Chromebooks have come from being the basic computing devices running Google services to the versatile computing machines that they are today. While they’re still not really a complete replacement for Windows laptops and MacBooks, they’ve come to offer a range of functionality and specifications, which has increased the average price of a Chromebook.
The core appeal of a Chromebook still lies in being a low-cost online computing machine. As such, we’ve rounded up the best Chromebooks to buy in 2021.
Buying the best budget Chromebook for your needs
Chrome OS is a Linux-based operating system made by Google. It centers around the Google Chrome browser. When it debuted, it was basically Chrome and its apps expanded into an operating system. Over the years, Chrome OS has come to support Linux apps, as well as Android apps.
Chromebooks offer a ton more choices with specifications today. However, the sweet spot for Chromebooks is around $350, and some of the best budget Chromebooks retail around and below this price. The best budget Chromebooks offer a solid balance between enough hardware power to carry out the basic tasks, while not consuming too much power, which means a better battery life. At the $350 mark, traditional laptops can’t quite match Chromebooks in this aspect. This is mostly due to Windows running heavier than Chrome OS.
While picking a budget Chromebook, it’s important to consider whether Chrome OS will be able to satisfy your needs.
Chromebooks are meant for folks whose workloads reside mostly in a browser. For budget Chromebooks, this is even more true. The best budget Chromebooks will do well for run-of-the-mill home, office, and educational use.
Important things to consider in a budget Chromebook include the screen size, weight, and form factor, depending upon your portability and usage requirements. If you’re going to be using the Chromebook for media consumption, you can pick one with a convertible two-in-one design.
Chromebooks come with a range of CPUs, going from low-power ARM-based CPUs to more powerful x86 CPUs from Intel and AMD. The choice of the right CPU is crucial when it comes to making your pick from the best budget Chromebooks. While the ARM options have a battery life advantage in most cases, the x86 CPUs, especially those from Intel, will give you the best balance between battery life and performance in this budget.
See also: The best Chromebook tablets you can buy
If you’re still not sure which Chromebook would be the best for you, below are our picks of the best budget Chromebooks to buy in 2021, across multiple categories and price points.
The best budget Chromebooks to buy in 2021
- The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 13-inch is the best Chromebook overall, packing a great design, feel, and performance in a lightweight chassis.
- The Acer Chromebook 514 is the best budget Chromebook with a low-key design that also has great battery life and a Gorilla Glass touchpad.
- The Samsung Chromebook 4 Plus is the cleanest-looking budget Chromebook, packing in great battery life and solid performance in a high-quality chassis.
- The Asus Chromebook C523 is a budget Chromebook that sports the best display on a budget, balanced with solid performance.
- The HP Chromebook 14-inch is the best balanced budget Chromebook offering, sporting a great keyboard and a solid battery life.
- The Acer Chromebook Spin 11 is the best small Chromebook on a budget, featuring a solid battery packed into a compact chassis.
Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 13-inch: The best budget Chromebook overall
The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 13-inch 2-in-1 hits a sweet spot in the middle of our best budget Chromebooks. At 13.3-inches, the screen is large enough but not overwhelming. It’s a Full HD LED touch display that’s complemented by integrated Intel UHD graphics. The setup sticks with Intel for the CPU, relying on a 10th-gen Core i3 processor to get work done. Lenovo’s large chassis allows for a backlit keyboard that’s comfortable to type on, and the touchscreen supports a built-in stylus.
When it comes to memory and storage, you should have no problem working with the 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 128GB of PCle SSD storage. The flexible 2-in-1 design helps set the Chromebook Flex 5 apart when it comes to media and creativity. An all-aluminum body houses two USB-C ports, one USB-A port, a headphone jack, and a MicroSD port.
- Solid design and feel
- Both USB-C ports can charge
- Relatively dim display
- Below-average battery life
Also read: The best Lenovo Chromebooks you can buy
Acer Chromebook 514: The best budget Chromebook with a low-key design
The Acer Chromebook 514 covers many important basics. It features an aluminum chassis, a Full HD touch screen, and a backlit keyboard. These ensure that you can be productive day or night. The battery lasts well more than a full work or school day (12 hours), and the Gorilla Glass trackpad is a nice touch of luxury. It’s a standard clamshell, but the stylish design feels like a premium pick.
You’ll find a quad-core Intel Celeron processor with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage under the hood. It boasts two DisplayPort USB-C ports, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and an HD webcam. The 514 weighs a respectable 3.09 pounds.
- Solid design
- Gorilla Glass touchpad
- Great battery life
- Fairly dated processor
- Not the best screen
Samsung Chromebook 4 Plus: The cleanest-looking budget Chromebook
Samsung has been making cutting-edge displays for years, and the Chromebook 4 Plus brings that quality to a budget-friendly package. The minimized bezels help to draw you into the large 15.6-inch Full HD display that’s boosted by Intel UHD 600 graphics. You should have no problem working all day long from just about anywhere with up to 10 hours of battery life.
