Budget Guide: The Best Laptop Under 400 Dollars

After conducting in-depth research and testing on dozens of computers, we have decided that the best laptop under 400 dollars is the Acer Aspire 15 E5-576-392H . We chose this model due to the powerful specs for the price, variety of relevant ports (USB 3.1 Type-C, HDMI) and a sleek design. 

However, if you prefer similar specifications with a sleeker, thinner form-factor then the  Lenovo Ideapad 310 might be the better choice. Packing internal hardware that closely matches our Editor's Choice laptop from Acer, the biggest difference is the drop in battery life coming in a 7 hours instead of the Acer model's 13.5 hours (although the larger battery means a thicker profile). 

For some, an ultra-portability size is the most important attribute to consider and that's where the ASUS VivoBook Flip shines. The 2-in-1 design offers a smaller, compact display with a convenient touchscreen and excellent battery life.


Editor's Choice

A head on view of budget-friendly Aspire E 15 Laptop by Acer.

Our top pick is a solid option from Acer with decent specs like a 1080P display and excellent battery life.

While remaining affordable, Acer has designed this laptop to offer great "bang for your buck". You get a full high-resolution display, newer processor, 6GB of RAM and adequate storage space. Plus the expected 13.5 hours of battery life is perfect for college students or travelers who want to work remotely.


Runner Up

Lenovo IdeaPad 330s

A decent entry-level laptop by Lenovo offering a sleek, thin build and ample internal hardware.

This version of Lenovo's IdeaPad line-up offers solid specifications including a 15.6" 1080P FHD IPS display, a 2.2Ghz dual-core processor, 6GB of RAM, Intel UHD Graphics 620 and a terabyte of hard disk storage while remaining under $400. This is a great business laptop, but also suitable for most students.

* Pricing as of 10/5/2018


Best Portability & Compact Design

A 2-in-1 laptop model offering decent specs and a highly compact design suitable for many consumers.

This is the only laptop offering a 2-in-1 design to make the list. With a significantly smaller display, the portability of this laptop  is unparalleled to any of its competitors on this list. Despite its highly compact design, the technical specifications are surprisingly good with a 64GB solid state drive (expanded up to 128GB storage via SD card which is included).


For our readers who don't need as powerful of a computer, want to save a bit more cash or want a thinner or smaller design then continue on to the remainder of the article to learn more about cheap, budget laptops and see further laptop recommendations which all fall under the $400 price-point.

Ultimately, we write content like this for your benefit to help educate consumers who aren't quite sure what to buy with their hard-earned money. We may earn a small commission if you were to click through and purchase one of these laptops through our links (this helps us keep producing more beneficial content like this without charging for access). Rest assured, this will aspect never affect our recommendations. Integrity is our focus as we are consumers, too.

When shopping for a laptop under $400, there are likely many questions that you may have. We recommend reading this article in its entirety as we will cover the most common concerns that you may have.

If you still have a question or need clarification on something then feel free to ask in the comments section below. One of our staff will provide an answer or advice as soon as possible.


What To Expect With A Sub-$400 Budget?

Shopping for a cheap laptop with a $400 budget will give you plenty of options, but many of these models will be the same. I understand that $400 is a lot of money to many of you, but in the world of technology that is considered a low price for a laptop so, there will be trade-offs in style, features and functionality. 

Don't worry, we didn't add this section to tell you not to buy a laptop this cheap or to make you feel bad for having a small budget. It is just important to not set yourself up for failure or disappointment by having too high of standards for the type of laptops that you can purchase in the $250-$400 price ranges.

Design & Build Quality

In this price-point, you can't expect much as for the laptop's design or build quality. The design will follow a traditional suit that will typically feature large bezels around the screen and a bulky profile except for cases where you are getting a Chromebook which sacrifices overall specs for portability.

From a craftsmanship perspective, you'll again be settling for the bottom of the barrel. Most of the build quality will be cheap plastic so you'll want to be careful when transporting or storing these notebooks. The keyboards and trackpads won't be top-notch, so you may find yourself wanting to invest in an aftermarket keyboard or mouse to achieve better usability.

Technical Specifications & Features

Here's another area where you will have to make some sacrifices to stay within a limited budget. However, you can still get a computer more than powerful enough for everyday tasks that most consumers need like web browsing, email, social media, watching movies or word processing.

