Best Chromebooks: Five things to consider

The best Chromebooks can give you a lot of bang for your buck, if you know what to look for.

Chromebooks have been on the market since 2011m and have become an extremely popular alternative to traditional laptop computers. Google’s Gentoo Linux-based operating system, known as Chrome OS, is updated automatically every 2 to 6 weeks, offering a constantly improved user experience. Initially available from Acer and Samsung, the market for Chromebooks is now filled with options from dozens of different manufacturers including options designed by Google.

Driven by the increased popularity of use by schools and students, demand for the best Chromebooks doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Chromebooks are designed for primarily web-based work. With the popularity of Google Classroom, Google Meet, Google Drive, and Cloud storage based programs that rival Microsoft Office suites—an amazing amount of work can be accomplished with these affordable devices.

Things to consider when shopping for the best Chromebook

With a market flooded with different manufacturers, it becomes even more important to think about features that are important to you in a Chromebook. Budget models are often sufficient to get the job done, and typically you will find lower screen resolution, slower speed, and no touchscreen option in the lower-priced options. Premium features include high-resolution touchscreen technology, fast speed, extra storage, swivel screens, backlit keys, and stylus pens. Not every bell and whistle is necessary, especially for younger users, and the cloud-based online use makes even the bare-bones models work surprisingly well. Consider your intended use and discover which Chromebook is the best choice.

How long can it run on a charge?

Battery life is crucial for mobile computing devices, and the longer the battery lasts the more convenient and useful the device becomes. There will be plenty of times when you are using the Chromebook on the go and not have access to an electrical outlet – thus making your intended work session completely unproductive. Typically, Chromebooks are known to be strong in this area, the best Chromebooks boasting an impressive battery life of up to 12 hours. Given typical workdays, you should consider devices that can offer at least up to 8 hours of use per battery charge. This luckily isn’t difficult to find in Chromebooks.

Checking the specs on the battery life of the brand and model Chromebook that you are considering buying is an important step before finalizing your purchase. In addition, to extend battery life you can reduce screen brightness, update only when your Chromebook is plugged in, remember to close out tabs and applications when not in use, and lock the screen when inactive. Finally, when not needed you can turn off Bluetooth connectivity and unplug accessories like headsets.

Best Chromebook for battery life: Google Pixelbook Go

Won’t Die In The Middle Of A Presentation

This option offers up to half a day of power and features a touchscreen display. Amazon

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The Pixelbook Go is a great choice for its lightweight easy to grip design and impressive 12 hours of battery life between charges. The Pixelbook Go Chromebook can be upgraded with larger RAM and larger internal storage depending upon your needs. The base model offers 8MG of RAM and 64GB of storage. The screen offers a touchscreen display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. It’s a great choice for students, and offers 2 hours of use after only 20 minutes of charging.

How big of a screen do you need?

While most Chromebooks are smaller in size, screen size varies typically from 11″ to 15,” with most midsize screens around 13”. This is important to consider for ease of use and if you might be opening multiple windows. Smaller screens might be a better choice for smaller children, as well. In addition to literal size, the quality of the display is affected by the quality of the screen.

Screen display quality varies tremendously in Chromebooks and the better model Chromebooks naturally have better screens. Budget models often have lower screen resolution and do not offer touchscreen technology. Middle range models offer an improved high definition screen resolution with full Adobe RGB hues, and a native display of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, also known as 1080p. Certain premium models offer 3820 x 2160 pixels, full 4K touch-screen display. If your intended use includes multiple hours of streaming or web surfing along with work you might want to consider upgrading your screen as it will make your experience more pleasant when using the device.

Best Chromebook with 4k display: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook

Great For Art

Lightweight option with a built-in pen. Amazon

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The Galaxy Chromebook offers an above-average display with its 3820 x 2160 4K high definition. The color quality offers true to life hues and with 100% Adobe RGB and 100% DCI-P3 support is a good choice if editing photos or videos. The device is slim, lightweight, and offers an attractive backlit keyboard in addition to a built-in pen with sensitivity to 4,096 levels of pressure and tilt making the feel comparable to paper drawing.

Will your kids be using it?

While you can certainly argue that children can benefit from spending less time online and less time using personal computing devices, the reality is that it is part of our world and not going away anytime soon. Most schools have adopted at least a partial use of computers to assist with lessons and certainly, all use it for testing. Google Classroom is used with our youngest learners all the way up through college and beyond. Speech to text programs can help level the playing field for children with learning differences, and computer grading helps teachers track their students learning more efficiently. It is even argued in certain districts whether typing isn’t becoming as important a skill as manual writing.

So, whether or not you agree with the dominance of technology and Chromebooks for children, it’s here and it’s not going away. Many districts boast a one to one ratio of Chromebooks per student. Getting children to understand how to navigate and use Chrome OS is a practical skill and essential component of their education experience.

Chromebooks have become so prevalent in the education market because they are designed seamlessly to work with their own Google designed programs and of course Google Classroom. In addition, the reasonable cost allows districts to afford these for students. Sturdy, spill-resistant models make the best Chromebook choice for younger children, and faster speed higher-end models might be a good investment for older children.

