The best Chromebooks for students in 2024

The best study buddies are reliable, fast internet and a Chromebook that can handle all the schoolwork a kid throws at it.
The best Chromebooks for students on a plain white background.

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Buying kids a computer for any reason can be stressful, but parents become even more acutely aware of how much gadgets cost when kids become students—and that’s where a Chromebook comes in. When it comes to a student’s laptop, you must consider whether it has all the capability and compatibility a kid needs now and whether it could get them through graduation in a few years. Plus, you have to consider how much you want to spend on something that might, OK, that will experience wear and tear. A Chromebook laptop offers an affordable way to give kids enough computing power to tackle their online assignments in form factors they tend to understand intuitively. They can be an excellent school tool for younger users who don’t need top-of-the-line laptop specs and their parents who don’t want to pay those prices. Here’s our guide for choosing Chromebooks for students, as well as help navigating processing and storage specs and how they translate versus traditional laptops.

How we selected the best Chromebooks for students

We pulled together this list based on hands-on testing performed by the PopSci staff and extensive research of consumer feedback. We then reviewed that through our skeptical spectacles, formed by our collective parenting experience of buying, replacing, repairing, recycling, and swearing about a graveyard of gadgets and computers that went through our kids’ hands. They may have tried valiantly to care for them, but this skill requires practice and failure like any other.

The best Chromebooks for students: Reviews & Recommendations

First things first: What is a Chromebook? Chromebooks look like laptops and feel like laptops, but think of them as a unique category of computing devices. Chromebooks are internet-viewing devices with full-sized keyboards and decent-sized screens. They are defined by their operating system, ChromeOS, which will feel familiar to anyone who uses Google’s Chrome web browser. The platform relies on a good internet connection to power web-based applications from the Chrome and Android app stores and cloud-based file storage. 

Chromebooks excel at everyday computer tasks: web browsing, using a word processor, making simple spreadsheets, and streaming videos. Does the kid’s school use Google Suite? The move will be seamless. Used to Mac or Windows operating systems? Chromebooks may feel underpowered, but they aren’t designed for resource-intensive applications like making music or editing videos. Still, plenty of students—and adults—use their laptops almost exclusively to go online. People who live and learn within a browser can avoid paying for high-priced computing power that exceeds their needs by opting for one of the Chromebook laptops below. 

Best overall: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus

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Specs

  • Dimensions: 12.4 inches by 9 inches by 0.78 inches
  • Weight: 3.52 pounds
  • Screen size: 14-inch WUXGA
  • Memory: 8GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i3 (13th generation)
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics
  • Camera: 1080p
  • Touchscreen: Yes
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours

Pros

  • Backlit keyboard
  • 2-in-1 design
  • Headphone jack
  • microSD slot
  • 1-year manufacturer warranty

Cons

  • Stylus pen ready but not included
  • Body looks metal but is and feels plasticky
  • OK battery life

We selected the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus as our best overall option for students because of its Goldilocks components and $500 recommended price tag. It’s small but not too small, and at three-and-a-half pounds, it is light but not the lightest. There’s 128GB of storage (a good amount for a Chromebook) and the Intel Core i3 processor and 8GB of memory make the whole thing feel fast, regardless of whether the student is watching YouTube videos or working on a spreadsheet. This model’s software enhances online chatting or sitting in a virtual classroom by canceling out noise, adjusting lighting, and blurring backgrounds for privacy. 

The flip-and-fold design lets kids use it as a tablet, laptop, or set up as a tent, and the full high-definition 14-inch matte screen supports multitouch interactions. It has a decent array of ports—headphone jack, USB-A, USB-C, and a microSD—to connect to other accessories as needed. The Chromebook tablet can be used with a stylus, but that’s an additional purchase. 

The “Chromebook Plus” moniker is an official Google designation that means the device meets more powerful minimum specs than other models and comes loaded with productivity and creativity apps. 