However, more advanced tasks like gaming and multimedia editing (audio, video, photo) can become too cumbersome for many of these machines. Everything will depend on moderation. If your sole purpose for buying a gaming laptop or one for video editing, then you'll likely be disappointed at this price-point. 

In this case, you will want to lower your expectations or save up a couple hundred more to open up your potential to more powerful media or gaming-centric laptops. Advanced features like a fingerprint reader and backlit keyboard likely won't be found on a $400 laptop, but there are exceptions to this.


Things To Consider When Buying A Cheap Laptop

Choosing the best laptop under 400 dollars, determining the ideal model your needs isn't always the easiest especially when you aren't sure exactly what types of features components to look out for.

If you are performing basic tasks like word processing, email, social media, watching movies or simply looking to browse the web than any of the laptops listed in this article will be suitable for you. 

For those that need extra power for heavy multitasking or even looking to dabble in multimedia editing or PC gaming then you'll want to choose the cream of the crop laptops with more powerful processors, more RAM or a dedicated graphics card.

Here are a few aspects to keep in mind while shopping for a cheap laptop:

  • Brand - you'll see a lot of knock-off brands sold for low prices, but choosing a reputable brand can save you a lot of headaches. By choosing a well-known manufacturer of laptops, you get more piece of mind when it comes to quality and warranty if you run into any problems. 
  • Price -  as you'd expect, the more you are willing to dish out then the more power you'll get, don't expect much at this price-point. Little conveniences like a backlit keyboard or fingerprint sensor are not as common at these lower price ranges. Most of the models here were under $400 when this article was written (or edited), but you must click through to the product pages to check the most current price on Amazon.
  • Screen Size - refers to the actual size of the display measured diagonally. This measure is completely independent of of the actual pixel density and resolution of the screen. Lightweight laptops will often have smaller screen sizes, but on average you'll see a 15 inch laptop at the 400 dollar price range.
  • Resolution - the larger the screen resolution, the better the image performance. At this price-point, expect a 720P screen and in some cases a 1080P screen with weaker overall specs.
  • Touchscreen - some users prefer a touchscreen experience much like their smartphone, a few of the Chromebooks at this price-point offer this though are held down by the limitations of the Chrome OS. Many touchscreen laptops will also also be convertible laptops meaning you can fold or remove the keyboard to turn the device from a laptop into a more dedicated tablet.
  • Processor - the "brains" of the computer and a big determining factor of the overall speed of the computer. At this price-point, you'll want to look for an Intel Core i3 processor, but some laptops may offer an AMD equivalent.
  • RAM - aka "random access memory" this component stores temporary data for quicker response, ultimately the RAM, the better although you'll get 8GB or less for this budget. On most laptops, can upgrade and add more down the line, but as a general rule of thumb, we recommend models that offer at least 4GB of RAM.
  • Video Card - the graphical processing unit that allows the machine to process 3D content at high resolutions without stuttering or frame drops. Most laptops won't offer a dedicated video card at this price-point, but many offer higher powered integrated solutions.
  • Storage Drive- a hard disk or solid state drive which is where all your data is stored including your operating system, programs, and personal files. The drive speed is important as well as the overall size of the drive. A larger drive can hold more files and a faster drive can process them more efficiently. Some models will offer multiple hard drives or a hard drive mixed with memory card storage for increased storage space.
  • Webcam - this may or may not be something you'll use, but if you plan to use Skype or an equivalent software then you'll want an integrated webcam and microphone.
  • Operating System - most new PCs at this price-point will be running Windows 10 Home, but in this price range you will sometimes see Chromebooks will be running Chrome OS which is a lightweight operating system that has some heavy restrictions. 
  • DVD/Blu-ray Drive - is there any reason you still need a CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive? If so, make sure the model you choose has one. Half of the laptops that we included on this round-up will offer one while the other half won't.
  • Battery Life - if you are doing a lot of traveling or use remotely such as in a library, airplane or coffee shop then you'll likely need a model with a decent battery. At this price-point, you won't see amazing battery life on most laptops, but several surpass the 7 hour battery life during regular use.

