Everyone needs a computer, but not everyone needs all the bells and whistles. Sure, high-end PCs are workhorses for everyday remote work and content production. But unless you’re a graphic designer or social media wunderkind, you probably don’t need all those shiny and expensive upgrades. Chromebooks are scaled-down portable PCs built for work on the go, or to simply use as a dedicated surfing alternative to your phone.
Is a Chromebook right for you?
When I think of Chromebooks, two palindromes always come to mind: mom and dad. I’m not saying boomers aren’t tech savvy. The poorly-edited Minion meme industry on Facebook and Twitter wouldn’t be half as big if it weren’t for them. But have you ever seen anyone over 50 open Photoshop or Garageband? I don’t mean to single out our elders, just trying to illustrate what I believe to be a pretty good point:
Not everyone needs a full-blown laptop
Regardless of your parental status, a Chromebook still may be right for you. After all, your computer-based needs may not be terribly demanding, so why invest in a fully fledged PC or laptop? Chromebooks come packed with all the surfing capabilities the Chrome browser brings, along with the dedicated Google apps suite including Google Docs and Google Drive. Chromebooks all run ChromeOS, which means there’s a wide world of applications and games available via the Google App store. However, not all Chromebooks will run all apps as smoothly as possible. Which brings us to the rubrics I will be using when judging the following Chromebooks. This includes:
- Speed: This is perhaps the most paramount thing you can judge a piece of technology on. Slow and steady just isn’t a thing in the tech world.
- Ease of Use: Chromebooks aren’t built for dummies, but a dummy should be able to use it without having to search YouTube or worse, consult a user manual.
- Flashy upgrades: The world of Chromebooks is as diverse as the tablet and phone sphere. Many Chromebooks come with everything from extra storage to touchscreens, all worth bonus points, in my opinion.
The best Chromebooks for starters
Do you have a couple hundred dollars laying around and want to treat the tech neophyte in your life to a good starter computer? Instead of buying some bulky tower desktop, consider one of these inexpensive Chromebooks.
- Features: The 14 in this Chromebook’s title designates the screen size, which makes this a good portable streaming device. Better yet, it can last up to 13 and a half hours on a full charge, depending on the settings. It’s fast enough to play some lower end games thanks to its Intel Celeron N4000 processor. There’s even a built-in webcam for Zoom meetings and chatting with the folks.
- Setbacks: It’s slow. Even with 4GB of ram it’s probably better suited to simple surfing and streaming. But considering that’s all many do with their devices, it’s one of the more inexpensive options available.
- Price: $149
- Features: It’s a laptop, it’s a tablet, it’s both! While the screen on this Chromebook is a good bit smaller, it makes up for it in versatility. Not only can this Chromebook fold up into a tablet, it’s also got two styles of USB outlet, a dedicated SD card slot and even a built-in camera.
- Setbacks: The shell isn’t half as sleek as the HP Chromebook 14. And. like many models at this price range, the CPU performance is mediocre to low.
- Price: $212
Mid-range Chromebooks with shiny upgrades worth the extra cash
A little bit of investment goes a long way in the Chromebook world. Here are some upgrades that may just help your Chromebook go toe to toe with many popular laptops.
- Features: Everything about this laptop/tablet Chromebook says “upgrade.” Not only does it sport better visual capabilities than the more affordable offerings, it’s also got military-grade durability. Plus, it’s got enough speed to surf, edit media, game, and even hop between these varied tasks with ease.
- Setbacks: The audio, for a Chromebook at this price, isn’t as great as it could be. The keyboard is a tad small too, so heads up if you’ve got thicker digits.
- Price: $399
- Features: This “go there, do that” Chromebook is no joke. Unmatched battery life, a built-in 1080p webcam, quiet and speedy processing, and a backlit keyboard almost make you forget it’s just a humble Chromebook. It’s built with speed in mind, and boots up in seconds. It even comes with built-in a Titan C security chip to keep your data and passwords safe.
- Setbacks: It’s incredibly lightweight, which is good, but the absence of USB-A ports might make you wish it was a few ounces heavier.
- Price: $849
The Best Chromebook
- Features: The versatility and portability of a Galaxy phone or tablet, combined with the power of a laptop. Qualcom Snapdragon semiconductor chip not only powers this beast, but keeps it cool, even when you put it through the ringer. It’s got a 4K OLED screen, making everything from work presentations to Hulu binges incredibly crisp and beautiful. A full charge can last an unfathomable 18 hours, all while being sleek, slim, and shockproof. If you’ve already got a Galaxy smartphone or device, you can pair your devices to easily share files and jump from work to playtime in seconds. It’s also got a tablet mode, complete with a stylus. And with 256 GB of storage, it’s practically a full-blown laptop.
- Setbacks: It’s very pricey, considering it’s still a Chromebook. Despite the Snapdragon chip, many say that the cooling is still a little shoddy.
- Price: $1214
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