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Are cheap laptops worth it? ($300)

Go to solution Solved by Kedohawyr,

I actually bought a 'cheap' laptop ($200 on sale after adding an SDD upgrade) under the assumption that it would be a placeholder and it turned out to be good enough apart from battery life that I'm still happily using it (the fact that it's totally silent and cool is a big selling point). Some conclusions I've come to after using it for about a year are:

 

4GB is surprisingly good for Windows 10 if you're only doing light web browsing, Netflix and Office programs. By comparison I've used or upgraded a Windows 8 tablet with 1GB and Windows 10 laptop with 2GB and both had frequent and noticeable lag from the page swapping. While 4GB would be a bottleneck with a faster CPU or with slow enough storage I've discovered that it's actually fine in an ultra budget machine.

 

32GB is not enough storage and eMMC (rather than SSD) should be avoided if possible. While Microsoft has made some adjustments so that Windows 10 can actually do feature updates on drives this small you are still probably going to run into issues eventually. It's unfortunate that many budget machines still insist of shipping with this as the only option. Fortunately the cheap Chinese clone I bought had the ability to install a regular SSD and so a few bucks later I had a fast 120GB bootdrive and a 32GB D drive. I did however try the machine out with the original storage and my impressions were that eMMC is fast enough to not be a bother for everyday use, however it is a noticeable bottleneck when doing any updates or copying big media files. So ideally you want an SSD or the ability to add one, but a 64GB+ eMMC drive wouldn't be a complete dealbreaker.

 

The screen matters a lot. My cheap laptop has a 13" 1080p IPS screen. It's not the best IPS by a very long shot but it's bright and clear and that's what's important. Similarly my tablet (HP Stream 7) had an IPS display and it made a world of difference over similarly budget priced Android tablets with their faded TFT panels. A dull or difficult to see screen will severely hinder every moment that you are using the machine, it will always feel like a handicap. While personally I could never use one of those 1366x768 displays because of my need for information density I could see one working as long as it's a bright enough IPS.

 

Low end processors work but it's a mindfield as to which ones are up to the task and which ones aren't because the numbering often doesn't have anything to do with speed (so a higher numbered CPU may literally have half the performance). Two nearly identical CPUs that are common in low end laptops and that work well enough for basic tasks are the Celeron N3450 and Pentium N4200 (also anything in the N5xxx range is good but many N3xxx and N4xxx are very slow). They aren't especially fast which is noticeable when you first open a Youtube video and the list of recommendations at the side clearly lags in loading, but they are rarely too slow for basic tasks (they will top out at playing a single 1080p video, so 4K streaming is completely out). A nice advantage of these 6W processors is that they are so easy to run fanless that your SSD will be the only thing you ever feel warm up. Personally I'd avoid anything from AMD in the this space (unless it's Ryzen) since to my dissatisfaction they haven't made anything for the ultra budget laptop category since the A series and those are virtually all terrible.

 

 

 

Hey guys! Long time lurker here!

 

Recently my mother in law asked me for advice regarding a new laptop.
Her requirements are:

  • The laptop must be new
  • The budget is around $300 (I live in Denmark so taxes are also quite high)
  • Must be running Windows
  • Lifespan of at least a few years

Also she doesn't mind it too much if the laptop is kinda slow (she is used to very slow laptops).

She will be using it for writing (Word and Google Docs) and sometimes video-streaming.

 

The ones I was able to find from danish retailers only had 4GB ram and some very old CPUs.
My initial thought was that the budget was too low, even if her use cases aren't very demanding.
Especially after seeing the new LTT video about ram usage in Windows...

 

My question is; are the laptops in this price-range worth it, or are they simply too slow even for task with very little demands?

 

Thanks in advance :-)
 

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What are the actual offerings in Denmark? I know that if I was to look for a budget Windows laptop here in the UK I'd probably find something similar to what you've said there, 4GB RAM and older CPUs, they probably won't be too bad as long as she's not looking to use it for too long. Definitely favourable over a chromebook though, even an iPad with a keyboard case could be worth looking into

 

This HP actually looks fairly good:

https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/computing/laptops/laptops/hp-14s-dq0500sa-14-laptop-intel-pentium-gold-128-gb-ssd-silver-10203388-pdt.html

 

Something like this though should be avoided, as at that price point and spec you may as well get a chromebook, or nothing:

https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/computing/laptops/laptops/geo-book-4-14-1-amd-a9-laptop-64-gb-emmc-silver-10193310-pdt.html

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Maybe look for something and if it has only 4 Gigs of ram maybe look if it’s upgradable 

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I have only had bad experiences with cheap laptops on that price range. Laptops overall are just not worth it, had to learn it the hard way with a £700 laptop :/

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I would recommend to look into refurbished laptops (as long as you would classify them as "new"). But the new sealed in box models will be terrible value at that price range 400 and up you could find some significantly better new laptops.

