On a first look, Chromebooks are a breed of laptops designed to be easy and safe to use, compact and affordable. But as I’m explaining in this thorough buying guide, Chromebooks are not the ideal pick for for everyone though.
They start at as little as $199 these days and for that kind of money you’ll get a fully functional computer able to handle well basic everyday activities, like browsing, emailing, watching video content, listening to music, editing texts and so on. In other words, Chromebooks are excellent for students or just for those of you with a web-focused activity.
But there are quite a few things Chromebooks cannot handle; among them, they can’t run specialized software that works on Windows or OSX powered laptops or modern AAA games, and they can’t really handle heavy multitasking in general. As long as you understand their limits, there’s a fair chance you’ll get along well with a Chromebook; otherwise, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
But which is the best Chromebook of the moment? Which are the devices that are really worth your heard earned buck? That’s a tough one, as each of you desire different things in your computer. You might value more an excellent screen, a slim and light body, or maybe a comfortable keyboard or long battery life on each charge. But there are quite a few devices that checks most of those boxes, and you’ll find out more about them in the following paragraphs.
A few things about Chromebooks
Before we get to talk about the actual Chromebooks though, there are a few things I should add here, because I want you to really understand what to expect from such a computer (if you already do, just scroll past this section):
- Chromebooks don’t run Windows or Mac Os and none of the software designed for those platforms. Chromebooks run Chrome OS, a browser-based operating system built around Google’s Chrome browser. If you’re familiar with that one, you’ll quickly get along with a Chromebook as well. The interface is minimalistic, you don’t have to deal with updates or viruses or any other nuisances, and you get to install apps from the Chrome OS or the Goole Play Stores.
- Chromebooks are low-power computers meant for basic tasks. AAA games or specialized software are not going to work on them, as they are not designed for Chrome OS, and while these devices can multitask between several different apps at once, it’s best not to push them much if you want them to run smoothly.
- Chromebooks are generally small and compact with 11.6, 13.3 or 14.0-inch screens, with only a few exceptions.
- Chromebooks are mostly Internet dependent, as Chrome OS and most of the apps are cloud based, thus need an active connection to access data on the servers. You can use Chromebooks offline, but with limited functionality.
For more details you should definitely check out my Chromebooks buying guide. And if you feel like all these things mentioned above are not exactly what you want in a laptop, perhaps you might want to have a look at my lists of the best ultrabooks of the moment or some of the more affordable options.
Chromebooks to consider
The table below includes the best Chromebooks of the moment, listed based on screen size, in alphabetical order. We’ll get in depth on some of the most important models further down.
|Acer Chromebook 11 CB3||$149||11.6″ HD TN matte||Intel Celeron N2840 / 2 GB RAM / 16 GB SSD||2.41 lbs||45 Wh|
|Acer Chromebook 11 C740||$269||11.6″ HD TN matte||Intel Celeron 3205U / 4 GB RAM / 16 GB SSD||2.87 lbs||45 Wh|
|Acer Chromebook R11||$259||11.6″ HD TN touch||Intel Celeron N3150 / 2 GB RAM / 32 GB SSD||2.76 lbs||35 Wh|
|Asus Chromebook C200||$179||11.6″ HD TN glossy||Intel Celeron N2840 / 2 GB RAM / 16 GB SSD||2.5 lbs||48 Wh|
|Asus Chromebook Flip||$249||10.1″ HD TN touch||Rockchip / 2 GB RAM / 16 GB SSD||2.0 lbs||31 Wh|
|Dell Chromebook 11||$219||11.6″ HD TN/IPS matte/touch||Intel Celeron N2840 / 2-4 GB RAM / 16 GB SSD||2.93 lbs||43 Wh|
|HP Chromebook 11||$189||11.6″ HD TN matte/touch||Intel Celeron N3060 / 2-4 GB RAM / 16 GB SSD||2.5 lbs||43 Wh|
|Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook||$329||13.3″ HD TN or FHD IPS matte/touch||Intel Celeron N3855U and Core i3/i5 / 2-8 GB RAM / 16-32 GB SSD||3.2 lbs||42 Wh|
|Samsung Chromebook 3 11||$189||11.6″ HD TN matte||Intel Celeron N3050 / 2-4 GB RAM / 16 GB SSD||2.5 lbs||30 Wh|
|Google Chromebook Pixel||$999||12.85″ WQHD IPS matte||Intel Core i5 / 4 GB RAM / 32 GB SSD||3.3 lbs||72 Wh|
|Dell Chromebook 13||$429||13.3″ HD TN/IPS matte/touch||Intel Celeron 3215U, Core i3, i5/ 4 GB RAM / 16 GB SSD||3.2 lbs||67 Wh|
|HP Chromebook 13||$599||13.3″ QHD+ IPS glossy||Intel Skylake Core M / 4-8 GB RAM / 32-64 GB SSD||2.86 lbs||45 Wh|
|Toshiba Chromebook 13||$299||13.3″ HD IPS glossy||Intel Celeron N3215U / 4 GB RAM / 32 GB SSD||2.9 lbs||54 Wh|
|Acer Chromebook 14||$269||14.0″ FHD IPS matte||Intel Celeron N3160 / 3885U/ 4 GB RAM / 32 GB SSD||3.4 lbs||48 Wh|
|Acer Chromebook 15||$249||15.6″ FHD IPS matte||Intel Celeron 3205U / 4 GB RAM / 16 GB SSD||4.8 lbs||32 Wh|
* The starting price of the base configuration is listed for each model, higher specked versions sell for more.
