The best laptops under £400 in 2024: Budget-friendly and reliable

Find a brilliant budget laptop with huge power and a smaller price tag.

some of the best laptops under £400

by Chris Duffill |
Updated

If you've ever been on the lookout for the best laptops under £400, it's easy to end up feeling like you're cutting too many corners just to hit your budget. But, buying one of the best laptops on the market would cost you more than an equivalent or superior desktop PC. Thankfully, you don't even need to splash out on a £1,000 laptop to get something that can meet or even exceed your everyday computing needs.

In fact, there's some very capable kit out there for a lot less- some of our picks for the best laptop under £400 come in considerably cheaper than that. But, Even with machines at this price point, you'll still need to ensure you get the right balance when it comes to processing power, storage and graphics capability.

The best laptops under £400 in 2024 at a glance:

Best overall: ASUS Vivobook 15 X1500EA – View on Amazon
Best budget: Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3 Chromebook – View on Currys
Best for students: Acer Aspire 3 – View on Currys
• Best large-screen: LENOVO IdeaPad 3i – View on Currys

We've selected a number of great laptop deals from leading brands you can trust. But what kind of user are you? Office workers will need to look after some ergonomics, like a good screen size and a usable keyboard; as well as the CPU for handling multiple office apps at once. Gamers, as are any serious creative content producers, will only get light performance from a laptop in this price range. But casual users will be well catered for with surfing, watching videos and more.

We've put together a buyer's guide at the end of the article to help you narrow things down. Whether you're just starting out with laptops and are looking for a cheap but effective model, have a specific brand in mind, or are in need of a powerful upgrade, there's something here to suit you.

Jargon buster:

CPU: The CPU is your laptop's processor. It's responsible for managing each command that goes through, sort of like the brain for the laptop. A good CPU will minimise load times and lead to a speedier and smoother laptop experience.

GPU: The GPU is your laptop's graphics card. It's mostly relevant for gaming needs, and at under £400, you're unlikely to find many powerful ones. That said, it's still worth keeping an eye out for, as you may find some affordable options that will surprise you.

RAM: Also known as "random access memory", this is the short-term storage for your laptop. Data is temporarily stored here to make it easier to run multiple tasks at once. It helps out for gaming, but for most of us, a high amount of RAM is most noticeable when it helps to keep so many tabs and windows open at once.

Storage: The storage capacity of your laptop. It's usually a solid-state drive (SSD) where you can find all your files and downloads. While 1TB would be brilliant, that's a hard find in this budget range, so aim for either 256GB or 512GB.

Best laptops under £400 in 2024:

All prices are correct at the time of writing. Prices, stock and deals are subject to change without notice.

Best overall

ASUS Vivobook 15 X1500EAASUS/Amazon

For us, the ASUS Vivobook 15 ticks all of the most important boxes for the majority of users - plus a few more that make it a star buy. Firstly, you have that 15.6-inch display - a great size for all kinds of work and entertainment and a little larger than the average machine. The keyboard is a sensible size and the layout isn’t cramped. It’s a slim and lightweight machine too, so it’s perfect for the commute or a bit of holiday computing.

But, under the hood, the ASUS Laptop Vivobook 16 really shines. It has 256GB of SSD storage - more than enough room for your studies or piles of spreadsheets if you're office-bound. Plus, 8GB of RAM, and a selection of USB ports with enough room for plenty of peripherals. All in all, despite a slightly average battery life, the Vivobook 15 is easily one of the best budget laptops of the year.

Pros

  • Decent fast storage capacity - ideal for lots of apps and project files
  • 8GB of RAM is enough for everyday tasks and more
  • Plenty of ports for attaching your peripherals

Cons

  • The battery life is so-so

Best budget

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3 ChromebookLenovo/Currys
Price: £169 (was £249)

www.currys.co.uk

The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3  is an absolute steal, coming in way under £300. Living up to its name, it's ultra-slim with a compact 14-inch full-HD screen and a massive 13.5-hour battery life. And that performance is partly because this is a Chromebook - ChromeOS being the super-lightweight operating system that’s perfect for everyday computing. 

As for the hardware itself, this is a budget machine that is a little light on pure computing power; with the storage being just 64GB. But, that’s what makes it the right price for anyone looking to do simple things like browsing, shopping, YouTube, writing documents and so on. It’s powered by the MediaTek Kompanio 520 CPU and 4GB of RAM, and storage can always be upgraded with a USB memory stick or external SSD if you need it.

