Best Laptops Under $400 [Autumn 2020]

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The best laptop under $400 has a fast hard drive, a powerful processor, and a screen with crisp colors.

To help you find these top-rated budget laptops, I created this list, and after much research, I narrowed it down to seven laptops that are worth buying.

A laptop in the $400 price range usually has something you need to compromise on. I’ll show you each laptop’s advantages and disadvantages so you can make the best possible decision.

Without further ado, here is the best laptop under $400:


Note: The laptops on this list are usually not suited for gaming. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop make sure to read about the best gaming laptops under $500.


Acer 5 Slim notebook

#1 Best Laptop under $400: Acer 5 Slim

Processor:AMD Ryzen 3 3200U
Display:15.6 Inch Full HD (1920 x 1080)
RAM:4GB
Storage:128GB SSD
GPU:AMD Radeon Vega 3
Operating System:Windows 10 in S Mode

The Acer 5 Slim is a Windows 10-based laptop with powerful enough hardware to run both games and everyday applications with ease.

This laptop has a premium look with a silver-grey exterior. It’s mostly made of plastic with a thin sheet of aluminum on top. With a weight of 3.97 lbs (1.8 kg), it’s quite light for being a 15-inch laptop.

The keyboard has 1.2mm key travel and comfortable, clicky keys. It has a great typing experience The only issue with the keyboard is the cramped arrow keys.

The laptop has a Full HD 15.6-inch screen with a thin bezel design for improved screen-to-body ratio. With a brightness of 150 nits, it’s a dim display, but the matte finish helps when using it in direct sunlight.

The processor is the AMD Ryzen 3 3200U, a processor powerful enough to run most games and programs without lag. The 4GB RAM and the 128GB SSD helps the laptop boot up and load applications faster. 4GB RAM is alright for the price, and it’s easy to upgrade it down the line.

Thanks to the AMD Radeon Vega 3 graphics card, it’s one of the best gaming laptops under $400. Even if it has an integrated graphics card, it can run most non-demanding games smoothly. It can run more demanding games, but then you’ll have to play on lower graphics settings.

Expect around 7 hours of battery life, but if you run demanding programs such as games, expect a lower total battery life.


Summary: With a beautiful display, powerful processor, and a fast SSD, the Acer 5 Slim is the best laptop under $400. It also has a beautiful screen and a long battery life, that’s why the Acer 5 Slim is the best notebook under $400.

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ProsCons
LightweightNot the brightest screen
Excellent displayCramped arrow keys
Powerful AMD Ryzen CPUOnly 4GB RAM


#2 Best Chromebook Under $400: Lenovo Chromebook C330 2-in-1

Processor:Intel Celeron N4000
Display:11.6 Inch HD (1366 x 768)
RAM:4GB
Storage:32GB eMMC
GPU:Intel UHD Graphics 600
Operating System:Chrome OS

The Lenovo Chromebook C340 is a worthy contender as the best budget laptop for under $400. It’s a fast laptop at an affordable price.

This 2-in-1 convertible laptop weighs 2.65 pounds (1.2 kg), which is slightly heavier than what you should expect for an 11-inch laptop. You’ll find a media card reader that can read microSD cards on the laptop’s left side. This laptop has two USB-C ports and two USB-A ports. An advantage of the USB-C ports is that you can charge the laptops through them with most mobile chargers.

The screen is a small 11.6-inch display with HD resolution. The colors are accurate, but it’s not very bright. Around the screen, you’ll find large bezels that eat up the screen estate. As a touchscreen, it works well and is responsive to movement and gestures.

Compared to some of the other top-rated budget laptops under $400 with Intel i3 Processors, the Intel Celeron N4000 Processor lags behind. It has 4GB RAM, so the laptop will handle everyday tasks but will have a hard time running anything demanding. 32GB of storage is on the lower end, especially if you want to save lots of files.

Lenovo claims a 10-hour battery life, and that seems accurate. When PCMag tested the battery, it lasted over 14 hours.

Summary: The Lenovo 14 2-in-1 has the right components to get you up and running without lag. It has long battery life and decent hardware, but nothing makes the laptop stand out.

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ProsCons
Good port selectionProcessor weaker than the competition
SDCard readerLow contrast display
Long battery lifeCan't charge with USB-C


#3 Most Portable Laptop: Microsoft Surface Go

Processor:Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y
Display:10 Inch PixelSense Screen (1800 x 1200)
RAM:4GB
Storage:64GB SSD
GPU:Intel HD Graphics 615
Operating System:Windows 10 Pro

If you want a laptop that’s easy to bring with you and can handle everyday use without lag, have a look at the Microsoft Surface Go.

