Best Chromebooks

Updated March 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

81 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
263 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

Shopping guide for best Chromebooks

Last Updated March 2019

Lightweight, fast, and affordable. These are just a few of the advantages of a Chromebook. For those who aren't aware of why these devices are so different, Chromebooks run apps on a cloud-based system that keeps your computer clean and virus-free.

Even though a Chromebook has much less memory than other types of laptops, you don't want to skimp on the RAM. The best models have 8GB of RAM, feature an Intel processor, and have a touchscreen. A Chromebook is not suitable for gaming, but you will still be happiest with a model that has full HD resolution.

Chromebooks are made by a number of manufacturers and we've listed several of the top models in this article. You can either pick one of our favorites or continue reading to learn more about how these laptops work, what kind of apps are available, and how compatible different peripherals are with Chrome's operating system.

Chromebooks are becoming more popular; in 2016, they outsold Macs for the first time since their 2011 release.

What is a Chromebook?

First things first: what is a Chromebook and how is it different from other laptops? Most laptops run on Windows, and those made by Apple run on Mac OS, but Chromebooks run on Chrome OS.

Chrome OS is just another operating system, but if you're used to Windows or Mac OS, the look and feel will be very different. Rather than programs, Chrome OS has apps, and it runs mostly online, with most of your documents stored in the cloud.

Let's take a look at the good and the bad things about Chromebooks.

What we love

  • Chromebooks are extremely affordable, with most models under $300, and many between $100 and $200.

  • Since Chromebooks rely on cloud storage, you can access your files from other computers and devices, as long as you have an internet connection.

  • Many users report Chrome OS is fast, stable, clean, and easy to use.

  • Chromebooks are thin and lightweight compared to similar laptops.

  • Due to their lightweight operating system and SSD hard drives, Chromebooks take as little as eight seconds from being switched on to being ready to use.

What's not so great

  • Although some apps can be used offline, you need to be connected to the internet to get the most from your Chromebook. It's not ideal if you like to use your laptop on the go in places with no Wi-Fi.

  • You can't use your existing software – such as Photoshop or Microsoft Office – on a Chromebook, although you will find alternatives.

  • You'll probably end up paying for cloud storage. Google gives all Chromebook owners a free 100GB of Google Drive storage, but only for two years. After that you're downgraded to the usual 15GB free storage, unless you're willing to pay for an upgrade.

You can't use the full Microsoft Office suite on a Chromebook, but you can access an online version of Office. However, Google has its own Office-like suite, which many users find just as good – and it's free.

Considerations for selecting a Chromebook

Screen

You’ll find a few important features to weigh when choosing the best Chromebook screen for your needs.

  • Screen Size: Chromebooks are generally designed to be small and portable for maximum convenience. As such, the most common Chromebook screen sizes fall between 10 and 15.6 inches. You likely won't find any 17-inch behemoths just yet.

  • Resolution: Lower-end Chromebooks tend to have 1366 x 768 pixel displays, but if you're willing to spend a little more, you'll find plenty of models with a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. At the top of the range, you’ll find options that offer crystal clear 2,560 x 1,700 resolution.

  • Touchscreen: If usine a mouse gets you down, look for a Chromebook with touchscreen capability. You'll pay more than you would for an equivalent model without a touchscreen, but many people are more than happy to pay that premium for speed and convenience.

CPU

The CPU, i.e. the central processing unit or processor, is the "brain" of a computer, and helps determine how quickly and smoothly your Chromebook operates. The faster the CPU runs (measured in GHz), the more processes it can run at any given time.

Chromebooks either have Intel processors or Advanced RISC Machine (ARM) processors. ARM processors are energy efficient, powerful, and more optimized for Android apps, but Intel processors generally perform slightly better and allow you to access closed-source software like Steam and all of its games. Plus, Chromebooks with Intel CPUs allow you to more seamlessly install a Linux distribution operating system for more functionality.

RAM

Random access memory (RAM) is another factor that influences how quickly your computer runs. It’s essentially active memory for running programs.

Most Chromebooks come with 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB of RAM, however there are high-end models with 16GB of RAM.

If you're going to multitask frequently, we definitely recommend opting for a faster 4GB or 8GB model. 16GB versions are very capable, but unless you’re installing additional operating systems or playing demanding games, that amount of RAM is overkill for a Chromebook.

Internal storage

Historically, Chromebooks have included little internal storage compared to other computers.