Best for elementary school kids: HP Chromebook 11a Laptop

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Specs

  • Dimensions: 11.22 inches by 7.6 inches by 0.66 inches
  • Weight: 2.36 pounds
  • Screen size: 11-inch high-definition anti-glare
  • Memory: 4GB
  • Processor: MediaTek MT8183
  • Storage: 64GB
  • Camera: 720p 
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Battery life: Up to 15 hours

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Very lightweight
  • Small form factor for little hands
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Dialing down specs means potentially outgrowing sooner
  • No touchscreen

We picked the HP Chromebook 11a Laptop for early elementary school kids because when you are little, scale matters. In the early elementary school years, kids have two distinct looks: the tiny kid with a proportional backpack and arms full of regular-sized folders and papers that didn’t fit inside or the tiny kid with a regular-sized backpack that looks like it might pull the wearer down to trap them on their back forever like a turtle.

Little backpacks and little hands are better served with a small Chromebook. The HP Chromebook 11a has a smaller 11.6-inch screen; at 2.36 pounds, it’s the lightest Chromebook on our list. We’ve also lowered our expectations for specs, as kids are likely watching some YouTube videos or doing resource-light computing. For these young kids, we’ll trade a MediaTek processor (a major player in the mobile processor market), 4GB of memory, and lower, 64GB storage for a roughly $200 price tag. It makes it more palatable should something very normal, like being dropped, crushed, or spilled on—happen. This option is suited for parents who predict a short life—or perhaps a rough one—for their kid’s Chromebook. 

Best for high school students: Acer Chromebook Spin 714

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Specs

  • Dimensions: 12.3 inches by 8.8 inches by 0.71 inches
  • Weight: 3.02 pounds
  • Screen size: 14-inch WUXGA, 16:10 aspect ratio
  • Memory: 8GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 (13th generation)
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
  • Camera: QHD MIPI 2K 
  • Touchscreen: Yes
  • Battery life: Up to 10 hours

Pros

  • 2-in-1 design
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Privacy shutter on webcam
  • Antibacterial Gorilla Glass screen
  • MIL-STD 810H 
  • Two colors: Steel gray, iron
  • 1-year manufacturer’s warranty

Cons

  • OK speakers
  • A touch on the heavy side

Not to be old, but I remember when high school students had to lug things called “books” in backpacks so heavy they could knock shoulders and spines out of alignment for entire academic years. High school hasn’t been like that for a long time. To set up your student for success now, give them a boost in processing power and upgraded voice conferencing tools because their online lives are just as demanding as your work meetings. The Acer Chromebook Spin 714 boasts a 13-generation Intel Core i5 processor, which makes it smooth to switch between apps or leave dozens of Chrome tabs open. However, students may struggle with resource-intensive projects like serious media editing or design projects or if they’re a big gamer. Those activities need a laptop with higher-end processors and more memory

For a Chromebook, the Spin features a webcam that is better than average at 2K pixels with a privacy shutter and noise reduction tech to cut out background blabber. It also has a more premium feel than other Chromebooks, with sturdy hinges to handle all the folding and tenting 2-in-1 devices go through and an antimicrobial Gorilla Glass screen for additional durability. The Spin meets military specs for durability, but don’t confuse that for a rugged device; I know more than one teenager who can break MIL-SPEC devices due to carelessness.

The Spin 714’s suggested retail is $700, higher than many other options, but we’ve found this touchscreen Chromebook for as low as $550. However, the whole Spin line offers good Chromebooks for education. The smaller Acer Spin Chromebook 311 made our list of Chromebooks for under $300, though the tradeoff is a smaller screen, a slower MediaTek Kompanio 500 series processor, and a 720-pixel webcam. 

