-eq2142AU
- Dell Gaming G15
The best laptops under AU$1,000
We weren’t expecting Microsoft to release a Go variation of its Surface Laptop range in 2020, or ever really, but we’re certainly glad it did. The original Surface Go and the Surface Go 2 have been dominating the best affordable/student laptops roundups for the last couple of years, so there’ll be no shortage of people interested in this new more midrange clamshell.
While it might ditch the tablet form factor, the Surface Laptop Go has a 12.45 inch display that is still touchscreen and the unit feels super portable and compact, weighing in at 1.11kg. The resolution isn’t quite FullHD at 1,536 by 1,024 pixels, but it maintains a pixel density of 148 PPI to look surprisingly good with the brightness cranked up.
Out of the box the Surface Laptop Go comes with the streamlined Windows 10S OS, but the various configurations are all running on an Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor, which is more than capable of handling full-fat Windows 10 Home. The range starts with models featuring 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage for $879, but we’d recommend upping this to a $1,099, 8GB, 128GB SSD configuration for those looking to do anything more than browser-based work. If you’re reluctant to move to a modern cloud-based workflow then you might want to expand that storage further to 256GB for a total of $1,399, but this unit isn’t the best value of the three.
The device comes with a reasonable modern offering of interface options with a USB Type-A socket, a USB Type-C interface, a 3.5mm audio jack and a SurfaceConnect charge port, so you won’t get caught out connecting to older accessories. The keyboard isn’t the best of the Surface range, but it’s really nice for anything in this price bracket and the trackpad is responsive and easy to use.
The omnisonic speakers have been calibrated by Dolby and emanate through the chiclet keyboard, and there’s a decent pair of far-field studio mics and a HD web camera which are more than enough to hold a clear web conference.
Testing of the 8GB, 256GB SSD variation revealed that the Surface Laptop Go’s CPU is up to three and a half times faster than Intel Pentium processor on the Surface Go 2, with all benchmarks showing at least 60 percent better performance. Combine this with between 30 and 57 percent better graphical performance and you’ve got a similarly priced product that outperforms other Go devices considerably.
Despite its budget conscious approach the Surface Laptop Go even manages to throw in some premium perks like a fingerprint security reader and NVMe SSD read and write speeds of 2,000/800MB/s on the two more expensive units. Battery life is decent lasting six hours and 53 minutes in PCMark 10 Home Office battery tests and four hours 16 minutes in 1080p movie playback.
With Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 compatibility, this device ticks almost all the boxes of a serious premium laptop yet comes in at the price of a budget-conscious student device.
The headline feature of Acer’s new Swift 3x is undoubtedly the fact that it features Intel’s new discrete GPU – the Iris Xe Max Graphics – which can supposedly work in conjunction with the integrated GPU to deliver even better graphical performance. Intel has stressed that the discrete Xe Max Graphics was not designed for gaming, but is instead optimised for things like image rendering, AI processing and media encoding.
Despite this performance focus, there only seems to be Swift 3x configurations available with 8GB of RAM, which seems like a bit light for anyone wanting more bandwidth for creative tasks.
The Swift 3x was originally only available exclusively through Harvey Norman as either an i7 with a 1T SSD, or a Core i5 model, with a 512GB SSD, but we’ve since seen it on Amazon. The i5 goes for $1,199 and the i7 is usually priced four hundred dollars more than that, but we saw the i7 Swift 3x on sale for just $1,098. We know that this is still a bit above the $1k threshold, but when you get additional GPU performance at the sale price it’s worth mentioning.
The 14-inch screen is 1080p and covers the full sRGB spectrum, so it’s perfectly fine for this kind of device, budget device, but creatives may want to spend more on something with a wide colour gamut if they can.
The keyboard and trackpad don’t have any obvious downfalls and while the interface options could be considered a little dated these days, with relics like a dedicated power slot, there is at least one Thunderbolt port and the HDMI cable will appeal to those who aren’t already committed to the USB Type-C revolution.
In media encoding and image rendering the Swift 3x was between 20 percent and 86 percent better than the average of all the 11th generation Intel Evo laptops we have on file and was 17.6 percent faster than the fastest Evo device we’ve tested. And while it was on par with the average Evo device in lighter games, it scored up to 30 percent better framerates in more demanding games like Metro: Exodus, netting 43fps on Low 1080p settings.
