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Although a few Chromebooks manage to creep up past into the high-end to compete against MacBooks and Microsoft’s Surface Laptops, most computers running ChromeOS come in at $500 or less, offering a fantastic way to browse the web, game, and create for not a whole lot of cash.
As you can imagine, that comes in handy—especially in years like 2020, where everyone suddenly needed the ability to make Zoom calls, work or study from home, or even just to watch Netflix to calm down after a stressful week. Although Chromebooks are made for purchasing laptops without dropping a ton of cash down, unfortunately, it seems like everyone had that idea, and these days, it can be tough to find a Chromebook in stock. Meanwhile, third-party retailers have bumped their prices up to match demand, leading to a situation where it can be really hard to find a Chromebook for under $200.
If you’re ready to know what to look for in an affordable Chromebook, you’ve come to the right guide. While we wouldn’t recommend picking up one of these laptops as your primary computer if your work demands a lot of processing power, each laptop on this list is more than capable of carrying out virtually every imaginable every-day task you can throw its way. Just be prepared to have to wait for many of these laptops to come back into stock at affordable prices.
As undoubtedly awesome as Chromebooks are, you should still keep in mind that any full-sized computer that costs $200 or less is going to have some limitations, of course. There are also some inherent risks posed when you order these online, since much of the cost reduction can be brought about by skimping on a solid exterior—which can lead to unwanted cracks. Even with these risks in mind, however, it’s almost always worth the investment, since any one of the machines on this list costs little more than a few nights of takeout for you and the family.
Anyone who’s been around computers or arguably any type of mainstream tech over the course of the past few decades has likely dabbled with some type of ASUS computer. This brand is known for their workhorse laptops and gadgets that offer a streamlined and ultra-efficient platform from which to do everything from web-browsing to novel-writing. This latest ASUS Chromebook does its brand proud, by delivering an amazing amount of punch and overall quality inside an incredibly well-designed and aesthetically pleasing exterior.
Ideal for frequent travelers and clumsy creatives who have been known to spill a drink or two, this laptop is equipped with reinforced rubber guards that protect against most drops, along with a spill resistant keyboard that can withstand the occasional splash of a drink. At just over 2.5 pounds, this laptop is superbly lightweight and features an 11.6-inch HD screen that features anti-glare technology.
It’s powered by a Celeron N3060 Processor (2M Cache and up to 2.48 GHz of speed) for fast and snappy performance on most apps, and you get 4GB of DDR3 RAM—not enough for pro-level apps or multitasking but more than enough to get you through your everyday web-browsing and email. This laptop also comes standard with 16GB of flash storage that offers speedy performance and reliable data retrieval, and since you’ll be doing almost all of your work through the Google cloud, it’s unlikely that you’d ever need much more storage space.
Of course like all the other Chromebooks on our list, this machine runs the famed Chrome OS—Google’s very own operating system that features built-in virus protection and automatic updates. It also comes preloaded with all of the Google apps that you’ve come to know and love, and you’ll be able to quickly and easily edit, download, and convert Microsoft Office files in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.
Claiming the runner-up spot on our list is this compact and super-minimalist Samsung Chromebook, which is about as beautifully basic as it gets when it comes to barebones, streamlined performance. Like the ASUS laptop at our number-one spot, this computer sports an 11.6-inch screen that can be rotated 180-degrees. Although likely not an issue for most users, we found this screen to be a bit harsher on the eyes at certain angles in a variety of different lighting environments. This finding is of course slightly subjective, and unless you plan on constantly viewing movies on this relatively small screen it probably won’t be a problem.
It sports a surprisingly fast Intel Celeron N3060 processor, 4GB of SDRAM DDR3 memory, and a 16GB SSD hard drive that’s just as fast and reliable as you’d hope. We were also impressed with the battery on this machine, which can power your online adventures for up to eleven hours on a single charge. (Most other Chromebook batteries only last for roughly 9-10 hours if you’re doing anything more than just looking at text online.)
You get the full Chrome suite of programs preinstalled, 3W stereo speakers that provide an impressive amount of midrange clarity given their small size and low cost, an HD webcam that can be used for video-chats and photos, and a more than respectable brightness level of 200 nits. The wireless connection seemed to be a bit spotty at times (even after full resets of our home networks), although this problem only existed for a few moments at a time and only required a quick reset in order to resolve itself. You also get an HDMI port that can be used to connect an external monitor, 1 USB 3 port, a USB 2 port, and a headphone jack that can double as a microphone jack if you need to make some recordings on the fly.
We were very happy with the fact that this computer comes with two USB ports, since one USB port and an HDMI connection is all you can expect from most of the other Chromebooks in this price range.
However, if you can manage to go just a bit above the $200 mark, we recommend the new Chromebook 4 from Samsung, which starts at $229 and provides a much more modern experience than this aging Chromebook 3.
Though not quite as reliable as our top pick, this Acer Chromebook is ideal for anyone who requires a bit more screen in order to work. Whether you need to have a few windows open simultaneously for research and writing or simply like to watch Netflix with a little more space, the 15.6-inch screen on this laptop has you covered. You get HD resolution and anti-glare technology along with LED backlighting, and an impressive graphics card that allows you to watch even fast-paced action movies and shows without trouble.
This laptop comes loaded with an Intel Celeron Processor N3060 that runs at 1.60GHz (not the speediest processor on the market but one that’s more than capable of powering everyday tasks), along with the standard 4GB of LPDDR3 memory and a 16GB SSD hard drive. Acer’s Chromebook also has a leg up on the Samsung Chromebook at our number-two spot, since both of its USB ports are USB 3 compatible—meaning you’ll get a bit more bang for your buck when you plug in some of your more demanding peripherals. You also get an HDMI out that can be used to attach a virtually limitless number of external displays.
When it comes to computers and home electronics in general, HP is a ubiquitous and heavily-trusted brand that delivers quality products in sleek and affordable packages. This ultra-lightweight Chromebook is no exception, thanks to a compact design that can be tossed in a bag at a moment’s notice without issue. It packs a super-fast Intel Celeron Dual-Core N3350 Processor that runs at 2.4GHz, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and an abnormally large 32GB SSD hard drive—something that may be useful for those of us who don’t trust the cloud with all of our files.
The 14-inch display on this laptop is also quite impressive, thanks in part to touchscreen compatibility and backlighting that makes it easy to see lighter content even in super-light conditions. You also get an Intel HD graphics card that’s more than capable of rendering movies and TV shows on the go, and a specialized media card reader comes in handy if you’re a photographer or other creative professional who’s tired of constantly having to sync your files between devices on the cloud.
Coming in at just under the $200 mark, this Acer laptop is equivalent in both price and size to Samsung’s Chromebook 3, the laptop that made our runner-up spot. Although the design is a bit more dated, you get a bit more processing power that may come in handy if you need to render larger files or take advantage of speedier download times. It sports an Intel Celeron N3060 Quad-core processor along with 32GB of storage space, and you get two USB ports and an HDMI port for connecting external displays. This Acer iteration also boasts a slightly better battery life at up to twelve hours on a full charge, and the overall build quality seems to be a bit sturdier than the Samsung Chromebook 3.
If you have a bit more cash on hand, you’ll want to check out our list of the best Chromebooks for students at all price ranges!
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