With a £500 budget you can get a perfectly decent Windows laptop if your needs aren't great, but what if you want to go even cheaper still?
China is well known for its mid-range tech at budget prices, and it's no different when it comes to laptops. You can easily buy a £100-£300 laptop from China that will outperform your £500 UK laptop.
Not all Chinese laptops are cheap, as you'll see from the top two examples in our round-up, but when compared to similar-spec devices available in the UK market (some of which may also hail from China, just to confuse matters) there's no arguing with the additional value for money they offer.
It's worth pointing out that some of the 'laptops' in our round-up are actually tablets to which you can attach a magnetically docking keyboard, usually sold separately. These 2-in-1 devices can be handy if you don't need a keyboard at all times and would like to be able to use a more portable tablet when possible.
Also see: Best budget laptops in the UK
Should you buy a cheap laptop from China?
Many people are naturally concerned about buying laptops from brands they've not come across before, especially when buying outside Europe. And rightfully so.
When you buy from China you are not only liable for import duty (20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork), but you often have a longer wait for delivery, and potential trouble on your hands should the device be faulty or dead on arrival. Shipping it back to China is going to be a logistical nightmare, and expensive. There may also be a language barrier when dealing with customer support.
However, for those prepared to take the chance the benefits can far outweigh the risks.
All the laptops featured here have been supplied to us for review by GearBest or the manufacturer itself. We would not recommend anything we have not physically tested ourselves.
Tech Advisor has a long relationship with GearBest and happily recommends it as a site from which to buy Chinese consumer electronics, though from time to time you may find cheaper deals at comparable sites such as Geekbuying, AliExpress and BangGood. Increasingly Chinese tech is also popping up at Amazon, albeit at slightly inflated prices, so be sure to check before you buy.
Whichever site you select, look out for an option to purchase the device from a different warehouse. GearBest, and many of its rivals, have warehouses within Europe as well as in China and Hong Kong. If you are shipping tech from Europe to the UK you are not liable for import duty, though you will find the purchase price is often a little higher. (Here's an explanation of some of the warehouse codes used by GearBest.)
Also remember that it's very unlikely you'll be supplied with a UK three-pin plug unless you specifically request an adaptor. If you don't want to have to use an adaptor, look for a device that charges over universal USB-C.
Will they be running Chinese Windows?
This is something you must watch out for when buying a Chinese laptop. Although the majority are shipped with a version of Windows 10 that supports both Chinese and English languages, not all Chinese laptops are. This will be made clear in the product listing.
Xiaomi is one example of a manufacturer of Chinese laptops that ship with the Chinese-language version of Windows only. This doesn't mean you won't be able to use them in the UK, but you will want to install an English OS on them - and this comes at additional cost.
That said, it doesn't have to cost as much as you think. If you don't mind losing Windows support and will not be installing the software on another device you can make do with a significantly cheaper OEM copy of Windows 10. You'll find them under a tenner online, or if you'd rather buy from somewhere you trust you can pick up an OEM copy of Windows 10 Home from Amazon for just £29.
Remember that once you have that licence you'll need to be prepared to physically install it on your machine, so make sure you have the know-how or know someone who does. It's not difficult, but may be intimidating for a novice user.
How good are cheap laptops from China?
China sells top-end laptops just the same as any other country, but the laptops you're most likely interested in are those that come with circa-£200 price tags.
Typically speaking these devices are not fast laptops. They are not going to be any good for gaming, nor multitasking.
However, they are more than capable of general tasks such as web browsing, email, social media and watching video. If you want the latter, you'll find some surprisingly good screens even at this end of the market.
They're also usually better than what you'd get for the same money in the UK, if you can even find anything at this sort of price range. But as we all know you do get what you pay for, and compromises will be made - albeit fewer than might be made in the UK.
Best Chinese Laptop reviews
- Reviewed on: 8 November 2017
The Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro is a gorgeous laptop with decent performance, a large screen and an attractive price tag. However, it is a real headache to set up out of the box, and something we would never recommend for novice users. We'd also prefer to use a higher-resolution screen on a laptop of this size, and the US keyboard is a drawback.