Best Chromebook for kids: ASUS Chromebook Flip C214

For The Accident-Prone

This one is a rugged and spill-proof device. Amazon

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This small, lightweight, and tough Chromebook is a good choice for younger students. Easy to transport and reasonably priced make this a smarter option for students for use between school and home. The 1366 x 768 anti-glare display screen is 11.6 inches and has a “Flip” hinge capable of 360-degree rotation. An Intel Gemini Lake Dual-Core N4000 Processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage should provide students with adequate storage and speed needed for their school work, especially considering the vast majority of work will be stored on the cloud via Google Classroom and Google Drive.

How fast do you need it to go?

Higher-end Chromebooks will offer fast processors and give the user speed and ease of use even when multiple tabs and applications are in use simultaneously. Processors vary between manufacturers and models, with lower-end Chromebooks using an inexpensive slower CPU like an Intel Celeron or Pentium. However, it’s important to note if your use is basic and most work will be done browsing with only one or two tabs this may be enough for you.

If your intended workload is heavy, and you will require the use of multiple applications and multiple tabs—you may want to consider upgrading to the faster higher-end computer processors like the Core i3, Core i5, or even faster Core i7. The Intel Core processors help power mobile devices without the weight, offering discrete-level graphics, impressive AI acceleration, and long-lasting battery life. With a fast processor like the Core i5 and a high-speed wireless internet connection, the user experience for browsing, streaming, online gameplay, and of course working will be fast, satisfying, and efficient.

Best Chromebook for processing speed: ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 2-in-1 Laptop

Creativity First

Awesome tool for content creators on-the-go. Amazon

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This high-end capable Chromebook offers a fast i5 Processor with 6M Cache, up to 4.2GHz is perfect for multitasking, and can handle more workloads than your typical Chromebook. The screen has a 360-degree swivel hinge allowing use to pivot from laptop to tablet. The larger 14″ screen has Full HD quality 1920×1080 with NanoEdge Display technology. Lightweight at under 3 pounds, this device offers built-in quad speakers and 2 USB ports. A great choice when you are looking for a Chromebook with a higher-end faster processor that can handle lots of jobs.

How long will it last?

While not advertised overtly by Chromebook manufacturers, every Chromebook has what is known as a built-in “expiration date.” It’s essentially a date when the device will no longer receive automatic operating system updates. Google typically sends smaller operating system updates and repairs every two to three weeks, and larger fixes every six weeks, so in order for devices to work optimally and to remain secure up-to-date operating systems are a key factor.

Best Chromebook for longevity of use: Acer Chromebook Spin 713

It’ll Keep Ticking

A premium display great for everyday use. Amazon

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This Acer Chromebook is a great choice when the expiration date (end of OS updates) is an important consideration, as the Spin 713 models have continued updates through June 2028. In addition to a long span of use, this device offers a 13.5 inch 2K touchscreen display with 18 percent more vertical space with the 3:2 ratio design. The device is slim, lightweight, and offers an attractive backlit keyboard in addition to a spin design allowing transitioning of use from laptop to tablet.

Brands to know when shopping for the best Chromebooks

ASUS Chromebooks

A Taiwan-based computer hardware and consumer electronics company was established in 1989. ASUS drives innovation and is a leader in motherboard, gaming, notebooks, mobile trends. Currently, they are pioneering in the fields of augmented reality, virtual reality, and robotics. Today, ASUS is the number one manufacturer of motherboards, in fact, one out of every three computers houses a motherboard produced by this company. Buy one of the ASUS Chromebooks and you’re sure to be happy with your purchase.

Acer

A Taipei, Taiwan based innovative computer hardware company, was established in 1976 by Chen Jung Shih. The company produces popular consumer electronics such as computers, laptops, smartphones, smart cameras, and virtual reality. Software development includes web servers, browsing tools as well as repair services.

Samsung

A South Korean tech conglomerate powerhouse, Samsung has been manufacturing consumer electronics for decades. In fact, Samsung itself can trace its origins all the way back to 1938, when it was a trading company. They produce everything from Blu-ray players to smart speakers to televisions to smartphones and beyond.

Best Chromebooks on a budget: What you can get for $200

In this category, if you want a basic, simple Chromebook and you are willing to consider purchasing refurbished—or during a flash sale) you may be able to find Chromebooks for under $200. However, most budget Chromebooks retail closer to $300. We caution you to investigate lower-cost Chromebooks before purchasing, because they may not be worth it despite the price deal. When considering a refurbished machine or flash sale, you want to double-check the model and the expiration date of that model’s updates. You also want to double-check the speed of the processor, memory storage, and screen display. Screens that do not offer touchscreen technology are as a rule of thumb less expensive, so if that isn’t a deal-breaker it’s a way to save cash.

The bottom line on finding the best Chromebook for you

Chromebooks have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, and due to their relatively low cost, durability, and usefulness, they have become go-to items for the education market. Finding one that suits your lifestyle goes beyond just cost. Considering your intended use will help you narrow down your options and ensure you find the right one—for example, if you’re looking to give an elementary school child quick access to their school work, and the ability to join online meetings, you might not need the premium Chromebook with touchscreen technology. If you’re looking to handle multiple tasks and heavy online research and streaming, you’ll be looking for faster processing, larger storage and, higher-end screens. Chromebooks are ever-evolving and improving, so getting used to the Chrome OS now is never a bad idea.