#1 Pick Google Pixelbook – Editor’s Choice/Best Chromebook
Processor: Intel Core i5 Dual-Core Processor | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128 GB SSD | 12.3-inch 2K Display
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Google Pixelbook brings a new level of class to Chrome OS.
When you first see the price for the Google Pixelbook, you’d be forgiven for experiencing a bit of initial sticker shock. For a class of laptios that almost prides itself on being the cheaper, more cost-conscious choice for most consumers, Google seems to have bucked that trend, instead pushing the price of their latest extry well into the space of what you’d expect to shell out for a high-tier Windows machine or MacBook Air.
So what does this Chromebook do so well to deserve such a correspondingly high price? Well, just about everything.
From the rock-steady build quality to the gorgeous 2K touch screen and sleek, premium design, this is the first Chromebook I’ve seen in a long time that seems to answer every question you might have about a laptop before you even get a chance to ask it. Is it powerful? One of the most powerful Chromebooks on the market. Is it sexy? Psh, just look at the thing. Does it run Android apps from the Google Play store? What, yours doesn’t?
The Google Pixelbook is the summation of all the triumphs that the Chromebook market has seen over the past six years, as well as the perfect example of how to improve on its mistakes. This laptop carries the same level of professionalism and swagger you’d find on the latest 2-in-1 Dell XPS 13, all while costing even less than half the price.
That said if there were one place we had to fault the Pixelbook, it would be in the department of its battery life. Long battery life on Chromebooks is one of their main features, with plenty of models reaching up to 12 hours of total battery life. Unfortunately, during our tests, the most battery we could get out of the machine was around 7 and a half hours. So, if you’re someone who needs to run their laptop all day without accessing a charger, this may not be the pick for you.
Regardless of that small caveat, Google’s Pixelbook still knocks it clean out of the park on nearly every other metric. If you want a well-rounded laptop that blurs the line between where a Chromebook ends and high-quality laptops begin, this is the model to go with!
#2 Pick ASUS C302 Flip – Best 13″ Chromebook
Processor: 0.99Ghz Intel Core m3-6Y30 (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 2.2GHz) | RAM: 4GB LPDDR3 RAM | Storage: 16 GB local flash | Display: 12.5” HD LED Display
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The ASUS C302 sets the standard in Chromebook convertibles for 2019.
Look – we know that the best Chromebooks have a ceiling for how good they can get, it’s no secret. Where some business professionals need every bit of power they can squeeze out of their Thinkpad and certain creatives can’t make it ten feet out the front door without their Macbook Pro, when it comes to balancing that act between well-built and still creative enough to compete with the big boys, we still think Chromebooks are king.
Durable and stylish, offerings like the Asus C302 show that the OS can be just a little bit playful when it needs to be, while also classing up the joint just a couple of notches at the same time. The C302 is light, nimble, and scarily thin, adding just the right amount of heft to your hand whether you’re using it in tablet or clamshell mode.
Personally I’m in love with this particular design, and think just like examples such as the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, the time has finally come when convertible laptops can start to be taken seriously again. And while we know that 12.5″ doesn’t necessarily mean this laptop is technically “the best 12″”, we think it does everything it needs to at the size so well, it deserves the trophy in both spots anyway – that’s just how good it is.
#3 Pick HP Chromebook X2 – Best HP Chromebook
Processor: 2.6 GHz Intel Core m3-7Y30 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32 GB eMMC | Display: 12.3-inch 2K Display
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The HP X2 proves that Chromebooks have enough power for any task.
This is the beast of the bunch, HP’s heaviest hitter in the lineup. Though Chrome OS is famous for its ultra-light footprint that can run on pretty much anything that isn’t an actual toaster, this hasn’t prevented manufacturers like HP from packing their flagship laptop with specs that would even put most mid-range Windows machines to shame.
With a 2.6 GHz Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor and 4 GB of RAM on board, the HP Chromebook X2 is easily one of the most high-octane entries on this list. When combined with the already-zippy nature of Chrome OS and you have a combo that simply can’t be beat.
#4 Pick Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 – Best Chromebook for Students
Processor: 1 GHz Intel Core m3 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB SSD | Display: 12.2-inch (1900 x 1200)
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Samsung Plus V2 is the perfect convertible with a stylus for students.
When you open up the Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 for the first time, it can be hard not to feel a small sense of surprise, accompanied by an odd sense of nostalgia. Why? Well, for one it’s one of the first laptops we’ve ever seen that actually opts for a 16:10 aspect ratio, rather than the traditional 16:9.
