Best Chromebook 2021 | Android Central

by Emma

The best Chromebook can provide a top-notch computing experience today and for years to come. They’re perfect for students, grandparents, and anyone looking for a trouble-free laptop with long battery life. We’ve reviewed and rated the absolute best Chromebooks so that you can find the best value at any budget.

Our buyer’s guide will help you find the perfect Chrome OS laptop or tablet if you’re switching from a Windows or Mac or if you’re buying your first laptop entirely.

What are the best Chromebooks you can buy today?

The beauty of the Chromebook market is that there are so many options to choose from. If you want something specifically for portability and battery life, there are numerous dependable choices. Similarly, if you don’t plan to move it from a desk and would prefer a big, beautiful display and plenty of CPU power to back it up, there are lots of options for you, too.

Our top pick is the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook, which hits all of the right markets for a laptop, including build quality, performance, battery life, and longevity — all for a very fair price. The only problems with the Flex 5 were that it’s been selling out very quickly over the last few months (though supply seems to have stabilized) — and that it doesn’t have an 8GB RAM option for those who are more demanding on their system.

Best Chromebook 2021 | Android Central

If you want an 8GB Chromebook that looks fabulous and won’t break the bank, grab the Acer Chromebook Spin 713, which will run you a little more money but comes with a brighter 2K screen in a 3:2 aspect ratio. As a Project Athena Chromebook, the Spin 713 is powerful enough for gaming and running virtualization software like Parallels. Not everyone will need it, but if you do, this is the one to beat.

On the more compact and lightweight side of things, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is an excellent companion device. At the same time, the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is a perfect 11.6-Inch Chromebook for students and light on-the-go work.

1. Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5

Best Chromebook Overall

Bottom line: With a powerful 10th Gen Intel Core i3 chip, a beautiful 13-inch 1080p touchscreen, backlit keyboard, and remarkably reasonable price, the Flex 5 is a great Chromebook for just about everyone. Despite a slim and lightweight build, the Flex 5 has a 360-degree hinge for easy conversion to tent or tablet mode, along with upward-firing stereo speakers and support for both USI Stylus and Wi-Fi 6 for power-users.

CategoryLenovo Chromebook Flex 5
Display size13.3-inch 1080p IPS touchscreen
CPUIntel Celeron 5205U / Intel Core i3
RAM4GB
Storage32-128GB
Battery life10 hours
Ports2x USB-C, 1x USB-A, microSD, audio combo jack
Weight3 lbs
ColorsGraphite Grey
Other featuresWi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, 720p camera, 45W charger
Auto Update Expiration date (AUE)June 2028

Pros

  • Compact design
  • USI Stylus compatibility
  • Loud upward-facing speakers
  • Backlit keyboard

Cons

  • Limited configuration options
  • No 8GB RAM option

The best Chromebook you can buy isn’t necessarily the most powerful or the most expensive. It combines many features into a compact body that will appeal to almost all Chromebook users, from novices to experts, students to professionals. If your next laptop is here to work hard (and play harder), check out our favorite Chromebook on the market today, the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook. Barely more significant than an 11.6-inch Chromebook — the Flex 5 has the best blend of value and performance around at both dimensions and price.

The bezels around the Flex 5’s 1080p screen are pretty slim — just enough for you to grip when flipping between laptop, stand, and tablet modes. That means you’ll get a compact laptop with a big enough screen for quite comfortable split-screening. You’ll also get a backlit keyboard that’s comfortable enough to type on for 10 hours a day — it’s what I’m using to write this right now — and sitting on either side of the keyboard are speakers that will get nice and loud (though a bit tinny when you start blaring). The best Chromebook offers power and productivity for less.

This version comes with Intel’s latest 10th Generation i3 processor along with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, plenty of power for today’s complex business tasks. Like many of the newer Chromebooks on this list, the Flex 5 comes with two USB 3.1 Type-C ports and a single legacy USB-A port, as well as a MicroSD slot for expandable storage and a headphone jack. You get Wi-Fi 6 for faster, more reliable connectivity — and Bluetooth 5.0, so your headset won’t drop out as often — and the 45W charging brick in the box tops the 52.5Whr battery in just 90 minutes.

Chrome OS was built to run well on modest hardware, so things are smooth and stable on the Flex 5’s mid-range hardware. While we’re not thrilled, there aren’t more extensive storage and memory sizes. Would it kill Lenovo to offer 8GB models?! All that aside, there’s very little to otherwise complain about here. 4GB has been enough for all the work I’ve done, even when I’ve had multiple windows and Android apps open.

When I initially agreed to review the Flex 5, it didn’t seem all that amazing on paper, especially compared to the Project Athena Chromebooks that have come out in the last year. Once I’d spent a few days with it, though, the Flex 5 had utterly won me over. It’s more than the sum of its parts — and way more than its modest price tag would have you believe.

