Are you ready to abandon the cult of Windows and macOS? If you are, Chromebooks serve as a decent alternative for most people. These machines are perfect for everyday workloads like working on documents and spreadsheets, browsing the web, email, and so on. They also tend to have good battery life and sturdy builds. Plus, most files can be stored directly in the cloud. Whether you need something with decent battery life or a lightweight form factor or a competitive price, the PCWorld team has put together a list of different Chromebook options.
If you’re not sure which one you should buy, scroll down to our buying advice section at the bottom of the page, and be sure to check out our wider guide to the best laptops overall if you’re curious about the top options regardless of operating system.
1. Pixelbook Go – Best overall
Between the attractive design and attainable price point, the Pixelbook Go really sets the bar for what a Chromebook can be. The Intel Core i5-8200Y processor is certainly zippy enough to handle productivity tasks and some gaming applications. The Chromebook also comes with 8GB of RAM instead of the usual 4GB. Images look sharp on the Go’s 1080p full HD display and the 16:9 aspect ratio is pretty wide. It also stays relatively cool under larger workloads and it’s portable. In our review, we called it “delightfully thin and light.” If you’re looking for something affordable yet swanky-looking, you can’t get much better than the Pixelbook Go.
Read our full
Pixelbook Go review
2. Lenovo Chromebook Duet – Best battery life
If you need all-day battery life, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a fantastic option. We were able to get 15 hours out of it on a single charge. That’s more than a full work day. It’s also shockingly lightweight. It weighs just a pound, which is nothing short of impressive. Between the long battery life and the slimmed-down body, it would be a great travel companion as well. However, as with most Chromebooks, the downside is that it comes with only 4GB of RAM. That means it may take a bit longer to load web pages and whatnot. That said, it’s still a good option, especially if you’re just planning to use the laptop for lighter tasks. It’s worth noting that this is technically a Chrome OS tablet with an optional, attachable keyboard, rather than a proper laptop.
Read our full
Lenovo Chromebook Duet review
3. Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5
The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is a good mid-range laptop. It’s fast enough for web browsing, editing documents, and so on. That said, it can “feel taxed by demanding tasks.” When our tester opened up multiple tabs, he noticed a sag in performance. The port selection, however, is nice combination of old and new. It has two USB-C ports, a single USB-A port, a 3.5mm combo audio jack, and a microSD card reader. As for the keyboard, our tester liked the “crisp and taut” feel of the keys. Although this laptop is a 2-in-1, it weighs about 3 pounds, which is kind of heavy for a convertible laptop. It may not be the most portable laptop in the world, but at least it has the flexibility to function as a tablet for applications that favor that form factor.
Read our full
Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 review
4. Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebook Duet 5
When it comes to the Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebook Duet 5, a Chrome OS tablet that doubles as a laptop, the biggest highlights are the keyboard and its drop-dead gorgeous OLED display. The 1080p full HD display produces colorful images and, according to our tester, the “3:2 aspect ratio is better for productivity.” A taller display might be better for watching movies, however. The keys have a decent travel distance of 1.3mm and the detachable keyboard as a whole doesn’t feel too cramped. There’s also a kickstand that can be adjusted up to 135 degrees. The one tradeoff is that the USI-compatible pen costs extra.
Read our full
Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebook Duet 5 review
5. HP Chromebook x360 12b-ca0010nr
The HP Chromebook x360 is a solid, budget-friendly option for most people. It’s definitely nicer looking than the ones kids use in schools, that’s for sure. The battery life is the real star of the show here, though. It lasted about 11 hours on a single charge, which is nothing to sneeze at. While our tester liked the robust chassis and the 3:2 aspect ratio, the display has a not very bright luminance of 229 nits. If you can live with a dimmer-than-average screen, the x360 is both affordable and built to last.
Read our full
HP Chromebook x360 12b-ca0010nr review
How we tested
The PCWorld team puts each and every laptop through a series of benchmarks that test GPU and CPU performance, battery life, and so on. The idea is to push the laptop to its limits and then compare it against others we’ve tested. Due to the cloud-based nature of Chromebooks, they go through a series of web-based tests. It wouldn’t be fair or possible to run the same kinds of tests on a Chromebook as we use on laptops because they exclusively run a completely different operating system. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of each test and the reasons why we run them.
- CrXPRT 2: The CrXPRT 2 benchmark tests a Chromebook’s battery life.
- Speedometer 2.0: This test determines a Chromebook’s web browser performance. It simulates this by adding, completing, and removing a to-do list.
- Basemark Web 3.0: This benchmark gauges how well a Chromebook can handle web-based applications.
What should I look for in a Chromebook?
If you’re looking for a Windows or MacBook alternative, you may want to consider a Chromebook. Equipped with low-power processors, they typically have good battery life and are usually silent in operation. They make great productivity machines, as they’re specifically designed for lightweight tasks like browsing the web, watching Netflix, and so on. Plus, they’re largely virus free. That said, most Chromebooks have minimal RAM and storage. If you’re a hardcore gamer or a video editor, you’re going to want something with a lot more power than a Chromebook is capable of providing.
Our guide to Chromebooks vs. Windows laptops can help you determine which operating system is best for your needs. For more options, you’ll want to check out our best laptops roundup.
- Operating system: Although every operating system has its pros and cons, I’d argue that Chrome OS is one of the most user-friendly ones out there. That said, with Chromebooks, you don’t have the option of picking another operating system, as they exclusively run Chrome OS. You’re stuck with it, bud.
- Processor: Shoot for a mid-range Chromebook if you can. They cost anywhere in the $400 to $600 range and many of them come equipped with Intel Pentium processors. These Chromebooks have better browser performance and are capable of running more intense gaming apps. It’s the best bang for your buck.
- RAM: Many Chromebooks have 4GB of RAM, which isn’t a lot. Chromebooks are web-based machines, so you need a fair amount of RAM to keep those tabs open and running smoothly. If you can spend a couple of hundred extra, you’ll be able to find a mid-range Chromebook with 8GB of RAM.
- Storage: I recommend at least 64GB of storage. Since you’ll mostly be storing things in the cloud, you don’t a ton of local storage.
- Durability: Chromebooks are popular in the education market because they’re pretty darn robust. I’m not saying you should smack one around with a baseball bat or anything, but they’re durable enough to handle the daily abuses of life.