The Microsoft Surface Go has a size of 10 inches and weighs 1.15 pounds (0,52 kg). This means it’s super easy to bring with you, no matter if it’s to the nearest cafe or across the globe.

If you want to use the laptop with a stylus pen or an attachable keyboard, you’re going to need to buy them separately. A Stylus pen is great for taking notes but not necessary. For the best laptop experience, I would recommend getting a good attachable keyboard.

This small laptop comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB-C port, a Surface Connect port used for charging and docking. It also has a microSD card slot.

It’s a Windows laptop with 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD. It has fast performance on everyday tasks such as word processing, browsing the web, and watching videos. If you want to do anything demanding such as video editing or gaming, then you better look for a more powerful laptop.

The touch screen works great and responds quickly and accurately. It has a resolution of 1920 x 1280 and covers the full sRGB gamut. It also has a respectable brightness of 408 nits.

Another advantage of this laptop is the long battery life. You can use it the whole day without issues.

Summary: If you’re looking for the best 2-in-1 laptop for around $400, then my recommendation is the Microsoft Surface Go. It’s fast, durable, and light, but the keyboard is sold separately.

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ProsCons
Quality Full HD screenNeed to buy the keyboard separately
Fast 128GB SSDNo USB-A port
Long battery lifeNot suitable for demanding applications


#4 Fast and Light: HP 14

Processor:AMD Athlon 3050U
Display:14-Inch HD (1366 x 768)
RAM:4GB
Storage:128GB SSD
GPU:AMD Radeon Integrated Graphics
Operating System:Windows 10 in S Mode

Another good option in the 400 dollar price range is the HP 14.

This is a thin and light 14-inch laptop with a weight of 3.3 pounds (1,5 kg). The silver and grey case is made of plastic and is sturdy. The laptop has good connectivity, but there’s no CD/DVD drive.

The operating system is Windows 10 in S mode. S mode will provide longer battery life and better performance, but if you want to get out to use apps, not on the Windows store, you can easily get out after following one of the many available guides online.

Typing on the HP 14 is a pleasant experience, but the keyboard has no backlighting, so it’s not suitable for working in dim lights. The touchpad is a multi-touch pad with physical buttons.
The 14-inch glossy screen has small bezels for a maximum screen estate and a modern look. It has a resolution of 1366 x 768, and its glossy reflective coating helps prevent glare. This is is not an IPS display, so the viewing angles are poor. Even if you look at the screen from a straight angle, the image doesn’t look super-sharp due to the low contrast ratio.

One of the significant advantages of the HP 14 laptop is the 128GB SSD. It’s fast, and the 128GB storage is excellent, considering many laptops under $400 has less than 64GB of storage.

Another good thing about this laptop is the battery. It has a 41Wh battery that will last almost the whole day.

Summary: The HP 14 is a great laptop for less than 400 dollars. It has a fast SSD, light and sturdy case, and great value for the price.

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ProsCons
Fast 128GB SSDNo CD/DVD drive
Light and thinPoor viewing angles
Good valueKeyboard is not backlit


#5 Best Budget Business Laptop: Dell Latitude e5470

Processor:6th Generation Intel Core i5-6300U
Display:14.6" HD (1366 x 768)
RAM:8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage:256GB SSD
GPU:Intel HD 520
Operating System:Windows 10 Pro

The Dell Latitude e5470 is a great budget business laptop that runs Windows 10 OS.

It’s a sturdy laptop with a weight of 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg). The case is made of carbon-reinforced plastic and has a pleasant feel, but it’s prone to fingerprints.

The Dell Latitude notebook has a webcam and microphone, but it lacks an optical drive and has no USB Type-C port. Another small issue with this laptop is that the touchpad is inaccurate at the edges.

This budget laptop has a 14.6-inch HD matte display with good viewing angles, but with just 200 nits brightness, it’s not suitable for outside work. Color coverage is also below average; the display covers only 60% of the sRGB Color spectrum.

The 6th Gen Intel Core i5 processor is starting to get a bit old now, but it still provides some solid performance. If you compare the included 6th Gen Intel Core i5 vs. a more modern 10th Gen Intel Core i3, you’ll see they have around similar performance. The Intel Core i3 processor has about 11% higher effective speed.

