Whether streaming music or video, editing documents or simply viewing family photos: For such purposes, a reasonably priced notebook is perfectly adequate – and you can get them for well under 400 Dollars. We’ve checked out current laptop bargains for you and show you the price-performance hits up to a maximum of USD400. One manufacturer in particular is doing everything right in this category. We’ll show you a particularly low-priced notebook, which became the Price Winner in our Ranking.
Ranking: Best Laptops for under 400 Dollars in 2020
If you only want to use your laptop for office use and surfing the Internet, you don’t need an expensive device. Meanwhile you can even find one in the price segment below $400. However, you will then have to accept a few restrictions. For example, the devices usually have limited memory space and of course don’t deliver performance suitable for gaming. If you can live with these limitations, some of the devices offer you a first-class price-performance ratio. Especially the HP 250 G7, the Lenovo Ideapad 330S-15IKB or the Lenovo IdeaPad S145 deliver a lot of notebook for little money. We will introduce these three and more to you in more detail in the following. Also interesting for you could be our laptop Ranking comparing the laptops next to each other, which you will find at the Top.
Ranking First: HP 250 G7
- Great Perfomance
- Good graphics quality
- Awesome for Starters
- Too Small Arrows on Keyboard
For the undemanding. The HP 250 G7 is an affordable entry-level notebook with a good basic configuration. HP has, however, saved too much on a particularly important equipment detail. Even for a laptop in the under $400 class.
If you only need a computer for occasional home use, it’s obvious to want to spend as little money as possible on such a purchase. After all, word processing, spreadsheets, control programs, Internet tasks or the administration of the picture collection should be able to handle all current notebooks today without any problems.
The HP 250 G7 is one of these especially low-priced notebooks. If you do without the included Windows 10, then you can get started at under $400. In return, you get, for example, an Intel Core i3-7020U, 8 GB RAM, a 256 GB solid-state drive and a FullHD display in the HP 250 G7. Certainly not a compilation to be despised on the data sheet.
The HP 250 G7 is available in grey (Dark Ash Silver) and silver (Silver). The plastic case comes with a ribbed surface and thus sprays a quite pleasant haptic. The actually cheap material impression is somewhat concealed by this structure and the susceptibility to fingerprints is also pleasantly reduced. The various components are cleanly deburred and neatly assembled, but can’t hide uneven gaps.
The base unit and the screen lid appear sufficiently torsionally stiff for home use. The display hinge holds the screen in a reasonable position and the palm rest is firmly in place. A one-handed lifting, pressure on the screen lid or a little pull and counter pull on the edges quickly reveals the stability limits, though. The case surface above the optical drive and the central keyboard area can be clearly pressed in with a little force. The keyboard teeters in the middle during typing.
There are no separate maintenance openings on the bottom. You’d have to remove the entire base plate to get to the inner components. HP doesn’t provide any instructions for this in the user manual. As usual, one should inform oneself about the valid warranty conditions before such work.
The test weight is 2.2 lbs and for the power supply one has to plan an additional 9.8 oz. For a 15.6 inch notebook, both are quite okay.
The interface equipment comes with all important basic connections that can be expected in this device class. HDMI 1.4b, USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet and a 3.5 mm jack audio connection are also on board. No longer a matter of course, the optical DVD drive and the standard-sized memory card reader are a must. The positioning of the interfaces turns out well and does not show any obvious limitations.
While the USB 3.0 ports work reasonably fast with up to 444 MB/s, you have to be patient with the memory card reader. With a maximum of 33 MB/s, data is only transferred according to the USB 2.0 standard here, as in the USB port next to it.
According to the data sheet, all HP 250 G7 are equipped with Realtek WLAN modules. However, they differ in terms of the supported standards and the number of built-in antennas. The apparently most powerful 802.11ac model (2×2) with MU MIMO support is built into the test device. Speed and connection stability did not show any negative conspicuous features in the test.
The keyboard has normal sized keys in 19 mm increments. The separate number pad moves the main keypad to the left, but makes it easier to enter long rows of numbers. The short stroke and the somewhat spongy typing feel take some getting used to and shouldn’t appeal to demanding frequent typists.
The arrow keys squeezed into one line are similarly unfavorable. A keyboard light is not available for this series. HP also dispenses with a fluorescent inscription here, which could at least reduce this disadvantage a bit.
The touchpad offers a sufficiently large input area with 115 x 50 mm. The gliding characteristics are good and the responsiveness is also pleasing. The somewhat sluggish touchpad keys, which are equipped with moderate feedback, don’t turn out to be as successful.
