Best Chromebook in 2021: 7 best Chromebooks starting under $300 – CNET

Did you know that Chromebooks are a better fit for a lot more people than a Mac or Windows laptop? It’s true! In fact, a great Chromebook is my go-to recommendation for a basic computing experience.

There are a lot of reasons to invest in a good Chromebook instead of a traditional laptop. Chromebooks run on Google’s web browser-centric Chrome operating system, offering a more minimalistic experience than MacOS and Windows laptops. These machines are a solid choice for those who live their lives on the web and don’t need to install Windows or Mac software. 

Chromebooks have a lot of other positive attributes going for them as well. They’re generally easier on the wallet than Windows PCs, MacBooks and iPads. And, as the Chrome OS has evolved to include use of Android apps from the Google Play Store and Linux software, you can now find premium models with more memory, faster processors and speedier storage. They’re pricier than the Chromebooks on the cheaper side of the spectrum, but they’re also lighter and slimmer and usually have better battery life. Some even have a touchscreen.

Read moreThe 7 best Chromebook deals for students

Here you’ll find the best Chromebooks we’ve reviewed. Each Chromebook laptop featured on this list is independently chosen by CNET’s editors and includes a review that does a deep dive into what makes it so great. I will note, however, that if there’s a specific set of specs you can’t live without, whether it’s more than one USB port, an HDMI port, a particular screen size or even just a headphone jack, you might want to dig deeper — those features are not guaranteed on all Chromebooks. And if you’re still not sure if a Chromebook is right for you, here’s a breakdown of all they can and can’t do compared with a traditional laptop. This list is updated periodically.

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The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard and touchpad. This Lenovo Chromebook’s small size might be a little limiting as a primary device, though you can connect to an external display via its USB-C port. The Lenovo Duet is, however, a great pick if you’re looking for an affordable Chromebook for pure mobility or as a secondary device that can be used in tablet mode. Lenovo recently announced a higher-end 13-inch OLED version, too, the Chromebook Duet 5 that’ll be available in October.

Read our Lenovo Chromebook Duet review.

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If you’d rather have a wider screen instead of a taller one like the Spin 713’s, this HP Chromebook is the way to go. It’s roughly 0.75 inch wider than a premium 13.3-inch model, but that extra width makes it easier to work in two side-by-side windows. The two-in-one design means you can use it as a tablet (though it’s a bit heavy to use as a handheld device). You can also tent it, connect an external keyboard and mouse and use it as a small all-in-one computer. 

The Core i3 processor and 8GB of memory keep this HP Chromebook running smoothly even with a couple dozen tabs open and streaming video in the background. And this Chromebook laptop has a long battery life to boot, lasting 10 hours, 40 minutes in CNET’s tests.

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Tired of trying to work on documents or spreadsheets on a small widescreen display? The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 uses one of Acer’s bright VertiView displays, a 13.5-inch 2,256×1,504-pixel touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. As the name implies, it gives you more vertical room to work in, but it still has the width of a typical 13.3-inch laptop with a 16:9 ratio. Between that and the battery life of the Acer Chromebook, which lasted nearly 13 hours in our tests, you’ll be able to get more work done in a day — and it’s still thin and light enough for an everyday carry. 

The latest version of this Chromebook is the first to receive Intel’s Evo verification, which means you’ll be getting the best possible mobile experience with this model. It’s also the first with Thunderbolt 4 support, which lets you connect to multiple external displays as well as providing fast data speeds and networking.

Read our Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review.

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Chromebooks are typically not associated with gaming. However, with cloud gaming services such as StadiaGeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass able to run on Chromebooks alongside Android mobile games and Linux games, you have a lot of options now — and the CM5 is ready for them. 

The configuration we tested will first be available from Costco sometime soon for $600. A $500 configuration of the CM5 is available at the link below, but it drops to a slightly slower Ryzen 3 processor, 4GB of memory and 64GB of slower eMMC flash memory for storage. That configuration would still be fine for general use, but spending the extra $100, if you can, gets you a much better Chromebook.

Read our Asus Chromebook Flip CM5 review.

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Just as Google’s Pixel phones offer the best pure Android experience, the Google Pixelbook Go is built to deliver the best of Chrome OS. The premium Chromebook starts at $649, but fully loaded with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory, 256GB of storage and a 4K display, the price hits a pricey $1,399. That’s a lot, and more than most people need. Still, the Pixelbook Go is an excellent little Chromebook, especially for those who really want to explore all that Chrome can do, including Linux and Android app selections.

Read our Pixelbook Go review.

Josh Goldman/CNET

It’s unusual for the second generation of a device to have fewer features than the original and still be an improvement, but that’s the case for the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Samsung dialed back on some of the features and components of the original, making this Samsung Chromebook sequel more affordable than the first-gen model. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook also has much better battery life. And Samsung did it all without losing all of its predecessor’s premium appeal.

Read our Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review.

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