Chromebooks are laptops that run on Google’s web-based operating system, Chrome OS. They’re generally simpler to use and more affordable than their PC and MacBook counterparts, and a perfect choice for people who work mostly with Google’s product suite.
It’s not just about low prices. People like Chromebooks because they are highly portable and versatile as well. In fact, many feature touchscreen displays and 2-in-1 designs, so they can perform well as laptops or tablets. The newest Chromebooks can also run some Android applications, giving you access to a wide range of apps, games and even computing standbys like Microsoft Word.
Chromebooks vs. laptops
Bear in mind that Chromebooks have some disadvantages when compared to laptops or desktop computers. The processing speeds of Chromebooks are generally slower and their storage capacities are usually more limited than standard laptops.
Chromebooks are also highly dependent on an internet connection to properly perform most functions. So they’re probably not what you want if you occasionally work off the grid, or if you live in a place where power or internet outages are common. What’s more, they’re not great tools for editing videos or photos. Similarly, they can only run games available in the Google Chrome Store, so they’re not ideal as gaming devices.
All that being said, Chromebooks tend to be much cheaper than regular laptops, which makes them an attractive option for users who will mostly use them for things like browsing the web and working with online documents.
Inexpensive models, which typically have smaller displays (10” to 11.6”) and entry-level hardware, can retail for anywhere between $150 to $300. Premium Chromebooks, on the other hand, have larger screens (13” or more — comparable to a standard laptop), longer battery life and better hardware, and can cost anywhere from $400 to over $1,000. Nonetheless, there are many good options in the $300 to $700 price range.
Chromebook buying guide
Here’s what to consider when shopping for the best Chromebook for you:
• Processor. Because Chromebooks are meant for a limited set of functions (web browsing, working with documents, watching YouTube videos), their processors are typically less powerful than those in regular laptops or notebooks.
Cheaper Chromebooks feature Intel Celeron and Pentium processors, which are good enough for most users. But if you work with large image and video files, or multitask a lot, you’ll need one with Intel Core M or anything from Core i3 to i7. These will be more expensive, and usually range between $400 to $700 and up.
• Memory. Random Access Memory (RAM) is the short-term memory that computers use to temporarily store immediate information needed to run programs, web browsers and games. A computer’s RAM also determines system performance and how many processes, programs or browsing tabs you can run simultaneously.
When it comes to RAM for Chromebooks, you can choose anywhere between 4GB up to 16GB. Most, however, come with 4GB of RAM, which is enough for web browsing and working with documents. But if you want to multitask without any lagging, go for one that offers 8GB to 16GB.
• Storage. Because Chromebooks save files to Google Drive’s cloud storage services, their storage capacities tend to be on the low end compared to traditional laptops. Most Chromebooks come with roughly the same amount of storage as popular cell phones — typically 32GB or 64GB, though some higher-end options offer up to 128GB. Standard laptops, on the other hand, can have anything from 256GB up to a few terabytes. However, storage can often be expanded using microSD cards or external hard drives.
• Display. Some Chromebooks, like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, have screens that are just 10”, which is about the same size as a regular iPad. Others are more like traditional laptops, which have bigger screen sizes of 13” to 15”.
If you want your pictures and videos to look sharp, look for Chromebooks with a minimum resolution of 720p (1280 x 720) or, ideally, 1080p (1920 x 1080).
If you want a touchscreen and be able to use your Chromebook like an iPad or Amazon Fire tablet, consider 2-in-1 hybrids, which are versatile laptops that can transform into tablets.
• Ports. Chromebooks are all about simplicity, so they don’t usually offer a wide array of ports. Most models come with at least one or two USB ports (either type A, type C or both), a headphone jack and a microSD slot. USB ports and microSD slots are crucial if you want to expand storage using microSD cards or external hard drives. USB ports are also great for connecting add-ons such as printers, wireless mice, keyboards and so on.
1. Best overall: Acer Chromebook Spin 713
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB | Display: 13.5” 2K VertiView 3:2 (2256 x 1504) | Ports: 1 HDMI, 1 USB-A, 2 USB-C, headphone jack, microSD card slot
Take a close look at the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 if what you want is a versatile, feature-packed, durable and good all-around Chromebook.
The sturdy Spin 713 features a 10th-Gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage — giving it plenty of power and speed for even the busiest multitaskers. It also has a highly responsive touch display and, like most 2-in-1 laptops, a 360° hinge that lets you turn the screen in multiple directions and use it as a tablet.
It features a stylish and reinforced metal chassis that’s durable and drop-resistant. In fact, it’s U.S. Military Standard 810G-compliant, which means it can survive extreme temperatures and moisture, as well as drops of up to 4 feet. Additionally, this Chromebook’s Corning Gorilla Glass provides protection against scratches and cracks.
Another nice touch is that it comes with an HDMI port, somewhat of a rare find in a Chromebook. You also get two USB-C ports, one USB-A port, an audio jack and a microSD card slot, in case you want to add some more storage.
2. Editor’s pick: Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i3 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | Display: 13” FHD (1920 x 1080) | Camera: 720p | Ports: 2 USB-C, 1 USB-A, headphone jack, microSD slot
There are quite a few reasons to love the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5.
First, while most Chromebooks under $400 feature Intel Celeron processors, the Flex 5 sports a more powerful and faster Intel Core i3 processor.
Aside from speed, the Flex 5 offers a 1080p touchscreen and a convertible design that lets it turn into a tablet. Even so, thanks to its 13” display, it feels a bit more like a standard laptop, especially compared to smaller 2-in-1 Chromebooks.
