It’s hard to believe we’re already wrapping up 2021, but it’s here whether we like it or not. With only a few weeks left in the year, it’s that time again where we take a look back at all the Chromebooks that released and pick our favorites. This year’s been different than most, however, as we’ve had more Chromebooks release this year than ever before AND we know there are still a boatload more on the way. But, it’s November, and that means we need to talk about the best Chromebooks of the year that are available and ready for you to go buy right now.
A couple quick notes before we dive in. The way we do this list each year is simple, but I always like to lay out the groundwork before jumping in. We’ll divide our list into three main categories and you can call them whatever you want. For us, it’s more about grouping by price, so the name of the category isn’t that big of a deal. We have our list divided into three groups: $0-$349, $350-$649, and $650+. We’ll choose our winner in each group and select a handful of honorable mentions as well. So, without any further ado, let’s get into it.
$0 – $349 | Best Affordable Chromebooks of 2021
We’ll start off with the most-populated category of Chromebooks by far: the affordable segment. These devices will always come with trade-offs, they will have largely plastic builds, mediocre screens, and slower processors, but there are some changes that happened this year that make the affordable Chromebook category a lot more interesting. Mainly, we now have Jasper Lake, small-core Intel chips in the mix. Though there are many more of these devices coming in the later parts of 2021 and early 2022, the introduction of Jasper Lake has already had an impact, making these low-price Chromebooks perform far better than most of their predecessors.
For our honorable mentions in this category, we’re going with the Acer 317, Samsung Galaxy Chromebook Go, and the HP Chromebook 11a. First up, the Acer Chromebook 317 is a large, unique and surprisingly quick device. It is 17.3-inches (the first of it’s kind), all plastic, and powered by the new Intel Jasper Lake chips. There are a bunch of configurations, but even the base model is plenty fast and the huge 1080p IPS screen feels like a full-blown workstation on the go. I really enjoyed using this Chromebook, even if it is a bit big for those regularly on the go.
The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook Go is an aptly-named device that we’ve not yet had in the office. Based on the specs and the looks of it, we’re looking at something close to Samsung’s previous, affordable Chromebooks, and that’s a generally good thing. The screen won’t be great – it’s TN and only 1366×768 – and the general specs – 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage – aren’t amazing. But that same Jasper Lake processor we mentioned above is inside, so at least it won’t be slow. For most people, the comfort of buying a brand they are familiar with will make the Galaxy Chromebook Go a good fit, and I do have to give a nod to the looks on this one. The silver outer and blacked-out interior are pretty sharp looking.
Our final honorable mention is the HP Chromebook 11a and just like the Samsung, this one has a pretty bad screen. But the 11a is small, light, and well-built with a solid keyboard and trackpad along with a cool, blue color. This Chromebook is rocking the MediaTek MT8183, so don’t expect blinding speed. This chip has been around for a bit, though, and it is good for light activities and quite speedy with Android-based applications, too.
WINNER: Finally, our winner in this category is a Chromebook that has truly stood the test of time: the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. There’s not much left to say about the Duet that’s not already been said, but Lenovo clearly cut the right corners in this device. We still have a few at the house that get regular use and I’m always so pleased by the screen in this little Chromebook. If speed is what you are after, look elsewhere, but there’s no doubt that – for the money – the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is still the right choice for most people.
$350 – $649 | Best Mid-range Chromebooks of 2021
Our mid-range category is what I still feel is the meat of the Chromebook world. Here, you start getting standout devices with great build quality that still manage to keep their prices in-check. The consumer end of the market is definitely moving in the general direction of this segment, and that’s a really good thing. With these devices, you can get some fantastic computing experiences without really killing your budget.
Our honorable mentions in this category include the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5, the Lenovo Flex 5i and the HP Chromebook x2 11. Let’s talk about the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 5 first as it’s the latest Chromebook to grace our offices. The Duet 5 is already becoming one of my favorite devices of the year. I wasn’t sold on the 13.3-inch OLED screen in a detaching tablet at first, but in use it is really nice. The screen is a delight, the speakers are full and immersive, and the keyboard/kickstand combo is plenty usable on the desk. The Gen 2 Snapdragon 7c inside is performing faster than expected and when I want to kick back and just be a consumer, the detachable nature of this Chromebook is really compelling.
The Lenovo Flex 5i is a no-brainer in the category again this year. Take what Lenovo did in 2020 with the original Flex 5 and just hit repeat. The processor is upgraded to the faster 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake variants, the screen, build, and convertible form factors are all still here and this device remains one of the best overall values in the Chromebook world. Thought the lower-priced model comes with the Pentium Gold inside, don’t let that fool you. That chip is nearly as capable as the 11th-gen Core i3, so the Flex 5i still gets points for having the most features at the lowest price.
