Looking for the Best Windows Laptop Under 400, best laptop for Windows or Chrome OS (aka a Chromebook) under $500? It looks like the supply of cheap portables has finally regained some stability, though price gouging remains an issue. There still isn’t a surplus of terrific deals, but they don’t seem to be going out of stock as rapidly as they did at the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak-induced work-from-home rush when PC and accessory sales spiked, making it nearly impossible to find a cheap laptop or Chromebook that’s even in stock. The grim reality of unprecedented job losses keeps the demand for ultracheap hardware strong.
Here’s my list of models that are still available for under $500 and that should ship within at least 10 days. I’ll try to keep this list current, but please don’t hate me if it gets out of date. Some online shopping sites make it impossible to figure out what’s in stock and what’s not — not just for tech, but for everything — as well as what can be shipped to you in a reasonable amount of time.
Best Windows Laptop Under 400
Acer Aspire 5Windows
The 2019 Aspire 5 15-inch clamshell includes the latest generation AMD Ryzen 3 processor, the 3200U, with its modern Vega graphics processing. Its 4 GB RAM and 128GB solid-state drive storage don’t allow for using a lot of programs or lots of browser tabs open simultaneously, but this 15-inch screen model weighs less than 4 pounds. And $350 is a good price for the performance you get. It’s a really popular model, so it tends to play now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t when it comes to availability. Read our Acer Aspire 5 (2019) review.$350 AT AMAZON
HP Chromebook 15Chrome OS
For its price, HP’s 15-inch Chromebook offers good components and features — a Core i3-8130U with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage — plus a comfortable keyboard with a number pad and fantastic battery life. Note that this only has Wi-Fi 3 (2.4GHz), but if it becomes a problem you can buy a USB adapter to add better networking.
Acer Chromebook 715Chrome OS
For under $400 (though higher-end configurations can break the $500 price ceiling), this Acer Chromebook is practically a steal. It’s a thin and lightweight laptop, but it’s sturdy, and has great battery life. Plus, it has a fingerprint reader and Citrix certification for IT-minded organizations. Note that the price changes frequently, but usually remains within the $350 to $425 range.$369 AT WALMART
Acer Spin 3Windows
With 4GB memory, a quad-core Core i3-8130, real HD display and 128GB SSD, this 14-inch two-in-one is a reasonable price for a two-in-one that may last you a little longer than the rest of the cheap models — as long as you don’t need something that can do any heavy lifting. It’s a decent Windows option for web browsing and streaming video, especially when the price drops as low as $300.$439 AT AMAZON
Asus VivoBook 15Windows
This one goes in and out of stock rapidly. The cheaper Core i3 configuration sold out, then the slightly more expensive AMD Ryzen 5 model went. Now it’s down to a Ryzen 3 3200U, 128GB SSD and 4GB memory, but it still has the real HD screen — and the latest price is really good. Don’t confuse it with the thinner, lighter, more expensive Vivobook S15.$299 AT WALMART
Asus Chromebook C423Chrome OS
You get the basics with this attractive, functional Chromebook — a Celeron N3350 processor, 4GB memory and 32GB storage — for about $300. It doesn’t have a real HD screen, just 1,366×768 pixels, but text should still look pretty sharp as it’s only 14 inches across. Read our Asus Chromebook C423 preview.$269 AT AMAZON$269 AT WALMART
Dell Inspiron 15 3593Windows
For around $400, you get a classy 15-inch screen laptop with a reasonable configuration — an Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD plus 1TB HDD storage and a real HD display. $400 AT BEST BUYHP 15Windows
The Windows analog of HP’s 15-inch Chromebook, the HP 15 lacks a real HD display — it’s only 1,366 x 768, not 1,920 x 1,080. But the rest of the specs are decent for around $400, as long as you only have light needs, such as web surfing and email. They include a 10th-gen Core i3-1005G1, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD storage.$409 AT WALMART
Samsung Chromebook 4Chrome OS
While you probably wouldn’t want a work system of your own as small as 11.6 inches, it’s a good size for smaller kids and has Wi-Fi 5 with 2×2 antennas for a more stable signal — and that’s key for a Chromebook. Other specs include an Intel Celeron N4000, 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage. Plus, it has a microSD card reader if you need to augment the storage space.$280 AT SAMSUNG
Lenovo S340 ChromebookChrome OS
Usually, sleek Chromebooks come at cheap Windows-laptop prices, which are high prices for Chromebooks. The 14-inch S340 offers basic Chromebook specs — a Celeron N4000, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage — but in a modern design, for less than $300. It also has a real HD screen, though it uses a TN (twisted nematic) panel. TN doesn’t have a great viewing angle or colors, but it’s fast and high contrast.$300 AT BB$330 AT AMAZON
Lenovo IdeaPad 15-inchWindows
Slim, stylish and with a decent configuration for $380, the IdeaPad 330’s 8GB RAM, dual-core but current-generation AMD processor and 256GB of storage is good for this class.