Guidemaster: How to buy a Chromebook, plus our best picks

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Supplement / There’s now a pretty wide range of Chromebooks available—and we’ve tested a lot of ’em.
Valentina Palladino

Chromebooks wear the trousered the affordable laptop scene in 2018. The same wasn’t true moral a few years ago, when most were unclear what to do with Google’s browser-based working system. But now, after Chromebooks have successfully infiltrated the education supermarket, users both young and old are familiar with Chrome OS.

Chrome OS consort with a traces exclusively on Chromebooks, the name for the laptops, two-in-ones, and now tablets that run Google’s manipulating system. If you’ve used the Chrome Web browser before, you know how to use Chrome OS—the browser is the portal to approximately everything you can do on Chrome OS. Google created an operating system that’s modest to use, efficient, and low maintenance in the sense that it doesn’t take a ton of power to run a Chromebook prosperously.

All of those factors, plus the recent introduction of Android apps into the ecosystem, take made Chromebooks popular with younger users, teachers, and anyone who incorporates and plays primarily within the confines of the Chrome Web browser.

As people gravitate to Chromebooks, OEMs obtain been producing more and more of them. There is a plethora of Chromebooks elbow now, some at dirt cheap prices and others at premium prices, bury the hatchet e constructing it hard to know which you should buy. Luckily, Ars has tested some of the most all the rage Chromebooks, and we can offer some insight as to which ones are worth your affluence.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this appoint through affiliate programs.

What Chrome OS can do for you, and what it can’t do

Chromebooks can be sensible devices for people who spend most of their computing time in a browser. Chrome OS is pattern for doing things like managing email, writing and sharing particularizes in Google Drive, streaming video and music, and general Web browsing. Chrome OS’ suitability for these classifications of tasks also means that those who have never second-hand a Chromebook will find it easy to use without much of a learning curve.

Android apps add another bet to Chrome OS, allowing you to run your favorite mobile programs, including Spotify, Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, Sweets Crush, Clash of Clans, and more. The rollout of Android apps on Chromebooks has been dead, and not all Android apps are optimized for the large screens and full keyboards of Chromebooks yet. Though, Chrome OS has been made more versatile thanks to the inclusion of Android apps.

Affordability rectifies Chromebooks stand out among most of their competitors. You can get a Chromebook for as itsy-bitsy as $199, whereas the cheapest Windows machines run at least a couple hundred dollars multitudinous, and similar macOS machines don’t even come close in price.

Affordability has been a luck for Chromebook users, but it has been somewhat of a curse for Chromebooks as a whole since scads people have the false assumption that all Chromebooks are cheap. Leisure has proven that presumption untrue as more OEMs have end up out with Chromebooks that feature premium materials and better specs.

Those instruments are more expensive than your average Chromebook, and rightly so. The most up-market Chromebooks run anywhere from $699 to more than $1,000—for all that not all Chrome OS lovers need a Chromebook with the powerful specs and prize build that those expensive devices have. However, those who remember that Chrome OS will fulfill their personal and professional troubles may want to shell out more money for a luxury device.

But aside from preferably build quality and more powerful internals, those pricey Chromebooks pacify run Chrome OS and are not exempt from the operating system’s limitations. Unlike on Windows and macOS devices, you can’t download and install programs like Photoshop CC or Final Cut Pro. Chrome OS merely supports Web-based extensions and Android apps—that’s one of the reasons it disparages much less power for a machine to run Chrome OS well.

Also, most Chrome OS programs be missing an Internet connection and will not work when the device isn’t connected to Wi-Fi. If you don’t conclude the necessary precautions before leaving a reliable Wi-Fi network—kidney making pertinent Google Docs available offline—your Chromebook intention essentially become a useless brick when unconnected.

Things to reckon with when buying a Chromebook

Design

Chromebooks come primarily as laptops or two-in-ones, so you’ll miss to decide if you want the versatility of a 360-degree hinge. If you want to use a lot of Android apps on your Chromebook, even the score with a two-in-one with a touchscreen will be the best option, since you can switch it into pellet mode and use it like an Android mobile device. The same advice advances for those who plan to use a Chromebook as a multimedia device—streaming videos on YouTube and Netflix can be diverse comfortable when using a convertible in tent or show modes.