Pros

  • It’s extremely slim and lightweight - take this anywhere
  • The ChromeOS has been built by Google to be secure and super-lightweight - making it fast and responsive
  • The case has that solid Lenovo quality we’re all used to - so budget doesn’t mean flimsy

Cons

  • Storage capacity is very small for those who need lots of apps or create a lot of content - add an external drive

Best for students

Acer Aspire 3Acer/Currys

The ACER Aspire 3's 15.6-inch full HD screen ensures that the visuals are vibrant and clear Great for those in need of a tidy laptop for video calls, movies, work and everyday tasks, the Aspire 3 has a respectable 128GB SSD - enough for the operating system and a good range of applications. And this is all backed up by the Intel Core i3 processor - it's not the fastest out there, but a generous 8GB of RAM will keep everything running smoothly. 

The screen is FHD with wide viewing angles too - so that also means it's a good option for avoiding motion blur when watching sports or action. An HD webcam and plenty of ports like USB-C for fast data transfer speeds finish the package off nicely.

Pros

  • The vibrant 15.6-inch screen plus webcam means this will handle all of your video communication very well
  • At 8GB this has twice the RAM that is normally seen in this price range
  • The Acer build is solid and reliable, as well as having a professional look

Cons

  • The onboard graphics may not suit high-end creative or design applications

Best large-screen

LENOVO IdeaPad 3iLenovo/Currys

If you’re looking for a laptop with a larger, more usable screen, this Ideapad 3i from Lenovo won’t disappoint. The 17.3-inch panel is even more impressive thanks to a slim bezel, and the whole machine is sturdy - making it ideal for large-screen applications on the move. Inside there’s a speedy Intel Pentium Gold 8505 processor which is really the icing on the cake as it’s clocked as being a little faster than a Core i5. 

Elsewhere this is a pretty typical laptop for the money, with 4GB of RAM and a relatively small 128GB SSD. But, if you just need a large screen for everyday computing, browsing and watching movies, this is an excellent large-screen laptop for the money.

Pros

  • Much more screen real estate means more immersion for videos and more usable applications
  • The processor is on par with the powerful Core i5 seen in more costly machines
  • Typically robust Lenovo build means this will travel well

Cons

  • A little heavier than some others here

Best Chromebook

ASUS Chromebook 15 CX1500CKAASUS/Amazon

Delivering a larger screen than some other Chromebooks here, the ASUS Chromebook 15 has all the benefits of a super-fast operating system plus a 15.6-inch Full HD display. 

Inside the spec is typically lightweight with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage - but that’s perfect. Why? Because the whole point of a Chromebook is to give you all of the essential computing power you need for simpler tasks like browsing and documents, but in a slim, responsive and lightweight package. All of that is what helps to give this Asus Chromebook 15 its brilliant 12-hour battery life and snappy user experience.

Pros

  • Extremely light and portable - even with its 15.6-inch screen
  • Reliable ASUS build and design make this an eye-catching portable workhorse
  • Google’s ChromeOS is purpose-designed for security, speed and responsiveness

Cons

  • The typically low Chromebook storage means many will need an external drive

Best 14-inch

Lenovo Ideapad 14Lenovo/Amazon

Rrp: $183.00

Price: $174.00

Despite not being the only laptop with a 14-inch screen on this list, this is our top pick for small-screen machines because it’s running Windows 11 in S mode. S mode means you’re getting a lighter more agile version of the full Windows 11 experience - so think of it as a slightly more capable answer to ChromeOS. Plus, if you want to switch to full Windows 11 that can be done via the settings.

But, back to the machine. Behind that small yet practical screen lies an Intel Pentium Silver CPU which beats the Intel Core i3 by some margin for speed and performance. Again, as a Windows-does-Chromebook machine, you’ll only find 4GB of RAM here - but there is 128GB of storage which is plenty for everyday users.

