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£200 laptops on test: do you really need to pay more?

Affordable laptops from HP, iOTA and Currys PC World are back from the Which? test lab, but how do they compare with pricier options?

Shopping for a new laptop but don’t fancy spending big? Fret ye not – we’ve tested a selection of cheap laptops this month, and we’re ready to reveal whether any of them are worthy of Best Buy status.

But if you’re hitting the high street in search of a laptop that will last you for years to come, how confident can you be that an affordable option will go the distance?

Keep scrolling to see whether a lag-free experience is realistic on a laptop that costs less than £250, and how they compare with laptops closer to £500.

Best Buy laptops – top picks whatever your budget

Just tested: laptops £250 and under

Geo Book3X (£250)

  • 13.3-inch display
  • 4GB Ram
  • 32GB storage

This Geo laptop is a Currys PC World exclusive, so you might spot it on offer at a discount leading up to and during Black Friday. It has a 13.3-inch display and is powered by a quad-core Intel Pentium processor, backed by 4GB of Ram – fairly standard internals for a cheap laptop.

The Geo Book3X ships with a built-in micro-SD card slot, which is a nice bonus if you need more storage space for your pictures and videos. This basic laptop is best suited for lightweight tasks such as document editing.

There are few 13.3-inch budget laptops on the market now, so does the Geo impress where it matters? Our Geo Book3X review reveals all.

HP Stream 14 (£200)

  • 14-inch display
  • 4GB Ram
  • 32GB storage

HP says its ultra-cheap Stream 14 laptop is ‘designed for the always connected life’, and it’s available in a range of vibrant, attention-grabbing colours. This 14-inch laptop weighs in at around 1.4kg (light enough to carry around without much hassle) and offers 4GB of Ram.

On paper, those specs suggest the laptop will cope well with basic tasks such as web browsing and video streaming, but avid gamers might want to look for an alternative with more power under the hood. Although the HP Stream 14 is advertised with 32GB of internal storage, we found that figure drops down to a less impressive 8GB of storage after factoring in the Windows 10 install.

A low price tag makes this HP laptop a tempting offer, but how did this affordable model perform in the Which? test lab? For all the juicy details on battery life, screen quality and ease of use, head over to our HP Stream 14 review.

HP 14-ca004na (£200)

  • 14-inch display
  • 4GB Ram
  • 32GB storage

Here’s another 14-inch HP laptop that has just returned from the Which? test lab. The HP 14-ca004na aims to offer up a lag-free experience that won’t hit your wallet too hard, running on a dual-core Intel Celeron processor and 4GB of Ram.

This HP model is a Chromebook, which means it comes with ChromeOS pre-installed and is designed to deal specifically with web browsing and nothing too resource-intensive. If you don’t rely too heavily on third-party software, this laptop might fit the bill.

If you’re a buyer on a budget, is this HP laptop worth a closer look? See how it scored with our HP 14-ca004na review.

iOTA Slim 14 FHD Metal Laptop (£140)

  • 14-inch display
  • 2GB Ram
  • 32GB storage

Meet the iOTA Slim 14 laptop, otherwise known as the cheapest laptop we’ve tested over the past month. It has a 14-inch display and is on sale at Amazon.

Unlike the other laptops we’ve covered above, this iOTA model has just 2GB of Ram. Typically, you get a smoother experience on a laptop with more Ram, but if you just need something cheap to handle simple tasks, you might have your finger hovering over the ‘add to cart’ button.

But don’t part with your money without consulting our expert review. Our full iOTA Slim 14 review reveals whether or not you can bag a Best Buy without spending big.

Cheaper laptops beat mid-range models for battery life

To uncover the differences between budget-priced laptops and models costing a couple of hundred pounds more, we’ve taken a closer look at our full range of laptop test results. We’ve compared laptops under £200 with laptops between £200-500, noting the average Which? test score for battery life, screen quality and performance.

Our graphic below shows what sort of performance you can expect from a laptop based on its price.

Interestingly, average battery life scores for sub-£200 laptops outperform pricier competitors in our lab tests. Cheap laptops usually have smaller displays, less Ram and slower processors, which puts less strain on the battery, so if you’re only after a model for fairly basic tasks they can be a great money-saver.

We didn’t find much of a difference in screen quality between the two pricing groups, but one area where more expensive models do step up is performance. When testing performance, we use a combination of USB speed tests, software benchmarking and wi-fi speed tests to create an overall score – and you’re certainly getting a bit more bang for your buck further up the market.

To see which laptops we recommend, see our advice guide on the top five laptops for 2018.  And if you’re primarily after cheaper models our guide to the best laptops for under £300, and under £500 will show you some great alternatives that won’t break the bank.

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