The Best Touchscreen Chromebooks – October 2018
This has been a banner year for Chromebooks, perhaps the best yet when it comes to value, speed, and usability. The addition of Android app support on touchscreen-enabled Chromebooks has made using a Chromebook as your main laptop feasible for plenty of users looking for a basic laptop that does the things you need done well. While the lack of Photoshop support still remains an annoyance for anyone looking to use the Chromebook for creation, anyone looking for a laptop with great battery life, solid performance, and the ability to browse the web will be happy with what’s been supplied here. Though the budget laptop market used to be dominated by terrible Windows laptops that were clunky, heavy, and saddle with low specs and terrible screens, the Chromebook market has made it possible to purchase a $300 or $400 laptop that won’t feel like a compromise. There’s a great Chromebook for nearly every price point imaginable, and if all you need in a computer is a way to write papers, watch Netflix, and browse Facebook or Instagram, a Chromebook is a surprisingly great option.
With Christmas and the rest of the holiday season quickly approaching, it’s the perfect time to get the loved ones in your life a brand new laptop that will make browsing the web a whole lot more enjoyable. Whether you’re shopping for a student, a parent, or anyone else, Google’s lineup of affordable devices can often be just enough functionality to be perfect devices. Touchscreen-equipped Chromebooks mean videos, note-taking, and even light gaming are all a cinch on the device, without having to pay for high-priced premium Windows ultrabooks that are mostly used for similar ideas. And hey, if you’re looking for a premium Chromebook device, we even have some options for you there.
There are so many different models to choose from that picking up a Chromebook today can be a daunting task, especially if you’re going to buy it as a gift for someone else. Which models should you pick up, and which should you avoid? Sit back and relax, because we have you covered. This is our guide to the best touchscreen Chromebooks on the market today.
New to our lineup, the Asus Chromebook Flip C302 doesn’t just enter the competition—it destroys it, instantly topping our list of Chromebooks available today. Not only is the Chromebook Flip the best touchscreen-equipped Chromebook you can buy today, it also happens to be the best Chromebook, period, with great performance, all-day battery life, a premium build, and a price tag that undercuts much of the premium market. First launched earlier this year as the successor to Asus’s original Chromebook Flip, a solid $250 device that was capable of basic browsing but not much else. That product was one of the first to receive the Google Play Store on its build of Chrome OS, and with this C302 model, that device has finally been retired for a product that, while raising the price from the original $249 to nearly double, has managed to become our top recommendation for Chromebooks in general. Let’s take a look at what makes the C302 so special.
The first thing you’ll notice with this product 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 build 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 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, lighter than a 2013 MacBook Air, though not as light as the 2016 and 2017 12″ MacBook models. The laptop is also only half an inch thick, which makes it incredible easy to hold in your hand or carry around in your backpack. The display is a 1080p eDP panel, which looks good, crisp, and colorful, though we’d be lying if we said that the display was better than the screen on the Samsung Chromebook Plus, reviewed below. Still, this laptop screams premium, and considering it’s priced under $500, that’s a good thing.
Let’s talk specs and port selection, because for a Chromebook, this thing is actually pretty well off when it comes to what you need a laptop to do. 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. Though that may feel like limited port selections overall, having USB-C truly future-proofs this device, and even allows it to charge using the same charger as your phone. 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. Outside of that processor, you’ll find 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.
Of course, the specs don’t matter if the day to day usage isn’t good, and we’re happy to say that putting this device through everyday use is a great experience. Asus is no stranger to the Chromebook game; they’ve made good to great Chromebooks for quite some time, and we’re happy to report that this is their best yet. Performance is good, 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.
Speaking of taking notes, it’s important to talk about the “Flip” part of the Chromebook Flip: as with most of the devices on this list, the Flip is capable of turning around 360 degrees to become a tablet of sorts, 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. The Flip, unfortunately, doesn’t feature Android apps out of the box, though it’s easy to switch to the Chrome Beta channel to use the Google Play Store until it makes its way to the stable channel. Chrome OS mostly plays well with Android apps, and support is improving, but despite this program being more than a year old, Play Store apps in Chrome are still occasionally buggy and unpredictable. It’s clear that Google didn’t think porting apps to the platform would be this difficult, but here we are. Regardless, being able to use Play Store apps on a Chromebook with a touchscreen is still better than being stuck with only web apps at your disposal, and we call this a positive overall.
