What is the best Chromebook to buy?
Chromebooks have come a long way in recent years. Though there are still plenty of fantastic, affordable student versions on the market, thanks to advances in Google’s Chrome OS there are also plenty of top end Chromebooks with cutting edge hardware, purpose built for more demanding users.
The most recent to hit shelves is the Google Pixel Slate convertible. Coming on like the Chrome OS answer to the iPad Pro or Surface Pro 6 like design and being offered in a variety of price points, the Pixel Slate looks like it could be the Chrome OS convertible of the year – though until we review it we can’t confirm this.
Before that we say some other great looking Chromebooks from the likes of Dell, Lenovo and Acer, get announced. While this variety is awesome, it can make know which Chromebook is best for your specific needs pretty tricky. Luckily we’re here to help.
Until the Pixel Slate hits the market, Google’s very own Pixelbook is our pick of the bunch, but it’s also one of the most expensive Chrome OS laptops going. You can find much cheaper models from other manufacturers. (Red our PixelBook 2 coverage).
For instance, the Acer Chromebook 15 is less than half the cost, yet still sports a Full HD display as well as full touchscreen controls. And if this 15.6-inch beast is a bit bigger than you need, there’s the new Acer Chromebook 14, which offers similar performance in a smaller frame.
Our current best value pick however is the Acer Chromebook R13, which offers good performance, portability, battery life and a good selection of ports for your peripheral and storage needs.
If neither of these sound right for you scroll down for the full list of the best Chromebooks currently available, or check the following summary list below:
- Best for power: Google PixelBook
- Best value: Acer Chromebook R13
- Best tablet: Pixel Slate
- Best looking: Acer Chromebook 14
- Best display: Acer Chromebook 15
- Best for flexibility: Acer Chromebook Spin 11
How we test Chromebooks
Our philosophy here at Trusted Reviews is that the only way to truly test something is to use it just like a consumer would. In other words, we use each Chromebook as our full-time laptop for a period of time to see how it handles real life.
We’ll carry the device around with us wherever we roam, and use it throughout our working day. That way we can see how portable each Chromebook is, how good the battery life is, whether the performance is up to snuff and whether there are any odd little quirks that you should know about.
In addition, we run a selection of standard tests to see how the device directly compares with its peers. For instance, we’ll run down the battery with a non-stop Netflix binge-fest to find out how many hours of video playback you can expect from a full charge.
Related: Best laptops
1. Google Pixelbook
The most powerful Chromebook you can currently buy
- Thin and light design
- Great performance
- Excellent battery life
- So-so speakers
- Web apps versus Android apps is confusing
- Chrome OS doesn’t make the most of the stylus
The Pixel Book’s time in the sun is drawing to a close thanks to the arrival of the newer Pixel Slate, but until that goes on sale it remains the best Chromebook for power users. Powered by Intel 7th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs, the Pixelbook offers the best performance of any Chromebook on the market. Whether you’re editing photos or opening endless tabs in the Chrome browser, you’ll nary see a stutter. On top of that you also get incredible battery life, with close to ten hours of use between charges.
Factor in the impressively slim and light design, and you’ve got one seriously portable laptop and the best Chromebook that you can buy. The Pixelbook is super-slim and easy as pie to slip into a bag. Weighing in at 1.1kg, you’ll not even notice it when lugging it around all day
You can flip that crisp and bright screen all the way back, so you can stick the Pixelbook in ‘tent mode’ and enjoy a movie on the go. You can also get busy with the stylus in this mode, although you’ll need to pay extra for that accessory.
2. Acer Chromebook R13
The best value for money Chromebook on the market right now
- Excellent, if a little dark, Full HD display
- Above your average Chromebook for performance
- Decent battery life
- A better value buy than most Chromebooks
- Unlit keyboard flexes in the middle and feels cheap
- Only really good for writing, email and video streaming
The Acer Chromebook R13 (CB5-312T) is one of the better value Chromebooks going. At £400, it’s a little more expensive than your average Chromebook, but for the extra money you’re getting a much more reliable and solid experience.
Lighter than the Acer Chromebook 15 at 1.5kg, it’s ideal for students or anyone who needs something light that’s geared towards writing on the go. The battery will easily see you through a day of work and you should have enough left in the tank at the end of the day before having to reach for your mains adapter.
The only downsides are that the screen is not terribly bright and the keyboard isn’t lit, so this perhaps isn’t ideal for all working situations.
3. Google Pixel Slate
An excellent keyboard and design make the Pixel Slate the best Chrome OS tablet available
- Sleek design
- Good keyboard and trackpad
- Solid battery life
- Google Assistant support is fantastic
- App offering is lacking for power users and creatives
- Android apps can crash/not work on occasion
- Expensive for what it is
The Google Pixel Slate is a high-quality tablet running Chrome OS. Pitched as an alternative to Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6, the Pixel Slate docks with an excellent keyboard accessory and works with a stylus, letting you hammer out essays and reports and make notes and sketches on the fly.