The Flex 5 comes with a mix of useful ports, including two USB-C, one USB-A, a microSD slot for extra storage and a headphone jack. In addition, it’s compatible with the Lenovo digital pen, which is sold separately for about $30. The pen can be a great tool for drawing, sketching, jotting down notes or signing documents.
One drawback: the Flex 5’s 4GB memory is really on the lower end of the range, especially compared to Chromebook’s like the Acer Spin 713 (8GB). This may be a drawback, since you may notice some slowing down when working with multiple windows and tabs. Still, compared to cheaper Chromebooks and others in its price range, the Flex 5 is a solid performer, letting you get all your basic tasks done with minimal lag.
3. Best for low prices: HP Chromebook 14
CPU: Intel Celeron N4000 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB | Display: 14” HD (1366 x 768) | Camera: Wide Vision HD Camera | Ports: 2 USB-C, 1 USB-A, headphone jack, microSD slot
If you’re looking for efficiency at a very low price, the HP Chromebook 14 is an excellent choice.
This 14” Chromebook has a traditional laptop design and typically sells for under $250. It comes with an Intel Celeron N4000 processor, 4GB of memory and 32GB for storage. Even though this storage level is pretty low, it can be expanded using a micro SD card. Like all Chromebooks, it can also rely on cloud storage via Google Drive to complement the local storage space.
The HP Chromebook 14 has a wide-angle webcam with a 88° field of view that can capture more than one person during virtual meetings and presentations. Additionally, it features a dual-speakers system, which alongside the high-definition display is the perfect combination for streaming Netflix and YouTube videos.
For another great 14″ Chromebook choice in this price range, take a look at the Acer Chromebook 314. It also offers portability, good performance, 64GB of storage and a 14” full HD display, albeit for a slightly higher price — around $280.
4. Best for low prices runner-up: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 128GB eMMC | Display: 10.1” FHD (1920 x 1200) | Front camera: 2MP | Rear camera: 8MP | Ports: 1 USB-C
What stands out about the $300 Lenovo Chromebook Duet is that it’s technically a 10.1” tablet with a detachable keyboard and magnetically attached stand cover. Additionally, it has an ultraportable design that looks like a book when shut, and it weighs roughly 1 pound (in tablet mode), making it an excellent lightweight travel companion.
In terms of performance, the Duet features a MediaTek Helio P60T processor, 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage. This is good enough for seamless web browsing and other light computing tasks. Plus the 128GB storage capacity is surprisingly large considering many Chromebooks at this price point tend to come with 32GB or 64GB. It also has a long battery life, giving up to 10 hours of use.
There are some drawbacks, however. For starters, the Duet has a small keyboard that many users report feels cramped. And there’s only one USB-C port, meaning it lacks useful ports like a USB-A and headphone jack.
5. Best Chromebook for students: Samsung Chromebook Plus V2
CPU: Intel Celeron 3965Y | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Display: 12.2” FHD (1920 x 1200) | Camera: 13MP | Ports: 1 USB-A, 2 USB-C, headphone jack, microSD slot
Typically selling for about $400, the Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 is versatile and fast, and a great option for high schoolers and younger students.
This Chromebook features a 12.2” FHD touchscreen and a 360° hinge that allows it to transform into a tablet. This also gives you the flexibility to rotate the screen into tent and display mode, which can be really useful during video calls, presentations or even when streaming your favorite movies and TV shows.
We like that it comes with a built-in pen with a clamp on the side to store it. The stylus is really handy for writing, drawing, sketching on the screen and even taking screenshots.
The 1MP front-facing camera isn’t the best, but it is adequate enough to be used for virtual meetings on Google Meet (that is, if you don’t mind some pixelation). The second camera, however, features a remarkably high resolution of 13MP and autofocus. So when folded into tablet mode, you can take beautifully clear pics or videos and easily add them to your projects and presentations.
Another good option for students is the Samsung Chromebook 4. It boasts a larger 15.6” FHD display (bigger than many traditional laptops), a 1080p display and a spacious keyboard. It’s cheaper too — roughly $100 less than the Chromebook Plus V2. The downside, however, is that the Samsung Chromebook 2 doesn’t have a touch screen, nor can it become a tablet.
6. Best Google Chromebook: Google Pixelbook Go
CPU: 8th Gen Intel Core m3 – i7 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Storage: 64GB – 256GB | Display: 13.3” Full HD (1920 x 1080) | Front camera: 1080p | Ports: 2 USB-C, headphone jack
Selling for $650, the Pixelbook Go may not be the cheapest option out there, but it’s the best Google-made Chromebook. It’s stylish, slim and has everything needed to deliver solid performance.
The Pixelbook Go is available in a variety of configurations and prices. The entry-level model (our recommendation) starts at $650 and features an Intel Core m3 processor, 8GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. This should be enough power for most users, but if you want a more robust system, you can opt for an Intel Core i5 or i7, 4K display and up to 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
The biggest drawback to upgrading is the price; the premium model goes for a hefty $1,400. This makes it more expensive than many full laptops, including Apple’s excellent MacBook Pro, which starts at $1,200.
Some of the Pixelbook Go’s stand-out features include an elegant magnesium finish, a 13” high-definition touchscreen, a backlit keyboard and a 1080p built-in webcam. It also has a long-lasting battery (up to 12 hours) with the ability to charge enough for two hours of use in just 20 minutes.
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