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Cheap laptops on test: what’s in a brand?

The £240 LincPlus P1 is the latest laptop to come through our labs, but how does it compare to budget laptops from big brands like Dell, Asus and Acer?

The LincPlus P1 looks like a bargain, but does it stand a chance of beating the big brands in the budget market? We pit laptops from lesser-known brands against the market leaders

Everybody likes an underdog; from David vs Goliath to Leicester City taking on the Premier League giants, someone to upset the status quo of a world dominated by big players will always deserve affection.

But underdogs are so-called for a reason – more often than not you’re better off sticking with the safe bet, and when it comes to tech that means the bigger, more established brands. But is that the case with laptops? With plenty of lesser-known names doing the rounds at bargain prices, we decided to find out.

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With the huge influx of little-known brands into online-only shops such as Amazon, it can be tempting to pick up what looks like a solid budget laptop for a song.

In our latest batch, we looked at the LincPlus P1 – a laptop from a budget brand that accompanies recent reviews of similarly cheap models from Fusion5, iOTA and Medion. Read on to find out its key stats before we dive into a snapshot comparison of the other small-brand laptops we’ve tested this year.

LincPlus P1: A bargain 13-inch laptop?

The latest small-brand laptop to catch our attention is the LincPlus P1, a 13-inch laptop sold exclusively on Amazon with an average review score of four stars from 13 reviews.

What do you get for your £240? You get a Windows 10 laptop with an Intel Celeron processor along with 4GB of Ram and a Full HD screen. So far, so good; these specifications are a recipe for a fine laptop that’s ready for basic office work and a bit of light web browsing.

But there are also potential snags; the laptop only has 32GB of storage, which is a problem when it comes to downloading Windows 10 updates. You’ll need to buy a microSD card and have it inserted at all times to make sure your computer will update successfully. This will add at least another £10 to your budget, along with an extra layer of slight uncertainty.

Read our full LincPlus P1 review to see our final verdict.

In focus: budget laptop brands Fusion5, iOTA, Thomson, Geo and Medion

LincPlus isn’t the only lesser-known brand we’ve tested this year. Here are five other small-name alternatives we’ve seen in the past twelve months; click on each to see our full verdict.

  1. Fusion5 T90-series – £200
    A super-cheap 14-inch laptop with modest specifications.
  2. iOTA Slim 14 – £250
    An all-metal 14-inch laptop with students and light users in mind.
  3. Thomson Neo10 – £150
    A tiny 10-inch laptop that’ll slip into almost any bag.
  4. Geo Book 1 – £160
    An 11.6-inch compact laptop sold exclusively at Currys. Can sometimes be priced as low as £99 in the sales.
  5. Medion 11.6-inch – £250
    Sold exclusively at Aldi under its Specialbuy scheme

How important is brand when buying a laptop?

The table above shows how laptops from the lesser-known brands – all of which cost under £300, compare with those from the big brands at a similar price, according to our reviews. We don’t exhaustively test every small-brand laptop, but we do choose ones that rank highly on Amazon or are sold at other large retailers.

Based on what we have tested, there are some interesting trends in the data. Big-brand models do appear to be the better option on average – but often not by much. According to our tests, small-brand models are somewhat more mercurial; scoring as low as 45% and as high as 62%, whereas bigger brands score between 50% and 64%. From that, you might conclude that branded laptops are generally a safer bet.

Another reason why people prioritise brand is reliability – but not all perform as well as you might think. Read our guide to the most reliable laptop brands for more.

What to consider when buying a cheap laptop

There are other things to consider, too, such as after sales service and support in the event of problems. Does the brand you’re thinking of buying have a proper website with a clear way of contacting them if something goes wrong? Do any customer reviews point out difficulty in contacting them? While there may be bargains to be had from smaller companies, it’s worth taking a bit of extra time to tick these boxes before you buy.

Another potential issue is the rise of fake reviews. A recent Which? investigation found that Amazon has removed at least 30,000 customer reviews in the past two years. Review removal could indicate that products are being targeted by fake reviews to artificially inflate ratings.

We found that lesser-known brands – at least those our tech experts hadn’t encountered – are more likely to have their reviews deleted. In fact these brands made up 11% of deleted reviews, compared with 2% of ‘known’ brands.

This isn’t to say you should be suspicious of small brands; you should do your due diligence on any laptop you buy from any retailer. To help, our detailed guide on the best cheap laptops can point you in the right direction.

Make the right choice: browse our top cheap laptops for under £500, £300 and £200.

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