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3 great laptop deals, starting at $399

These Gateway, HP and Lenovo models have just about everything a student might need, but are fine for most WFH users as well. Plus: Grab a Harman Kardon Citation One smart speaker for $70.

This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

Need a new laptop? If it's for working from home, here are my basic-spec recommendations:

  • Intel Core i3 processor or better
  • 8GB of RAM or more
  • SSD (solid-state hard drive)
  • 15.6-inch full-HD display (because anything smaller starts to feel cramped for full-time work)

Two of the three machines below meet those requirements; one has a slightly smaller screen. But they're all priced at $400 to $500, meaning they're about as affordable as Windows laptops get -- and they make few compromises along the way. Take a look -- and also take a listen to the latest episode of the Cheapskate Show podcast, in which we talk about this very subject.

Gateway

If you can live with a 14-inch screen, Gateway's model offers a lot of bang for the buck. In addition to a 10th-gen Core i5 processor, you get 16GB of RAM (twice what the other two laptops offer), plus a 256GB SSD and a fingerprint scanner. It even has a THX-tuned audio subsystem.

Gateway offers the system in your choice of colors, a refreshing change from the usual any-color-as-long-as-it's-black.

HP

You can get out the door with HP's 15.6-inch laptop for as little as $400, but because you can customize the system, allow me to recommend a few upgrades.

After clicking Customize & Buy, add the following:

  • 15.6" diagonal, FHD (1920x1080), IPS, micro-edge, BrightView, 250 nits ($40)
  • Full-size, backlit, natural silver keyboard with numeric keypad ($0)
  • Intel® Wi-Fi 6 AX 200 (2x2) and Bluetooth® 5 combo (Supporting Gigabit file transfer speeds) ($10)

This last is definitely optional, but it'll help future-proof the laptop toward the Wi-Fi 6 standard. All told, these upgrades add just $50 to the total price.

You might also want to double the storage to 256GB ($50). Either way, this Core i7-powered system should supply ample horsepower for everyday computing tasks.

Lenovo

The 15.6-inch IdeaPad closely matches the aforementioned HP -- with the various upgrades applied. You get an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 15.6-inch full-HD display. Integrated graphics, too, but the slightly older Wi-Fi spec.

Ultimately, it boils down to whether you have a brand preference -- or you're in a hurry: The custom HP will likely take at least a few days to ship (and it could be longer due to demand), while the Lenovo should go out immediately -- and might even be available for in-store pickup.

Your thoughts?

Get a Harman Kardon Citation One smart speaker for $70

harman-kardon-citation-one

The Citation One, shown here in black, is a punchy little smart speaker that supports multiroom setups.

Harman Kardon

I love when I can get premium-brand audio gear for the price of lower-quality no-brand audio gear. Case in point: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Back Market has the mint-condition refurbished Harman Kardon Citation One Smart Speaker with Google Assistant for $150. That's for the gray model only. Price at Best Buy for a new one: $230.

The Citation One stands just over 7 inches tall. It supports both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, multiroom setups and dual-speaker pairing for true stereo.

CNET hasn't reviewed it, but reviews I've seen elsewhere note its punchy, bass-forward audio and simplistic operation, the latter attributable to built-in Google Assistant.

Back Market offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and 12-month warranty -- meaning there's zero risk involved. Indeed, if this is anything like the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones I ordered from the company, it should arrive in good-as-new condition. At $70, I'm liking this a lot.


CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on tech products and much more. For the latest deals and updates, follow him on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for deal texts delivered right to your phone. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and check out our CNET Coupons page for the latest Walmart discount codeseBay couponsSamsung promo codes and even more from hundreds of other online stores. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Answers live on our FAQ page.

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