The 6 best Chromebooks in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The Pixelbook Go performs like a premium laptop for just $650, making it our pick for best Chromebook.
  • But there are also several worthwhile Chromebooks available for half the price.
  • The low cost and ease-of-use make Chromebooks particularly great for students.

Chromebooks are easy to use and generally cost less than most Windows laptops, making them a great choice for anyone in need of a simple laptop for getting online. And they’re only growing more popular, as research firm Canalys reported that Chromebook shipments increased by a record-breaking 287% in the fourth quarter of 2020.

We’ve tested many Chromebooks over the years and have also conducted plenty of research to find the best ones. Whether you’re in need of a cheap laptop for casual browsing or a daily work machine, there are several great options worth considering depending on your budget.

But it’s also important to understand the ways in which Chromebooks are different from other laptops. Check out our guide to deciding whether a Chromebook is right for you.

Here are the best Chromebooks in 2021

The best Chromebook overall

Google Pixelbook Go

The Google Pixelbook Go is the best Chromebook pick overall for how it brings high-end, premium sensibilities to a much more affordable price point. With all-day battery life and an amazing keyboard, it’s the one to beat.

Pros: Excellent display, incredible keyboard, lightweight and slim, long battery life

Cons: Fanless CPU, pricey upgrades, no biometric login, small-capacity storage

Google’s latest Chromebook to date, the Pixelbook Go, is also the one we’d recommend to most people who want the quintessential Chromebook experience.

With its approachable starting price, the Pixelbook Go offers up a surprisingly premium mobile computing experience that comparable laptops don’t even bother to. For instance, the Pixelbook Go features a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel (1080p) touchscreen with an embedded 1080p webcam as well as 8GB of memory (RAM). Some of these features,  aren’t even seen on the new entry-level Dell XPS 13, which comes with a non-touch display and 720p webcam. 

Where the Pixelbook Go falls is storage, with just 64GB of space to start, relying heavily on the fact that Chromebooks utilize cloud storage via Google Drive (online connectivity required). Still, it’s more storage than most Chromebooks offer at this price point. Also, with a rated battery life of 12 hours, it’s one of the longest-lasting Chromebooks around.

We love the Pixelbook Go for its incredibly quiet and comfortable typing experience as well as how it brings high-end sensibilities to a more approachable price. At its starting price (our recommended configuration), this is the absolute best Chromebook for the price. However, if you’re considering the most expensive configuration — with an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 4K Ultra HD display — we’d suggest looking for a flagship Windows or MacBook laptop instead.

The best value Chromebook

Samsung 4+

Samsung’s 15-inch Chromebook 4+ packs the most value into a budget laptop that we’ve ever seen, with many modern niceties for so much less than most laptops with similar features.

Pros: Decent display, long battery life, lots of ports

Cons: Small local storage, low amount of RAM

For those looking to squeeze the absolute most value possible from a Chromebook purchase, it’s difficult to beat the 15-inch Samsung Chromebook 4+. You’re getting an incredible amount of laptop for its asking price — no question.

What you get is a sleek, subtle platinum-colored frame housing a 15.6-inch, 1080p display, with power from an Intel Celeron CPU backed by 4GB of RAM and a 32GB SSD. That’s supported by two USB-C ports, one USB 3.0 port, and a microSD card reader — along with Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.0 — for connectivity.

All of this comes within a device that can last for up to 10 hours and 30 minutes on a single charge, and can search the web for you and answer questions with just your voice using Google Assistant. Save for biometric login and more local storage, there’s nothing else that this budget laptop leaves off the table.

If you’re a student looking for a new Chromebook before heading back to school in the fall, it’s worth checking out Samsung’s student discounts. The company offers a 10% education discount, which it says you can combine with other offers for savings of up to 30%.

The best 2-in-1 Chromebook

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 has a spacious screen and a sleek convertible design, making it a great choice for those who want a flexible yet affordable laptop.

Pros: Smooth performance, good port selection, great display

Cons: Speakers aren’t the best

The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is an affordable, lightweight 2-in-1 Chromebook with a tall 3:2 screen. That extra height makes Acer’s Chromebook a particularly strong choice for those who want a basic laptop with more screen space for work or entertainment.

Since it’s a convertible laptop, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713‘s display folds backwards so that it can be used as a tablet. Like many similar convertibles, the Chromebook Spin 713 can take on a few different forms thanks to its flexible design. 