This is because your documents, photos, media, and other files are stored in the cloud rather than on your computer (although you can opt to store a limited amount of data on your hard drive).

Most have between 16GB and 64GB of internal storage, which should be sufficient for the majority of users and can be expanded by using a microSD card. That said, there are top-flight models available with laptop-rivaling levels of storage. For example, the Google Pixelbook offers up to 512GB of internal storage.

Connectivity

While you’ll get the most out of your Chromebook by connecting to the internet, offline functionalities are constantly being added. If you save your media locally, you can play back movies, watch TV shows, read your Kindle, and listen to music offline. There are countless offline apps available as well, including games, photo editors, word processors, and more.

If you do want to go online, you’ll have to use Wi-Fi unless you purchase a USB Ethernet adapter. Additionally, you can surf the web using 3G or 4G, but you will need to set up and pay for a cellular data plan.

If your cell phone includes a mobile hotspot feature, you can provide internet access to the Chromebook through the cell phone. Remember, though, doing this may incur data charges on your cell phone bill.

Cooling

Chromebooks produce significantly less heat than laptops and desktops due to their solid-state hard drives and power-efficient processors. That’s why many, but not all, Chromebooks offer fanless designs that are quieter, less prone to breaking, and more energy efficient than their more powerful cousins. Some Chromebooks, such as the Yoga C630 and Acer Spin 13, do include cooling fans though.

DID YOU KNOW?

A file “stored in the cloud" is actually saved in a datacenter, rather than on your computer. You can access it anytime, as long as you're connected to the internet.

DID YOU KNOW?

If your Chromebook runs on an Intel processor, the Intel Core CPU is superior to the Intel Celeron, but it does come with a higher price tag.

Tips

Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your Chromebook:

  • All Chromebooks made from 2017 onward – as well as some earlier models – will be able to run Android apps.

  • Chromebooks sync your bookmarks, passwords, and apps. So, if you're using Chrome and your Google account on another device, you'll have all your bookmarks and other preferences replicated to your Chromebook.

  • Parents can create supervised accounts for their kids to use, which track and limit online activity, and block certain sites.

  • Not all printers are compatible with Chromebooks, so it's worth checking if yours is before you buy.

EXPERT TIP

You'll need to install drivers or add-ons in order to use some apps offline, and you will normally need to do so when you're connected to the internet, so plan ahead.


Staff  | BestReviews

Price

One of the great things about Chromebooks is their reasonable price. While you can find pricier models out there, an average user can find a great Chromebook at a bargain price, compared to other laptops.

  • A very basic Chromebook with a smaller screen size, usually 11 inches, and 2GB of RAM should cost just $100 to $150.

  • Spend a little more, about $150 to $250, and you can find Chromebooks with larger screens, better resolution, 4GB of RAM, and faster CPUs.

  • While you can find some very basic models for slightly less, most touchscreen Chromebooks start around $250 and can cost over $500 for high-end models with lots of extra features.

  • Mid-range Chromebooks cost roughly $250 to $400. They should have good HD screens, decent CPUs, and at least 4GB or RAM. You can also find fanless and touchscreen models in this price range, if desired.

  • High-end Chromebooks cost between $400 and $600. You can find the odd Chromebook for over $600, but we wouldn't recommend spending this much. For this price you should get 8GB of RAM, at least 32GB internal storage, the best CPU available, a 13- to 15-inch screen, HD resolution, and all the bells and whistles you could hope for.

Chromebooks generally have an extremely good battery life. Expect to go anywhere between 6 and 13 hours before you have to recharge.

FAQ

Q. Can I use my Chromebook when I'm offline?

A. You can use your Chromebook while you're offline, but you won't be able to enjoy its full functionality. In addition to accessing locally stored files (for instance, play movies or edit photos you have stored on your hard drive), you can use Google Drive to create documents or spreadsheets, read saved articles in Pocket, and play various games.

Q. Are Chromebooks suitable for gaming?

A. Unfortunately, Chromebooks aren't a good choice for gaming. While you can download game apps, these are generally basic games of the sort you could play on a smartphone, rather than sophisticated video games. Because you can't run and install programs on a Chromebook, you can't install your favorite video games.

Q. Can Chromebooks get viruses?

A. The unique selling point of Chromebooks is that they almost exclusively run online and you can't download or run any executable programs (only apps), which means they can't get viruses. You can, however, download a bad Chrome extension, but once you remove the extension, everything will go back to normal.

The team that worked on this review
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