In what is now becoming a semi-annual event around here, the time has come once again to name our favorite Chromebooks of 2020 so far. We like doing this twice a year for some pretty obvious reasons and dead-center in the calendar usually lands us in a place where the first wave of Chrome OS devices has landed and we’re in a holding pattern for new devices until the fall. That’s not been exactly the case here in 2020 due to the pandemic, but we’re still at a great point in the year to talk about the best Chromebooks on offer right now before any notable releases happen.
A quick note on how we break things down before we jump in. There are 3 categories that break things down by price. You can call them whatever you like, but it’s basically affordable, mid-range, and high-end devices. The price brackets we’re using this year are $0-299, $300-$649 and $650 and up. We’ve found most Chromebooks lend themselves to these ranges quite well and easily sort into them.
One thing we’re changing for this iteration of our ‘Best of’ post/video is looking at the MSRP instead of sale prices. With the state of things as they are, Chromebooks have been notoriously hard to come by and as a result, big sale prices have become few and far between. While we’re beginning to see some of those markdowns come back here and there, the next six months are too unpredictable to sort these devices by prices they likley won’t be available for any time soon. If we sort and select by MSRP, you may decide on a Chromebook and be pleasantly surprised by a lower price when you go to buy it.
Finally, before we get to it, we’ve overhauled the landing page at Chrome Shop to reflect our picks and that page will be a hub you can return to or send friends and/or family members to if they need a quick-glance way to make a decision. We have the Chromebooks broken out by category with our favorites listed and additionally have our video reviews for each device embedded there as well. Now, let’s dig in!
$0 – $299
Devices in this category are all about making the right compromise for you. When you dip below $300, you are going to lose a bit of performance for sure, but you’re also going to sacrifice build quality, screen quality, storage, and aesthetics. Each of these Chromebooks in this category have trade-offs, but they are all different trade-offs. Hopefully we can help you make the right choice to sacrifice the thing you care about least.
Honorable mentions in this price range go to the Lenovo Chromebook 3, the Lenovo S340 and C340. All three come with the latest small core Celeron processors (Gemini Lake) from Intel, 4GB of RAM, and bottom out at 32GB of storage. You can find models with a bit more space on a few, but you need to know that you are not going to see too many large storage options at these prices.
For the Lenovo Chromebook 3, the standout feature is absurd pricing. With an MSRP of $169 out the door, it is by far one of the cheapest Chromebooks to date and after using it for a bit, the experience is not terrible. The screen is bad, but the all-plastic build is solid, the keyboard and trackpad are comfortable, and the internals – like we’ll see in all three of these – aren’t blisteringly fast, but also are completely usable for many people.
With the Lenovo Chromebook S340, you get a bigger screen, but it doesn’t look much better unless you opt for the 1080p upgrade, pushing you right to the edge of the $299 price category. This one does add a touch screen, though, so if you really want touch, you need to opt for the S340 over the previously-mentioned Chromebook 3. The same caveats apply here, though, and the internals are basically what you get in the Lenovo Chromebook 3: decent, but not a speed demon.
The Lenovo Chromebook C340 (11.6-inch) gives you a few perks over the first two I’ve mentioned and they revolve around the lid. That top is made of aluminum and the hinge is 360-degree, giving you access to more modes of use than the previous two Chromebooks we’ve mentioned. Those are nice upgrades and they put the C340 at the top of this price range, but there’s no doubt these benefits are worth having. It is no surprise that the Lenovo Chromebook C340 remains one of the company’s more-popular models.
WINNER: Without doubt, the most sought-after, most-hyped, and most well-received Chromebook in this price range is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. It’s not too hard to see why when you think about it. Outside, the Duet is doing something few other Chromebooks are, pulling double duty as a legitimate tablet and a Chromebook when the keyboard is attached. The aesthetic and build quality look more like a $400+ tablet, the 1080p screen looks like it belongs on a device far more expensive, and the fact that the detachable keyboard is in the box just creates a crazy value proposition for this one. It’s a device we hope others mimic and it is really the first widely-loved Chrome OS tablet that has existed.
$300 – $649
Our second category is by far my favorite and the spot I think Chromebooks are best represented by. Over the past few years as the Chrome OS ecosystem has evolved, part of that growth has been about getting manufacturers to take the platform seriously and begin pouring more effort and attention into Chromebooks as a whole. Sure, there will always be a spot for affordable, useful Chromebooks, but as more of us are using these devices as our only computers, it is refreshing to have a growing lineup of devices that have better performance, better fit/finish, and better user experiences.
