(Pocket-lint) - Chromebooks have been getting more popular in recent years, and for good reason - many of the biggest names in laptops, including HP, Acer and Asus, are flooding the market with options.
Education has been a big market for the devices, but they're also great as a simple home laptop for email, Google Docs and web browsing.
We have a full section below our picks explaining the ins and outs of Google's Chrome OS, as well as advice on how to choose the right model for your needs, but, essentially, the operating system is Google's alternative to Windows and macOS.
It's ridiculously simple to use, updates itself and lacks the confusion and complexity that often hobbles rival platforms. It is less capable for professional use than the other operating systems, but, for most users at home or in education, it provides more than enough functionality.
With all that said, then, let's dive into the top picks we've tested.
What is the best Chromebook? Currently, our top recommendation is the Google Pixelbook Go. However, we also advise checking out the Acer Chromebook Spin 713, Asus Chromebook Flip C434, Acer Chromebook Spin 513 and Acer Chromebook Spin 311.
Our Top Pick: Best Chromebook
- Well designed, lightweight and attractive
- Speedy performance
- Great keyboard
- The trackpad could be better
- Enters the price range of decent Windows machines
If you're impressed by the Pixelbook line but have a tighter budget, the Pixelbook Go is a hugely impressive entry at a lower price point (though it's still pricey for a Chromebook).
It's a uniquely-designed machine that makes some brilliant choices, such as the ripple texture on the unit's bottom side.
It's got impressive power under the hood, too, to make sure that you'll feel like you're using a more premium machine than its price suggests, and we comfortably rate it as one of the best Chromebooks we've ever used.
Chromebooks we also recommend
While the Google Pixelbook Go is at the peak of this list, it's not necessarily the right Chromebook for everyone, especially with such a wide range of prices and specifications on the market today. That's why we've also selected the following devices for you to consider.
Acer Chromebook Spin 713
- Clever hinge design
- Nice screen ratio for productivity
- Plenty of power for most users
- Build quality could be improved
The Acer Spin 713 manages to be premium without creeping into ridiculous pricing.
It is durable, has a very nice screen in a great aspect ratio and packs plenty of power inside.
It can be configured with up to 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, paired with a Core i7 processor it ensures snappy performance and future-proofing for years to come. The convertibility of the device could come in handy if you're running Android apps too.
Asus Chromebook Flip C434
- Solid keyboard
- Great screen
- Decent battery life
- The trackpad isn't the best
The Flip C434 is a great 2-in-1 that feels really premium while still undercutting the Pixelbook's price nicely.
It's got the holy triumvirate for a laptop, in a solid screen, great keyboard and impressive battery life.
The trackpad lets the team down a little bit, but it runs really nicely and has great ports. Plus, with the option to use it as a tablet, it's really adaptable and useful in different scenarios.
Acer Chromebook Spin 513
- Exceptional trackpad
- Stylish understated design
- Comfortable keyboard
- Slow storage
- Limited screen brightness
The Acer Spin 513 delivers a lot for its asking price and manages to feel solid despite its largely plastic construction.
A decent screen, quality keyboard and slick touchpad make it a delight to use. The device is also completely silent thanks to its fanless design and solid state storage.
We think it's a perfect option for younger users doing schoolwork, or really anyone who needs a fairly cheap laptop for emails, web browsing and watching videos.
Acer Chromebook Spin 311
- Solid and comfy keyboard
- Good battery life
- Rugged construction and hinge design
- Massive bezels on the screen
- Some touchpad annoyances
It may not be the prettiest thing in the world, but it's definitely easy to recommend. The Acer Spin 311 is the cheapest Chromebook to make our list, and it offers tremendous value for money.
The keyboard is great and the flexible hinge design lets you use it as a chunky tablet. The screen is pretty solid too, albeit on the smaller side with large bezels.
For those who just need a device to handle the basics, this is a price bracket where Chromebooks really shine.
Other products we considered
When trying to figure out what we believe to be the best Chromebooks currently available, we spent hours testing all the devices in real-world scenarios and comparing the results. We consider a range of factors when it comes to recommending devices - and also when a new device enters our top five selections. We don't just factor in our own testing, either, but also consumer reviews, brand quality and value, too.
In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.
How to choose a Chromebook
There's a world of options when it comes to Chromebook devices, and at a wider price range than ever before - with some options even breaking the four-figure mark. This means choosing the right device for you can feel like an uphill battle.
In an attempt to simplify things, here are some things to consider before buying.
What do you need a Chromebook for?
These days a lot of the things we used to rely on laptops and desktop computers for can be accomplished with a smartphone or tablet. Chromebooks occupy a middle ground between these devices.
The inclusion of a physical keyboard makes Chromebooks much more suited to getting work done, whether that's writing an essay for college or crunching numbers for your tax return.
With that said, they're also great media consumption machines offering a much larger display than your phone, and one that doesn't require propping up to view. With Android app support, Chromebooks can do a bit of gaming too, although our experience left a little to be desired.
If you'll be typing a lot then you'll want to consider options that have a great keyboard, whereas if you'll be watching a lot of content you'll want to consider Chromebooks that have a nice screen with a decent resolution.
What's your budget?
As we've established, the price range on Chromebooks is absolutely massive nowadays. While we think it's extremely hard to justify the cost of Google's flagship Pixelbook, as lovely as it is, spending a little more on a Chromebook can lead to a better overall experience.
If you just need the absolute basics like sending emails and word processing, then an entry-level model will do just fine; but if you think you're likely to watch some YouTube or Netflix videos on it, then you might consider spending a little more for a better screen and speakers.
Do you need a 2-in-1?
Many of our top picks are convertible 2-in-1 designs that allow you to use the Chromebook in either a laptop or tablet style. It's a handy function that adds a lot of diversity to a device.
If you know it's a feature you'll never want to use, you might be able to save some money by going for a more traditional netbook style Chromebook. If it's a must-have feature, then this should also help narrow down your options.
Would you be better off with a laptop?
While ChromeOS has come a long way since its launch, it can still feel pretty limiting when compared to Windows or macOS. If you're the type of person who likes to configure things to suit you, then you may quickly be frustrated with the limitations.
Similarly, if you need a lot of third party applications to get your work done, you'll likely quickly run into a hurdle. You might want to take a look at our best laptops guide instead.
On the flip side, if you just need a simple machine with a physical keyboard to do some work, online shopping and web browsing then you'll likely be more than happy with a Chromebook.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.
Chromebooks are a constant daily companion for work and play. As such, we made sure to test all aspects of our picks to ensure they hold up to sustained usage, from battery life and ruggedness to general performance in everyday tasks.
Of course, build quality and design are just as important as the specs inside a Chromebook, and we're also interested in how portable they are, and how easily they can connect to other devices like peripherals, smartphones and external displays
In all of our buyer's guides, including this one, we tend to skip over the spec comparisons and marketing spiel; we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use.
Our verdicts are concise, but this is in the interest of brevity - rest assured all the things on this list have been fully tested. You can also check out our reviews section for more in-depth coverage of all the top devices.
Writing by Luke Baker. Editing by Conor Allison. Originally published on 12 March 2018.