When you think of a laptop, your mind probably turns to a shiny new MacBook Pro, or perhaps one of the nicer PC models that are growing in both power and size. These computers are doubtlessly awesome, and pack a serious punch that makes it easier than ever for creative professionals to craft everything from professional-level movies to chart-topping pop hits in the comfort of their own living room.
The reality, however, is that most of us simply don’t need that much processing power to get through the day, and we’re dishing out way more money than we should be on admittedly awesome-looking products that do far more than we need. For the average person who uses their laptop to surf the Web, send emails, and watch the occasional Netflix show, there are far more affordable laptop computers that can handle these tasks perfectly well. These machines are called Chromebooks, and they’re upending the personal computer market in new and exciting ways. You can think of these tiny-yet-mighty laptops as being little more than a powerful web browser with a trackpad and a keyboard—or perhaps a large-screen extension of your smartphone.
Perfectly suitable for almost all of the day-to-day tasks that we demand from the Internet, these laptops are an ideal choice when it comes to getting work done on a commute, on vacation, or even in the office whenever you require a little less firepower to get the job done. Of course not all Chromebooks are created equal, and several prominent companies have scrambled to create their own version of Google Chrome’s famed infrastructure. So before you go and select that good-looking Chromebook you’ve been eyeing online, check out our list of the best Chromebooks that you can buy for less than $400.
When it comes to high-quality, affordable computers than can stand the test of time, ASUS seems to reign supreme. This wasn’t always the case, however. In the not so distant past, this company tended to be associated with cheap gear that couldn’t compete with the likes of some of the more household-name brands on the market. But those days are over, and now more and more people are flocking to ASUS products in order to lock down increasingly powerful and affordable gadgets for both work and play.
This ASUS Chromebook has earned rave reviews online for delivering a surprising amount of power and punch in a supremely portable package. This particular model boasts a 15.6-inch HD display that features anti-glare NanoEdge technology, along with a specialized coating that reduces reflections. The display is mounted on a durable 180-degree hinge that can be laid flat in order to share content easily with friends or coworkers, and you won’t have to worry about overextending the hinge thanks to a handy fail-safe tilt feature.
The heart of this machine is an Intel Dual-Core Celeron N3350 Processor that offers fast and snappy performance, and you get 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage along with USB-C and USB-A ports—meaning you’ll be able to attach a wide range of peripherals on the go. Like all Chromebooks, this laptops runs the famed Chrome OS, which features built-in virus protection, automatic updates, fast boot times, and a smooth interface that can carry out virtually any every-day task you can throw its way. And since Google runs the OS, you get all the Google apps you know and love preinstalled—meaning you’ll be able to easily edit and convert Microsoft Office files in Google Docs, build presentations, craft letters, and much more.
You also get built-in storage for offline access to your most important files and an additional 100GB of Google Drive space to ensure that all of your files are backed up automatically.We were also impressed with the battery life of this ASUS model, which can last for up to 10 hours on a single charge.
- Great value for the price
- Efficient processor
- Solid design
- 720p display
- Poor speaker quality
Deciding between the ASUS C523NA and this Lenovo C330 for our number-one spot was no easy task. These two laptops are surprisingly similar in both form and function, and come in at an almost identical price point. And in many ways, these two machines are interchangeable when it comes to performance. Still, there are a few things that make this Chromebook stand apart. Unlike the ASUS, this laptop sports a MediaTek MT8173C Processor, which isn’t quite as reputable as an Intel chip but provides more than enough power to get through most common tasks.
It comes packed with 4GB of RAM to carry out everyday jobs like Web-surfing and email, and eMMC storage technology means that it boots up quickly and efficiently, even if you’re already running a series of power-hungry programs. One feature of this laptop that may entice some potential buyers is its design, which is uniquely sleek and stylish and features a 360-degree screen swivel that makes it incredibly easy to turn your laptop into a full-fledged tablet.There’s a touch display that’s both intuitive and responsive, along with a series of inputs and outputs (all USB) that provide for streamlined connectivity.
Since this Chromebook sports the usual Chrome OS, you get all of the apps and safety features you’d expect, along with a series of tweaks that ensure you won’t have to endure any crashes if your computer fails to run third-party apps.
Bottom line: If you treasure raw processing power and reputation over 360-degree swivel technology, you may want to opt for the ASUS at out number-one spot. If, on the other hand, you love the look and feel of a convertible laptop that can instantly be transformed into a tablet, look no further than this Lenovo Chromebook.
