When the Chromebook arrived a few years back it wasn't so much with a bang but with some consumer confusion. Why, people asked, would we want something that can only be used when connected to the internet?
These days most of what we do at a computer happens when we're connected to the internet. Most apps can be replicated online, through a browser, in some form or other too. So in fact, cloud-based Chromebooks make a lot more sense than it might originally seem.
Modern Chromebooks have learned a few tricks from Windows laptops. Some can fold over to double as tablets, sport all-day battery life and have enough internal muscle to power through regular computing tasks. Google is even in the process of bringing its huge library of Android apps to Chromebooks, something that no other type of computer can brag about.
Ultimately the reason to buy a Chromebook is that it offers a largely virus-free system that's kept up to date with new updates and features at an impressive rate. If you have your Chromebook stolen one day, the machine you replace it with the next will be up and running in seconds with access to all your cloud files and settings.
Chromebooks have also become hugely important for education. Long battery life, low costs and a decent suite of office apps mean that for cash-strapped students in need of a work computer, they're absolutely ideal.
1. Acer Chromebook R11
This flipping useful Chromebook can run Android apps
CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Braswell Quad-Core Celeron N3150 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4GB DDR3L | Screen: 11.6” 16:9 HD (1,366 x 768) | Storage: 32GB | Connectivity: Dual-band 802.ac; Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: HD Web Camera | Weight: 2.76 lbs | Dimensions: 11.57 x 8.03 x 0.76 inches (WxDxH)
It took a while for Chromebooks to become as flexible as their Windows counterparts, but it’s been worth the wait. The Acer Chromebook R11 is the first Chromebook that flips 360-degrees to convert into a tablet. Whether you’re watching a movie, reading websites or catching up with online TV, the added flexibility makes it a more comfortable to use and convenient Chromebook compared to its rivals.
Acer’s model also has the big advantage of being one of just three Chromebooks that currently support Android apps (though you’ll have to switch over to developer mode to give them a spin). The Chromebook R11 only has a HD, rather than a Full HD display, but on the plus side this helps its battery life reach into the double figures.
2. Dell Chromebook 13
Stylish, solidly built and packing an impressive display
CPU: 1.7GHz Intel Celeron 3215U (dual-core, 2MB cache) | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics GT71 | RAM: 4GB DDR3L| Screen: 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 Matte FHD LCD | Storage: 16GB M2.NGFF SSD, MicroSD slot | Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 802.11AC | Camera: Built-in 720p HD video camera | Weight: 3.23 lbs | Dimensions: 12.93 x 9.03 x 0.84 inches (W x D x H)
Chromebooks have developed a reputation for being cheap, in terms of both build quality and value. Google’s own Pixel Chromebook looked to buck the trend with its premium design, and Dell is now treading a similar path with the classy Chromebook 13. Forget bendy plastic, this all-metal affair rocks a black carbon fiber cover and magnesium-alloy chassis that’s capable of taking a knock or two.
It’s a smart design, and one that resembles Dell’s XPS laptops when you flip it over to check out the tapered sides, lengthy rubber feet and stylish speaker grilles. This Chromebook also stands out due to its 1080p display, which is a step up from what you’ll get on most other models. Thanks to its HDMI port, you can even hook up the Chromebook 13 to an external monitor when you’re not on the go.
3. HP Chromebook 14
Stylish, solidly built and packing an impressive display
CPU: 1.83GHz Intel Celeron N2940 processor (quad-core 2MB cache, up to 2.25GHz) | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4GB DDR3 | Screen: 14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display | Storage: 16GB eMMC | Connectivity: Intel 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: HP TrueVision HD webcam | Weight: 3.74 pounds (1696g) | Dimensions: 13.54 x 9.45 x 0.7 inches (344mm x 240mm x 18mm) (W x D x H)
You might not want to spend a bomb on your Chromebook, but that doesn’t mean that it has to look drab. HP has done a great job of capturing that get-up-and-go vibe of Google’s machines with its funky two-tone Chromebook 14, which we can picture balanced in our laps while on the beach, Piña Colada in hand.
Fast enough for most tasks, this Chromebook offers a great balance of having a larger screen than most other laptops (Acer’s Chromebook 15 aside)
4. Acer Chromebook 15
The colossus of Chromebooks
CPU: Intel Celeron – Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics – HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 16GB – 32GB SSD
Fast processing speed
Long battery life
Rather than "Think Different," Acer's spin on the classic Apple catchphrase is "Think bigger." Unlike most in its class, the Acer Chromebook 15 is blessed with a 15.6-inch Full HD screen made better only by its optional Core i5 processor. Sure, you probably won't need all that power on a Chromebook (luckily, there are a handful of Celeron and Core i3 models to choose from too), but it sure is nice to have the option for once.