With 8GB RAM and a fast SSD, it will boot up fast and load apps without lag. It’s great for working on word documents and everyday tasks such as reading emails or watching Youtube clips. It’s not a suitable laptop for gaming with the poor integrated Intel HD 520 graphics card. The battery life is decent and can handle around 6 hours on a full charge.

It’s sold as a renewed laptop. This means even if it’s not brand new, it has been verified that it still works like new and has no major dents. A generous 90-day return guarantee backs it if anything is wrong, and many have praised the good customer service if something went wrong.

Summary: The Dell Latitude e5470 is a great budget business laptop with few flaws. The display could have been brighter, but other than that, it’s a solid choice.

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ProsCons
DurableDim display
Fast Intel Core ProcessorThe exterior is prone to fingerprints
Fast Intel Core ProcessorNo optical drive


#6 The Budget Choice: Dell Inspiron Chromebook

Processor:Intel Celeron Dual Core N3060
Display:11.6 Inch HD (1366 x 768)
RAM:4GB
Storage:16GB eMMC
GPU:Intel HD Graphics 400
Operating System:Chrome OS

The Dell Inspiron Chromebook is a cheap notebook that is easy to use. It has a nice keyboard and decent performance.

The operating system, Chrome OS, has its advantages and disadvantages. A good thing about ChromeOS is that you can run android apps on it, but it won’t run some applications not supported on ChromeOS, such as Photoshop and the desktop version of MS Office.

The design of the laptop is quite basic. The muted black exterior is made of plastic. It has a webcam and a built-in microphone, but there’s no CD/DVD player.

The keyboard has good key placement, and each click has clear feedback. If you have large hands, it might be a bit small since it’s just an 11.6-inch laptop. An advantage of the keyboard is that it’s spill-resistant.

Under the keyboard, you’ll have 4GB RAM and an Intel Celeron Dual Core N3060 processor. These specs mean it will work well for web browsing, writing documents, or watching movies. It can even play non-demanding games such as Roblox. It will, however, lag if you do any serious multitasking.

The biggest drawback of the hardware is the laptop’s storage. The 16GB eMMC Flash Memory is quite slow, and 16GB of storage is tiny for a laptop. With the small storage size, you will need to buy external storage or pay for cloud storage to save lots of data.

It has an 11.6-inch display with a 1366 x 768 resolution. The screen covers 72% of the sRGB color gamut, so the colors are alright for the price but will look washed out compared to higher-end displays. The brightness is just 210 nits, so it’s not suitable to use it outside or in direct sunlight.

The battery life of the laptop is good and will last 8 hours on a full charge.

Summary: The Dell Chromebook is a great budget laptop that is perfect for anyone who just wants a laptop that’s easy to use for non-demanding programs. It has a smaller memory and not as good as some of the other laptops, that’s why it’s fifth on the list of the best laptops under 400 dollars.

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ProsCons
CheapTiny memory
LightDim display
Easy to usePoor speakers


#7 The All-around Option: Acer Aspire 1

Processor:Intel Celeron N4020
Display:15.6 Inch FHD (1920 x 1080)
RAM:4GB
Storage:64GB eMMC
GPU:Intel UHD Graphics 600
Operating System:Chrome OS

The Acer Aspire 1 is a sturdy 15.6-inch laptop with a weight of 3.3 pounds (1,5kg). It looks stylish with the sleek design and the nicer brushed texture on the lid and on the deck. The hinge is sturdy, but it has some flex on the deck.

This laptop has all the ports you’ll need, with both USB 3.1 and USB 2.0 ports, an ethernet port if you want to use a cable for the internet, and an HDMI port if you’re going to connect an external monitor,

The keyboard has good feedback, and the keys are well laid-out with reasonable spacing between each key. It’s a bit stiff for long typing sessions, but overall it’s a good and comfortable keyboard.

The display is one of the better screens on the list, but it has one big flaw. It’s a full HD 15-inch screen with good brightness and good details. The matte finish prevents glare, and you can use it outside. The big weakness of the screen is the poor viewing angles. If you look at it from the wrong angles, the colors look washed out and dull.

If you’re going to use the laptop for non-demanding things such as web surfing, writing word documents, or sending emails, then you’re going to be happy with this laptop’s performance. It’s fast, and the 64GB of storage is usually more than enough. If you need a laptop for anything demanding, such as media editing, gaming, or heavy multitasking, you’ll notice the 4GB RAM and the AMD Athlon is simply too weak.

