Inexpensive laptops: What should you watch out for with notebooks under 300 euros?

By: MRT Desk

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Inexpensive laptops: What should you watch out for with notebooks under 300 euros?

Computers for on the go do not have to be expensive: there are countless models in the price segment under 300 euros that can be taken with you almost anywhere and have enough computing power for simple tasks such as surfing, streaming, communication and office jobs. Some of these slim and light notebooks even fall below the magical 200 euro mark.

Anyone who does the majority of their work at home in the home office or in the office on a powerful desktop PC and is looking for a handy mobile computer for occasional use away from the desk does not necessarily need a high-quality and therefore expensive notebook. A mobile machine with inexpensive hardware components for 200 to 300 euros is sufficient for typical office applications, communication via email and social networks, surfing the web and streaming music or video.

Chromebooks (theme world) make up the lion’s share in the price segment under 300 euros. The Linux-based operating system Chrome OS from Google provides the basis for a computer that relies fully on the popular cloud computing – including apps from the web and storage of all your own data in the cloud. The devices don’t have to be bad, as the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 (review) shows.

Thanks to the frugal apps and the outsourcing of data to the web, Chromebooks from the lower price segment get by with 4 GB of RAM and are usually only equipped with very small hard drives with 32 to 64 GB. The processor performance also plays a subordinate role: a cheap tablet CPU from MediaTek or Qualcomm (Snapdragon), an economical Intel Celeron or an AMD 30xx chip with a low clock frequency between 1 and 2 GHz are sufficient for the smooth operation of Chrome OS. Only solutions integrated into the CPU are used as the graphics unit, which disqualifies this device class for high-quality gaming – after all, browser games or optimized mini-games from the Google Chrome Web Store also provide entertainment on Chromebooks.

The Chromebook concept stands and falls with the internet connection and the storage available in the cloud. It should be a permanent DSL connection with at least 16 Mbit / s in order to work smoothly with a Chromebook. On the go, you should be able to access fast WiFi or a WiFi hotspot from your own mobile phone with 4G or higher. The cloud storage available for your own data is offered by Google in four levels:

  • 15 GB are included in a free Google One account
  • 100 GB in the basic package come to 19.99 euros per year
  • 200 GB in the standard version cost 29.99 euros a year
  • A full 2 ​​terabytes are available for just under 100 euros per year with a premium subscription

If you want to use the Windows software you are familiar with from your desk when you are out and about, you need a notebook with Windows. The higher hardware requirements of the Microsoft operating system and the predominantly local storage of data require higher quality hardware than Chromebooks. For this reason, Windows models are more likely to be found in the immediate vicinity of the 300 euro mark.

In order to save costs, many inexpensive Windows notebooks are equipped with only 4 GB of RAM, which significantly slows down the system performance, since data often has to be swapped out to the mass storage device. A device with 8 GB of RAM is significantly more powerful, but rarely found in the 300 euro range. The size of the SSD or eMMC memory (Embedded MultiMedia Card) ranges between just under 64 GB and a sufficient 256 GB. Some models can be expanded with a second SSD in the M.2 standard, whereby attention should be paid to the maximum addressable memory size (often 512 GB).

Processors in this price range are mostly dual-cores such as AMD 3020e or Intel Celeron N4020 and quad-core CPUs such as Intel Pentium Silver or Intel Core i3. In terms of performance, these processors are close together regardless of the number of cores – sufficient performance is offered for office applications, simple creative applications and daily communication.

What is Windows S ?: Many Windows notebooks are offered with activated S mode, especially in the lower price range. This is a very limited version of Windows that, according to Microsoft, is limited to apps from the Windows Store for performance and energy-saving reasons. However, the S mode can be “exited” once, which then allows any Windows software to be installed. Details can be found on the Microsoft website.

Both Chromebooks and Windows notebooks are available with different sized displays. The most compact models also fit into small pockets thanks to the 10.1 inch screen (approx. 25.6 cm). Medium-sized mobile computers have display diagonals between 13 and 14 inches (33 or 35.5 cm), which are large enough for working as well as for viewing pictures or videos. The largest models offer a lot of space on a 15.6-inch display (almost 40 cm), but this also has an effect on the case size and thus portability.

In terms of resolution, there are inexpensive notebooks in two versions: with a full HD display (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) or with the lower HD resolution (1366×768 pixels). The higher resolution should be selected, especially with large screens, as this makes the picture appear sharper and less pixelated.

In order to establish contact with the outside world, the notebook should be equipped with two to four USB interfaces for connecting input devices such as a keyboard or mouse. USB 3.2 ports offer a transfer speed around 10 times higher than the outdated 2.0 standard. At least one USB-C socket enables the connection of additional peripherals such as a monitor or fast external hard drive.

In addition to monitors, televisions or projectors can be connected to the mobile computer via the HDMI socket. An Ethernet socket in the RJ45 standard enables a direct connection to the network router for fast and stable data transmission.

Notebooks for less than 300 euros do not set any equipment or speed records, but they are definitely sufficient for simple daily tasks. The areas of application range from office apps to communication and streaming – the inexpensive compact computers only have to be suitable for demanding games and high-performance creative applications.

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