Since its launch in 2011, Chrome OS has come a long way. Chromebooks are great PC alternatives today and the better choice of a general computing machine for most folks. They have gone from being the netbook alternatives that were cheap and underpowered to the versatile computers that they are today.
There are a ton of Chromebook options available on the market across various segments. As such, we’ve rounded up the best Chromebooks to buy in 2021.
Buying the best Chromebook for your needs
Chrome OS is a Linux-based OS and pretty much centers around the Google Chrome browser. The app library was pretty limited up until a few years ago but Chromebooks can now run Linux apps, as well as Android apps. Chromebooks aren’t meant for intense workloads like gaming and professional-grade content creation. However, if you’re someone whose workload resides mostly in a browser, these machines will serve you well.
Chromebooks are perfect for run-of-the-mill home, office, and educational use. While that is the case, these machines are not limited to the lower end. You can get some great specifications with these devices, with options for more powerful processors, better screens, and more.
It is important to narrow down your use cases and budget before you look at Chromebook options.
The screen size, weight, and form factor are important things to consider, depending upon your portability and usage requirements. If you do a lot of media consumption, a convertible two-in-one design is the way to go. There are typical laptop design options also available if that’s more aligned with your usage. For media consumption, a good display is also important, and there are quite a few options there, with some Chromebooks even sporting 4K displays.
These devices also come with a range of CPUs, ranging from low-power ARM-based CPUs, to more powerful x86 CPUs from Intel and AMD. If you’re planning on making one your primary computer, then you’ll be better served by a more powerful CPU. However, having a more powerful CPU is likely to come at the cost of lower battery life, so make sure you find the right balance for your needs.
Many of the big computing brands make Chromebooks, so brand preference shouldn’t be a big issue while shopping for one.
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 Chromebooks to buy in 2021 across multiple categories and price points.
The best Chromebooks to buy in 2021
- The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is the best Chromebook overall, with a solid build, punchy keyboard, great performance and battery life.
- The Asus Chromebook Flip C436 is the best convertible Chromebook, with a 4-in-1 design, a fingerprint reader, and a great screen.
- The Google Pixelbook Go is the best Chromebook for power users, with a thin and light design, and options for up to 4K resolution screen.
- The Lenovo Flex 5 13-inch is the best Chromebook on a budget, packing a great design and feel in a lightweight chassis.
- The Samsung Chromebook 4 is the best Chromebook for students and value buyers with a low price tag and portable size.
- The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is the best Chromebook tablet you can buy, with a solid battery life packed into a compact chassis.
- The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is the best-looking Chromebook mixing a great design with a great screen and respectable performance.
Acer Chromebook Spin 713: The best Chromebook overall
Chromebooks are practical computing devices that get work done, and that’s what the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 does. It puts function over form and performs well enough to be our pick of the best overall Chromebook. It has an aluminum chassis that meets the MIL-STD 810G durability standard.
It’s a rather balanced machine, and packs in 10th Gen Intel processors, up to 16GB RAM, and up to 256GB storage. The screen is also good, with a 3:2 aspect ratio display running at 2,256 by 1,504 pixels. It has a flip design, which means you can turn this device into a tablet with a flip, with antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass to protect the touch screen.
It comes in at a rather modest $529 now and offers plenty to justify that price. Our own Eric Zeman was plenty impressed with Acer Chromebook Spin 713, calling it the classic workhorse. It’s a perfect mix of performance and affordability, making it the best pick for most people.
- Rugged build
- Great performance
- Excellent battery life
- Punchy keyboard
- Somewhat heavy
- Not the best design
- Below average speakers
Asus Chromebook Flip C436: The best convertible Chromebook
High-performance specs and a beautiful aluminum body are the names of the game with the Asus Chromebook Flip. But, as you’d guess, you also get a 4-in-1 design that lets you choose between a laptop, stand, tent, or tablet mode. In many ways, this device compares similarly to Google’s Pixelbook on the spec sheet, but it packs less RAM and obviously has a more flexible design.
The Asus Chromebook Flip C436 packs an impressive 14-inch Full HD display, and the NanoEdge bezels should keep you locked in on your work or play. While the port selection is limited to just a pair of USB-C options and a USB-A port, the overall construction and flexible design make the Flip C436 a great value for just about any user.
- Quick fingerprint reader
- Great design
- Solid screen and speakers
- Battery life could’ve been better
- Keyboard feels a bit mushy
- Slow charging
Google Pixelbook Go: The best Chromebook for power users
Historically, Google’s in-house offerings have been superpowered beasts with frightening price tags to match. The Pixelbook Go attempts to appeal to more users thanks to a lower starting price of $649.99. However, for those that enjoyed the maxed-out nature of the older Pixelbook, the good news is some high-performance models go all the way up to $1,399 — though you might be better off just buying a used Pixelbook if you prefer the older 4-in-1 design.
The Pixelbook Go is a traditional clamshell forgoing the more exotic designs of its predecessors in favor of something simple yet refined.
It’s available in multiple configurations with processors ranging from the basic Intel Core M3 all the way up to a Core i7. Most models pack a 13-inch 1080p display, but the most expensive variant jumps to a 4K panel. You’ll also find options with as much as 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
If you’re looking for a well-rounded clamshell with plenty of power, this is a great option. That said, there are cheaper options that offer similar performance from brands like Acer and HP.
