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Chromebooks have come a long way from the original CR-48, and for many, a complete workflow is now possible in the confines of Chrome OS thanks to the addition of Android and Linux application support. But there are quite a lot out there to choose from, and some are better options than others. For your convenience, we've put together a small list of some of our favorite picks, categorized based on your primary consideration.
This list is obviously non-exhaustive. There are a lot of Chromebooks and Chromeboxes out there, and plenty of new hardware is always on the horizon, but these are our recommendations for the best Chrome OS-powered devices among a range of prices and utility categories.
The best one to get: Google Pixelbook
It's coming up on a year old at this point, but Google's first-party Pixelbook is still a very good Chromebook. On paper, the Acer Chromebook Spin 13 looks set to dethrone it (keep an eye out for our upcoming review for more info), but you can't actually buy one right now. That means as of this moment, the Pixelbook is still among the best Chromebooks out there, especially considering its frequent and sizable discounts. Right now it's sadly back up in price, but if you're willing to wait a bit, I wouldn't be surprised to see those chunky $250 discounts return.
I wouldn't recommend the expensive i7 16GB/512GB model, since most of the benefits of increased RAM, storage, and processing power are a bit lost on Chrome OS (plus $1,650 is a bit much to spend on a Chromebook), but the base i5 8GB/128GB model is more palatable at $1,000.
Mid-range: Samsung Chromebook Plus V2
We haven't personally had a chance to look at Samsung's refresh of the Chromebook Plus just yet, but the specifications and $500 price paint a pretty mid-range picture. Though the screen has been sadly stepped down to 1080p from the original's insane 2400x1600, the Celeron 3965Y CPU should give some decent oomph compared to the Rockchip SoC in the previous model. It still has the same built-in stylus and convenient 2-in-1 design.
Some might be interested in the older model, and it's still being sold, but the newer version is likely a better strictly mid-range choice, given the bump in CPU performance, though the older screen could be tempting.
Budget pick: Lenovo C330
I've spent a little bit of time using the C330, and for the $280 starting price, it's quite a deal. You get a 1.7 GHz MediaTek SoC (I know, but at least it isn't an N-series Celeron, right?), 11.6" 768p IPS display, 4GB RAM, 32-64GB eMMC storage, 2x2 MIMO AC Wi-Fi, and a 45Wh battery. The keyboard is on the shallow side, and in tablet configuration it doesn't have the requisite magnets to hold itself shut, but build quality is surprisingly good.
It's a bit on the chunky side at 0.77" thick, and decently heavy for a 12" laptop at 2.64 lbs, but the $280-$300 price tag smooths all those concerns. Without going used, it's hard to find a better deal than the Lenovo C330.
Beater: CTL NL7TW-360
Sometimes it doesn't matter how cheap something is. If you know you're the clumsy type that's prone to heap abuse on a laptop, durability is prized above all else — and beyond that, a good price comes in handy when it does eventually succumb to your terrors. If that's you, then you might want to consider a brand you may not have heard of: CTL.
We took a look at the poetically named CTL NL7TW-360, and while it's not winning any performance awards, it's a durable and inexpensive Chromebook that still manages to pack in plenty of modern features like USB Type-C ports, a 2-in-1 design, stylus support, and even a built-in retractable handle. The N-series Apollo Lake Intel CPU might grind your gears (and your workflow) a bit, but it does have a spill-resistant keyboard, 4GB RAM, 32GB eMMC, and a durable design, all for just $329.
Sure, it might be made for education, but we're all kids at heart, right?
Tablet/slate: HP Chromebook x2
Right now, there aren't a lot of tablet-first Chrome OS devices out there. Although Google's upcoming Pixel Slate looks intriguing, your current choice is between the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 and the HP Chromebook x2. The Acer tablet is pretty cheap, but the HP Chromebook x2 beats it on pretty much every front — though, admittedly, it costs around twice as much.
It features the Chromebook-standard 4GB RAM and 32GB eMMC storage, paired with an Intel Core m- 7y30. Its 13.2" 2400x1600 (3:2) display gives you plenty of resolution and space to work, and it's fully detachable from its keyboard base for use as a tablet.
While we haven't done a full review — yet, anyway — our impressions of the HP Chromebook x2 are generally positive. It has a keyboard with good tactile feedback, and a nice overall build quality. Just keep in mind the $600 price tag.
Box/desktop: CTL Chromebox CBx1
Chrome OS isn't just good for laptops, it's actually a pleasant environment for light-use desktops, too (and a good way to get your aging parents a computer that they can't break). By far the best thing about them is the performance: even a low-end Kaby Lake Celeron CPU can fly. More than with almost any other product category, you don't need to spend a lot to get a lot when it comes to a Chromebox. That's why CTL's Chromebox CBx1 is our Most Wanted.
It features a pedestrian Intel Celeron 3865U, 4GB RAM base (with 8 and 16GB options), 2x2 MIMO AC Wi-Fi, and a pile of useful ports, all for a paltry $219 starting price. There's no screen, no battery, and no portability, but if you just need a simple box for a browser plus the convenience of Android and Linux apps, the CBx1 will oblige.
Some older Chromebooks are still good options, but they don't compare to more recent models. The ASUS C302 and ASUS C101 are both still great performers, though the latter recently saw an unexpected and sharp rise in price, which pushed it off this list. Either nabbed at the right price could be a good deal, though.
Keep an eye out
Google's upcoming Pixel Slate could be a contender for the best Chrome OS-powered tablet, but it won't be here until some time later this month. Acer's Chromebook Spin 13 was also announced (and look forward to our review), but as of right now you can't actually buy one anywhere, which pushed it off this list.