Once thought of as nothing more than a laptop that provided access to Google’s Chrome browser, Chromebooks have morphed since their introduction into a full-fledged laptop powered by a Chrome OS, a broad operating system.
For example, there’s now a file system built into Chrome OS, allowing you to save, upload and manipulate files, even if they’re stored in a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive.
In the last few years, Google added the ability to download, install and use Android apps from its Play Store – the same store that’s found on Android phones. Meaning, if you’d rather browse Facebook or Twitter in an app, instead of using the dedicated website, you can install the Android version of the app on your Chromebook and compose messages or status updates from the comfort of a dedicated keyboard and trackpad.
If you really want to geek out, you can even install Linux on a Chromebook and run packages, use Terminal and do all of the Linux-type things that you’d expect.
In cadence with the new features, Chromebooks have grown in popularity. With long battery life, slim designs, and increased versatility, it’s no wonder why.
Chromebooks are especially popular in education due to their affordability and ease of use. Routine software updates are automatically installed, just like they are for the stand-alone Chrome browser.
Samsung, Lenovo and even Google are just a few of the companies that currently produce Chromebooks, ranging in price from a couple of hundred dollars to over $1,000.
Below you’ll find Chromebooks broken down into specific categories. All of them, however, are worth considering if you’re shopping for a Chromebook.
Chromebooks for students
Dell Chromebook 3100 ($279.99; amazon.com)
For someone who needs the bare minimum in order to keep up with remote learning, the Dell Chromebook 3100 is worth considering. With 16GB of storage, 4GB of memory, an Intel Celeron N4000 processor and an 11.6-inch display, the Chromebook 3100 doesn’t have an impressive spec sheet. But it doesn’t need to, especially if your student is spending all of their time in Google Classrooms or a similar program.
At $279 you’re getting an affordable Chromebook 3100 that is reliable and can fulfill all your basic needs such as online learning and surfing the web.
Samsung Chromebook 4 ($229.99; samsung.com)
If a traditional laptop design is more your speed, Samsung’s Chromebook 4 will get the job done. It looks and feels like a standard laptop, complete with the traditional silver housing. The 11.6-inch HD display is small, but that lends itself to portability or as a device for a child who is remote learning right now.
At $229, you’ll get 32GB of storage inside a device that’s powered by an Intel Celeron N4000 processor, 4GB of memory and up to 12.5 hours of battery life.
Lenovo Chromebook Duet ($289.99; lenovo.com)
The Chromebook Duet qualifies for a budget pick and easily would fit in with the 2-in-1 section as well. It was the first Chrome OS device to launch with new touch-interface features in Chrome OS that makes it easier to use as a tablet, when the keyboard isn’t attached. But at $285, with a keyboard included, it’s far less expensive than other 2-in-1s.
We reviewed the Duet when it launched earlier this year, and found it to be a capable Chromebook. The keyboard was a little small, but that’s due to the overall portable size of the Duet itself. It has a display that measures 10.1-inches, with a 1080p resolution. Inside the Duet is a MediaTek Helio P60T processor, 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage. Our testing showed eight hours and 45 minutes of battery life, with Lenovo’s estimate putting it closer to 10 hours.
The best part of the Duet is that when it’s in tablet mode, it feels like Google finally has a tablet worth bragging about. Between Android apps and using Chrome, it’s a robust experience all around. And at this price, there’s not a lot to complain about.
Samsung Chromebook 4+ ($299.99; samsung.com)
The Chromebook 4+ is slightly more expensive than its little brother, the Chromebook 4, but it makes up for it with a larger display. At $299, you’re getting a 15.6-inch display in the same traditional laptop design. There’s a webcam centered above the display for video calls.
It has the same internals as the Chromebook 4 – Intel Celeron N4000 processor, 4GB of memory and 32GB of storage. You can increase the storage to 128 GB for $80 more if you need the space.
For either model, the N4000 processor isn’t going to be the most impressive when it comes to performance, but for someone who only needs a Chromebook for basic tasks and doesn’t want or need something for gaming or photo and video editing, either one will get the job done.
A 2-in-1 Chromebook option
Samsung Galaxy Chromebook ($919, originally $999.99; amazon.com)
We first told you about Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Chromebook during CES 2020. It’s a $999 Chromebook that competes with Google’s Pixelbook, a device that’s been out of stock for at least a few months now. Samsung started taking orders for the Galaxy Chromebook in April.
The Galaxy Chromebook’s spec sheet reads like a high-end laptop. It’s powered by a 10th Generation Intel Core i5 processor, has 256GB of SSD storage, 8GB of memory and a 13.3-inch 4K AMOLED display. That’s the same kind of display Samsung uses on its Galaxy smartphones like the Note 20 or S20. You can use the microSD card slot to expand storage if needed.
It also includes an S Pen, so you can rotate the screen all the way around and write or draw on it within compatible apps. There’s even a spot built into the housing to hold the S Pen when you don’t need it.
Not only does it have the components that make it a killer Chromebook, but it looks stunning as well. The red color is bright and something that calls attention to itself, but it’s also a welcome break from the standard silver, black or white colors that are so common.
A high-end Chromebook
Google Pixelbook Go ($649; amazon.com)
Despite being over a year old now, Google’s Pixelbook Go is worth your attention if you’re looking for something on the higher end of the pricing scale and experience. As the name tries to imply, the Pixelbook Go is designed for someone who is moving around on the go. It has a 13.3-inch display along with a magnesium finish that’s sturdy and lightweight, with a ribbed bottom that makes it easy to grab as you walk around, or keep it in place on your desk or in your lap.
There are several different configurations of the Pixelbook GO, with the base model starting at $649 with an Intel Core m3 processor. And while it’s a powerful setup, if you’re wanting a quick machine that’ll last for years, you should probably go with the Intel Core i5 model we reviewed back at launch. It starts at $843.63 and comes with 8GB of memory and 128GB of SSD storage.