As tech experts, we tend to be blasé, reviewing and testing the very best components, laptops, desktop PCs and peripherals day in, day out. As such, it can be easy to forget that the overwhelming majority of our readers will usually go for entry level and mainstream products.
With this in mind, I challenged myself to find the cheapest laptop that’s worth buying this Black Friday for readers who may not want to spend several hundreds of dollars. I found this HP Laptop PC 15-fd0000 on sale at Walmart for $179 (down from $249) and while I generally strongly recommend avoiding laptops under $200, there’s three solid reasons why this particular one gets a big thumbs up from me.
First - and perhaps most importantly - it is powered by a 12th generation Intel N200, which is a reasonably powerful CPU and about four times faster than the average N4020 found in many Chromebooks and entry level Windows laptops. This is a quad-core processor with a tiny TDP (6W) which means that it doesn’t require extensive cooling to get it running.
It also has 128GB of storage. And while not the fastest solid state drives one can find in more expensive laptops, the UFS (Universal Flash Storage) technology it uses is NOT as bad as the appalling eMMC memory you get in Chromebooks and cheap Windows laptops. I expect UFS - which is the defacto storage subsystem in smartphones - to be as fast as SATA SSD (several hundreds of MB/s), two or three times faster than eMMC.
Last, this laptop comes with a one-year subscription to Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365), a freebie worth $69.99 (Microsoft 365 personal). That’s a superb and very unexpected gift, but just be sure to remember that you will have to renew it after the first year and factor that into your longer-term budgeting.
There are also some other things worth mentioning that make this laptop a fantastic deal. It has a scarlet red finish, is built using recycled plastic, has a dedicated numeric keypad, a camera privacy shutter, a microphone mute key, a 41WHr battery, and five connecting ports. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that it supports Bluetooth 5.3 and Wi-Fi 6.
The biggest corner cut is the screen; with a brightness of 250 nits and an HD (1366 x 768) resolution. It’s one area where the only way to upgrade is to connect to a monitor or an external 4K TV (the laptop supports that resolution). As for the memory (4GB), you can always add a second one later if you're so inclined.
All in all, this laptop has some great things going for it and - especially given the price - they're enough for me to go against my usual sub $200 laptop veto and wholeheartedly recommend this one.
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Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.