Best Chromebooks for students

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Google’s Chrome operating system excels at the basics. It’s great for getting stuff done like email, working in documents and spreadsheets and browsing the Internet. But it’s also well-suited to entertainment tasks like watching movies, listening to music and browsing the Internet. And it’s doubly true if you’re already immersed in Google’s ecosystem, which extends from apps such as Gmail and Google Docs to the Pixel phone or one of the company’s smart home devices.

From my perspective, Chrome has two major advantages over the competition: It’s free — insofar as anything online is free — and it’s simple. In contrast, you’ll need to shell out at least $1,199 to get a current-generation Apple laptop with its gold-standard MacOS operating system. And though you can get a very entry-level Dell or HP laptop for about $150, you’re stuck with Windows and all of its licenses, patches, and updates. Blech!

There are a handful of things that a Chromebook can’t do, however. You can’t install Photoshop, Steam or any other Windows- or Mac-dependent application. If you’re in a niche field of study that requires esoteric or highly technical applications — or non-web based software for exams — you may need to think twice. Otherwise, you should be pretty well set up working with Google’s increasingly vast library of Android apps in addition to all of the online apps and services that run through your browser. 

Whether you’re looking for an ultraportable, convertible or traditional laptop for a kid in elementary school or a college student, there are plenty of solid Chromebook options in the $200 to $300 price range and some exceptional ones that start between $500 and $600. Bottom line: Any one of the Chromebooks highlighted below should do the trick for most students.

A sturdy, affordable performer

Lenovo Chromebook 500e

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Lenovo has a whole lineup of Chromebooks designed for classroom use, starting at $279, that are worth a look. We tested last year’s top-of-the-line model, the 500e Chromebook, and found it to be durable and surprisingly capable for its $329 price — a great choice for a younger student. 

It works both as laptop and tablet, with a touchscreen, decent keyboard and solid battery life. It also has two webcam and comes with the stylus included — which is not always the case with other two-in-ones and tablets. The second-gen model, which costs $40 more, features a newer Intel processor and twice as much RAM (4GB), but is otherwise much the same as its predecessor.

Big display, big battery life, bargain-bin price

Acer Chromebook 15

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If you’re looking for a bigger display, the Acer Chromebook 15 delivers with a 15.6-inch IPS touchscreen. And it’s reasonably affordable, starting at around $350. In addition to the super-size screen, it also has great battery life, loud speakers, a backlit keyboard and enough power to get you through the basics. That noted, Asus, HP and Lenovo now also sell 15-inch Chromebook laptops in the same approximate price range that are worth a look. 

Lenovo Yoga Chromebook Laptop

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Speaking of bigger Chromebooks, the Yoga Chromebook is an all-aluminum, two-in-one convertible that can be configured with either a full-HD or ultra-HD-resolution 15.6-inch touchscreen. It starts at roughly $480 and includes a backlit keyboard as well as some pretty high-test components: an eighth-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and 64GB of storage. 

A killer Chromebook 2-in-1

HP Chromebook x2

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HP’s x2 is a terrific laptop with a great detachable display, a keyboard that’s comfortable to type on and surprisingly peppy performance. It’s not exactly cheap, starting at $540, but it doubles as a fabulous standalone tablet — thin and lightweight, responsive to touch and stylus and perceptive to orientation. 

Plus — and this is a big one — it comes with stylus and keyboard included at a time when many premium hybrids insist you buy them separately. If you can live without the few remaining apps that require Windows or Mac OS — and trust me, most of you can — the Chromebook x2 is your jam.

The Amazon bestseller

Asus Chromebook C434

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In January, Asus announced the Flip C434, which starts at $569. It replaced the company’s Chromebook C302 — a breakout hit that was long the top-ranked bestseller in Amazon’s two-in-one category. The C434, which has a new brushed-aluminum design, features a larger 14-inch FHD display and twice as much RAM and storage as its predecessor, in addition to more powerful Intel processor options.

Google’s pricey, homegrown Chromebook

Google Pixelbook

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Google makes its own Chromebook, of course. The Pixelbook is a sleek convertible that works as both laptop and a tablet. Among its standout features is the sharp, bright touchscreen and blazing fast, lag-free performance courtesy a selection of higher-end Intel processors that are about as powerful as you’ll find in a Chromebook. But the Pixelbook is also quite expensive, starting at $999, and that doesn’t include the Pixelbook Pen stylus, which will tack on an additional $99. 

Introduced in 2017, the Pixelbook is a little long in the tooth now, and we expect Google to deliver a revamped version at some point in the near-term. For now, however, Google is running a promotion for students that slashes 10% off of all Pixelbook models.

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