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At that price you will get a dual core 1 GHz CPU with 4GB of RAM and a terrible screen.

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Thanks for the answers.

 

What most of you guys are saying are basically my thoughts.

20 minutes ago, bengeoghegan11 said:

What are the actual offerings in Denmark? I know that if I was to look for a budget Windows laptop here in the UK I'd probably find something similar to what you've said there, 4GB RAM and older CPUs, they probably won't be too bad as long as she's not looking to use it for too long. Definitely favourable over a chromebook though, even an iPad with a keyboard case could be worth looking into

 

This HP actually looks fairly good:

https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/computing/laptops/laptops/hp-14s-dq0500sa-14-laptop-intel-pentium-gold-128-gb-ssd-silver-10203388-pdt.html

 

Something like this though should be avoided, as at that price point and spec you may as well get a chromebook, or nothing:

https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/computing/laptops/laptops/geo-book-4-14-1-amd-a9-laptop-64-gb-emmc-silver-10193310-pdt.html

I think the prices in Denmark are very comparable to the UK prices.
The HP looks decent even if it's a ~25% price increase from her budget.
However, I am very scared to buy anything with 4GB ram or below after watching this video:

 TLDW: a fresh Windows 10 installation in idle uses around 2.75GB of ram.

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39 minutes ago, MonkeyPants said:

Hey guys! Long time lurker here!

 

Recently my mother in law asked me for advice regarding a new laptop.
Her requirements are:

  • The laptop must be new
  • The budget is around $300 (I live in Denmark so taxes are also quite high)
  • Must be running Windows
  • Lifespan of at least a few years

Also she doesn't mind it too much if the laptop is kinda slow (she is used to very slow laptops).

She will be using it for writing (Word and Google Docs) and sometimes video-streaming.

 

The ones I was able to find from danish retailers only had 4GB ram and some very old CPUs.
My initial thought was that the budget was too low, even if her use cases aren't very demanding.
Especially after seeing the new LTT video about ram usage in Windows...

 

My question is; are the laptops in this price-range worth it, or are they simply too slow even for task with very little demands?

 

Thanks in advance 🙂
 

It's pretty much going to be a used laptop that you put an ssd in for that budget or some super low end crappy laptop that is just horrible to use. Pretty much only celerons and pentiums in there and those have the performance of core 2 duo's from over 10 years ago. So essentially it's buying a new laptop that's worse than a 10 year old one.

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That's the cheapest new laptop i found that is fine:

PCPartPicker Part List
Type Item Price
Laptop Asus Vivobook 15.6" 1920 x 1080 Ryzen 5 3500U 2.1 GHz 8 GB Memory 256 GB NVME SSD Storage Laptop $598.49 @ Amazon
  Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts  
  Total $598.49
  Generated by PCPartPicker 2020-06-09 09:14 EDT-0400  

 

Might want to consider used laptops or refurbished.

A PC Enthusiast since 2011
AMD Ryzen 5 2600@4GHz | GIGABYTE GTX 1660 GAMING OC @ Core 2040MHz Memory 5000MHz
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Not new, but buy it refurb and you're good. Dell Outlet has crazy deals. Idk about Denmark though...

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I actually bought a 'cheap' laptop ($200 on sale after adding an SDD upgrade) under the assumption that it would be a placeholder and it turned out to be good enough apart from battery life that I'm still happily using it (the fact that it's totally silent and cool is a big selling point). Some conclusions I've come to after using it for about a year are:

 

4GB is surprisingly good for Windows 10 if you're only doing light web browsing, Netflix and Office programs. By comparison I've used or upgraded a Windows 8 tablet with 1GB and Windows 10 laptop with 2GB and both had frequent and noticeable lag from the page swapping. While 4GB would be a bottleneck with a faster CPU or with slow enough storage I've discovered that it's actually fine in an ultra budget machine.

