How well a snowboard performs depends a lot on how it well it fits your experience level and the type of terrain where you plan to spend the most time. Given that the boards we researched are geared toward beginners and intermediate riders, experts and users posting snowboard reviews tend to be looking for a board that's fairly forgiving and easy to control.
In a snowboard review of the Salomon Pulse (starting at $249), one of the best cheap snowboards we researched, the team of enthusiasts at SB-RV calls the board a solid choice for someone on a budget who's just starting out. They say the Pulse easily transitions from plowing through powder to tricks in the park to speeding down a groomed run. In a video review of an older Pulse model, an expert at board shop The House notes Salomon's reputation for durability, saying riders scarcely ever bring back the brand's boards to make a claim on the warranty.
The K2 Vandal youth board (starting at $200), another of the best cheap snowboards on our list, receives near-universal praise from a half-dozen users who have posted snowboard reviews on the K2 Snowboarding site. They laud its flexibility, carving ability, stability, and light weight and deem it suitable for many different types of riding. A self-described snowboard addict and competitive athlete who posted a snowboard review of the wide version of the board on the K2 website calls the Vandal ideal for beginner to intermediate riders looking to hit the terrain park. The user reports that this tough K2 snowboard stands up to grinding on everything from rocks to trees. In a snowboard review of an older Vandal on YouTube, an expert at The House testifies to the durability of K2 gear, saying he rarely sees it come back on warranty.
SB-RV calls the Forum Recon (starting at $300) an excellent choice for beginners. In a snowboard review, the site recommends the Recon for snowboarders on a budget who are interested in park riding. This Forum snowboard can also work for beginning riders elsewhere on the mountain, according to a snowboard review by the gear experts at The Good Ride. They point to the Forum Recon's good performance not only on rails and jumps but also on groomed runs and powder, saying it's super-easy to initiate turns on this board.
The Ride Lowride (starting at $170) is a decent youth board that's good for learning, according to a representative from retail site Snowboards.net. That's made it a best-seller at board shop The House, which has a video review of an older version. Judging by a couple of snowboard reviews posted on the Ride website, the Lowride appeals to the "little rippers" it targets.
While Ride is routinely cited on lists of the top snowboard brands, LaMar doesn't enjoy the same prestige. A couple of older threads on the highly active Snowboarding Forum provide some indication of how the brand is perceived among enthusiasts. One rider describes a heavy board that just couldn't seem to pick up speed and didn't deliver much pop. Another quips that even rental shops don't stock the brand. More recently LaMar seems to be striving to revitalize its image, as outlined by popular industry blogger The Angry Snowboarder, whose snowboard reviews include positive assessments of some newer LaMar snowboards. However, a lot of the cheap LaMar snowboards you're likely to see are models from previous years that may not have benefitted from the brand's apparent renewed focus on quality. You many well decide the price of a board is too big a gamble.
LTD Snowboards suffer from a similar perception of low quality, according to online conversations among snowboarders. Snowboard reviews on retail site TruSnow include this one that seems to sum up the general consensus: There are better boards available for the price.