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Best Chromebooks 2021: our pick of the best cheap Chrome OS laptops

T3 logo T3 29/01/2021 David Nield
a man and a woman sitting on a bench: Best Chromebooks 2021 © Provided by T3 Best Chromebooks 2021

If you're on the hunt for the best Chromebook of 2021, then we're very happy to lend a hand – from brilliant budget Chromebooks to Chromebooks that have top-end components inside, the T3 experts will point you to the right Chrome OS-powered laptop for you.

It's actually a great time to buy a Chromebook right now: these versatile, inexpensive, lightweight laptops are attracting more and more users thanks to their speed, simplicity, and (generally) low prices.

This also makes them some of the Best Student Laptops. There's no need to install additional software or any security packages, you won't notice any bloating or slowing down, and you can now run Android apps on Chrome OS as well. 

The only difficulty is that there are so many models to pick from, it's hard to know where to start – and that's where we come in, with our best Chromebooks 2021 guide. From powerhouses to plucky 2-in-1s, we've got a lightweight Android device that's bound to meet your specs and aesthetic requirements. You can also compare with other ultra-portable options in our Best Lightweight Laptops guide. 

And Chromebooks are, now more than ever, a great computing solution. With more of us than ever finding ourselves working from home and online, the streamlined and online-focused Chromebook is a cheap and robust solution that can transform your home office environment. We've even got a selection of the Best Chromebook Accessories to complete your setup. 

For a wider range of options, also check out our Best Laptop guide. 

Here are the best Chromebook laptops on the market today, as well as some handy information about the differences between a Chromebook and a laptop.

The best Chromebooks you can buy today

On one hand, all Chromebooks are the same, as they all run Chrome OS. On the other hand, there's plenty of variety in terms of screen size, build quality, keyboard and trackpad performance, and all the other factors that go into making a laptop. The Spin 713 from Acer ticks a lot of the right boxes, and we think it's the best Chromebook for most people.

It comes with a high-resolution, 2265 x 1504 pixel 13.5-inch screen that can be folded over and used in tent mode, as well as plenty of power under the hood – we're talking up to an Intel Core i5-10210U processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. This should be able to handle all the Chrome tabs and Android apps you throw at it, and then some.

Other extras that we appreciate include an HDMI out port – not something you see very often on a Chromebook – and the 3:2 aspect ratio on the display, which means you can fit much more on the screen vertically, compared with a 16:9 or even a 16:10 aspect ratio display. A polished and professional-looking Chromebook.

A lot of people think budget or mid-range when they think of Chromebooks, but the HP Pro c640 makes a very good case as to why you should spend a bit more money for a bit more quality and power – this is a laptop that simply flies along, no matter whether you're browsing the web or running Android apps.

You can pick up this HP Chromebook in a variety of configurations, all the way up to a model running a 10th-gen Intel Core i7-10610U processor (a lot of power for ChromeOS and a few mobile apps). The 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display is bright and sharp, and the construction of this laptop impresses too. The screen can't fold right over, but it can lay flat if you need it to.

From the webcam at the top of the display to the full-sized HDMI port that you can use to connect up an external display, it's an impressive offering from HP that's particularly suitable for business users. We also like the battery life, with a day away from a power supply no problem at all.

If you want to keep the costs of your next Chromebook purchase down but still want as much as you can get in the way of power and features, then the Asus C523 is absolutely worth a look. It'll do everything that you need a Chromebook to do, without costing you much at all.

Getting a laptop with a spacious 15.6-inch screen at this price feels a little bit like stealing, and on top of that there's an Intel Celeron N3350 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage – not top-level specs by any means, but definitely enough to keep Chrome OS running happily (plus any Android apps you might want to load up).

The Asus C523 Chromebook looks the part too, with a matte grey finish and a keyboard and a trackpad not unlike something Apple might put out. With four USB ports, a headphone jack and an SD card reader to make use of too, you really are getting plenty for your money with the Asus C523.

There's been a trend for Chromebooks recently to pack in more powerful specs and a greater amount of storage than is strictly necessary, but the Acer Chromebook 514 manages to not only deliver a strong all-around hardware package but does so for a price that isn't going to break the bank.

You get a 14-inch touchscreen panel, which has a Full HD 1080p resolution, and that is then partnered with a 1.1GHz Celeron CPU, Intel HD Graphics 500 GPU, and 4GB of RAM. Storage space sits at 64GB.

This Chromebook is also a looker too, with a luxe aluminum chassis radiating a mature, professional aesthetic.

Battery life is also good, at 12 hours on a single charge, and that's with a backlit keyboard as well, which makes using it in dark or low-light environments easy. Naturally, the laptop grants access to Google's suite of applications, as well as Chrome versions of popular apps like Skype.

