Enlarge / There’s now a fairly wide selection of Chromebooks out there—and we have examined quite a lot of ’em.

Valentina Palladino

Chromebooks dominated the inexpensive laptop computer scene in 2018. The identical wasn’t true just some years in the past, when most had been unclear what to do with Google’s browser-based working system. However now, after Chromebooks have efficiently infiltrated the training market, customers each younger and previous are aware of Chrome OS.

Chrome OS runs solely on Chromebooks, the title for the laptops, two-in-ones, and now tablets that run Google’s working system. If you happen to’ve used the Chrome Internet browser earlier than, you understand how to make use of Chrome OS—the browser is the portal to almost all the pieces you are able to do on Chrome OS. Google created an working system that is easy to make use of, environment friendly, and low upkeep within the sense that it does not take a ton of energy to run a Chromebook effectively.

All of these elements, plus the latest introduction of Android apps into the ecosystem, have made Chromebooks fashionable with youthful customers, academics, and anybody who works and performs primarily throughout the confines of the Chrome Internet browser.

As folks gravitate to Chromebooks, OEMs have been producing increasingly of them. There’s a plethora of Chromebooks out there now, some at grime low-cost costs and others at premium costs, making it arduous to know which you should purchase. Fortunately, Ars has examined among the hottest Chromebooks, and we will provide some perception as to which of them are price your cash.

Notice: Ars Technica could earn compensation for gross sales from hyperlinks on this publish by way of affiliate packages.

What Chrome OS can do for you, and what it may possibly’t do

Chromebooks will be strong units for individuals who spend most of their computing time in a browser. Chrome OS is right for doing issues like managing e-mail, writing and sharing paperwork in Google Drive, streaming video and music, and common Internet shopping. Chrome OS’ suitability for these kind of duties additionally signifies that those that have by no means used a Chromebook will discover it simple to make use of with out a lot of a studying curve.

Android apps add one other layer to Chrome OS, permitting you to run your favourite cellular packages, together with Spotify, Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, Sweet Crush, Conflict of Clans, and extra. The rollout of Android apps on Chromebooks has been gradual, and never all Android apps are optimized for the massive screens and full keyboards of Chromebooks but. Nonetheless, Chrome OS has been made extra versatile due to the inclusion of Android apps.

Affordability makes Chromebooks stand out amongst most of their opponents. You will get a Chromebook for as little as $199, whereas the most affordable Home windows machines run a minimum of a pair hundred extra, and comparable macOS machines do not even come shut in value.

Affordability has been a blessing for Chromebook customers, but it surely has been considerably of a curse for Chromebooks as a complete since many individuals have the false assumption that each one Chromebooks are low-cost. Time has confirmed that presumption unfaithful as extra OEMs have come out with Chromebooks that function premium supplies and higher specs.

These units are dearer than your common Chromebook, and rightly so. The costliest Chromebooks run anyplace from $699 to greater than $1,000—although not all Chrome OS lovers want a Chromebook with the highly effective specs and premium construct that these costly units have. Nonetheless, those that know that Chrome OS will fulfill their private wants could wish to shell out more cash for a luxurious machine.

However apart from higher construct high quality and extra highly effective internals, these expensive Chromebooks nonetheless run Chrome OS and will not be exempt from the working system’s limitations. In contrast to on Home windows and macOS machines, you possibly can’t obtain and set up packages like Photoshop CC or Last Minimize Professional. Chrome OS solely helps Internet-based extensions and Android apps—that is one of many causes it takes a lot much less energy for a machine to run Chrome OS effectively.

Additionally, most Chrome OS packages require an Web connection and won’t work when the machine is not related to Wi-Fi. If you happen to do not take the required precautions earlier than leaving a dependable Wi-Fi community—like making pertinent Google Docs out there offline—your Chromebook will basically change into a ineffective brick when unconnected.

Issues to think about when shopping for a Chromebook

Chromebooks come primarily as laptops or two-in-ones, so you will must resolve in order for you the flexibility of a 360-degree hinge. If you wish to use quite a lot of Android apps in your Chromebook, getting a two-in-one with a touchscreen would be the most suitable choice, since you possibly can swap it into pill mode and use it like an Android cellular machine. The identical recommendation goes for individuals who plan to make use of a Chromebook as a multimedia machine—streaming movies on YouTube and Netflix will be extra comfy when utilizing a convertible in tent or present modes.

