Best Chromebooks

Updated October 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
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.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

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

32 Models Considered
24 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
145 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

Buying guide for best chromebooks

Since they were first introduced in 2011, Chromebooks have slowly been redefining what laptops are. Instead of being computers with local software and storage that cost an arm and a leg, Chromebooks run all of their applications through a web-browser based operating system, Chrome. What’s more, they are a lot more affordable than typical PCs or Macs.

Chromebooks are designed for people who do most of their computing work online. To make things even more convenient, Google handles the care-and-feeding tasks like security updates so users never have to bother with them.

Most Chromebooks are budget models — modest laptops that only cost a few hundred dollars. However, there are plenty of premium Chromebooks that are built to compete with high-end traditional laptops as well. Mid-level Chromebooks are the most popular consumer choice because they are affordable without feeling underpowered.

Since many major technology manufacturers like Dell and Samsung produce great Chromebooks, the market is pretty crowded. Thus, it can be a challenge to differentiate the so-so models from the ones worth buying. Here is everything you need to know, including information about our top picks on the Chromebook market.

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

What is a Chromebook?

Let’s talk about the basics first. What is a Chromebook? How do these machines differ from other laptops? And what would make you choose one over the other?

First, let’s talk about operating systems, or OS. Right now, most laptops run on Windows 10, and those made by Apple run on MacOS. Chromebooks run on the Chrome OS.

Chrome is just another OS. You might have a bit of an adjustment if you are used to using a Windows laptop or Mac: the look and feel of the Chromebook will be different. Rather than programs, Chrome OS utilizes downloadable apps from the Google Play store. It runs mostly online, and most of your documents are stored online, in the cloud.

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of working with a Chromebook.

Chromebook pros

  • Easy access to files. Since Chromebooks rely on cloud storage, you can access your files from the Chromebook as well as other computers and devices as long as you have an internet connection.
  • User friendly. Chrome OS is based on Google’s Chrome internet browser, which is something that most people are at least vaguely familiar with. Hence, it’s quite easy to learn and get used to the layout of a Chromebook and how it works.
  • Secure. Chromebooks are incredibly secure. Google provides frequent updates, and if a Chromebook is ever lost or stolen, you can remotely log out of it so your content cannot be accessed by anyone else. Further, getting set up on a new Chromebook is as easy as signing in to your Google account and resuming your activity.
  • Fast. Due to their lightweight OS and SSDs, Chromebooks take as little as eight seconds from being switched on to being ready to use.

Chromebook cons

  • Internet requirement. Although some apps on a Chromebook can be used offline, you need to be connected to the internet to get the most functionality out of it. It's not ideal if you like to use your laptop on the go in places with no internet.
  • New software. You can't use existing software you might already have, such as Photoshop or Microsoft Office, on a Chromebook. However, you will certainly be able to find alternatives to take their place.
  • Storage cost. Depending on what your needs are, you may very well end up paying for cloud storage. Google gives all Chromebook owners a free 100GB of Google Drive storage, but that only lasts for two years. After that, you are downgraded to the usual 15GB free storage unless you are willing to pay for an upgrade.

Are you trying to decide how much RAM you need? We prefer Chromebooks with 8GB of RAM because that makes it easy to have a ton of tabs open at once. However, for most students and entry-level users, a Chromebook with just 4GB of RAM may be enough for the work they need to do.

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Key considerations

Screen

There are a few important aspects of the screen to consider when choosing the best Chromebook screen for your needs. These include size, resolution, and whether the screen is a touchscreen.

  • Screen Size: Chromebooks are generally designed to be small and portable for maximum convenience on the go. As such, the most common Chromebook screens 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. If you are willing to spend a little more, you will also find plenty of models with a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. At the top of the range, you will find options that offer a crystal clear 2,560 x 1,700 resolution.

  • Touchscreen: If using a mouse, wireless or otherwise, is not your preferred method of computer operation, look for a Chromebook with touchscreen capability. You can expect to 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, convenience, and an overall nicer build quality.

CPU

The CPU is the central processing unit, or the processor, of a computer. In other words, it is the "brain" of a computer. In a Chromebook, the CPU affects how quickly and smoothly the machine operates. The faster the CPU runs (measured in GHz), the more processes a Chromebook can run at any given time.

Chromebooks have Intel processors or Advanced RISC Machine (ARM) processors. ARM processors are energy efficient, powerful, and more optimized for Android apps. Intel processors generally perform slightly better than that, and they allow you to access closed-source software like Steam and all of its games. What’s more, Chromebooks with Intel CPUs allow you to more seamlessly install a Linux distribution OS for added functionality.

RAM

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

Most Chromebooks come with 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB of RAM. However, models with 16GB of RAM are also available.

If you find yourself frequently multitasking on your computer, we definitely recommend opting for a faster model with 4GB or 8GB of RAM. Versions with 16GB of RAM are very capable, but unless you are 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 as compared to other computers.

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

Most of these machines have between 16GB and 64GB of internal storage. This should be sufficient for the majority of users, and it 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 Go offers up to 256GB of internal storage.

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 Asus Chromebook Flip and Acer Chromebook Spin 713, do include cooling fans, though.

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 to be just as good. What’s more, that suite is free.