The battery life is alright, but it’s not as long as some of the competition. Expect around 6 hours of battery life and a bit less if you do anything demanding.

Summary: If you need something that just works for everyday use, then one of the best options is the Acer Aspire 1. It’s not suitable for anything demanding, but it’s a great laptop if you have the right expectations.

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ProsCons
Fast for everyday usageToo weak for demanding programs
Stylish designScreen looks washed out from the wrong angle
Well laid-out keyboardSpeakers lack bass


#8 Cheapest Laptop: HP Stream 14

Processor:AMD Dual Core A4-9120E
Display:14 Inch HD (1366 x 768)
RAM:4GB
Storage:64GB eMMC
GPU:AMD Radeon R3 Graphics
Operating System:Windows 10 in S Mode

The HP Stream was released in June 2019 and has since been a great budget laptop option.

This 14-inch laptop has a sturdy plastic case with a royal blue color. The design doesn’t have any extra bells and whistles, but you can feel it’s reliable and won’t let you down. Typing on the HP stream is comfortable thanks to the good feedback and 1.3mm key travel. Unfortunately, it’s not backlit, so it will be difficult to type when it’s dark. If you have any USB devices you want to connect, you can connect them to the USB 2.0 port or one of the two USB 3.1 ports.

The operating system is Windows 10 in S mode. S mode will give you the laptop some performance improvements, but if you want to run programs not available on the Windows store, it’s easy to get out of it.

The 14-inch HD display has good viewing angles and clear images, but with a brightness of just 190 nits, it’s too dim to be used in sunlight.

The AMD Dual-Core processor is one of the weaker processors on the list. If you compare it to the latest generation Intel Core i3 processor, you’ll see that the Intel Core i3 has around 83% better effective speed. The laptop, however, has 4GB RAM and a fast 64GB eMMC hard drive. This laptop can handle non-demanding things, but if you want to do anything demanding such as media editing, you’ll notice the slow processor.

HP claims this laptop has 10 hours battery life, and after some tests, it seems they are correct on that promise. Another advantage of the HP stream is that if you get it now, you’ll also get one year of Office 365 personal for free.

Summary: The HP stream has a reliable design and fast everyday performance. However, since the processor is the slowest on the list, it’s not suitable for anything demanding.

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ProsCons
Comfortable keyboardSlower processor than Intel Core i3 CPUs
Long battery life that will last the whole dayDim Display
Comes with one year of MS Office 365The keyboard is not backlit


#9 Best Specs: Asus Vivobook 15

Processor:10th Gen Intel Core i3
Display:15.6 Inch Full HD (1920 x 1080)
RAM:8GB
Storage:128GB SSD
GPU:Intel UHD Graphics 620
Operating System:Windows 10 in S Mode

If you want to get the best specs for the money, then check out the Asus Vivobook 15. It has a fast SSD, 8GB RAM, and it’s easy to upgrade it.

On first look, the Asus Vivobook 15 doesn’t stand out. It has a discreet slate gray case made of plastic. The laptop weighs 3.8 pounds (1,75 kg), and even if it feels light, it also has a bit cheap feeling. As for connectivity, it has almost all the port you might need. It has an HDMI port, USB-C, USB-A, and a reliable wifi card. You can’t charge the laptop through USB-C since it’s data only.

The backlit keyboard is decent, but the number pad feels a bit cramped. The speakers are one of the laptop’s weak points and almost sound like mobile speakers.

The Asus Vivobook 15 has Windows 10 S as its operating system. Windows 10 S was created to improve performance and usability. One issue with Windows 10 S is that you can only use applications on the Microsoft Store, so you can’t, for instance, use Google Chrome. Luckily, it’s easy to get out of Windows 10 S to regular Windows 10 with a few clicks.

The Full HD display is decent and good enough for everyday usage. It’s not suitable for anything that requires accurate colors. The colors look washed out, and it’s especially noticable in dark movie scenes. An advantage of the display is that it has a 88% screen-to-body ratio.

With 8GB RAM, a fast SSD, and a 10th generation Intel Core i3 processor, it has the best you can get for the money. With the 128GB SSD, you get plenty of storage to save files. This laptop is also the only laptop on the list with 8GB RAM. Having 8GB RAM makes multitasking on a laptop much more manageable. If you ever want to upgrade it, it’s straightforward to upgrade the SSD and the RAM.

