Why buy a Chromebook? Well, they’re lighter, more portable, and generally have better battery life than their Windows or Mac counterparts. They’re also more secure, easier to manage, and receive a constant stream of updates. But the low price tags are the most attractive draw, as Chromebooks often sell for hundreds less than Windows counterparts.
Nearly every major manufacturer offers their own spin on the Chromebook, which means there’s a lot of options available that look similar at a glance — although that’s starting to change as a new wave of premium Chromebooks is just now arriving. We’ve narrowed things down for you by sorting through them all to pick four of the best Chromebooks, according to important, distinguishing categories.
At a glance
|HP Chromebook x2||Best overall Chromebook||4 out of 5|
|Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630||Best 15-inch Chromebook||4 out of 5|
|Acer Chromebook Spin 15||Best budget Chromebook||4 out of 5|
|Google Pixel Slate||Best 2-in-1 Chromebook||3.5 out of 5|
|Google Pixelbook||Best premium Chromebook||3.5 out of 5|
HP Chromebook x2
The best Chromebook
Why should you buy this: You want a Chromebook prepared for the future of Chrome OS
Who’s it for: Students, professionals, and anyone in between.
Why we picked the HP Chromebook x2:
Chrome OS users should be happy right about now. Google’s lightweight OS is finally getting some real innovation, with a full slate of new and much more attractive Chromebooks making their way to the market over the next several months. The HP Chromebook x2 is a perfect example — it’s a 12.3-inch tablet that pops magnetically into a keyboard base to act as either a stable clamshell notebook or a standalone slate. It’s very Microsoft Surface Book 2-like in this respect, and we like it a lot.
Inside, it sports a powerful, efficient 7th-generation Intel Core M3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC storage (expandable via microSD card), which is more than enough to run Chrome OS efficiently. The lovely 2,400 x 1600 (235 PPI) display in the productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio is pen-enabled, giving the Chromebook x2 a ton of uses.
The Chromebook x2 sits on the higher-end of the Chromebook price range, although it’s still considerably cheaper than its biggest competitor: The Google Pixelbook or the new Google Pixel Slate. If you’re looking for a new notebook in the $600 range, though, and don’t need all features of Windows 10, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option.
Read our full HP Chromebook x2 review
Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630
The best 15-inch Chromebook
Why should you buy this: If you want a 15-inch Chromebook that doesn’t ask you to compromise on build quality or performance.
Who’s it for: Anyone who needs a full 15 inches of screen real estate.
Why we picked the Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630:
In our review, we said the Yoga Chromebook C630 maintains “the perfect middle ground between premium and affordable,” and we meant it. Starting at $700, this Chrome OS powerhouse packs in a fast 8th-generation quad-core Intel Core i5-8250 — that’s a lot of power for Chrome OS. And it shows in our benchmarks, where the Yoga Chromebook C630 took over our top spot as the fastest Chrome OS machine we’ve tested yet.
But that’s not all this 15-inch Chromebook brings to the table. It also offers a truly premium design and build, sporting a chassis that’s devoid of any creaking or flexing, at an attractive price point. It challenges some of our favorite premium Windows 10 notebooks for build quality, and that’s saying something given the price point. And it’s relatively svelte for a 15-inch notebook, coming in at a reasonable 0.70 inches thick and 4.2 pounds in weight.
The 1080p display on our review unit didn’t stand out, but it’s competent — and even better, Lenovo offers a 4K option for $100 extra. The keyboard and touchpad are very good, and the touch display is as precise and responsive as expected and lets you navigate Chrome OS with just a finger.
Read our full Lenovo Chromebook C630 review
Acer Chromebook Spin 15
The best budget Chromebook
Why should you buy this: If you need an affordable Chromebook with a large display — including one that flips around.
Who’s it for: Anyone who needs a full 15 inches of screen real estate on a budget.
Why we picked the Acer Chromebook Spin 15:
The Acer Chromebook Spin 15 is one of the only Chromebooks with a 15-inch display, and it’s the only 2-in-1 in this form factor — making it a bit of a rarity. With a size and form factor closer to a 15-inch premium laptop than a budget-oriented netbook, the Acer Chromebook Spin 15 delivers the same screen real estate as its much higher-priced competitors. That display also flips around, and while you won’t want to use it as a tablet in the crook of your arm — it’s too massive for that — you’ll enjoy media mode for binging Netflix in bed.
Rather than feeling cramped when you have two windows side-by-side on one of the more svelte Chromebook offerings, the Acer Chromebook Spin 15 is just big enough to allow you all the room you need to multitask. On top of that, the 2-in-1 features a dual-core Intel Pentium N4200 and 4GB of RAM, which features increased multi-core performance and plenty of memory to power multitasking without feeling any serious system lag.
The size of this laptop also gives you room to stretch out. Smaller Chromebooks are more portable, but they also can feel cramped, particularly if you’re a large person with similarly large hands. It even has a decent keyboard and touchpad, and it can run for an age thanks to the sizable battery. That makes some of the problems — such as the slight audio distortion, the lack of dedicated video outputs, and the outdated design — a little bit easier to overlook. If size and power are what you are looking for in your budget Chromebook, Acer’s Chromebook Spin 15 is your best bet.