One purchasing note to keep in mind: Lenovo does sell some Celeron versions of the Flex 5, but I highly highly recommend the Intel Core i3 model instead. It will be more capable and will fare better during long sessions of schoolwork or actual work. If you can find a model with 8GB of RAM, that’s also a worthy upgrade, but it’s harder to come by. Its replacement, the Flex 5i, is also starting to trickle out, but not the Intel Core models we’d recommend — yet. Hopefully, those are coming soon, but until then, the Flex 5 is a darn good Chromebook that will serve you well for years. Read our full Lenovo Flex 5 review now.

Best Chromebook overall

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5

Lenovo already knows how to make a great small Chromebook, and with just a few minor upgrades, it makes a Chromebook that can please just about everybody.

2. Acer Chromebook 713

Best Chromebook for gaming & performance

Bottom line: If you need performance and power in your Chromebook, you’ll want to look at a Project Athena Chromebook so that you know it’s powerful, fast, and secure. This 13.5-inch 2-in-1 outdoes the rest of the current Project Athena crop in ports, durability, and value, giving you a robust laptop for hundreds less than its competitors. There’s even an HDMI port built-in for professionals who constantly hooks up to external monitors or the projector in the conference room.

CategoryAcer Chromebook 713
Display size13.5-inch 2256x1504px 3:2 touchscreen
CPUIntel Core i3 / i5 / i7
RAM8-16GB
Storage64-256GB
Battery life10 hours
Ports1x USB-A, 2x USB-C, HDMI, microSD, audio combo jack
Weight3 lbs
ColorsSilver
Other featuresProject Athena certified, backlit keyboard, 720p webcam, 45W charger
Auto Update Expiration date (AUE)June 2028

Pros

  • Powerful futureproof specs
  • Bright 3:2 screen for productivity
  • HDMI port built-in

Cons

  • Speakers aren’t great
  • Limited availability

Like the Acer Spin 13 before it, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is one of the most potent Chromebooks out there that doesn’t just go completely overboard in terms of price. Project Athena is a program started by Intel working with manufacturers to produce laptops that will be fast, powerful, and reliable. So, as a Project Athena Chromebook, there’s an expectation of speed and power that the Spin 713 absolutely delivers on.

Premium performance without an ultra-premium price tag.

Even with dozens of tabs open and a couple of Android apps, this Chromebook keeps cruising along, though the fan may kick on from time to time — yes, the i5 processor here needs a fan to keep it terrific once you really get it going. The laptop’s bottom doesn’t heat up too much, so you can still use it in your lap pretty quickly, but you will hear the fan now and then.

Acer differed the Chromebook Spin 713 from the first two Project Athena Chromebooks in two ways. Firstly, you actually have more than the USB-C ports. There’s also a USB-A port and an HDMI port on the 713, which means that you aren’t scrambling for a USB-C hub immediately. Secondly, while there are some more pricey configurations if you want an i7, the standard i5/8GB/128GB model is an entirely reasonable price — and it’s even more affordable for the newly released $700 Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (3W), which adds Thunderbolt 4 and upgrades to 11th Gen Intel processors.

The 3:2 aspect ratio on the Acer Chromebook Spin 713’s screen is something many professionals swear by on their work machines. That aspect ratio isn’t as fun for watching movies, but it’s great for seeing more data on your screen at a time, especially while split-screening, and the 2K resolution gives you a more crisp image. USI stylus support also means you can use a better Chromebook style for sketching and signing on that vibrant screen.

Best Chromebook for gaming & performance

Acer – Chromebook Spin 713

If you’re someone who loves a 3:2 screen and a beefy, beefy processor to power it, this Project Athena Chromebook is for you.

3. Lenovo Chromebook Duet

Best Chromebook tablet

Bottom line: If you want a tablet that offers up the best of Google’s services and software without instantly falling behind on software updates the way Android tablets do, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is the perfect couch companion that can pull double-duty as a light-duty laptop. At the same time, your kids co-opt the family desktop.

CategoryLenovo Chromebook Duet
Display size10.1-inch 400 nits 1920x1200px touchscreen
CPUMediatek Helio P60T
RAM4GB
Storage64-128GB
Battery life10 hours
Ports1x USB-C (USB 2.0 + DP)
Weight0.94 lb (tablet only) / 2.03 lbs (with cover & keyboard)
ColorsTwo-tone Ice Blue and Iron Grey
Other featuresUSI Stylus compatibility, Included kickstand and detachable keyboard, 10W charger (max charging speed 18W)
Auto Update Expiration date (AUE)June 2028

Pros

  • Excellent battery life
  • Kickstand and keyboard included
  • Bright 1080p screen for comics and videos

Cons

  • Too small for some
  • Only one USB-C port

Lenovo first debuted the Duet at CES, and it gave us hope that we might see a Chromebook tablet finally done right. The Lenovo Chromebook Duet has a battery that goes on and on and on, especially if you’re just doing some reading and casual games, and the screen is nice and bright for videos and comics. The specs say the battery lasts 10 hours, but I’ve averaged 10-12 hours on an average charge.

