The Best Chromebook for Students [November 2019]
For millions of users all around the world, Google’s Chromebook lineup of computers are an ideal product. The natural evolution of the netbook, a product that went through a short phase of popularity from the late 2000s to the early 2010s, Chromebooks today compete directly with tablets for low-cost computing devices, and so far, the market has responded with passion. Unlike tablets, Chromebooks come in a standard laptop layout, offering users the ability to take notes with a real keyboard, and often feature all-day battery life. Traditional laptops, though supplied with a wider market share of applications, also typically cost more than twice the amount for a Chromebook with similar qualities, thanks to the need for higher processing power when running an operating system like Windows. Many of these advantages come from using Chrome OS, an operating system built by Google based on their Chrome browser.
Everything inside Chrome OS is done within a browser window, from checking your email to editing a photo, and that helps maintain both a low standard for quality performance, and excellent battery life, making them affordable and excellent for taking notes, writing essays, and watching Netflix. When it comes to college students, whose lives are made up of roughly 70 percent of a combination of those three things, Chromebooks are a perfect computer for lugging around campus all day. They’re cheap, small, easy to use, and do nearly everything a standard college decision would want to do in everyday college settings. If you’re looking for something that can manage design work or other similar intensive projects—not to mention any sort of gaming—you might want to look elsewhere, but for nearly every college student, Chromebooks are perfect for both your daily schedule and for hanging out in the dorm.
Of course, as with every gadget, not every Chromebook on the market today is perfect for lugging around school. Students need portable laptops with high-resolution displays, long-lasting batteries, and devices that don’t weigh a ton so they can be thrown in a backpack for a day-long excursion along school grounds and to the library for all-night study sessions. It can be tough to pick out the right laptop for a student when they’re just starting class; luckily, you don’t have to do the work on your own.
With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, we’ve dived into the world of Chromebooks to separate the best from the rest. Students need a laptop that’s sturdy, light, powerful, and above all else, affordable. Whether you’re buying yourself a Christmas gift ahead of the spring semester, or you’re trying to shop for the hardworking student in your life, these are our favorite Chromebooks for students.
Asus has constantly made some of our favorite Chromebooks, having held the top position of this always-updated guide since 2017. Now, after nearly two years, we’re amending our recommendation to not just keep the Asus Chromebook Flip C302 at the top of our list, but to add the newer, premium C434 for those who need a larger display or improved performance. Both devices offer fairly similar experiences, but in two different price points. Let’s take a look at both the C302 and the C434, starting with the smaller, cheaper unit.
Chromebook Flip C302
The first thing you’ll notice about the C302 is the build. This is a premium feeling device with an all-aluminum build, and it makes a major difference in day-to-day usage. The design and feel of the machine is similar to something you’d find on a MacBook Pro or a Surface Laptop, albeit not as thin as the latter product. The anodized finish is also similar to the MacBook line of products, avoiding the textured feel of some other metal Chromebooks on the market today. The entire device is fairly thin and light, too, weighing in at only 2.65 pounds and half an inch thick. When it comes to displays, Asus included a 1080p eDP panel, which looks good, crisp, and colorful. It’s not the best display you can get on a Chromebook today, but for the price, it’s a great screen.
For a Chromebook first released two years ago, the port selection is pretty well off. Along the sides of the laptop, you have two USB-C 3.1 ports that are used for data transfers, charging, and even video out, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microSD card slot for expandable storage on your device. While this may feel like fairly limited port selection, that USB-C port allows you to use adapters to access basically any accessory you might need, and even allows you to charge the device with a basic USB-C cable—the same one you probably have for your phone, tablet, Nintendo Switch, and plenty of other platforms.
As far as specs go, the Flip is powered by an Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor, which uses low-power consumption to ensure the C302 has solid battery life and doesn’t require the use of a fan. The Flip features 4GB of RAM, which is enough for most multitasking on a Chromebook, and 64GB of internal storage, a solid amount compared to most budget Chromebooks. Considering Chrome OS syncs closely with Google Drive and doesn’t rely on external storage outside of app installations, it’s not ridiculous to say that this is more than enough for most everyday usage—especially when we’re considering a standard college student using this machine.
Performance is solid, with the processor and RAM combination able to keep a good amount of tabs open at once without any noticeable slowdown. The touchpad is solid for navigating around the display, with a large size and decent responsiveness. The keyboard is similarly comfortable and well-spaced out, and the inclusion of backlighting means that it’s a great device for lugging to class and taking notes with. Battery life isn’t quite as long-lasting as the original Chromebook Flip from 2015, but you should expect about 8 hours of mixed usage on the device—more than enough to make it through the day, and with the use of a standard USB-C port, it’s easy to top off throughout the day.
