The Best Chromebooks of 2018

By Ashley Barry-Biancuzzo

Whether you're a wide-eyed college freshman or a worldly senior, you're going to need a decent laptop to get you through school. But given the ludicrous cost of tuition these days, most students are left with little expendible income. Luckily, there are more options than ever before. Google Chromebooks, known for their low prices and long battery life, are really taking the budget laptop scene by storm.

Chromebooks stand as an affordable option for college students, costing anywhere from $200 to $600 (with the exception of the Google Pixelbook), but are they worth the money? If you spend most of your time browsing the web, scrolling through Facebook and the like, then yes. These cheap machines are ideal for light-usage, which is why they've made such a dent in the education market. They're also at lower risk for security snafus because they exclusively run web-based applications.

If you just want to know which one's the best, it's the Google Pixelbook. It boasts nine hours of battery life, a lightweight form factor, a sophisticated design, and speedy performance—basically, it checks all the right boxes. However, we went hands-on with a slew of Chromebooks: from traditional 'books to versatile 2-in-1's, we checked out performance, build quality, and everything else. Everything on this list has something to offer buyers. These are the best right now.

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Updated March 13, 2018

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Google Pixelbook Large Best Overall
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Google Pixelbook (2017, Intel Core i7)

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  • Editors' Choice

Google Pixelbook (2017, Intel Core i7)

Best Overall

If you've got a taste for the future, the Google Pixelbook is about as futuristic as Chromebooks get. With its top-notch hardware, versatile 2-in-1 design, touchscreen support, and long battery life, this high-end Chromebook has a lot to offer.

The keyboard is an absolute dream to type on, too. The keys are well-spaced and typing is clicky and pleasant. But while we love the full Android support and glass touchpad, there were still a couple of nitpicks we had to grapple with.

The pen is sold separately, meaning it's an extra $99 on top of the cost of the laptop. It's also very expensive for a Chromebook. The entry-level model alone will cost you $999, which is almost double the price of the Asus Chromebook Flip. Drawbacks aside, if you've got the funds, this is the best Chromebook we've ever tested.

HP Chromebook 14-ak060nr

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HP Chromebook 14-ak060nr

I use this HP Chromebook as my home computer, and it's the one thing I really swear up and down by. I've accidentally dropped it off of my coffee table more times than I care to admit and the machine has yet to stop working. Yeah, it's that durable.

The port selection is awesome, too. The left side features a security lock, an HDMI port, one USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack, and a MicroSD card slot. As for the opposite side, it has two USB 2.0 ports. This is nice because it eliminates the need for dongles.

My only complaint is that the underside gets a bit warm after prolonged use. It's not a deal-breaker, per se, but it's something to consider. You may want to keep this machine on a table or desk.

Dell Chromebook 11 3180 83C80

Dell chromebook 11

Dell Chromebook 11 3180 83C80

The 11-inch Dell Chromebook is probably the most budget-friendly option on this list. The base configuration ($179.99) gets you 4GB of RAM and a Celeron N3060 processor. For $150 more, you can upgrade to a touchscreen and 32GB of storage.

The rugged design is really cool, as it's built to handle the daily abuses of life. The black plastic exterior hides fingerprint smudges and the rubber bumper along the edges of the Chromebook protect against unexpected falls.

It may not be the most powerful machine, but it's a great little laptop for writing papers and browsing the web. It's also really small and compact, making it the perfect travel companion. If you're a college student on a tight budget, you can't really get much better than this.

Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA

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  • Best of Year 2017

Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA

This Asus is one swanky-looking Chromebook. Between the thin profile and silver shell, it looks suspiciously like the MacBook. I mean, isn't imitation the highest form of flattery? The posh design is cool and all, but let's discuss the guts.

The Flip earned a score of 367.79 in Basemark, which is a web-based application that evaluates performance. That's serious power. We weren't too surprised by that result, though. Our review unit had an Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor and 4GB RAM, a step-up from the usual Chromebook fare. We also discovered that the machine can handle up to fifteen open tabs at once. Multitaskers, get in line.

The superb 1080p display deserves its own call-out, too. It provides really crisp images. When I watched gameplay footage for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the rolling hills of Hyrule were so vividly green. The colors are rich and lovely, and I wasn't disappointed.

The only downside is the cost. Most Chromebooks fall in the range of $199-$250, with $300 being the sweet spot. If you're able to shell out the money, I'd spring for it. Chromebooks are evolving faster than ever, especially this new wave of 2-in-1's.