Note that configurations and prices can change as time goes by, so you should click the link on each device for up-to-date info and potential discounts at the time you’re reading this.
Out of those models mentioned above, the following are my favorites and the ones I would consider buying.
Best budget options (under $200) – Acer Chromebook 11 CB3, Asus Chromebook C200 and HP Chromebook 11 G5
If you only have $200 or less to spend on a Chromebook, these three mentioned above are the ones to consider. The Acer Chromebook 11 CB3 and Asus Chromebook C200 have been around for a while and you’ll find plenty of reviews and opinions about them online.
Both are built on Celeron N2840 platforms with 2 GB of RAM, so are only good enough for light daily activities and little to no multitasking, but on the other hand this platform is fanless and efficient, so you’ll get 6-8 hours of use on a charge from these two. Both get 11.6-inch matte screens with a TN panel, so the image quality is not great, but you can’t expect to get an IPS display for this kind of money.
Out of the two, the Acer Chromebook 11 is cheaper (follow this link for up-to-date prices and discounts) and overall more appreciated by buyers. It’s only available in white though, which might not appeal to some of you.
The Asus Chromebook C200 is available in a more standard silver/grey color scheme and usually sells for $10-$30 more than the Acer, albeit this will probably get you 4 GB of RAM, not just 2, which make a whole of a difference in daily use. But I’ve read a lot of complains regarding the wireless performance on some versions. Follow this link for more details and up-to-date discounts.
The HP Chromebook 11 G5 is a newer unit at the time of this update, lighter and more powerful, as it is built on a newer Intel Celeron N3060 platform. However, there are no actual reviews available yet, so I can’t tell you how this one compares to the Asus and Acer Chroembooks, but you can follow this link for more details (make sure you look at the G5 version). We do know that the base version is a little more expensive than the other two, and HP also offers it with 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage space or a touchscreen as extra-options.
The Samsung Chromebook 3 11 is another options with the starting price under $200, but is not one of my favorite options due to its small 30 Wh battery. Worth a look though if you want something compact and light.
The best Chromebooks for the money – Toshiba Chromebook 13 CB35, Dell Chromebook 11 and Acer Chromebook 14
Spending around $300 on a Chromebook will get you an overall better device, with faster hardware, more RAM, an IPS display and superior build quality.
The Toshiba Chromebook 13 CB35 sells for between $250 and $375 and offers a 13.3-inch FHD IPS display (glossy, but without touch), 4 GB of RAM, an Intel Celeron 3215U hardware platform, 16 or 32 GB of storage space and a 54 Wh battery, all tucked inside a plastic body that weighs around 2.9 lbs. If you need extra power, there’s also a Core i3 configuration available for around $375 at the time of this update, but keep in mind that this version is not fanless, while the Celeron model is.
The 13-inch screen makes it more versatile for daily tasks than the small 11-inch screen of the more affordable Chromebooks mentioned in the previous section, but at the same time this computer is a little larger and heavier, thus not as portable.
Follow this link for more details on the popular Toshiba Chromebook 13, including user reviews and up-to-date prices and discounts.
On the other hand, if you want a better equipped 11-inch Chromebook, the Dell Inspiron 11 is the one to get.
It’s only available with a Celeron N2840 processor, so performance wise is not a match for the Toshiba or the Acer machines included in this category, but you can speck it up with 4 GB of RAM and an HD IPS display, either a touchscreen or a non-touch matte option. The strong chassis and overall solid build quality are other strong points of this Dell.
The non-touch model is available for around $270, while for the touchscreen you’ll have to pay around $60 extra. Follow this link for more details.
Last but for sure not least, if you want an even faster Chromebook with an aluminum chassis and lid-cover, the Acer Chromebook 14 is your best bet right now.