Summary: If you want the laptop with the most bang for the buck, I would recommend the Asus Vivobook 15. It’s fast with a¬†powerful 10th gen Intel Core processor, but you might need to go slightly above budget.

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ProsCons
Powerful 10th Gen Intel Core i3 processorWashed out colors
8GB fast RAMCramped number pad
Straightforward to upgrade SSD and RAMPoor speakers


What to Look For in a Laptop Under $400

To help you find the right laptop, I created the guide with the best laptops under $400. Here are some guidelines I based the picks on. Follow these tips, and you are sure to get a quality budget laptop:

Storage

In the best laptops under $400, you’ll usually find an SSD or eMMC memory. Both are faster than a traditional hard drive (HDD). An SSD is the preferred option since it has faster read and write speed. The SSD also has the advantage that you can upgrade it at a later point. In contrast, eMMC memory is often soldered onto the laptop, so you won’t be able to upgrade it.

In this price range, you usually won’t be able to save much data. Some laptops will have a tiny 16GB memory card that will fill up quickly.

Aim for at least 64GB of storage

If you want an affordable laptop under $400 and still save lots of data, your best option is to buy an external hard drive or save your files in the cloud. An external is a one time purchase that you plug into the laptops USB port. Cloud storage usually has a monthly or annual fee. Two good services that allow you to save data on the cloud is Google Drive and Dropbox.

RAM

Having more RAM will make your laptop better at multitasking.

Laptops for less than $400 generally have 4GB RAM. This is good enough in most cases, but if you want to run a ram intensive applications such as editing software or running many apps at the same time, it’s on the lower end.

Display

Choosing the right size for your laptop screen can be a bit challenging. In the 400 dollar price range, you can find everything from small 10-inch notebooks up to bulky 17-inch laptops. If you want a portable laptop, it can be worth choosing a smaller screen, while a larger screen is preferred for media viewing and gaming.

Another important aspect of the display is the resolution. A higher resolution will make the images on the screen look better. It will also often increase productivity since you can have more stuff open on the same display.

Aim to get a display with at least a resolution of 1366 x 768 (HD)

If you plan to use your laptop in sunlight, make sure the screen is bright enough. A screens brightness is measured in nits. If you want to use it outside in direct sunlight, aim for at least 400 nits brightness.

Graphics card

There can be huge perforemance difference between integrated GPUs (Source)

The graphics card (GPU) is often not something you need to think about in a laptop under $400. Almost any GPU will work fine for non-demanding laptop use. It’s not until you start doing something demanding for the laptop, such as gaming, that the graphics card starts to matter.

Both AMD and Intel have their own Integrated graphics cards. Sometimes there are significant performance differences between two integrated graphics cards. If you, for example, compare the Intel HD graphics 400 in the Dell Inspiron laptop against the Intel UHD 620 in the Asus Vivobook, you’ll notice that the UHD 620 has considerably better performance.

Don’t expect to run any modern games on most laptops under $400. If you’re a gamer on a budget, check out the best gaming laptop under $500 and if you want to play the lastest games, check out the best gaming laptops under $1000.

Processor

You’ll usually find either an Intel or AMD processor in laptops under $400. Both brands have good options.

The most common Intel Core Processor in this price range is the Intel Core i3 CPU. You can find a few budget laptops with an Intel Core i5 CPU. Most of the time, an Intel Core i5 CPU has better performance than an Intel Core i3 CPU, but it will depend on the CPU generation. The later Intel Core generation, the better performance.

The latest Intel Core generation at the moment is the 10th generation Intel processors.

Aim for an 8th generation Intel processor or later

The most common AMD processor in this price range is the AMD Ryzen 3. It has similar performance to a 10th generation Intel Core i3 processor.


Conclusion

The best laptops under $400 usually have fast SSD or eMMC memory, 4GB or more RAM, and a good HD display.

If you want the best overall laptop under $400, my recommendation would be the Acer Slim 5. It’s a fast and lightweight budget laptop with powerful enough hardware to handle light gaming.

For those of you on a tight budget, go for the Dell Inspiron Chromebook. It’s easy to use and will handle everyday tasks without lag. If portability is your main concern, then my recommendation would be the Microsoft Surface Go.

Hopefully, this has helped you in choosing the best laptop under $400.

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