For the ease of use and price, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is great for students, writers, and anyone else who saves their documents in the cloud and doesn’t want to mess with a full operating system like Windows or Mac.
Whether you're a college freshman or an experienced office professional, you're going to need a decent laptop. But you don't necessarily need to spend a fortune to get a laptop to see you through your daily tasks. Chromebooks, known for their low prices and long battery life, offer an excellent and affordable alternative to traditional laptops.
Chromebooks are ideal for light usage, which is why they've made such a dent in the education market. Since they exclusively run web-based applications (instead of storing them locally) they're also at lower risk for security issues. If you just want the cream of the crop, it's the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga(available at Lenovo). Not only is it powerful but it also has a beautiful well-built chassis, a comfortable keyboard, and a killer touchscreen.
However, there's an option out there for everyone. From traditional clamshell bodies to versatile 2-in-1's, we've tested tons of them to help you find the one that'll keep you smitten for years to come.
These are the best Chromebooks we tested, ranked in order:
Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga
Google Pixelbook Go
Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5
Acer Chromebook Spin 514
Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2
HP Chromebook x360
Asus Chromebook Flip C434
Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga (2021)
Editor's Note, August 19 2022: Unfortunately, the Chromebook ThinkPad C13 is out of stock. Stay tuned for updates.
Screen Size: 13.3" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, anti-glare, touchscreen
While the ThinkPad C13 isn't the best bang-for-your-buck Chromebook, it's an extremely well-built machine for the price. It comes with a capable Ryzen 5 3500C processor and 8GB of RAM—enough for most Chromebook work—and a 1080p touch screen. You can also upgrade as high as a Ryzen 7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 4K OLED display for more top-tier components that can handle any work you might throw at them.
More impressive, though, is the quality of the chassis, keyboard, and trackpad—not to mention the inclusion of the TrackPoint nub so many ThinkPad fans have come to love. The ThinkPad line has always been a bastion of quality when it comes to these more subjective parts of the package, so if you're typing for long hours at your laptop or doing meticulous photo edits (whether through the browser, an Android app, or Linux program), the C13 will be a cut above its cheaper competitors.
At this price, you start to cross over with Windows laptops, but no comparably priced Windows machine will come even close to the C13 in terms of build quality. The C13 stands tall among the newer crop of premium Chromebooks on the market today.
If you want a Chromebook that feels like a Macbook, this is it. Google’s Pixelbook Go is a sleek sheet of matte black aluminum that oozes with premium build quality. While you can get more powerful Chromebooks for the same exorbitant price, you’ll have a tougher time finding something that feels this durable.
There’s quite a bit to like about the user experience. The display is a gorgeous glossy touch screen that is incredibly bright, vivid, and full of contrast. Screens that look this good are rarely seen in this price range on ChromeOS or Windows. Its large trackpad feels just as good, with a smooth glass finish and flawless gesture recognition.
We have mixed feelings about its ultra-quiet keyboard. It does manage to make virtually no noise, but it sacrifices feedback and subsequently makes it difficult for my fingertips to feel when the keys register.
With 8GB of RAM and an Intel Core M5-8500Y, the Pixelbook Go packs more power than most people would ever need of their Chromebooks. If you’re looking to play fast, intense games on it, then you’ll have no trouble running anything at high frame rates from the Google Play Store.
Where this Chromebook lags a bit behind its competitors is in its battery life. In our web-based battery test, the Pixelbook Go cycled through pages for 7 hours and 45 minutes before saying good night. Many cheaper Chromebooks could go for anywhere between eight and ten hours, but they could not provide the power of a Pixelbook Go in return.
Additionally, we found better battery life in some Ryzen-based Windows laptops in the same price range. For the high price, the Core M5 Pixelbook Go is a tough sell for anyone that isn’t looking for a top-line Chromebook and would settle for slightly less build quality or a different OS for a fraction of the cost.
The Chromebook Flex 5 is a perfect mix of power, sophistication, and value. This 13-inch 2-in-1 laptop, usually found for under $400, uses quality mid-range components and has a stellar build quality that can rival laptops twice its price.
The Flex 5 we tested packs a 10th generation Intel Core i3 processor that makes ChromeOS run quickly, with no hesitation; You can open several apps and dozens of Chrome tabs before its performance takes a hit.
The gunmetal grey chassis is nothing short of stunning. The hinges are firm, and the body feels like it can take some roughhousing. The 1080p touch display is vibrant and bright and is also stylus compatible, although you have to find your own stylus. The keyboard and trackpad both feel comfortable and enjoyable to use for long periods of time.
The Flex 5’s biggest drawback is its middling battery life, which falls well below most Chromebooks’ eight-plus hour battery life. The audio is tinny and thin, making voices sound distant and muffled. Even though its webcam is only 720p resolution, its image is reasonably clear in low lighting, and the color stays neutral. However, none of these flaws are deal-breakers, and the laptop offers incredible value for the money.
