Looking for a dependable portable computer that can accomplish more than a tablet but won’t break the bank like most laptops? It’s possible that a Chromebook is in order. They were introduced a decade ago as stripped-down, budget-friendly alternatives to normal laptops, and they competed directly with the then-popular little Windows-based netbooks.
Netbooks have all but vanished, while Chromebooks have exploded in popularity. Many schools and businesses choose them because of their inexpensive prices, simplicity, and ease of management, and they’re increasingly becoming more popular among home users as well.
Chromebooks used to all look and work the same, but over the last decade, they’ve grown to incorporate a larger range of features and designs while remaining (mostly) affordable.
Is a Chromebook Right for You?
Chromebooks are powered by Chrome OS, a Linux-based operating system that is tightly integrated with the Google Chrome browser. The computers boot up in a matter of seconds and offer a straightforward, user-friendly interface, particularly for those who are already accustomed with Google’s browser.
Chromebooks, in comparison to a regular laptop or tablet, are limited in what they can do online and especially offline. Before purchasing any piece of technology, it’s critical to assess the benefits and drawbacks. It all boils down to what you’re prepared to give up for the sake of price, simplicity, and portability with Chromebooks.
- Budget-friendly. It’s easy to find a capable Chromebook for well under $500, with a number of basic systems costing $250 or less. Premium models have become available in recent years, but even those seldom set you back more than $1000.
- Travel-friendly. Not only are Chromebooks lightweight and easy to transport, but it’s also dead simple to wipe them before crossing borders and reload everything afterward thanks to their cloud-based approach. If you lose or break one on the road, securing a replacement won’t cost a fortune either.
- User-friendly: Chromebooks are uncomplicated and ready to go out of the box, so almost anyone can use them with ease. Even better, Chromebooks have no bloatware and unobtrusive software updates: most of the time, they just work.
- Security-friendly: From parental controls to built-in malware and virus protection, Chromebooks are pretty secure by default, with little meddling required on your end.
- Android-friendly: Select Chromebooks were given access to the Google Play store in 2016, and today most Chromebooks on the market can run Android apps. This has greatly expanded their capabilities in word processing, streaming, and much more.
- Limited local storage: Because Chrome OS relies so much on the cloud, Chromebooks rarely have much in the way of internal storage. The most you’re likely to find is 256GB in premium models, while cheaper versions typically come with a lot less.
- Not for heavy computing: Chromebooks are ideal for word processing, casual browsing, and streaming media. The software isn’t built for demanding tasks like gaming, graphic design, or video editing, and outside a few high-end models, the hardware isn’t either.
- App quality and quantity: Support for Android apps is a step in the right direction, but compared to Windows and Mac the number of useful apps available for Chrome OS is still small. Their quality varies greatly as well.
- Wi-Fi is a must: Yes, there are apps like Google Docs that work while disconnected, but Chromebooks are most effective when they’re online. Keep this in mind if you often find yourself working in areas with limited internet access.
- Lack of compatible accessories: Chromebooks are designed to be no-frills, which can be a detriment if you rely on laptop peripherals for your workflow. Very few are Chromebook-compatible relative to Windows and Mac.
If you’ve settled on a Chromebook, these are the systems we currently recommend, based on your needs and budget. They vary in price and features, but they all weigh less than three pounds, have an 8-12 hour battery life, and at least 32GB of storage with the option to expand.
1. Best Budget Chromebook: Samsung Chromebook 4
The Samsung Chromebook 4 is a great value, with a variety of unique features that appeal to both travellers and budget-conscious consumers. First, there’s the internal storage of 64GB. When compared to other Chromebooks at this price point, which often have half as much space, this is a significant difference. There’s also a microSD card slot, as well as USB-A and USB-C connectors.
However, the USB-C connector is also utilised to charge the device. Then there’s the Chromebook 4’s military-grade design, which makes it resistant to drops, vibrations, temperature changes, dust, and low pressure. Its sturdiness, however, does not transfer to bulk, as it weighs in just under three pounds. On a full charge, the Chromebook 4 offers up to 12 hours of battery life, which is among the finest we’ve seen at any price point.
Surprisingly, there’s also the option to boost the RAM from 4GB to 6GB. This tiny modification makes a tremendous difference and doesn’t cost much more if you want to keep numerous tabs open in Chrome. The screen is the only visible flaw with this computer.
Not only is it small (11.6”), but the colours are sometimes washed out, and the viewing angle is extremely narrow: you must sit precisely in front of it to see it clearly. Aside from the screen difficulties, the Samsung Chromebook 4 is a fantastic value for money and one of the best Chromebooks for travel because to its long battery life and solid yet lightweight design.
- Twice the storage of other budget models
- Compact and durable build
- Excellent battery life
- Low-quality screen
- The single USB-C port is also used for charging.
2. Best Larger-Screen Chromebook: ASUS C423
Look no farther than the ASUS Chromebook C423 if you’re concerned about the small screen featured on most budget Chromebooks. It’s one of the few low-cost devices with a 14-inch display. In addition to the larger anti-glare screen, the ASUS C423 features a 180-degree hinge that allows you to lay it flat and share what you’re watching with others without crowding the screen.
Does a larger screen imply a higher level of quality? While the ASUS C423’s display is substantially better than the Samsung Chromebook 4 above, laptops in this price bracket aren’t known for having the finest images, and this is no exception. For a screen of this size, the HD resolution is likewise pretty low.
However, keep in mind that a Chromebook is best for light online browsing, word processing, and media streaming. The screen is adequate for those tasks and provides ample space for them to be completed. The computer features five ports for expansion: two USB-A, two USB-C, and one SD card slot. This allows you to expand the internal 32GB storage without having to rely on the cloud altogether.
