Portable laptop computers are available in a dizzying array of configurations and price points. In many cases, you don’t actually need to spend very much to get a great machine.
By staying on the lower end of the price range, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars and still find excellent hardware specs.
But what exactly should you be looking for? We’ve rounded up top contenders for the best laptop under $400 in 2021 that will work for anyone’s needs — whether you are a college student, gamer, or casual web surfer!
Recommendations for January 2021
The Best Laptop Under $400 in 2021
ASUS X555QA – Best Gaming Laptop Under $400
When staying under $400, you won’t often find anything with gamer-focused bells and whistles like LED bars or RGB keyboards.
That being said, the ASUS X555DA is easily the sleekest, lightest of our contenders with a matte brushed metal design that will be attractive to the gaming crowd.
With HDMI, VGA, and USB ports, you aren’t lacking in options for external gaming displays, either.
With 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a newer quad core processor, this ASUS model will play most games at low settings.
This particular unit also features a hybrid storage drive, which is a huge plus over other models.
Why does that matter?
A hybrid drive offers better speed and quieter operation than a standard HDD, but you don’t give up any storage capacity.
Recommended configuration for ASUS X555QA
CPU: AMD Quad Core A12-9700P 2.5GHz | Graphics: AMD Radeon R7 Integrated Graphics |RAM: 8GB RAM| Storage: 1TB Hybrid HDD (FireCuda) | Screen: 15.6-inch matte display, 1366 x 768 pixels resolution | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 8 hours | Weight 4.5 lbs
HP Stream 14 – Good For College
The worst thing would be to start writing your homework just to have your laptop die right in the middle. You won’t have this problem with the HP Stream, as it sports amazing battery life, giving you a full 14 hours to get everything finished.
The greatest asset to a student looking at this laptop is the inclusion of a year of Microsoft Office 365. That means you will get apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to use on your classwork.
The HP Stream is extremely affordable. This means you won’t have to break the bank or run up a credit card bill in order to have a good computer in your backpack.
64GB of internal storage is not enough to have many apps installed while saving things like pictures and files. You will want to have an external storage option such as an SD card or an external hard drive.
All in all, this is a fantastic computer for a college student. With decent specs and the inclusion of Microsoft Office, the value is fantastic.
Recommended Configuration For HP Stream 14
CPU: AMD Dual-Core a4-9120e| Graphics: Intel HD Graphics| RAM: 4GB RAM | Screen: 14-inch 1366×768 HD SVA BrightView Backlit display| Storage: 64GB eMMC| Operating System: Windows 10| Battery Life: more than 9 hours | Weight: 2.9 lbs
Lenovo IdeaPad S145 – Good All-Around
Lenovo IdeaPad S145 is a cheap, reliable, and amazing laptop all-around. For a budget computer, using the AMD APU A6-9225 is a great choice. It is fast and can handle most light workloads without issue.
This laptop has that nice Lenovo business look, making it sleek. No over the top lighting, and no cheap-looking build, this is the perfect middle ground.
The hard drive on this laptop has plenty of storage space at 1TB. However, that comes at the cost of it being an older 5,400RPM model.
This is a really great laptop for the price. If you are in the market for a laptop with an optical drive, this is the best you are going to find for under $400 or at least close to $400 because Amazon does change its prices and some version of the Lenovo IdeaPad S145 are a little above $400.
Recommended configuration for Lenovo IdeaPad S145
CPU: AMD APU A6-9225 up to 3.0 GHz | Graphics: AMD Radeon R4 | RAM: 8 GB RAM| Screen: AMD APU A6-9225 | Storage: 1 TB HDD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: | Weight: 3.96 pounds
ASUS VivoBook 2 – Reliable 2-in-1
These days, mobile devices frequently overlap with each other, as tablets and laptops start to become interchangeable.
If you want a lightweight device that can swivel 360 degrees to operate as a tablet, the VivoBook should be your pick.
With the Windows 10 OS in a tiny, 2-in-1 package, you get the best of both worlds here for a very reasonable price.
To get those extra features at this low cost you do have to make a few trade-offs, however.
Most notably, you get half the RAM here than with our other contenders, which means less speed when using multiple programs.
There’s also only 64GB of storage space, so you’ll need to save your data online or get an external USB hard drive.
One major element that makes this a better pick than some of our other choices — it has a full HD screen with 1920 resolution.
If you want to stream high-resolution 1080p video, this should be your top pick.
Recommended configuration for ASUS VivoBook 2
CPU: Pentium Silver Quad Core N5000 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 605 | RAM: 4GB RAM | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Display: 14-inch full HD touchscreen display, 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution| Operating System: Windows 10 S | Battery Life: 10 hours | Weight 2.87 lbs
Dell Latitude E7250 – Powerful Specs
Under $400 and you can get a full-fledged i7 processor? That’s right, this is the main thing that sets this laptop apart from all the others on this list.