According to the data sheet, HP offers the HP 250 G7 with a 15.6-inch HD display (1,366 x 768 pixels) and a 15.6-inch Full HD display (1,920 x 1,080 pixels). Both have a matt surface, but have to make do with TN technology, which has little viewing angle stability.
As a result, the optimum display quality can only be called up in a narrowly limited field of view. The further the screen is tilted backwards, the more the display is inverted and the further the screen is lowered forwards, the more the colours fade.
Even a change in the sitting position in front of the screen may require a tilt correction. This disadvantage is particularly noticeable when viewing pictures or videos, but also affects the display of web pages when searching the Internet, for example.
The FullHD display built into the test device should reach a maximum brightness of 220 cd/m². In fact, it even delivers 285 cd/m² in the lower left corner of the screen and 274 cd/m² in the center of the display. The illumination is pleasantly even and reaches a very good 88%. Moreover, no noticeable halos are visible in the black image. Merely a somewhat larger area at the bottom of the screen brightens visibly.
The measured black value of the AUO-TN panel is a comparatively high 0.51 cd/m². After profiling, this even increases to 0.68 cd/m². This doesn’t bode well for the black display and contrast. The contrast is already far below average at 537:1 in the as-delivered state, and even deteriorates to 352:1 after profiling.
These are not good omens for the overall color representation. You shouldn’t expect any support from the entirety of the displayable colors. The sRGB color space is only covered to 53.7%. Fine color gradations cannot be represented and run to an undifferentiated uniformity.
The color accuracy in the delivery state, which is traditionally suboptimal in Windows notebooks, also shows up in the HP 250 G7. Here you have to cope with a well visible blue cast and an overall too cool set-up.
Only after profiling with a colorimeter is the white point moved to the right place and thus the color accuracy overall is noticeably corrected. As said before, with disadvantages for the black value and the maximum brightness. With an average DeltaE 2000 of 4 (deviation to the ideal, the less the better, limit at 3) and a maximum DeltaE 2000 of 12,8 (limit at 5), the screen is still clearly away from a colour fidelity even after this intervention.
The HP 250 G7 is available from the Intel Celeron N3060 up to the Intel Core i7-8565U with a total of 6 different processors. The integrated processor graphics are usually used as the graphics unit, some configurations are additionally equipped with Nvidia’s dedicated Geforce MX110 (2 GB GDDR5).
Two slots with a maximum of 16 GB are available for the RAM. A 2.5-inch drive and an M.2 solid-state drive can be used as mass storage. In some model configurations, a hard disk Intel-Optane combination is used.
The test device has an Intel Core i5-8265U with integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8 GB DDR4 RAM and an M.2 SATA solid-state drive.
The Intel Core i5-8265U belongs to the current Whiskey-Lake generation and can offer smaller performance increases compared to Kaby-Lake-Refresh. It has 4 computing cores, can process up to 8 threads simultaneously and is able to increase its base clock from 1.6 GHz to up to 3.9 GHz depending on the scenario.
This allows for programs that benefit from the highest possible clock rates as well as software solutions that can distribute upcoming tasks to as many computing cores as possible.
In the Cinebench R15 single thread test, the test device achieves 162 points and in the multi-thread test 516 points. Thus, a pleasantly performant CPU solution is obtained for this laptop class, which provides sufficient computing power for many tasks.
Like its predecessor, the Intel Core i5-8250U, the Intel Core i5-8265U basically has to manage with a maximum power dissipation (Thermal Design Power, TDP) of 15 watts. The manufacturers are free to make use of the possibility of reducing or increasing the power dissipation. In the stress test it is ultimately decisive how long a possible TDP increase is allowed and whether the cooling system is able to maintain the regular TDP over a longer period of time.
In this respect, the HP 250 G7 is equipped with a sufficiently powerful cooling system, which enables constant performance even under sustained full load. Apart from a performant first run, the results over the distance place themselves somewhat below the Intel Core i5-8265U in the Lenovo ThinkPad E490 and the Lenovo ThinkPad L390 Yoga.
The Intel CPU used in the test device comes with an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 graphics unit. This solution is powerful enough in its basic features to play back 4k videos smoothly, control up to 3 screens simultaneously and deliver 4k resolutions at 60 Hz.
With the HP 250 G7, the output qualities in multi-monitor mode and at high resolutions cannot be used due to the lack of suitable interfaces. External monitors can only be connected via HDMI 1.4b and are then subject to the limitations of this interface.
