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June, 2015:

Don’t buy anything from Snapmade.com

Don’t buy anything from Snapmade.com. Their products fall apart and then they don’t care or offer to do anything about it.

What are my choices for a portable computer on a budget?

What are my choices for a portable computer on a budget?

A computer as a glorified web browser

Most people use a computer for web browsing, email, and the occasional application.

If this describes you, then inexpensive computers, including notebook andnetbook computers will meet most of their needs.

Don’t expect to play the latest games, edit HD video, or run many applications at once, but all your Facebook, Twitter, and HubPages needs can be met for less than $400.

These machines are also good choices for children due to their small size and low cost.

Although specific models and prices may vary, the general principles are applicable to most portable computers.

Be aware that many manufacturers no longer produce netbooks, but you may find an inexpensive used one.

Update: Many people will find tablet and Chromebook PCs to be a great alternative to netbooks.

What sort of portable computer can I get for less than $400?

UPDATE 2014: Since this article was written, many manufacturers have ceased production of netbooks. A tablet (think Android Nexus devices) or a Google Chromebook may be a better choice at this point.

There are certainly some caveats for for a portable computer in this price range. More than likely you will be looking at netbooks. A netbook computer has lower-end technical specifications than a more expensive notebook computer. It will have a less powerful CPU, like the Intel Atom processor. These machines also come with less memory and have limited RAM expandability options. They will also have smaller hard drives and no optical (CD/DVD) drives in the main computer body, but a USB optical drive can be added if you need the ability to read optical media. A netbook might also lack a wired network connection.

On the lower end of the price spectrum, refurbished hardware is common. A refurbished machine generally has only a 90 day warranty and getting service from many of the large companies that “refurb” machines can sometimes be difficult. Be aware that just because the computer is a brand and model from a major manufacturer (Acer, Dell, etc.) that does not mean you will necessarily receive technical or warranty support from that company and in many cases there will be little real technical support.

Due to the cost of Microsoft Windows 7, netbooks typically have Linux or Windows 7 Starter as the operating system and not the more feature-rich Windows Home or Windows Home Premium.

Where should I shop for my budget netbook?

TigerDirect, and Amazon are a couple of the reputable online merchants who stock refurbished netbook and notebook computers for competitive prices. Here are thenetbook models Geeks offers.

For $350, you will probably find a machine with a 3 cell battery that can last close to 4 hours. Most netbooks have either a 3 or 6 cell battery. Sometimes you can find a 9 cell version, but 9 cell batteries tend to be rather large. It might make sense to buy an additional battery, once you determine the model you are purchasing. Keep in mind batteries made by the netbook manufacturer can be expensive, but less expensive batteries are often available directly from Asia.

At the time of publication, these are the specifications for a sub $400 refurbished netbook computer at Geeks.

Black HP Mini 1103 Atom N455 1.66GHz 10.1-inch LED Netbook

  • 10.1-inch LED-backlit (1024 x 600) WSVGA resolution
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Starter pre-installed w/CoA
  • 6-cell Li-ion battery
  • Intel Atom N455 1.66 GHz processor w/Intel Hyper-Threading
  • 1 GB DDR3 RAM
  • 250 GB SATA hard drive
  • No optical drive
  • Integrated High Definition audio with built-in stereo speakers
  • Integrated 10/100 Fast Ethernet (wired)
  • Integrated IEEE 802.11b/g/n wireless LAN (wifi)
  • Built-in 4-in-1 media card reader
  • Built-in webcam and microphone
  • QWERTY keyboard with Touchpad

If you find a model you like, I recommend researching the model on sites such as Cnet, before you make a purchase.