Until recently, you wouldn't have had much to choose from when looking for the best laptop under £400. Even buying one of the best laptops on the market would cost you more than an equivalent or superior desktop PC. But this year we've had some incredibly brilliant offers on laptops that have blown us away for the money.
You might think that you need to spend around £1,000 on a great laptop. But, from touchscreen tech to fingerprint scanners, ultra-HD screens and brand-new CPUs, there's some very capable kit out there - some of them being considerably lower than our £400 budget. But, with more choice comes a few more things to consider before you buy.
The best laptops under £400 in 2023 at a glance:
• Best overall laptop under £400: ASUS Laptop Vivobook 15 E1504GA 15.6" Full HD Laptop - View at Amazon
• Best budget laptop under £400: LENOVO IdeaPad 1 15.6" Laptop Intel Core i5 - View at Amazon
• Best gaming laptop under £400: Acer Aspire 3 A315-58 15.6 Inch Laptop - View at Amazon
• Best laptop under £400 for students: Acer Swift 1 SF114-34 14 Inch Laptop - View at Amazon
Even with machines at this price point, you'll still need to make sure you get the right balance when it comes to processing power, storage and graphics capability. 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 are only going to get light performance from a laptop in this price range, as are any serious creative content producers. 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've found yourself in need of a cheap and effective way to get into computers, are in need of a powerful upgrade, or you're in need of something to take notes on, you've come to the right place. The best laptop under £400 awaits, below.
Best laptops under £400 in 2023
Best overall laptop under £400
With solid speeds, durable design and great longevity - our top pick of the year goes to the ASUS
- Excellent build quality from ASUS,
- Huge storage capacity - ideal for lots of apps and project files
- 8GB of RAM is enough for most everyday tasks
- Plenty of ports for attaching your peripherals
- The battery life is so-so
Best budget laptop under £400
The Lenovo IdeaPad 1 is an absolute steal for under £400. The IdeaPad 1's ultra-slim build design,
- Solid CPU from Ryzen for speedy performance
- Great build quality for the price - has a premium feel
- Excellent 256GB SSD storage for rapid bootup
- Healthy amount of RAM on a machine at this price
- To take advantage of all that power you might need more external storage for more apps
Best gaming laptop under £400
The ACER Aspire 3's 15.6-inch full HD screen ensures that the visuals are vibrant and clear Best
- Fantastic 15.6-inch display with eye care features
- A respectable 256Gb of storage - enough for a collection of smaller games
- IPS panel means less smearing with fast motion in games
- The refresh rate of 60hz is fine for most gamers, but some will want more
Best laptop under £400 for students
Quite easily one of the best-priced laptops on our list, Acer's Swift 1 is beautifully designed
- Slim Acer build quality reminiscent of Apple MacBooks
- Ultra-lightweight and fanless cooling - nice and quiet to use
- Seriously impressive battery life of 15 hours - more than enough to see you through a college day
- Minimal RAM and SSD storage - buy an external SSD
Best Chromebook laptop under £400
Simple, elegant and affordable - the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 3 is the quintessential tablet style
- Great portability, light and thin to carry - ideal for commuters
- Easy to use - quick to boot so you can get working faster
- 8GB of RAM is excellent in a Chromebook - will manage a lot of tasks at once
- Weaker CPU power that other non-Chromebook options here
- Not great for heavier tasks - if you rely on professional apps you should look elsewhere
The best laptops under £400 in 2023: Buyer's guide
Choose the right spec 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's some of the more typical types of user:
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.
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 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 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.
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 laptops under £400 in 2023: 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 its 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.
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, 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.