Acer bundles it with either Intel Celeron N3160(Braswell), Celeron 3885U (Skylake) or a Core i3-6100U processor, which are more powerful in daily use and any sorts of graphics activities than the CPUs in the Chromebooks mentioned above, paired with 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, a 48 Wh battery and a FHD 14-inch IPS screen. The downside is the increased weight, at roughly 3.4 lbs.
All these make the Acer Chromebook 14 an excellent computer for school or everyday tasks, mainly for those of you on a limited budget, as this one sells for between $270 and $450. The Celeron 3885U and especially the Core i3-6100U versions are the more expensive options.
Follow this link for more details, user reviews and up-to-date prices at the time you’re reading this post.
Chromebook 2 -in-1s – Acer Chromebook R11, Asus Chromebook Flip and others
Most Chromebooks are built on the classic clamshell form-factor, despite the fact that some even offer touchscreens, like the Acer Chromebook 720p, the HP Chromebook 11 or the Dell Chromebook 11. But there are as well a few options for those of you looking for convertible Chromebooks.
The Acer Chromebook R11 is the best value hybrid in this class at the time of this update, as it is mostly a Chromebook 11 with a 360-degrees convertible touchscreen. It sells for around $260 – $270 and for that kind of money you’ll get an Intel Celeron N3150 fanless processor, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage space, an 11-inch HD touchscreen with a TN panel and 35 Wh battery, all tucked inside a white plastic chassis that weighs around 2.8 lbs.
Compared to the $150 Chromebook 11, the R11 offers a faster processor, more storage space and the touchscreen for around $110 extra. On the other hand, potential buyers will have to settle for a smaller battery (enough for around 6 hours of daily use) and a TN panel, which is not a great option for a convertible.
Overall though, the Chromebook R11 is quite popular and gets solid reviews from buyers, so while you are paying quite a lot extra for the form factor and the touchscreen, the overall bundle is still solid.
Follow this link for more details, user reviews and up-to-date prices.
The Asus Chromebook Flip C100 is another convertible ChromeOS laptop, but more compact and a little cheaper than the Acer.
This one weighs just 2.0 lbs and gets a 10.1-inch 360-degrees convertible touchscreen (with an HD TN panel), while the hardware is a Rockcip platform, with 4 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage space. Performance wise, the Rockcip solution is not even as fast as the Celeron N2840 platform found on the most basic Chromebooks of the moment, but it can handle everyday activities as long as you don’t push it with multitasking.
Other aspects to consider here are the cramped keyboard, since this is a 10-incher and there’s no room to fit a full-size keyboard on its body, and the small 31 Wh battery, which is still going to offer around 6 hours of daily use.
The Chromebook Flip sells for around $250 at the time of this update and you might even find it cheaper from time to time. Once again you are paying premium for the form factor and touchscreen, but if you want a simple and very light convertible, this is one of the best options.
Follow this link for more details, user reviews and the latest prices.
Premium models – HP Chromebook 13, Dell Chromebook 13, Lenovo Thinkpad 13 Chromebook, Chromebook Pixel
In case you want the ease of use of a Chromebook, but in a more appealing package with fast hardware and excellent displays, these right here are the optiosn to consider. You will have to pay a pretty buck for them though, and I personally find that hard to justify, knowing how $600 to $1000 can actually get you a great Windows ultraportable or even a Macbook Air these days, which can do a lot more than a Chromebook is capable of.
Regardless, I digress…
For me, the best value high-end Chromebook out there is the HP Chromebook 13, with the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook and Dell Chromebook 13 coming in a close second.
HP’s unit is an excellently built 13-inch machine, with an aluminum unibody construction and a sleek silhouette (0.5 on an inch thick), an IPS display (glossy, but without touch support), a nice backlit chiclet keyboard and solid IO. On the hardware side, Skylake Core M processors power most configurations, with up to 8 GB of RAM, and a 45 Wh battery, so the everyday use experience is going to be smooth and snappy, even with multitasking and a handful of tabs open, while the battery is going to lat for an average of 8 hours of daily use.
The HP Chromebook 13 is available for $499 and up, however you’ll probably want to aim for a Skylake Core M model to get the best of what a fanless platform is capable of these days, and that’s going to cost $599 for the Core m3 with 4 GB of RAM config, or around $800 for the Core m5 and 8 GB of RAM variant. Pricey, but you might find these discounted down the line (follow this link for more details).
The Lenovo Thinkpad 13 Chromebook gets a more spartan look and rugged build, in line with the ThinkPad’s usual characteristics.
