Top 10 Best Chromebooks – December 2018
December and its holiday seasons are here but Chrome OS news has been somewhat slow in terms of new devices for the month. A new 14-inch Acer Chromebook 514 is on the way in the budget segment starting at $349 with moderate specs, having finally received its own landing page on the company’s site. However, despite being unveiled at IFA 2018 in August, that’s not quite ready for purchase yet. Aside from that device, the only news on the Chrome OS front has centered around at least one more LTE-enabled Chromebook made by CTL on the Sprint network and rather disappointing initial scores for the first, as-yet-unreleased Snapdragon reference board. Google’s Pixel Slate has landed on our top ten list after beginning to ship this month, knocking one other device from the ranking but for a high cost compared to other Chromebooks with comparable specs.
10. Lenovo 500e Chromebook
Lenovo’s Chromebook 500e and the remaining e-series Chromebooks are coming in at number ten for December with a high-value top model starting at just $319. This is one of the only Chromebook’s built on a 2-in-1 platform centered around a 360-degree hinge and ruggedized to MIL-STD-810G standards. Launched in early 2018, it’s also one of the few mainstream Chrome OS gadgets to ship with a garaged EMR stylus for drawing or taking notes — something Lenovo neglected to include in its first-ever top-tier premium Chromebook. For specifications, the 500e Chromebook is built around an 11.6-inch touchscreen display set at 1366 x 768 resolution for great portability. Inside, it houses an Intel 3450U processor clocked at a base frequency of 1.1GHz and backed by 4GB RAM and 32GB micro SD expandable storage. For connections local and wide-ranging, Bluetooth 4.2 and dual-band Wi-Fi are included. Down the spectrum from there, Lenovo also has a 300e Chromebook and 100e Chromebook starting at $219 but without the stylus and with somewhat less processing prowess.
9. ASUS Chromebook Flip C302
ASUS makes its initial entry in our list at number nine with its Chromebook Flip C302. The latest in its ‘Flip’ series, as its name implies, this is a convertible 2-in-1 Chrome OS gadget capable of being used in a tablet, tent, stand, and clamshell configuration. Its all-aluminum body measures just 1.5-inches thick in total and centers around a 12.5-inch display at 1920 x 1080 resolution, with prices starting at just $474. Weight comes in at just over 2.5lbs and Gorilla Glass reinforces the screen against damage. Price varies based on whether a user chooses the Intel Core m3, Intel Core m5, or Intel Pentium 4405Y process with RAM and storage starting at 4G and 64GB, respectively. That’s driven by a 10-hour rated battery charged via either of two included USB-C ports. Storage is expandable via the card reader.
8. Samsung Chromebook Plus/Pro & Plus LTE
As with Lenovo’s entry at number ten, Samsung’s top-end Chromebook comes in several variants with further variations on that design. Starting from the more budget friendly side of things is the $499 Samsung Chromebook Plus, which ships in two versions. The entry version is marketed under designation XE521QAB-K01US and houses an Intel Celeron 3965Y processor with a base clock of 1.5GHz, backed by 4GB RAM and 32GB expandable storage. A 12.2-inch 1920 x 1200 touch display sits at the center of the build with a primary camera above the display and a second camera on the keyboard for use as a main shooter in tablet mode. Each of Samsung’s top-end Chromebooks ships on a 360-degree hinged design for easy 2-in-1 use. Model number XE525QBB-K01US costs $599 and adds compatibility with Verizon’s 4G network. Yet another variant of the Chromebook Plus, model number XE521QAB-K02US, can be purchased for that same price with double the storage and an Intel Core m3 Processor with a base frequency of 1GHz and up to 2.6GHz boosted. The Samsung Chromebook Pro starts at $499 with that same processor clocked at a 2.2GHz base frequency and 12.3-inch display at 2400 x 1600 resolution. That model also bumps storage to 64GB and but keeps RAM at 4GB. A more expensive model is additionally sold with a backlit keyboard for $100 higher cost. Each version of Samsung’s Chromebooks in the Pro and Plus series ships with a 2-in-1 convertible design and a garaged pressure active S-Pen Stylus
7. HP Chromebook x2
HP’s Chromebook x2 stands alone among other Chromebooks in that it is a true detachable. That means that rather than depending on a 360-degree hinge, it separates from its keyboard, attached on a hinge with pogo-pins providing the connection. The primary reason this $539 — starting price — Chrome OS gadget has fallen another placement on our list is due to the introduction of Google’s Pixel Slate but recent reviews have also commented at how uncomfortable the tablet can be to use. Namely, reviewers are saying that this tablet has somewhat sharp edges along the bottom portion when in that mode, which makes use unwieldy if happens to be rested on the user’s body. Setting that aside, this is still a very solid offering from HP. It features an Intel Core m3 processor topped with either 4GB or 8GB RAM backed by 32GB storage. Display resolution for the 12.3-inch multitouch panel is 2400 x 1600 while the all-metal device itself measures just 0.3-inches thick and weighs just 1.62lbs. Bang & Olufsen speakers are included as well, while USB-C is incorporated for charging, display out, and other functions. The battery lasts a claimed 12.5-hours.
6. Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14
The Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 is the once premiere Windows computer manufacturer’s first premium entry into the Chrome OS ecosystem. It was first announced at IFA Berlin 2018 and, like so many in this ranking, features a 2-in-1 convertible design allowing its 14-inch 1080p touchscreen to be used in multiple modes. Designed to meet the standards of its contemporary laptops running that other operating system, its all-aluminum chassis features a backlit keyboard, two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, a headphone jack, micro SD card reader, and USB 3.1 standard port. A 56Wh battery with a claimed battery life of up to 15 hours drives an eighth-generation Intel Core i3 CPU clocked at a base frequency of 3.4GHz under the hood. 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 128GB of storage space provide the backing behind that chip. A garaged EMR stylus is included for even more productivity.
5. Google Pixel Slate
Google’s Pixel Slate has plenty of flaws, not least of all in terms of pricing or the added cost of a keyboard and Pixelbook Pen. Conversely, it is Google’s first entry into the Chrome OS tablet category and only the second overall, bringing massive specs and premium builds to match the price. So it’s four variants ranging from $599 to $1599 definitely deserve a spot on our top ten. As with the Pixelbook, there are a substantial number of features that are the same across every device. But starting at the bottom model, buyers get a tablet with an Intel Celeron Processor, 4GB RAM and 32GB storage or 8GB RAM and 64GB storage. Stepping up from there to the $799 model, the Pixel Slate ships with 8GB RAM and 64GB storage backing up an 8th Gen Intel Core m3 processor. For $999, that jumps to an Intel Core i5 processor with 128GB storage. Finally, the top price nets users a massive 16GB RAM, 256GB storage, and an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 chip. Each version ships in an all-metal midnight blue coloration and 12.3-inch 3000 x 2000 touchscreen. Both front and rear cameras enable 1080p recording and are rated at 8-megapixels, although the forward-facing ‘Duo cam’ does have a slightly larger aperture. Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, two USB-C with 4K video output or for charging and data transfers round out connectivity. Dual front-facing speakers, two mics, a power button-embedded fingerprint scanner, and up to twelve-hour battery round out the common specs across each version. Each also has support for an add-on Pixelbook Pen in matching midnight blue for $99 and a magnetic folio style keyboard case for an additional $199.
4. Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630
We recently had the opportunity to try out Lenovo’s Yoga Chromebook C630 and a review on that device is forthcoming but during that review period, it quickly became obvious that this device represents something of a value sweet spot. Perhaps more accurately, although the devices above this will perform better in nearly any configuration, the added cost of those is substantially higher compared to the gains — as compared to devices lower on this ranking. The Yoga Chromebook C630 starts out at just $539.99 and comes in two tiers with several optional configurations available for each. Regardless of which is chosen, this 2-in-1 convertible comes in an all-aluminum 4.2lb frame with an anodized midnight blue sheen and a 15.6-inch ‘near-edgeless’ touchscreen. No stylus is included in the package but there’s still quite a lot here to love. That display starts out as a 1920 x 1080 panel, with options for up to a 4K, 3840 x 2160 UHD panel, both are driven by Intel’s integrated UHD Graphics 620 chip. That’s backing up either an Intel Core i3-8130U Processor clocked at 2.2GHz and boostable to 3.4GHz or an Intel Core i5-8250U processor and both are the latest 8th-Gen chips. Storage and RAM are set at either 64GB or 128GB and 4GB or 8GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM, respectively, and the current top model without the optional backlit keyboard is just $599. All of the modern ports, connectivity options, and a claimed 10-hour battery life are part of the package as well as two comparatively good-quality stereo speakers.