This makes things a bit awkward in laptop mode, but they feel right at home once you swap over to the tablet. Tablet mode in 16:10 feels perfect, and lets you get just the right amount of screen real estate out of any webpage you’re browsing. That said, obviously movies and TV shows are going to be letterboxed to the maximum, so if you want a laptop to use exclusively for media watching, you’re better off going with something like the Google Pixelbook instead.
The company’s trademark level of polish and thoughtful design is also out in full force with the Chromebook Plus V2. This is undoubtedly the sleekest offering of all the Chromebooks on this list, thinner and lighter than any other model we’ve tested to date. If you can get past the somewhat awkward screen ratio (which is only really an issue when you’re using the device in clamshell mode, and even then isn’t really that bad once you get used to it), the Plus is the one for you.
#5 Pick Samsung Chromebook Plus – Best Chromebook under $200
Processor: 2.1 GHz MediaTek MT8173C | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32 GB eMMC| Display: 14-inch LED Display
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Lenovo Chromebook C330 is a sleekly designed device that comes at an extra affordable price.
Convertibles have been all the rage with laptop manufacturers ever since tablets started stealing away nearly half of their share of the portable marketplace, with the ability to fill the gap between the people who love the iPad, but just wish it were about three times heavier and came with a bulky keyboard strapped to its back.
But, even though the early days of convertibles saw a few too many clunky attempts at staying compact, more recently it looks as though the technology is finally coming into its own thanks to entries like the Lenovo Chromebook C330.
This Lenovo Chromebook is perfect for students and teachers alike, with enough power to breeze past any tablet combined with a touchscreen/stylus combo. It may not be the most powerful or pretty-looking of the bunch, but its design and flexibility make it a must-buy for anyone who prefers the feeling of a tablet combined with all the extra trappings of a laptop.
How We Chose the Best Chromebook
When it comes to finding the top Chromebook of 2010, there are quite a few different factors which go into how we vet these devices and the requirements they have to hit to even be considered for the list in the first place. Chromebooks are a lot of things in consumers minds; whether it’s how easy they are to use and keep free of viruses, or the ratio of cheapness to durability you can only get in a laptop like a Chromebook. These are the laptops for the people who really only use their mobile machines to browse the web or stream media content, and that’s about it.
This means that all the same qualities you might be on the hunt for in a standard laptop (fast processor, huge amount of storage space, etc), don’t really apply down here in Chromebook land. That said, there are still a few key things you should keep an eye out for while you’re scrolling through the spec sheet of your chosen model.
First there’s the screen. How you choose the best screen for you can depend less on the raw specs of the resolution, and more on the intended use case and who in your family is going to be using the Chromebook the most. If you know you’re going to be keeping the Chromebook in a protective case or up on a shelf away from sticky kids hands, the beautiful (but delicate) Acer Chromebook R13’s 2-in-1 hinge combined with its full-HD screen might be the choice for you.
On the other hand, if you know your kids are going to be the first ones to take their new Chromebook for a spin at school, you want something with a screen that may not be the best from a purely visual standpoint, but can still put up with some punishment and more than a few fingerprint smudges from all their friends. In our opinion options like ASUS C302 or Flip C100P are better suited for the job, with smaller touch-ready screens that are as interactive as they are durable.
Design is another important feature to think about when shopping for your next Chromebook. It seems the 2-in-1 trend that first went viral in the ultrabook space is finally catching on with Chromebook makers, and I for one couldn’t be happier about it. Although Chrome OS suffered for awhile under the weight of all the extra tech that a touchscreen demands, it seems that most of the major manufacturers have found a sweet spot that allows the operating system to better detect taps and swipes and make the investment into a 2-in-1 style worth the slightly bumped-up cost.
While some sleeker options like the Samsung Chromebook Plus decide to go the posh route with their look and feel, others like the ASUS C100P Flip are almost strictly made with the pint-sized members of your family in mind. Ultimately you should always go with a design style that you think will fit your needs best; whether that means impressing your boss at your next meeting or getting a Chromebook encased in your kid’s favorite color.
Several of our favorite Chromebooks from last year, including the Toshiba Chromebook 2 and the Dell Chromebook 13, were cut from this list because manufacturers had discontinued their production. While both solid choices in their own right (solid enough to earn the #1 and #2 spot on our 2016 roundup, respectively), unfortunately the product cycle time for Chromebooks is so low that you can only get them in the original form for so long before they’re replaced by something better, faster, and sleeker than before.
