Top 5 Best Laptops Under $400 [2019 Edition]

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 five contenders for the best laptop under $400 that will work for anyone’s needs — whether you are a college student, gamer, or casual web surfer!

In A Hurry? Here’s The Winner From Hours Of Research

Editor’s Choice

Dell Latitude E7250

Dell Latitude E7250 (Refurbished)

Why is it better?

  • Fast i7 processor
  • 16GB of RAM
  • Fast SSD
  • Light and portable

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Read Review Details

The Lineup At A Glance

Review Of The Best Laptop Under $400

1. ASUS X555DA – Best Gaming Laptop Under $400

ASUS-X555DA-300x210

Just need a solid budget laptop for light gaming but don’t want to drop the money on a unit with a dedicated graphics card? This should be your top pick for the best inexpensive gaming laptop under $400.

  • Lightweight
  • Optical drive and tons of ports
  • Best overall specs
  • No dedicated graphics card
  • No keyboard backlighting or gaming aesthetics

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Key features & details

Sleek Style

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.

Low Price Performance

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.

Specification
Hardware specifications for ASUS X555DA
ProcessorAMD Quad Core A12-9700P 2.5GHz (Turbo up to 3.4GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4
Storage1TB Hybrid HDD (FireCuda)
GraphicsAMD Radeon R7 Integrated Graphics
Display15.6 inch matte display, 1366 x 768 pixels resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home
Battery Life8 hours
Weight4.5 lbs
Other FeaturesOptical drive

2. HP Stream 14 – College Student Pick

HP 14

If you are a student on a tight budget, the HP Stream 14 is the perfect laptop for you. It is fast enough to handle all your school work and some video consumption, and also includes a full year of Microsoft Office 365!

  • Great battery life
  • Extremely affordable
  • 1 year of Office 365 included
  • Only 64GB internal storage
  • Cheap feeling build quality

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Key features & details

Long Battery Life

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.

Office 365 Included

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.

Great Price

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.

Needs External Storage

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.

Specification
Hardware specifications for HP Stream 14
ProcessorIntel Celeron N4000 (1.1 – 2.6 GHz)
RAM4GB DDR3
Storage64GB eMMC
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 600
Display14-inch IPS LCD, 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 S
Battery Life14.25 hours
Weight3.17 lbs

3. Lenovo Ideapad High Performance Laptop – Best Optical Drive Choice

Lenovo_Ideapad

If you are looking for a great all around laptop that can be your home computer or a business laptop, the Lenovo Ideapad High Performance Laptop can do the job. The AMD A12 processor and 8GB or RAM make for a great web browsing and video watching experience.

  • Has optical drive
  • Sturdy build for budget device
  • Snappy processor
  • Nice business look
  • Low resolution screen
  • Slow hard drive

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Key features & details

Optical Drive

The main feature here is the inclusion of the optical drive. If you are a person who simply has to have that CD/DVD drive on your laptop, this one has you covered.

AMD Processor

For a budget computer, using the AMD A12-9720P is a great choice. It is fast and can handle most light workloads without issue.

Clean Look

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.

Slow Hard Drive

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.

Specification
Hardware specifications for Lenovo Ideapad High Performance Laptop
ProcessorAMD A12-9720P (2.7 – 3.6 GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R7
Display15.6-inch IPS LCD, 1366 x 768 pixels resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10
Battery Life6 hours
Weight4.85 lbs

4. ASUS VivoBook 2 In 1 Flip – Best 2-In-1 Laptop Under $400

ASUS-VivoBook-2-in-1-Flip

Want a sleek, light machine that can double as a tablet but won’t break your bank account? The Asus VivoBook 2 is one of the best low cost 2-in-1 laptops available under $400, and it has the best screen quality out of all our picks as well.

  • Hybrid dual use design
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Best screen quality
  • Less RAM than other models
  • Smaller storage capacity

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Key features & details

Hybrid Performance

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 a 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.

Specification
Hardware specifications for ASUS VivoBook 2 in 1 Flip
ProcessorPentium Silver Quad Core N5000 (1.10 GHz to 2.70 GHz)
RAM4GB DDR4
Storage64GB eMMC
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 605
Display14-inch full HD  touchscreen display, 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 S
Battery Life10 hours
Weight2.87 lbs
Other FeaturesHybrid 2-in-1 design

5. Dell Latitude E7250 (Refurbished) – Best Overall

Dell Latitude E7250

The absolute best laptop you can get for under $400 is the Dell Latitude E7250. Though it is refurbished, you still get an i7 processor and 16GB of RAM…unheard of at this price point!

  • Fast i7 processor
  • Good SSD performance
  • Plenty of RAM
  • Low resolution screen
  • Refurbished

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Key features & details

Intel i7 Processor

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.

RAM

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.

Low Resolution Screen

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.

Refurbished

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.

Specification
Hardware specifications for Dell Latitude E7250
ProcessorIntel i7 5600U (2.6 – 3.2 GHz)
RAM16GB DDR3
Storage256GB SSD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 5500
Display12.5-inch WLED LCD, 1366 x 768 pixels resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10
Battery Life10 hours
Weight2.76 lbs

Criteria used for evaluation

1. Graphical Power

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.

2. Overall Performance

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.

3. Display Quality

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.

4. Storage

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.

5. Extra Features

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.

Resources

  1. Gamerz, ASUS X555DA Review, Gaming Gizmo
  2. Matthew Elliot, Asus VivoBook Flip Overview, PC Mag
Categories Reviews

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