For example, you can prop it up like a tent,  or tuck the keyboard under the display. Both modes are ideal for times when you just want to look at the screen without the distraction of a keyboard.

The model I’ve been using runs on Intel’s 10th generation Core i5 processor and comes with 8GB of RAM, a 128GB solid state drive, a 2,256 x 1,504 resolution display, and an estimated 10 hours of battery life, impressive specifications for a Chromebook.

But Acer also launched a new version of this Chromebook in June 2021 that comes with Intel’s newer 11th generation processors, Thunderbolt 4 support, the option for a fingerprint reader, and the same 10-hour battery life.

Otherwise, the Acer Chromebook 713 stands out for its vibrant and spacious screen and comfortable keyboard. The speakers sound a little shallow since they’re located on the bottom of the notebook, and the fans can sometimes get a little noisy. But the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a winner all-around.

The older model with an Intel Core i3 is on sale for just $359 at Best Buy, which is an excellent price for a laptop of this caliber. Students should also check out Acer’s education discount program, which slashes 10% off certain prices and offers free shipping.

The best compact Chromebook

Lenovo Chromebook Duet

Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet offers a combination of portability and versatility that seems impossible to beat at this price.

Pros: Low price, portable and attractive design, included keyboard and cover

Cons: Only one USB-C port, performance can sometimes be sluggish

Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet, which costs $270, is the right choice for anyone who prioritizes portability and affordability in a Chromebook. It’s smaller and cheaper than Apple’s least expensive iPad and comes with a back cover and keyboard case at no extra cost. It’s not a powerful laptop, but it’s suitable for anyone who wants an inexpensive device for basic tasks.

But don’t misinterpret that to mean that this Chromebook feels cheap. The tablet itself has a solid yet lightweight build that makes the Duet feel more expensive than it actually is. 

The tablet comes with an attractive textured back cover and detachable keyboard that provides a comfortable typing experience. They add a bit of heft to the tablet, but even with these accessories the Duet is small and light enough to tote around with ease. 

The top-firing speakers are surprisingly loud for this tablet’s size, and their location at the top of the tablet means you don’t have to worry about accidentally blocking them while holding the device. It also should last for 10 hours on a single charge according to Lenovo’s estimates.

But the Lenovo Chromebook Duet‘s performance makes it best-suited for easy everyday tasks, like using Google’s productivity services (Gmail, Google Docs, etc.), reading the news, and watching movies. The tablet can get a little laggy when switching between apps frequently, and it stutters when running graphics-intensive games. 

The Chromebook Duet also only has one USB-C port, so there isn’t much flexibility when it comes to connectivity. There isn’t even a headphone jack, although Lenovo includes a dongle in the box. Still, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet offers a tremendous amount of value for the price.

Students can get a 5% discount site-wide through Lenovo, but that doesn’t apply to products that are on doorbuster or clearance sales.

The best 13-inch Chromebook

HP Chromebook 14 G5

The HP Chromebook 14 is an excellent buy for those looking for that traditional laptop experience without spending a ton of cash. With lots of basic features but also versatility, we think it’s a winner.

Pros: Excellent price, lots of ports, long battery life

Cons: 1080p costs extra, tiny local storage

For those seeking a little more screen size and power from their Chromebook than a mere 10 or 11-inch device can offer, we suggest considering the HP Chromebook 14. This has many of the same features as your average 11-inch Chromebook, but with more space and a 14-inch, 720p screen crammed into a 13-inch-sized laptop.

The HP Chromebook 14 is both drop and spill resistant to a minor extent, and comes packing an Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 32GB SSD for storage. Again, this device is assuming that you’ll be using cloud storage via Google Drive to supplement your local space. The included microSD card slot can help expand that local storage as well.

On top of that, the laptop has two USB-C 3.1 and two USB 3.1 ports, offering plenty of room for expansion in all sorts of ways, including displays. Finally, this Chromebook can last for up to 10 hours on a charge.

It’s currently $50 more expensive than the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, but comes with perks like a larger screen and many more ports. The Duet, however, has twice the amount of storage and features a 2-in-1 design unlike this laptop.

If you’re after a more traditional laptop experience but aren’t looking to spend a fortune, then this is the best Chromebook for that job.

Qualified students and teachers should also check out HP’s education discounts, which may result in savings of up to 35%.

