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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 a year and a half old at this point, but Google's first-party Pixelbook is still a very good Chromebook. On paper, devices like the Acer Chromebook Spin 13 beat it in pure specifications, but the general experience comes down to more than that, and the Pixelbook is still overall king — in our opinion, anyway. It's also seen frequent discounts, so the original sky-high price tag isn't a deterrent.
I wouldn't recommend the more expensive i7 16GB/512GB model since most of the benefits of increased RAM, storage, and processing power are a bit lost on Chrome OS, but the base i5 8GB/128GB model can be picked up for a more reasonable price.
If you absolutely need a bit more CPU power, though, and you're willing to accept some other corners as cut, a higher-wattage device like the Acer Chromebook Spin 13 or Dell's Inspiron Chromebook 14 might satisfy.
Mid-range: Samsung Chromebook Plus V2
Samsung's Chromebook Plus V2 refresh comes with a few compromises compared to the original, stepping down the implicit V1's insane 2400x1600 display for a pedestrian 1080p panel, and cutting the mostly metal build quality for more plastic. But, it's a reasonably powerful mid-range device, with all the features you'd expect in a modern Chromebook.
Sure, you don't get the Pixelbook's build quality, but you do get a similar transforming form factor, a built-in stylus, and Linux/Android application support, and all for a whole lot less. You can check out our review of the LTE-equipped version for more details, as it's mostly the same (though we don't recommend it, given the increased price).
A true "mid-range" section for Chromebooks is a bit lacking, and while there are some older models like the Acer Chromebook R 13 and ASUS C302 can land in that price range, they're harder to recommend these days, given their age. Still, they're technically available.
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.
If you need something a bit bigger, also consider the ASUS Chromebook C423. It's slow, and the screen is pretty poor, but it's tough to complain for $270.
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's technically made for education, but we're all kids at heart, right?
Tablet/slate: Pixel Slate
I feel the need to preface this with a warning: There are no objectively good Chrome OS-powered tablets. That said, it's a small list, and there is technically a "best" tablet.
I know. We're sorry.
Google's Pixel Slate has, objectively speaking, the best set of specs for any Chrome OS Tablet, with options covering the more recent m3 up to an i7 (all 8th-gen Y-series 5-7W CPUs), and one of the best screens you can get, crammed into an attractive and solidly built tablet. It even has good battery life and a unique fingerprint scanner.
However, add to this list of features a pile of problems, including a buggy overall experience, difficult ergonomics, the dubious benefit of a touch-first design on a previously mouse and keyboard-driven OS, and a very high price tag. While it's ultimately up to you, the Pixel Slate delivers quite a lot of drawbacks and compromises to merely present a new form factor.
Yes, it's the "best," but please don't buy one.
HP's Chromebook x2 delivers a similar tablet-first design, but with a stiff hinge on a detachable keyboard, rather than a kickstand. Its 12.3" 2400x1600 display is quite nice, and performance from the 7th gen Intel m3 is adequate — even if the 4GB of RAM it's paired with definitely isn't.
Although the keyboard has excellent tactile feedback and plenty of travel, it's not the most durable. I wouldn't recommend picking the device up from the front corners, as the deck has entirely too much flex. For $600 it's an okay alternative to the Pixel Slate, even if I personally believe its shortcomings still exceed the price tag.
Should you want to push cheaper, the education-targeted Acer Chromebook Tab 10 has even less oomph with an ARM SoC, but a correspondingly lower ~$330 price.
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
The long-awaited successor to ASUS' Chromebook Flip C302 is about to land, and it could end up being the go-to mid-range choice. We anticipate a future review for the C434, and if it makes the cut, we'll be sure to let you know.