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If you’re on the market for a fantastic, budget-priced Chromebook in 2021, it’s tough to beat the Lenovo Duet. Designed like a Chrome OS version of Microsoft’s Surface Go, the Duet features a 10.1″ 1920×1200 display with an included keyboard attachment, making this one of the cheapest hybrid devices you can pick up today. In tablet mode, the Duet appears like a fairly standard 10″ tablet, and the 16:10 aspect ratio keeps the device from feeling too wide when holding it in your hand. Slap on the included kickstand cast and the keyboard dock, however, and you’ve got yourself a full-blown laptop, complete with a touchpad for mouse support. Of course, at $300, you shouldn’t expect something on the level of the Surface Pro line of devices. The keyboard and touchpad are both fairly cramped, since the Chromebook itself is so small, and the MediaTek processor is pretty weak for anything other than basic browsing and productivity tools. Still, there’s a ton of positives to this device, including all-day battery life, great color reproduction on the IPS panel, and surprisingly solid duel speakers. Lenovo’s Duet won’t change how you use computers in your day to day life, but for $300, it’s hard to go wrong. The Duet is far from the only Chrome OS tablet you can buy in 2021. Although it’s not on the market yet, Asus’ upcoming CM3000 Chrome OS hybrid has leaked extensively, featuring similar specs and a slightly larger display. It should be out sometime this summer.
There’s nothing flashy about Samsung’s Chromebook 4, and that’s what makes it such an easy recommendation for anyone on a budget. This is a basic laptop, without any of the frills or advancements that come from most of the other Chromebooks on the market today. For many users, a basic device is perfect for their needs. The Chromebook 4 includes either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, along with an Intel Celeron N4000 processors—standard fare for a low-end Chromebook in 2020. The laptop is made of aluminum, and while that leaves the laptop feeling a little cheap compared to the MacBook Airs of the world, it looks much nicer than anything offered from the competition in this price range. Though the screen is only a 720p panel, for an 11.6″ Chromebook, this laptop actually has a pretty good display. An estimated battery life of 12 hours means you can get through the entire day at work or school without having to run for the wall outlet. Overall, the Chromebook 4 from Samsung is nothing special. The keyboard is fine, the trackpad a bit cramped, and the build has a decent amount of flex to it. But the specs you’re getting for just $249 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 buyer should be able to pick one of these up.
HP is no stranger to Chrome OS—in fact, their Chromebook x360 14 is one of the best Chromebooks you can buy today. However, at $629, it’s well out of the price range of a lot of Chromebook buyers. That’s where HP’s Chromebook 14a comes in, an excellent entry-level unit available for well under $300. Competing directly with Samsung’s Chromebook 4, HP’s biggest strength here is the display. At 14″, HP’s Chromebook is basically the perfect size, though you’ll have to put up with a low-res 720p display. Most users in this price range shouldn’t notice, but it’s good to keep in mind before buying. Otherwise, the laptop is pretty comparable to its Samsung rival. Intel’s Celeron N4000 processor shows up here, providing solid performance for browsing and media consumption at an affordable price. 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage are pretty standard for this price range, and should keep your laptop performing smoothly for at least a few years before any noticeable slow down sets in. HP also provides some nice additions here, including B&O-brand speakers along the left and right of the (backlit!) keyboard and fast charging up to 50 percent. At $259, HP’s Chromebook 14a is a solid offering for anyone who can’t make the 11.6″ display included on Samsung’s Chromebook 4 work in daily use. However, this laptop has also dropped as low as $219, and at that price, it’s a total steal. Although we give HP’s Chromebook 14a a solid recommend, it’s worth noting that many users have complained about intermittent Wi-Fi issues during regular use. A Chrome OS update pushed over the summer should’ve fixed that, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Much like HP’s Chromebook 14a, Acer’s Chromebook 14 offers users a much larger display than most affordable Chromebooks—and it does it in style. With a 1080p 14″ display, this is the best screen we’ve featured on this list so far, and while it lacks the minimal bezels offered by the HP Chromebook 14a, doubling the resolution really makes for a better experience in day-to-day use. As for build, 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 some of the competition, Acer’s Chromebook manages to find a sense of style. Powered by an Intel Celeron N3160, the Chromebook 14 is capable of basic browsing and media playback—though it certainly lags behind Intel’s newer N4000. A solid 12-hour battery helps justify the size of the laptop, and 32GB of storage guarantees you can keep some of your favorite movies and shows on the go. The Chromebook 14’s keyboard and trackpad are solid, if unremarkable, 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 if you’re looking for a solid, basic laptop for under $300, this is the one for you.
If the HP Chromebook 14a and Samsung’s Chromebook 4 are competing head to head in both specs and price, the same can be said for Acer’s Chromebook 14 and the Flex 5 from Lenovo. At $405, it is just a bit over our price range, but it’s close enough that we’re including it in this round-up anyway. Although the Flex 5 still includes 4GB of RAM—matching Acer’s model—the Core i3-10110U is a huge step up over the N4000 included in most laptops on this list, let alone the aging N3160 built into the Chromebook 14. Although the 13″ 1080p display isn’t as large as Acer’s model, it does make for a great compromise between screen size and portability, and with the 360-degree hinge, taking notes on the touchscreen is a cinch. The Flex 5 features one of our favorite designs currently available on Chromebooks today. It’s clean and minimal, with a pleasant matte finish that helps block fingerprints from getting picked up. Lenovo’s also added a few premium flourishes that help make it a steal at $400, including a backlit keyboard and front-facing speakers. Despite how great this laptop is, it’s understandable if the slight price hike keeps some people from buying. Still, if you can afford spending just a few extra dollars above our price limit, it’s well worth the upgrade in the long run.
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