The best premium Chromebook

A red Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 on a white background

Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 has a premium build that’s lightweight, sturdy, and colorful without the high price tag to match.

Pros: Attractive and lightweight design, excellent screen, solid performance

Cons: Battery life could be better, somewhat shallow keyboard

Chromebooks are usually less expensive than Windows laptops, but that doesn’t mean they have to feel cheap. Samsung’s $550 Galaxy Chromebook 2 is one of the best examples of this yet. It has a lightweight and slim aluminum build that comes in a flashy red color option, setting it apart from the gray slabs typically found elsewhere. 

Design alone isn’t enough to make a laptop worthwhile. But having a device that feels well-built and is light enough to carry around with ease certainly is, and Samsung’s Chromebook accomplishes that without question. At 2.71 pounds, it’s just a hair lighter than the MacBook Air.

But what really makes the Galaxy Chromebook 2 stand out is how the 2-in-1 design, vibrant QLED screen, and performance come together. Like most Chromebooks, it’s intended for light productivity and web browsing. 

The Intel Core i3-powered Galaxy Chromebook 2 handles my everyday workload with ease, although the fans pipe up once I have more than 25 tabs open in Chrome. But they quickly quiet down, and the laptop never feels sluggish while web browsing. 

Colors pop on the Galaxy Chromebook 2‘s QLED display, making this an especially good laptop for entertainment. It’s not significantly better than you’d get from other well-regarded Chromebooks like the Google Pixelbook Go or Acer Chromebook Spin 713, but it’s certainly crisper. Plus, Samsung’s Chromebook has much slimmer borders framing its screen, which makes it easier to focus on the content when watching videos.

The battery life is shorter than other laptops we’ve tested, considering it had 22% of its capacity left after our six-hour battery test. The keyboard also doesn’t have as much depth as I would like. But overall, this is a solid option for those who want a nice-looking Chromebook with a great screen and reliable performance.

Other great Chromebooks for school

HP Chromebook 11

The same Chromebook that might be suitable for most people isn’t necessarily going to cut it for schoolwork. Some Chromebooks might be over-the-top for middle school assignments, while the most basic Chromebooks could have a hard time keeping up with the demands of high school and college coursework. 

There are also some features that are particularly useful for students. Chromebooks for school should be lightweight and durable, for example, since students will likely be carrying them around between classes. Features like stylus support may also be more important than display resolution for classwork since students may need to jot down scientific formulas or math equations.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 and Lenovo Chromebook Duet are examples of Chromebooks that we think are particularly great for school, but we also think they’re broadly appealing enough to recommend for general use as well. Here are a couple of other Chromebooks to consider for school.

1. HP Chromebook X360 14 — affordable size

Portability is undeniably important, but sometimes you really need the bigger screen to see what you’re doing or to multi-task. The HP Chromebook x 360 14 offers this without making the rest of the chassis too big, and it does so at a decent price. It even still delivers a 360-degree hinge and stylus support for total flexibility. And don’t forget to check out HP’s education discounts if you’re a qualifying student or educator.

Chromebook x360 14 (button)

2. Dell Chromebook 3100 — rugged and reliable

If having a durable laptop that you can toss in a backpack without concern is a top priority, Dell’s Chromebook 3100 is worth considering. Dell says it’s been tested to survive 5,000 micro-drops and 30-inch drops onto steel, and it also has a spill-resistant keyboard. Trusted Reviews put this to the test after accidentally spilling coffee on the keyboard, dropping it on a hardwood kitchen floor, and putting it in the hands of a four-year-old, finding that it held up. Dell’s Chromebook comes in either 2-in-1 or standard clamshell options, with the convertible starting at $369 and the regular notebook beginning at $249. Both starting options come with an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and an 11.6-inch 1,366 x 768 display. It’s not a computing powerhouse by any means, but it’s a reliable machine for getting basic work done that should be more than capable of taking a tumble or two. Dell also offers a 10% discount on select electronics and accessories as part of its education discount program for those who qualify.

Chromebook 3100 (button)
Chromebooks we look forward to testing

Acer's Chromebook 314 partially open at an angle against a white background

Acer Chromebook 314: Acer is also launching a new 14-inch Chromebook that it says should get up to 15 hours of battery life. The laptop has a 14-inch 1080p touchscreen and only costs $270, meaning it could give our current value pick from Samsung some fresh competition. 