- 360-degree hinge
- Charges over USB-C
- Clean white design
- Weaker processor
- Small keyboard
Where would a reasonable tech gadget list be without an HP device? Having earned its reputation for churning out some of the most reliable and competent laptops and desktops known to man, HP understandably forced its way into the Chromebook revolution by making some of the best streamlined laptops on the market. This HP Chromebook is perhaps their most affordable model, and it has everything you need in order to carry out your normal laptop needs with ease. Loaded with an AMD Dual-Core A4-9120 processor that can be notched up to 2.5GHz, this laptop features impressive speakers (designed by B&O PLAY) and a screen that can be rotated up to 180-degrees.
The display itself offers fantastic resolution and contrast (more than enough for enjoying a movie or show) thanks to WLED-backlit touchscreen technology, and you get the standard 4GB of SDRAM memory that lets you multitask with ease. There’s a 32GB hard drive (which is more than enough space on a Chromebook, since you’ll mostly be uploading to the cloud anyway), and the battery boasts a more than impressive lifespan of up to nine hours on a single charge. And of course you get all the bells and whistles that come with the pre-installed Google Chrome OS as well.
- Incredibly cheap
- Good speakers
- Weak processor
- Sometimes freezes up
Edging things up in price just a bit, we come to this extremely competent and stylish Samsung Chromebook Plus, which features a streamlined and minimalist design that looks and feels slightly more rugged than the designs of many of its competitors. The first thing you’ll likely notice about this laptop is that it’s incredibly lightweight—coming in at just under three pounds—meaning that this is a very popular option among frequent travelers who need to work on the go without weighing themselves down.
You can easily fold it into tablet mode for comfortable viewing and browsing, and there’s even a built-in pen that makes it easier than ever to write, sketch, edit, magnify, and even take screenshots of whatever you’re working on. A dual camera feature also lets you capture clear shots and even zoom in for a closer look with a revolutionary 13MP world-facing camera with autofocus, and you’ll be able to automatically upload your work to a variety of cloud platforms supported by Google. You also get a whopping 32GB of built-in storage that you can expand to up to 400GB using a microSD card.
All in all, if this laptop were perhaps $100 cheaper, it would have easily topped our list.
- Great display
- Stylus included
- Keyboard not backlit
We’ve already featured a Chromebook from Asus, so it only makes sense to showcase one from their main rivals at Acer. This Acer Chromebook gives all the other Chromebooks a run for their money by offering a respectable amount of processing power and functionality in an extremely lightweight and portable package. With a supremely fast boot time, this laptop gives you all of the power and benefits that are inherent to the Google Chrome OS (including direct access to over two-million Android apps from Google Play), along with an additional 100GB of Google Drive space that you can use to back up everything from media files to small documents.
This Chromebook features a super-fast Celeron N3350 Dual-Core Processor (which can run at up to 2.4GHz), and comes with a brilliant 14” HD screen that’s more than suitable for watching movies—even in less-than-ideal lighting conditions, thanks to an LED backlit display. Another standout feature of this laptop is its uniquely long battery life, with a max span of up to twelve hours on a single charge. It’s not quite as good as the Asus in our top recommendation, but it’s a solid laptop nonetheless.
- Great display
- Solid processor
- On the expensive side
- Trackpad can get loose
Samsung’s Chromebook Plus V2 is a great option if you have the money, but at nearly half the price, their new Chromebook 4 is a much cheaper option for those on a budget. This is a basic laptop, without any of the frills or advancements that come from the V2. For many users, a basic device is perfect for their needs. The Chromebook 4 comes with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, along with an Intel Celeron N4000 that is actually one of the newest chips on this list. The laptop is made of aluminum, and although it feels a bit cheap, it actually looks much nicer than anything we’ve seen from the competition at 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. Performance should be good between the improved processor and the RAM, and a 15″ version is also available if you’re looking for something a little bigger. The price of the Chromebook 4 fluctuates a lot, which means you can sometimes get the model with 6GB of memory for under $230. If you’re able to find it that cheap, it’s well worth a look. And of course, with all the niceties afforded to you you get all the bells and whistles that come with the pre-installed Google Chrome OS as well.
- Great value
- Newest Celeron processor
- Low-res screen
- Aluminum feels kinda cheap