Best Chromebook of 2016
When we talk about the best Chromebook of 2016, it’s hard to deny the facts of their case: they don’t let you install third-party programs, they don’t have a ton of extra features, and they always have to have an internet connection to work properly…but for only $249 out the door, do we really have room to complain?
The best Chromebooks out there are like a solid hammer – they do one job, but they do it incredibly well. No muss, no fuss, and online in seconds, every time you log into a Chromebook you know exactly what you’re going to get with no extra frills on the side as a distraction. They don’t get viruses, they don’t get bogged down by bloatware, but they do get the job done, and we couldn’t see ourselves reasonably asking for anything more.
But even though they may be a bit single-minded, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few select devices that stand out from the rest. Here’s our selection of the top five Chromebooks for 2016.
#1 Pick Toshiba Chromebook 2
Pros: Gorgeous 1080p IPS LED screen, light, compact
Cons: Hinge is flimsy, shell could be made stronger
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is the ultimate value in the Chromebook category.
Even though Toshiba’s Chromebook 2 was released at the end of last year, it’s still one of the best picks in the second half of 2015.
Stocked with a solid set of specs including an Intel Core i3 (one of the only Chromebooks to sport a processor in the Intel “i” line up), the Chromebook 2 is a powerful, yet impossibly light and compact laptop that makes the rest of the competition look a little behind-the-times by comparison.
Where the Chromebook 2 really shines however is with it absolutely gorgeous 1080p Full HD LED IPS display, outclassing every other laptop on this list with a screen that’s fit for a device three to five times its cost. Movies, games (the few you can play), and images all look downright stunning on this screen, showcasing Toshiba’s dedication to creating a Chromebook that can stand toe-to-toe with a MacBook Air or Windows laptop any day of the week.
#2 Pick Dell Chromebook 13
Pros: Polished design, crisp screen with great detail, comfortable keyboard
Cons: More expensive than most Chromebooks, could have more ports, trackpad had accuracy issues
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Dell Chromebook 13 outclasses most laptops with stellar design.
While Dell’s entry into the Chromebook market may not have anything on its chassis that stands out or many features that really define what makes it great, it’s more about the overall polish that just makes it feel like a solid, reliable machine that you can depend on in a pinch.
The Chromebook 13 wows with an incredible battery life and a comfortable keyboard, all encased in a shell that could probably withstand a tank shell if it came down to it in the heat of battle. All that quality doesn’t exactly come cheap however, and the Dell Chromebook 13 is one of the most expensive options on this list at $429 retail.
That said, you definitely get what you pay for here: a rock-steady laptop that will last you a long time into the future without the need to start searching for a replacement.
#3 Pick Acer Chromebook 15 C910
Pros: Solid specifications, great performance, larger than other options for comfortable watching
Cons: Slightly heavy, priced with similar Windows machines, screen was “meh” overall
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The C910 proves that Chromebooks have enough power for any task.
This is the beast of the bunch, Google’s heaviest hitter in the line up. Though Chrome OS is famous for its ultra-light footprint that can run on pretty much anything that isn’t an actual toaster, this hasn’t prevented manufacturers like Acer from packing their flagship laptop with specs that would even put most mid-range Windows machines to shame.
With an i5-5200 dual-core and 8GB of RAM on board, the Acer Chromebook is easily the most high-octane entry on this list. When combined with the already-zippy nature of Chrome OS and you have a combo that simply can’t be beat.
#4 Pick Asus Flip
Pros: The touchscreen is responsive, innovative design, goes wherever you do
Cons: Could be more responsive, specs are lackluster; display leaves something to be desired
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The ASUS Flip is the perfect cheap convertible for students.
Convertibles have been all the rage with laptop manufacturers ever since tablets started stealing away nearly half of their share of the portable marketplace, with the ability to fill the gap between the people who love the iPad, but just wish it were about three times heavier and came with a bulky keyboard strapped to its back.
But, even though the early days of convertibles saw a few too many clunky attempts at staying compact, more recently it looks as though the technology is finally coming into its own thanks to entries like the Asus Chromebook Flip.
The Asus Flip Chromebook is perfect for students and teachers alike, with enough power to breeze past any tablet combined with a touchscreen/stylus combo. It may not be the most powerful or pretty-looking of the bunch, but its design and flexibility make it a must-buy for anyone who prefers the feeling of a tablet combined with all the extra trappings of a laptop.
Chromebooks are a divisive product in the technology world, there’s no doubt about that.
#5 Pick Samsung Chromebook 2
Pros: Ultra-portable, comfortable keyboard, long battery life
Cons: Poor screen quality, not-so impressive onboard speakers
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Samsung Chromebook 2 is an ultra-portable workhorse for mobile professionals.
While some of the Chromebooks on this list are perfect for media marathons or powerful precision when you’re away from the office, the Samsung Chromebook 2 is all about portability and style.
With a leather exterior, the Samsung Chromebook 2 actually feels like a real book when you hold it in your hand. Not only that, but despite its 11.6″ screen and razor-thin profile, it still manages to feature a suspiciously comfortable keyboard/trackpad combo that will keep you typing through the day or night. If you’re looking for a beautiful screen or booming speakers you’re probably better off with a few of the other picks on this list, but for work applications and ultra-portability alone, the Samsung Chromebook 2 is a hard choice to beat.