Our first honorable mention in this category goes to the oft-criticized Pixel Slate. When launched, it was firmly in the high-end territory of Chromebook pricing, but as time has passed, the MSRP of this premium tablet has been permanently reduced. With the entry-level model coming in at $499 and most retailers throwing in the keyboard for free, the Pixel Slate is all of the sudden a very good value. With a beautiful high-res screen, fantastic speakers, and extremely premium build, the Slate has now become an affordable option for users looking for a bit more high-end flare.
Next up we have the Pixelbook Go. While this device in its lowest configuration just barely makes it into this category at $649, it definitely belongs here. The Pixelbook Go is Google’s move to make a first-party Chromebook at a more reasonable price when compared with the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate’s original $1000+ price tags. With a great screen, superb build, top-notch keyboard/trackpad and pleasing aesthetic, the Pixelbook Go is just an all-around awesome Chromebook that most users simply love once they’ve tried it. When it comes to the overall experience, the Pixelbook Go delivers.
The next device on the list is one that could honestly be the winner. The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 offers so much for so little money that it makes it insanely easy to recommend as a default in this price range. With a mostly-aluminum build, nice 1080p screen, convertible form factor, great keyboard and starting price of $409, this has become the new go-to recommendation for anyone I talk to that needs a great Chromebook at a low price.
WINNER: The newly-released Acer Chromebook Spin 713 has to be at the top of the list, however, mainly because of the same stuff I just said about the Flex 5. Combining a better version of all the good things the Flex 5 offers, the Spin 713 is a device that just a couple years ago would have cost far more than it currently does. Using this device feels more akin to something like the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook in its performance and like the Pixelbook with its 3:2 high-res, bright display. Add to that a solid backlit keyboard, Gorilla Glass trackpad, crazy-fast 10th-gen Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of NVMe storage, MIL-STD 810G compliance and you get a beast of a Chromebook that can withstand 4-foot drops and downward force of up to 130 pounds. When a device looks good, has a beautiful screen, is insanely fast, and can still stand up to abuse, it has to win, right? Almost forgot to mention, you get all this for $629.
$650 and up
When you come off of talking about devices like the Pixelbook Go, Pixel Slate, Lenovo Flex 5 and Acer Spin 713, it is pretty tough to even consider recommending other devices that cost far more. That’s not to say that these upper-level models don’t have some perks over their mid-range competition, but those perks probably don’t justify the price hike for most users.
First up in the honorable mentions in this category we have the upper configurations of the Acer Spin 713. I list this one first not because I don’t think they will be any good, but because there is just not a ton of you out there that need them. There will be cases where users need more RAM or a bigger NVMe drive, but most consumers are going to be in the absolute sweet spot with the winner of the previous category in the $629 configuration you can buy right now at Best Buy.
Next up is a similar situation with the more-expensive, more-powerful versions of the Pixelbook Go. While I still hold that the entry-level model is great for most users, there are some who want more performance, more RAM or more storage along with all the great perks that come along with Google’s own device. I totally get that and I love the Core i5 model we have in the office, so this Chromebook is one that I’d say to go for in either of the Core i5 variations if you love the look and feel of the Pixelbook Go but need a bit more horsepower.
Our final honorable mention in this category goes to the ASUS Chromebook Flip C436. While I wasn’t completely enamored with this device during my review period, there is a lot it brings to the table. It is fast, thin, light, and has all the bells and whistles you want in a nice, flagship Chromebook. I loved having a quick fingerprint scanner available and the thin bezels and 14-inch screen were quite easy on the eyes, too. I’m unsure how much those things may matter to you, but again, these few perks are costing you $170 more than the Acer Spin 713 and nearly double what the Flex 5 runs, so you really need to think about how important thinness and aesthetic are before pulling the trigger on this one.
WINNER: The outright winner in this category has to go to the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. Assuming Samsung gets the battery issues under control a bit, everything else about this Chromebook exudes quality. From the colors to the extreme thinness to the stunning 4K AMOLED display, the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook is an exercise in extravagance. The keyboard is fantastic, the trackpad is great, the internals are fast and the storage is huge with a 256GB NVMe SSD. With the fingerprint scanner and stowed stylus, there are really few things Samsung could add to make this one better than it is. If they can mitigate the battery issues a bit, this device makes a lot of sense for those users that just want the most beautiful, fastest, most lust-worthy Chromebook you can buy.
That’s it for this point in 2020 and, as it always does, this list will change a bit when we do it again for the holidays. If one thing is clear, it is the fact that mid-range Chromebooks are getting extremely good. In years past I would always have to recommend devices in the top end of the price spectrum if users wanted a nice, premium experience. Those days seem to be in the rear view mirror, however, and devices like the Lenovo Flex 5 and Acer Spin 713 are paving a new path towards more affordable, higher-quality Chromebooks. It’s a trend we love to see and hopefully one that only continues as time goes on.