3. HP Chromebook x360 14
The HP Chromebook x360 14 is a top-tier convertible 2-in-1 with a backlit keyboard embedded in a mist blue base alongside Bang & Olufsen speakers. Two USB 3.1 Type-C ports and two USB 3.1 Type-A standard ports are included there as well. Each of those USB-C ports can be used for charging, data transfers, or video out. The upper half is comprised of a 14-inch 1920 x 1080 display panel with super slim bezels. That half of the device is offset with a ceramic white accent color. Inside, buyers will find 8GB of DDR4 2400MHz SDRAM shuttling data to and from the micro SD card-expandable 64GB eMMC drive. That’s backing up an 8th Gen Intel Core i3-8130U with a base clock of 2.2GHz and a stunning 4GHz Turbo Boost frequency. An Intel UHD Graphics 620 chip powers the visuals, allowing output at up to 4K in spite of the 1920 x 1080 resolution of the native display. At just 3.9lbs, that’s a lot of hardware that should be capable of running any Android app and a huge assortment of Linux apps as those continue to roll out.
2. Google Pixelbook
Google’s Pixelbook launched last year for a price of $999 to start and has dominated as the number one Chromebook ever since. Topping out at $1,649 means that it is most definitely not the most high-value device on the market anymore, but it will certainly accomplish whatever a user demands of it via Linux or Android apps with the exception of triple A PC gaming. All of the variants ship with a 2400 x 1600 display embedded in an all-metal 12.3-inch rated frame. A 360-degree hinge is part of that white-on-silver package as well. Two USB-C ports, a 3.5mm jack, two top-of-the-line speakers and four noise-canceling microphones, coupled with a 10-hour battery round out the similarities between the devices Google has up for sale. The least expensive Chromebook Pixelbook delivers a generous 8GB RAM and 128GB storage backing up a 7th-Gen Intel i5 processor while a slightly more expensive model doubles the storage. The top-tier model swaps out for an Intel Core i7 from the same generation, 16GB RAM and 512GB of storage. Unfortunately, none of those configurations come with a packaged-in Pixelbook Pen — costing buyers an extra $99 for that functionality. The weight is also considerably lower than many others in our list, however, at just 2.5lbs at 10.3mm thick.
1. Acer Chromebook Spin 13
Sticking it out at the top of our list for the time being is Acer’s Chromebook Spin 13. Although intended for business users initially and not the highest value available, the specs are comparable to Google’s Pixelbook. Moreover, that’s for a lower price — just over $895 — and with next-generation processors on board. Sold as the model number CP713-1WN-53NF, the Acer Chromebook Spin 13 that is available to the wider consumer audience ships with an 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U that’s significantly better than the ‘i5’ found in Google’s offering. That’s coupled with 8GB RAM and 128GB on the storage side with a 10-hour battery powering everything. A 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 Gorilla Glass touchscreen sitting right at the sweet spot for a convertible 2-in-1 device. A garaged EMR stylus is included to work with that Wacom-enhanced panel while the same Gorilla Glass coating can be found on the touchpad just below the standard backlit keyboard. All of that is packed into a classy ‘steel gray’ all-aluminum frame weighing 3.5lbs. For ports, users have two USB Type-C 3.1 ports that work for data transfers, display-out, and charging of the battery up. That’s on top of a micro SD card slot, one USB-A 3.0 port for other connections, Bluetooth,and a 3.5mm headphone jack.