Honorable Mention Asus C300
Pros: Great option for kids, ultra-durable, fun color options
Cons: Power is lacking, keyboard felt sticky at times, trackpad could be more responsive
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The ASUS 300 offers fun and funky colors for all ages.
Look; we know that the best Chromebooks have a ceiling for how good they can get, it’s no secret. Where some business professionals need every bit of power they can squeeze out of their Thinkpad and certain creatives can’t make it ten feet out the front door without their MacBook Pro, when it comes to the kids of the household; Chromebooks are still king.
Cheap and durable, Acer Chromebook offerings like the Asus C300 show that the OS can be just a little bit playful when it needs to be too. The C300 comes in tons of kid-friendly colors that pop off of their durable case, built to withstand the shock of bumps, drops, and cracks throughout any clumsy kindergartner’s childhood.
Key Factors to a Good Chromebook
Chromebooks have come a long way since their humble beginnings just half a decade ago, and 2016 is the year they finally came into their own. What was once a fringe buy that you might make as a last minute Christmas present has become a serious contender in the world of portable computing, with laptops and tablet convertibles that can stand toe-to-toe with some of the biggest brands in the business.
If you want a dedicated machine that doesn’t break down or get infected by viruses, look no further than a Chromebook.
Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Chromebook
When buying a Chromebook, the first mistake that many customers make right off the starting line is assuming that all Chromebooks are “basically the same”. The three indicators you’ll want to pay the most attention to when making your selection is the processor the laptop is using (Celerons are decent, but an i5 is always better), the quality of the screen (several older models don’t even support 1366 x 768 resolution), and the keyboard.
All the Chromebooks we’ve recommended excel in these areas and more, but if you decide to go off script next time you’re at the store, be sure you don’t skimp on any of these important features.
Most Important Features
First up, there’s the most obvious indicator of what you should be looking for when shopping for your next laptop: the power.
Both the CPU and the amount of RAM you get with your laptop will be the lynchpin of how much it can get done, although it’s important to remember that at the end of the day this is a Chromebook, and these metrics will only determine how fast the laptop handles a glorified web browser in disguise.
When shopping for your Chromebook, you’ll want to pay attention to the “i” rating for the processor (if it even has one). Most Chromebooks will either come with a Pentium Celeron processor, or something in the “i” family from Intel.
4GB is plenty of RAM for Chrome OS’ small footprint, and anything above this is usually considered overkill.
Because Chromebooks are generally considered to be “cheaper” options when it comes to laptop comparisons, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re getting with the model you choose.
For example, the 1366 x 768 version of the Toshiba Chromebook 2 wouldn’t even make this list, but its Full HD 1080p screen makes all the difference when watching Netflix or editing photos.
Having tested dozens of trackpad/keyboard combos across many different Chromebook models, I can safely say that all the selections we’ve listed here offer the best combinations of a responsive keyboard with a comfortable trackpad.
Most people use their Chromebooks for writing, typing, and reporting from the road, which means that how long a keyboard lasts is often more important than how it feels straight out of the box.
The majority of Chromebooks also favor the more spread out flatkey design for their keyboards opposed to the standard layout you might find on a Windows machine, so any typers with smaller hands will want to take note before making their final purchase.
Most of the Chromebooks on this list are actually fanless, relying on a series of ingenious heatsinks that utilize the body of the laptop itself to keep its internal components cool.
As such, although it’s smart to keep an eye out for how much of a racket your Chromebook might be making, generally this will turn out to be a non-issue.
Chromebook build quality is all over the place, ranging from the extremely cheap/flimsy/plasticy to solid metal all the way around.
Depending on who you’re buying for, the durability of your Chromebook can be the lynchpin for your eventual decision. If you’re planning on gifting it to a younger member of the household, the AC300 offers a great compromise of decent specs in favor of a much tougher outer shell.
Conversely, options like the C910 are a little bit more delicate, but pack in enough power to make up for anything it lacks in overall case strength and reliability.
Last up, there’s the hard drive. All Chromebooks on this list (and most that didn’t even make the cut), opt to feature smaller SSD flash drives in favor of larger capacity mechanical HDDs.
Taking this into account, there are two methods of making up for the limited space. First, every Chromebook you buy will automatically include 100GB of space on Google’s cloud service Drive.
If this doesn’t sound like enough however, you can also opt to add on an external hard drive, all of which are compatible with Chrome OS as long as it runs on either an NTFS or FAT32 filesystem.
Which Chromebook is Right for You
If you’re in the market for the best Chromebook in 2016, you really can’t go wrong with any of the selections we’ve listed here. Chrome OS is a simple, quick operating system that does what it does down to a science, and you don’t need to ask it for much to get a whole lot back in return.
While the Flip features a fun and funky design that suits any kind of laptop or tablet user, other offerings like the C910 break every record in the book with raw unadulterated power. The C300 makes a great addition to any growing student’s backpack stash, and the Dell 13 is an all-arounder that tackles any job you can throw at it. And of course, Toshiba’s reigning champ the Chromebook 2 does everything the competition can, all while looking better than most other contenders three times the cost. No matter which you choose, Chromebooks are a solid, reliable, (and most importantly: cheap) laptop that never disappoint.
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