Comparing The Best Laptops Under $400 For 2018 

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Aspire - laptops under 400
HP 255 G6 - best laptops under 400 dollars
VivoBook - best budget laptop
Lenovo IdeaPad 330s

Company

Acer

Lenovo

ASUS

HP

ASUS

Lenovo

Model

Aspire 15 E5-576-392H

IdeaPad 310

VivoBook Flip

255 G6 Series

E403NA-US21 VivoBook

IdeaPad 330s

Price

Screen Size

15.6"

15.6"

11.6"

15"

15.6"

15.6"

Resolution

1080P FHD

720P (1366 x 768)

720P (1366 x 768)

720P (1366 x 768)

1080P FHD

1080P FHD

Touchscreen

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times-circle
check-circle
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Processor

Intel Core i3-8130U Dual-Core 2.2GHz

AMD A10-9600P Quad-Core 2.4GHz

Intel N3350 Dual-Core 1.1GHz

AMD A6-9220 Dual-Core 2.5GHz

Intel Pentium N4200 Quad-Core 1.1GHz

Intel Core i3-8130U Dual-Core 2.2GHz

RAM

6GB DDR4

8GB DDR3

4GB DDR3

4GB DDR4

4GB DDR3

6GB DDR4

Video Card

Intel HD Graphics 620 (integrated)

AMD Radeon R5 Graphics (integrated)

Intel  Graphics

(integrated)

AMD Radeon R4 Graphics

(integrated)

Intel HD Graphics 505 (integrated)

Intel HD Graphics 620 (integrated)

Storage Drive

1TB HDD (5400 RPM)

1TB HDD (5400 RPM)

64GB SSD (with 128GB SD card) 

500GB HDD (7200 RPM)

128GB SSD  (eMMC Flash)

1TB HDD (5400 RPM)

Webcam

HD

HD

HD

HD

HD

HD

Operating System

Windows 10

Windows 10

Windows 10

Windows 10

Windows 10

Windows 10

DVD/Blu-Ray Drive

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Battery Life

Up to 13.5 hours

Up to 4 hours

Up to 8 hours

Over 7 hours

Up to 12 hours

Over 7 hours

Designed For

Everyday Use

Gaming & Media Editing (Light)

Portability/Tablet Use

 Gaming & Media Editing (Light)

Everyday Use

Everyday Use

* Pricing as of 10/5/2018


Best Laptops Under 400 Dollars

Aspire E15 - best laptops under 400

Our top pick, the Aspire 15 E5-576-392H is Acer's only current model to make this list. They previously held our Editor's Choice with an earlier, discontinued model which had heftier specs, but this model is geared more for a standard user that should be more than adequate for most needs at this price-point.

For most people, the bump up to a full 1080P HD display make it a worthwhile trade-off despite other competing models having 8GB RAM and a lower-resolution screen.

In regards to the rest of the internal hardware, you've got an Intel Core i3 8130U dual-core processor running at 2.2GHz (up to 3.4GHz via Turbo Boost 2.0), 6GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB hard disk running at 5400 RPM and Windows 10 Home. 

This model runs Intel's HD Graphics 620 which is on the lower-end for integrated components, but still suitable for everything except for video editing and gaming (light of either might work). Just like with the VivoBook below, the drop in specs makes for improved battery life up to 13.5 hours.


Lenovo IdeaPad 330s

One of two Lenovo laptops that we chose for this buyer's guide, the IdeaPad 330s is a B&H exclusive offering excellent value on the dollar for basic needs and light gaming/media editing. At the time we wrote this, the 330s had an MSRP of $449, but was discounted $50 to fall in line with our sub-$400 budget. 

Internally, the IdeaPad 330s offers excellent specifications for the price including a 15.6" IPS display (1080P FHD resolution), 6GB of DDR4 memory, a 2.2GHz Intel Core I3-8130U Dual-Core processor, 1TB HDD (5400 RPM) and Intel's newer UHD Graphics 620 (integrated). 

This laptop offers a sleek design that is relatively thin for the specifications and price. With ample storage and power the IdeaPad 330s offers quite a bang for your buck for budget-conscious shopper and is our top choice for most readers.


Lenovo IdeaPad 310

Lenovo's IdeaPad 310 is a good choice for consumers who are trying to stay within this budget. Priced under $400 when we wrote this article, this notebook packs some hefty specs for the price thanks to the use of AMD components over Intel equivalents which perform relatively closely for a significantly cheaper price-point.