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 iPad Pro 12.9″ is a similar size in body to this device, but weighs more than a pound less than the Chromebook Flip. Part of this can be chalked up to the fact that the device has a keyboard built into the chassis of the Chromebook, but regardless, it’s still a major complaint. 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. It’s unfortunate that the speakers are as bad as they are, and truthfully, few outside of Apple get speakers right on laptops, but these are bad even by Chromebook standards. You’ll want external speakers or headphones for this device.
Despite a few shortcomings, Asus got nearly everything right with the Chromebook Flip C302. The screen is good, the build and design are excellent (even if the machine isn’t so much inspired by Apple’s line of MacBooks as it is directly aping off of them), battery life is solid, and the ability to use Android apps on the device is great. This is the perfect machine for taking to college or keeping around the house as an everyday laptop, and if it weren’t for the speakers, it would be perfect for media consumption (it still is if you’re okay with using headphones). If you’re looking for a Chromebook with a touchscreen, this is the best model to buy today—and frankly, the best Chromebook under $500 we’ve seen so far. If performance is important to you, you could also jump at the Core m5 model of the Chromebook Flip, though at $649 for that iteration, you’re better off saving your money and buying a budget gaming laptop for just a couple hundred dollars extra.
- Great build quality and design
- Good screen
- Solid battery life
- Terrible speakers
- Weight makes tablet mode difficult
We’re big fans of the Chromebook Flip, though for the same $449—and occasionally less, depending on sales through Amazon—the Samsung Chromebook Plus is a great premium Chromebook that goes head to head with the Flip for our favorite device at the moment. Both devices are premium Chrome OS laptops, and which you prefer truly depends on what you’re looking for in a convertible laptop. With an incredible display, built-in stylus support, and solid battery life, the Chromebook Plus is a good alternative for those looking for something a little more note-focused in their Chromebook. Let’s take a look.
Like the metal build on the Flip C302, the Chromebook Plus features a metal body that feels both premium and light in your hand. The silver finish and sandwich-design of the two halves is minimal and attractive, and the device measures in at just half an inch thick, meaning it’ll fit comfortably in your bag without taking up too much room, just as we saw with the Flip. The rounded corners of the design mean it doesn’t feel quite as premium as the Chromebook Flip, but it does feel a bit more friendly in the hand. Opening the laptop reveals the main reason to purchase the Chromebook Plus over its Asus-made competitor: the display.
The Chromebook Plus’s screen boasts a gorgeous LED-lit 2400×1600 display at a 3:2 ratio. It’s one of the best displays you can get on a laptop—any laptop—today, and it’ll make everything from text to videos look crisp and sharp. It’s worth noting the odd aspect ratio will make 16:9 videos display with black bars on the top and bottom of the display, but that’s the trade-off for a better experiencing when browsing websites or reading eBooks. Overall, whether you prefer the traditional display on the Asus Chromebook Flip or the more squared-off display on the Chromebook Plus comes down to personal preference, but in tablet mode, you’ll definitely appreciate the 3:2 ratio of the Chromebook Plus.
On the inside of the device, you’re looking at another Chromebook with 4GB of RAM, and just like with the Flip, we’re happy to see more and more Chromebooks receiving 4GB of RAM as a standard these days. Cheaper Chromebooks typically ship with a measly 2GB, and it just isn’t enough to power ChromeOS above a few open tabs. Unlike the Flip, Samsung chose to ship the Plus with only 32GB of storage, and while that should be enough to tide you over for most tasks on Chrome OS, having double the storage on the Chromebook Flip is certainly a premium. If you need additional room, there’s a microSD card slot available on the device. The Chromebook Plus runs on an ARM processor, similar to the Qualcomm processors found in smartphones and tablets. Despite the mobile-class card, performance is solid on the Chromebook Plus, comparable with most low-end Intel machines. You shouldn’t have any problems keeping tabs open and running in the background—and the ARM processor might even help when it comes to running Android apps.
