September has been relatively quiet on the Chrome OS hardware front. Of course, that's not to say the month's been completely devoid of new developments. In addition to the release of Chrome OS 69, with new UI, security, and productivity features as well as native support for Linux apps, IFA Berlin 2018 was a comparatively busy event for Chromebook announcements. Lenovo, Dell, and Acer each have new devices on the way that, when taken in combination with the OS changes, are pushing the platform in a decidedly ‘premium’ direction. Meanwhile, two next-generation iterations of the top-tier Google Pixelbook - a tablet and a convertible - are expected to finally break cover at the search giant’s upcoming October hardware event. In fact, it may even be a good idea to hold off on buying a new Chromebook for a month or two. For those who can't wait, however, the following list of devices represents our take on the best devices currently to be had in terms of build, cost and overall value, and features.
10. Dell Chromebook 11 & 11 2-in-1
Dell’s Inspiron Chromebook 11 and Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1 are going to hold their placement on this list for the time being due primarily to all of the features available at a very low cost. Starting at just $179.99 for the standard laptop or $279.99 for the convertible 2-in-1 with a 360-degree hinge, spill resistance, and touchscreen, Dell has arguably cornered the entry-level market as of this writing. Both variations on the design feature an Intel Celeron processor backed up by 4GB of RAM and a battery life of up to 10-hours. For the more budget-friendly Inspiron Chromebook 11, users can get 16GB of flash storage or bump that up to 32GB for just $20 more in cost. Another identical bump in price adds a protective sleeve. Meanwhile, Dell’s 2-in-1 starts out with 32GB of storage and a $20 increase pushes that to 64GB, giving users plenty of space for Android apps, media, and files. As with the non-convertible version, another incremental increase adds a protective sleeve to the package. No USB Type-C ports are included and the battery is charged via proprietary cable instead of USB. However, those caveats may be worth it since Dell’s decision has led to a solid entry with an exceptionally high-value.
9. ASUS Chromebook Flip C101PA
Just up the price spectrum from Dell’s entry on this list, currently priced at $290.85 or $329.00 depending on the storage option chosen, is ASUS’s Chromebook Flip C101PA. Available in either a 16GB or 32GB configuration, the 10.1-inch Flip C101 is a convertible device with a half-inch thick all-aluminum frame weighing in at just under two pounds. A multitouch 1280 x 800 touchscreen is part of that package as well, allowing users to get the most out of Android apps from the Google Play Store while a nine-hour rated battery keeps things going between charges. The Chromebook Flip C101’s dual-core OP1-rated 2.0GHz Rockchip SoC is backed by 4GB RAM, giving users a smooth experience under all but the most performance-intensive circumstances. Two USB Type-C and one standard USB are included in the build, along with an SD card reader and 3.5mm headphone jack.
8. Acer Chromebook R13
Acer’s Chromebook R13 goes against the grain in terms of screen size, though not as much as some others and also features 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage for media files, Android apps, and more at below $400. That’s all embedded alongside a 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080 display in an all aluminum body with a 360-degree hinge for tablet, tent, and laptop modes. The processor, a MediaTek MT8173C SoC, may be the only drawback worth noting but is also at least part of the reason pricing is able to be kept down. Its 3-cell 4,670mAh battery provides up to 12-hours of use as well. That means that this is one Chromebook that really should last all day long.
7. Acer Chromebook Spin 15
Meanwhile, Acer’s Chromebook Spin 15 is currently the largest Chrome OS device on this list and among the largest available with a 360-degree hinge. That makes it one of the largest devices on the market that can be used in tablet mode, driven along by an Intel Pentium N4200 quad-core processor backed by up to 8GB RAM and 64GB storage. Its 15.6-inch panel is rated at 1920 x 1080 for resolution and, as with many other Acer devices, features a full aluminum frame. Bluetooth 4.2, two USB 3.1 ports, and a further two USB 3.0 ports allow plenty of options for connecting other devices or charging up for up to 13-hours between charges. Sold under the model designation 'CP315-1H,' all of that can be purchased for right around $450 directly from Acer. So it's also one of the most high-value offerings that are currently available.
6. Acer Chromebook Tab 10
The most prolific of the Chromebook manufacturers is, of course, also responsible for the world’s first Chrome OS tablet and the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 remains the only such device available as of this writing. For just under $350 - without factoring in a keyboard, case, or screen protector - the Tab 10 is a 9.7-inch tablet with a built-in Wacom EMR stylus and a low-slip plastic body. Chrome OS and Android apps alike are powered by an OP1-rated hexacore processor clocked at 2.0GHz and backed up by 4GB RAM and 32GB of micro SD-expandable storage. In addition to the 2-megapixel front-facing camera, embedded just above the 2048 x 1536 screen, a second 5-megapixel camera is positioned at the back. That makes this one of very few Chrome OS devices with two cameras and AR support, as a result. Meanwhile, battery life is rated at 9 hours and the Tab 10 includes a headphone jack as well as Bluetooth 4.1.
