Shopping for a laptop under $400 can be challenging. Most laptops in this price range are Chromebooks, which are great options for simple tasks like web browsing, text formatting, and video playback. However, they might not be powerful or versatile enough for professionals, especially those who need to run regular Windows x86 applications. That said, you can find some Windows laptops as long as you don't mind compromising on some features, like a dimmer display or lack of biometric login.
We've bought and tested more than 65 laptops. Below you'll find our recommendations for the best laptops under $400 you can get. See our picks for the best laptops under $300, the best laptops under $500, and the best Chromebooks.
The best laptop under $400 we've tested is the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020), a well-built 2-in-1 convertible laptop with a thin and light design. It has a 1080p display that provides plenty of space for multitasking, a spacious and tactile keyboard, and a small but responsive touchpad. Its port selection is okay; you get one USB-A, two USB-Cs, and an SD card reader. Both USB-C ports can output a video signal to an external display and support charging. The battery lasts a little over 12 hours of light use, which is more than enough for a typical school or workday.
As for the configurations, you can get this laptop with an Intel Pentium Gold or Core i3 processor, both of which are powerful enough to provide a smooth experience on Chrome OS. The main downside is that you can only get a maximum of 4GB of memory, so you may experience some slowdowns if you have too many applications running simultaneously. Another thing to remember is that Chrome OS doesn't support x86 Windows applications, so you need to ensure you can get all of your work done through a Chrome browser or Android app.
If you find Chrome OS limiting or prefer working on Windows, get the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 (2020) instead. It's a portable 2-in-1 convertible laptop with a battery that lasts a little over eleven hours of light productivity or nine hours of video playback. It sports a 14-inch display that looks sharp and provides just enough room for some light multitasking. It isn't a particularly bright screen; it's bright enough for most indoor settings but not well-lit environments or outdoors in broad daylight. You get a spacious and comfortable keyboard, a touchpad with decent tracking, and a wide port selection.
For under $400, you can get an AMD Ryzen 3 4300U model with 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage. The CPU is powerful enough to handle light productivity tasks like text processing and web browsing; however, 4GB of memory is very limiting and will likely cause slowdowns when multitasking, and unfortunately, 8GB models are significantly more expensive. Lastly, this laptop may be hard to find as it was first released in 2020 and has been discontinued. If you have trouble finding one, there's a slightly more expensive 2021 model with newer and more powerful AMD Ryzen 5000 CPUs on Amazon, which we haven't tested but expect to perform similarly.
Our pick for the best 2-in-1 tablet is the Microsoft Surface Go 3 (2021), a 10.5-inch Windows tablet with a built-in kickstand and a detachable keyboard. You can open the kickstand to a wide angle to take notes or draw, and you can detach the keyboard to save space, which is handy in tight places like a bus or airplane. It's compatible with any Microsoft Pen Protocol stylus, though you have to purchase the stylus separately, and the same goes for the type cover keyboard. As for the keyboard itself, the scissor switches have a lot of travel and tactility, but because this is a very compact device, it feels a little cramped.
The display is amazing for a budget device. It's sharp, colorful, and gets bright enough to combat glare in most settings. The thick bezels look outdated; however, they give you a place to hold onto in tablet mode. They also house an outstanding webcam and a Windows Hello IR camera for quick logins through facial recognition. The Intel Pentium Gold CPU is fine for simple web browsing, text formatting, and video playback, but editing 4k videos or playing AAA games is out of the question. The battery lasts about seven hours of light productivity, so you might need to bring the charger around.
Mar 09, 2023: Minor text changes. Removed the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 (2021) because it's currently over $400.
Jan 09, 2023: Minor text changes to improve clarity and added the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15 (2021) as a Notable Mention. No change in recommendations.
Nov 11, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks; no change in recommendations.
Sep 12, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks; no change in recommendations.
Jul 14, 2022: Minor structure change. Replaced Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2020) with the Lenovo Chromebook C340 15 (2020) as the 'Best Laptop Under $400' because the Acer has increased in price.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best laptops you can get for under $400. We factor in the price (a cheaper laptop wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no laptops that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you prefer to make your own decision, here’s the list of all of our laptop reviews, sorted by price from low to high. Keep in mind that most laptops are available in various configurations, and the table only shows the results of the model we tested, so it’s best to see the full review for information about other variants.