What to Look for in a Chromebook
New Chromebooks aren’t all about being value-friendly (though they are certainly that). The versatile laptops also offer decent power paired with reliable components, making them a great choice for everyday use. Here are the things you’ll want to pay attention to when comparing Chromebooks:
- Performance: If you know anything about ChromeOS—the operating system built by Google and used by all Chromebooks—you know that it’s pretty lightweight compared to Windows or macOS. Because of that, Chromebooks can get by being a lot less powerful than other laptops, but that doesn’t mean they need to be. There are still benefits to be gained from a faster CPU or more RAM in a Chromebook, especially as more intensive apps have found their way to the OS. You won’t need to pay for higher-end specs if you’ll only use the Chromebook for simple lightweight tasks, such as online classes, scrolling your socials, or writing up documents for work.
- Display: Resolution, size, and whether or not it’s a touchscreen are all important factors to consider when it comes to a Chromebook’s display. While most of those are purely visual, touchscreen functionality, in particular, is extremely useful and allows Chromebooks to offer tablet modes as well.
- Clamshell vs. 2-in-1: Speaking of tablet modes, there are two main types of Chromebooks you’ll find nowadays: clamshells and 2-in-1s. The former is the standard laptop design you’d expect, while 2-in-1s are more versatile. 2-in-1s can be converted into a tablet, usually by folding the keyboard behind the display. It’s a nice bonus feature, but if you’re not interested in a ChromeOS tablet, there’s no point in seeking it out.
- Storage: While Chromebooks tend to rely on cloud storage more than most laptops, that doesn’t mean internal storage isn’t important. Besides storing files, the type of storage it is can also affect how well the computer runs. SSD storage is the fastest most Chromebooks will offer and it allows file transfer and general operation to run much quicker. eMMC is a cheaper and slower alternative but it still does a solid job—this is what you’ll see in the majority of Chromebooks.
Best Overall: Acer Chromebook Spin 713
- ✓ Great performance
- ✓ 2-in-1
- ✓ 1440p display
- ✗ Limited battery life
Powered by an Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, the Spin 713 has plenty of juice for ChromeOS no matter what you’re doing, and it’s an easy pick for the best Chromebook. Throw in 128GB of SSD storage, a flexible 2-in-1 design, a 13.3-inch 1440p display, and a good selection of ports (including two USB-C, one USB-A, and an HDMI) and the Spin 713 is a wonderfully versatile Chromebook that’s great for working, recreation, and anything in between. While the 10-hour battery life may not be worth writing home about, it’s still long enough to get through the day if you don’t push it.
Best Mid-Range: Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5
- ✓ Solid performance
- ✓ 2-in-1
- ✓ Good selection of ports
- ✗ Middling display
Lenovo’s Flex 5 may not excel in any particular category, but it does well enough in all of them to be a viable Chromebook. The Core i3 processor, joined by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, provides ChromeOS enough power to ensure you won’t experience any slowdown until you start pushing things. Add in the 13-inch 1080p HD display and a 2-in-1 design, and the Flex 5 is exactly what you’d expect out of a modern Chromebook: ideal for everyday use, but not much more. It also has a solid selection of ports including two USB-C, one USB-A 3.0, and a microSD card reader.
Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5
This Chromebook may not wow in any particular category, but it’s still a solid all-around choice for the money.
Best Display: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2
- ✓ Beautiful QLED panel
- ✓ 2-in-1
- ✓ Solid specs
- ✗ Expensive
- ✗ Limited ports
While the Galaxy Chromebook 2‘s display may only run at a basic 1080p, it’s the QLED panel that makes it so attractive. This means the screen does a much better job at displaying colors and contrast than most Chromebooks, and laptops in general. But it doesn’t stop there; It also features a Core i3 processor (or a less powerful Celeron processor for the cheaper model), four or eight gigabytes of RAM, and 128GB of internal storage. It’s also a 2-in-1, so you can make full use of the touch-screen in tablet mode.
All-in-all, it’s a great premium Chromebook that also sports a striking shade of “Fiesta Red” for its aluminum body (or you can get in the much more boring “Mercury Gray”). With 13 hours of battery life, you can safely rely on the Galaxy Chromebook 2 all day long as well. Be aware though, It’s fairly limited when it comes to ports, only offering a couple of USB-C ports and a microSD card reader.
Best Budget: Acer Chromebook 314
- ✓ Affordable
- ✓ Good amount of ports
- ✗ Slower than other Chromebooks
Acer’s 314 is a pretty basic Chromebook all things considered. Its clamshell design, 14-inch 1080p HD display (with touch functionality), and an Intel Celeron processor don’t make for the most exciting package, but considering the 314 is priced well into the budget bracket, it’s plenty appealing. This is a solid Chromebook if you’re tight on cash or just want a taste of ChromeOS before committing to something more expensive. It also has a good selection of ports, including multiple USB-A and USB-C, alongside a microSD card reader.
While the 314 may not wow, it does deliver a solid user-experience for the money.
Best for Performance: Google Pixelbook Go
- ✓ High-end specs
- ✓ Clean design
- ✓ Lightweight
- ✗ Limited ports (only two USB-C)
- ✗ Expensive
If you’re after the fastest Chromebook on the market, the Pixelbook Go is for you. Straight from Google itself, the Go comes in a few different models; the most powerful of which is powered by an Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. It may be a bit overkill for ChromeOS, but you can rest assured knowing your Chromebook can handle whatever you throw at it, whether it’s an intensive app or a few dozen tabs. It’s even made with portability in mind, so it’s extremely thin and lightweight despite its impressive list of specs. You can also get the Go with up to 256GB of SSD storage.
On top of this, the Go features a 13-inch 1080p touchscreen display, a backlit keyboard, and up to 12 hours of battery life. The only thing limiting about the Go is that it only has two USB-C ports and an aux port—no USB-A or HDMI to be seen, unfortunately. Overall, though it’s a great pick for anyone looking for a more robust Chromebook.
Best Tablet: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
- ✓ Great for tablet users
- ✓ Affordable
- ✓ Good battery life
- ✗ Keyboard isn’t ideal for intensive work
- ✗ Weaker specs
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a fantastic value that, unlike the other Chromebooks here, almost exclusively focuses on the tablet experience. Sure, it has a detachable keyboard but this is no 2-in-1, the keyboard solely exists as an optional part of the tablet for when you need to type.
The low price does, likewise, result in fairly limited specs—Mediatek Helio P60T processor, 128GB of internal storage, and 4GB of RAM—but it’s still enough for lightweight users to get by on. The battery is long-lasting, it performs excellently for the money, and it can have up to 128GB of internal storage. If you’re interested in a ChromeOS tablet, this is easily the best option; if you prefer a more traditional laptop, however, then the detachable keyboard probably won’t cut it for you.