The Best Touchscreen Chromebooks [January 2020]
Chromebooks continue to be one of the best values in tech, offering great speed, performance, and reliability for often well under the price of a competing Windows laptop. Though Chrome OS started out as a simple browser, these devices have continued to grow in maturity over the last several years. From apps and games to file browsers and even some Adobe app support, Chrome OS has come a long way in terms of its usefulness, completely dominating the budget market for laptops and replacing the terrible, clunky Windows laptops of last decade. 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 the arrival of a new year, it’s the perfect time to get yourself a brand new laptop that will make browsing the web a whole lot more enjoyable. Whether you’re shopping for yourself, 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. 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.
Released back in October of last year, the Pixelbook Go is Google’s first traditional Chromebook in two years. Replacing the original Pixelbook—one of the best touchscreen Chromebooks ever made, in the eyes of many—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.
- Great speakers and keyboard
- Premium build
- Solid pricing
- No expandable storage
- No 3:2 aspect ratio
- Doesn't fold 360 degrees
Asus has constantly made some of our favorite Chromebooks, having held the top position of this always-updated guide since 2017. Despite Google taking our top spot with its excellent Pixelbook Go, the C302 remains one of the best Chromebooks you can buy today. With the addition of the larger C434, Asus’ Flip series continues to be one of our favorites for Chrome OS, and you should definitely take a look at both devices before committing to the Pixelbook. Let’s take a look at both the C302 and C434 in this dual review.
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 2020, but they are some of the best.
- Great build quality and design
- Good screen
- Solid battery life
- Terrible speakers
- Weight makes tablet mode difficult
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 2020. 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
- No backlit keyboard at $400
- Android app support isn't perfect
- Below average speakers
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 2020, 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 touchscreen with good viewing angles
- Thin and light chassis
- Play Store and Android app support
- 720p display in 2020
- 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 C100PA 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
- 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 $50, 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 $350, give this one a look—you won’t regret it.
- 13" 1080p display
- Solid build quality
- Mediocre processor for the price
- Better options for just a bit more cash
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. Nearly two years 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 that features the design of something like Microsoft’s Surface Pro, HP’s convertible is a great option to consider.
- Convertible design
- Excellent performance and battery life
- Only 32GB of storage
- Chrome OS still buggy on tablets