Update: We’ve added the new-and-improved Toshiba Chromebook 2 to our rankings. Read on to see where it ended up on the list.
Original article follows…
Chromebooks are affordable laptops that are both odd and brilliant, low-impact and capable.
Mostly with low-power processors and barely HD screens starting at 1,366 x 768 pixel count, most of these machines are also designed to endure. Almost every Chromebook claims between 7 and 9 hours of battery life and comes within a few hours of that figure, based on our testing. If you’re not sure of what specs you should look out for when purchasing a Chromebook, we’ve developed a nifty cheat sheet for you.
Prices do start to ratchet above the “cheap” range, as is the case with the MacBook-rivaling, $999 Chromebook Pixel 2 (£670, AU$1,320), especially in the classroom, where Chromebooks are gaining significant exposure. Despite the growing Chromebook scene, there should always be something within your price range.
Then, it all comes down to size and price, with Chromebooks available as tiny as 11.6 inches and as large as 14 or even 15 inches. (There are even 2-in-1 Chromebooks now.) Always up-to-date, here are our top-ranking Chromebook reviews.
1. Google Chromebook Pixel 2015
The end all, be all of Chromebooks.
CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.7GHz with turbo boost) | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 8GB DDR3 | Screen: 12.85-inch 2,560 x 1,700 IPS touchscreen display | Storage: 32GB SSD | Optical drive: none | Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260; Bluetooth 4.0 LE | Camera: 720p HD wide angle camera with blue glass | Weight: 3.3 pounds Dimensions: 11.7 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches (W x D x H)
Inter Core i5 or i7 processorLong, long battery lifeVery expensive3:2 screen hurts multitasking
Outfitted with a Core i5 processor, USB 3.1 (and USB-C) ports, a high-resolution display, and more RAM than it will ever need, the Chromebook Pixel sets a high bar for Chrome OS machines.
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 exquisite; the design has been engineered down to a science. A vivid screen – plus the amazing keyboard and trackpad – helps to round out the Pixel as one excellent, premium package.
That said, this one’s quite an investment. For the same amount, you could buy several Chromebooks or a decent Windows laptop. So, before you buy, we suggest you consider all the much more affordable options out there before investing so much money into the best Chrome machine.
2. Acer Chromebook 15 C910
The colossus of Chromebooks
CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200 dual-core processor | Graphics: Intel HD 5500 Graphics with shared memory | RAM: 4 GB, DDR3L SDRAM | Screen: 15.6-inch full HD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 32GB SSD | Optical drive: none | Connectivity: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi | Camera: 720p HD webcam |Weight: 4.85 pounds Dimensions: 1.0 x 15.1 x 10.1 inches (H x W x D)
Fast processing speedLong battery lifeVery heavyAwkward keyboard
If you’re mulling over the $279 (about £195, AU$389) Acer Chromebook 15 C910 for your next laptop, then you’d better have big ideas. Compared to most other Chromebooks, the C910 has a bigger screen, bigger processing power and it comes with a relatively bigger price tag.
The C910 took this series of laptops to two new places, as the first with a 15.6-inch screen and the first to introduce the fifth-generation Broadwell processors to Chromebooks.
Specifically geared toward students and teachers – thanks to its rugged frame and gorgeous visuals – the C910 is perfectly suitable for any consumer who doesn’t mind schlepping around a few extra pounds and inches.
3. Dell Chromebook 11 (2015)
Dell’s updated Chromebook is a star in almost every regard
CPU: 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Celeron Bay Trail-M N2840 | Graphics: Intel HD for Intel Celeron processors | RAM: 4GB RAM (DDR3L, 1,600Mhz) | Screen: 11.6-inch HD, 1366 x 768 touchscreen |Storage: 16GB SSD | Optical drive: none | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0; 802.11ac (B/G/N), dual-band Wi-Fi | Camera: 720p webcam | Weight: 2.91 pounds Dimensions: 12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 inches
Rugged design180-degree barrel hingeTouchscreen not standardSmall keyboard
Don’t let the understated looks of the $249 (£170, AU$320) Dell Chromebook 11 fool you. Dell stuffed in features that are typically reserved for pricier business notebooks into its Chromebook 11, an effort to create a durable product for the education market.
In the Chromebook 11, you’ll find a 180-degree reinforced hinge, rugged design, sealed keyboard and trackpad, and a punchy typing experience inside a portable package. In addition to using the Chromebook for school work, students will appreciate the loud stereo speakers for videos.
There’s a new version of this Chromebook available. We’ve jotted down our first impressions here.
4. Asus Chromebook Flip
A flipping premium Chromebook for almost nothing
CPU: 1.8GHz Rockchip 3288-C (quad-core, 1MB cache) | Graphics: ARM Mali T624 | RAM: 2GB LPDDR3 SDRAM | Screen: 10.1-inch, WXGA (1,280 x 800) IPS multi-touch display | Storage: 16GB eMMC | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 | Camera: 720p HD webcam | Weight: 1.96 pounds | Dimensions: 10.6 x 7.2 x 0.60 inches (W x D x H)
Fully metal construction Excessive battery life Occasional crashes Large screen bezels
The Asus Chromebook Flip isn’t perfect, but it’s an impressive little piece of gear. At just $249 (about £160, AU$337), it’s so affordable that you might want to pick one up just to have a Chrome OS device on hand – even if you already own a MacBook or Windows notebook.
Aside from the approachable price tag, the Flip is one of the best-built Chromebooks to blaze the trail forward for more convertibles. Touchscreen functionality feels a bit 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 machine, including awesome battery life. If you’ve been ho hum on Chromebooks before, this is definitely one to … flip out about. (Sorry.)
5. Toshiba Chromebook 2
Full HD on a Chromebook just got better
CPU: 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-5015U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 | Storage: 16GB eMMC | Connectivity: Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 7260; Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: HD webcam | Weight: 2.97 pounds | Dimensions: 12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 inches (W x D x H)
Gorgeous 1080p screen Intel Core i3 power Screen glare A bit pricey
For a steeper $429 (about £299, AU$612), the newest Toshiba Chromebook 2 is a beautiful laptop that – clearly, seeing the price – has very few flaws. It comes with more memory and a 1080p display, lining it up with rival, (pseudo-) premium models in this class, like the Dell Chromebook 13 and Chromebook Pixel.
However, note: the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is now officially in cheap Windows 10 laptop territory. Unless you’re buying this laptop solely for the Google ecosystem, you might be overpaying. That said, the Intel Core i3 processor behind that 1080p screen is an undeniable bonus.
6. Lenovo N20p Chromebook
A versatile Chromebook experience for a reasonable price
CPU: 1.83 GHZ Intel Celeron Processor N2930 | Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB PC3-10600 DDR3L 1333 MHz | Screen: 11.6″ HD (1366 x 768) dsplay with 10-point multitouch | Storage: 16GB eMMC storage | Optical drive: none | Connectivity: Bluetooth® 4.0, 802.11 a/c WiFi | Camera: 720p webcam | Weight: 2.86 lbs Dimensions: 11.6″ x 8.34″ x 0.70″
Gorgeous designSuper fastPoor viewing anglesBad speakers
This is one of the “sexier” Chromebooks around, showcasing Lenovo’s affinity for style. However, the best feature is the N20p’s 300-degree hinge, flipping the N20p’s screen backward all the way into stand mode (or “tent” mode), which lends itself quite well to watching movies or showing presentations.
The touchscreen controls also work in a jiffy for, say, watching shows on HBO Go or Pinteresting. Still there’s some difficulty when using it as a tablet, as Chrome isn’t entirely made for touch as a largely browser-based interface.
It’s not very tuned for work use, but the Lenovo N20p offers great versatility for a leisure computer. Plus, with two USB ports (one 3.0), an HDMI port and an SD card reader, this Chromebook delivers a great bang for its buck.
7. Acer Chromebook 13
With incredible battery life, the Chromebook 13 is a winner
CPU: 2.1GHz Nvidia Tegra K1 CD570M-A1 (quad-core) | Graphics: Nvidia Keplar | RAM: 2GB DDR3 (1,333MHz) | Screen: 13.3-inch, 1.920 x 1.080 | Storage: 16GB SSD | Optical drive: None | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: 720p HD webcam | Weight: 3.31 pounds Dimensions: 12.9 x 9 x 0.71 inches (W x D x H)
Battery lifeGreat speakersStrange port locationsLackluster visuals
Powered by Nvidia’s powerful Tegra K1 chip, this Chromebook packs a lot of oomph in a tiny frame. Users will love its 13.3-inch 1080p resolution screen, as well as its portability. At 3.31 pounds, the Acer Chromebook 13 is a relatively feathery laptop.
This Chromebook does have some minor problems: it doesn’t multitask very well, and the laptop itself only comes in one color. But for the tiny price of $249 (about £174, AU$347), you’re likely to enjoy the simplicity and productivity as you learn to overcome the design limitations.
8. HP Chromebook 11
A Chromebook that’s as cheap as it is excellent
CPU: 1.7GHz Samsung Exynos 5250 | Graphics: value | RAM: 2GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM |Screen: 11.6-inch diagonal HD LED-backlit IPS display (1366 x 768) | Storage: 16GB eMMC | Optical drive: none | Connectivity: 2×2 802.11a/b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth | Camera: 720p webcam |Weight: 2.3 pounds Dimensions: 0.69 in (H) x 11.69 in (W) x 7.56 in
Wonderful buildExcellent screenMediocre battery lifePoor trackpad
The $199 (about £139, AU$277) HP Chromebook 11 is smooth and intuitive. Chrome OS is limited by definition, but as web apps grow only more prolific and those apps increase in capability– and Chrome OS matures – we bump into those limitations less often every day.
This notebook is powerful enough to make the experience slick, affordable enough for anyone on a budget (or an impulse buy for the well-to-do), but something that still feels solid. It is a joy to use.
Apple and the other premium notebook makers should look at this little gem of a laptop and applaud what has been achieved. The Chromebook 11 shows that it’s possible to create a product with a sliver of the magic and joy you get from an Apple laptop without charging four figures for it.
9. Acer C720 Chromebook
A good budget option at a cheap price
CPU: 1.7 GHz Intel Core i3-4005U Dual-core | Graphics: Intel HD 4400 DDR3 SDRAM Shared | RAM:4 GB DDR3L SDRAM | Screen: 11.6″ 1,366 X 768 | Storage: 32GB | Optical drive: none |Connectivity: IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n Bluetooth 4.0 + HS | Camera: 720p webcam | Weight: 2.76 pounds Dimensions: 0.8 x 11.3. 8.0 inches (HxWxD)
Fast processorMushy keyboardTinny speakers
In terms of oomph and longevity, you can’t argue with the $219 (about £153, AU$305) Acer C720 Chromebook. When you just want to get on the web in a hurry to answer emails or – tee-hee – Google something, the C720 is ideal. For parents, it’s also a fantastic “homework machine,” so long as you can get a compatible printer set up with it.
This is a true web appliance, a fine laptop for families. The Google account log-in gives each user a personalized interface, and just a few keystrokes completely wipes the system. That limits the risk massively in sharing the notebook with classmates or family members.
One key criterion in our reviews is whether we’d actually want to use the device every day. Even taking this laptop’s flaws into account, it’s something we definitely would want to use, for the price. If you’re an educator and buying in bulk, try the Acer C740.
10. Acer Chromebook R11
360-degree flips all day long
CPU: 1.6 GHz Intel Braswell Quad-Core Celeron N3150 Processor | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4GB DDR3L | Screen: 11.6″ 16:9 HD (1366×768) | Storage: 32GB | Optical drive: none | Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac; Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: HD Web Camera | Weight: 2.76 lbs | Dimensions: 11.57 x 8.03 x 0.76 inches (WxDxH)
Convertible Good battery life HD-only display Terrible trackpad
The Acer Chromebook R11’s minimalist design may not be the most attractive, but that shell hides a surprisingly capable laptop that’ll last all day. Oh, and it can flip 360 degrees into a tablet. No big deal.
Acer’s R11 packs in all-day battery life, capable performance and a 360-degree hinge with touchscreen into a minimalist design for just $289 (about £202, AU$402). That makes flaws, like an iffy trackpad and barely-HD touch display, a little easier to ignore.
Juan Martinez has also contributed to this article.