Who Should Buy a New Chromebook
Pitted head-to-head with any of their PC or even Mac counterparts, Chromebooks look hilariously underpowered and unsuited for the task at hand. Their minimal specs and suspiciously low cost scream equally low-caliber performance from the outset, but then you remember that when you’re buying a Chromebook you’re not just getting a device; you’re buying an entire ecosystem that can run almost any web application safely with even less fuss than you’d find on an iPhone.
Different Chromebooks are made for a different type of customers, and unlike most PCs and all Macbooks, Chromebooks actually come in a few models that are made almost directly with the child user in mind. Chromebooks make great first laptops for your little ones, or cheaper web-browsing machines for any seniors in your family who might be guilty of downloading one too many viruses or annoying internet browser hotbars on the desktop in the living room.
But even though the child/senior market has become the core focus of the Chromebook customer experience up until now, this year manufacturers have really begun to push these devices into the premium side of the market too. Thanks to options like the Acer Chromebook R 13, the Samsung Chromebook Plus, and the ASUS Chromebook Flip C302, devices that were once considered the “cheap and clunky” cousins of laptops are now leading the field in solid, sturdy cases that are paired in kind with an absolutely stunning design.
Chromebooks are also a foolproof way to help anyone in your family quickly and easily get on the internet, quite often at a much cheaper price than what you’d normally pay for a PC (more on that later). They’re also significantly safer from a network security standpoint than PCs and even Macs. Since the market share for Chromebooks is so small, they’re enjoying the same sort of byproduct of hacking economics that kept Apple machines safe for their whole “I’m a PC/I’m a Mac” campaigns. Because such a small number of people actually access the internet from Chromebooks, for the most part it’s not profitable for hackers to create any kind of exploits for Chrome OS since attacks like spam email campaigns only pay off in big numbers. This means your chances of getting a nasty virus or network infection using a Chromebook is quite a bit lower than any other platform, and while the OS may not be completely 100% locked down, it’s still your best bet if security concerns are at the top of your list of necessary features.
That said, if you’re someone who needs to run a lot of different non-web based applications for work, you only really have one option to choose from (and even then it’s not all that great). While the Acer Chromebook R 13 can technically run any Android application it needs to (including the full suite of some apps like Microsoft Office 365), it’s still not as reliable as the Chromium team would like it to be to offer the kind of stability that professionals need out of their laptops. That said, there are still a wide range of ultrabooks that are perfectly tailored to the needs of working professionals that can keep up with your productivity levels without breaking a sweat.
Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Chromebook
Don’t Buy for Specs Alone: When buying a Chromebook, the first mistake that many customers make right off the starting line is assuming that all Chromebooks are “basically the same”. The three indicators you’ll want to pay the most attention to when making your selection is the processor the laptop is using (Celerons are decent, but an i5 is always better), the quality of the screen (several older models don’t even support 1366 x 768 resolution), and the keyboard. Given that most of your time on a Chromebook will either be spent streaming or working (there’s not a Chromebook out there except maybe the Pixel that’s made for hardcore gaming), you should be sure that both the screen are up to your standards for both applications.
Don’t Be Fooled by the Price: As we mentioned earlier, although the low price of a Chromebook may seem like an accounting error at first, there’s actually something slightly more unsettling behind why Google is so keen to subsidize the cost of their machines to bring the eventual price to more manageable levels.
Like everything you do for free with Google (use their search function, email client, Drive, etc), every move you make and little bit of data you send their way is being scraped for metadata. Data which is collected while you use the Chromebook and then sold off to marketers for a slim profit. This is why Chromebooks can pack in seemingly better hardware at a reduced price, because Google directly works with manufacturers to make sure their devices are accessible to every income level possible.
Most Important Features
- First up, there’s the most obvious indicator of what you should be looking for when shopping for your next laptop: the power.
- Both the CPU and the amount of RAM you get with your laptop will be the lynchpin of how much it can get done, although it’s important to remember that at the end of the day this is a Chromebook, and these metrics will only determine how fast the laptop handles a glorified web browser in disguise.
- When shopping for your Chromebook, you’ll want to pay attention to the “i” rating for the processor (if it even has one). Most Chromebooks will either come with a Pentium Celeron processor or something in the “i” family from Intel.