The only real downside of the Swift 3x was battery life, which lasted only three hours and 27 minutes in PCMark 10 Home office Battery benchmarks and even less in 1080p movie playback. Clearly there’s some GPU power optimisation kinks that need to be ironed out by Intel, but since it’s such a new processor that’ll hopefully be fixed soon through software updates.
Chromebooks are a great alternative to Windows 10 S for anyone looking to get all the functionality of a modern laptop without having to fork out thousands for a premium Ultrabook, and Lenovo seems to be dominating the space locally.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex i5 Chromebook is a 13.3-inch convertible laptop that uses Google Chrome OS based on Android 9. While not every app is perfectly optimised for the system – we much prefer to use the browser based Google Docs than the Chrome OS app, for example – it does at least have broad compatibility with anything you can get on the Google Play Store or as a Chrome browser extension.
The OS is built around the GSuite office apps which are a great free alternative to the pricey and less cloud focused Microsoft Office applications. And while the device only offers 128GB of onboard storage, the OS ties in nicely with Google One which costs just $2.49 per month for 100GB of cloud storage. You get a year of cloud storage for free with any Chromebook purchase that can be shared with your smartphone and accessed via any computer with an internet account.
The IdeaPad Flex i5 shares the same Intel Core i5-10210U CPU found on many 2021 Ultrabooks, which gives it more than enough power to run all the browser tabs you want. It’s also got a solid 8GB RAM allocation and a reasonably speedy (863MB/s read) 128GB PCIe SSD. This spec sheet puts it on par with many Ultrabooks and it’s almost identical to the Asus Chromebook Flip C436F which retails for $1,799.
Lenovo was somehow able to get the price point down to $999 (or $897 at some retailers), which puts it in direct competition with Microsoft’s Surface Go 2. When you consider the IdeaPad Flex i5 Chromebook’s got a larger screen and more than double the CPU processing power of a similarly priced Surface Go 2, it makes a pretty compelling argument for why you’d switch to Chrome OS.
It doesn’t even have to sacrifice too much on battery life since it can manage seven hours and eight minutes in 1080p battery life tests, which is just 52 minutes less than the Surface Go 2.
The device uses an integrated Intel UHD Graphics which was designed for running games on full-fat Windows 10, so there’s plenty of overhead when running the wide range of Android games available to it.
The backlit keyboard is nicely spaced and is comfortable to type on for long periods and the trackpad is also suitably smooth and easy to use. Google has done a good job of translating many of the trackpad gestures you’ll get on Windows and Mac to the Chromebooks so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on any productivity perks.
It’s also got a nice selection of interface options including two USB C sockets, one USB Type-A socket, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microSD card reader, which you can use for budget friendly storage expansion down the track, if you need it.
Now into its third iteration of the Surface Go tablet, the segment is starting to mature… which is an interesting aspect for a budget laptop range. Normally, you’d expect to find some concessions in an entry level device, but similar to other Surface products, the iterative process has ironed out a lot of the kinks and results in a refined device that offers an exceptional level of functionality.
Up front the Surface Go 3 uses the same 10.5-inch PixelSense display with a 3 by 2 1920x1080 pixel resolution touchscreen display as its predecessor. This screen has a 400nit typical brightness with a 1:1500 contrast ratio and 10-point capacitive touch, so you don’t really need much more in terms of visual quality or usability than what’s already on offer.
It’s also got pretty much the same RAM options and while the Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y is technically a new processor released in 2021, it's built from the same components as the Intel Core m3-8100Y that were on the most expensive Surface Go 2s. The only significant difference then is that there’s no longer an LTE option, which if we think about it, was an unnecessary premium feature that those looking for a budget 2-in-1 can easily live without.
The Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y is a step forward from the more affordable options of the last generation in terms of CPU performance, adding somewhere between 20 percent and 40 percent to the processor scores. Unfortunately there’s also a serious drop in graphical performance with the GPU taking a hit of between 16 and 78 percent depending on the benchmark. This is a seriously disappointing development and means that even light gaming and GPU heavy tasks will be a challenge on this device. While the Surface Go 2 could get 42fps on Rocket League using ‘Performance’, HD settings the graphical performance drop in the Go 3 means this game is no longer playable, under any settings.
