Best Chromebooks 2018

Henry T. Casey ·
Staff Writer
Updated

Need something efficient and long-lasting? Chromebooks, running on Google's Chrome OS and its browser, are best for simple tasks, like emails, social media and web browsing. But with Android apps, Chromebooks are getting more sophisticated, and schools love these machines.

Latest News and Updates (December 2018)

  • The HP Chromebook x2 — which mixes a Chrome OS brain and a Surface Pro body — is our new favorite Chromebook.
  • The new Acer Chromebook 13 is slick aluminum laptop with strong performance and a sharp, colorful screen.

Best Chromebooks

Best Chromebook Overall
HP Chromebook x2
The HP Chromebook x2 is a detachable with a great tablet display and lengthy battery life.
View on HP
Best Value
Samsung Chromebook 3
The Samsung Chromebook 3 offers a bright screen and great performance and battery life for under $200.
View on Amazon
Best School Chromebook
Dell Chromebook 3189
It isn't fancy, but the Dell Chromebook 3189 is durable and long-lasting, so it should last a kid through a school day, even if they're clumsy. You won't use this laptop for multitasking, but it’' just right for a classroom.
View on Dell

Our Test Results

Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Display Size
Display Brightness (Nits)
Weight
$469 Amazon Marketplace
12.5 Inches
291.8 Nits
2.6
$167.95 Amazon Marketplace
11.6 Inches
259 Nits
2.5
$319 Dell Business
11.6 Inches
223 Nits
3.2
$438.99 Newegg
N/A
376 Nits
2.4
$838 Amazon Marketplace
12.3 Inches
421.4 Nits
2.5
$279.05 Wal-Mart
15.6 Inches
228 Nits
4.4
Best Chromebook Overall
The HP Chromebook x2 has the body of a Surface Pro and the brains of a Chromebook.
With all-day battery life and a comfortable, detachable design, the XP Chromebook x2 is everything we love about Chromebooks and the Microsoft Surface Pro. The Chromebook x2 also offers a sharp, bright display, quality sound and a comfy keyboard for solid typing.
Pros
  • Bright, high-res display
  • All-day battery life
  • Comfortable typing experience
  • Solid sound
Cons
  • A bit heavier than other convertibles
  • Thick bezels
  • Core m3 CPU isn't the fastest
$599HP
Read the full review
Best Value
With one of the brightest screens you can get for under $200 and nearly 10 hours of battery life, the Samsung Chromebook 3 is a powerful bargain.
This 11.6-inch, 2.5-pound laptop is light enough to carry anywhere and compact enough for even a child's hands. And with 4GB of RAM, the Celeron N3060-powered Chromebook 3 can handle multitasking with aplomb. And for a cheap device, it looks really classy. Sure, it's plastic, but the metallic black covering is classy enough for any setting. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test, the Chromebook 3 ran for 9 hours and 44 minutes, which is more than enough for work and play all day.
Pros
  • Bright, accurate screen
  • Superb battery life
  • Strong performance
  • Fun webcam
Cons
  • Muddy speakers
  • Awkward button layout
  • Bottom runs warm
$219.00Amazon
Read the full review
Best School Chromebook
It isn't fancy, but the Dell Chromebook 3189 is durable and long-lasting, so it should last a kid through a school day, even if they're clumsy. You won't use this laptop for multitasking, but it’' just right for a classroom.
Students will need a robust set of tools for the new school year, such as the touch screen in the Dell Chromebook 3189. Once Google brings Android app support to this Chrome OS machine, its touch screen will help users make the most of photo-editing apps, such as Adobe Photoshop Express. Starting at $329, this notebook lasts more than 9 hours on a single charge and offers a durable chassis that's ready for the classroom. It's a 2-in-1 with a touch screen, making it easy to use Android apps the way they were originally designed. And its MIL-SPEC-tested design means that little clumsy hands can drop the 3189 without causing too much damage. The Celeron processor isn't powerful, so the Chromebook 3189 is best for tackling a single homework task at a time.
Pros
  • Good speakers
  • Solid battery life
Cons
  • Dim screen
  • Poor multitasking performance
$329Dell
Read the full review
Best Chromebook for Business
The Pixelbook is Google's flagship Chromebook. Its 7th Gen Core i5 CPU gives this machine the speed you need to juggle all the Android apps you want while keeping a ton of tabs open. But this laptop's luxe look earns it a place in the boardroom. A mix of aluminum, silicon and Gorilla Glass, the 0.4-inch thin Pixelbook is the sexiest Chromebook ever. Plus, it's got a vibrant QHD display and a TPM chip for securing its passwords. The laptop has some extras that you don't see on other Chromebooks, like a Google Assistant key on the keyboard. It also works with an Assistant-powered Pixelbook Pen. This looks like Google's future plan for Chromebooks. Outside of education, it will be a flexible OS that can be used for both laptops and tablets, with Google's AI and other services involved.
Pros
  • Thin design
  • Brilliant display
  • Speedy performance
Cons
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Expensive
$835.88Amazon
Read the full review
Best 2-in-1
The Chromebook Flip is a premium package for a great price, with long battery life, an aluminum chassis and a bright, high-res screen. Whether you're browsing in Chrome or using Android apps, the Flip does it all.
Ready to run Android apps or plenty of browser tabs, the Chromebook Flip C302CA offers a premium aluminum chassis, zippy performance and solid battery life, all in a bend-back, 2-in-1 package. Its bright, 1080p screen is great for displaying videos today and for playing your favorite games from the Google Play store. The 12.5-inch convertible is sleek and as close to a MacBook design as you'll get with a Chromebook. The hinges are stable and make it easier to switch between laptop and tablet modes. This machine lasted almost 9 hours on our battery test, so you can use it throughout the day without plugging it in. And there's nothing better than a good touch screen on a Chromebook. You don't strictly need it for Android apps, but it provides the best user experience.
Pros
  • Sleek, lightweight design
  • Bright 1080p display
  • Solid battery life
Cons
  • Pricey
  • No USB Type-A Ports
$469Amazon
Read the full review
Best 15-inch Chromebook
While most Chromebooks have 11- or 13-inch displays, Acer's Chromebook 15 is ideal for people who want a larger work area in a lightweight, 3.1-pound package. This affordable Chromebook also provides a 1080p resolution and both USB Type-C and USB 3.0 ports. Even better, it lasts a very long 11 hours on a charge. That will get you through the day with a charge to spare. And this machine is not very heavy or large, at 3.1 pounds and just 0.8 inches thick. The combination of ports, the 1080p display and the metal design are all rare in the Chromebook space (outside of premium options), so it's nice to see those features on a machine under $400. Now, the screen isn't as bright and vivid as some others, but at that price, you have to give up something.
Pros
  • Long battery life
  • USB Type-C and USB 3.0
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Muddy speakers
  • Bottom runs warm
$379Amazon
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