You need memory to pair with the i7, and this laptop comes up with 16GB, which is plenty for now and in the future. You won’t have to worry about slowdowns or hiccups due to insufficient memory with this laptop.
One of the main downsides of this laptop is the low-resolution screen. It isn’t as big of a deal since the screen is only 12.5-inches, but it is still worth noting.
Don’t let the refurbished name next to this one scare you off. It has a 90-day warranty to ensure there are no issues with the laptop and to keep you safe from buying one that is broken.
The best laptop under $400 is a refurbished one, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t top quality. These look and feel brand new, and will last you a long time.
Recommended configuration for Dell Latitude E7250
CPU: Intel i7 5600U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 16GB DDR3 | Storage: 256GB SSD | Display: 12.5-inch WLED LCD, 1366 x 768 pixels resolution | Operating System: Windows 10 | Battery Life: 10 hours |Weight 2.76 lbs
Lenovo IdeaPad S150 – Cheap But Functional
Lenovo is one of the top and most trusted brands out there in the market. Their products range from dirt-cheap laptops to premium gold machines that cost a fortune. The Lenovo IdeaPad S150 is one of those “dirt cheap” laptops but its value is definitely like that of dirt.
Being very cheap, the Lenovo IdeaPad S150 definitely costs below $400. In fact it cheaper than $300 which really makes this a good laptop if you’re only looking for something to use for daily tasks and basic processes.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S150 features an AMD A6-9220e CPU, an Intel HD Graphics, and over 4GB of RAM. This shows that the laptop doesn’t have the best specs out there which is expected from a cheap laptop.
However, these specs are more than enough to run everyday tasks such as surfing the web, editing documents, playing low-end video games, and even watching movies online. If these are the only things your planning to do with your laptop, then you might want to get this.
The laptops do have a small storage space of 64 GB but since its an eMMC storage, expect it to load fast with speeds up to 400MB/s. That’s way faster than any HDD and its equivalent to a lot of high-end SSDs.
Still, the storage space is very small, so you might want to invest in an external hardrive or be completely reliant on the cloud to store your data. You also won’t have a problem with connectivity since the laptop has a USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 port which allows for easy connecting to external devices.
It also has an HDMI port so you can watch your movies on the big screen if you really want to.
People complain that the Lenovo IdeaPad S150 loads slower than a lot of laptops but that is expected from a budget laptop.
Overall, the Lenovo IdeaPad S150 is an amazing laptop that brings a lot to the table. It’s cheap, functional, and it’s ideal for people who don’t run high-end programs on their laptop.
Recommended Configuration For Lenovo IdeaPad S150
CPU: AMD A6-9220e| Graphics: Intel HD Graphics| RAM: 4GB RAM | Screen: 14-inch 1366×768 HD display| Storage: 64GB eMMC| Operating System: Windows 10| Battery Life: up to 5 hours| Weight: 3.1 lbs
Asus VivoBook L203MA – 1 Day Battery Life
Asus VivoBook L203MA is the one of the best laptops for travel and everyday use. Its biggest features is its extremely long battery life that can last up to a day. Most laptops last for an average of 8 hours, which makes the Asus VivoBook L203MA’s battery life 3 times longer than most laptops!
Asides from its long battery life, the laptop has a fantastic design and durable chassis made out of aluminium. This gives the Asus VivoBook L203MA a really professional and stylish look.
It also has pretty decent specs with 4 GB of RAM and an Intel Celeron N4000 which can handle the most basic of tasks.
One thing we like about the Asus VivoBook L230MA is that it has a FHD display despite being a 11 inch laptop. That’s absolutely crazy and you’ll have good movie sessions with this cheap laptop that costs below $300.
Overall, the Asus VivoBook L230MA is an amazing laptop to give a gift for kids or as a backup. You can also buy it for travelling use as well since its 1 day battery life will come in handy during those long flights.
Recommended Configuration For Asus VivoBook L230MA
CPU: Intel Celeron N4000| Graphics: Intel HD Graphics| RAM: 4GB RAM | Screen: 11.6-inch 1920×1080 HD display| Storage: 64GB eMMC| Operating System: Windows 10| Battery Life: up to 1 day| Weight: 2.2 lbs
HP EliteBook Folio – Huge RAM
The HP EliteBook Folio is surprisingly powerful for a budget laptop but this is because it’s a refurbished product of a much older model. However its specs are way better than the laptops in this list and it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a cheap laptop with lots of power to back it up.
One of the biggest advantages of the HP EliteBook Folio is its incredibly huger RAM of 8 GB. WIth this you’ll be able to multitask and keep on a lot of tabs and programs running on the side without having performance issues.