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Tips

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

  • Beef up on security. Make sure your Google account is as secure as possible — enable two-factor authentication (2FA) by logging in to your account from any browser and setting it up in your security settings. Two-factor authentication will ask you to verify, using your phone, that the user in question is actually you. This way, if your password ever becomes compromised, your data will still be safe.
  • Determine your screen preference. Take some time to consider whether or not you want a Chromebook with a touchscreen. Touchscreen tablets (also known as “2-in-1s”) are great if you use a lot of apps that benefit from touch controls. However, you can save a lot of money by getting a model without a touchscreen, especially if you prefer a trackpad to begin with.
  • Find out how much support you will get. Google provides support and updates for each model of Chromebook, but it only does so for a limited amount of time. Usually, that period lasts at least two years, but often, it lasts longer. Before you buy a specific Chromebook, do a quick search to see how much longer Google will support it. We advise potential buyers to make sure they will continue to get updates for at least a year or two.
chromebooks
Did you know?
A file “stored in the cloud" is actually saved in a data center rather than on your computer. You can access it any time, as long as you're connected to the internet.
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Accessories

Once you have picked out your Chromebook, don’t forget to pick up the gear you will need to keep it safe and get the most out of it.

Laptop backpack: Tzowla Water-Resistant Laptop Backpack
If you plan to take your Chromebook with you anywhere, you will need a bag to keep it in. We like Tzowla’s Water-Resistant Laptop Backpack because it has the features of backpacks that cost twice as much. It has extra pockets on the inside, including a hidden pocket. It has straps for attaching to rolling luggage. It even has a lock for the main compartment that requires a passcode to open. If you need to buy a budget backpack but don’t want to skimp on features, this is a backpack to strongly consider.

Screen cleaner: Screen Mom Screen Cleaner Kit
Keeping your Chromebook screen clean is essential for seeing everything clearly, especially if yours features a touchscreen. Keep a screen cleaning kit on hand, and make sure you’re wiping away dust at least every few days. We recommend the Screen Mom Screen Cleaner Kit because it has everything you need, and the cleaner spray is safe for all types of screens, even TV screens.

USB-C hub: Anker 5-in-1 USB-C Adapter
If your Chromebook has a USB-C port and not many others, getting a USB-C hub that adds additional ports is a must. One of our favorite hubs is the Anker 5-in-1 USB-C Adapter because it allows you to add a gigabit Ethernet port, an HDMI port, and three additional USB 3.0 devices. Anker’s hub has the right features, but more importantly, the brand also has the right reputation — there are hundreds of similar models available, but many are flimsy and made by no-name manufacturers. Anker has made a name for itself as a designer of reliable tech.

Laptop tray: Sofia + Sam Multitasking Laptop Bed Tray
If you ever work or surf the internet from your bed or recliner, you know how helpful it can be to have a sturdy surface on which to operate your laptop. This attractive and affordable bamboo bed desk from Sofai + Sam is large enough to accommodate a 15-inch Chromebook with room for a mouse or an 18-inch laptop without a mouse. We love the little storage drawer for your phone, pens, or tablet of paper, and when you’re not using the desk for work or play, it can pull double-duty as a tray for serving breakfast in bed to someone special.

As time goes by, more new devices, including Chromebooks, will be equipped with the advanced connectivity of WiFi 6. This doesn’t mean you must go out and buy all new equipment, but you may need to eventually upgrade your router to one that supports this technology.

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Pricing

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 as compared to other laptops on the market.

Entry-level: A basic Chromebook with a smaller screen size (usually 11 inches), a less sturdy form factor, and 2GB of RAM should cost a low price of $100 to $150. Spend a little more, about $150 to $250, and you can find Chromebooks with larger screens, better resolution, 4GB of RAM, faster CPUs, and useful features such as a webcam and touchpad.

Mid-range: Chromebooks in the mid-range cost roughly $250 to $500. They should have a HD display, decent CPUs, and at least 4GB of RAM. You can also find models featuring a fanless design, a backlit keyboard, and a dedicated tablet mode in this price range.

Expensive: Premium Chromebooks cost anywhere between $500 and $1,500. The choices in this price range have internals that compete with the best laptops on the market. As such, they are most appropriate for power users. If you are looking for a Chromebook optimized for multitasking, a long battery life, a crystal-clear UHD display, and an exceptional build quality, these models are worth investing in.

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

FAQ

Q. Can I use my Chromebook when I am offline?

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

Q. Are Chromebooks suitable for gaming?

A. Unfortunately, Chromebooks are not 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). Therefore, this means the computers can't get viruses. However, it is possible that you could download a bad Chrome extension. Once you remove the extension, though, everything will go back to normal. Every once in a while, you may find a third-party Chrome OS extension that causes problems, but removing the extension will resolve any issues.

Q. What is WiFi 6?

A. This is a technology that arrived in 2019 and is considered the “next generation” after WiFi 5. It involves faster internet speeds on a network level. For homes and businesses with multiple devices plugging in to the internet each day, it can help improve overall speed and efficiency. Note: in order to enjoy the benefits of this technology, you must have a router that supports WiFi 6.

Q. How can I save money on a Chromebook?

A. One of the best ways to buy a top-shelf Chromebook for a low price is to browse Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart around the holidays for major sales. You may be surprised at the deep discounts available on Chromebooks during Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the weeks before Christmas. But if you’re buying a Chromebook, as we have mentioned, you may be pleasantly surprised by the low price of many great offerings from the likes of ASUS, Acer, Samsung, HP, Lenovo, and Google.

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