The HP Chromebook x2 11 is our final honorable mention and it makes our list mainly because it is so packed with features. For me, this device is so close to being the tablet of my dreams, but it fell a bit flat in the performance category. But with a stunning, bright 3:2 screen, an included USI pen that charges wirelessly, and a size/aspect ratio that feel basically perfect for a tablet, I think there are tons of users who will really enjoy the HP x2 11.
WINNER: Without question, the winner in the mid-range category is the ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5500. This device debuted early in the year and when it came out in the spring, I purchased one for my wife pretty quickly. The build quality is solid, the looks are unique and slick, the keyboard is fantastic, the speakers are loud and full, and the screen looks great. The only hangup I had with the CX5500 was the screen brightness at 250 nits, but that’s not a total deal breaker. This Chromebook brings serious speed, looks, and usability for a really low MSRP of $569 and it’s easily one of my overall favorites of the year.
Before we leave the mid-range segment, though, I do want to give a sidebar honorable mention to a device that isn’t a Chromebook, but is easily the most inventive Chrome OS device we spent time with this year: the HP Chromebase 22. This device is fantastic for so many reasons, but the great screen, awesome speakers, fast internals, and overall aesthetic just put it at the top of my “coolest devices of the year” list. We’ve really loved this Chromebase and if you check out our review, you’ll see why. I know it’s not a Chromebook, but it’s the coolest Chrome OS hardware you’ll see out there right now.
$650 and up | Best High-end Chromebooks of 2021
Over the past couple years, the high-end portion of the Chromebook market has changed quite a bit. It’s mostly due to the emergence of mid-range devices that have most of what you’d want in a high-end Chromebook for far less money, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some niceties to be had if you want to spend a bit more cash on a nicer overall Chroembook.
For our honorable mentions in this category, we have the HP Chromebook 13.5-inch x360, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713, and the ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5400. The HP Chromebook 13.5-inch x360 – known before just recently as the Elite c1030 – is a device we included in last year’s “Best of 2020” video even though HP hadn’t actually shipped it yet. My gut feeling about that Chromebook was solid, however, and all the specs we had at that time did end up making for a really great device. With it’s 3:2 13.5-inch screen, all-aluminum build, fingerprint scanner, thin chassis and fast 10th-gen Core processors, the Elite c1030 was easily one of the best Chromebooks we tested over the last 12 months. This new version doesn’t change much at all from that original formula, but it’s readily available at Best Buy now and, again, if you are willing to part with the money, it is well worth it.
Next up is the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 and just like last year, this device came to play. It also has the 3:2 13.5-inch display just like the HP above, but it does so with a QHD resolution and as it always has, looks amazing. This year’s iteration solidifies some of the build materials while keeping the large glass trackpad and crazy fast internals. Though at $699, this Chromebook is only barely in the high-end category, but don’t be fooled: the Spin 713 has a lot to offer and makes a great Chromebook whether on sale or at the full MSRP.
Our final honorable mention goes to the ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5400, a device I didn’t realize I’d love as much as I do. While the Flip CX5500 takes a new-ish approach to design and feel from ASUS’ previous Chromebooks, the Flip CX5400 is what you get when you take the C302, C434, and C436 and keep all the best parts from each. The all-aluminum chassis is smooth, light, and attractive, the screen is bright and vibrant FHD, the keyboard is wonderful, the trackpad is butter, and there’s an included, stowed USI pen included in the box. With a fanless design, this Chromebook can be found with an 11th-gen Core i3 or i5, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of NVMe storage. It’s fast, attractive, and flat-out fun to use. Though not the winner, I think you could make a case for it to be in the #1 spot.
WINNER: Our winner in the high-end Chromebook category has to go to the ASUS Chromebook CX9. Debuting at CES 2021, we knew this one would be amazing when we first caught a glimpse of it. Working from it for the past few weeks, I can confirm this is the case. The bright IPS screen, ultra-firm chassis, fantastic keyboard and trackpad are all note-worthy, but there are some really fun additions here, too. The fingerprint scanner is great, the intense ergo-lift hinge is nice for longer typing sessions, and the numeric keypad that takes over your trackpad is a nice touch. With very high end internals – up to a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of NVMe storage – there’s no doubt that this is the Chromebook to beat in 2021.
So, that’s it for this Best Chromebooks of 2021. As I said at the top, there are still tons of new Chromebooks just on the edge of release. High-end, mid-range, affordable, convertible, clamshell and tablet devices are all on the horizon, but if you’re looking for a new Chromebook right now, we think this list is a great place to start and really hope we’ve helped you make a decision on which devices are the best ones in your price range.