Chromebooks compared: New and upcoming Chrome OS laptops
From less than $200 to more than $1,200; which Chromebook is right for you?
With a small but growing slice of the PC market, Chromebooks are finally a viable choice for anyone looking to buy a secondary or travel laptop. Unlike the similarly priced netbooks of old, these systems, running Google's Chrome OS instead of Windows, tend to focus on doing one thing and doing it well -- giving you low-cost access to online tools and services.
But with myriad models available from Acer, HP, Toshiba, and even Google -- many with annoyingly similar names -- which is the Chromebook to beat?
Compare our hands-on reviews and impressions of the major Chromebook entrants below. These models are all still widely available to buy (the ambitious Samsung Chromebook 2 will be out in April 2014), and offer largely similar onboard storage, low-power CPUs, and basic plastic bodies.
The differences come in around the edges: the touch screen on the Acer C720P makes it our all-around favorite; the 1080p 13-inch display on the upcoming Samsung Chromebook 2 is better for HD video and long typing sessions; the latest HP models add some serious design flair.
If Chrome OS continues to capture market share (some say it could hit 17 percent of the total PC market in 2014), we'll likely see more variations on screen size, features, and design, giving PC buyers even more options for skipping Windows and OS X.
Samsung Chromebook 2
Samsung says the answer to Chromebook uniformity is its next-gen version, called Chromebook 2. These new models, in 11.6-inch and 13-inch versions, make some notable tweaks both outside and in, including a faux-leather outer finish with a soft-touch feel and "stitches" molded into the outer edge, and a full 1,920x1,080 display on the 13-inch model. Note that both are powered by Samsung's home-grown Exynos 5 Octa chip, rather than an Intel chip.
Read more about the Samsung Chromebook 2.
Acer Chromebook C720P
Though this may be the best Chromebook we've ever seen, that doesn't change what it really is: a touch-enabled update to the Acer Chromebook C720 that's been around for a few months. But battery improvements, Chrome OS improvements, and a combination of extra storage and a touch screen make this Chromebook package a lot more palatable than its predecessors.
Read the full review of the Acer Chromebook C720P.
If you buy into the Chromebook argument, that of a system that lives 90-plus percent of its useful life online, running Web-based in-browser apps and using cloud-based storage, the 13-inch Toshiba Chromebook offers a bit more functionality than rock-bottom 11-inch versions, for only a little more money.
Read the full review of the Toshiba Chromebook.
HP Chromebook 11
The HP Chromebook 11 isn't much more than a redesigned variant on the hardware already in other Chromebooks -- an ARM processor, similar battery life, and a low-res non-touch display. But, the new HP version looks a lot better. Rather than seeming like a cast-off Netbook with a Chrome OS brain-swap, the Chromebook 11 is cute, compact, simple, and attractive.
Read the full review of the HP Chromebook 11.
HP Chromebook 14
The second-gen 14-inch model from HP steps it up in the design department. The newer Chromebook 14 comes in three cool-looking colors: snow white, ocean turquoise, and coral peach. It also includes 200MB of 3G data/month for two years. Surprisingly, HP doesn't sleep on ports. The Chromebook 14 seats two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, HDMI, and one full-size SD card slot.
Read more about the HP Chromebook 14.
Samsung Chromebook Series
The classic first-gen Samsung Chromebook is still available from $199 to $249, depending on where you look. Remember that Samsung's Chromebook uses a low-power processor, Samsung's own Exynos 5 Dual, which is built on ARM's dual-core system-on-a-chip Cortex A15 design. That's good for battery life, but don't expect zippy performance.
Read the full review of the Samsung Chromebook Series.
Google Chromebook Pixel
This is the first Google-designed laptop -- not one farmed out to a partner like Acer or Samsung. And Google has upped the ante, adding a high-res touch screen -- with a pixel density greater than that of Apple's vaunted Retina screens -- and a real Intel Core i5 processor. Even a year after its initial release, the Pixel is still $1,299.
Read the full review of the Google Chromebook Pixel.