Let’s start with a convertible rocking the best screen in the $800 % below category. The ZenBook 13 from ASUS comes with a 1080p OLED display, which is the best screen you can get for $800 or less. OLEDs are usually reserved for flagship devices, so it’s great to see one in this category. The display covers 100 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut, making it an excellent choice for color-critical work. It’s also fairly bright. Overall, this OLED display is better than most standalone PC monitors.
Other specs aren’t top-of-the-line but should be enough for regular work as well as for some light photo & video editing. The 11th gen Core i5 is a pretty capable processor, but only eight gigs of RAM prevent us from recommending this device to power users. You also only get a 256GB SSD but, luckily, users can replace it with a larger capacity unit. The build quality is pretty good but not on par with premium devices such as the XPS 13 or the Microsoft Surface Laptop.
As for the other features, the keyboard isn’t among the best on the market, the touchpad is huge, precise, and very pleasant to use. The webcam is bad, but at least it supports Windows Hello (the reason why the fingerprint sensor is amiss). Connectivity options include Wi-Fi 6. Expansion ports include one USB-A, two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4, a full-sized HDMI, and a microSD card reader. If we had a headphones jack, this would be one of the best offerings on an ultraportable.
Finally, the battery life is pretty good. Overall, the ZenBook 13 provides tremendous value. It has an OLED screen, a powerful 11th gen Intel CPU, Thunderbolt 4 support, Windows Hello camera, and Wi-Fi 6. It lacks more storage space and memory, with the former being expandable. If you want the best-looking screen in an $800 laptop, or if you want a relatively powerful ultrabook that offers a lot for the money, this one’s a great choice.
Lenovo IdeaPad 5: Best laptop under $800 with AMD CPU
The Lenovo IdeaPad 5 equipped with the Ryzen 7 4700U processor is almost a complete package for just a bit over $800. The device features superb specs. You get the aforementioned 4700U CPU coupled with 16 gigs of memory and a 1TB PCIe SSD for the ultimate performance at this price point. No matter what you plan on doing with this device, it’ll chew through it and ask for more.
Next, the metal body equals pretty solid build quality without much flex. We also like the inclusion of the Wi-Fi 6 standard, the presence of a fingerprint sensor, and an SD card reader. Other expansion ports include two USB-A ports, one USB-C, a full-size HDMI, and a headphone jack. Battery life is pretty good at almost 10 hours of juice during standard tests.
The great overall impressions are slightly ruined by the average display. It’s solid for regular use, and it has enough brightness to use outside. Contrast is average for an IPS display, but only 56% coverage of the sRGB color gamut makes this device unsuitable for photo and video editing. A shame because the rest of the hardware is top-notch.
Overall, if you don’t need a laptop for photo and video editing and are happy with the average color gamut, the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 with the Ryzen 4700U is a brilliant device. Tons of power, a long-lasting battery, plenty of fast storage, and a nice selection of extra features, and all that for a price that’s only five percent north of $800.
Acer Swift 3 (Intel): Best laptop under $800 with Intel CPU
If you want a laptop equipped with the latest and greatest (11th gen, in other words) Intel processors for less than $800, you’ll have to settle for 8GB of memory. That’s the price you need to pay for the pricier Intel mobile CPUs. And the best overall $800 or less Intel package is the latest Acer Swift 3.
This convertible packs the Core i7-1165G7, which is a pretty capable low-power processor. It’s capable of any workload, but the 8GB of memory limits its performance during intense assignments. Sadly, the memory is soldered to the PCB, meaning you cannot upgrade or replace it. What can be upgraded is the 256GB NVMe M.2 SSD.
While Acer could’ve had more memory and storage, it rocks when it comes to the build quality. The aluminum and magnesium body is very sturdy and well-made. There’s almost zero flex, in line with premium devices. The 1080p IPS display supports a wide color gamut and is an okay choice for color-critical work, as long as you aren’t in professional waters. The screen’s also fairly bright and has a good enough contrast for an $800 laptop.
The keyboard and the trackpad are decent but are far from being the best in class. Battery life is average, but it should be enough for an 8-hour workday unless you put the CPU to its limits with heavy workloads. As for the expandability, you have two USB-A ports, one Thunderbolt 4 port, a full-sized HDMI, and a headphone jack. Not bad, but there’s no SD card reader.
When it comes to the extra features, the Swift 3 comes with Wi-Fi 6 support and a fingerprint reader. Also, don’t forget about the excellent iGPU found in Tiger Lake CPUs, which should be enough for 1080p AAA gaming at 30fps. Overall, this is a capable machine, with its biggest caveat being only 8GB of memory.
If you need 16GB of memory in your laptop and you’re limited to an $800 or so budget, get an AMD-equipped device. If you need snappy performance but your workflow doesn’t demand at least 16GB of memory, the Acer Swift 3 is an excellent Intel-powered machine.
Acer Swift 3 (AMD): Best budget laptop under $800
Now, when we say a budget sub $800 device, we mean notebooks that cost between $600 and 700 without getting near the upper $800 price limit. And the best budget laptop under $800 you can get right now is the Acer Swift 3 equipped with an eight-core Ryzen 7 4700U processor.
Other specs include 8GB of memory and a 512GB NVMe SSD. Overall, a pretty powerful package for the money, with a CPU that can power through even the most demanding workloads.