Pros

  • As a slim and light Windows laptop, this competes with Chromebooks very well
  • The 128GB SSD drive is twice the amount normally seen in competing Chromebooks
  • The Intel Pentium Silver processor is ideal for a light-duty machine like this, beating the more common Core i3

Cons

  • Again, if you use this for productivity, you may want to invest in external SSD or USB storage

Best Dell

Dell Inspiron 15 3525Dell/Amazon

This Dell Inspiron 15 3525 laptop is a bit of a hidden gem. Behind the unassuming Dell design, we have a screen that runs at a smooth 120 Hz - that means that any movies, games or applications will look sharp and slick when it comes to motion. The 512 GB SSD is more than enough for most workers and creative types, and of course, this will handle games really well thanks to the Ryzen 5 processor and AMD Radeon graphics.

If you are thinking of gaming with this, it'll handle the latest games (but perhaps not at eye-watering detail or resolution settings - you'll need a more expensive gaming laptop for that...). Other than gaming, this is a fantastic Dell laptop with plenty of ports and a solid build.

Pros

  • Beautiful 120 Hz 15.6" display will suit movies and games perfectly
  • Generous 512 GB of SSD storage means you'll be able to install lots of apps
  • AMD Ryzen 5 CPU is an excellent mid-level spec - keeping costs down but performance high

Cons

  • Carbon black finish looks great - but will show the dust

Best HP

HP 15s-fq5021naHP/Argos

There's a good reason why people choose HP - the brand has been around for decades and is well known for its sturdy, reliable computers and other tech. This Laptop PC 15s-fq5021na is lightweight, and slim and packs a 15.6-inch screen, 256GB SSD and a huge 8GB of RAM. But the star here is the Intel Core i5 processor which, combined with that decent amount of RAM, means this is a brilliant well-rounded laptop choice.

Extras that we particularly appreciate are the anti-glare screen and super thin bezel - the screen is really a thing of beauty; plus the full-size numeric keypad and a built-in HD camera. HP has really hit the sweet spot here, balancing features and power with price.

Pros

  • Excellent processor will keep up with all of your computing tasks
  • The thin bezel and anti-glare coating make the 15.6" screen a joy to use
  • Sturdy and reliable HP build quality

Cons

  • No backlit keyboard

Best with Microsoft 365

ASUS Vivobook 14 X1400EAASUS/Amazon

Much like the larger models in its range, the ASUS Vivobook 14 retains the solid design and build quality we’re used to. This time, this 14-inch version really does look the part - suitable for professional and home settings with its touchpad and low-profile keyboard.

But, it’s not the standard inclusion of 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD that really delivers here - it’s the inclusion of a free one-year subscription to Microsoft 365 (or ‘Microsoft Office’ in old money). If you’re looking for a machine to take on the commute or into offices where Microsoft is the key software platform, which is most of them, this is ideal.

Pros

  • If you need a laptop that you can use Microsoft Office with right out of the box at no extra cost, this is it
  • The spec is extremely good value, with a decent processor and enough RAM to keep your Office applications running well
  • The ASUS build quality is outstanding - perfect for a compact machine that’s this portable

Cons

  • You will need to factor in the full cost of Microsoft 365 once your year is up

Best tablet-style

ASUS CX1 2-in-1 ChromebookASUS/Currys
Price: £199 (was £279)

www.currys.co.uk

There aren't many laptops that transform into touchscreen tablets out there, let alone one under £400. This ASUS Chromebook Plus does all of that, and more, for less than £200 right now. That’s astonishing value. And let’s not forget why a tablet-style laptop is such a great idea in the first place. To begin with, the folding action of the keyboard means you can stand this up on a desk or table for comfortable viewing. Watching movies on the train or using touchscreen apps is a bit more comfortable thanks to not needing that keyboard in front of you. Plus, you can carry this around and use it in tablet mode, for a more flexible range of uses.

Spec-wise, considering the price, this isn’t going to compete with your Apple iPad. But, if you think of it as a lightweight laptop and productivity tool that gives you flexibility with everyday tasks in its tablet form, the ASUS Chromebook Plus is for you. The 13-hour battery life will keep you working longer while out and about too.

Pros

  • A very flexible design and touchscreen capability make this a great two-in-one device
  • The massive battery life will beat many laptops in this price range
  • Extremely lightweight at only 1.32kg - you can comfortably take this anywhere and work on it in tablet mode

Cons

  • Despite its looks and flexibility, under the hood it is still a typical Chromebook spec - power users will need more

How to choose the best laptop under £400 for you:

Choose the right specs and features

While more is always more with laptops, at this budget you'll still have to look after the basics. Making sure the machine's core specifications are a great match for your needs is essential. Here are some of the more typical types of users.

