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Best Chromebook 2021: Top 5 Chrome OS laptops

What is the best Chromebook to buy?

Chromebooks are a great alternative to Windows laptops if you’re looking to save money, but it’s admittedly difficult to find the best Chromebook for your needs when there are so much tacky options out there. 

Not entirely sure what a Chromebook is? They’re basically laptops running on Chrome OS instead of Windows. Chrome OS is designed specifically for those who only need a laptop to browse websites, play video and run Google-approved apps. As a result, they are generally a lot cheaper than Windows-powered laptops.

Chromebooks do have significant drawbacks however, as the locked-down operating system prevents users downloading software outside of Google’s app store. The likes of Netflix and Spotify are all fine, but you may encounter issues if you want to download something a little obscure for university research etc.

We’ve listed the five best Chromebooks we’ve tested below, ranging from bargain 2-in-1 form factors to high-powered devices looking to unsettle the ultrabook crowd. So without further ado, here are our top five Chromebooks:

Google Pixelbook Go - Best Chromebook

1. Google Pixelbook Go

The best all-round Chromebook you can buy

Pros:

  • Fantastic keyboard
  • Attractive, understated look
  • Impressive battery life
  • Android apps on Chrome can be useful (even if buggy)

Cons: 

  • Can get far too expensive if you upgrade the specs
  • No fingerprint scanner/facial unlock
  • Have to get the top model if you want a 4K screen

It shouldn’t really be surprising that Google – the same company responsible for Chrome OS – is responsible for the best Chromebook we’ve ever tested. The Google PixelBook Go excels in most areas, with an ultra-portable weight, excellent keyboard and outstanding battery life.

Google also offers a range of configurations, including a 4K model when you spend over a grand. We’d recommend not going for those high-tier models, as the inflated price seems to defeat the purpose of a Chromebook. If you’re not bothered about saving money, we’d always recommend Windows over Chrome OS.

But at the £629 starting price, the Google Pixelbook Go hits the sweet spot between performance and price, making it a great alternative to more expensive laptops such as the Dell XPS 13 and Surface Laptop 3 for those who only need a machine for web browsing, video streaming and word processing.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet - Best Chromebook

2. Lenovo Chromebook Duet

The best value Chromebook

Pros:

  • Very affordable price
  • Bundled keyboard offers versatility
  • Superb screen for video content
  • Excellent battery life

Cons:

  • Lack of headphone jack
  • Poor speaker quality
  • Keyboard is uncomfortably small

While most Chromebooks on this list mimic the classic laptop clamshell design, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is more of a ChromeOS-powered tablet that can be turned into a makeshift laptop with the bundled keyboard. If you ask us, that just makes the Duet even more versatile than the rest of the devices here, and with an astonishingly affordable £299.99 price, it also arguably offers the best value of the bunch.

Those who need to hammer away at the keyboard frequently may prefer a laptop with a proper keyboard like the PixelBook Go, but anyone who just wants a device for browsing the web and watching videos will likely fall in love with the Duet. The bundled keyboard also helps out for emails, jotting down notes and easier web navigation.

The biggest competitors for the Duet are the iPad and Surface Go 2, but they cost significantly more and demand an extra fee for the keyboard accessory. This means the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is an absolute bargain, whether you’re a school student or a causal browser.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook - Best Chromebook

3. Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook

A high-performance Chromebook that represents great value

Pros:

  • Pleasant IPS screen
  • Comfortable, quiet keyboard 
  • Long battery life 

Cons: 

  • Value of higher-spec models is questionable 
  • Plastic touchpad
  • Weak speakers 

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook is a prime example of modern Chromebooks blurring the lines with high-end ultrabooks, packing a super-speedy Intel Core i5-10210U processor and classy aluminium design.

High-end Chromebooks are nothing new, but we’ve rarely seen such top-notch quality at this affordable £529.99 price point. And while it is in the same price range as Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go, the Lenovo boasts a superior screen which will be important if you like to watch Netflix and YouTube.

So what’s the catch here? We weren’t a big fan of the plastic trackpad and lacklustre speakers, but these are small issues to overlook if you want a high-performance Chromebook at a bargain price.

4. Acer Chromebook 315

Best budget Chromebook

Pros:

  • Incredibly affordable price
  • Big screen for a Chromebook
  • Smooth performance for web browsing and video streaming
  • Great selection of ports

Cons:

  • Poor battery life
  • Unimpressive keyboard
  • Heavy build

The Acer Chromebook 315 isn’t a flashy device, but it’s one of the cheapest laptops on this list despite featuring a huge 15.6-inch Full HD touchscreen with surprisingly decent display quality. It also proves useful for web browsing, fitting more content on screen than your typical 13-inch portable.

Performance never faulted during testing, no matter how many browser tabs were left open, while a generous offering of ports meant you’ll unlikely need an adaptor when plugging in cables. This means the 315 is a superb laptop option for students, even if the keyboard isn’t quite as good as it could be.

There are unfortunately are few issues here, including a meagre battery life at around 5 and half hours and a rather hefty design at 1.8kg. But when you realise this is half the price of most of the other devices on this list, it’s very easy to forgive its shortcomings.

5. Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1

A hardy Chromebook ideal for young students

Pros:

  • Virtually indestructible
  • 360 degree hinge design
  • Portable
  • OK battery life

Cons:

  • Screen is small and low res
  • Keyboard could be better

While children need laptops for education these days, it’s understandably daunting to give them an expensive machine only for them to destroy by throwing it on the floor. The Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1 is built to withstand such scrapes, with rubber edges and a splash-resistant keyboard providing that added protection.

Acer has also made sure to keep this laptop light enough for children to carry around, hitting the scales at a reasonable 1.41kg despite the extra padding. If you’re not bothered about the hardy build, then this isn’t the device for you, as Acer has made significant sacrifices to the performance and screen quality.

For small. clumsy children who need a laptop powerful enough for web browsing and basic work, then the Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1 is a decent option.