As is the case with the Intel-equipped Swift 3, the main stumbling point, performance-wise, is only 8GB of memory. But other than that, for the price, this is a very powerful laptop. Aside from potent hardware, the Swift 3 also offers very good build quality and an attractive ultraportable design. Not as premium as flagship devices but great at this price point.
Other pros include a great keyboard, Wi-Fi 6 and a fingerprint reader, and a long-lasting battery. The 1080p screen is the biggest negative. It’s dim and doesn’t have great colors. It’s not suitable for color-critical work, but other than that, it’s more than usable for work, browsing, and media consumption.
Overall, the Swift 3 offers incredible performance for the price. The device is also well built, it supports Wi-Fi 6, and comes with a 512GB NVMe SSD while still being a budget choice in the ~$800 laptop market.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3: Best ultraportable under $800
If you don’t care about brands and if you don’t need the most portable laptop around but still want an ultraportable, get the Acer Swift 3 (2021 Intel edition) or the ASUS ZenBook 13 OLED if you want a great screen. But if you want a relatively affordable premium device that features astounding build quality coupled with pretty good everyday performance and one of the best keyboard+touchpad combos on the market, get the Surface Laptop 3 from Microsoft.
This isn’t the latest model, and the laptop doesn’t pack the latest and greatest CPU from Intel. But for an ultraportable, this is still an amazing device. Brilliant keyboard encircled by comfortable Alcantara. Large and precise trackpad. Superb build quality and a unique, 3:2 display with 2256 x 1504 resolution create a very attractive package for writers and business users. The display is also very bright and features punchy and accurate colors.
The biggest negative is the awful port selection, a common flaw found on all Surface devices. You get one USB-A, one USB-C without Thunderbolt support (even though the device packs a 10th gen Core i5 CPU), and a headphone jack. Also, the battery life isn’t the champion of longevity.
Overall, as a complete package, the Surface Laptop 3 is an excellent choice for users preferring portability and top-notch build quality coupled with respectable performance. The price is a bit over the $800 upper limit, but if you want a premium ultraportable, we recommend saving a bit more cash and going for it.
Lenovo Yoga C740: Best 2-in-1 laptop under $800
The sub $800 2-in-1 market has a lot of contenders but no clear winner. Considering that the screen quality is the most important feature of 2-in-1 devices, our vote for the best 2-in-1 under $800 goes to the Lenovo Yoga C740. This 2-in-1 convertible offers 10th gen Core i5 CPU (not as fast as 11th gen CPUs, but still quite powerful for everyday usage), 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD.
The 1080p IPS display features great colors and a wide color gamut with almost 100% sRGB coverage and 68% coverage of the DCI-P3 range, making it a solid choice for color-critical work. At about 320 nits, the brightness is excellent for this price range but still below flagship devices (which are also noticeably pricier).
The design is similar to the more expensive Yoga C940 (slick and stylish, with narrow screen bezels), albeit with a bit worse build quality. Overall, the Lenovo Yoga C740 stands above similarly priced competitors in everything except performance.
ASUS TUF Gaming F17: Best gaming notebook laptop under $800
The sub $800 gaming laptops are the cheapest gaming laptops you can find. They come with GTX 1650 or 1650 Ti graphics cards, 8GB of memory, and a selection between Core i5 and Ryzen 5 processors. Hardware-wise, the best gaming laptop for $800 or less is the TUF Gaming F17 from ASUS.
This gaming convertible packs the GTX 1650 Ti GPU and a Core i5 10300H CPU. Not the most powerful combo around but enough to provide a 60fps AAA gaming experience with medium to high settings. The device also packs 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
The good news is that you can replace the memory since the laptop packs two UDIMM slots, allowing you to upgrade to 16GB of dual-channel memory. Also, the device comes with a secondary M.2 slot, perfect for adding more fast storage.
While the performance is excellent for a sub $800 gaming device, the build quality is only passable. The display is wobbly, but the device is relatively sturdy and features slim display bezels as well as your regular gaming design.
The keyboard is decent, and the battery life is below average, expected for a budget gaming notebook. The 1080p IPS display has a very good contrast ratio, more than decent brightness, but also only about 50% coverage of the sRGB color space. Not great, but at least you get a 144Hz refresh rate.
As for the expansion ports, you get three USB-A ports, one USB-C, an Ethernet port, a full-size HDMI, and a headphone jack. Overall, the TUF Gaming F17 is a great budget gaming laptop. ASUS didn’t skimp on the hardware, and for the price, you won’t find a better GPU. On the flip side, the display is average, but at least it’s a 144Hz panel. We also like the extra SSD slot, as well as two UDIMM slots for upgrading the memory.
MacBook Air (Refurbished 2020): Best Apple laptop under $800
Last but not least, we have one Apple laptop. And again, this is a refurbished device. The device in question is the 2020 model of the MacBook Air, powered by a 10th gen Core i3 CPU. This device looks great, has superb build quality, an excellent display with high resolution, a comfortable keyboard, as well as 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD.
That said, the M1 MacBook Air is only about $100 more, so if you already have the money for this refurbished version, we strongly advise you to save more money and get the M1 MacBook Air. It’s light years ahead when it comes to performance, and it comes with a full warranty and without the inherent risks involved in buying a refurbished device.
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