Chromebooks might be a niche option compared to a MacBook or Windows laptop, but Google's easy-to-use OS has spawned a class of cheap, user-friendly laptops.
They're not all cheap, however, and we've reviewed and ranked a number of options at different prices from different brands - including Google itself. But they can still be good value for money.
ChromeOS offers pretty much the same experience as using the popular Chrome web browser, which you might well already use on another device, but adds a few extra features added to the mix such as being able to run Android apps.
Depending on your budget and needs, you might not necessarily choose the Pixelbook Go, Google's own premium option. There are plenty to choose from made by Acer, Asus, Lenovo and other top brands.
Some models might be a year or two old but they're still widely available and offer good value. Also, Chromebook tech doesn't move as fast as Windows laptops.
Confused about how they compare with a laptop running Microsoft's OS? Well, read our Chromebook vs Windows laptop guide.
Best Chromebook 2021
Acer Chromebook Spin 713 - Best Overall
Acer updates its Chromebook range with the new Spin 713 that blends excellent performance with a gorgeous 3:2 ratio display and decent ports.
The 360-degree hinge means a versatile design and things run very nicely on the 10th-gen Core processor we tested with 128GB storage, though a cheaper model uses a Pentium processor and half the storage.
It’s a powerful combination which puts the device on the top of the pile for those who want a Premium ChromeOS laptop without it costing the Earth.
Sure, it's a lot to pay for a Chromebook compared to some, but in these times of laptops routinely costing hundreds more than that, this is good value for money.
Read our full Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review
Google Pixelbook Go - Best Premium Model
The Pixelbook Go is a lightweight yet premium device which has great battery life and performance. It's also more affordable than the previous Pixelbook, though still pricey compared to most Chromebooks.
The keyboard is ultra-quiet and other features such as a high-quality webcam make this Chromebook a great option for remote workers.
The two lower-spec models are better value for money, but there are higher storage options should you want them.
Read our full Google Pixelbook Go review
Asus Chromebook C433TA - Best Value
Asus gets so many things right with the C433TA: great design, solid construction, excellent battery life and fast performance. The only downsides are poor gaming performance and stiff hinges.
The former isn't really the main duty for which Chromebooks are intended, and the hinges keep the touchscreen steady once it's open.
If you want a quality Chromebook that's more affordable than the Pixelbook Go, the C433TA should be your first port of call.
Read our full Asus Chromebook C433TA review
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 - Best Budget Option
If you’re looking for a Chromebook to cover all the basics of daily computing - surfing the web, creating documents, checking social media, and streaming content - then you can’t go far wrong with the Lenovo IdeaPad 3.
Yes, the display isn’t the best and the webcam is poor, but at this price, it gets a lot more right than it does wrong.
It has a nice design with a decent keyboard and you also benefit from long battery life. Just make sure you only need it for lighter tasks.
Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Chromebook 14 review
Lenovo IdeaPad Duet - Best Chrome Tablet
A charming little 2-in-1 Chromebook that might be light on power but is big on fun. It's no wonder the Duet was highly anticipated.
The fact you're getting a ChromeOS laptop and an Android tablet in one affordable package is just the start really - and yes, the keyboard is included in the price. It looks nice, lasts a decent amount of time and has a good quality display.
It's not the biggest screen, though and the keyboard is also a little cramped so isn't ideal for all work situations - ie lots of typing or large spreadsheets. It also doesn't have huge amounts of power so is better suited to lighter use.
Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook review
Acer Chromebook 314 - Best Full HD Model
Acer's Chromebook 314 brings the category back to what it started out as, an affordable laptop that's good enough to handle daily tasks.
There's nothing particularly amazing about the 314 but that's not the point. It gets the job done without breaking the bank and you might even find the Full HD model with 64GB for the same price as the lower-spec option.
As long as you don’t expect anything flashy on the Chromebook 314 you’ll find it to be a very usable laptop that can be employed for work or home purposes. Cheap and cheerful? Yes, we’d say so.