Otherwise, the Intel UHD Graphics 620 used in the test device is set up perfectly adequate for office tasks, casual games or video playback. A 3D performance increase of about 30% is possible in configurations with a second RAM module. Only then is the dual-channel mode activated and only then can the full performance of the integrated graphics unit be called up.
Noise / Heating and Battery
The HP 250 G7 already shows itself to be a quiet notebook in the test in the delivery state. You can optimize this characteristic a bit by deactivating the standardly activated function “Fan always on” in the BIOS. Then the otherwise noticeable but quiet fan noise, which generates a sound pressure level of 27.8 dB(A), also disappears.
With some CPU load the fan speed increases and then raises the sound pressure level to 32.6 dB(A). If the high computing power is required over a longer period of time, the operating noise increases further to 35.6 dB(A). Since there is no high-frequency background noise, this should not yet disturb most users.
On the other hand, it gets really loud when the integrated DVD burner is used for data transfer, for example during program installation. The 46.4 dB(A) generated by this can be quite annoying in the long run. Although the optical drive is considerably quieter when playing DVDs, it is also annoying here, as the constant humming with a sound pressure level of 32.8 dB(A) requires a high volume setting of the speakers to be able to be drowned out.
The test device is free of high frequency noise, but shows reproducible electronic noise when accessing the Solid State Drive.
The HP 250 G7 always stays sufficiently cool on the surfaces. Even the 45.4 °C measured on the underbody and the air outlet don’t cause any restrictions in practical use.
The HP 250 G7 is equipped with a 42 Wh battery. Alternative capacity sizes are not offered. In practice, one can assume runtimes between 2 and 8 hours with adjusted settings (200 cd/m² display brightness, level 9, balanced energy profile). In the PCMark 8 Battery Test, the test configuration lasts for 2:45 hours and the lights only go out after 8:21 hours in WLAN TV streaming.
The test device needs 2:02 hours for recharging when switched on (idle, display brightness level 9) with the 45 watt power supply. HP promises a battery capacity of 90% after 90 minutes charging time with the alternatively available 65-watt power supply.
The HP 250 G7 is a particularly favorably priced HP 250 G7 notebook model. This is evident at first glance from the case surfaces, the interface equipment and the input devices. The statistics are very good for an entry-level device in the lower price segment, that’s why the HP 250 G7 reached the first Rank!
Ranking Second: Lenovo Ideapad 330S
- Great Display
- Good Keyboard
- Battery not optimal
The 15.6-inch display not only looks chic in the silver case with the narrow display frame, but is also really good. The brightness turns out above average with 271 cd/m² and the chessboard contrast is very good (simultaneous display of dark and light areas, important for example in video playback). Thanks to the IPS panel, the contrast hardly decreases even at lateral viewing angles, so that the user doesn’t always have to sit in front of the device in the middle. With the 180 degree opening angle of the display, the screen can also be folded far back.
The chic case, whose haptics are pleasant, also accommodates a good keyboard and a good click pad. The keyboard offers a crisp counterpressure and a good stroke path. Despite the somewhat slippery keys, it is super to use. The clickpad has a good surface, in which we didn’t notice anything negative. Positive: Despite the narrow display bezel, which makes the whole case quite compact, there is still room for a number pad. And even if the demands on the device turn out a bit higher, the fan noise remains pleasantly unobtrusive.
Performance and Battery
The Lenovo Ideapad is equipped with a small 30 watt hour battery. The battery runtimes turn out rather average with the low-consumption processor. The battery is empty after just under 5 hours of video rendering and you have to plug it in again after less than four hours for more intensive work. The device is pleasantly light with 3.7 lbs.
The Pentium processor is well equipped for simple tasks and the system always feels fast thanks to a 128 gigabyte SSD. You only feel the limitation of the four gigabytes of RAM when you have many open programs or browser tabs. We like the USB variety: 3 USB type A ports according to the 3.0 standard (classic USB sticks) are generous, and with the USB type C port you’re also well equipped for the future.
The Lenovo Ideapad 330S-15IKB notebook places itself in the upper area of our best list in the test and can score especially with a good display in the 15.6 inch format. Moreover, the device’s ergonomics also convinced in the test. It didn’t score quite as well in terms of battery life and performance. Here you can feel the low price of the device. In the video we show you the notebooks’ test.
