A top-of-the-line Apple or Windows laptop isn’t required if you’re a student who just needs a device for the computing basics. If that’s your situation, I recommend a Chromebook. These are laptops that run Google’s Chrome OS. They do less than standard laptops, but they’re much more affordable. They’re also durable, portable and designed for online work.
Plenty of manufacturers make their own Chromebook laptops, including Acer, Samsung and Lenovo. As the Chrome OS evolved to include Android apps from the Google Play Store and Linux software, you can now find premium models with more RAM and storage, faster processors and speedier performance. The best Chromebook laptop options with all the bells and whistles are pricier than your average Chromebooks, but they’re also lighter and slimmer and usually have better battery life. Some of these laptop models even have a touchscreen, a backlit keyboard and tablet mode.
Read more: The 7 Best Chromebook Deals for Students
The best Chromebook laptop to fit your needs is on this list. We’ve reviewed several to bring you our favorites. Each model featured here was independently chosen by CNET’s editors and includes a review and a deep dive into what makes it so great. I will note, however, that if there’s a specific set of specs you can’t live without, whether that’s more than one USB port, an HDMI port, Google Assistant compatibility, a particular screen size or a headphone jack, you might want to dig deeper — those features aren’t guaranteed on all Chromebooks. And if you’re still not sure if this type of laptop is right for you, here’s a breakdown of all a Chromebook can and can’t do compared with a traditional laptop. This list of the best Chromebook models is updated periodically.
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard and touchpad. This Lenovo Chromebook’s small size might be a little limiting as a primary Chrome OS device, though you can connect to an external display via its USB-C port. The Lenovo Duet is, however, a good pick if you’re looking for an affordable Chromebook for pure mobility or as a secondary device that can be used in tablet mode. Its small size might be an issue, depending on what you’re looking for, but the portability and the efficient Chrome OS make it worth considering. I wouldn’t necessarily call it the best Chromebook on the market, but for the cost and convenience, it’s not one to count out too quickly. An updated version, the Duet 3 Chromebook, came out in May. It features an 11-inch 2K-resolution touchscreen, faster Qualcomm processors, an improved keyboard (still included) and, unfortunately, a higher starting price of $400.
Read our Lenovo Chromebook Duet review.
This Lenovo 13-inch Chromebook two-in-one is a better bet than the Duet if you need a laptop for all-day use. It has a full HD display as well as excellent performance and battery life for the money, thanks to an Intel Core i3-10110U processor, 4GB RAM and a 64GB solid-state drive. The Lenovo Flex is not a great Chromebook choice for outdoor use, since the display is pretty dim.
If you’re looking for even better performance, this Chrome OS Tablet was updated with Intel’s 11th-gen Core i3 processor but still has great battery life at nearly 11 hours. Now called the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook, it costs a bit more starting at $475. Lenovo also added a privacy shutter on the webcam so you can physically block it when it’s not in use. It is definitely one of the best Chromebook models for the price, power and size.
Read our Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 review.
If you’d rather have a wider screen instead of a taller one like the Spin 713’s (below), this HP Chromebook is the way to go. It’s roughly 0.75 inch wider than a premium 13.3-inch model, but that extra width makes it easier to work in two side-by-side windows. The two-in-one design means you can use the HP Chromebook x360 as a tablet (though it’s a bit heavy to use as a handheld device). You can also tent it, connect an external keyboard and mouse and use it as a small all-in-one computer.
The Core i3 processor and 8GB of memory in the model we tested kept this HP Chromebook running smoothly even with a couple dozen tabs open and streaming video in the background. The Chrome OS will handle typical usage seamlessly. And this Chromebook laptop has a long battery life, lasting 10 hours and 40 minutes in CNET’s testing. This is a higher-end configuration, though, and its regular price is $699. This laptop regularly goes on sale for less than $500, but if you like the design and don’t need its more powerful components, the Pentium Silver version is a bargain at closer to $300.
Tired of trying to work on documents or spreadsheets on a small widescreen display? The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 uses one of Acer’s bright VertiView displays, a 13.5-inch 2,256×1,504-pixel touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. As the name implies, the Acer Chromebook Spin gives you more vertical room to work in, but it still has the width of a typical 13.3-inch laptop with a 16:9 ratio. Between that and the battery life of the Acer Chromebook, which lasted nearly 13 hours in our testing, you’ll be able to get more work done in a day — and it’s still thin and light enough for an everyday carry.
The latest version of this Chromebook runs on an 11th-gen Intel processor and was the first to receive Intel’s Evo verification, which means you’ll be getting the best possible mobile experience with this model. It was also the first with Thunderbolt 4 support, which lets you connect to multiple external displays and provides fast data speeds and networking. We’ve linked here to a new model at Walmart, and a cheaper, refurbished model at Best Buy.
Read our Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review.
Just as Google’s Pixel phones offer the best pure Android experience, the Google Pixelbook Go is built to deliver the best of Chrome OS. The premium Chromebook starts at $839, but fully loaded with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory, 256GB of storage and a 4K display, the total reaches a pricey $2,299. That’s a lot, and more than most people need. Still, the Google Pixelbook Go is an excellent little Chromebook, especially for those who really want to explore all that Chrome can do, including Linux and Android app selections.
Read our Pixelbook Go review.
It’s unusual for the second generation of a device to have fewer features than the original and still be an improvement, but that’s the case for this Samsung Chromebook. Samsung dialed back on some of the features and components of the original, making this Samsung Chromebook sequel more affordable than the first-gen model. It has a touchscreen, tablet capacity, 8GB RAM and an Intel Core processor. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook also has much better battery life, and Samsung did it all without losing all of its predecessor’s premium appeal.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review.
The HP Chromebook x2 11 is another strong option in the relatively nascent category of Chrome detachable two-in-ones. There are plenty of convertible models, where the screen flips around to the back of the keyboard so you can use it as a tablet. But Chrome tablets with removable keyboards are still a rarity. That certainly helps the Chromebook x2 11 stand out, but it also deserves attention for its premium design and features. It offers long battery life and performance that rises (slightly) above the competition. The main downside is that it’s expensive on its own. But in the year it’s been available, both HP and Best Buy have offered significant discounts, so if you’re interested make sure to wait for one of those deals.
Read our HP Chromebook x2 11 review.
The 317 is essentially a portable all-in-one Chrome OS desktop, otherwise known as a Chromebase. The big display makes multitasking a breeze. You can stream a YouTube video in the corner while you work on a presentation and keep an eye on email or chat — all without overlapping windows. It is big and heavy compared with all the smaller Chromebooks here, so it’s not a great option if mobility is a priority. But it’s certainly small enough to move around the house, and with more than 10 hours of battery life according to my tests, you can work all day and still have time left for a video chat with family, gaming or streaming a movie.
Read the Acer Chromebook 317 review.