This means that the only upgrade on the Surface Go 3 is the inclusion of Windows 11 S Home, which is a nice visual upgrade to Windows, but one that really isn’t transforming the OS in a way that means you need to upgrade. The features are softer and the system search functionality was finally fixed to avoid defaulting to a web search, but there’s even some contention about the Windows 11 UI layout, so it’s not enough of a feature to counterbalance the Go 3’s regressions in other areas.
The Surface Go 3 Type Cover still forms an essential part of the Surface Go’s identity, and it’s good enough that we wouldn’t really consider this device without it. The keyboard is nice to type on for an ultra compact and there’s all the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. To be frank the Surface Go 3 is still a great portable 2-in-1 offering, it just hasn’t changed much in the last few years as the competition in the budget portable offering has really heated up.
Sometimes pricing can get a little confusing in the budget realm with slower dual core Intel Celeron units selling for the same RRP as as ones with much faster quad-core AMD Ryzen or Intel Core i5 processors. Vendors do this to sell more profitable units if they underestimate demand and run out of better value devices.
We’ve seen the HP 15.6-inch 15s with an AMD Ryzen 3 5300U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and an AMD Radeon Integrated Graphics processor for $897, which is a pretty amazing deal if you ask us.
There’s also a 14-inch HP 14s with an Intel Core i5-1155G7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD and Iris Xe Integrated Graphics for $899 on HP’s local store.
While we haven’t actually gotten hands-on with these units, based on their components, both are excellent value offerings that will seriously compete with devices that cost $500 or so more.
While this one goes for $1,299 on Dell’s online store, JB Hi-Fi seems to be selling it for just $1,049 at full price, which means it’s only over budget by about twice the cost of renting Dune.
For anyone that really can’t go over the $1k limit, we’ve seen it on sale for as little as $891, so for those that can hold out you can get a pretty bonkers price for something you can fire up 2022 games on.
For this you get a high frequency quad-core Intel Core i5-10200H, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU. That GPU is a little old these days, but it’ll still get close to 60fps on games like Cyberpunk 2077 1.5 and Elden Ring using Low 1080p settings (two to three times the performance of the integrated GPU).
That means you’ll be able to get plenty of use out of the 15.6-inch 120Hz FullHD display on slightly older and less demanding games with framerates well over 60fps.
If you do want to use this one for work or school tasks it will outperform most other laptops that land in this price range, but it is close to 3cm thick and weighs 2.4kg, which means it’ll be notably heavier than a budget detachable or work laptop.
Cheap laptops: How to choose the best laptop under AU$1,000 for you
Buying a new laptop can be a daunting task – even more so when you're trying to shop under a specific price limit, as we are here. A lower price range often means less powerful components, but it doesn't mean you have to settle for a cheap, throwaway product.
With very decent components continuing to drop in price, affordable laptops are boasting far more powerful specs, so your money goes further. It's not going to be a portable gaming beast or a media powerhouse, but you'll have enough grunt under the hood for surfing, editing documents and video streaming.
Apple MacBooks are out of the question at this sort of price, but fortunately Windows 10 has evolved to run very well indeed on less high-end hardware. We've also included a couple of our favourite Chromebooks in the list (just remember Chrome OS requires everything to be done on the web).
Down at this end of the market, prices fluctuate regularly, and retailers will often throw in special deals to tempt buyers, so don't be surprised if some of the these prices go up and down – spend some time comparing prices to figure out who's offering the best laptop under AU$1,000 for you.
Bear in mind that you're not going to be getting the most powerful or the most feature-rich of laptops, but we think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you can bag at an affordable price point.
From vibrant displays to surprisingly robust CPUs, out list of the best laptops under AU$1,000 for 2020 has plenty of choice to offer buyers with less money to spend. Design and build continues to get better and better as well.
So as you browse around the various deals and offers that retailers have made available, take a look some of our helpful tips and advice on buying a new laptop, then dive straight into our very best picks. Enjoy browsing!