Read our full Acer Chromebook Spin 15 review
Google Pixel Slate
The best 2-in-1 Chromebook
Why should you buy this: You want a 2-in-1 that leverages recent Chrome OS tablet-oriented improvements.
Who’s it for: Chrome OS users who want a laptop that can convert to a tablet.
Why we picked the Google Pixel Slate:
If you’ve been envious of people enjoying their iPads but prefer Google’s Chrome OS, then your choices have been limited. That’s where the Pixel Slate comes in, offering a uniquely Google take on the detachable tablet 2-in-1 form factor. You won’t mistake the Pixel Slate for an iPad, and that’s just fine — this 2-in-1 doesn’t just try to mimic the industry leader.
It all starts with the tablet’s look and feel. The Pixel Slate is darker, simpler, and a bit more mundane than some of its competitors, but that’s balanced by how great the tablet feels in hand. It’s solid as a rock and exudes durability, and its rounded edges make it comfortable to hold in one hand. Google placed the heaviest components in the tablet’s center, making the Pixel Slate feel lighter than it actually is (which is 1.6 pounds without its keyboard). It’s also thin at 0.28 inches, which is thinner than its primary Windows 10 competitor, the Surface Pro 6.
Performance starts out at merely acceptable with the entry-level Celeron CPU but ramps up to very fast thanks to an optional 8th-generation Intel Core i7 — but that also kicks up the price to its maximum of $1,500 with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. You’ll enjoy that performance all the more thanks to an exceptional 12.3-inch “Molecular Display” that offers excellent colors, contrast, and brightness to go with its pin-sharp 3,000 x 2,000 resolution and its productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the $149 folio keyboard that magnetically connects to the Pixel Slate and offers a Surface Pro 6-like kickstand experiences. The keyboard’s feel is very good and the touchpad is excellent. And you can round out your input with the $99 Pixel Pen that offers 2,000 levels of pressure sensitivity.
Read our full Google Pixel Slate review
The best premium Chromebook
Why should you buy this: You want comparable hardware to Windows laptops.
Who’s it for: Professionals and those who want serious power in their Chromebook.
Why we picked the Google Pixelbook:
A “premium” Chromebook used to be an oxymoron, but thanks to the Pixelbook that’s no longer true. We’re seeing all sorts of manufacturers follow suit with higher-end machines built more for luxury and performance. The Pixelbook is the best of the bunch so far. It does have a few flaws — like the pricey and chunky pen — but overall it’s an impressive piece of kit, especially if price isn’t the most important factor for you.
As much as its starting price of $1,000 (regularly on sale for $800 or slightly less) makes it far from a typical Chromebook, the Pixelbook does offer the most powerful hardware of all the recommendations in this guide. Its base version comes with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). You can upgrade that to a Core i7 and 16GB too if you like, so if you envision performing some heavy duty tasks on your Chromebook, the Pixelbook is a worthy recommendation.
It might not always feel it’s the best bang for your buck, for someone who wants to go all-in on Google, the Pixelbook is your dream machine. Google is rumored to be introducing a new high-end Chromebook at CES 2019 with smaller bezels and a 4K screen to join the slightly less expensive detachable tablet 2-in-1, the Pixel Slate, featured above.
Read our full Google Pixelbook review
How we test
When laptops enter our labs, they undergo a torturous battery of tests intended to give us a look at how each one will perform in a variety of situations. We want to define their limits, find out what they can do in everyday use and how they perform when they’re pushed.
We test individual components like the display, the CPU, GPU, and hard disk, using specific benchmarks to see how they stack up against competitors. We test for speed, reliability, and most importantly, we just spend a lot of time with each laptop.
You can find out how individual components work on their own by checking out manufacturer specs, but we test notebooks as a whole as well. We don’t just want to find out how fast each component is, we want to see how they complement each other, how they perform as a package. That way, we can give you a fully-rounded recommendation.
Before buying a Chromebook, think about Android apps
Chrome OS isn’t the most robust operating system around, but it gets the job done for Chromebooks by providing the essentials such as web browsing, word processing, and browsing basic file types. But sometimes, you need more than a Chromebook provides. Does that mean you should jump ship or skip over Chromebooks entirely? Not anymore.
Starting in 2017, every new model of Chromebook supports the Google Play store and will be able to run Android apps. You’re no longer limited to the Chrome ecosystem, and you can get just as much functionality out of your Chromebook as you could out of an Android phone or tablet.
Some earlier models also feature Android integration. For a full and continually updated list, you can check here. To find out how to install Android apps on your (compatible) Chromebook, check out the official instructions from Google here.
Is a Chromebook for you?
Chromebooks aren’t for everyone, and some users will be frustrated by their lack of functionality. Others might not even notice that Chrome OS is a bit more limited than traditional operating systems like Windows 10 and MacOS.
It all depends on how you use your current laptop or desktop. If you need to run a lot of specialized applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, or even if you absolutely need the Microsoft Office Suite and can’t settle for Google Docs, a Chromebook probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, it’s great for people who mostly surf the web or stick to other online tasks.
Chromebooks are devices that excel at general-purpose use — think of a Chromebook as a slightly more robust tablet or a big smartphone with a keyboard. If you can’t do it in a web browser or Android app, you probably won’t be able to do it on a Chromebook. That said, if you just need an affordable mobile device to bridge the gap between a desktop and your smart phone, a Chromebook might be for you.