Google’s Chrome OS excels when it comes to the basics. Chromebook laptops, which are built on that operating system, are great for watching movies, listening to music, playing games and browsing the web.
And because Chrome is a browser-based OS, it’s naturally suited for all of the cloud-based services that increasingly permeate modern work life. All of this is doubly true if you’re already immersed in Google’s ecosystem via your smartphone, tablet or existing computer. This includes any Google app such as Gmail, Google Drive, Google Play and Google Docs or one of Google’s smart-home devices.
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The advantages of Chrome extend beyond its pan-Google integration.The Google Chromebook’s Chrome operating system and Chrome browser are also free, insofar as anything online is free, and they’re dead simple to use. An Apple laptop, featuring the elegant MacOS operating system, is significantly more expensive than the average Chromebook laptop. And though a traditional laptop, especially ones like an entry-level HP or Dell may cost only a few hundred bucks, it’ll likely be saddled with a clunky edition of Windows that will slow processor speeds and affect things like streaming, web browsing and basic gaming.
Even the best Chromebooks have their limits, however. You can’t install Photoshop, the Steam app or any other Windows- or Mac-dependent applications. If you rely on a technical application for work, you may need a Mac or Windows laptop and might not want to buy a Chromebook laptop. Likewise, if you’re a college student who runs specialized programs or non-web-based software for exams, even the best Chromebook for students may not be a good fit. Additionally, the built-in storage of a Chromebook laptop can be lacking if you’re not willing or able to rely on cloud storage.
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On the other hand, a Chrome OS device is less likely to be targeted by malware — there’s just not much of an operating system to infect, making them well-suited for environments where multiple users share the same laptop. Just sign in with your Gmail address, and you’re good to go.
The list below comprises the best Chromebook picks we’ve reviewed and is updated regularly as we review new products. Each one is independently chosen by our editors.
Read more: Best laptops of 2020
The Yoga Chromebook is a versatile student laptop — and it doubles as a convincing tablet. It has a 15.6-inch 4K touchscreen display, solid battery life and, with an Intel Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM, enough performance for everyday office and entertainment tasks. The aluminum chassis gives it a premium aesthetic, and it has a comfortable keyboard and touchpad. Though it lacks some of the higher-end features you find on the company’s Windows-equivalent C740 and C940, the Chromebook version does have a privacy webcam shutter. It starts at $900 — but is often on sale for less.
The entry-level Samsung Chromebook 4 costs only $300 and features a 15.6-inch display powered by an Intel Celeron processor and 4GB of RAM. The downside? It supplies only 32GB of solid-state storage. The upside? It boasts a full HD 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution display for a sharper picture and more work space than you’d get with the 1,366×768-pixel resolution found on other low-end Chromebooks. Samsung also sells two step-up models. For $350, you can upgrade the memory to 6GB and the storage to 64GB. And for $380, you can get 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
More than just your average premium Chromebook, the 714 has an all-aluminum chassis with military-grade durability to survive drops from up to 48 inches (122 cm) and downward force up to 132 pounds (60 kg) — making it a good Acer Chromebook for people who might not be all that gentle with their devices.. It’s also certified Citrix Ready, so it works with Citrix’s business solutions including Citrix Receiver and XenApp and XenDesktop apps. Plus, this is the first Chromebook with a fingerprint reader, which makes switching between users a breeze.
Google’s own homegrown Pixelbook has been discontinued — though you can still find new and refurbished models of this Chrome OS device online. The Pixelbook Go, a newer Google Chromebook product introduced in 2019, remains available, however — and though we didn’t think it pushed the category forward, per se, it’s got a lot to recommend it. It’s nicely made, has an awesome keyboard and delivers extraordinary battery life.
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