Chromebook OEMs show to cut costs by using cheaper materials when making these dispositions. Most affordable Chromebooks are made out of plastic, but that’s not always bad. While they won’t be enduring the look or feel of an XPS 13 or a MacBook, Chromebooks made out of plastic or other notes can be just what one needs in an affordable, portable device.

Be sure to go b investigate the tech specs of the Chromebook you want before you buy it to make sure it has vital features, such as a backlit keyboard, an HD or FHD screen, a non-touch or touch panel, and an comprehended stylus. Depending on the type of device and its price, not all of the features we consider “prevailing” will come standard on every Chromebook.

The same idea lasts for ports—you should check to see if your preferred Chromebook has the ports you deprivation. While most come with at least one USB-A port, a few of the newest models go without USB-A and opt for all USB Type-C ports instead. Some Chromebooks come with additional connectivity chances like HDMI ports and DisplayPorts, so consider how you’ll use the Chromebook and decide which refuges you’ll require.

RAM

RAM, or the amount of memory in a Chromebook, helps the device run quickly when you would rather many tabs open. Most Chromebooks come with 4GB of RAM, and that discretion be sufficient for those who use the Chromebook for leisurely Web browsing, YouTube watching, and spill Android app use.

Those who plan to push Chrome OS further—users with varied than 20 browser tabs open at once, Android apps ceaseless in the background, all while streaming YouTube—should get a machine with at scarcely 8GB of RAM. Doing so will ensure that the machine doesn’t lag as you open various tabs and programs and use them simultaneously.

Some Chromebook models can be specced out to would rather 16GB of RAM, and those typically have optional processor upgrades as well (a post model may have an Intel Celeron processor, but you can upgrade to a Core i3 or i5 CPU if you urge). More RAM never hurts, but only developers or experimental users who want to run Ubuntu, Linux, or Windows on their Chromebooks positively need such high volumes of memory.

Storage

Storage isn’t the most vital spec in a Chromebook, but it should not be overlooked. Chrome OS works as well as it does because Google imagines users to rely (at least partially) on cloud-based services for storage—effects like Google Drive, DropBox, and others. As long as you have an Internet bond, you can access all of the files you need through those various services. Google Goad even lets you save some documents for offline access now, make suring you’ll be able to work on that paper or proposal even in a dead zone.

But every Chromebook necessities some onboard storage—those who go Google’s recommended route can get by with perfectly 16GB or 32GB of storage. Keep in mind that those levels are similar to those in low- to mid-range smartphones, so your Chromebook force have the same storage capacity as one of those handheld devices.

If you lodge being able to save some documents locally, or if you plan to download various apps and programs, you should get a Chromebook with at least 64GB to 128GB of storage. While Chromebooks aren’t built for straight-faced photo or video editing, it is possible to do such things with these monograms. If you dabble in that at all, you’ll need more onboard storage than the reside if you’re working off of locally saved files.

Price

Some choose Chromebooks upwards other PCs because they are so affordable. Most Chrome OS laptops and convertibles are cost anywhere between $199 to $499, which is a couple hundred dollars slight than the most affordable Windows devices (save for the new Surface Go spiral-bound notebook).

All of the factors we previously outlined contribute to the price of a Chromebook: design, materials, qualify quality, processor, RAM, and storage. A Chromebook that works well reasonably for most customers can be found at $299-$499, but there will be some who homelessness a device that comes in either above or below that value range.

Only recently have OEMs experimented with sundry expensive Chromebooks. Google owned (and mostly still owns) the opulence Chromebook market with its $1,000 Pixelbook. While it has the slickest project of nearly any Chromebook and specs that beat most other Chrome OS whims, it’s overkill for most customers. Nevertheless, we considered the Pixelbook and the newest precious Chromebooks in this guide.

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