Due to the stiff competition amongst tech companies, there are consistent improvements in laptop technologies, which directly benefits us as the consumers as prices drop and the quality of laptops improve. A win-win situation. Modern day cheap laptops under $400 can comfortably run office applications, video and music streaming service, carry out light video and photo editing and even some light gaming on very low settings.
The biggest drawback at this price point is usually the amount of RAM that the laptops come with, which affects multitasking, as well as storage space compared to the slight performance increase in laptops under $500 or higher. The display quality is usually also entry level, and they usually have poor viewing angles, unless they are an IPS display. However, for the price, most laptops in this range deliver an amicable performance for work or leisure, as has been noted by thousands of happy customer reviews from across the web.
Lenovo is a tried and tested brand that has proven to deliver reliable laptops throughout the years, regardless of the price. The bestselling Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15.6-inch is no exception, with a great performance-to-ratio, making it suited to office use, for e-learning, or simply for casual users looking for a laptop to consume media on.
AMD’s Ryzen 3 3250U Mobile processor, the Radeon Vega 3 GPU, and the 4GB of RAM will cruise through basic task handling, such as video conference calls, word processing, and even some light gaming on very low framerates. The 128 GB SSD is snappy but space is an issue, so be sure to invest in an external or make use of cloud storage services if you require more storage space.
The 1366 x 768 LCD display is middling in terms of its resolution, but it does come with a decent battery life of around 6 hours. The build quality feels cheap according to some users, however, and it is said to be a bit bulkier at 4.84 pounds, but the IdeaPads all have a plastic casing that is durable. All in all, the Lenovo Idea is a good option for those looking for reliability without needing to break the bank.
Acer’s Aspire 5 A515-46-R14K, which is the counterpart to the Aspire 5 A515-56-36UT, is the perfect at-home or for away-from-home laptop given its inexpensive price tag and slim, 0.7-inch thick case, packing a total weight of 4 pounds. The 15.6-inch display is sharp at 1080p, and offers great viewing angles due to the fact that it is an IPS panel, and not a lowly TN panel.
The AMD Ryzen 3 3350U, 4GB of RAM and the snappy 128GB of RAM, will run MS Office applications well, and it will handle leisure time activities such as video streaming or video calling your friends without breaking much sweat. Additionally, the CPU does boost to 3.5GHz if necessary to accommodate for more demanding programs. Much like the other laptops in this price range however, the 4GB of RAM does hinder multitasking.
The Acer Aspire 5 A515-56-36UT offers a streamlined casing as that is only 0.7-inch thick, while still managing to house some decent hardware. The 11th generation Intel Core i3-1135G4 processor, built-in UHD GPU and 4GB of RAM compliment each other nicely, allowing you to run your office applications nicely. If you are looking to edit some casual video and photos for social media or work, you shouldn’t have much of an issue, and you’ll be able to stream your favorite shows without hassle.
The aluminium lid is fitted with a 15.6-inch display that, while dim, is 1080p, so it is sharp. The full chiclet keyboard has a numpad on the right that has backlighting that makes it convenient for dimly lit areas, which was praised by Amazon customers. The 128GB of storage space will allow you to store some of your favorite media, but it will fill up quickly, so you’ll need to look out for external hard drives or cloud storage services.
The ASUS Chromebook Flip C213SA 11.6-inch is suited to hostile school and college environments thanks to its durable design. The 2-in-1 design has two alloy-zinc hinges that quickly transform from stand to tent to tablet, and the rugged construction and rubber bumpers allow it to withstand the daily bumps and bruises one associates with the above-mentioned environments. ASUS specifically states that it meets MIL-STD 810G military specifications, however we do not reckon attempting to shoot your laptop, as this will be a waste of bullets.
For day-to-day task handling, the 1.1GHz Intel Apollo Lake dual-core Celeron N3350 CPU and 4GB of RAM will get you through basic tasks such as photo viewing, video streaming and work processing, but running more than one application at a time will result in slow downs but is on the slower side compared to some other Windows based laptops under $400. This makes it perfect for e-learning purposes that have less resource intensive requirements. The 32GB of storage is little, and limited storage space isn’t uncommon with Chromebooks, so you will need to make use of cloud storage. The ASUS Chromebook Flip is an incredibly rugged laptop that will handle basic tasks with ease, and it is well suited to school children and college students.
The Samsung Chromebook 4 is extremely thin (0.65 inches) and lightweight (3.62 pounds) and perfect for those looking for an inexpensive laptop for basic task handling that is able to hold a charge. Google’s simple ChromeOS is basic and well optimized for entry level hardware such as the Intel Celeron N4000 1.10GHz, but in combination with the 6GB of RAM and the snappy 64GB SSD it will fare better than some Windows laptops in the same price range that ships with bloatware that impacts performance. Be prepared to make use of online storage options however, as the 64GB storage is small.
The downside with the Chromebook 4’s design however is its dim display and poor viewing angles. The audio quality also lacks somewhat, so be prepared to make use of the audio jack or bluetooth speakers.