There are plenty of good reasons to pick up Acer’s Chromebook Spin 514, but the highlight of this machine is its processor. Like our top pick, the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook, this is one of the few Chromebooks to come equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 chip, which is far more powerful than the Athlon Gold and Silver processors Acer has used in some of its other Chromebook models.
While this Ryzen 5 chip does not have the same kind of power as those made for gaming laptops and productivity laptops, its speed puts many of the other processors you’ll find in Chromebooks to shame—even the Intel Core i3-10110U in the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2. Webpages and apps load faster, and if you have a good wireless internet connection, the Spin 514 is also a great cloud gaming machine.
The Spin 514 is sturdily built, too. The hinges are firm and hold the display in any position, whether that’s in laptop mode or tablet mode. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass, which makes it more resistant to scratches and chips, and the chassis is made of reinforced metal. This makes it a great laptop for taking on the road, shoving into your bookbag, and even the occasional mishap.
Like the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 has some trouble recognizing trackpad gestures, mainly with scrolling through web pages. It takes a couple of tries swiping with two fingers for the trackpad to register what you’re trying to do. The keys also feel slightly soft, but there’s enough key travel to get a satisfying press. The keys are super quiet, too, so type away to your heart’s content—there’s no loud clack-clack-clack to distract anyone around you in a hushed library corner or study hall.
Aside from the minor trackpad issue, Acer’s Spin 514 has the right design and power for anyone who needs or wants a little bit extra out of a Chromebook.
For the Samsung enthusiast who already owns a Galaxy phone and smartwatch, there’s the fiery red Galaxy Chromebook 2, which is also a 2-in-1. But even if you haven’t bought into the company’s ecosystem, its latest Galaxy Chromebook stands against the competition all on its own. It’s not the speediest little machine, but the Intel Core i3-10110U and 8GB of RAM give it enough oomph to run multiple apps at once and even load up the Chrome browser with a bunch of tabs.
If you have a Wi-Fi 6 router, this Chromebook will play nice with it, as its wireless adapter is also Wi-Fi 6. That’s good news for anyone on a tight budget who needs something to handle schoolwork, browsing, emailing, or any other low-powered computing tasks in the cloud. Even gaming!
The Galaxy Chromebook 2 also has a bright and vibrant 1080p QLED display, topping out at 440 nits. It’s no uber professional-grade screen, but it still makes Life in Color look gorgeous. The same goes for video games played over the cloud, like Cyberpunk 2077 and Control. Of course, you can do the same with any Chromebook, but this one has the right combination of hardware and features to make the experience better than many of the other ones out there.
The Chromebook is advertised with "up to" 13 hours of battery life, but it falls well short of that. In our standard battery test, we measured only 6.5 hours of battery life after constantly cycling through a series of web pages until the battery died. The trackpad had trouble registering when my fingers were trying to scroll up and down on a webpage for the first few swipes, but eventually figured out what I was trying to do. The keyboard is also a tad shallower than the new MacBook Pro, which makes for quieter keystrokes but a less satisfying press. But the touch screen is super responsive, so that makes up for it, especially if you like reading ebooks.
With its ease of use and price, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is great for students, writers, and anyone else who saves their documents in the cloud and doesn’t want to mess with a full operating system like Windows or Mac.
Editor's Note: This laptop's processor has been discontinued, but the laptop itself is still available. We will update this entry with a new model once we have tested and reviewed it.
It may not be mighty, but it sure is lovely. The HP Chromebook x360 is a 2-in-1 convertible Chromebook that feels sturdy and looks pretty in white. It comes with an optional stylus that really elevates the experience to something more organic, the pen gliding on the 4,096 levels of pressure like a pencil glides on photo paper.
This is a great tablet for students, as it allows them to take notes by writing them out or by typing them as they please. The Chromebook x360’s keyboard is surprisingly springy and stable for the price, and its touchpad is just as satisfactory. When you open your favorite video apps and sites, you’ll be treated to a bright, colorful display that looks much better than the price would suggest.
If you need a Chromebook that can handle a lot of tabs and programs simultaneously, this one may be a bit underpowered for you. However, if you’re looking for something a little more casual, maybe to check your email and read some ebooks, this little 2-in-1 has the perfect mix of features and functionality.
If you’re a young professional, you should definitely check out the Asus Chromebook Flip. Its performance is good enough for everyday tasks like surfing the web and checking email, its 2-in-1 form factor lends itself well for reading and movies, and its bezels are practically nonexistent (this means you’re getting a ton of screen). However, its sophisticated design elevates it past similar Chromebooks. With its aluminum finish and chrome trim, the C434T looks and feels like a premium product (minus the premium price tag). It’s one of the most elegant-looking Chromebooks we’ve seen in a while.