Ranking Third: Lenovo IdeaPad S145
- Great 8GB RAM
- Good Price
- Good Performance
- Touchpad not Optimal
The Lenovo IdeaPad S145-15IWL Black 81MV001AGE ranks in our entry-level notebook category due to its performance. If this version of this product doesn’t appeal to you, you can have a look at other models of the Lenovo IdeaPad S145 series at our site. In terms of portability, the Lenovo IdeaPad S145-15IWL Black 81MV001AGE has a height of 1.99 cm and a weight of 4 lbs. The notebook opens in black and shows plastic as surface material in the case. The anti-glare 15.6 inch display has a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
In the case of the laptop is an Intel Pentium Gold 5405U chip with a strength of up to 2.3 gigahertz and 2 units. The main memory (RAM) is equipped with 8 Gigabyte and works with the DDR4 SDRAM (PC4-17000 – 2133 MHz) technology. A total of 12 GBytes can be installed in this model. Apart from the processor and the provided RAM, the Intel UHD Graphics 610 GPU plays a significant constant in the area of efficiency. It comes with a well dimensioned video memory (VRAM). The memory volume of this model ends at 256 GB SSD. In this situation, a current hard disk is installed here.
With support for classic ports in the form of USB 2.0 (1x), USB 3.1 (2x) and HDMI (1x), you’ll need to connect more extras with the Lenovo IdeaPad S145-15IWL Black 81MV001AGE. All-in-one printer, controller, touchpads, speakers or steering wheels? All that works with the built-in USB ports. Plus, you can easily upgrade your memory using optional drives or hubs. With support for the interfaces used, the door is open for you to add more wide displays to your model. These include projectors and TVs, for example. The dominant mobility and the resulting compact dimensions do not allow an optical reader in this model. Nevertheless, it should be coupled via USB.
The Lenovo IdeaPad S145 is the best choice if you are primarily looking for a simple home laptop for couch surfing or watching TV. The built-in chipsets are strong enough for smooth everyday use even in the simple version, and the SSD also makes system and program starts fast. The RAM can be upgraded to ensure a certain future viability. The upgrade to the significantly more expensive model with i7 instead of i5 and the dedicated GeForce MX110 as a graphics unit is only worthwhile for video editors, because the surcharge is high and the performance gain moderate. Especially games can’t really be used reasonably with the MX110. It’s also a pity that even the Full-HD version has a very low color accuracy of 45 % sRGB.
Ranking Fourth: Acer Aspire 5
- Good Performance
- Many Ports
- Good Battery
- Screen not colorful
- Ports too close to each other
The glossy sides of the device show the performance and the display. An Intel Core i5-8265U with 4 computing cores is joined by 8 gigabytes of RAM and a fast SSD with 256 gigabytes of memory. Together with the entry level graphics chip Nvidia GeForce MX150, this results in a very good everyday performance and more undemanding games are well playable.
The built-in 15.6 inch display is an IPS panel. This is stable in terms of viewing angle so that the image doesn’t lose contrast and color fidelity even when viewed from the side. The brightness turns out well with 237 cd/m², but this is also too little for especially bright surroundings. The standard RGB color space is covered by 65 percent – the image is therefore not very brilliant.
The thin device weighs only 3.7 lbs and is therefore already reasonably mobile for a 15.6-inch device during transport. The battery runtimes are impressive: The battery has a capacity of 49 watt hours and lasts 8 hours during video rendering and even 5 hours under heavy load.
Everything important is built in on the connection side: Gigabit-LAN, ac-WLAN, HDMI, full SD card reader and a webcam. A total of four USB ports are available for external devices: 2x USB 2.0 (Type A), 1x USB 3.0 (Type A) and 1x USB 3.0 (Type C). In the end, we would like to see more fast connections here instead of the slow USB 2.0 connections. In addition, the distances between the ports are rather short, thick USB sticks or similar often block the neighboring port.
The Acer Aspire 5 can get a good overall mark in the test. An overall successful configuration only leaves us with minor points to criticize. The product’s fast processor and the 15.6 inch display with a stable viewing angle should be emphasized. Thanks to the price of under $400, a very favorable price estimate results. You can get an insight into our notebook test procedure in the video.
Ranking Fifth: Acer Chromebook 14
- Good Battery
- Fast Performance
- Good Price
- No Touchscreen
- Storage not expandable
“For what matters most” – that’s the slogan on Google’s Chromebook page. After several weeks with the Acer Chromebook 14 this slogan is easy to understand. The notebook covers 80 percent of the usage scenarios, but only as long as you are on the Internet. However, an important feature is missing, which makes the Chromebook 14 well prepared for the future.