As the name implies, the Flip is capable of turning around 360 degrees to become a makeshift tablet, complete with the ability to use the 12.5″ display’s touchscreen to its full potential. This means you can use the Flip as a way to take notes with a third-party stylus, and you can use the device in all sorts of different configurations, including as a pop-up using the keyboard as a base, or in tent mode for watching media.
We really only have two major complaints with the Flip. First, though 2.65 pounds is fairly light for a laptop, it’s far too heavy to use as a tablet for long periods of time. The 12.9″ iPad Pro is similarly sized, but weighs over a pound less than the Chromebook Flip. Even worse, however, are the side-mounted speakers on this device. Both the left and right speakers are tinny and, at loud volumes, rattle and distort in a way that’s uncomfortable to listen to for a long time. You’ll want external speakers or headphones for this device.
Of course, the C302 has a newer, bigger brother in the C434, and depending on your budget, you might want to pick up Asus’s other Chromebook instead.
Chromebook Flip C434
As part of the same series of devices, the C434 is extremely similar to the C302, but with an improved design and better specs. Obviously, the biggest change comes in the 14″ display, which runs edge to edge along the device. That makes the actual frame of the laptop not much bigger than the C302, despite a much larger screen. Asus even managed to keep the webcam at the top of the display instead of moving it to the bottom, which means that, despite the thinner bezel, you lose none of the actual features of a normal display.
Outside of this change, most of the device remains the same. The display has a 1080p resolution, which means the pixel density is a bit less than what we saw on the 12.5″ model. A newer version of the Core m3 powers the device, supply similar speeds and battery life. You’ll still get access to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, along with two USB-C ports and one standard USB port for connecting drives monitors, and more to your laptop. As expected, the device weighs a bit more, coming in at 3 pounds, so it’s fair to assume you won’t be holding the laptop in tablet mode too often. And yes, this does still have tablet mode, living up to the Flip branding with a 360 degree hinge. Unfortunately, one of the biggest weak points of the original C302—the speakers—still remain, with the device sounding tinny and distorted at high volumes.
All in all, if you can afford the C434’s $549 price tag, you’re getting a much more premium device over the C302. Either way, however, both laptops help to make up some of the best Chromebooks on the market today, especially for students. Asus got nearly everything right with the C302, and the improvements made on the C434 are solid in almost every way. They aren’t the only good Chromebooks for students you can pick up in 2019, but they are some of the best.
- Great build quality and design
- Good screen
- Solid battery life
- Terrible speakers
- Weight makes tablet mode difficult
Brand new for this fall, Google’s first standard Chromebook in two years is the Pixelbook Go. Replacing the original Pixelbook—one of the best touchscreen Chromebooks ever made, in our eyes—the Pixelbook Go lowers the starting price by 35 percent, making it a much more affordable option for anyone looking to invest into a new Chromebook. At $650, it’s still priced relatively high compared to most other devices on the market, but despite that, the Pixelbook Go seems to have all the magic you could want from a Chromebook today.
If there’s one thing that’s a bit disappointing about the Pixelbook Go, it’s the design. There’s a lot to like about how the Pixelbook Go looks and feels, but in the transition to a cheaper market, the Go has lost one of our favorite things about the original Pixelbook: its tall display. Unlike on the 2017 Pixelbook, the Go uses a standard 16:9 aspect ratio with a 13.3″ screen. This makes it a solid offering for watching movies or YouTube, but with productivity work, a 3:2 display like the original device would’ve been much appreciated, especially considering this isn’t a 15″ device. Though, if we’re looking at the product as a whole, the smaller, wider display seems to be part of making the Go as portable as possible, and on that end, Google has nailed it.
The device weighs barely 2 pounds and measures 13mm thick—basically as thin as the device could be. The device uses a magnesium build, helping to keep the frame of the device study but light, while also offering a grippy ribbed texture along the bottom of the design (also made out of magnesium). This is a premium feeling device, and it’s really great to see Google helping to push the cost of this style of Chromebook down to something much more affordable than we’ve seen in the past. Also, despite having a touchscreen, it’s worth noting the Pixelbook Go doesn’t fold 360 degrees to become a tablet. This is a traditional laptop style through and through, something that might disappoint some potential buyers.
Let’s talk specs: The Pixelbook starts with an 8th Gen Intel Core m3, which should be fast enough for most basic browsing and video playback, though if you plan on doing any serious work on the Go, you’ll want to upgrade to an i5 or an i7 for additional cash. Available in four tiers, the Pixelbook Go includes either 8GB of 16GB, along with 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB of storage. There’s no option for expandable storage, so you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the storage you want upfront.
The real star of the show here, however, is when you open the clamshell device. The backlit keyboard uses Google’s new HushKeys, which have been designed to offer some serious travel while also keeping the keys quiet. Next to those keyboards are two front-firing speakers that should make the Go one of the best Chromebooks for watching movies. Chromebooks have become well-known for skimping a bit on the speakers, so if you plan on watching a lot of YouTube, the Pixelbook is basically perfect.