Acer Chromebook 317: Those who want the biggest screen possible on a Chromebook may want to check out the Acer Chromebook 17. Launched in June 2021 for $380, the company claims it’s the first 17-inch Chromebook. It runs on the latest Intel Celeron processors, has an estimated 10-hour battery life, and comes with two USB-C ports plus a few additional connections. All told, it sounds like it could be a compelling option for those who want an affordable laptop with a big screen.

What to consider when buying a Chromebook

Chromebooks aren’t designed like Windows or Mac machines. Instead of using an operating system (OS) with software that resides on the computer, Chromebooks run on a cloud-based OS called Chrome OS. It’s very simple and easy to use. In place of a productivity suite like Microsoft Office, you get Google’s services like the Chrome web browser, Gmail (email), Docs (documents), Sheets (spreadsheets), Slides (presentation), and Drive (cloud storage); all these applications and others are accessed via cloud.

This means all of your files will save to the cloud in Google Drive, so you never have to worry about losing them or saving a physical copy to your Chromebook’s storage. As you can guess, much of Chrome OS’s core functions work through the Chrome web browser.

Although Chromebooks are cloud-based laptops, they can work offline. There are some Chrome OS apps and programs you can download; Google’s office suite has an offline mode; you can read or save files locally on a local solid state drive (SSD), external hard drive, USB flash drive, or SD card (if the Chromebook has a memory card reader); and even install Android apps from the Google Play store (Chromebooks released in 2017 or newer). But, most of your activity will be online through Google’s apps or the Chrome web browser. If you need specific programs, like Adobe Illustrator, Premiere or Logic Pro X, that are only available for Mac OS or Windows, then a Chromebook isn’t the best buy for you.

Some of the newest Chromebooks are quite high-end, with sharp, vibrant screens, comfortable keyboards, latest ports (USB-C and USB 3.0), and fast processors (CPUs). Couple that with the fact that just about any Chromebook available today supports the majority of Android apps through Google Play, and you have some awfully capable machines. However, not all Android apps perform well on a Chromebook, and we recommend using the web-based option instead, if there is one. For example, streaming Netflix through the web browser is preferable to using the Netflix Android app.

Here are some key hardware specifications to look out for when shopping for Chromebooks:

  • Displays: If you’re concerned about how the text, images and video will appear on the Chromebook screen that you’ll be looking at while using it, we recommend looking for a 720p (1,280 x 720) resolution at a minimum, with 1080p (1,920 x 1,080) being the gold standard. There are also 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) Chromebooks, but those are exorbitantly expensive whereas you can get a 1080p Chromebook for even $500. If you’re looking for a touchscreen, the majority of those come in 2-in-1 hybrid designs and generally start at around $700 for ones with decent hardware inside.
  • Processors: A benefit to Chrome OS is that it doesn’t require much power to run swiftly and efficiently, so most Chromebooks come with fanless processors either from Intel’s Pentium and Celeron lines or ARM-based chip designs. If you need more power for some reason, makers like Google and HP do sell Chromebooks with Intel Core processors at the highest end.
  • Memory: The memory (RAM) in your Chromebook dictates how many programs or browser tabs you can run simultaneously before the machine has to reload your content when accessed. Most Chromebooks come with just 4GB of RAM, though some higher-end models offer 8GB or as much as 16GB. We’d feel the most comfortable and free to work without limits using 8GB of RAM, but basic users will get away with 4GB easily.
  • Storage: Chromebooks rely heavily on the cloud storage services that Google provides via Drive, so most models come with between 16GB and 64GB of onboard space, which is usually expandable via a microSD card. More premium models in recent years have begun shipping Chromebooks with more storage via faster solid-state drives (SSDs) rather than cheaper flash memory. With Google Drive accessible in the Chrome OS interface as if it were local storage, we would strongly consider a subscription with your Chromebook purchase to save some upfront cost. If you’re that concerned with local storage, grab a microSD card or a thumb drive.
  • Ports: Most every single Chromebook is going to come with at least one standard USB port, likely the 2.0 edition in terms of data transfer speed. However, more modern and premium models have made the move to the sleeker, faster, and more versatile USB-C standard, so keep that in mind if you want the latest and greatest. Finally, don’t expect to see a lot of ports on Chromebooks, being inherently focused on simplicity and portability. Much of what Chromebooks lack in wired connectivity can be made up for with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
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