7 of the best laptops for college students under $400 — HP, Lenovo, Microsoft and more

·6 min read

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Back to school season may be over, but finding the best laptop for college is honestly an ongoing task. With Black Friday deals dropping left and right, now is the best time to save big on some of the best options you can find online.

Whether used for remote learning or touting around a physical campus, a laptop is arguably the No. 1 necessity for any college student. Unfortunately, some of the best options available today are pretty expensive. So, to make your shopping experience less laborious and more pocket-friendly, we’ve rounded up the best laptops for college students, all under $400.

To further simplify things, we’ve separated each carefully curated pick into a category that represents its best quality. From the best lightweight option to the best overall, we’ve got you covered with the best laptops that won’t break the bank.

Check out our picks below, featuring brands like HP, Microsoft, Lenovo, Acer and more.

1. Best Overall: HP 14t-dq200 Laptop, $399.99 (Orig. $549.99)

Credit: HP
Credit: HP

This is, without a doubt, one of the best and most affordable Windows laptops you can buy right now. Unlike most cheap Windows laptops, the HP 14t-dq200 Laptop is fast, compact and lightweight. Plus, it has a crystal-clear 1080p display that’s perfect for videos, photos, presentations and documents.

If you’re looking for a Windows laptop for school that won’t break the bank and does the job, this is the best you’ll find for the price. It’s fast enough to meet most undergrad students’ computing needs. Also, as a welcome bonus, it has a 14-inch screen that’s definitely much nicer to look at than most budget Windows notebooks.

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2. Most Versatile Option: Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible, $397

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Credit: Amazon

While academics are surely the bread and butter of college, the key to having a successful college career is balance. The Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible provides that in the sleekest possible package for the price.

This laptop can handle both homework and extra-curricular Internet use with ease, and best of all, it’s bendable so you can use it as both a laptop and a tablet. For those early mornings when you’re hours deep into a Netflix binge but need to add the finishing touches on a final paper, this is the perfect option.

The convertible, 360-degree laptop/tablet hybrid runs on Chrome OS, so you can download apps directly from the Google play store and use Google Docs, Sheets and Slides for classwork and projects. It also has built-in virus protection, which updates automatically and safeguards your files so you don’t have to stress about crashes or data loss.

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3. Best Under-$200: HP Chromebook 11-Inch Laptop, $159.99 (Orig. $201.07)

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Credit: Amazon

You’ll be hard pressed to find a quality laptop deal this cheap. The HP Chromebook 11-Inch Laptop is both Amazon-recommended and shopper-approved. Retailing for just $160, this is the most affordable option on the list, but don’t confuse its low price tag for inferior quality or performance.

In addition to being extremely portable and lightweight, this laptop has one of the most robust battery lives of any laptop in its price range. It boasts an impressive 15-hour-and-45-minute battery life on one single charge, so you can stay connected without having to frantically search for a power outlet.

Its optimal battery also works well with its graphics card, which was built to perform well without draining the battery. So you can watch your favorite HD shows and movies without running out of juice too quickly.

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4. Best Chromebook Pick: Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5, $314.99 (Orig. $429.99)

Credit: Amazon
Credit: Amazon

There’s a reason why Chromebooks have been some of the most sought-after portable computers for years. They’re affordable, versatile and have everything you need already built-in, eliminating the need to purchase secondary software or programs.

Based on reviews and several rankings, the best-selling Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is the king of the Chromebooks scene. This one boasts excellent above-average performance for its low price and features one of the best keyboards and trackpads in its price range. It’s also extremely compact, lightweight and has a 1080p resolution touch screen that’s vivid and bright.

Its battery life is just long enough to last you through a full day of work and classes, but if you need something a bit more substantial that won’t have you cutting it too close, we recommend snagging the HP Chromebook 11-Inch Laptop (our No. 3 pick), which is actually $155 cheaper.

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5. Most Durable: Dell Chromebook 11, $239.50

Credit: Amazon
Credit: Amazon

The Dell Chromebook 11 was built to withstand the rigors and pressures of daily life in all its forms. 

From the classroom and commuting to at-home use and everything in between, this one is rugged, making it extremely difficult to break, and affordable.

Also, if you’re accident-prone and always tend to spill your morning coffee on your laptop, this is the perfect investment as it features a spill-resistant keyboard.

This Dell Chromebook also differs from others in the Chromebook category since it’s actually a breeze to use and is famously well engineered. Its textured black plastic exterior also makes it fit perfectly into any professional or college classroom setting. And if you drop your laptop more often than normal, this one’s a no-brainer — according to Dell, this system is tested to survive 30-inch drops onto a steel surface.

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6. Best Lightweight Option: New Microsoft Surface Go 2, $394.99

Credit: Amazon
Credit: Amazon

Not only is the Microsoft Surface Go 2 the ideal modern two-in-one pick, but it’s also extremely lightweight and perfect for those who want the option of investing in a tablet that can transform into a laptop with the addition of one simple accessory.

Those who travel, commute to campus or work remotely from a coffee shop or park will love this option. It’s the ideal travel companion and features a detachable screen and keyboard. Best of all, it can handle just about everything a full-functioning desktop computer can. 

And speaking of portability, this new addition to the Microsoft Surface lineup weighs just 1.19 pounds, so it will add little to no bulk to your backpack or satchel.

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7. Largest Display: Samsung Chromebook 4 + Chrome OS, $263.49 (Orig. $349.99)

Credit: Amazon
Credit: Amazon

Samsung is one of the most reliable and trusted brands in the tech space, so it’s no surprise that one of its devices gets a spot on this list. One area where the tech juggernaut excels is balancing size with performance. 

If you’re looking for a laptop with slightly above average screen real estate, the Samsung Chromebook 4 is the perfect pick. While all of the laptops featured on this list have screens that measure 14 inches or less in diameter, this one boasts a 15.6-inch screen that’s perfect for watching movies and writing papers. 

Also, if you have larger hands, this is the best bang for your buck as the slightly larger than average keyboard and palm rests complement the larger screen size.

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