Casual users

The more casual laptop user will need to do a bit of everything. You won't be getting a dedicated graphics card - so only expect to do some very light gaming. For watching YouTube or shopping and so on, you'll really only need 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive with a modern mid-range processor.

Office workers

Running several office applications at once requires a good CPU. You'll probably also be taking notes, designing presentations and so on. RAM is important too - but it won't need to be at a level you'd find on a gaming laptop. Also, unless you're looking to work and play, a monster of a dedicated graphics card won't be found for this budget. So, a strong CPU and enough RAM (8GB or more if possible) will handle everything admirably. Also, don't forget keyboard comfort and accuracy if you're not going to be using a wireless version.

Gamers

Gamers aren't going to be playing AAA titles at top speed on any of the best laptops under £400. They typically need 16GB of RAM or more and a 1TB internal SSD for loading speed. But, if you are the sort of gamer who enjoys browser-based gaming or simple games that don't feature 3D graphics, you'll be fine.

Creatives

Similarly to gamers, serious or professional video editors or content creators will really need a ton of RAM (16-32GB or more) and a CPU with lots of cores for processing as many operations at the same time as possible. At this level, you're only going to get enough performance for simple graphics creation, on a lightweight app or website - such as Canva.

Pay attention to the CPU and RAM

At this price point, you should definitely pay attention to the processing power and amount of working memory. If a larger part of the manufacturing costs have been piped into the screen or RGB backlighting at the expense of computing power you could come to regret it. The name and number of the component will help you compare like-for-like. Intel's CPUs, for example, have numbers that correspond to the component's power - i3, i5, i7 and so on. These numbers indicate a more powerful component, but of course, this varies between companies and brands.

If all else fails, looking at a CPU's clock speed and the number of cores it has is a great indication of the core's quality, more cores means more tasks that can be executed simultaneously, and greater clock speed means tasks can be completed quicker. When searching for a laptop, you'll want at least a 2-core CPU with around 3.2GHz clock speed.

Protect your new gadget

Even though your new laptop hasn't cost a packet, investing in some laptop protection is still a great idea. Make sure you budget for a laptop backpack or a protective case.

The best laptop under £400 in 2024: FAQs

Do I need a laptop?

Laptops are unbeatable when it comes to power and portability. That's why the vast majority of office workers and students tend to work on laptops rather than standalone PCs. That said, if it's raw graphics power you're after you can do better by going for a gaming PC under £1,000. Brilliant gaming laptops are out there though - they're the only solution for quality gaming on the go.

For office work, it isn't just power that's essential - having access to a vast array of programs is also incredibly important if you're studying or working from home, and laptops easily have the best access to software compared to your standard tablet.

So, if you're looking to get some work done effectively, on a device that'll keep running optimally for a considerable amount of time, a laptop's probably your best bet.

Can you game on an under £400 laptop?

Well, yes and no. Even though you are getting one of the best laptops under £400, none of them are specialist gaming laptops. You can potentially play some great games, but they would have to be relatively simplistic games that don't require a ton of RAM and/or VRAM, simply because most laptops at this price cap at 8GB of RAM, and often use integrated graphics cards, which, while great for work and browsing, aren't particularly brilliant for gaming. But remember - even the latest and greatest laptops can suffer from slow-down depending on software, settings and more. So, we've put together a simple guide on how to make your Windows laptop run faster.

Laptop versus tablet - what's the best?

While a laptop is fantastic for getting some work done, a tablet can also be a great option for note-taking, watching your favourite shows, and even some fantastic gaming. But remember, if you need access to fully-featured applications like MS Office or Photoshop you're going to need a laptop (or, if you like tablets, a laptop that can convert into a tablet). You'll also probably find yourself buying a wireless keyboard. So, weigh up your needs before you plump for a tablet rather than a more comprehensively-specced laptop.

Chris Duffillis a Senior Tech Writer and Reviewer for What's The Best and Yours. His background includes writing, editorial, marketing, design, video production and photography.

He specialises in home entertainment and audiovisual tech, including speakers, amplifiers, turntables, streaming media players, and TVs. He is also one of our resident experts in computing (PCs, tablets, smartphones, smartwatches), DSLR photography and all kinds of digital cameras. He also writes about retro gaming, game consoles and various electronic gadgets. If it plugs in, lights up or makes a noise, he’ll write about it.

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