Why a Chromebook might be right for you

Banu Ibrahim, CNN Underscored
Updated Thu January 4, 2018

Story highlights

  • Chromebooks, or laptops which run on Google's Chrome operating system, is great for those who need a computer to surf the web.
  • Chromebooks tend to be more affordable and more lightweight than its laptop counterparts, making it especially ideal for students.

Chromebooks pack a big punch on a small budget. The device generally features long battery life, a lightweight design, and fast performance that can compete with premium laptops, all with a modest price tag.

So if you're in the market for a new laptop, Chromebooks might be a great place to start.

A Chromebook is a laptop that runs on Google's Chrome operating system, rather than software like macOS or Windows. Chromebooks rely heavily on the Internet, and because of that, most storage will be via the cloud.

Right off the bat, if you are looking for a laptop that provides heavy storage space for gaming or space-consuming software such as Photoshop, Chromebooks won't be your best option. But if you need a laptop for more leisurely activities — day-to-day Web-browsing, streaming movies and TV shows, or working on Google Drive-based files — a Chromebook can deliver and leave you with some extra cash in your wallet. Options start as low as $150, which is a steal compared to gaming iterations that can easily set you back a thousand bucks.

This makes Chromebooks an especially viable option for students who need a device to help them write papers, do online research or stream apps while on a tight budget. Recent surges in Chromebook purchases within the education sector attest to that.

But, of course, it's just as useful an option for people who spend most of their Internet time binge-watching "The Office" or online shopping.

For those who think a Chromebook would fit their lifestyle and computer needs, we've compiled a shortlist of five devices that offer extensive battery life, a lightweight design, top-notch functionality and an impressive customer satisfaction rating.

Note: The prices below reflect the listed retailer's price on the date this article was published.

Samsung Chromebook Pro ($549.99; samsung.com)

Certain Chromebooks go beyond a typical laptop design and create something that's 360-degree, meaning you can change up the orientation of your Chromebook for the task at hand. Samsung's latest Chromebook Pro does just that. With it, you can get the design of either a tablet or notebook and use a built-in stylus for writing. On top of unique design, with the device users can enjoy software that allows for multitasking and functionality even with a handful of browsers up and active. While it may be on the more expensive end of Chromebooks, it lets you turn your laptop into a tablet, giving you the best of both devices in one. A top spot on the best-selling list on Amazon and a 4.3 out of 5-star rating on Samsung don't hurt either.

ASUS C302 Chromebook Flip ($469; bestbuy.com)

Another noteworthy 360-degree Chromebook is ASUS' C302 Chromebook Flip. Like Samsung's device, this one allows you to go easily from laptop setup to tablet. The Chromebook Flip is the top-rated option from independent tester Consumer Reports, scoring excellent marks on ergonomics, performance and versatility. This is all thanks to its savvy design, which also features a touchscreen, a Bluetooth interface, 4 GB of RAM, which allows you to seamlessly use multiple applications at once, and 32 GB of storage, so you have enough storage space for your digital photos, work documents and more. An average 10 hours of battery life means it can handle your 9-to-5 workload all on a single charge.

Samsung Chromebook 3 ($169.99; samsung.com)

Shopping on the lower end of the price spectrum for Chromebooks doesn't mean that you'll have to compromise on quality. Take the Samsung Chromebook 3, for example. It boasts a comparable battery life to more expensive Chromebooks (it can last up to 11 hours) as well as built-in security features to protect against viruses, a water-resistant keyboard and an ultra-lightweight design. But more noteworthy is the fact that the device has received two awards for being environmentally friendly. The Chromebook 3 is the recipient of an Energy Star certification, an accreditation by the government for devices that are energy-efficient, as well as receiving a Silver EPEAT Rating, which honors electronics that meet sustainability standards. It's not hard to see why customers have weighed in to rate the Chromebook 4.5 stars out of 5 on the Samsung site.

Lenovo Thinkpad ($395.10; lenovo.com)

You're taking your laptop during your morning commute, around the office and even during long-haul flights. That means a durable option that can handle being toted around practically anywhere is a must. Lenovo has created a device that can stand up to just that. Its Chromebook design, called the Thinkpad, was tested against a military standard in 12 tests for durability, ranging from heat resistance to mechanical shocks. So if there's any device that can handle everyday wear and tear, it's the Thinkpad. An ergonomic keyboard, up to 10 hours of battery life, touchscreen, wide-angle display and a solid 4.5-star rating on Lenovo's site sweeten the deal.

Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible ($249.99, originally $299.99; amazon.com)

A convertible Chromebook for under $250 sounds like a win to us. Acer's Chromebook R 11, which can change shapes to a tablet, notebook, display or tent setup is just as flexible as other higher-priced iterations. That premium design, along with an impressive 10-hour battery life, clear visual display and comfortable keyboard, is among the reasons the device is part of the elite group of No.1 best-selling products on Amazon.

We will note, though, that the touchscreen capabilities are a bit limited in the tablet and tent setup. But if you're using the device in primarily as a notebook, you'll likely rarely encounter any issue.