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The best student Chromebooks for 2021

Students require technology that meets their every need whether they’re in class or working remotely from home. As more and more tasks demand their time, the best student Chromebooks can definitely rise to the challenge. They’re lightweight, sometimes light on the wallet, and even support Android and Linux, making them a solid choice for college students.

The Asus Chromebook Flip C214 is our current top pick for the best Chromebook for students, rising above the competition for its overall success in all our tests. Check out the other highlights of this great Chromebook for students and others.

The best Chromebooks for students at a glance:

Best Chromebook for students: Asus Chromebook Flip C214

ASUS Chromebook Flip C214

Why you should buy this: Offering military-grade durability, long battery life, and an included stylus, it’s the best Chromebook option for students.

Who it’s for: Students who want an exceptional rugged notebook at an exceptional price.

Why we picked the Asus Chromebook Flip C214:

Asus built the Chromebook Flip C214 as a 2-in-1 laptop option for educational institutions and students. It features everything that makes a Chromebook great, including a battery that can last up to 12 hours on a single charge. The convenient design means that it can be utilized as a laptop or a tablet. Moreover, students can use a stylus while in either mode to take notes or sketch out ideas.

The C214 is built to military-grade specifications, so there’s no need to worry about throwing it in a bag. It survived a drop-test from up to 1.2 meters while powered on, and it can endure up to 30 kilograms of force without any damage. The laptop has other durability features too, such as a rubberized bumper, a spill-resistant keyboard, and an anti-scratch, easy-to-grip rubberized finish.

The Asus Chromebook Flip is powered by an Intel Celeron dual-core processor backed by either 4GB or 8GB of memory, which is enough to browse the web, manage word processing, and get work done. However, the 11.6-inch display only supplies a 768p resolution. That means it won’t be the ultimate movie machine, but more than enough to get work done.

Runner-up Chromebook for students: Google Pixelbook Go

Google Pixelbook Go keyboard
Riley Young / Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: Despite its high cost, the Pixelbook Go is one of the best Chromebooks you can buy, making it great for everyone, not just students.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants one of the best Chromebooks on the market, including students who demand high performance.

Why we picked the Google Pixelbook Go:

Google’s Pixelbook Go is one of the best Chromebooks students can purchase right now, but it’s a bit more expensive than our top pick. Featuring a 13-inch Full HD display, the screen offers plenty of room for students to manage multiple windows side-by-side, such as researching and writing up an essay.

Computing power won’t be lacking, either, thanks to the inclusion of an Intel Core m3 processor on the base model. The CPU selection maxes out with an Intel Core i7 processor, which in turn bumps up the display from Full HD to 4K — great for when you want to kick back and relax with Netflix after a long day of classes.

Standout features include a 47 Watt-hour battery lasting 12 hours and the ability to fast charge up to two hours in only 20 minutes. If you’re working in a dark lecture hall, the Google Pixelbook Go’s comfortable backlit keyboard will enable you to continue taking notes without worry. The magnesium finish keeps the Pixelbook light yet sturdy, protecting it as you move between classes.

Read our Google Pixelbook Go review

Best budget Chromebook for students: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet

Why you should buy this: Lenovo offers a 2-in-1 experience that is both functional and affordable. Plus, it includes all the accessories.

Who it’s for: Students who need an affordable Chromebook for both school and leisure time.

Why we picked the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet:

Even with more premium Chromebooks now on the market, there are still a few great budget laptop options. While many are mediocre, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet meets the criteria. It’s a 2-in-1 Chromebook complete with a detachable keyboard that, unlike the entry-level iPad and Microsoft Surface Go, is included in the box.

Users also get a 1080p resolution in a 10.1-inch display. That makes it great for watching videos. The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is also surprisingly sturdy and well built for its price point. However, its biggest drawbacks are the cramped keyboard and so-so performance.

Still, for a student who is looking for a do-it-all device on the cheap, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is hard to beat.

Read Our Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Review

Best multimedia Chromebook for students: Lenovo Yoga C630

Lenovo Yoga C630 review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: Lenovo’s Yoga C630 offers a large 15.6-inch touch-enabled display that outshines other Chromebooks, providing lots of screen space to get work done.

Who it’s for: Students who need extra screen space to multitask, as well as those who want to kick back with Netflix after a long day.

