BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Electronics

What is a Chromebook?

Chromebook features and abilities

How many times have you switched on your computer, only to be greeted with a screen that loudly proclaims that an update must be installed first? This can put a serious damper on your day even before you’ve had your second cup of coffee.

With a Chromebook, early-morning software updates are a thing of the past. But that’s only one aspect that makes the laptop running on Google’s software unique. For anybody who must be connected to the internet at all times and craves productivity, a Chromebook could be the ultimate tool.

A Chromebook is more than a laptop

The operating system

Like Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s macOS, Chrome OS is a unique operating system that provides functionality others don’t. It's built around simplicity, security and speed, so you can jump straight into your workday without having to sift through updates or complicated menus. That’s because Chrome OS makes all of Google’s software available from the start.

Apps such as Gmail, Docs, Slides and Sheets are built-in, and you also have access to the Chrome Web Store to download more. But the best part is that when you sign in to your Google account on a Chromebook, your Google Drive files and Chrome browser preferences are automatically synced.  

Think of a Chromebook as a device that runs purely on Google’s operating system and uses Google’s apps. It would have been more accurate if it was called a GoogleBook.

Do more with an active internet connection 

A Chromebook works best when constantly connected to the internet. You access your Google apps with the click of a button and you don’t need to worry about software updates. That all happens in the background, so you wouldn’t even notice that something is updating. 

But it also works great when you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection. All your recent documents, spreadsheets, presentations and emails are available with offline access. There is a caveat, though. You must pre-download content and enable offline access before losing connection.

And just like Windows’ Start button, Chromebooks have an Everything button. Simply click on it to find whatever app, service or file you're looking for. 

It’s more secure

A stumbling block for many users is deciding which antivirus and online protection to use. There are some free apps, but those could be dangerous in the long term. An easy solution comes with a Chromebook, as it has built-in virus protection.

But even if you manage to get a few nasties on your device, the Chrome OS keeps apps on your Chromebook separate. Through what Google calls Sandboxing, it means that even if one part of the hard drive gets infected, the rest are protected.

There’s also a process to check that no malware is on the system whenever a Chromebook boots up. The verified boot sequence ensures that all the files and apps on the Chromebook are supposed to be there and that nothing malicious slipped through the cracks. 

The devices

Chromebook is a catch-all phrase 

Typically, when someone refers to a Chromebook, they mean a laptop. But even by Google’s definition, a Chromebook can be a laptop, a detachable or a tablet. The common denominator is that they all operate through Google’s Chrome OS. 

Although you can buy numerous gadgets with Chrome OS already installed,  you don’t need to buy a Chromebook specifically. It can be loaded onto any device, laptop or tablet, as long as it meets the hardware specifications. In essence, you can create your own Chromebook.

Chrome OS Flex

If you have an older tablet or laptop that’s struggling with everyday Windows tasks, consider switching to Chrome OS Flex. It’s free to download and use.

Not all older computers and tablets are supported, though. It has most Chrome OS functions but doesn’t have things such as the verified boot and automatic firmware updates. And Chrome OS Flex does not support Android apps or Google Play.

What you need to buy for a Chromebook

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2

This 13.3-inch laptop has 8 gigabytes of memory, uses an Intel Core i3 central processing unit and has a QLED display with a maximum resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

HP Chromebook x360 14a 2-in-1 Laptop

Need a laptop and a tablet in one? Then this HP gadget is the perfect device, as the display flips all the way around. It has a 14-inch touchscreen display, 4GB of memory and 64GB of internal storage. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Google Pixelbook Go

Google’s laptop built around the Chrome OS system gives you 12 hours of battery life, has 8GB of memory and a 13.3-inch display. It weighs less than 2 pounds and is only half an inch thick.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Lenovo Chromebook S330 Laptop

This 14-inch Lenovo Chromebook has 64GB of internal storage, 4GB of memory and weighs only 3 pounds. It has a 720p web camera, built-in speakers and several USB ports.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Acer Chromebook Spin 311 Convertible Laptop

By flipping the screen over on this laptop, it transforms into an 11.6-inch tablet. It has 32GB of storage and 4GB of memory, and the battery can last for up to 10 hours.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3 11-inch Laptop

This Chromebook has 64GB of internal storage, 4GB of memory and a PowerVR GX6250 graphics processor. Like the other convertibles, you can use it as a tablet by flipping the 11-inch touchscreen over. It has several USB ports and a headphone jack.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: