In 2011, Google partnered with Asus and Samsung to pioneer a brand of Linux computers that would give both tablets and Windows PCs a run for their money. The Chromebook, as it’s commonly known, is a laptop specification designed to run Chrome OS, an operating system that relies predominantly on the Chrome web browser.
That’s changed a bit as of late, however, as Google has allowed laptop makers to implement Android’s Google Play app store into their devices. In turn, the company has provided users of the best Chromebooks with its pool of 2.8 million apps to download in addition to basic web browsing tasks, assuming your model supports them.
Generally, Chromebooks range from around $199 (£154, AU$266) if you’re on the prowl for, say, an HP Chromebook 14 to roughly $499 (£388, AU$668) for the uniquely versatile, 2-in-1 Asus Chromebook Flip. To help you sort through the options, we’ve formulated a list below that covers all ends of the spectrum, with only the top Chromebooks included.
1. Asus Chromebook Flip
Premium Chromebook specs, economic Chromebook pricing
CPU: Intel Pentium 4405Y – Intel Core m3-6Y30 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare | Storage: 32GB – 64GB eMMC
Before the Asus Chromebook Flip came around, pickings were slim when it came to affordable Chromebooks with full-on Intel Core processors and full HD 1080p displays, not to mention touchscreens, backlit keyboards and USB-C ports. It may take advantage of an Intel Pentium chip on the low-end, but the Asus Chromebook Flip is by no means low-end. Compared to what’s offered by the competition, the Asus Chromebook Flip’s value is unparalleled, and that’s without getting into its pristine tablet mode, which blows other hybrids completely out of the water.
Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip
2. Samsung Chromebook Pro
Cultivating the marriage of Chrome OS and Android
CPU: 0.99Ghz Intel Core m3-6Y30 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, QHD (2,400 x 1,600) touchscreen | Storage: 32GB eMMC
The Samsung Chromebook Pro is the result of Google’s efforts in converging Android and Chrome OS. With the Google Play Store now supported on every new Chromebook that comes out, it only makes sense to design a Chromebook with a 12.3-inch QHD touchscreen, a 360-degree hinge and stylus support to boot. It may have a keyboard that’s too compressed for comfort, but the Samsung Chromebook Pro more than makes up for it doubling as a tablet that puts most Android slates to shame. It even managed to nail pen input on the first go, which took Microsoft three tries to get to that point with the Surface Pro.
[Editor's Note: The Samsung Chromebook Pro won't be available for purchase until later this Spring.]
Read the full review: Samsung Chromebook Pro
3. Dell Chromebook 11
Dell's updated Chromebook is a star in almost every regard
CPU: Intel Celeron N2840 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 11.6-inch, HD (1366 x 768) touchscreen | Storage: 16GB SSD
On this Chromebook 11, you'll find a 180-degree reinforced hinge, sturdy design, sealed keyboard and trackpad and a punchy typing experience accompanying a perfectly portable package. In addition to using the Chromebook for classwork, bass-happy students will appreciate the loud stereo speakers for music and videos. Everyone else will appreciate the Dell Chromebook 11’s ability to lay flat using a 180-degree barrel hinge, an effective inclusion for touch-based activities. Don’t worry about dinging it, either. This device remains the most rugged Chromebook on our list.
Read the full review: Dell Chromebook 11
4. Acer Chromebook 15
The colossus of Chromebooks
CPU: Intel Celeron – Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics – HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 15.6-inch, HD (1,366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 16GB – 32GB SSD
Rather than “Think Different,” Acer's spin on Apple’s catchphrase would be “Think Bigger.” Unlike most in its class, this Chromebook is blessed with a 15.6-inch Full HD screen made better only by its optional Intel Core i5 processor. You probably won't need all that power on a Chromebook (luckily, there’s a newer, even cheaper model that’s been added recently), but it sure is nice to have the option. When it comes to larger Chromebooks, there isn’t much selection, but luckily, Acer has devised a no-brainer.
Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 15
5. Acer Chromebook R11
360-degree flips for days
CPU: Intel Celeron N3150 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 11.6-inch, HD (1,366 x 768) | Storage: 16GB – 32GB SSD
The R11's minimalist design may not win any fashion shows, but behind that plain shell is a surprisingly fit laptop destined to endure an entire day's work. It’s even among the first Chromebooks to support Android apps by way of the Google Play Store. So, if you’ve ever wanted to use Firefox on a Chromebook, well, now you can. The R11 packs day-long battery life, punchy performance and a 360-degree hinge with touchscreen. It won't break the bank, thereby making flaws, like an iffy trackpad and barely-HD touch display, a little easier to swallow.
Read the full review: Acer Chromebook R11
6. HP Chromebook 14
A well-balanced Chromebook
CPU: Intel Celeron N2840 – N2940 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 14-inch, HD (1,366 x 768) BrightView | Storage: 16GB – 32GB eMMC
With a rock-bottom starting price, the HP Chromebook 14 is the best choice for those seeking a basic web browsing machine. While Acer's Chromebook 15 serves up similar components (save for SSD storage rather than eMMC), HPs' 14-incher is a bit more compact and better looking to boot. The HP Chromebook 14 sports a bright blue finish and a screen devised to surprise. Overall, this machine boasts the best value out of every Chromebook you could buy. Albeit average in both battery life and performance, the HP Chromebook 14 is a sublime offering considering the cost.
Read the full review: HP Chromebook 14
7. HP Chromebook 13
Flashy and functional, this Chromebook means business
CPU: Intel Pentium 4405Y – Core m7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) – QHD (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 32GB eMMC
This Chromebook offers a handful of distinct features from what you might find on a comparable Windows laptop. You’re guaranteed at least a 1440p screen – above average for a Chromebook. Even better are the not one, but two USB-C ports. And, if you're willing to shell out just a bit more cash, you can also nab yourself an Intel Core-M processor rather than a Pentium. All of this is complemented by incredible style, a metallic design that exudes Pixel influence. Given that Google discontinued its own Chromebook earlier in the year, the HP Chromebook 13 wins the best high-end Chromebook position handily.
Read the full review: HP Chromebook 13
Juan Martinez and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article.