Dual bottom-firing stereo speakers produce strong, if muffled, sound, and there’s a headphone port for when you don’t want to share your music with everyone. With a weight of under three pounds and a thickness of less than an inch, the ASUS C423 is surprisingly portable for a larger low-cost model. Its aluminium finish gives it a high-end appearance that belies its low price.
- 14” display, with narrow bezel and 180-degree hinge
- SD card slot makes it easy to add extra storage
- Plenty of expansion ports
- Average screen and relatively-low resolution
- ‘Clicky’ trackpad
3. Best Value 2-in-1 Chromebook: Lenovo C330
The Lenovo Chromebook C330 combines the power of a laptop with the portability of a tablet, and it can be configured to display in one of four modes (laptop, tablet, tent, or stand) depending on your needs. The Lenovo C330 has a slim design — it’s an inch thick and weights the same as “a hardcover book” — and a 360-degree HD touchscreen, making it ideal for a variety of jobs whether you’re at home or on the go.
It has a modest 11.6-inch screen, but it also has an HDMI connector for connecting it to a larger monitor or TV. There’s also 64GB of internal storage, as well as an SD card reader, USB-A, and USB-C connectors. This makes adding additional memory via a memory card or thumb drive simple. Bluetooth 4.2 (with dual-device connectivity), a 720p webcam, and a pair of 2-watt speakers are among the other handy features.
One disadvantage of the Lenovo C330 may be its processor: the MediaTek 1.7GHz processor is slower than the Intel Celeron processors found in most of the competition. Despite its performance issues, the Lenovo Chromebook C330 provides a lot of value for the money. It’s a versatile system for versatile people, with plenty of expansion ports and a variety of viewing positions.
- Flexible viewing positions
- Useful amount of storage and expansion options
- HDMI port helps make up for small screen size
- Basic webcam is nice to have
- Small screen
- Slower processor
4. Best Chromebook Overall: Google Pixelbook Go
We couldn’t possibly leave Google’s Pixelbook behind. Use this list as a guide because it checks so many of the boxes. The combination of an Intel 8th-gen M3 CPU and 8GB RAM in the base model provides solid performance, and the 13.3′′ 1080p touchscreen is no slouch either. It’s also more fun to use than many Chromebooks because to the lighted keyboard and extra-large touchpad.
The Go’s dual front-firing speakers and Bluetooth 4.2 make it a good entertainment pick, while the 1080p front-facing webcam outperforms the competition and makes it a viable option for work-from-home video calls. Even the base Pixelbook Go M3 performs admirably, but if those specs aren’t sufficient, there are lots of more options.
Models with 128GB or 256GB of storage, 16GB of RAM, an i5 or i7 processor, and even a 4K display are available. Performance isn’t a concern here, at least not if you have the cash. One surprising omission: unlike several of the less priced devices we’ve looked at, the Go lacks an SD card port.
It does, however, have two USB-C connections, which can be used to attach a portable drive or USB stick for additional capacity. The Google Pixelbook Go is a terrific illustration of how, like with many things in life, if you’re willing to spend a little more, you get a lot more. It’s a great option if you’re new to Chromebooks or looking to update your current device, and it’s also our top Chromebook pick overall.
- Solid performance, even on the base model
- Impressive 13″ touchscreen display
- Plenty of upgrade options
- Excellent battery life
- The base model could do with more storage for the money
- No SD slot
5. Best Premium Chromebook: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook
If you’re looking for a fully loaded machine, the new Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, a premium 2-in-1 laptop with excellent specs, is the way to go. The base model has a fast 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a large (by Chromebook standards) 256GB SSD. Because of its 360-degree hinge and 13-inch 4K AMOLED touch display, it can also be used as a tablet.
When not in use, a stylus pen is supplied, which is stored in its own designated slot on the side. A fingerprint sensor, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 4.0, a 720p webcam and 13MP rear camera, and a combined UFS/microSD card slot are among the other notable features. Samsung’s new Chromebook is available in two colours: red and grey.
It’s only half an inch thick and weighs about two pounds, making it extremely light and portable. However, the tiny profile, great performance, and 4K screen come at a price: battery life. It has the shortest runtime of any of our suggested systems, at only eight hours. This high-end Chromebook is a long cry from the days when Chromebooks were all stripped-down and low-cost.
It’s a razor-sharp system with a lot going for it. Internals and display are equivalent to many conventional laptops, but so is the price. The Galaxy Chromebook is equivalent in price to comparable Windows PCs or a (lower-spec) reconditioned MacBook Air, so it will be fascinating to watch how popular this high-end Chromebook becomes.
One point in its favour, at least for the time being, is the pair of Galaxy Buds wireless earphones that come standard with each purchase from Samsung. We were so thrilled with these that we named them one of our top wireless earbuds of the year, so getting them for free is a huge plus.
- Impressive specifications and performance
- Great screen quality
- Fingerprint sensor
- Ultra-portable and attractive
- Unimpressive battery life
- Only includes Bluetooth 4, not the latest Bluetooth 5
- Higher price means some people will prefer a Windows or refurbished Mac laptop
A Chromebook may be the device for you if you want to save money and don’t mind foregoing some of the perks of Windows and Mac computers. They’ve gone a long way since their debut on the market about a decade ago. What were previously solely low-cost, bare-bones computers are now available in a variety of price points and configurations.
Whatever Chromebook you choose, you’ll get a laptop that’s simple to use, portable, and capable of performing at least basic computing activities (and sometimes a whole lot more). That could be the perfect combo for many folks.