5. Toshiba Chromebook 2
Full HD on a Chromebook just got better
CPU: 5th generation Intel Celeron – Core i3 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics – HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 16GB eMMC
For the price, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 might seem like a steep investment, but wrapped up in that slim, silvery package are the specs of a top-of-the-line Chromebook. Featuring a brilliantly vivid 1080p screen, a nifty backlit keyboard and the option of an i3 processor configuration, there's little to complain about here. Although, we could do with a matte display option – just food for thought.
6. Dell Chromebook 11
Dell's updated Chromebook is a star in almost every regard
CPU: Intel Celeron N2840 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 11.6-inch HD, 1366 x 768 touchscreen |Storage: 16GB SSD
On the Chromebook 11, you'll find a 180-degree reinforced hinge, rugged design, sealed keyboard and trackpad and a punchy typing experience accompanying a portable package. In addition to using the Chromebook for school work, bass-happy students will appreciate the loud stereo speakers for music and videos.
7. Asus Chromebook Flip
A flipping premium Chromebook for almost nothing
CPU: Rockchip 3288-C | Graphics: ARM Mali T624 | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 10.1-inch, WXGA (1,280 x 800) IPS multi-touch | Storage: 16GB eMMC
Aside from the budget price tag, the Asus Chromebook Flip is one of the best-built Chromebooks to blaze the trail onward for more convertibles. Touchscreen functionality feels slightly more logical, with a screen that actually rotates for once. All the while, the Flip meets all the core tenants of an ideal Chrome OS device, including stellar battery life. If you've been ho hum on Chromebooks before, this is definitely one to ... flip out about. (Sorry.)
8. Lenovo N20p Chromebook
A versatile Chromebook experience for a reasonable price
CPU: Intel Celeron N2830 – N2930 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB | Screen: 11.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) multi-touch | Storage: 16GB SSD
This is one of the "sexier" Chromebooks around, showcasing Lenovo's lust for style. However, the best feature is the N20p's 300-degree hinge, bending the N20p's display backward all the way into stand mode (or "tent" mode), which lends itself rather well to watching films or showing presentations. Unfortunately, using a Chromebook as a tablet isn't exactly ideal, but the range of ports certainly makes up for the oversight.
9. HP Chromebook 13
A flashy and functional Chromebook for business
CPU: Intel Pentium – Core m7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) – QHD (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 32GB eMMC
For the price, the HP Chromebook 13 offers a handful of distinct from what you might find on a comparable Windows laptop. Even at the baseline, you're guaranteed a 1440p screen that's far above average for a Chromebook. Even more unusual is the inclusion of not one, but two USB Type-C ports, and if you're willing to shell out just a bit more cash you can also nab yourself a Core-M processor rather than a Pentium. All of this is complemented by the HP Chromebook's outward appearance, a metallic design that reeks of Pixel influence.
10. Google Chromebook Pixel
The end all, be all of Chromebooks.
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.85-inch 2,560 x 1,700 IPS touch | Storage: 32GB – 64GB SSD
Hardware and performance aside, the Pixel is one of the few Chromebooks that seems like it has itself completely figured out. The build quality of this machine is superb, with a design that's nailed down to a science. A vibrant screen – plus the tactile keyboard and trackpad – helps round out the Pixel as one pretty, premium package.
That said, this one's quite an investment. At this price, you could buy several Chromebooks or a far more powerful Windows laptop. So, before you buy, we suggest you consider all the much more affordable (or better) options out there before plunking down so much money into the best Chrome machine.
11. Acer Chromebook 13
With incredible battery life, the Chromebook 13 is a winner
CPU: Nvidia Tegra K1 | Graphics: Nvidia Keplar | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, HD (1.920 x 1.080) | Storage: 16GB – 32GB SSD
Powered by Nvidia's powerful Tegra K1 chip, this Chromebook packs a lot into its tiny frame. You're bound to fall in love with its 13.3-inch, 1080p resolution screen, as well as its portability. At 3.31 pounds, the Acer Chromebook 13 is a feather on the outside, a powerhouse internally. For the price, you're likely to enjoy the simplicity and productivity as you learn to overcome its limitations.
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