Why we picked the Lenovo Yoga C630:

Lenovo offers a Chromebook aimed squarely at the hearts of students seeking large displays and to binge-watch shows. Featuring the biggest screen of all the Chromebooks on our list, the 15.6-inch Full HD display allows for students to multitask with ease, opening more windows than a smaller screen might allow. Need to work on an essay in Google Docs or reference a notes app? No problem! Best of all, despite the large display, the C630 still pulls in an impressive 10 hours of battery life.

Under the hood, the Lenovo Yoga C630 features an Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, making it one of the more capable Chromebooks on our list. Of course, due to the large screen size, the unit is on the heftier side, weighing in at 4.2 pounds. While it’s not an extreme weight, it is something to consider if you plan to tote it around from class to class.

Best tablet Chromebook for students: Google Pixel Slate

Google Pixel Slate Hands-on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: The Google Pixel Slate offers the best Chrome OS experience in a tablet while packing useful accessories, including a keyboard and stylus.

Who it’s for: Students who prefer tablets or those who will primarily work with a stylus, such as art or engineering majors.

Why we picked the Google Pixel Slate:

Google’s Pixel Slate currently offers the best Chrome OS tablet experience starting at $500. It’s an excellent option for students who need a stylus, such as art students who want to digitally sketch and draw, or engineering students who need to jot down mathematical formulas.

Technically, the Google Pixel Slate isn’t a Chromebook — it’s more of a Chrometablet. However, if you are considering a Chrome OS device for school, it’s worth a look. You aren’t always stuck in tablet mode either, as Google sells the optional Pixel Slate Keyboard for $190 if you need a more traditional Chromebook experience. The pen costs an additional $100.

Whether in tablet or laptop mode, you can enjoy the integrated Intel Core m3 processor with 8GB of RAM. Need more power? Configurations include up to an Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB of RAM. All three configurations have an outstanding 12-hour battery life.

Read our Google Pixel Slate review

How we test

We carefully research and review notebooks across a variety of platforms, including Windows, MacOS, and Chrome OS. We ensure that each recommended product meets the daily requirements of those who will utilize them. Essential aspects such as battery life, overall performance, portability, and functionality are taken into account to help you select the best option.

Our review process for Chromebooks includes benchmarking the CPU, testing the storage speed, how they perform on the web, and more. We also use them on a daily basis to get a feel for how they perform, just as you would. Does it load apps fast? Do the keys feel great and responsive? Is it heavy and bulky? We live with these machines for weeks so we can make the best recommendations. If we don’t like it, we won’t suggest it no matter how low the price can be.

Should you purchase a Chromebook?

In a world of Windows vs. MacOS vs. Chrome OS, Chromebooks are seemingly the new kids on the block. The platform is the newest of the three and designed to be lightweight and web-first. Are they good enough to buy? Some students may fall in love while others may not. Are they right for you? That depends mostly on what you have now at the software you have installed.

While MacOS and Windows are full-featured operating systems, Chromebooks ship with Chrome OS, a platform based on the Chrome web browser. If you can do almost everything you need within Chrome, then a Chromebook will certainly work. If you rely on applications like Adobe Photoshop or iTunes, then a Chromebook shouldn’t be your primary machine.

However, here’s one thing to consider: Modern Chromebooks can run Android applications. Not all Android apps are fully optimized for the screen size or a desktop-style input, however, but in a pinch, they might be able to help you accomplish what you need. Otherwise, you can also check out some of the extensions available in the Chrome Web Store that can expand upon the abilities of your Chromebook.

Most modern Chromebooks now support Linux too. While still labeled as “beta,” this feature allows Chromebook owners to install traditional Linux software, like GIMP and even Steam. The drawback here is that many student-focused models have very little storage space, so students may be forced to rely on Android apps anyway.

So, in a nutshell, you can run web apps, Android apps, and Linux desktop software on most Chromebooks. You just need to find Linux- and Android-based versions of the programs and apps you use or find close alternatives if you’re planning to run away from Microsoft or Apple.

Take a test drive

If you are still not sure if a Chromebook is right for you, go to a local retailer, like Best Buy or Walmart, and take a test drive. It’s the best way to get the Chromebook experience without blindly making a purchase on faith and research alone.

Also, be sure to purchase any Chromebook from a trusted website or retailer that offers a return policy. During the return period, you can get a better feel for Chrome OS and everything it can and cannot do — more so than taking a quick test drive at a local retailer.

If worst comes to worst, you can easily return the Chromebook if it fails to meet your expectations.

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