Managing Expectations with a Laptop Under $400

Let’s be realistic – when searching for anything one a budget one can’t expect the best of the best. ‘You get whet you pay’ for is a saying that generally golds true in most situations (unless you are getting ripped off which is a different story) but that’s not to say you can’t find a laptop under $400 that can meet all of your basic computing needs without leaving a gaping hole in your pocket.

The key here is expectation – you need to know what you’re looking for so that A. you can find the best deal possible and B. you don’t end with a laptop completely at odds with what you needed computer for in the first place. If course it’s not all black and white either – some users need laptops for work, others simply want a portable entertainment machine they can take on holiday with them. Some people require the use of intensive applications such as Photoshop, whilst others will probably never push their machine past a few open browser windows. Luckily there are guides available by sites that can help point you in the right direction, with condensed and up to date lists of popular models of laptops under $400 as well as in various other price ranges. Examples are CNet and Laptopninja.

If you are a student or plan on using your laptop mainly for work, then you should expect an 10-11 inch netbook with a high level of portability. Specs will usually include a dual core processor (Intel or AMD) and 2-4GB of RAM. If you are more of a heavy user and find yourself with a lot of browser windows / applications open at the same time then as much RAM as possible is advisable. Graphics wise the on-board Intel graphics available with most modern netbooks should suit your needs just fine. You may also want to consider a Google Chromebook as a potential option, though keep in mind you will be limited to only web based applications. Google has an excellent repertoire of apps available, though some users feel Google docs still has some limitations when compared to MS Word despite the benefits of being entirely hosted online.

If you are a part time gamer or enjoy watching a lot of series (and don’t have a TV in your room) then you’ll more than likely want to go for a 15 inch model. These sacrifice portability and battery life for a larger display and in some cases slightly slower specs, though the opposite can also be true.  If gaming is a key factor for you then you’ll want to look out for a laptop with a mobile Radeon graphics card and at least 4GB of RAM – an AMD processor is most likely your best bet as otherwise prices may rise above your $400 target mark. These aren’t too hard to come luckily if you look hard enough.

In conclusion one can expect a surprising amount of bang for your buck in the modern laptop market, but be realistic with yourself and if you feel that none of the laptops on offer do yourself justice then rather wait it out until you can afford something better.

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