- Slim, light design
- Good keyboard
- Quick performance
- Limited ports
- Pricey upgrade options
- Limited colors
Lenovo Flex 5 13-inch: The best budget Chromebook
If you want a flexible 2-in-1 that won’t break the bank, Lenovo’s Flex 5 is a great option to consider. It packs a portable 13.3-inch display and up to a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor. Rounding out the internals, you can pick up a Flex 5 with 4GB of RAM and up to 128GB of onboard storage. Although the specs might not take home any trophies for speed, the Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity should keep you productive no matter what.
The 2-in-1 design also makes the Flex 5 a perfect binge-watching device. Lenovo stretched the Full HD display and kept slim little bezels so your favorite shows will look better than ever. They’ll sound great, too, thanks to front-facing stereo speakers. It’s not the most port-packed device on this list, though, as Lenovo only had space for a pair of USB-C ports and a USB-A option. At least it still has a headphone jack for listening in public places.
- Solid design and feel
- Both USB-C ports can charge
- Relatively dim display
- Below-average battery life
See also: The best Lenovo Chromebooks you can buy
Samsung Chromebook 4: The best Chromebook for students and value buyers
Depending on your student’s age, you probably don’t need much from a Chromebook — just a simple device for getting online and doing homework. Teenagers and children also tend to be less than careful with their electronics, so you’ll want something that won’t break you into tears if the kids happen to destroy it. Enter the Samsung Chromebook 4.
The Samsung Chromebook 4 comes in under $300, sporting great battery life and above-average performance for the price. On the downside, the display is below average with poor brightness and washed-out colors, so if you’re looking for something for heavy media consumption, this device might disappoint (until you remember how cheap it is).
It’s powered by an Intel Celeron Processor N4000 with either 4 or 6GB of RAM, depending on the configuration. You’ll also find storage sizes between 16 and 64GB and your choice of either an 11-inch or 15-inch display. Regardless of your pick, not a single option will cost more than around $300.
Bottom-line, this is a great device if you’re looking for a simple computer that can serve as a gateway to social media, Google Drive, and very basic gaming. Just don’t expect a powerhouse.
- Stellar value for money
- Portable size
- Acceptable battery life
- Dull display
- Limited ports
See also: The best budget Chromebooks
Lenovo Chromebook Duet: The best Chromebook tablet
Not only is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet one of the best cheap options around, but you might not even recognize it as a laptop at first glance. Instead, it resembles a pocket-sized journal with a folding fabric cover and just a 10.1-inch display. Lenovo’s Duet may be more of a tablet than a true Chromebook, but it still packs a solid punch in a tiny body.
Under that soft-touch cover, you’ll find a clever little MediaTek Helio P60T processor and 4GB of RAM. The Helio P60T may not be the most powerful processor around, but Chrome OS is light and fast, and 4GB of RAM should keep you running smoothly. Many of these devices putter out after around 10 or so hours of usage, but the Duet is a battery-sipping beast, offering closer to 20 hours of continuous usage.
While the Lenovo Duet may not be great for power users, the tiny form-factor and lightweight are great for students and travelers alike.
- Sharp display
- Solid battery life
- Compact form factor
- Cramped keyboard
- Limited ports and storage
Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2: The best-looking Chromebook
Chromebooks aren’t exactly the most fashionable computing device, with most of them geared towards performance. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 thus sticks out, giving us a taste of what a premium Chrome OS device can be in a sea full of low-key devices.
It has an elegant design that exceeds expectations for a Chromebook but doesn’t look too flashy, even in the bright red colorway. You also get a rather great-looking QLED touch screen display, and a convertible design. The hardware power on offer isn’t the best you can get, with options limited to Intel Celeron and i3 CPUs, a maximum of 8GB of RAM, and up to 128GB eMMC storage. It suffices for what it is, though, and in this case, the choice leans more towards form than function.
With a starting price of $599, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a great offering if looks are your top priority.
- Great design
- Solid QLED display
- Good performance and battery life
- Limited ports
- Keyboard not for everyone
- Limited configurations
Chromebooks v/s laptops
Chromebooks are great for light usage, but should you be picking one over a Windows laptop? The fact is that you get a lot more options with Windows, but Chromebooks have started getting more diverse in recent years. Chrome OS is still not a full equivalent to Windows, though.
Coming to macOS, we know gaming isn’t a big factor there, but you can still use them for the heavy content creation workloads. Chromebooks just can’t handle those kinds of tasks yet.
The bottom line is that if you want to use your machine for intensive tasks like gaming, video editing, and such, Windows laptops and MacBooks are bound to serve you better. On the other hand, if you want a machine that can work online, and don’t need to run any heavy apps, a Chromebook will probably serve you better.
Chromebooks offer a much lighter experience than traditional laptops, putting Google Chrome at the center of the ecosystem. They can run Linux apps and Android apps, but at the end of the day, they’re not the best option for folks looking to replace a full-fat laptop for intensive tasks. Not to forget, you get a ton more storage options with laptops. These Chrome OS counterparts get much fewer options since they’re mostly designed to work with the cloud.
Budget matters, too. The higher your budget, the lesser sense it makes to get a Chromebook over a laptop. It’s not a rule or anything, but costlier Windows laptops and MacBooks will give you a lot more room for additional performance.
If you’re still not sure whether to go with a laptop over these 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 Chromebooks to buy, you might want to check out some accessories to complete the setup. 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 sweet spot for these devices lies between $350 to $600, though, as you can get a solid price-to-performance ratio in this bracket. The most affordable Chromebooks aren’t too great but work better than laptops available in the same price bracket. If you want an affordable Chromebook, we recommend the Lenovo Flex 5 13-inch or Samsung Chromebook 4.
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, in contrast to traditional laptops that run Windows, or MacBooks, which run macOS.