The laptop also has an i7 processor which makes it one of the most powerful laptops on this list. Now you can play some mid-end video games with this laptop and you don’t have to worry about it crashing or hanging like most low-end laptops.
So Overall,this refurbished HP EliteBook Folio is an oldie but goodie. If you don’t mind a refurbished laptop, then you should check this one out.
Recommended Configuration For HP EliteBook Folio
CPU: Intel Core i7-4600U| Graphics: Intel HD Graphics| RAM: 8GB RAM | Screen: 14-inch 1366×768 HD LED Backlit display| Storage: 128GB SSD| Operating System: Windows 10| Battery Life: up to 7 hours | Weight: 3.56 lbs
Acer Chromebook R11 – Good For Android Games
An intel Celeron or Intel Atom won’t cut when it comes to playing a lot of PC games. These processors are made to run basic and simple tasks and we’re afraid that you’ll have a hard time running games with the laptops on this list.
However android games don’t need very high specs to run and that is exactly what the Acer Chromebook R11 is for. It has a Intel Celeron N3060 CPU with Intel graphics which may be low for PC games but its more than enough to play android games.
But what makes it good for android games is that it’s a 2-in-1 laptop which means that you can use it as a tablet. So you don’t have to worry if your game is touch screen reliant because the Acer Chromebook R11 has got you covered.
Recommended Configuration For Acer Chromebook R11
CPU: Intel Celeron N3060| Graphics: Intel HD Graphics| RAM: 4GB RAM | Screen: 11.6-inch 1366×768 HD IPS display| Storage: 32GB SSD| Operating System: Chrome OS| Battery Life: up to 10 hours | Weight: 3.8 lbs
Picking The Best Laptops under $400 In 2021
Even when buying a cheap laptop, it’s still possible to get acceptable frame rates at decent graphics settings…
In order to stay under the $400 price tag, a dedicated GeForce graphics card normally won’t be a feasible option. That can severely curtail your gaming experience, unfortunately, and prevent you from running anything on high settings.
At this price range, we recommend the AMD Radeon R7 or Intel UHD 620. They won’t compare to something like the GTX 1050 card, but they will get the job done better than older technology.
Keep in mind that both the Radeon and Intel integrated chips are still utilizing shared graphics memory. This means that if you have more RAM, you can expect a better graphical experience.
If you have to save money by getting a lower end graphics chipset, always aim for the most RAM and fastest processor available.
At this price, you can officially ditch anything that only comes with 4GB of RAM out of the box. That just simply won’t work for most games and is too big a corner to cut for saving money.
In the vast majority of cases, we highly recommend a minimum of 8GB of RAM with any notebook. The only exception to that rule is if there’s a compelling trade off, like finding a faster 8th gen processor.
In terms of processing speed, it’s usually better to avoid the slower Celeron processors. When you go that low, you can expect Windows 10 updates to take several hours to complete.
When it comes to work or gaming, many buyers overlook the resolution of the screen and end up with sub-par viewing performance.
While the graphics card, RAM, and CPU will have the biggest impact on your performance, don’t forget to take into account a laptop’s ability to display crisp and clear visuals!
At this price point, a 1366 resolution will likely be your only option most of the time.
For the best viewing experience (whether playing an FPS or streaming Netflix movies) we recommend shooting for HD 1920 resolutions whenever possible.
Unfortunately, if you want full HD video at 1080p with a 1920 resolution, you’ll have to bump up the price.
With budget model laptops, you need to balance quality and speed versus overall capacity with your disk drive choice.
At this price range, you won’t normally find an a solid state drive unless there is a big trade off — like going refurbished or getting less RAM.
If you intend to stay under $400, we recommend looking for anything with a hybrid drive or a secondary Optane drive for better data retrieval speeds.
Processor speed, hard drive style, and RAM shouldn’t be the only features you consider — don’t forget the extras that make or a break a machine at this price range!
Everything from number of ports to overall battery life can radically change whether a computer meets your needs.
To figure out what you need, we recommend you start by asking yourself a few questions. For instance, do you need a card reader for transfering photos off your camera’s SD card?
Do you still need an optical drive for burning DVDs or transfering data off old CD installation discs?
How many USB ports will you need for external devices like a mouse, optical drive, or external monitor? Will you need to buy a USB hub to make sure you have enough ports?
For the best experience, make sure to answer these questions before looking for your top contenders!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you play games on a laptop under $400?
No. We do not suggest gaming other than light casual games on these laptops. While you could play some older games possibly, the overall gaming performance will be low.
Where should you cut corners on specs on a budget computer?
You want to get the best processor possible, but you can technically cut corners in the hard drive area. An older mechanical hard drive will still be fine for everyday use. You could also cut back on screen resolution to a degree, but we wouldn’t suggest 1366 x 768 resolution on a laptop screen above 14-inches.