Laptop Mag has been testing and reviewing laptops for over two decades. We test more than 200 different models per year, subjecting each system to a series of rigorous benchmarks to get a complete picture of performance, battery life and usability.


Our expert reviewers also use each product to see how it looks and feels in everyday situations. Because we see so many different notebooks, we can compare each to its direct competitors and give you an idea of how it stacks up to the average laptop in its price range.


How We Test Laptops

When we bring a laptop into our laboratory, our goal is to see how it would work if you brought it into your home or office. While we use a number of industry-standard benchmarks, such as Geekbench and 3DMark, we focus heavily on real-world tests that we have developed in-house.


To test endurance, the Laptop Mag Battery test surfs the web at 150 nits of brightness until the system runs out of juice. To judge pure processing power, we use a giant spreadsheet macro that matches 65,000 names with their addresses, a video transcoder that converts a 4K video to 1080p and the Geekbench 4 synthetic test. We measure graphics prowess with both 3DMark Ice Storm/Fire Strike and a series of actual games.

We use a colorimeter to measure screen brightness and color gamut, while other instruments help us determine a laptop's key travel and ambient heat. See this page on How We Test Laptops for more details on our benchmarking procedures.

How to Find the Right Laptop

When shopping for a laptop, there's a lot to consider. To help you choose a system, we've put our up-to-date list of favorite notebooks above, along with five points to keep in mind when choosing a system.

Budget: What you get for the money

You can find good, cheap Windows laptops and high-quality Chromebooks for under $500. However, better mainstream laptops usually cost more than $700, and premium Ultrabooks can run over $1,000. The best gaming laptops can cost $2,000 and up, but you can play the latest titles at decent frame rates on gaming laptops selling for under $1,000.

Screen Size: 12 to 14 inches for portability

Knowing a laptop's screen size tells you a lot about the machine's portability overall. If you want to use your computer on your lap or carry it around a lot, go for one with a 12-, 13- or 14-inch display. If you want to use the computer on tables and desks and won't carry it around much, a 15-inch model may give you more value. Some gaming rigs, media machines and workstations even have 17- or 18-inch screens, but those are hardest to carry.

2-in-1 or Clamshell?

More and more of today's laptops are 2-in-1s with screens that either bend back 360 degrees or detach so you can use them as tablets. If you like the idea of using your laptop in slate mode so you can draw, consume media or just have stand the device up, a 2-in-1 could be for you. However, you can often get better features or a lower price by going with a traditional, clamshell-style laptop.

Battery Life: 8+ hours for portability

Unless you only plan to use your laptop on your desk, battery life matters. Even within the home or office, having plenty of juice enables you to work on the couch or at the conference table, without being chained to the nearest outlet. For the best portability, we recommend getting a laptop that lasted over 8 hours on the Laptop Mag Battery Test. The longest-lasting laptops endure for over 10 hours.

Specs: 1080p, Core i5, 8GB are best bets

You can spend a lot of time delving into specs, but here are the key components to think about. If you just want really good mainstream performance, go for a system with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1080p screen.

  • Screen resolution: Unfortunately, 66 percent of consumer laptops and 51 percent of business systems have low-res screens. If at all possible, get a display with a 1920 x 1080 (aka, 1080p or full-HD) or higher resolution.

  • CPU: An Intel Core i5 provides good mainstream performance. Some budget systems will come with Core i3, Celeron or Pentium CPUs which are good enough for basic tasks but not heavy multitasking. Get a Core i7 or a quad-core processor (serial number ends in HQ or HK) for gaming or high-end productivity tasks such as video editing and 3D modeling.

  • RAM: 8GB is ideal for most users; 4GB is acceptable for budget systems. Secondary laptops and Chromebooks may have less memory.

  • Storage: Unless you're a gamer or a power user, 256GB of internal storage is probably enough. If possible, get an SSD (solid-state drive) rather than a hard drive, because it's going to make your entire computer a lot faster.

  • Graphics chip: Gamers and creative professionals need to do some research and figure out which discrete GPU is good enough to run their favorite software. Everyone else will be happy with the built-in Intel HD Graphics that come on the CPU.

If you want to learn more about buying a laptop, check out our full Laptop Buying Guide. Gamers should read our Gaming Laptop Buying Guide and list of Best Gaming Laptops.