Ultimately, the Pixelbook Go is a great, well-rounded computer. It’s a bit expensive compared to some of the other devices on this list—especially since it tops out at a whopping $1400—but if you’re looking for a fantastic Chromebook experience, this is it. It’s fast and light, it has a great display along with best in-class speakers and a hushed keyboard. The build is top-notch, and it comes straight from Google, helping to make this an absolute no-brainer of a device. If you aren’t sure which tier you should pick up, we recommend the Core i5/8GB of RAM model, which should have enough processing power and memory for everyday tasks, while keeping you comfortable with little to no slowdown. The Pixelbook Go starts shipping at the end of October, though you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the two top-end models.
If you’re looking for something with stylus support, you can’t beat Samsung’s Chromebook Plus v2, which goes head to head with the Flip C302 in almost every way. A vivid 2400×1600 display is one of the best screens you can get on a laptop—especially at this price point—and the improved aspect ratio makes it perfect for productivity. Inside, you’ll find 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the minimum amount we recommend for devices in 2019. This newer version of the Plus switched to an Intel Celeron processor instead of the ARM chip in the older model, and while it isn’t quite as powerful as the Core m3 you’ll find in our top picks, it’s good enough for most people. As is the keyboard, though we’re disappointed to find a lack of backlighting on the v2.
As mentioned, one of the biggest draws for this device is the stylus, helping to make this a great business-friendly laptop. Just like with Samsung’s Note series of phones and tablets, the Chromebook Plus has a pop-out stylus built into the body of the device, accessible at any time, and the screen itself supports a number of the same Note-like features and abilities that make the Note series so popular. You can use the stylus for drawing, note-taking, highlighting—you name it. Still, while the Chromebook Plus is a great device, we really recommend checking out one of our top picks if you can. They’re both newer and more powerful than Samsung’s device, which really helps to improve your experience day to day. If you want a more in-depth look at the Chromebook Plus v2, check out our guide to the best Chromebooks for students here, where it’s currently our runner-up.
- Thin, metal chassis
- Beautiful, high-res display
- Built-in stylus for notes
- No back-lit keyboard
- Android app support isn't perfect
- Screen aspect ratio poor for videos
Once our runner-up for the best Chromebook for students, the R11 has become more difficult to recommend with age. While we once praised the device for its affordability, its low weight, and its general performance, it’s become tough to continue to recommend such a low-resolution display in 2019, even if the display only measures at 11.6″. The laptop is still solid for the money, but with Chromebooks in the $300 to $400 range getting really, really good lately, there’s no reason to spend nearly $300 on a laptop of this quality when for just an extra $150 or so, you can get something with much better performance, better build quality, and bonuses like more storage and backlit keyboards.
That said, if you’re stuck in a budget under $300, the R 11 is still a pretty good device to pick up on the cheap. It’s made of plastic, but feels solid in the hand thanks to its metal coating, it has two full-size USB ports and a full-sized SD card slot, and you can do a lot worse than the Intel Celeron processor and 4GB of RAM powering this device. Battery life is also pretty solid, rated at around nine and a half hours total, and even in real-world usage, you should be able to maintain eight hours or so before needing an outlet. Overall, the R 11 is still a solid budget buy, but it’s worth saving a little extra to pick up the Chromebook Flip or Chromebook Plus. They’re smarter buys on your wallet in the long run.
- Bright IPS display
- Small and light
- Android app support built-in
- Low-res display
- Buggy Android apps
- No backlit keyboard
Samsung’s Chromebook 3 was first released in 2016, which means it’s starting to feel its age on the market today. That said, for students who need as cheap a device as possible while still gaining access to a solid device, the Chromebook 3 offers some of the best value on the market today. At just $220, the Chromebook 3 is one of the cheapest devices to still manage to carry 4GB of RAM today, an important aspect when shopping for a Chromebook. The more RAM your device has, the better it will be at managing additional tabs for multitasking, and as we enter 2018, it’s more important than ever to set your baseline RAM allowance at 4GB of memory.
The processor is a budget Intel Celeron model that is good enough for basic browsing and watching Netflix or Hulu, and the display, though low-resolution, is bright and colorful. With an 11-hour battery life, you’ll be able to get through the entire day without any difficulty. Overall, the laptop is nothing special. The keyboard is fine, the trackpad a bit cramped, and the build is made of cheap-feeling plastic. But the specs you’re getting for just $220 is solid, and it’s by far the cheapest device on this list. While it doesn’t excel in any specific areas beyond price, the good news is that almost any high school or college student should be able to pick one of these up.