Beyond the sleek design and look, the IdeaPad 310 offers a powerful quad-core processor running at 2.4GHz, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and relatively decent integrated AMD Radeon R5 Graphics. The screen's panel comes in at just over 720P, and there are plenty of modern ports to utilize including an HDMI and USB 3.1 Type C option. 

While this model offers a lot of "bang for your buck", it still is a budget model and some areas show this. The R5 graphics aren't overly powerful, but it should handle light to medium gaming and photo editing especially since the native resolution is only 720P (it would struggle at 1080P FHD). Additionally, the 1TB internal hard disk runs at 5400 RPM which is on the slow side and could benefit down the road from a faster drive upgrade to increase load and boot efficiency.


VivoBook E403NA - best laptops for college students

The VivoBook line from ASUS has been very successful for the company. We chose to include their E403NA-US21 model in this roundup due to its overall design and specifications while maintaining a sub-$400 price. The VivoBook is a good business laptop, but it won't suffice for use as a gaming laptop.

You've got a 14-inch full 1080P HD display coupled with a sleek design of which ASUS has decided to put their primary focus on form over function. That is not to say the specs aren't good, but this isn't a high powered rig that should be used beyond traditional use like web browsing, email or word processing.

Internally, this VivoBook is running an Intel Pentium Quad Core N4200 processor at 1.1GHz, a 128GB SSD, fingerprint reader and 4GB DDR3 RAM. While the processor is a bit underwhelming, it helps to prolong the battery life. This model tops the rest (matching one other) reaching up to 12 hours of battery life under standard use.


HP 255 G6 - best budget laptops under 400

The 255 G6 Series one of their best budget models offering solid specs and a sleek design. HP has been one of the top manufacturers of PC models (both desktops and laptops) for the greater part of the last decade.

Internally, you've got an AMD A69220 dual-core processor running at 2.5GHz, 4GB RAM (DDR4), a 500GB hard disk running at 7200 RPM (most budget models have an HDD that runs at a slower 5400 RPM), and offers integrated AMD Radeon R4 Graphics. 

What we liked about the HP 255 G6, in particular, was the inclusion of a wide variety of ports including USB 3, USB 2, HDMI 1.4, VGA, Ethernet, MicroSD, and a 3.5mm combo jack. The only things really missing are support for Thunderbolt or USB-C which frankly isn't common at this price-point.


The VivoBook Flip by ASUS is the only 2-in-1 notebook model that is included within this buyers guide. For those of you who don't know what that means exactly, this model is meant to act as a laptop/tablet hybrid offering the functionality and portability of a tablet with a touchscreen while still offering a full QWERTY keyboard and touchpad. 

This model runs Windows 10 just like the other competing laptops listed here although with the lower specs, it isn't a capable for heavy tasks. You can browse the web and use apps Microsoft Office, Excel, etc without any issues..

Internal components include an Intel N3350 Dual-Core 1.1GHz processor, an 11.6" HD touchscreen display, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 64GB solid-state drive  which offer enough storage to run your various programs advantage of the speed benefits of an SSD.

On top of that, you get a 128GB memory card which can be inserted into the native SD slot for additional storage of things like files, documents, and multimedia (photos, music, videos, etc.).


Final Thoughts

At this point, we have shared all the essential knowledge you need to know to buy a budget or cheap laptop in the current market. As with any modern technology, there is a lot of information to take in especially if you don't fall under the tech-savvy category. We recommend bookmarking or saving this guide to revisit for future reference.

If you've consumed all of the content above and are still unsure or have questions relating to the subject of budget-friendly laptops then use the comments section to voice your concerns. We will do our best to respond to you individually to better assist you as soon as possible.

All of us from The Tech Reviewer hope that our laptop buying guides have been valuable in your search and we believe our recommendations (like our top choice, the Acer Aspire 15 E5-576-392H) will help aid you to success in your future purchase decision!

We hope you enjoyed our buyer's guide on the dollars!

Colt Agar

Colt Agar

Managing Editor at TheTechReviewer.com
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts and our Managing Editor, Colt loves testing out the newest tech products/services. His goal is to help better educate other consumers to ensure the most satisfying purchases decisions on consumer electronics and web services. When he is not working on creating new content, Colt enjoys spending time with his two Australian Shepherds, Mia and Zoey.
Colt Agar
Colt Agar
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