Best eco-friendly: Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition

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Specs

  • Dimensions: 11.6 inches by 9 inches by 0.63 inches
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Screen size: 13.5 inches, 3:2 aspect ratio
  • Memory: 8GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 (12th generation)
  • Graphics: Iris Xe Graphics
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Camera: 1080p 
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Battery life: Up to 8 hours

Pros

  • Repairable
  • Four customizable expansion ports
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Headphone jack
  • Comes with power adapter, expansion cards, and Framework screwdriver
  • 1-year warranty

Cons

  • More expensive
  • No touchscreen
  • Lower battery life

The Framework Laptop Chrome Edition bucks plenty of industry practices. At a time when most electronics are treated as disposable objects, Framework builds laptops that allow owners to repair and replace components as they see fit (read our review of a Framework Laptop here). It may seem like common sense, but it took many legislative pushes to get “right to repair” bills to counter many companies’ approach to voiding warranties, making batteries irreplaceable, and other tactics that lock down the devices you buy from them. 

At about $1,000, the Framebook Chromebook costs more than our other options and is a splurge by Chromebook standards. Still, its aluminum body houses a 12-generation Intel Core processor, 8GB memory, and an initial storage capacity of 256GB. Ports are customizable: Each Chromebook has four expansion slots, so users can mix and match microSD, USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, and Ethernet options. They also can be changed later. Other Framework laptops offer ways to up the processor, storage, graphics, and keyboard components, but the Chromebook version currently lacks those options.

Still, we like this for students because it’s for long-term ownership. Unless your kids double as a wrecking crew, a Framebook Chromebook can offer a lesson in taking care of things and evaluating whether a problem can be solved through a bit of sweat equity before opting to replace it. Gentle users may be able to pass this from older siblings to younger ones. They also can build the curiosity and confidence of tinkers-to-be. Changing port expansion cards is more like popping out LEGOs than building a PC from scratch. 

Best value: ASUS 14-inch 2-in-1 Chromebook Plus

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Specs

  • Dimensions: 12.6 inches by 9.3 inches by 0.81 inches
  • Weight: 4.08 pounds
  • Screen size: 14 inches WUXGA
  • Memory: 8GB
  • Processor: AMD R-Series SOC
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Camera: 1080p 
  • Touchscreen: Yes
  • Battery life: Up to 13 hours

Pros

  • Backlit keyboard
  • Headphone jack
  • 1-year warranty

Cons

  • Heavier than other options on this list
  • Screen brightness is about 300 nits, a bit dim

The ASUS 14-inch 2-in-1 Chromebook Plus is another model with Google-approved productivity and creativity apps with more powerful stats. Initially, the model retailed for $499 but we’ve been seeing it for as low as $349—a great value at that price point.

It’s another 2-in-1 design with a touchscreen, a 1080p front-facing camera, and a built-in mic for easy virtual meetings. Where this Chromebook differs is the color—it’s blue!—and an AMD R-Series SOC processor. AMD is the Pepsi to Intel’s Coke. Which processor you prefer is a matter of taste, but it is ample for most school-age kids’ work. 

At just over 4 pounds, this is the heaviest option on this list despite having the same screen size as most other choices.

What to consider when buying the best Chromebook

Choosing Chromebooks for school is a balance of understanding your kid’s age group, their assignments, and how well (or not) they take care of devices. Students don’t necessarily need the power of a full-fledged, top-of-the-line laptop, especially at elementary school ages. They need a stable and reliable internet connection, the ability to do online exercises and quizzes, write up some papers, and work up presentations with clip art from who knows where. A good middle ground is 8GB RAM, 128GB of storage, and recent generations of Intel or Ryzen processors, but dial-up or down according to age. Younger kids can get away with less processing and storage power, but older age groups or more advanced coursework merit sliding up. 

Prices range wildly, but the spread is not as crazy as shopping for traditional laptops. You can find cheap Chromebooks and premium models hovering around a grand. Once a novelty, many Chromebooks feature touch screens and 2-in-1 designs so they can be used as tablets, too. Regardless of age, we recommend giving hinges a good look to see if they will handle being opened and closed repeatedly, possibly for no other reason than your kid is curious how sturdy they are. Expect plastic bodies, but some may feature metal hinges. Beyond that, consider the following specs:

Processor

Premium Chromebook models rock the latest and greatest processor chips from Intel Core or AMD Ryzen, but the bulk of options will be a few generations behind. If performance is the key consideration, opt for the latest and greatest within your budget for the snappiest multitasking possible. However, students, particularly younger ones, often only need a little muscle to take online quizzes or write papers. Consider workload and work type, and we recommend more powerful processors for older students. 