Sadly, its trackpad isn't on par with the rest of the Flip's excellent design. It’s not as responsive as a MacBook touchpad, and it could take some time to get used to. It's not a deal-breaker, per se, but it’s something to be aware of.
Our tests for these devices aren’t based purely on processing power. Instead, we look at the overall usability of the Chromebook, which also depends on the quality of the screen, the keyboard, and many other factors like battery life and processor. We test all of these factors and assign a score for each. Then, we rate the overall usability of the device as a combination of all of these factors by creating an overall weighted score.
Because the Chromebooks in this guide are mostly designed for running web applications like Google Docs, we use two web benchmarks: Basemark and Speedometer. These test the processing power of the laptop in a web browser: for all of them, we used Google Chrome.
Most modern displays do well in a dark room, but what about outdoors? To figure out whether matte or glossy displays fare better in the sun, we test the brightness on the display. We do this with a CS-200: it’s a handheld device that measures luminance. We measure the white levels and black levels at max brightness and then again at 50% brightness.
Finally, we tested the battery life of each laptop to see how long you they last between charges. With their displays adjusted to a brightness of 200 nits, we set them to continuously cycle through popular websites, simulating the way you would use the laptop when idly browsing the web. We also look at other factors such as how comfortable the screen is to look at and how easy the keyboard is to type on.
What is a Chromebook?
Chromebooks stand apart from Macbooks and Windows laptops because unlike macOS and Windows, ChromeOS isn’t a full-fledged operating system (at least, not in the same way). You’ll be spending most of your time in the Chrome browser, and although you can install Android apps to increase functionality, the experience isn’t always great and they’re still mobile apps rather than desktop-class software.
Since most of your work will be done in a browser, Chromebooks typically have less on-board storage than most other laptops. Instead, you’ll have to rely on cloud storage, and since it’s a Google device that’s best done with Google Drive.
Chromebooks are also significantly cheaper than their counterparts, with a good Chromebook often costing somewhere around $400. You’ll lose access to desktop-class software, so you won’t be able to do things like run audio editing software or install your workplace’s mandatory software. Again, if you do most of your work in a browser, this won’t be an issue, but for those who rely on more powerful software, a Chromebook probably isn’t a good fit as a primary device.
How to Choose the Best Chromebook for You
Running Chrome OS (aka Google's default browser), Chromebooks are inexpensive and largely virus-free, a great option for college students. Equipped with low-power processors, Chromebooks typically have good battery life and are fanless. That said, they’re not the most powerful laptops in the world. They can only handle everyday tasks like browsing the web, checking e-mail, and watching Netflix.
13-inch laptops: These smaller laptops are great for carrying around, and more than suitable for light work like writing papers and browsing the web.
15-inch laptops: Mid-sized laptops are a bit less portable, and won’t necessarily work in space-constrained spaces like airplane seats. But the larger display is useful for photo editing and watching videos.
17-inch laptops: This is very large, and only recommended if you are doing video editing or other intensive work that requires a lot of screen real estate—and you don’t mind lugging it around.
There can still be varying sizes within those categories—for example, the XPS 13’s smaller bezels make it much smaller than most 13-inch laptops—and sizes in between, like the 14-inch Lenovo Yoga C930. But in general, picking a size range you’re comfortable with can help narrow down the field.
You’ll also want to consider how many USB ports the laptop has, whether you need HDMI and Ethernet, and how comfortable the keyboard and trackpad are to use—this can vary quite a bit from model to model, and it’s important to get something responsive and durable. Touch displays are generally reserved for more premium products.
Windows is still the dominant OS these days, and if you’re going to play games, edit photos and videos, or need certain software for work, you’ll probably stick with Microsoft’s offering. If you spend all your time on the web, though, a Chromebook may serve you better than you’d think—between Netflix, Gmail, Google Docs, and even online photo editors like Pixlr, you can do almost anything in a browser, and many of those web apps even work offline for those rare occasions you don’t have Wi-Fi. Chromebooks have the advantage of being cheaper (since they don’t need as much processing power) and virtually virus-free (since they run Linux under the hood).
Under the Hood
Finally, you’ll need to consider the guts—the processor, graphics chip, RAM, and storage that determine your laptop’s capabilities. For browsing the web and using office software, lower-power chips like Intel’s i3 and i5 are more than adequate. 4GB of RAM is usable in a Chromebook, though even web browsing can eat up RAM these days, so 8GB is recommended if you tend to open lots of tabs, use lots of browser extensions, and want a laptop that’ll last you well into the future—I wouldn’t generally advise 4GB for most Windows laptops these days.
Joanna specializes in anything and everything gaming-related and loves nerding out over graphics cards, processors, and chip architecture. Previously she was a staff writer for Gizmodo, PC Gamer, and Maximum PC.
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