You don’t have to break the bank to find a decent laptop… we’ve found the best Chromebooks on the market
Laptops come in various types with different operating systems: Apple MacBooks, Windows laptops and Chromebooks. Chrome OS is the Google-created operating system that was originally designed to be used with a continuous internet connection.
In the first generations, the Chromebook was hobbled when it was disconnected, but things are much better now with more advanced offline capabilities.
Chromebooks also offer strong battery life and, mostly, are competitively priced. That’s because the processors are not as powerful as on some rivals, because so much of the heavy lifting is done in the cloud on Google servers.
Some of the latest Chromebooks have compatibility with Android apps as well as Chrome OS programmes, adding to the machines’ capabilities. This feature, and a backlit keyboard, were rare so we’ve highlighted them in our reviews where relevant.
If you want the widest variety of programmes or the capability to get involved in advanced video editing or other memory-hungry applications, then a Chromebook may not suit. For the rest of us, they can be just right.
Testing involved challenging the laptops to basic and advanced programmes and measuring performance in terms of speed and delays. How long it took for the battery life to drain was important, and the look and weight of the machines were taken into account.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Google Pixelbook: From £999, Google
Screen size: 12.3in
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Memory: 8GB, 16GB
The Pixelbook is powerful, fast and beautifully designed, with a brushed aluminium frame and subtle rubberised wrist rest. The touchscreen works brilliantly with the optional extra Pixelbook pen (£99) so you can write on the display. The powerful processor alone would set this Chromebook apart from most rivals but there’s much more to like, from the exceptionally comfortable keyboard to the inclusion of Google Assistant, which can be invoked from a dedicated key, from a tap of the Pixelbook pen and by speaking Google’s name.
The Pixelbook has one other standout feature: as well as Chrome OS applications, it can run Android apps, as found on smartphones, as well. This adds so many apps that it comes close to rivalling the versatility of Windows and Apple machines. The hinges fold through 360 degrees so it can become a proper tablet, too. This is a real pleasure to use and a genuine competitor to high-end notebooks from rival manufacturers.
Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 7000: £629.99, Amazon
Screen size: 14in
Like the Pixelbook, this is a two-in-one, that is, you can fold the display back on itself so it works like a tablet. It looks and feels good thanks to its aluminium casing. The display is bright, vivid and high-resolution: it is sharp and colourful and the touchscreen is responsive. It also offers support for Android apps. There are other subtle features like a backlit keyboard so typing in low light isn’t an issue. It’s not as light as some laptops but is very well built and looks good. This Chromebook is bigger than many on the market, so suits someone who wants multiple applications open at one time.
Acer Chromebook Spin 11 CP311-1HN: £328.98, Amazon
Screen size: 11.6in
This is a highly affordable laptop. One of the reasons is the build quality. It’s constructed from plastic, though don’t be put off, it’s sturdy and solid. It’s a strong choice if you’re picking a laptop for a child, for instance. This is a laptop that’s fun rather than highly specced: after all, it only has 32GB storage, but it’s highly usable and looks like it will last a long time. The 11.6in display will be too small for some but is ideal if you want something completely portable.
Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-A10041: £799.99, Asus
Screen size: 14in
Another Chromebook with a slick aluminium element, the Asus has an attractive design and decent enough specs for the price. The “flip” in the title refers to the way the laptop folds back on itself. The machine is reasonably small thanks to slim bezels that maximise screen size. It’s a good screen, too. The backlit keyboard is comfortable and spacious, even though the laptop is smaller than some other 14in screen machines. Battery life is also better than many Chromebooks. Compatible with Android apps from the Google play store.
Acer Chromebook 14 CB514-1HT: £349.95, Acer
Screen size: 14in
This is a neat Chromebook with strong build quality and battery life that lasts all day. The screen is decent, rather than outstanding and the look of the machine overall is great with an attractive aluminium chassis, though the bezels at the top and bottom of the display are pretty wide. There could be a little more travel in the keys but the keyboard and touchpad are comfortable to use. It’s a mid-range Chromebook (though still reasonably priced as laptops go) which accounts for the average-quality audio. Performance is better than some thanks to a greater level of operating memory.
Asus C202 11.6in Chromebook: £149, PC World
Screen size: 11.6in
If you want to pay as little as possible for a laptop, it’s hard to beat this model from Asus. Battery life is strong, at up to 10 hours. Though it only has 2GB of active memory, remember that providing you’re connected to the internet, the Chromebook doesn’t need the fastest processor or tons of RAM, so this needn’t be an issue. Usefully, this laptop has a spill-proof design so it isn’t defeated if you splash it but, please note, this is no match for proper waterproofing.
HP Chromebook 14-ca000na: £199, HP
Screen size: 14in
This model is a great balance between value and capabilities, with the 4GB of operating memory making a real difference to the usability of the laptop: it’s faster than many and works well. The display is good, the keyboard is comfortable with good travel in the keys and, just as importantly, the trackpad is big and easy to use. Like many Chromebooks, this one from HP has limited storage, working on the basis that you’ll be storing everything in the cloud.
Acer Chromebook R13 CB5-312T: £399, Amazon
Screen size: 13.3in
The R13 is slim and reasonably lightweight, with a screen that rotates through 360 degrees for maximum versatility, though, as with other laptops that fold round like this, there’s something strange about feeling the keys on the back of the screen when you hold it. The keys aren’t as good as some here but certainly highly usable, even though like almost all the keyboards here, it’s not backlit. The display looks good and this Chromebook works very well, though it’s not especially bright which reduces video playback quality. Great for web browsing, too, though not powerful enough for really advanced programmes. Decent battery life makes this a good buy.
The verdict: Chromebooks
Since Google makes the Chrome operating software, it’s perhaps no surprise that the company’s own hardware works so well, as it does in the case of the Pixelbook. If you only need something basic, then the Asus C202 11.6 offers outstanding value. For the best of both worlds, though, the HP Chromebook 14 ca000na is the best balance of price and power.
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