5. Lenovo 500e Chromebook
Never a company to be left out of the latest computer trends, Lenovo has its own entry for Chrome OS with its E-series Chromebooks starting with the 500e. That’s an 11.6-inch device in a ruggedized MIL-STD-810G encasement with a 360-degree hinge that brings a 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage to the table alongside an Intel N3450U processor. A stylus comes embedded in that frame and the built-in keyboard can handle more than a cup of liquid spillage without problems. Two slightly less capable but more affordable variations of the Lenovo 500e Chromebook are also available for those who aren’t able to part with $309 for the more pricey version. Those are the Lenovo 300e and 100e Chromebooks, respectively. Realistically, the current cost for the top-end 500e is an exceptional price point, however. What’s more, Lenovo is already a brand that’s well-known for quality machines and good customer support. So its 500e Chromebook is definitely worth a look.
4. ASUS Chromebook Flip C302
ASUS has several new devices incoming over the next few months which should easily displace the Chromebook Flip C302 on our list. But that hasn’t happened just yet and, starting at $449, this ASUS laptop-like has certainly earned its placement on our list. There are three configurations available for this device but each offers a comfortable 12.5-inch Gorilla Glass display panel at 1920 x 1080 resolution in an aluminum body that weighs just over two and a half pounds. That’s also just a half-inch thick while battery life can be expected at right around 10 hours with normal use. With that said, the entry model of ASUS’s Chromebook Flip C302 starts with an Intel Core m3 CPU backed by 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage. At the upper end, users can choose between an Intel Core m5 or Intel Pentium 4405Y processor backed by 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, effectively allowing consumers to download as many Android apps as they like.
3. Samsung Chromebook Plus/Pro
For the most part, Samsung's Chromebook Pro and Chromebook Plus seem to be undergoing mostly iterative changes, although a brand new generation of each is still expected to land at some point. Occupying slightly different portions of the Chrome OS spectrum, however, each is still worthy of its classification as a top-tier device. The less expensive Plus model - sold under the designation XE521QAB-K01US - starts out at $499 and offers a 1.5GHz Intel Celeron 3965Y processor. That’s backed up by the somewhat typical 4GB RAM and 32GB storage, embedded in an aluminum frame. The 12.2-inch 1920 x 1200 resolution touchscreen can also be used in conjunction with a frame-housed S-Pen, while a ‘rear-facing’ camera is positioned just above the keyboard for use in tablet mode. The same amount of RAM, storage, an S-Pen stylus, and a backlit keyboard are included in the 12.3-inch Chromebook Pro as well. However, that’s backing up an Intel Core m3 processor and the display is set at a resolution of 2400 x 1600. The 'Pro' variant is sold under model number XE510c24-K01US for $599.
2. HP Chromebook x2
Beginning at a price of $649 through Best Buy or just $599 via the company’s online retail, the HP Chromebook x2 is a 12.3-inch detachable Chromebook and the only device of its kind currently on the market. It also ships with an EMR stylus pen which stores conveniently in a loop on the removable keyboard. The latter feature isn’t necessarily unique but does add a substantial amount value to an already great device. Screen resolution is set at 2400 x 1600 while, on the inside, an Intel Core m3 drives the latest version of Chrome OS as well as Android apps and Linux applications. That’s backed by 4GB or 8GB of RAM at the buyer’s discretion and 32GB of micro SD card expandable storage. That means there’s no folding into tablet mode like with most other tablet mode-enabled Chromebooks and the internal hardware is nearly on par with the entry model of our top pick for the platform.
1. Google Pixelbook
As might have been expected, Google’s own Pixelbook remains solidly in our top position for Chromebooks currently available at just $749 for a device that separates itself from the rest in terms of design and components. That could always change with the expected upcoming announcement of a new iteration and the influx of premium-build Chrome OS devices but its base-level 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage coupled with an Intel Core i5 processor helps the Pixelbook its position for now. Moving up from there in price, the specs only get better with offerings at 16GB RAM and either 256GB or 512GB storage. Display resolution is set at 2400 x 1600 and the combination of a 10-hour battery life and dual speakers make this the Chromebook to beat. At the same time, all of that hardware is packed into a 2.45lb all-metal dual-tone silver package that’s just 10.3mm thick. The only real drawback is that its active stylus must be bought separately for $99 but that not necessarily a deal breaker with consideration for the Pixelbook’s original $1000 price tag.