- 4GB is plenty of RAM for Chrome OS’ small footprint, and anything above this is usually considered overkill.
- Because Chromebooks are generally considered to be “cheaper” options when it comes to laptop comparisons, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re getting with the model you choose when it comes to screen size and resolution.
- You want to be sure that you’re not going too big on your screen that’s paired with a low resolution, because at a certain point the lower res pixels turns out blurry and can cause a lot more eye strain than it’s worth if you’re looking at it for extended periods of time.
- For example, the 15″ 1366 x 768 version of the Toshiba Chromebook 2 wouldn’t even make this list since the graphics are so grainy at that size, but the version with the 1920 x 1080 screen makes all the difference when watching Netflix or editing photos.
- As we mentioned earlier, you always want to be sure that you’re buying the best-designed Chromebook that will suit your lifestyle the best.
- As many higher-end Chromebooks that are out there like the 2-in-1 Acer R 13, there are also mid-to-low tier options that are less built for sturdy durability and more just to get beat up by your kids.
- If you expect that you’ll be watching a lot of movies the 2-in-1 design can be great, and with so many solid 2-in-1 entries into the Chromebook repitiore in the past year, this finally feels like the time that the brand comes into its own from a design and durability standpoint.
- Having tested dozens of trackpad/keyboard combos across many different Chromebook models, I can safely say that all the selections we’ve listed here offer the best combinations of a responsive keyboard with a comfortable trackpad.
- Most people use their Chromebooks for writing, typing, and reporting from the road, which means that how long a keyboard lasts is often more important than how it feels straight out of the box.
- The majority of Chromebooks also favor the more spread out flat key design for their keyboards opposed to the standard layout you might find on a Windows machine, so any typers with smaller hands will want to take note before making their final purchase.
- Most of the Chromebooks on this list are actually fanless, relying on a series of ingenious heatsinks that utilize the body of the laptop itself to keep its internal components cool.
- As such, although it’s smart to keep an eye out for how much of a racket your Chromebook might be making, generally this will turn out to be a non-issue.
- Chromebook build quality is all over the place, ranging from the extremely cheap/flimsy/plasticky to solid metal all the way around.
- Depending on who you’re buying for, the durability of your Chromebook can be the lynchpin for your eventual decision. If you’re planning on gifting it to a younger member of the household, the AC300 offers a great compromise of decent specs in favor of a much tougher outer shell.
- There has been a big push in the last year to also class up the Chromebook brand, which means a whole new mess of sturdy aluminum-cased options that
- Conversely, options like the C910 are a little bit more delicate, but pack in enough power to make up for anything it lacks in overall case strength and reliability.
- Last up, there’s the hard drive. All Chromebooks on this list (and most that didn’t even make the cut), opt to feature smaller SSD flash drives in favor of larger capacity mechanical HDDs.
- Taking this into account, there are two methods of making up for the limited space. First, every Chromebook you buy will automatically include 100GB of space on Google’s cloud service Drive.
- If this doesn’t sound like enough however, you can also opt to add on an external hard drive, all of which are compatible with Chrome OS as long as it runs on either an NTFS or FAT32 filesystem.
What Else Should You Think About?
If you’re in the market for the best Chromebook in 2019, you really can’t go wrong with any of the selections we’ve listed here. Chrome OS is a simple, quick operating system that does what it does down to a science, and you don’t need to ask it for much to get a whole lot back in return.
But while Chromebooks are (at least in my book) pretty much the best automatic choice you should have when it comes to getting your recent senior graduate a new laptop for college, there are also quite a few other options you might want to consider that still expertly walk that line between durability, function, and price that university students need to tread every day.
Also, because all Chromebooks are basically functionless without an internet connection (save for the option to save a Google Doc offline, woohoo), you’ll want to be sure that you have a top wireless routerwhich can hold up to the task of getting you a strong signal wherever you’re browsing from in the house.
While the Flip features a fun and funky design that suits any kind of laptop or tablet user, other offerings like the C910 break every record in the book with raw unadulterated power. The C302 makes a great addition to any growing student’s backpack stash, and the Acer Chromebook 14 is an all-arounder that tackles any job you can throw at it. And of course, Toshiba’s reigning champ the Chromebook 2 does everything the competition can, all while looking better than most other contenders three times the cost. No matter which you choose, Chromebooks are a solid, reliable, (and most importantly: cheap) laptop that never disappoint.