For the most part, it works very well and feels like a viable alternative to those devices, especially when using Google Assistant in lieu of Siri or Cortana to action voice commands. That said, Android apps would occasionally crash, and the lack of things like full-fat Adobe Photoshop not being available on Chrome OS limit the Pixel Slate’s usefulness as a portable creative workstation.
It is, that said, easily the best Chrome OS tablet available, partially by virtue of the fact that there are few good Chrome OS tablets out there, but also because it’s a solid device in it’s own right. It’s got a 12.3-inch 3000 x 2000 display, which means that streamed content will look pin sharp. No other device out there straddles the Chromebook/Android tablet divide as well as the Pixel Slate.
4. Acer Chromebook 14
A premium-looking Chromebook with a metal jacket
- Smart-looking metal design
- Commendable battery life
- Crisp display
- Not exactly compact
- Limited connectivity
The latest Acer Chromebook 14 (CB3-431-C5CQ) features a premium-feel aluminium jacket which suggests that we’re moving on from the fantastic plastic designs that have characterised most Chromebooks to date. Despite the bigger screen size and metal finish, it doesn’t weight significantly more than the smaller Acer Chromebook R13, but the slightly bigger size means it’s perhaps not as satchel-friendly.
The bigger keyboard is cleverly spaced, the keycaps spring up nicely to the touch and there’s barely any travel, making typing at speed a breeze. In terms of getting some basic work done the Acer Chromebook 14 will more than satisfy, and for leisure, the battery will comfortably give you nine to ten hours of iPlayer/Netflix time.
In terms of ports, you get two USB 3.0 and one HDMI, which is not that generous, especially when compared to the Chromebook R13 and Chromebook 15, but on the flipside, you get better battery performance than you do with the Chromebook 15, it’s a bit more portable and you get a bigger screen size than you would with the R13 – if the relative lack of ports isn’t a dealbreaker, this might be the Chromebook you’re looking for.
5. Acer Chromebook 15
An ideal choice if you want a Chromebook with a large display
- Crisp visuals
- Touchscreen controls
- Firm, well-sized keyboard
- Large and heavy
- Battery life bettered by rivals
The Acer Chromebook 15 is an absolute beast, towering over most other Chromebooks with its spacious 15.6-inch screen. It’s also considerably heavier, tipping the scales at almost 2kg. As a result, it’s probably best left at home rather than carried around all day.
Still, Acer’s laptop boasts a crisp Full HD screen, so it’s a great way to take in your favourite shows, especially with the powerful speakers that can be heard over all kinds of background noise. It’s a comfortable typing experience too, so good for anyone who needs to smash out endless essays or emails.
As a family device, the Chromebook 15 has plenty going for it. It’s a bit of a beast and the battery life is bettered by rivals, but Acer’s notebook does the basics well.
6. Acer Chromebook Spin 11
Good battery life and a flexible design makes the Spin 11 a good choice
- Versatile design
- Decent battery life
- Impressive connectivity
- Comfortable keyboard
- Limited performance
- Poor-performing speakers
If you’re after something a bit more portable, try the Chromebook Spin 11. Although it’s quite chunky, this 11.6-inch laptop weighs just under 1.4kg and is compact enough to slip into most bags with ease.
Despite its dinky size, the Spin 11 sports a comfortable keyboard for typing all day long. And if so desired, you can push that display all the way back to form a makeshift tablet. The IPS panel is touch-sensitive, so you can poke and swipe and sketch to your heart’s content.
While the battery life isn’t quite as good as Acer’s Chromebook 14 or the Pixelbook, this laptop can still keep going for eight to nine hours on a single charge. Performance is quite basic however, so you’ll not want to keep too many apps open at the same time.
7. Acer Chromebook 14 (2017)
Acer’s 2017 Chromebook 14 is an older model, but represents a good value
- Great value
- Good build quality
- Long battery life
- 2GB of RAM is barely enough
- Ultra-cheap screen
- Full HD screen option is expensive
If you’re on a tight budget, the 2017 version of the Acer Chromebook 14 will certainly appeal. This laptop from 2017 costs under £200, yet still offers a solid everyday experience – with a few limitations.
The silver coloured chassis is well constructed and certainly doesn’t feel cheap, so you can confidently throw it into a backpack and lug it around all day. Of course, the Chromebook 14 (2017) weighs 1.68kg, so it’s not exactly sprightly, but it’s lighter than most other Chromebooks. And while the 14-inch display is fine for word processing and simple tasks, the lack of vibrancy and limited contrast means it’s not the best Chromebook for watching movies or viewing photos.
Still, if you’re after an affordable Chromebook for basic tasks, Acer’s device ticks quite a few boxes. We’re particularly enamoured with the long battery life – this laptop happily lasts ten hours on a single charge, just like the much more expensive Pixelbook.