Read our full Acer Chromebook 314 review
Acer Spin 513 Chromebook - Best Budget Convertible
The Acer Spin 513 delivers lots of what people buying a Chromebook will be looking for and prioritising.
It's lightweight, affordable and long battery life making it a great companion for travelling and you can even opt for a model with LTE mobile data making it easier to get online when you're on the go.
We also like the convertible design so it's versatile for different tasks.
It's not all good news though as there's no backlight for the keyboard, the casing is very plastic fantastic and we found performance glitchy on occasion. There's also no microSD card slot should that be a deal-breaker.
Read our full Acer Spin 513 Chromebook review
Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA - Best Performance
The Flip C434TA offers better performance than most Chromebooks. It looks good, is comfortable to use and the touchscreen adds versatility especially when paired with Android games.
At £600 though, we’re not happy with the hinge which doesn't hold the screen rigidly in place and the keyboard looks a bit tacky, both of which cheapen the experience. It’s a powerful device, but in all honesty we still prefer the older C302CA (which you can still find for sale, but at horribly inflated prices).
Read our full Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA review
Acer Chromebook 15 - Biggest Screen
The Chromebook 15’s big screen (you guessed it, it's 15 inches) sets it apart from many of its rivals and Acer offers this model at a very affordable price so it's a good option if you're very limited on budget.
However, the screen isn't very good quality and the keyboard is annoyingly inconsistent. Performance is also pretty average so there are much better Chromebooks out there if you can afford to spend a little more.
Read our full Acer Chromebook 15 (CB315-2H) review
How to choose a Chromebook
An internet connection is central to how a Chromebook functions. Nearly all Chrome OS apps and services are online but more are adding offline support as time goes on. Google’s own Document and Spreadsheet apps capable of working offline and then seamlessly syncing any work you’ve done to the cloud once you’re back on Wi-Fi.
This simplicity allows Chromebooks to use less-powerful hardware than many Windows laptops, without it affecting the overall performance.
Do Chromebooks run Android apps?
These days, all modern Chromebooks can run Android apps. However, if you're looking at an older model, just check whether it supports them on not before buying.
Can Chromebooks run Office?
The most significant limitation of a Chromebook is that it can’t run some of the Windows software you might be used to. Full versions of Microsoft Office won't run on a Chromebook, although you can use the web-based suite and Android apps. Google’s own Docs suite is a very good alternative: its online collaboration is better than Microsoft’s offering for a start.
For the alternatives to popular software, see Google's 'Make the switch' page.
What specs should I look for in a Chromebook?
You won’t find capacious hard drives, high-end processors or large screens on most Chromebooks. Instead, Google offers 100GB of online storage (along with various other perks like YouTube Premium and Stadia Pro trials) with every machine and mobile processors are the order of the day negating the need for noisy fans.
One of the most notable benefits of Chromebooks is that they tend to be cheaper than Windows laptops. But some newer models are more expensive as they have touchscreens, more storage and other features.
There are many similarities across the majority of Chromebooks with a generally standard keyboard layout and screen resolution, and fast bootup times, but those with specific needs should still be able to find a machine to suit them.
Chromebooks have come a long way since they launched. The range of screen sizes now spans 10-16in and not only are there certain models with touchscreens, but some have hinges that allow the screen to fold right back flat against the underside so you can use it like a tablet.
For most people who just want a laptop-style computer for browsing the internet, creating documents and spreadsheets, streaming videos or giving to the kids as an inexpensive, virus-free homework device, an inexpensive Chromebook is an excellent choice.
Really, though, Chromebooks are intended as a second device: you’ll still have a laptop or PC in the house, but the Chromebook is a portable, lightweight alternative which is great for web browsing, email and - now - running Android apps.
Should I buy a Chromebook?
We’re not saying that Chromebooks are a perfect solution, and you must consider the limitations we've outlined.
Peripheral support is also hit and miss, so if you need printers or other external devices to get your work done, then it’s worth investigating whether your printer and other gadgets will work with a Chromebook before you buy one.
You can now buy accessories that are guaranteed to work with Chromebooks, meaning there's now proper third-party availability of chargers, mice and keyboards, at least.