The keyboard is solid for typing, but unlike what we saw on the Chromebook Flip, the Chromebook Plus doesn’t feature a backlit keyboard. While we understand the cost-cutting measures used on cheaper chromebooks under $300, when you’re paying $449 for something running Chrome OS, you should expect a device that pulls out all the stops. The Flip’s backlit keyboard is a wonderful luxury, and the lack of a backlit keyboard at this price was definitely in consideration when giving the Plus a runner-up spot to Asus’s device—for as great as this laptop is, it become seriously flawed as soon as you try typing in a dim or dark room.
The trackpad is solid, if nothing spectacular. As far as ports go, you might need to invest with some dongles for the Chromebook Plus. Like the Chromebook Flip, they’re both the newer USB-C 3.1 standard. This is great for your devices moving forward, but most of your current hard drives and cables probably have the older USB-A connectors. You’ll need an adapter to use your current cables with the device. There’s also a headphone jack and a charging port on the device, and a webcam above the display.
Let’s talk about the real reason to buy this laptop: the 2-in-1 design of the Chromebook Plus. Just like we saw with the Chromebook Flip, the Chromebook Plus has a 360 degree hinge that allows the device to be set and displayed any way you’d like, making it another great laptop for reading or watching videos. The screen is touch-enabled, of course, so you can tap and draw as you’d like. And yes, Android apps and the Play Store are supported here out of the box, which means you won’t have to switch to the Chrome OS beta to get the Store up and running on your device.
The ARM chip on the Chromebook Plus is beneficial here: Android apps actually run smoother and feature more support on this model than of any Intel-based chip. It’s definitely a great laptop to consider if you’re looking for something to play games or use mobile apps on, while also using the keyboard for notes and documents. The Chromebook Plus actually brings an additional feature here: a stylus. 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. It’s just one great feature the Chromebook Plus offers over something like the Flip.
Overall, we still think the Chromebook Flip just edges out the Chromebook Plus from Samsung as a premium device, thanks to its more-powerful Intel processor, it’s cleaner design, and its backlit keyboard. When it comes to productivity, having a keyboard you can use in low-light situations is a must, and it’s crazy that Samsung missed out on including that in this design. Still, Android apps overall work better on this device than on the Flip, thanks to support from Google, and considering the devices both start at $449, you can make the choice of which device works better for you without having to make too many sacrifices. If stylus support and a 3:2 aspect ratio seem like the way to go, you won’t feel like you missed out on much with the Flip going with this option. But if you value a traditional design and a backlit keyboard, the Samsung Chromebook Plus might be something of a disappointment.
- Thin, metal chassis
- Beautiful, high-res display
- Built-in stylus
- No back-lit keyboard at $449
- Android app support isn't perfect
Once our pick for the best Chromebook you could buy on the market today, the Asus Chromebook R 11 has become a bit more difficult to recommend over 2017. While we once praised the device for its affordability, it’s low-weight, and its general performance, it’s tough to continue to recommend a 1366×768 display in 2017, even if it’s at 11.6″ overall. The laptop is still solid for the money, don’t get us wrong, but with Chromebooks in the $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 touchscreen with good viewing angles
- Thin and light chassis
- Play Store and Android app support
- Display could be sharper
- Android apps still in beta
- No back-lit keyboard
A successor to the smaller Chromebook Flip released in 2015, the C101PA isn’t quite as nice as the $449 model we have at the top of the list, but nevertheless, it’s a nice upgrade over the original version of this laptop we had featured for purchase six months ago on this list. Not a whole lot has changed between the older and newer models, with the device still using a 10.1″: 1280×800 resolution display and an upgraded Rockchip processor, which means it won’t be quite as fast as the Intel m3 in its big brother. The device does support Android apps out of the box, and even features USB-C connectivity like we saw on the 12″ model. It’s relatively thin-and-light, coming in at 2 lbs and just .6″ thick, and still features a traditional USB-A port for your external hard drives. The touchscreen is solid, and performance is faster than you might expect from the ARM-based Rockchip processor, even if it isn’t screaming-fast. At $299, it might be a hard purchase compared to the much-improved 12.5″ version, but nevertheless, if you want a small Chromebook and can deal with the cramped keyboard, this device is ideal.
