So much noise gets made about the latest and greatest technology, but it almost always costs an arm and a leg. What if you only need a basic device to get your work done? We think this device may fill that gap, but is it the best university laptop under £400?

All things considered, the Acer Chromebook 514 is the best on the market. It’s made of strong but lightweight aluminium, a 14’’ HD screen, a keyboard backlight, long battery life and USB C ports make it a fantastic choice. It can often be found for around £350 online, making it the best university laptop under £400.

Image of the Acer Chromebook 514

Software

If you don’t know what a Chromebook is yet, we have an article here, but to explain simply- they run a very basic operating system based on Google Chrome. It lets you install major apps like Word, Excel, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

For a cheap laptop, Chromebooks are a miracle. They have great battery life and a low price, and do all basic tasks you could need them for. Social media, writing documents, watching movies- they’re fantastic. You’ll only struggle with more complex apps, like QTIPlot or complex programming. Most universities have computers anyone can use splattered around campus, so this shouldn’t be much of a hindrance.


Outside

The laptop is built entirely out of aluminium, making it strong and light. It comes in at just 1.4kg. It features a perfectly decent keyboard with a solid backlight, which isn’t always found at this price point. The trackpad is buttonless, meaning you push down in the left and right corners to click. It’s a fantastic trackpad, better than most offered on Chromebooks.

The display is brilliant; it’s 14 inches, which gives you lots of space for all your notes or watching youtube and netflix. Being a 1080p HD display, everything you view on it will be crystal clear. There’s also an optional touch screen, meaning if you get sick of the trackpad you can use it just like a phone.

side profile shot of the acer chromebook 514, showing the ports

Finally, it has a solid collection of ports. Two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports and an audio jack.

You can charge it and connect it to displays through the USB-C port on the left, even phone chargers will work. The audio jack is a combo, meaning it handles both microphone and headphones. You can also plug in microSD cards, though this has limited use in 2020.


Inside

Performance wise are a few different configurations of the Acer 514 you should be aware of: It can be had with a dual or quad core processor- the quad obviously being faster but costing slightly more. 4 or 8GB of RAM- 4GB is passable but we would recommend 8GB for some safety when running multiple apps.

image of the different configurations for the acer chromebook 514, with their different specifications

For storage, it can be configured with either 32, 64 or 128GB of storage. You won’t need as much storage as on your usual laptop. With a Google device like this, you can use Photos to store an unlimited amount of photos and videos for free. Google Drive can store all your documents, spreadsheets and slideshows, and you won’t be installing too many apps as they’re mostly online. If you can get the 128GB model for cheap, go ahead, but we would recommend the 64GB as a good compromise.


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