Display  

Chromebook screens don’t vary as widely as regular laptops. They tend to prioritize lightweight screens over bells and whistles. Displays are usually between 12 and 14 inches, though some 16 inches are out there. A 1920 x 1080 resolution full high-definition screen should be plenty for web browsing, streaming, and sitting through online sessions. Avoid sub-1080p screens, though. Online classroom meetings deserve better. 

Touchscreens are common in the Chromebook category, as many devices come in 2-in-1 display varieties.

Memory and storage

Memory and storage specs are far lower than those of traditional laptops. This is partly because ChromeOS has only modest requirements, and apps take up a small space. The other reason is that Chromebook users are expected to store things in the cloud. Most Chromebooks demand a minimalist approach to local storage but aim for at least 128GB for photos, videos, and other files you’ll want to access offline. 

We prefer at least 8GB of RAM, which offers a noticeable boost in performance, especially for games, Android creativity apps, and keeping many browser tabs open simultaneously.

FAQs

Q: Are Chromebooks worth it for students?

Chromebooks can be an excellent choice for students in our post-pandemic, web-based school environment. Though prices have increased recently, most Chromebooks focus on enough power and enough speed to research, join video chats, and write papers and presentations well without costing thousands of dollars.

Q: What is the best Chromebook for a teenager?

Depends on the teenager, but school workloads and extracurricular hobbies may exceed Chromebooks. Schoolwork like writing papers and reading online textbooks is easily handled. However, should your teen start media-heavy design or engineering work that needs large storage space and beefier processors, consider options like long-time student favorites from Dell, HP, or Apple (including options geared toward college if your student is midway through high school or so). 

Then there’s the g-word: gaming. In my household, gaming, not school work, was the priority as we entered the teen years. Manufacturers are rolling out a new generation of Chromebooks that support cloud-based gaming—things like Android games. However, we’d still recommend one of our best gaming laptops under $1,000 to take advantage of a broader spectrum of play. 

Q: What are the disadvantages of a Chromebook?

The main disadvantage of Chromebooks is their limited offline capabilities. No Wi-Fi signal? Too bad unless you had the foresight to flag some work as “offline accessible.” Your Chromebooks will only be able to do a fraction of tasks and have to go back online to sync projects like writing a report in Google Docs. Software will be limited to web-based applications, but that category of productivity and creative tools is growing.

If the pros to a Chromebook are affordability and portability, some cons are lower local storage capacity and less powerful hardware specifications than traditional laptops. This can impact their ability to handle resource-intensive tasks like video editing, gaming, or running complex software.

Q: Do Chromebooks have accessibility features?

Chromebooks have many accessibility features baked into the operating system so that students can customize them to their needs or preferences. For vision impairments or just comfort for kids staring at screens all day, Chromebooks have settings to enlarge or magnify content, including text, change colors for sharper contrast, and ChromeVox, a built-in tool that reads on-screen text aloud. Other tools allow for spoken feedback and tools to adapt to dexterity challenges. 

Final thoughts on the best Chromebooks for students

For students who need an affordable yet capable laptop for web-based assignments and content consumption, Chromebooks can be wallet-friendly options for parents, whether they’re shopping for little kids or soon-to-be high schoolers. The trick to locating the right Chromebook is matching the processing and storage power with the durability needed to survive being carried to and from school. 

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus strikes a nice balance between performance, portability, and price, as does our budget pick, the similarly outfitted ASUS 14-inch 2-in-1 Chromebook Plus. For young elementary school students, consider the compact HP Chromebook 11a Laptop that is perfectly sized for little hands, while high schoolers will appreciate the Acer Chromebook Spin 714’s processing power and premium features like an enhanced webcam. For those looking to reduce electronic waste, the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition is a smart eco-friendly choice with its repairable, modular design. 

And regardless of which one you pick, get a case. 

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

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