With its elegant looks, a screen that you can 'flip' (to stand up or lie flat against the keyboard), and support for Android apps, the Flip C434 from Asus is undoubtedly one of the best Chromebooks money can buy in 2021. For some of you, it may even be the best.

The 87% screen-to-body ratio is worthy of a premium Windows laptop and looks great running Chrome OS, while the internal specs can be set to suit you: an m3, i5 or i7 processor, up to 8GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of internal storage gives you lots of choices.

With the Galaxy Chromebook 2, Samsung is bringing the QLED technology from its TVs over to its Chromebook line, which should mean a screen that's more vivid and balanced than most – and because it's just 13.3 inches corner to corner (with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels), the laptop is pretty portable too.

You can even use it as a tablet at a push, thanks to the display that folds over, and the build quality is of a typically high standard from Samsung. Your choices as far as colors go are a bright 'fiesta' red or a more regular grey, depending on how many eyebrows you want to raise when you take the laptop out, and Samsung is promising all-day battery life from this Chromebook as well.

The laptop is actually a step down in some specs from the original Galaxy Chromebook, with Samsung aiming for a more mid-range price – the starting spec is an Intel Celeron 5205U, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and goes up from there. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is going on sale in the first few months of 2021.

Not only does this system come with a very strong internal hardware spec that includes a rapid Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 CPU, Adreno 650 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, but its design is sleek and its build premium.

It also comes with a flexible 13.3-inch FHD screen capable of a 300nits brightness, an integrated 720p HD web camera that is perfect for video meetings, and a long-lasting 4-cell 60Wh battery that delivers a super-long 25-hour battery life between charges.

25 hours? Now that really is an all-day battery.

As this is a premium Chromebook, it also comes with an in-built fingerprint reader for secure biometric sign in, a backlit keyboard and it runs a full copy of Windows 10 Home in S mode.


Gallery: Best Apple Pencil alternatives 2021: Get a different stylus for your iPad (Pocket-lint)

Simply put, a fantastic all-round Chromebook that will suit those shopping at the premium end of the market.

If you are looking for the best Chromebook in terms of value for money then the HP Chromebook 14 is the ideal sweet spot, as it does that while also delivering a very capable hardware spec.

It packs a strong 14-inch screen that is very crisp and bright, and sports an overall thin, light and stylish aesthetic. It doesn't skimp on the connectivity options, either, with the HP Chromebook 14 delivering an HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, and a microSD card slot.

This is a system that can easily be slipped into a bag and then used in a coffee shop, friend's house, or even on a train, before then being easily stashed away again and you not feeling like you are lumbered with it.

Yes, there are higher-specced Chromebooks in this guide, but if you just need a streamlined laptop for work and entertainment, then you'll struggle to find a better option.

The Pixelbook Go is the latest Chromebook direct from Google, and while we miss the taller screen of the original Pixelbook, there's no doubt that this newer, faster model gets a lot right. A variety of configuration options are available, up to an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB and a 4K display.

We've got yet more evidence that the Google hardware design team is hitting its stride with the Pixelbook Go, from the slim bezels around the display to the textured rubber underneath the laptop, which keeps it in place when it's on a firm surface (or on your actual lap).

Chrome OS flies along on the Pixelbook Go, and it's a fine example to other Chromebook manufacturers of just how good these laptops can be. You don't get the ability to fold the display over and use the device as a tablet, however. To find out more, head to our Pixelbook Go review.

If you've been looking enviously at the iPad Pro from Apple and the Surface Pro from Microsoft, and wishing Chromebooks could offer the same sort of versatility, then the Lenovo Duet could well be the device for you. It's primarily a tablet running Chrome OS, but snap on a keyboard and it's a great laptop too.

You get a 10.1-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel display, and the device is run by a MediaTek P60T processor together with 4GB of RAM and up to 128GB of internal storage. Those aren't top-of-the-line specs of course, but they're still more than enough to run Chrome OS, and battery life is excellent – you can take this away from a power source all day easily.

The keyboard and trackpad that turn this into a laptop are included in the price – take note, Apple and Samsung – though the stylus is an optional extra. It's versatile, it's very portable, it looks and feels great, and it's definitely one of the best Chromebooks on the market today (especially for fans of 2-in-1s).

If you're in need of the very best components inside your Chromebook, and you have a decent budget to spend on one, then consider the Asus Chromebook Flip C436. It comes with a choice of the latest 10th-gen Intel Core processors, as well as either 8GB or 16GB of RAM.

That means it should be more than capable of coping with any web browser tabs and Android apps you want to throw at it. We like the form factor too; as with other Asus Flip models, you can bend the screen right back and set it up in tent mode or use it as a tablet (albeit a thick tablet).