Chromebook OEMs have a tendency to chop prices through the use of cheaper supplies when making these units. Most inexpensive Chromebooks are made out of plastic, however that is not all the time unhealthy. Whereas they will not have the look or really feel of an XPS 13 or a MacBook, Chromebooks made out of plastic or different supplies will be simply what one wants in an inexpensive, transportable machine.

Be sure you examine the tech specs of the Chromebook you need before you purchase it to ensure it has fundamental options, equivalent to a backlit keyboard, an HD or FHD display, a non-touch or contact panel, and an included stylus. Relying on the kind of machine and its value, not all the options we think about “customary” will come customary on each Chromebook.

The identical thought goes for ports—you must examine to see in case your most well-liked Chromebook has the ports you want. Whereas most include a minimum of one USB-A port, a couple of of the latest fashions forgo USB-A and go for all USB Kind-C ports as a substitute. Some Chromebooks include extra connectivity choices like HDMI ports and DisplayPorts, so think about how you will use the Chromebook and resolve which ports you will require.


RAM, or the quantity of reminiscence in a Chromebook, helps the machine run shortly when you’ve many tabs open. Most Chromebooks include 4GB of RAM, and that will likely be adequate for individuals who use the Chromebook for leisurely Internet shopping, YouTube watching, and lightweight Android app use.

Those that plan to push Chrome OS additional—customers with greater than 20 browser tabs open directly, Android apps working within the background, all whereas streaming YouTube—ought to get a machine with a minimum of 8GB of RAM. Doing so will make sure that the machine does not lag as you open extra tabs and packages and use them concurrently.

Some Chromebook fashions will be specced out to have 16GB of RAM, and people usually have optionally available processor upgrades as effectively (a base mannequin could have an Intel Celeron processor, however you possibly can improve to a Core i3 or i5 CPU if you want). Extra RAM by no means hurts, however solely builders or experimental customers who wish to run Ubuntu, Linux, or Home windows on their Chromebooks actually need such excessive volumes of reminiscence.


Storage is not an important spec in a Chromebook, but it surely shouldn’t be missed. Chrome OS works in addition to it does as a result of Google expects customers to rely (a minimum of partially) on cloud-based companies for storage—issues like Google Drive, DropBox, and others. So long as you’ve an Web connection, you possibly can entry all the recordsdata you want by way of these varied companies. Google Drive even helps you to avoid wasting paperwork for offline entry now, making certain you’ll work on that paper or proposal even in a lifeless zone.

However each Chromebook wants some onboard storage—those that go Google’s really helpful route can get by with simply 16GB or 32GB of storage. Remember that these ranges are just like these in low- to mid-range smartphones, so your Chromebook may have the identical storage capability as a type of handheld units.

If you happen to desire with the ability to avoid wasting paperwork regionally, or for those who plan to obtain many apps and packages, you must get a Chromebook with a minimum of 64GB to 128GB of storage. Whereas Chromebooks aren’t constructed for severe picture or video modifying, it’s doable to do such issues with these units. If you happen to dabble in that in any respect, you will want extra onboard storage than the remainder for those who’re working off of regionally saved recordsdata.


Some select Chromebooks over different PCs as a result of they’re so inexpensive. Most Chrome OS laptops and convertibles are priced anyplace between $199 to $499, which is a pair hundred lower than essentially the most inexpensive Home windows units (save for the brand new Floor Go pill).

All the elements we beforehand outlined contribute to the worth of a Chromebook: design, supplies, display high quality, processor, RAM, and storage. A Chromebook that works effectively sufficient for many clients will be discovered at $299-$499, however there will likely be some who desire a machine that is available in both above or beneath that value vary.

Solely lately have OEMs experimented with dearer Chromebooks. Google owned (and principally nonetheless owns) the luxurious Chromebook market with its $1,000 Pixelbook. Whereas it has the slickest design of practically any Chromebook and specs that beat most different Chrome OS units, it is overkill for many clients. Nonetheless, we thought-about the Pixelbook and the latest costly Chromebooks on this information.


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