Whether private or business, the Acer Chromebook 14 is equally suitable for both user groups. With a 14 inch screen, a high-quality aluminum case and a stated battery life of 12 hours, it is an interesting offer for all those who spend most of their working hours on the internet. Our test model is equipped with an Intel Celeron N3160 processor 4 GByte RAM and 32 GByte memory and currently costs USD259.
Not too long ago, you couldn’t expect a really high-quality notebook below a thousand Dollars, let alone below $400. The Acer Chromebook 14 shows that times have changed and for the better. The case is made of aluminum and feels very solid and high-quality. The upper side is horizontally brushed and thus shimmers a bit depending on the incidence of light. On the left side, the polished Acer logo and the chrome lettering discreetly stand out. The underside and the top case are kept matt and are just as resistant to fingerprints as the top side.
If the Acer Chromebook 14 is opened, one or two users will definitely experience a déjà vu. Due to the gray framed display, the similarity to the Apple MacBook Air can hardly be overlooked. After all, the display bezels are slimmer in comparison to the Apple notebook, even if not really much. The dominant front camera could have turned out a bit smaller and more discreet in any case. The hinge of the Chromebook 14 could also have used a bit more sophistication. It’s too stiff when opened, which also lifts the underside, so a second hand is needed. Otherwise, it is nice and firm and holds the display in position without wobbling. By the way, the hinge can be opened by 180 degrees, which makes the notebook lie completely flat on the table.
Overall, the Acer Chromebook 14’s workmanship is surprisingly good. Nothing wobbles or creaks, the choice of materials is very good. The few points of criticism can be overcome at this price.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Acer has also done a lot right with the keyboard. It has a pleasant stroke and good, precise feedback, making it ideal for frequent typists. The size of the keys is usually unusual, but the layout is a bit unusual if you’re not used to Chrome OS. The otherwise usual topmost row of functions is replaced by separate buttons for controlling Chrome OS. In addition, the left control and Alt keys are twice as large as usual. It’s a pity that no backlighting of the keys has been built in. This is really not a serious fault, but once you had the pleasure of using this comfort function, you don’t want to miss it in other notebooks.
The Acer Chromebook 14’s large trackpad is also very good. It works precisely and implements finger movements exactly as you would expect. Both scrolling and the Chrome-OS multi-touch gestures were never problematic. However, you shouldn’t expect many settings. There are exactly three: a scale for the pointer speed, an option for tap-to-click and the choice between natural and “Australian” scrolling behaviour. By the way, the small number of possible settings continue throughout the entire Chrome OS, as we’ll see later.
The display of the Acer Chromebook 14 is, as the name suggests, 14 inches in size and has a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, thus Full High Definition. The viewing angles of the IPS panel are decent, but not outstanding. The brightness could also turn out higher. Because a matt display is used, however, the display is hardly reflective and can be read well even with strong light sources. Overall, the Chromebook 14’s screen is good.
For the hardware, Acer relies on an Intel Celeron N3160 processor with four cores, which clocks with a maximum of 1.6 GHz (with a Turbo Boost of 2.24 GHz). Together with the 4 GB RAM, the system runs quite fast and opens tabs and apps quickly. The overall performance is on a high level, although the Chrome Browser is known to be very memory-hungry. Because the operating system is otherwise very slim, the Chromebook 14’s hardware is sufficient.
The internal memory has a capacity of 32 GBytes, in addition, every user gets 100 GBytes of online memory from Google Drive. Because Chrome OS is designed to work mainly online, the scarce memory isn’t too bad. Additionally, storage media can be docked via two USB 3.0 ports and a full-fledged HDMI port is also available.
By using a power-saving CPU and the resource-saving Chrome OS, battery life is no problem with Chromebook 14: Acer specifies up to 12 hours. With normal use of several tabs and some messenger services in the background, as well as about 60-70 percent display brightness, the device lasted between eight and ten hours in the test. The Acer Chromebook 14 is thus well equipped for a long working day. The device is charged via a proprietary plug; we would have liked a USB adapter here.
The Acer Chromebook 14 is a very good chromebook. It offers a high-quality workmanship, a readable, matt display and a good performance. The battery life is also very good, and the keyboard and trackpad make working comfortable.
If you’re looking for a typical notebook with Chrome OS, the Acer Chromebook 14 is ideal for you. In view of the future, in which touch-based Android apps will find their way onto Chrome OS, a missing touchscreen could turn out to be a disadvantage. But at the moment, Acer’s Chromebook 14 is a clear recommendation.