Battery life could be better, and it is expensive, but this is a Chromebook that really looks the part and that's going to last you for years and years. We're big fans of the gorgeous 14-inch screen as well, which makes webpages and apps crisp and bright and features very little in the way of bezels.

The Acer Chromebook R13 is not the best looking Chromebook, or the most powerful, or the most versatile – but it does enough stuff well to make it worth an entry on our best Chromebooks of 2021 list, including offering an impressive 12 hours of battery life.

The 2-in-1 form factor means you can use it in tent or tablet configurations too, and the 13.3-inch screen is bigger than you would normally get at this sort of price. Like all modern Chromebooks, it supports Android apps, so you can use it as a big Android phone too.

If you want a Chromebook that's very portable but also very versatile – and which comes with a stylus too – then the Acer Spin 11 fits the bill very nicely. It reminds you that Chromebooks are supposed to be fun, and runs Android apps very well at the same time.

Okay, you don't get the best specs out there, with the screen resolution and internal storage the lowlights, but this is still very usable and is going to give you several years of good service. A true alternative to what Windows and macOS laptops have to offer.

One of the main reasons why you might think about buying a Chromebook rather than something running Windows or macOS is the price: and the HP Chromebook 11 gets you up and running with your web computing for not very much money at all.

Of course, there are compromises here – you're not going to get a juggernaut of a laptop for around the $200 mark – but the HP Chromebook 11 is sturdy and easy to use, and the perfect size for using on a train or stuffing into a backpack. Chrome OS is Chrome OS no matter what Chromebook you're using.

Despite the chunk bezels and the plastic chassis, we'd be more than happy to have this as our regular computing companion. If you feel you need a bit more screen space, HP offers more expensive Chromebooks with bigger displays further up the food chain too.

How to choose the best Chromebook for you

These days, the majority of our daily computing happens in a browser. Most apps can be replicated online, through a browser, so cloud-based Chromebooks make a lot more sense than they might at first glance.

The Chromebooks of 2021 have learned a few tricks from Windows laptops too: some fold over to double as tablets, some sport all-day battery life, and some have upgraded internals on par with a Windows 10 machine, for example.

What's more, most new Chromebooks that appear on the scene now come with support for Android's huge library of apps as well. If there's something you need to do that can't be done through the browser, maybe you can find an Android app to help.

When it comes to specs, these aren't quite as important as they are for Windows or MacBook laptops, but you'll still want a generous serving of processor speed and RAM, particularly if Android apps are involved. 

One of the key specs to look out for is screen size, as this will determine how much room you've got for webpages and apps, and how easy (or otherwise) it is to lug your Chromebook around.

Ultimately the reasons to buy a Chromebook are that they offer secure, lightweight systems that are always kept right up to date. Say your Chromebook gets stolen – replace it with another, log in, and everything will still be where you left it in the cloud.

Chromebooks have also become hugely important for education. Long battery life, low costs, and a decent suite of office apps mean that for cash-strapped students in need of a reliable work computer, they're absolutely ideal.

Is a Chromebook and laptop the same thing?

In almost all respects, yes they are. They deliver a portable computing experience that allows people to work and be creative wherever they might be, and often for significantly less money.

Where Chromebooks differ from laptops is in their operating system, apps, and internal components. The operating system, for example, is Google's Chrome OS, not Windows, Linux or macOS, while the apps that Chromebooks use are from Google's G-Suite of software.

And, as Google's software, pretty much, runs off of the cloud, it means that Chromebook apps are designed to be online at all times. This is an important point to consider when buying a Chromebook. You really need to have an internet connection available to make using a Chromebook worthwhile.

Lastly, the internal hardware on Chromebook's tends to be (although not always) lighter than on a laptop. This is because Chromebooks use web apps and remote hardware to do their work for them. They still have CPUs and hard drives, but they just tend to be more basic as they don't need to do as much local processing and storing.

It is this lack of need in terms of internal hardware components that often leads to Chromebooks ringing in cheaper than a budget laptop, for example.

Which brand makes the best Chromebook?

You might have noticed that when it comes to the best Chromebooks, the same brand names pop up again and again. It can help to know the manufacturers that you're looking for when it comes to finding the Chrome OS device that's right for you.

It's really Acer and Asus that are leading the field when it comes to how many Chromebook models they have on offer. Their laptops cover a wide variety of price points, but are always well built and reliable. HP is another name to look out for, especially if you're buying for business.

Like Acer, Asus and HP, Lenovo makes plenty of Windows laptops and has carried that expertise over to Chromebooks – you'll find some excellent Lenovo Chromebooks on the market covering a variety of form factors, including a 2-in-1 tablet/laptop model.

The other big names to look for are Samsung and Google: they don't make many Chromebooks, but the ones they do are very good. Samsung's latest is the Galaxy Chromebook 2, while Google has followed up the excellent Pixelbook with the Pixelbook Go.

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