This $299 Windows laptop is my new go-to recommendation for budget shoppers


Acer Aspire Go 15

Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The Acer Aspire Go 15 is available for $300 on Amazon. 
  • For an affordable price, the Acer Aspire Go 15 is a capable laptop for everyday use with a decent battery. 
  • As with most devices in this price range, the laptop’s limitations become apparent with heavy workloads.

Not everyone needs a decked-out laptop with expensive hardware. For users seeking an affordable laptop that’s good enough for everyday use, the Acer Aspire Go 15 — the latest in Acer’s budget laptop line — fills that niche well.

For $300, the Acer Aspire Go 15 is a capable budget laptop for users without heavy performance demands. The 15-inch screen is well-suited for browsing the web, checking emails, and using productivity software, while the onboard webcam is sufficient to take work calls while away from the office. 

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At 3.75 pounds, this is not the lightest laptop, and the 15-inch display results in a slightly bulky body, but the tradeoff is a full-sized keyboard with a right-side number pad (even if the keys are slightly smaller) and a display that feels just big enough.

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In fact, “just enough” is the overarching theme for this laptop. It has just enough performance to cover the basics, a good enough webcam, port selection, and form factor, with the stand-out feature being a surprisingly long-lasting battery.  

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When you look closely at these parameters, you can see that they’re quite well-optimized, resulting in a laptop with limitations but a device that also performs well within the scope of its capabilities. 

Acer Aspire Go 15

Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

So, let’s look at what’s under the hood. The Aspire Go 15 has an Intel Core i3-N305, a somewhat low-end processor with just 8GB of RAM. This combination of hardware puts a cap on what this machine is capable of. However, in my testing, the laptop could mostly keep up with my internet browsing habits (read: lots of YouTube tabs) and work-related apps, if not some stuttering once the CPU was taxed. 

I used this laptop for a week, taking it to and from the office and swapping between my main computer, and it handled basic productivity tasks well. There is, however, a dip in performance once you have a handful of apps open and start trying to move quickly between windows.

Also: The best laptops under $1,000 you can buy: Expert tested

Regarding the keyboard and trackpad, I have no complaints about typing on the Aspire Go 15. The keys are light, responsive, and quiet. If you like backlights on your keyboards, you’ll find none of these luxuries here, but the keys’ textured feel and springiness are fine. The trackpad doesn’t feel particularly high-end, but it’s well-positioned and does the job. 

The entire physical form factor of this laptop can be described similarly. Upon first inspection, the full-plastic body feels a bit flimsy, and the display tends to wobble. The laptop’s silver-and-black color scheme gives off a neutral, non-descript aesthetic.

Acer Aspire Go 15

Kyle Kucharski/ZDNET

The 15-inch display is rather basic and not very bright, but it does have nice viewing-angle flexibility, unlike other Chromebooks or budget laptops. The 1080p full HD display has sufficient contrast, even if the 60Hz refresh rate isn’t phenomenal. I think anything less than 75% brightness on this laptop is too dim.

The selection of ports here is also just enough. You get two USB-A ports, one USB-C, an HDMI port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a Kensington lock slot. The charger that comes with the Aspire Go 15 is a cheap-feeling proprietary jack, but the laptop can also be charged via its USB-C port. 

The speakers are not inspiring, as you might imagine for a $300 laptop. Although the speakers can get sufficiently loud, they are thin and tinny. Connect your Bluetooth wireless earbuds or plug into the headphone jack to hear better audio.

So, let’s talk about the battery life of this laptop. I used the device intermittently for a day and a half before needing to plug it back in. In a more demanding battery test, the laptop lasted over 10 hours with a constant livestream video running. This battery life leads me to believe that the hardware on this machine, even on the lower end, is at least well-optimized. 

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However, this laptop will not last more than a day of demanding, sustained use. If you take the Acer Aspire Go 15 to the office and forget your charger, you’ll get about seven to eight hours of life. But all things considered, the battery power on this machine rounds out the package nicely. 

ZDNET’s buying advice

For the price, the Acer Aspire Go 15 is a solid pick for users without demanding performance requirements or for people who need a secondary laptop for traveling. It’s also a great pick for students seeking a budget laptop to bring on campus for note-taking and completing assignments, and the device is included in our best laptops for college list

The practical list of features, selection of ports, and decent battery life give you everything you need and nothing you don’t, and the laptop is well-optimized to operate within its capabilities. Additionally, at just $300, the price is right.

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