 

32GB is not enough storage and eMMC (rather than SSD) should be avoided if possible. While Microsoft has made some adjustments so that Windows 10 can actually do feature updates on drives this small you are still probably going to run into issues eventually. It's unfortunate that many budget machines still insist of shipping with this as the only option. Fortunately the cheap Chinese clone I bought had the ability to install a regular SSD and so a few bucks later I had a fast 120GB bootdrive and a 32GB D drive. I did however try the machine out with the original storage and my impressions were that eMMC is fast enough to not be a bother for everyday use, however it is a noticeable bottleneck when doing any updates or copying big media files. So ideally you want an SSD or the ability to add one, but a 64GB+ eMMC drive wouldn't be a complete dealbreaker.

 

The screen matters a lot. My cheap laptop has a 13" 1080p IPS screen. It's not the best IPS by a very long shot but it's bright and clear and that's what's important. Similarly my tablet (HP Stream 7) had an IPS display and it made a world of difference over similarly budget priced Android tablets with their faded TFT panels. A dull or difficult to see screen will severely hinder every moment that you are using the machine, it will always feel like a handicap. While personally I could never use one of those 1366x768 displays because of my need for information density I could see one working as long as it's a bright enough IPS.

 

Low end processors work but it's a mindfield as to which ones are up to the task and which ones aren't because the numbering often doesn't have anything to do with speed (so a higher numbered CPU may literally have half the performance). Two nearly identical CPUs that are common in low end laptops and that work well enough for basic tasks are the Celeron N3450 and Pentium N4200 (also anything in the N5xxx range is good but many N3xxx and N4xxx are very slow). They aren't especially fast which is noticeable when you first open a Youtube video and the list of recommendations at the side clearly lags in loading, but they are rarely too slow for basic tasks (they will top out at playing a single 1080p video, so 4K streaming is completely out). A nice advantage of these 6W processors is that they are so easy to run fanless that your SSD will be the only thing you ever feel warm up. Personally I'd avoid anything from AMD in the this space (unless it's Ryzen) since to my dissatisfaction they haven't made anything for the ultra budget laptop category since the A series and those are virtually all terrible.

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, Kedohawyr said:

Celeron N3450 and Pentium N4200

Those CPUs can barely run Windows,and a lot of the time are in 100% usage,and are not capable of opening more than 2 or 3 tabs in a browser.

I have one of those laptops in my collection,my 8 years old i7 laptop just destroys it and even has a socket so it's easily replaceable.

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6 hours ago, Vishera said:

Those CPUs can barely run Windows,and a lot of the time are in 100% usage,and are not capable of opening more than 2 or 3 tabs in a browser.


Could it be dependent on your expectations? If you’re used to a terribly slow laptop, it might not seem so bad with those processors?

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24 minutes ago, MonkeyPants said:


Could it be dependent on your expectations? If you’re used to a terribly slow laptop, it might not seem so bad with those processors?

Waiting a hour for updates to install is not something you can get used to...

A PC Enthusiast since 2011
AMD Ryzen 5 2600@4GHz | GIGABYTE GTX 1660 GAMING OC @ Core 2040MHz Memory 5000MHz
Cinebench R15: 1382cb | Unigine Superposition 1080p Extreme: 3439
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2 hours ago, MonkeyPants said:


Could it be dependent on your expectations? If you’re used to a terribly slow laptop, it might not seem so bad with those processors?

The problem is that these are already so slow and not useable. In a couple years these computers will be beyond unusable and you'll be stuck with them. I have a old windows tablet (i5 4200u 4gb ram 128gb ssd) and that one is useable due to it having an ssd that is nice and fast thus having a decently fast pagefile. But that thing has at least a 3x as fast cpu and is almost 8 years old and was by no means a powerhouse at launch.

 

Pretty much if you get a celeron or pentium laptop under 300 you are not getting a ssd and 4gb of ram coupled with a very very low end cpu that performs worse or about the same as a lot of 50$ ebay laptops. With core 2 duo's in them

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56 minutes ago, jaslion said:

The problem is that these are already so slow and not useable. In a couple years these computers will be beyond unusable and you'll be stuck with them. I have a old windows tablet (i5 4200u 4gb ram 128gb ssd) and that one is useable due to it having an ssd that is nice and fast thus having a decently fast pagefile. But that thing has at least a 3x as fast cpu and is almost 8 years old and was by no means a powerhouse at launch.

 

Pretty much if you get a celeron or pentium laptop under 300 you are not getting a ssd and 4gb of ram coupled with a very very low end cpu that performs worse or about the same as a lot of 50$ ebay laptops. With core 2 duo's in them

Thank you for the clarification. It makes a more lot sense now.

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