It meets the MIL-Spec standards for durability and build quality, it gets the Lenovo Accutype keyboard (without back-lightning though), it’s fairly portable at 3.2 lbs and it offers excellent specs for the money. A special mention needs to be made about the IO: this laptops comes with 2xUSB Type-C and 2USB 3.0 slots, it also charges via USB-C and there’s no HDMI output, you’ll have to use the USB-C port with the right adapter to output video (the adapter is not included)
Hardware wise, you can get this with Skylake Celeron N3885U, a Core i3-6100U or a Core i5-6200U processors. The first two are paired with 4 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, while the latter is only available with 8 GB of RAM and 32 GB of eMMC storage. There’s also a 42 Wh battery and a few screen options, starting with a measly HD TN matte panel (which you should NOT buy) and continuing with a FHD IPS screen, either with a matte finishing or as a touchscreen.
The prices start at around $360 for the Celeron processor with the FHD IPS panel, $460 for the Core i3 model and $700 for the Core i5 configuration. While the latter is a hard-buy, there’s a low of value in the other two options. If you opt for the HD screen you can save $50 on each version, but I’d advise against it, the IPS panel is light-years better. Follow this link for more details, user reviews and the latest deals.
Dell’s Chromebook 13 is a more sober appearance, with its aesthetics mostly borrowed from Dell’s business notebooks.
It’s robust built, although heavy for a 13-incher (3.2 lbs for the non-touch model, 3.5 lbs for the touch variant), but that’s somewhat justified by the Core i3 and i5 hardware powering it and the 67 Wh battery inside. So both performance and battery life are top-notch on this computer.
The pricing is fairly competitive as well, as the base version starts at around $450 for a Celeron 3215U/ 4 GB of RAM configuration, while the Core i3 models start at around $550 and the Core i5 variants at $800, with 8 GB of RAM. All these include a matte FHD IPS display, if you want to opt for the IPS touchscreen you’ll have to pay $100 extra for each configuration.
Follow this link for more details, user reviews and potential discounts.
Last on this list comes the Chromebook Pixel, which is probably the best Chromebook out there, but with a starting price of $999 at the time of this update, it’s not a computer most will find worth buying.
If you can look past the price for whatever reason, the Chromebook Pixel is a splendid machine. I’m a big fan of the build quality, the aesthetics with straight lines and corners and I find the keyboard and trackpad very good as well. On the inside, it gets fast hardware (Broadwell Core i5 and i7 processors with 8 or 16 GB of RAM, an updated version might be launched in the future) and a large 72 Wh battery, while the screen is a 3:2 high-resolution IPS panel with wide-gamut color reproduction.
So if not for the price, or if not for the limitations of the ChromeOS in general, the Chromebook Pixel would be an excellent buy. And while you can theoretically run Windows on a Chromebook, the Pixel and most other such computers only come with limited storage space (32 GB in this case), so that’s not going to be an option either.
So until further changes, for me the current Chromebook Pixel is that great computer I could never justify buying. Get in touch in the comments if you feel otherwise, I’d love to hear your arguments.
To wrap this up, if you’re looking for THE PERFECT Chromebook, you won’t find it. There’s no such thing as a perfect gadget, whether laptop, phone, tablet, you name it. But there are are some Chromebooks that come close.
For ultra-compact models, the Acer Chromebook 11 line offers a lot for the money and sits at the top of my list. The Dell Chromebook 11 is another interesting option, sturdier and with a much nicer display, while if you want a touchscreen, the Acer Chromebook R11 or the Asus Chromebook Flip are options to consider.
If you want a slightly larger Chromebook, my first picks would go towards the $300-ish Toshiba Cromebook 13 and Acer Chromebook 14, with their IPS screens, faster hardware, large batteries and nice aesthetics, especially when it comes to the Acer.
Last but not least, there are those excellent premium options from HP, Dell and Google itself, snappy and well built machines, but I still find it hard to justify paying premium for a Chromebook.
Cause at the end of the day, I find that Chromebooks make for great travel companions or inexpensive laptops for school and for those of you that will stick to basic activities like browsing, emailing, multimedia and so on. Paying $200 to $300 for such a computer is well justified. Paying more though, not necessarily, especially since you can get decent Windows laptops for $400 or so, and even a handful of 2-in-1s. One might argue that Chromebooks are simpler to use, usually more compact and more hassle-free than any Windows running computer, and would be right. But there’s still only so much you can do with a ChromeOS computer.
Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’m constantly updating the post and adding new devices as they pop in stores, so make sure to Bookmark this and check it out from time to time for changes. Last but not least, share this post around if you found it useful and check out the comments section below, it’s open for your suggestions and questions, and I’m around to reply and help you find the best Chromebook for your needs.