The era of the browser and cloud combo has descended. Users who want a mobile laptop that can provide a little more than a tablet can offer but don’t want to cart around a heavy, expensive laptop have opted to join the camp of the Chromebook. These browser-based computers don’t offer much in the way of storage, and most are nearly useless offline, but they do give the ability to type and edit emails, give incredible battery life, and browse the internet with excellent speed.
These are meant to help those who don’t need the full force of a Macbook Air or a Surface Pro but instead are just looking for a way to stay connected. You’re unlikely to be able to use one to replace a true PC, but as a supplement they are typically more affordable than a tablet with the inclusion of an integrated keyboard which doesn’t suffer from the flaws that drag down most Bluetooth options. They also come in larger sizes to eliminate the constant squint-and-zoom that goes on with tablets and smartphones. If you’re ready to abandon Windows, OSX, and Droid for a more streamlined online experience, one of the 5 best Chromebooks will help you on your way.
Touchability: Not ready to give up that tablet feel in favor of a touchpad? Then set your sights on the C720P from Acer. It offers something unusual to other offerings on the market which is a touchscreen that permits you to work the computer like a tablet. The display is only 11.6 inches and has a serviceable but unimpressive 1366×768 resolution that will have you zooming in for any serious reading. It does bear integrated Intel HD graphics so you can easily stream your Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go without losing much in the way of quality. The HDMI and USB outputs will let you outsource your display to a separate monitor or television if you so desire.
At 1.4GHz the Intel processor coupled with either 2 or 4 gigs of DDR RAM run the Chrome OS fine but won’t give you any fancy maneuvers or impressive speed. On the flip side, you will get 7 and a half solid hours out of the battery which you can either extend or contract based on your settings. For storage this offers up 32GB on a Solid State hard Drive (SSD) which are perfect for mobile devices since they can take a hell of a lot of abuse. If the touchscreen leaves you cold, you can get all the same specs with the standard C720 at a portion of the price. [Purchase: $280]
Pro: True laptop speed
Laptop Replacement: Remember when we said that Chromebooks weren’t meant to be full-blown laptops? Well the Pixel makes a damn liar out of us. Not only is it a honest-to-god laptop, it’s a fairly impressive mid-grade computer. The processor is an Intel i5-3427U dual core Ivy Bridge that hums along at 1.8GHz with 4 gigabytes of DDR3 RAM handling the nuts and bolts so that multi-taskers can juggle all of their projects. The dual band WiFi card can take advantage of the most powerful in-home network routers. The 32GB SSD storage seems a little light for the price, though that can easily be remedied with a $20 USB flash drive.
While the specs are decent, where the Pixel proves its quality is in the display. The screen does squeak in at just under 13″ which is less than stellar, but with a 2560×1700 resolution attached to an Intel HD 4000 you can see movies and stream kitty videos with eye-popping clarity. The Pixel is also made to last. While most Chromebooks are pure plastic the Pixel is made with aluminum, though at just over 3 and a half pounds, it doesn’t feel bulky at all. This is made – and priced – for those who simply love the Chrome OS and can’t live without it. For the same money you can sneak into a better computer elsewhere, though it might be tainted with Windows or OSX. [Purchase: $1,200]
Samsung Chromebook 2
Pro: Attractive display resolution with a low price
Con: Mediocre processor
Affordable Beauty: Great resolution with high definition doesn’t need to be weighed down by buyers remorse. This options from Samsung offers a 1920×1080 display with 166 pixels-per-inch that looks great, though make sure you get the 13″ model since the smaller 11.6″ only coughs up the standard 1366×768. The processor is a quad core that boasts 2.0GHz, but be warned, rather than Intel this uses a Exynos 5800 which won’t give you quite the same performance as having Intel inside. For those not familiar with Exynos, they make an excellent product…for tablets and smartphones. If you want laptop level performance, it’s going to clunk along like a Sentra at a funny car rally. Those that only do one thing at a time, or are a film buffs who needs great visuals on the go, the Samsung will please your palette but it will not allow you to get work done on the fly. [Purchase: $378]
HP Chromebook 14
Pro: Very large
Con: Weak resolution
Big Dog: Though the 11.6″ and 13.3″ options are nice, people who are man-sized and demand a man-sized computer with massive keys and a big ol’ trackpad will probably prefer this offering from HP. While the size certainly matters, that isn’t all that the 14 has going for it. It also bears an Intel processor, though it is the same 1.4GHz Celeron that you get with the C720 and C720P. The resolution is 1366×768 which is great on an 11.6″ but on the 14″ HP it dumps pixel density down to a low 112 per inch. They amp this up with rich colors, but you’ll definitely notice the difference if you’ve got Avatar running through your box and were hoping for Zoe Saldana to amaze in all her blue cat glory. The SSD only has 16GB of storage and the 2 GB DDR3L SDRAM is fine, if a little limited. You can get it with 4GB of RAM and it will even come with a T-Mobile data plan. Highly recommended for mobile professionals. [Purchase: $280]
Pro: Very fast processor
Con: Low RAM
Perfect Balance: Oddly enough the best choice for most people is also the cheapest. The C300 has it all. It screams along with a Intel N2830 2.16 GHz processor. While only a dual core, it still whips along at speed, though the 2 GB DDR3 RAM does tend to bottleneck it a little bit when you’ve got a lot of tabs open and are hip-deep in deadlines. They have yet to offer a 4GB RAM choice, which is the only true downfall of the otherwise lovely C300. For portable users, there is the 11.6″ C200 option which is only marginally cheaper but bears all of the same specs, minus a few inches of screen real estate. those who don’t need smaller size can take the 13.3″, though it will have a slightly reduced pixel density. [Purchase: $229]
Dell Chromebook 11
Honorable Mention: There is nothing in the specs of the Dell 11 that can’t be found elsewhere. What it does that many of the other choices on the list don’t is offers a very solid feel. Every other offering – with the exception of the pricey Pixel – is just basic plastic. Dell uses plastic, but it feels heavier and heartier than the others while the keyboard and trackpad both are sturdier. The specs are otherwise unimpressive. It has the same 1.4GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and 1366×768 display on an 11.6″ screen as the Acer, yet only will give you 16GB of storage and no touchscreen. Basically if you like the C720 but want it to feel more heavy duty, track down a Chromebook 11. It’s only a few bucks more and gives you the sense of working with a real beefcake. [Purchase: $329]