Let’s face it: more and more Chromebooks are arriving every day, and finding the perfect device that will balance performance and affordability can be tough. Back when there were only a couple new Chromebooks introduced each year, it was far less difficult to sort the more-capable devices from the rest of the pack. These days, thought, that task is far from simple, and Google is looking to do something about that fact with what they are calling Chromebook Plus: a new category of Chromebook that simply delivers more of what you need at the price you want.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over a decade since Google first introduced the idea of Chromebooks and ChromeOS to the world. With the promise of speed, simplicity, and security, the first Chromebooks hit the scene as little more than laptops with just a browser installed. But fast forward to today and we have an almost-confusing number of Chromebook models with different abilities, specs, and build qualities all vying for your attention and – more importantly – your money. It makes choosing the right device more difficult than ever.
A New Standard in hardware
Maybe you’ve been there – standing in a Best Buy, lost in all the tech jargon, trying to figure out which Chromebook will meet your needs without hurting your wallet too badly. Chromebook Plus is Google’s attempt to fix this, and by collaborating with all the largest Chromebook OEMs like Acer, ASUS, HP, and Lenovo, Google has put together a new standard that helps ensure a device labeled Chromebook Plus can meet a user’s needs in most ways.
With this announcement, Google and their OEM partners are introducing new Chromebook Plus models and advertising 2x faster processors, 2x the normal Chromebook RAM and 2x the standard 64GB of storage: ensuring you have the hardware you need to get through whatever you do with this Chromebook.
But it’s not just about internal specs: on the outside, Full HD IPS displays and 1080p webcams are part of the equation as well, making certain that content on the screen is crisp and that you’ll look great in video calls as well. Google is even requiring the hardware to support temporal noise reduction, too, for better overall lighting and exposure regardless of your setting. But instead of just throwing out random 2x claims, Google has drawn a line in the sand with Chromebook Plus, and the hardware requirements are quite clear:
- CPU: Intel Core i3 12th Gen or above, or AMD Ryzen 3 7000 series or above
- RAM: 8GB or more
- Storage: 128GB or more
- Webcam: 1080p or better with Temporal Noise Reduction
- Display: Full HD IPS or better
And as a part of this announcement, they’re putting 8 devices out – starting at $399 – that will be branded Chromebook Plus right away, including:
- Acer Chromebook Plus 514
- Acer Chromebook Plus 515
- ASUS Chromebook Plus CX34
- ASUS Chromebook Plus CM34 Flip
- HP Chromebook Plus 15.6-inch
- HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c
- Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus
- Lenovo Slim 3i Chromebook Plus
And don’t worry: other, existing Chromebooks that meet the Chromebook Plus hardware specifications will be getting all the Chromebook Plus software perks as well, so if you have a device that meets all the current guidelines of this new effort from Google, you’ll be getting all the new Chromebook Plus goodies in the next few weeks as well.
A new standard for software
Speaking of software perks, what are those new, exclusive additions you should expect for Chromebook Plus devices? To start, you’ll see improvements with video calls and some app-exclusives, but over time Google is also promising some really awesome AI-powered experiences, too. One of the biggest benefits of Chromebook Plus is the fact that it gives Google and software developers a specific group of devices that they can guarantee the performance of based on the required hardware; so it’s easier for these new software experiences to get delivered in a more predictable way that just works on devices that are purpose-built to handle them.
A new standard for video calls
Take video calls for example. Like it or not, video calls are the new norm, and Chromebook Plus hardware and software are designed to make those calls a better experience than ever. Using a bit of AI, ChromeOS on a Chromebook Plus model improves lighting, cancels background noise, and even gives users a background blur option that is baked right into the OS.
And yes, I know those features exist in different ways on different platforms: but these new Chromebook Plus features are app-agnostic, so whether you’re on Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, you can use any of them because they are applied on the OS-level, right from the shelf, and they actually change the video and audio that is piped into whatever video chat app you choose to use.
A new standard for ChromeOS apps
And no laptop or mobile device experience is really complete without the apps you need to accomplish your tasks. And that is part of the entire Chromebook Plus mentality: deliver better hardware so app developers have a more-specific landing spot for their software. And right out of the gate, Chromebook Plus is delivering on this promise with a pretty sweet partnership with Adobe.
With an included three months of the new Adobe Photoshop on the web and Adobe Express free with a new Chromebook Plus purchase, users will be able to take advantage of the new Photoshop app on the web and pull off insane new Firefly experiences from Adobe like generative fill and generative expand – right on a Chromebook. And most of the computing and general experiences are happening locally, too, so this isn’t a situation where you are streaming the application like we see on GeForce NOW: it’s pretty close to a native Photoshop experience right on a Chromebook with a bit of help from the cloud. And because of the focus provided by Chromebook Plus, the experience has been tailored to be excellent on these devices.
A new standard for AI on Chromebooks
But that’s far from it. Google also shared their plans to integrate more generative AI tools and features right into the general OS. Soon, Chromebook Plus devices will benefit from new features like AI-powered writing assistance and generative, custom wallpapers and AI backgrounds for video calls. Imagine clicking into Twitter to write a tweet and after a right-click, letting your Chromebook help curate that message for you on an OS level. This AI won’t be for specific apps, but for Chromebook Plus models as a whole, allowing users to take advantage of it anywhere a text input field is present.
And then there are the generative wallpapers and backgrounds that sound really amazing. Soon, you’ll be able to just tell your Chromebook what you want in your video chat background or wallpaper and let generative AI make that for you on the fly. And after you have a wallpaper set on your Chromebook, the Material You design will adopt whatever colors you end up with and build a color theme around it for you that extends to all parts of your Chromebook’s UI. And again, this is all an OS-level feature that will ship with every Chromebook Plus model in the coming weeks.
Sounds pretty great, right? So, when can you get one? Starting October 8, you can purchase a new Chromebook Plus device from major retailers in the US, including Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart and Target. From October 9, you’ll be able to purchase in Canada and Europe. Beyond that, a more-global release is in the works for the weeks to follow that includes Australia, India, New Zealand and Japan as well.
This is without doubt the most aligned, integrated release we’ve seen in the Chromebook market since we began covering these devices, and I couldn’t be more excited for it. While it may take a bit for all of us to adjust to this new Chromebook Plus world, I think the results will be very, very good for consumers across the board. With Chromebook Plus, new users will get a nice assurance that they are getting quality hardware and the best overall ChromeOS experience possible when they venture out to buy a new device. I’m hoping it will provide some needed clarity and focus in the consumer Chromebook segment, and we can’t wait to share our thoughts on all the new devices in the very near future. And be ready: there’s an absolute flood of Chromebook Plus content on the way.