Microsoft is helping hardware makers build low-priced Windows PCs to combat Chromebooks, and the early results of that effort are hitting the market.

Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo are selling laptops priced less than $250 that run on Windows 8.1 With Bing, a royalty-free version of the company's flagship operating system. Windows 8.1 With Bing is the same as Windows 8.1, but it has Bing as the default search engine in Internet Explorer.

Microsoft is using Windows 8.1 With Bing, which was unveiled in May, to spread Windows to more low-cost PCs and tablets. It's also an attempt to take on Google's free Chrome OS, which is used in Chromebooks, the inexpensive and lightweight laptops that are growing in popularity among the Web-based computing audience.

The first PCs featuring Windows 8.1 With Bing were shown at Computex in June. The cheapest is a Lenovo desktop model that costs $225. Laptops start at $249. Microsoft has promised that laptop prices will fall to $199 with HP's Stream 14 model, which has not been unveiled -- though information about it has leaked out.

Some Acer Chromebooks sell for less than $200, but HP, Dell and Lenovo are selling Windows laptops that are priced lower than their Chromebooks. The laptops have basic processors and specifications, much like comparable Chromebooks.

The Windows laptops have common features such as 1366-x-768-pixel resolution screens, hard drive storage and HDMI ports. The processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are good for basic computing and casual gaming, but the laptops do have some deficiencies.