- Cheap for the featureset
- 4GB of RAM
- Thin and portable
- Small, cramped keyboard
- Less storage than competing Chromebooks
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 $50 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 $400, give this one a look—you won’t regret it.
- 13" 1080p display
- Solid build quality
- Mediocre processor for the price
- Only $50 less than the Chromebook Plus
The Pixel line of devices was born from the Chromebook Pixel, a premium Chromebook device released by Google in 2013 (and refreshed in 2015), before the Pixel name replaced the Nexus program in 2016 entirely. So it only makes sense for Google to reuse the Pixel name for their brand new 2017 edition of their premium Chromebook. Enter the Pixelbook, a glass and metal laptop that looks and feels as premium as its price tag. In many ways, the Chromebook Pixel is the best Chrome OS device you can get on the market today. It has support for both Chrome and Android apps, and unsurprisingly, Google has gone the extra mile in making sure Android apps work great on this device—hell, at the launch event for the Pixelbook in October of 2017, Google made a big deal about the Snapchat support on this device, making it clear that the app has been optimized for this particular Chromebook.
Nearly everything about this laptop represents the best in Chrome OS: a great, backlit keyboard and responsive touchpad; a near-perfect 12.3″ 2400×1600 3:2 display; stylus support; a Core i5 processor, 128GB of storage, and 8GB of RAM; and of course, that incredible Pixel-like glass and metal design. But this is a Chromebook, and paying $999—or more—for this device will be a tough sell for plenty of users, specifically those who need to use apps like Photoshop that just don’t work here. Still, if money’s no object and you want a Chromebook, the Pixelbook is the best device on the market today, without question.
- Incredible design, display, and performance
- Keyboard and glass touchpad are a joy
- Very, very expensive
- Stylus doesn't work well with unoptimized apps
One of the only convertible Chromebooks on the market today, the HP Chromebook x2 is a masterclass in design and performance. Though it’s pretty pricey, starting at $599 and often being sold for $699 or more, the device is a powerful competitor compared to the likes of the iPad Pro or the Surface Pro. 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. Chrome-based tablets are still in their early days, which makes this an early entry into the field, but if you want a new Chromebook and aren’t afraid to spend the money to get it, you should absolutely consider this.
- Convertible design
- Excellent performance and battery life
- Pricey for a Chromebook
- Only 32GB of storage
Our final Chromebook is far from our top pick, but it’s still worth mentioning for the select few who are looking for a touchscreen-equipped Chromebook without a 360 degree hinge. The Dell Chromebook 3120 isn’t anything spectacular: the Intel Celeron N2840 only sports two-cores instead of four, meaning you’re looking at a loss of performance over most other Chromebooks on this list. You do still get 4GB of RAM for solid multitasking, 16GB of internal flash memory, along with two USB ports, an HDMI port, and a webcam, all in a plastic body weighing under 3 lbs and measuring in at .8″ thick. Overall, Dell’s offering here isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been done elsewhere on this list—and better, for that matter—but the device is one of the few touch-enabled Chromebooks that ships without a 360 degree hinge. If you’re someone looking for a small device that doesn’t use flexible hinges to open and wrap around itself, you’ll want to look into the 3120. It’s a bit expensive for the processor and the 1366×768 resolution 11″ display, but for a select audience, it’s a good-enough device for day-to-day use.
- Relatively thin and light
- Ships with 4GB of RAM
- Standard hinge
- A bit expensive compared to competitors
- No 360 hinge might be a turn-off to some