In 2011, Google partnered with Asus and Samsung to pioneer a brand of Linux-based laptops it hoped would give budget Windows notebooks a run for their money. Although the reality is that Microsoft now has its own lineup of Windows 10 S products to compete, Chromebooks had their headstart years ago.
If you thought Chromebooks were nothing but Windows laptops stripped down to the Chrome browser, however, you would be dead wrong. That’s because Google recently implemented access to its Play Store across all newly released Chromebook devices, gracing users with a pool of 2.8 million apps to choose from in addition to its web-based services.
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. There used to be more premium options available, but nowadays Chromebooks are all about value – bells and whistles be damned.
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:
- Asus Chromebook Flip
- Samsung Chromebook Pro
- Dell Chromebook 11
- Acer Chromebook 15
- Acer Chromebook R11
- HP Chromebook 14
- HP Chromebook 13
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 sporting full-on Intel Core processors and full HD 1080p displays. Touchscreens, backlit keyboards and USB-C ports were also an anomaly. But, of course, the Asus Chromebook Flip brought all of these facets to life. 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’s even mastered stylus input on the first go, which is more than can be said for even some of the loftier Windows laptops.
[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 the Dell 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. Not only adequately suited for school and work, the Dell Chromebook 11 even packs a set of loud stereo speakers that light up the room while listening to music or watching 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 available since October), but it sure is nice to have the option. When it comes to larger Chromebooks, there isn’t much selection, but Acer has come out with a unique exception to this limited trend. Even if it’s packing a few extra pounds, the Acer Chromebook 15 is ace.
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 Acer Chromebook R11 won’t be winning any fashion shows any time soon, what with its ordinary plain white plastic chassis, but it’s won our hearts over if only for keeping it classy. What's more, behind that plain shell is a surprisingly fit laptop destined to endure an entire day's work. Among the first Chromebooks to support Android apps by way of the Google Play Store, the Chromebook R11 even pioneered a whole world of additional functionality for Chrome OS. Exhibiting an all-day battery life, top-notch performance and a 360-degree hinge with a touchscreen, the Acer Chromebook R11 is worth writing home about – and it won’t break the bank either, thereby making its flaws that much easier to swallow.
Read the full review: Acer Chromebook R11
6. HP Chromebook 14
Striking optimal balance between value and design
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
The HP Chromebook 14 is practically the posterchild for Chromebooks. Its rock-bottom starting price and zippy interpretation of Chrome OS only begin to exemplify its utility. 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. Embellished with a bright blue finish and a screen devised to surprise, 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 remains 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
The HP Chromebook 13 goes above and beyond what any of us would expect from a Chromebook. You’re guaranteed at least a 1440p screen, two USB-C ports and, if you're willing to shell out just a bit more cash, you can also snatch yourself an Intel Core-M processor rather than a Pentium. All of this is complemented by incredible style and a metallic design that exudes Pixel influence. Given that Google discontinued its own Chromebook earlier in the year, the HP Chromebook 13 is one of the few remaining alternatives. Though it retails for but a fraction of the price that the Chromebook Pixel did before it, don’t be deceived – the HP Chromebook 13 makes no compromises.
Read the full review: HP Chromebook 13
Juan Martinez and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article.