Chrome OS used to be the laughing-stock of the OS wars, but today it holds a strong place in the market. Thanks to Android apps, the OS is only becoming more and more useful too. One of the hardest parts of Chrome OS, though, is picking a machine to run it on. So, let’s take a look at the best Chromebooks you can buy today…
NEW FOR MAY:
Lenovo Flex 11
Lenovo is no stranger to Chrome OS and for 2017, it’s first notable release for 2017 is the Flex 11. This Chromebook, designed with education in mind, is designed to be affordable and offer an experience ready for Android apps, even though they won’t be enabled out of the box.
The Flex 11 is powered by the quad-core MTK 8173C processor clocked at 2.1GHz paired with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The machine also offers an 11.6-inch 1366×768 IPS touchscreen which is on a 360-degree hinge. The Flex 11 also doesn’t skimp on ports, offering a USB-C port, a full-size USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, and a full-size SD card slot. It also features improved drop resistance and limited water resistance. It also offers a 45 watt-hour battery that should be enough to power it through a full day.
This machine is obviously targeted at education, but general consumers can also easily buy it from Lenovo’s website for $279.
FROM EARLIER THIS YEAR:
Samsung Chromebook Plus
The headliner in the Chrome OS market today is the Samsung Chromebook Plus. Samsung’s latest machine is a premium device designed for Android apps that is one of the more well thought-out machines in recent memory. It offers a 12.3-inch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio that comes in at 2400×1600. It’s a very sharp display which looks stunning, and with a responsive touchscreen that can flip all the way around, it makes for a solid tablet replacement.
Android apps are enabled out of the box on this one as well, meaning that users can easily use this machine both for tasks in Chrome and in their favorite apps. It also makes Samsung’s embedded stylus possible, with improved functionality through a couple of pre-loaded apps.
The Chromebook Plus runs on top of a hexa-core ARM-based chipset developer in collaboration with Google. The OP1 chipset is well optimized for Chrome and Android apps, and it works pretty well on the Plus. Paired with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, it makes for a solid experience overall.
Samsung has made the decision to go all-in on USB-C on the Chromebook Plus as well, leaving users with two USB-C ports for charging, data transfer, and output. It’s not ideal, but it’s also not a big deal on this sort of machine.
Priced at $449, Samsung is certainly going for the higher end of the market, but after using it, I certainly feel it’s worth the asking price. You can pick up the Samsung Chromebook Plus from Amazon (where it’s commonly on sale), the Google Store, Best Buy, and various other retailers.
ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA
The other big release we’ve seen in 2017 has been the ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA. This machine closely rivals the Chromebook Plus with a premium design, but takes a slightly different approach with the overall package.
The C302CA offers Android apps (in the beta channel only for now) and was clearly designed with them in mind. The 12.5-inch 1080p touchscreen display is great for using apps, and the 16:9 aspect ratio feels natural when using media applications as well. It also offers an excellent backlit keyboard and all-day battery life, with charging support via the two USB-C ports, which are the only ports found on the machine.
ASUS has packed this Chromebook with Intel’s Core m3 chipset, 64GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM. That Intel chipset makes the C302CA a great choice for those who need some extra power, and it works very well.
Priced at $499, the C302CA isn’t necessarily for the first time Chromebook buyer, but it’s an excellent option that will become an even better value when Android apps make their way to the stable channel. Retailers such as Amazon, Newegg, and Best Buy offer it.
HP Chromebook 13
Google’s Chromebook Pixel was easily the best of the best when it comes to Chromebooks, but it’s been long gone. For users who crave a similarly premium experience, the HP Chromebook 13 is an excellent option. It offers a striking design made from premium materials and a solid set of specifications.
The Chromebook 13 runs on top of an Intel Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and has a 13.3-inch 3200×1800 IPS display. It also offers 11.5 hours of battery life and two USB-C ports along with full-size USB ports and a B&O enhanced headphone jack. The keyboard is also backlit.
Pricing for the HP Chromebook 13 starts at about $500 from retailers such as HP itself, Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, and B&HPhoto. B&H, however, does offer the machine in a few other configurations, maxing out with an Intel Core m7 processor and 16GB of RAM for about $1,000.
Acer Chromebook 14
Acer is one of the most popular Chromebook makers, and that’s why it has more than one option on this list. The first, though, is the Acer Chromebook 14. Offering up a metal build, Intel Celeron chipset, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage, this is a pretty respectable offering from the company. This is certainly a Chrome OS-first experience, though, as the screen doesn’t flip around, nor does the machine feature a touchscreen for using Android apps (although it will still receive them, eventually).
Priced at $299, the Chromebook 14 isn’t a bad deal. It lacks some of the newer perks of modern Chromebooks, like USB-C, but it’s definitely a good choice. It’s available in both silver and gold from retailers such as Amazon. You can learn more in our full review.
Acer Chromebook N7 (C731)
Education is the biggest market for Chrome OS, and hardware is constantly being released with that in mind. One of the more recent options has been the Acer Chromebook N7, launched back at CES 2017. This machine offers a lot for its $229 price tag, including an Intel Celeron chipset, 4GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and an 11.6-inch IPS touchscreen HD display.
Like many other Chromebooks with an education focus, the N7 offers improved durability with drop and water resistance. It unfortunately doesn’t feature USB-C, but does offer up two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, a full-size SD card reader, and, of course, a headphone jack. The Acer Chromebook N7 is available for purchase from Amazon, Newegg, Walmart, and other retailers.
If you’re looking to replace your aging Android tablet with a Chromebook, the Acer R11 is a solid option. It’s one of the few Chromebooks on the market today that features Android apps out of the box, and it’s a great showcase for the functionality thanks to the 360-degree hinge.
Running on top of an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage, the R11 offers a great experience on Chrome OS. Its age causes it to lack thing like USB-C, but it features plenty of full-size USB ports, HDMI, and a full-size SD card slot to make up for that. At $279, it’s a solid machine to pick up.
Acer Chromebook 15
If you’re looking for affordability above all else, it doesn’t get much better than the Acer Chromebook 15. Priced at just $199, this machine offers a huge 15.6-inch display (albeit a low-resolution one), a solid keyboard, wide array of ports, and suprisingly good performance. It packs an Intel Celeron chipset, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. It’s a bare bones machine for sure, but it gets the job done. It’s easy to find the 2016 model at Walmart, but if you’re looking for some extra power or a better display, other models are available for purchase on Amazon for an extra $50-$100.
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