Well, we made it. 2020 is coming to a close and it’s that time of year where we name our favorite Chromebooks for the last 12 months. There have been some great ones and there have been some misses, too. All told, our lineup doesn’t look drastically different here at the end of the year than it did back in July when we did our Best Chromebooks of 2020 So Far.
Let’s face it, this has been a strange year all around and that means strange things when it comes to Chromebooks, too. In a year where Chromebook demand was higher than ever, pandemic production issues have us finally at a spot where devices are getting on store shelves again, but we haven’t seen the number of new devices we were expecting. Regardless, we have our best affordable, mid-range, and premium Chromebook picks to share with you, so let’s get to it.
A quick reminder: we break things into 3 sections as mentioned above. $0-299 is our affordable range, $300-649 is our mid-range, and premium Chromebooks fall in the $650+ spectrum. We have a winner for each category and a few honorable mentions in the event that you don’t really like our pick for what’s best in each category. All these picks are laid out in a clean, updated page over on Chrome Shop if you’d like a quick reference point after you’ve read this post or watched the video, so be sure to check that out if you’re looking to buy a new Chromebook. Now, let’s dive in.
$0 – $299
Devices in this category are all about making the right compromises. at prices under $300, you are going to trade in either build quality or performance most times, but screen quality, storage, and aesthetics are also places where manufacturers can cut corners to deliver very low prices. All the Chromebooks listed below have trade-offs, but they are all different trade-offs. Figuring out which things you can live with while getting a machine that gets the basics taken care of is the most important thing in this category, and we feel like these Chromebook do just that.
The honorable mentions in the affordable category go to the Samsung Chromebook 4+, the Acer Chromebook 315, and the Lenovo Chromebook 3. For the Samsung Chromebook 4+, when we reviewed this Chromebook, we were quite clear that it doesn’t have the best build or the best display, but it gets the basics right and gives you a bigger screen at the same time. The internals with a Celeron N4000, 32GB of storage and 4GB of RAM aren’t going to blow your socks off, but it gets by just fine for most tasks. Additionally, it is readily available most times, and in 2020, that’s worth something.
The Acer Chromebook 315 gives you the same 15.6-inch screen, but switches it to IPS (better viewing angles), adds in touch capabilities, and also adds a number pad to the keyboard deck. The internals are the same, so performance will mimic the Samsung Chromebook 4+, but the added niceties are welcome and the price over on Acer’s store of $229 is insanely appealing. Wherever you look for this one, just be sure you get the full HD with touch for under $300 and don’t settle for the lesser HD screen with the TN display.
For the Lenovo Chromebook 3, the standout feature is absurd pricing. With a regular price of $169 out the door, this is by far one of the cheapest Chromebooks to date and the overall package is still very capable. The Celeron N4020 gives you a boost versus the others in this category and the keyboard/trackpad feel nice under the hand, too. The screen is bad, but the all-plastic build is solid, and this Chromebook feels far better than the sub-$200 price tag lets on.
WINNER: There’s no question, here: the most sought-after, most-hyped, and most well-received Chromebook in this price range is clearly the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. It’s not too hard to understand the allure of this Chromebook when you consider it. The Duet does something few other Chromebooks can boast, posing as both legit tablet and legit 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 included detachable keyboard just creates a value proposition most devices can’t beat. With sale prices now putting the top-end 128GB variant on sale for as low as $229, this is the Chromebook to beat in the affordable range.
$300 – $649
Our next category is the one I think Chromebooks are best represented by at this point in the Chrome OS story. One thing 2020 delivered on was the move of higher-end specs and features in Chromebooks down to the mid-range. Where nice displays, better storage, more RAM and backlit keyboards were held out for the $800+ Chromebooks before, we now have all this and more in the category that tops out at $649. Its encouraging to see and with these types of devices on display in the middle of the pack for Chrome OS, the future of great, affordable laptops looks really promising.
For our honorable mentions in this category, we have the Pixelbook Go, Lenovo Flex 5, and the HP x360 14c. Starting with the Pixelbook Go, we don’t have to waste much time explaining why it’s still on our list. This Chromebook is superlative in its build, bringing one of the absolute best keyboard/trackpad combos you can get and it pairs that with the best laptop speakers I’ve ever heard, a great screen, and a build quality/aesthetic that is still unmatched in the space. We love the Pixelbook Go and while we hope to see a proper successor down the road, the original is still as fun as ever to use.
With the Lenovo Flex 5, I think we have a candidate for the most game-changing Chromebook to date. With it’s 10th-gen Core i3 processor, backlit keyboard, nice IPS screen, convertible form factor, solid keyboard/trackpad and quality build, this device didn’t bring anything new to the table. Instead, it did for mid-range Chromebooks what the Lenovo Chromebook 3 does at the affordable end of the spectrum: it breaks convention on price. At just $409 MSRP, this thing was a great deal on day one and holiday sales only make that sweeter. Lenovo changed what was acceptable in the mid-range of Chromebooks and we love the Flex 5 for that reason.
