Best Laptops Under $400 in 2020
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When picking out a laptop these days, there’ no upper ceiling on the price range you can opt for, with many fancy laptops costing thousands of dollars and beyond, but if you’re after a simpler machine that doesn’t need to be full of the latest cutting edge technology, and just needs to be able to function as a basic laptop, there are also a great many choices that come in at much more reasonable asking prices. These are the machines we’re focusing on for this round-up, laptop computers that are not for show but can get the job done.
In order to come in at under $400, there are a few compromises that have to be made. Some of these laptops are last year's models, some are from earlier than that. None of these machines use top-end modern processors, all using entry-level or mid-range components. They also have less generous hard drive space and ram, something to bear in mind when picking out a machine.
We’ve still been able to compile a selection of very capable and competently made laptops that will satisfy most users looking for a new computer without breaking the bank. Here’s our round-up of the best laptops under $400.
How We Picked
We have compared the specifications of lots of laptops in this price range, and narrowed it down to a handful that offers reasonable performance for their price bracket, and don’t have any major drawbacks.
How We Tested
Sticking to a strict rule of no laptops over $400, we’ve narrowed it down to a lineup of machines that are all from reliable well-known brands, have decent specs for their price range, and each offers something slightly different.
Best Laptops Under $400 in 2020
- Reasonably well-performing Ryzen 3 processor
- Excellent port availability
- Solid build quality
- A little on the heavy side
- Plain design
- The screen is not very high resolution
HP Notebook 14-dk0028wm
A basic standard laptop from HP, this is a very practical laptop, great for everyday use. It’s equipped with a very capable entry-level Ryzen 3 processor, an expansive suite of ports for connecting various devices too.
The biggest shortcoming is perhaps the modest 1366×768 display, which is adequate but not impressive, and there are other machines in this lineup that can offer a higher resolution display if you need it.
It is a well made and reliable machine that hasn’t cut any major corners in offering this budget-friendly price.
- Lovely 1920x1080 display
- Slim bezels
- Attractive design
- Modest specs
- Crappy webcam
- Ships with a lot of bloatware
Asus VivoBook 14
At first glance, you could easily mistake the VivoBook 14 for a more expensive laptop. The slim design, high screen to body ratio, and general look and feel are far closer to a premium Ultrabook than a budget laptop.
The star of the show is the 1920×1080 screen, surrounded by very slim bezels, letting you focus more on the work you’re doing, and less on the frame around it.
The rest of the specifications can’t quite measure up, with just 4gb of RAM, 128gb SSD, and an entry-level Ryzen 3 processor, it’s clearly a budget machine, but it’s one that’s been dressed up in a premium outfit.
Note that this laptop ships with Windows 10 S, restricting which software you can run on it, but it is reasonably straightforward to switch into regular Windows 10.
- Large screen
- Full-size keyboard
- Core i3 processor
- Fairly heavy
- Pixel density on the screen is quite rough
- Off-centre space bar
Lenovo Ideapad 330s
This is the largest laptop in this lineup, and as such comes with a larger 15.6 inch. This is a great choice for anyone who wants a larger screen experience from their laptop, whether for watching videos, playing games, or just for handling more complex work tasks. Despite being a larger screen, the resolution is still just 1366×768, so perhaps not great for any tasks that require a lot of precise detail.
One benefit of the larger frame is more room for a larger keyboard, and the Ideapad 330s uses this extra space to include a full Numpad.
This is equipped with an entry-level Core i3, which has marginally better performance than the other machines in this lineup, so this is a good choice if you’re looking for the best CPU power available in this price range. Otherwise, this machine largely matches the specifications of the other machines featured here.
Note that this machine will arrive with Windows 10 in “S mode”, limiting it to just running approved Windows software out of the box, but you can revert to standard Windows 10 easily.
- Supports ChromeOS uses, Google Play apps, and Linux software
- Can be used in laptop or tablet configuration
- Great battery life
- Not particularly aesthetically pleasing
- Huge bezels around the screen
- No support for Windows software
HP X360 Chromebook 11.6
This is a Chromebook, rather than a traditional laptop, so this is not an option if you are after a machine for running Windows-specific software. But if you’re looking for a machine to handle tasks like browsing the web, writing, checking emails, and watching videos, this is a solid option.
What you lose in the power and flexibility of Windows, you can in the streamlined and simplified approach of ChromeOS. This is a less powerful machine, with an Intel Celeron N3350 processor, but it’s running a more streamlined operating system, so it still offers great performance.
In addition to the native support of web-based applications and usage offered by ChromeOS, this Chromebook also supports android apps via Google Play, so you can access the huge volume of apps and content available there too, right from this device. You can also install Linux native software on this machine without trouble.
It’s not the most visually appealing machine, with huge bezels around the screen, and fairly bulky design given the small screen, but if you want a flexible machine with quick boot times, and the ability to use it in laptop or tablet mode, this is a great option.
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We’ve gone with the HP Notebook 14-dk0028wm as our top choice in this price category. It’s not got any major shortcomings, it’s a reliable machine, and whilst the performance isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off, it’s certainly competitive in this price range.