Acer Chromebook 11 N7 C731T-C42N

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Acer Chromebook 11 N7 C731T-C42N

If you're a bonafide klutz (like me), this durable Acer might be the laptop for you. I can't tell you how many times I've doused my keyboard in tea or water over the years, and if I'd had this one, it wouldn't have been an issue. This Acer delivers a military-grade chassis and unique "gutter" system, so it's pretty tough. Between the durable shell and water resistance, it's basically klutz-proof.

Acer's gutter system drains spilled fluids out of the bottom of the Chromebook, so naturally I had to try it out. I'm not sure what I expected, but this Acer continued to function after I purposefully dumped water into the keyboard.

But what surprised us most was the fantastic battery life. When we put this Acer through our browsing test—which continuously cycles through popular websites like Twitch and Facebook—it lasted a total of eight hours. That's more than a full school day.

The Acer had a couple of drawbacks, though. It doesn't run Android apps, meaning you're at the mercy of the Google gods. In other words, you're missing out on a whole lot of games and utilities.

The other drawback was the poor performance. It's snappy enough when viewing videos or chatting in Slack, but it struggles with more than seven open tabs. So, if you're the type of person who likes to multitask, you might want to keep tabs on your tabs. Still, it's a good laptop for the low price, especially for an accident-prone middle school student.

Samsung Chromebook Plus

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Samsung Chromebook Plus

Like the Asus Chromebook Flip, this 2-in-1 has an eye-catching design. Unlike most Chromebooks, which are pretty nondescript, this one has a bit of flair to it. Made of magnesium alloy, it looks and feels like a premium machine, and the monochrome Google Chrome logo really pops against the silver lid. The body is also sleek and lightweight, but has a little give.

The 1600p display is top-notch, too. When I watched the Ready Player One trailer, the deep purples of the fantastical worlds inside OASIS, a video game, were sharp and vivid. There's a glossy finish, though, so you're going to be dealing with some reflection in brighter environments. The reflection is especially noticeable when the Samsung is in tablet mode.

The battery life was disappointing, but not surprising, as the high resolution touchscreen display is a big power suck. The Samsung fizzled out in about five hours, which is below-average for a Chromebook. You're going to want to keep the power adapter nearby.

For a Chromebook, the Samsung is expensive. You're getting an excellent display, but the price is a little steep. If you're working with a flexible budget and plan on using the machine for casual use, I'd say go for it.

Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook

Lenovo flex 11 chromebook

Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook

There's no point in beating around the bush here. The Lenovo Flex is one ugly machine. It has the modern 2-in-1 design, which is nice, but it looks like one of those bulky business laptops from the early 2000's. Between the ultra-thick bezels and dark grey exterior, it's super plain. But Chromebooks aren't known for their beautiful designs, and at least it's plenty rugged.

Like the Acer, this Lenovo has a spill-resistant keyboard/trackpad; overall, it's very durable. There's a 5 mm rubber ring surrounding the machine, protecting it from unexpected bumps and shocks. So, ideally, this laptop should survive all but the most severe tantrums. There's a trade-off for all that protection, though: For an 11-inch Chromebook, this Lenovo is seriously bulky. I didn't mind lugging it about, but hauling a three-pound Chromebook every day isn't really ideal, either.

Dell Chromebook 3189 2-in-1 (4GB RAM, 32GB Storage)

Dell chromebook 3189 2 in 1

Dell Chromebook 3189 2-in-1 (4GB RAM, 32GB Storage)

The Dell is another unassuming-looking 2-in-1 that bends back into tablet and tent modes. While it's not the lightest or most attractive Chromebook we've seen, it's sturdy enough for K-12 education environments. The plastic lid is scratch-resistant, the keyboard is sealed against fluids, and the rounded edges are rubberized. The design is a bit utilitarian, but that seems to be the norm for Chromebooks.

The full-sized keyboard offers a great typing experience. Most Chromebook keyboards feel tiny and cramped, but not the Dell. The keys feel firm under my fingertips and there's plenty of space between them. I didn't notice any creaking of the chassis either, so it appears to be well-built. I clicked my way to 76 words per minute, too, which is close to my average of 80 (wpm).

It's not the kind of machine that screams luxury. It's the kind of machine that favors practicality over luxury. This Dell might be a good laptop for a college student on a budget.

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