Test Drive Gadget Reviews with Bill and Phil

Rounding Up the Latest Laptops and Tablets

Every year around this time, we go shopping for some good deals on laptops. It seems that a lot of retailers offer good prices for budget laptops thanks to back-to-school promotions. We have no intention of going back to school, but we are donning our backpacks and trying to act like students as we hunt for some good deals. Here are some of our favorite laptops suitable for students (or law firm staff) on a budget.

Bill & Phil


This may be the first time we have written about a Chromebook. When Chromebooks — which run Google's Chrome operating system — first appeared on the market, we were not terribly impressed. Users were limited to internet browsing and a narrow selection of Chrome apps. But times have certainly changed — now that you can even use Microsoft Office apps on Chromebooks, we believe they are indeed a good, inexpensive option for the budget-conscious consumer.

The ASUS Flip C302 has a very compact form factor with a metal body, backlit keyboard and bright touchscreen display. The screen portion of the laptop is hinged and can be rotated 360 degrees, offering a lot of options for work or play. We are not going to give up our Windows laptops for this Chromebook, but if you just need an inexpensive laptop to take to school or on the road for basic internet, email and even some word processing, this laptop will be a good fit.


Microsoft surprised us once again when they announced a new, budget-friendly Surface laptop called the Surface Go. We love our Surface laptops; we have multiple versions — the Surface Pro, the Surface Laptop, the Surface Book — but we know that the price point for these excellent machines is somewhat higher than most budget-conscious buyers are willing to pay. Microsoft has eliminated that constraint with the new Surface Go, which is priced very competitively with Apple's new lower-priced iPad.

With its 10-inch screen and incredibly light weight (just more than 1 pound), the Surface Go reminds us of an iPad, but under the hood it is a "real" computer running the Windows operating system on an Intel Pentium Gold Processor. Even though it is not as fast or as powerful as the more expensive Surface Pro, we think it is a great lower-priced alternative that will allow you to work as if you were on your desktop at the office or at home. We love that Microsoft kept the kickstand element, a great feature we appreciate on all the Surface models.

The Surface Go reminds us of an iPad, but under the hood it is a "real" computer running the Windows operating system on an Intel Pentium Gold Processor.


We know the kids love their iPads, and we do, too. But until recently, you could buy a really nice, fully functional Windows laptop for the price of an iPad. Facing pressure from the growing popularity of Chromebooks, Apple first introduced a sub-$400 iPad in 2017 and followed it up with the iPad 2018. This iPad has a 9.7-inch screen and is plenty powerful for basic computing needs. It does not have the big, beautiful screen or the power of the iPad Pro, but this model does support the popular Apple Pencil (purchased separately). If you are in the market for an iPad but don't want to break the bank, we recommend this entry-level model or perhaps even a 1- or 2-year-old "gently used" iPad from a reputable seller. Like the Chromebook, an iPad can handle Microsoft Office apps.


This two-in-one convertible sits in the budget bin, but we feel that it is a great buy for the money. The Acer Spin 1 is a fully functional Windows 10 laptop. With an 11.6-inch screen and tipping the scales at just under 3 pounds, it is a bit bulkier than the other laptops we tried. But with an all-metal body and incredibly bright HD screen, you might be fooled into thinking this machine costs a lot more than it does.

The processing power is where you really start to notice that this is a budget laptop. The Acer Spin has an Intel Celeron processor that is sufficient for basic computing but can show signs of strain with extreme multitasking or any graphics-intensive application. Like the ASUS Flip, the Acer Spin has a screen that can rotate 360 degrees to be used in tablet mode, traditional laptop mode or somewhere in between. It's a little heavy and it's not a speed demon, but if you want to give Junior a dependable laptop-tablet hybrid to take to school, the Acer Spin 1 will do the trick and leave you with some extra lunch money.