- Super cheap
- 4GB of RAM for the price
- Just "okay" performance
- No touchscreen
Although the Asus Chromebook C202 is far thicker and bulkier than most modern laptops and Chromebooks on the market today, for the right consumer looking for something rugged and suitable for outdoor use, this might be the perfect device. With a frame wrapped and coated in rubber, combined with a plastic body, this is a device built to be protected from drops onto a classroom floor, and also allows for an easy grip on the laptop. With a hinge that can be bent back 180 degrees, it also allows for the laptop to lay flat on a table, and to prevent breaking if something happens to the display in the case of an accident.
A spill-resistant keyboard promises to keep the laptop safe from someone spilling a drink on it while the laptop is being used to DJ house parties with Spotify. The specs are comparable to other sub-$200 Chromebooks, with an Intel Celeron N3060 process, 4GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a standard 1366×768 resolution display. Ten hours of battery life will get you through the day, but considering how bulky this laptop is, we do with a bigger battery was supplied. The good news: the C202 was updated in 2017 to run Android apps, so you won’t have to be without your favorite apps and games on your laptop.
- Rugged, drop-proof design
- Decent processor for the price
- Android app support
- Bulky and heavy
- "Meh" display
We already recommended the R 11 above, but what if you need a bigger display than the 11″ offered on Acer’s $299 Chromebook? Enter the Acer R 13, the older, bigger brother to our top pick. For an extra $100, you get basically the same laptop—4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 2 USB ports, a microSD card slot, and an HDMI port all powered by a MediaTek processor that’s roughly equivalent to the Intel Celeron found in the R 11. The difference here is the size: a 13.3″ 1080p IPS display promises to bring the same touch-enabled functionality to a bigger, higher-resolution screen. The body is now made of aluminium, giving the R 13 a more premium feel over its smaller sibling, while adding only minimal weight to the product and measuring thinner than the R 11.
Obviously the bigger size makes using the R 13 as a tablet a bit more cumbersome than the 11″ model, but if you can put up with the added size and weight, the R 13 offers a good middle ground between the R 11 and the Samsung Chromebook Plus. For most people, it’ll be worth the additional money to gain the better display and stylus support of the Chromebook Plus, but if you need a 13″ laptop and you’re budget tops out at less than $400, give this one a look—you won’t regret it.
- 13" 1080p display
- Solid build quality
- Mediocre processor for the price
The majority of Chromebooks on the market today happen to measure in at 11 to 13 inches, but not every student wants that small of a device. If you’re looking for something with a larger display, but you’d rather not lug around a bulky 15″ Windows laptop, the Acer Chromebook 14 is a great choice that is perfect for those that put the display over all else. Despite the relatively low cost for the laptop, you’ll find a premium-feeling aluminum body that looks more expensive than it actually is. Unlike the Chromebook 3’s plastic build, the Chromebook 14 from Acer manages to have a sense of style. Powered by an Intel Celeron N3160, the Chromebook 14 is capable of basic browsing and media playback.
With 32GB of onboard storage, you’ll be able to store several movies for offline playback wherever life takes you, and with the 1080p IPS display, you’ll love watching movies and TV shows on this thing. The larger size of the body allows for Acer to provide users with up to 12 hours of battery life. The Chromebook 14’s keyboard and trackpad are solid, if uninteresting, and unfortunately, the device lacks upgradable or expandable storage. The biggest trade-off here, of course, comes in the additional weight, though at 3.42 pounds, you could certainly do worse. Overall, the Chromebook 14 isn’t the most exciting device on this list, but i you’re looking for a solid, basic laptop for under $300, this is the one for you.
- Great 14" 1080p display
- 12 hours of battery life
- "Okay" keyboard
- Heavier than some other Chromebooks
One of the only convertible Chromebooks on the market today, the HP Chromebook x2 is a masterclass in design and performance. When it first arrived on the market in 2018, it was an expensive option for students, starting at $599. More than a year later however, and it’s easy to find the Chromebook x2 for well under $500, making it the perfect choice to compete with the iPad Pro or Surface Pro from Microsoft.
With an Intel Core m3 chip, 32GB of storage (not enough, in our opinion), up to 12 hours of battery life, and some excellent dual B&O-branded speakers, there’s plenty to love with the Chromebook x2. The best part, however, comes with the screen. At 2400×1600, this is a gorgeous display, and since it’s a convertible design, the display comes apart from the keyboard and becomes an iPad Pro-esque 12″ tablet running Chrome OS. Our biggest qualms with the x2 comes in the software: Chrome OS just isn’t quite ready to power a tablet just yet, and Google’s iterations on the software have been slow. Still, if you want a new Chromebook and with the Surface Pro was a bit cheaper, HP’s convertible is a great option to consider.
- Convertible design
- Excellent performance and battery life
- Chrome OS is rough on tablets
- Only 32GB of storage