Chrome OS used to be the laughingstock of the OS wars, but today it holds a strong place in the market. Largely thanks to Android apps, the OS is only becoming more and more useful. One of the hardest parts of Chrome OS, though, is picking the right machine to run it on. So, let’s take a look at the best Chromebooks you can buy today…
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NEW FOR JULY:
Samsung Chromebook Plus V2
For a while, the best Chromebook you could buy was the Samsung Chromebook Plus. Now, the company has revised that hardware with some spec changes, design changes, and more, and it’s still one of the best options on the market.
Our full review of the Chromebook Plus V2 is underway, but the first thing you need to know about this machine is that it’s not quite the same as the original. Samsung has swapped out the ARM-based OP1 chipset for an Intel Celeron 3965Y paired with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. This leads to better overall performance without much of a hit on battery life.
The overall design of the Chromebook Plus V2 is largely the same as the original, but with some notable changes. For one, the bottom half of the machine is now made from sturdy plastic while the top is aluminum. The aspect ratio of the display has also changed from 3:2 to 16:10. This leads to a wider machine which gives Samsung a bit more room for the keyboard which is vastly improved over the original.
That screen still flips around to use as a tablet and the machine still has an embedded stylus as well. Also changed is the screen’s resolution, now down to just 1920×1200. This is probably the only big downgrade in the entire package, though.
FROM EARLIER THIS YEAR:
Obviously, the new king of the hill when it comes to Chrome OS is the Google Pixelbook. Unveiled alongside the new Pixel 2 family and the rest of Google’s new gadgets, the Pixelbook is as premium a laptop as any, but with Chrome OS running the show (with Android apps, of course).
There are three configurations for the Pixelbook. The standard model has an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD for storage. Stepping up from there you’ll get the same processor and RAM, but with a 256GB SSD.
The top-of-the-line model packs an Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a massive (and faster) 512GB NVMe SSD. All models use Intel’s 7th generation Kaby Lake chipsets, and you’ll be getting killer performance across the board.
The display on the Pixelbook is a 12.3-inch LCD at 2400×1600, and you’ll also be getting dual-speakers, up to 10 hours of battery life, two USB-C ports with fast charging, and a 720p webcam. The keyboard is also backlit and there’s also an edge-to-edge trackpad made from glass.
The Pixelbook itself is built from an aluminum unibody just like the Chromebook Pixel of years past, and there’s even a glass panel on top that calls out to the design of the Pixel phones. Google says that glass will also help with wifi performance and reception.
The Pixelbook supports the new $99 Pen that can be used for drawing, but also the machine’s standout feature — Google Assistant. Just like the Assistant on your phone, you’ll be able to ask questions and more with your voice, but Assistant on the Pixelbook also works with typing and the dedicated keyboard key. With the Pen, you can even circle things on-screen and have Assistant give you information about it.
Of course, all of this comes at a price. The Pixelbook starts at a whopping $999 on the Google Store and goes all the way up to $1,650. That’s a lot to spend on a Chromebook if you ask me, but for enthusiasts, it could be well worth it. You can order it right now from the Google Store, Best Buy, or Amazon.
Samsung Chromebook Pro
Samsung’s premium Chromebooks stole our attention last year, and they’re still pretty solid options. Like the Chromebook Plus, the Samsung Chromebook Pro offers up excellent features like Android apps out of the box, a brilliant 2400×1600 IPS touchscreen display, and a premium 2-in-1 design. It also includes a built-in stylus and two USB-C ports.
The biggest differences with the Chromebook Pro over the Plus is what’s found under the hood. The Chromebook Pro has the same 4GB of RAM, but paired with an Intel Core m3 processor as opposed to the “OP1” ARM chipset in the Plus. The Chromebook Pro also offers a gorgeous matte black color as opposed to the silver found on the Plus.
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.
Acer Chromebook 15 (2017)
The Acer Chromebook 15 has been around for a while and it’s seen several revisions both as a high-powered and an entry-level machine. For 2017, Acer has refreshed the Chromebook 15 yet again, this time with USB-C and an aluminum build.
We’ve already reviewed the new Acer Chromebook 15 and in short, it’s an excellent option for its $400 price tag. You get a 15.6-inch 1080p display, Intel Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. That’s not exactly high-end, but given the size, speakers, and aluminum build, it’s a really nice package for Chrome OS.
That 15-inch display is, of course, a touchscreen so you’ll be able to use Android apps which work out of the box. The screen doesn’t flip fully around like on a lot of other Chromebooks, but it will fold down 180-degrees. USB-C is also included which is a nice touch for this new model. There’s one port on either side for data and charging, and a standard USB port on each side as well.
Samsung Chromebook Plus (2017)
One of the headliners 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 C101
The first Chromebook with a 2-in-1 design was the ASUS Chromebook Flip a few years ago, and this year, ASUS has given it a refresh. Just like the original, the Chromebook Flip C101 has a 10.1-inch display on a 360-degree hinge, making it once again the smallest Chromebook on the market. Today, though, that means a lot more than it did thanks to Android apps.
The C101 also packs a little more power to run Chrome OS and Android apps. It has a newer Rockchip processor, 4GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage on its base $299 model, and that’s a pretty great little package if you ask me. This machine clearly isn’t a power users’ device, but it’s about as ideal of a tablet replacement as you can get in a Chromebook today.
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.