Once set up you'll quickly fall in love with the Xiaomi, but paying just a little bit more for a comparable UK model may well be an easier solution.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Notebook Pro review.
- Reviewed on: 12 October 2017
Once again, whether you should get the Mi Air 13 depends on whether you mind importing it and then changing Chinese Windows to English. If you don't then this is something of a bargain with great design, hardware and performance. Otherwise, look at the HP Envy 13 which is very similar.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Air 13 Kaby Lake review.
- Reviewed on: 14 July 2017
Though it might be nearly as expensive as its more powerful sibling, the Mi Air 12 wins on portability and battery life. It’s a great-looking budget laptop that could easily be mistaken for a MacBook, with astonishing startup times, capable performance and a great screen. Our main concern is that it comes preinstalled with the Chinese edition of Windows 10 Home, which really will be a problem for UK users. This is fixable, but at additional cost.
Read our Xiaomi Air 12 review.
- Reviewed on: 17 August 2017
Available at the same price as the Chuwi LapBook 14.1 but with a metal shell and slightly faster performance (though significantly slower startup times) the EZBook 3 Pro is a great budget buy. It’s capable for day-to-day computing tasks and low-intensity gaming, and does a good job of balancing portability with a usable size screen. You get just 64GB of storage, though this can be expanded.
Read our Jumper EZBook 3 Pro review.
- Reviewed on: 30 January 2017
Chuwi's LapBook is not the fastest laptop you can buy by any stretch of the mind, but it is both capable for most daily tasks and more up to the job than most cheap Windows 10 laptops. The full-HD screen and full-size keyboard are highlights, as is the incredibly quick startup, but you'll want a proper mouse to get around that awful trackpad. Recommended for those looking for a usable Windows 10 laptop at an attractive price.
Read our Chuwi LapBook 14.1 review.
6. GoBook N1410
- Reviewed on: 19 December 2017
The GoBook is a good-looking 14in laptop which offers adequate performance for undemanding users.
The sore points are limited storage, a mediocre screen and just “an afternoon” of battery life.
If you need to run software that’s only on Windows, the GoBook is fine for those on the tightest of budgets. Stretch about £100 more, though, and you can get a much better laptop with a proper warranty and a good screen.
Read our GoBook N1410 review.
- Reviewed on: 26 January 2018
The Chuwi Lapbook Air might look nice and offer solid build quality. However, it falls down in most other areas apart from having a decent screen for the price. Performance is basic, the laptop is heavy and the trackpad is annoying.
If you have a similar budget then the Acer Swift 1 outpaces it in almost every way, otherwise you might as well get the old Lapbook 14.1 for around £200 less.
Read our Chuwi Lapbook Air review.
- Reviewed on: 25 April 2018
The SurBook Mini is not the best Windows 2-in-1 you'll find, and in fact is only a 2-in-1 if you're prepared to pay the extra cash for the keyboard. But for the small amount of money you pay, it is a nicely designed and usable budget Windows tablet, provided you don't try to throw too much at it at once and keep a PD charger to hand.
Read our Chuwi SurBook Mini review.
9. Chuwi Hi13
- Reviewed on: 27 April 2018
It's usefully large with a fantastic screen, and it allows you to get your hands on a cheap Windows tablet (potentially 2-in-1 laptop) at an excellent price. But the Chuwi Hi13 is underpowered and heavy, a burden for your bag. The keyboard (sold separately) also makes us want to cry.
Read our Chuwi Hi13 review.
- Reviewed on: 14 July 2017
It might appear to be the better of the two on paper, and physically the more premium device with its metal build and high-res screen, but we couldn’t recommend the Chuwi LapBook 12.3 over the LapBook 14.1 - the instant startup times, improved battery life and larger screen of the latter has won us over. But while it’s no better than the larger LapBook, the LapBook 12.3 remains an excellent budget buy if you’re looking for a cheap Windows 10 laptop.
Read our Chuwi LapBook 12.3 review.