Finally, the HP x360 14c did what HP has done for quite some time. It delivered on a quality build, a great look, a killer keyboard/trackpad, fast internals, upward-firing speakers, a fingerprint scanner, all with a decent starting price. While I think that $629 is a bit much for this Chromebook considering the competition, we all knew it would go on sale as HP is wont to do and that’s what we’ve seen since it debuted. Constant sales have put the x360 14c in the sub-$500 category with regularity, and at that price it is a fantastic overall Chromebook experience.
WINNER: Again, without question, our winner is the Acer Chromebook Spin 713. As a matter of fact, I’d call it the best overall Chromebook of 2020 without thinking much about it. It just does so much right at such a good starting price that I’ve not parted with it all year. The 3:2 QHD screen is bright and large at 13.5-inches, but it doesn’t carry itself as a large Chromebook. The build is solid, it is MIL-STD 810G compliant, it has insanely fast internals with a 10th-gen Core i5, 8GB of RAM and 128GB NVMe SSD, and comes with all the I/O you could want.
On the sides of the backlit keyboard and all-glass trackpad are all the ports you need, including 2 USB Type C ports, a USB Type A port and a full-size HDMI port. It converts. It is USI pen compatbile. And it starts at just $629 which is crazy. We’ve even seen in hit $100-off here and there, so there’s even more incentive to get one. There’s no question, this Chromebook is my favorite of the year and it deserves it 100%. Don’t miss our giveaway – embedded below – and you could enter to win a brand-new Acer Spin 713 of your own.
$649 & Up
At this point in 2020, this category has become a very strange one. With so many mid-range Chromebooks getting so many great features at such low prices, it becomes a bit of a ghost town at the top-end of the Chromebook market. That being said, there are still perks at the top, and there are certain qualities to the Chromebooks in this price range that simply aren’t available on less-expensive machines.
For the honorable mentions in the premium category, we have the HP Elite c1030, the upper trim of the Pixelbook Go, and the ASUS Flip C436. Starting with the HP Elite c1030, we see quickly the perks that come with spending more money on a laptop. With a 3:2 screen that has an optional 1000 nits of brightness, tiny bezels all around, and a privacy screen option, the Elite c1030 looks pretty amazing. It has been unavailable up to this point, but we expect it to become available for order any day now. The thin form factor, all-aluminum body, and bright 3:2 screen all look fantastic and though we’ve not been able to review one yet, this Chromebook looks like an absolute knock out.
For the Core i5 and Core i7 Pixelbook Go, the story is the same as it was mid-year. These models cost more, but you get better performance, more RAM options and more storage. With the i7, you also get a 4K screen that looks good, but pales in comparison to the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook’s OLED screen. If you love the Pixelbook Go formula and simply want more internals, these devices won’t disappoint.
Finally, we have the ASUS Flip C436 as our last honorable mention. I was a bit tough on this Chromebook in our review and I still stand by much of what I said there. I think this Chromebook is a bit overpriced, but if you like ASUS’ general approach to making laptops, there are things to like. The device is thin and attractive with a great keyboard and trackpad. I don’t like their choice of color on the keys as I find them hard to see in daylight, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the performance. It’s a solid – if a bit overpriced – Chromebook that ASUS fans will still enjoy.
WINNER: Again, without hesitation, we have a category winner that clearly stands head and shoulders above the rest in the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. Sure, the battery life is still less-than-optimal, but the rest of this Chromebook is exemplary. From the thin, light, gorgeous exterior to the peerless display, this Chromebook is just amazing to hold and use. The keyboard is arguably the best available, the trackpad is silky smooth, you get an included, stowed stylus, and there’s a fingerprint scanner, too. With fast internals and 256GB of NVMe storage out of the box, the perks are all on display with the Galaxy Chromebook. If battery life isn’t a massive concern for you and you want the best on offer across the board, there’s little that can compare with Samsung’s best.
So, that’s it for 2020 and the best Chromebooks you can grab here at the end of the year. I thought our list would look far different than it does at this stage in the game, but that’s 2020 for you. There’s no doubt that an absolute avalanche of new Chromebooks will arrive in 2021, but there’s no way to know exactly when or if they will live up to expectations. All we can do right now is work with what’s available, and the list we’ve put together here hopefully gives you something to choose that will accomplish what you need in a Chromebook right now, in this season.
Acer Chromebook Spin 713 Giveaway
Best Chromebooks of 2020 – Acer 713 Giveaway