On the inside, Samsung has loaded the Chromebook 4 Plus with an Intel Celeron N4000 processor, 6GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of storage. You can take full advantage of two USB-C ports and a USB-A option for older peripherals. While the Chromebook 4 Plus is only equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, a headphone jack and microSD card reader help keep your options open.
- Great battery life
- Slim profile and lightweight for its size
- Decent performance
- Bezels make it look dated
- Low display brightness
Asus Chromebook C523: Budget Chromebook with the best display
Asus has some great laptops and Chromebooks in the market, and Chromebook C523 is its best budget option. It has a rather simple and clean design that reminds you of MacBooks because of the sleek Aluminium chassis. The real winner is the display here, a nice 15.6-inch Full HD panel, but you can opt for an HD-ready resolution version for a lower price as well.
Coming to the internals, you get the Intel Celeron N3350, a common CPU in budget Chromebooks. You also get 64GB eMMC storage, which isn’t the best, but a microSD port makes up for it. There’s also 4GB of RAM on board, and the ports include two USB-A and two USB-C ports. You also get a 3.5mm jack for audio.
- Good screen
- Nice, sturdy build
- Great performance
- Below-average battery life
HP Chromebook 14-inch: The best balanced budget Chromebook
The HP Chromebook 14 is one of the larger options in our list of best budget Chromebooks. It has a premium build and comes in a ceramic white finish. HP’s Chromebook is a step up as far as the design is concerned, particularly compared to the common black or silver options lining store shelves. The 14-inch HD or Full HD screen necessitates most of the bulk. Thanks in part to the large chassis, you’ll find a full-sized keyboard for a comfortable day of typing. This could be a boon to writers and students alike. Further, the keyboard has four levels of backlighting.
You’ll be treated to an Intel Celeron N4000 processor as well as 4GB of RAM. Unfortunately, the storage is a bit tight at just 32GB. You’ll find plenty of ports, including two USB-C, one USB Type-A, microSD, and a headphone jack. Other features include B&O-tuned stereo speakers and a Kensington lock.
- Solid battery life
- Clean design
- Good keyboard
- Dull display
- Below-average performance
Acer Chromebook Spin 11: The best budget Chromebook in small size
Here’s a compact option. The Acer Chromebook Spin 11 is one of the most flexible machines from the company. It comes in a small 11.6-inch form-factor, and it’s bundled with a Wacom pen and soft carrying sleeve. Although the construction is fully plastic, the Spin 11 is rocking a brushed finish for a premium feel.
Only a single processor option is available to the Spin 11, and that’s the Intel Celeron N3350 clocked at 1.1GHz with a 4MB cache and a burst speed of up to 2.4GHz. Other specs that play a role in performance include the Intel HD Graphics 500 and 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM at 2.4GHz. The Spin 11 is also limited to just 32GB of storage, though that’s not unheard of in Chromebook territory. You’ve got USB-C and USB-A ports, as well as a headphone jack and a DisplayPort.
- Good performance
- Comfortable keyboard
- Display brightness is low
- Chunky bezels
See also: The best Chromebooks for students
Budget Chromebooks v/s budget Windows laptops
The $350 budget will give you a ton more options with budgets Windows laptops than with Chromebooks. So the question is, should you be picking one over a Windows laptop? Chrome OS is still not a full equivalent to Windows, and as such, this question can be a bit tricky to answer.
The primary factor in making your pick between a budget Chromebook and a budget Windows laptop is going to be the purpose of your new machine. There are some things that a Chromebook just can’t do, like gaming, and full-fledged video editing. In that case, you would be better off with a Windows laptop even though $350 laptops don’t have the best performance with such workloads. As such, the higher your budget, the less sense it makes to pick a Chromebook over a traditional laptop.
If you’re planning on using your new machine for tasks you can generally do in a browser, then a Chromebook will serve you better. Chromebooks offer a much lighter experience than traditional laptops. They can run Linux apps and Android apps, so the app library isn’t bad. The key is to not think of Chromebook as a complete replacement for a full-fat laptop.
If you’re still not sure whether to go with a budget Windows laptop over these affordable Chrome OS devices, check out our detailed Chromebook vs laptop comparison.
Picking the best Chromebook accessories
Now that you have a feel for the best budget Chromebooks to buy, you might want to get some accessories with the cash you saved on your Chromebook purchase. Here are some of our favorite Chromebook accessories:
Other frequently asked questions
Q: How much does a Chromebook cost?
A: Chromebooks are available in varying price brackets, with many options available under $200, and some going over a thousand dollars. The best budget Chromebooks can be found around the $350 mark. If you want to extend your budget and pick a beefier Chromebook, you can go for the top pick in our best Chromebooks list, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713.
Q: What’s the best Chromebook tablet?
A: We have a list dedicated to the best Chromebook tablets, but our top recommendation is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet.
Q: What is the difference between a Chromebook and a laptop?
A: A Chromebook is a type of laptop that runs Chrome OS, as opposed to traditional laptops that run Windows, or MacBooks, which run macOS.