The detachable keyboard can feel cramped if you’re using it for hours and hours on end — if you have larger hands, you’ll probably want to invest in a full-size keyboard for your desk to use instead for stationary use — but as a companion device or a couch computer, the Duet is perfect. The screen is bright, videos are crisp, and comics look lovely. The speakers are a bit on the quiet side, but as a slim 10-inch tablet, I’m okay with pairing headphones or a Bluetooth speaker to it for YouTube binges.

Since the day pre-orders opened, the Duet has been very, very hard to find in stock, so if this seems like the Chromebook for you, you’ll want to check back early and often to see if the store has just been refreshed. It’s worth the wait for a Chromebook tablet that’s affordable, reliable, and fully accessorized out of the box, having learned from the Google Pixel Slate’s mistakes.

There’s only one port on the Duet, one single USB-C port, so you’ll want to use Bluetooth for headphones and leave the port free for charging. The lack of a headphone jack is not a huge loss, but some will be turned off by it; I’m more disappointed there isn’t a USB-C port on both sides the way that basically every Chromebook released in the last two years has.

It’s worth mentioning that the charger in the box here is a piddly little 10W USB-A charger — Hey, Lenovo had to cut costs somewhere — so you’ll likely want to swap that out for an 18W Power Delivery charger instead. The Duet still charges in less than 90 minutes, but I wish it at least had 30W charging instead of the same 18W charging that most phones use.

Since there’s no microSD slot for expanding the internal storage, do yourself a favor and buy the 128GB version if you intend to download lots of videos and comics for those holiday trips home to see the family.

Read our full Lenovo Chromebook Duet review now.

Best Chromebook tablet

Lenovo Chromebook Duet – 10.1″

The Duet finally gives us the kind of Google tablet we’ve wanted for a decade. It comes with a keyboard for when you need it, but it works well all independently.

4. Acer Chromebook Spin 311 (CP311-3H)

Best compact Chromebook

Bottom line: 11.6-inch Chromebooks still make up a massive section of the Chromebook market, and the best blend of power, portability, and price to be found right now is the latest generation of the Acer Chromebook Spin 311. It sheds ports in exchange for lighter weight and battery that will go all day and then some.

CategoryAcer Chromebook Spin 311 (CP311-3H)
Display size11.6-inch 1366x768px IPS touchscreen
CPUMediaTek MT8183C
RAM4GB
Storage32-64GB
Battery life14 hours
Ports1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, audio combo jack
Weight2.65 lbs
ColorsPure Silver
Other features720p camera, 45W charger
Auto Update Expiration date (AUE)June 2028

We highly recommend purchasing the 64GB configuration due to the lack of a MicroSD slot. Without a MicroSD slot, you can’t expand the internal storage without using the one and only USB-C port to plug in a flash drive.

Pros

  • Compact design
  • Good build quality
  • Long-term support

Cons

  • Limited ports / no microSD slot
  • No 8GB RAM option

Usually, when you’re shopping for a new laptop, it’s easy to get caught up in specs and end up buying the most giant, most powerful laptop you can afford. However, for Chromebooks, that isn’t necessarily going to get you a better experience. Big screens and fancy features are all well and good, but most of the time, when I leave my apartment to do some writing in a brighter and more fun atmosphere, I bring a lightweight 11.6-inch Chromebook like the Acer Chromebook Spin 311.

Acer slimmed down the sides of the 311 and pared down on ports while it was at it. However, you still get a USB-C port for 45W Power Delivery charging as well as using hubs, adapters, and external monitors, a USB-A port for legacy peripherals like wired keyboards and old flash drives, and a 3.5mm audio combo jack. You may have noticed that list did not include a microSD slot, a rarity for a Chromebook in this price range, and yeah, it’s weird that we don’t have one. But at least we have a 64GB version if you care about storage.

This new model is also slated for almost eight years of Chrome OS updates, with an AUE date of June 2028. It’s lightweight and highly portable, easy to slide into a bag as you move from meeting to meeting, and quick to wake back up once you get where you’re going. The bezels around the screen are significant, but they come in handy when you flip it over into tablet mode, and the keyboard is easy to type on for hours at a time.

Speaking of hours at a time, Acer says that this Chromebook can last up to 16 hours in its spec sheet, and with actual work use, I usually get 12-14 hours on a single charge depending on how much I crank up the screen brightness.

Best compact Chromebook

Acer Chromebook Spin 311 (CP311-3H)

While light on ports, the next-gen 311 still has enough power and storage in a friendly, lightweight package.

5. ASUS Chromebook Flip C536

Best balanced Chromebook

Bottom line: Good things come in oversized packages, too. This 15.6-inch Chromebook offers a great blend of striking design, consistent performance, and durable reliability at a more than reasonable price. You have 8GB of RAM for better multitasking and a nicely backlit keyboard with a number pad for late-night number-crunching.

CategoryASUS Chromebook Flip C536
Display size15.6-inch 1080p touchscreen with USI support
CPU11th Gen Intel Core i3
RAM8-16GB
Storage128-512GB SSD
Battery lifeUp to 12 hours
Ports1x USB-A, 2x USB-C, HDMI 2.0, microSD, audio combo jack
Weight4.30 lbs
ColorsImmersive White
Other featuresBacklit keyboard, 720p camera, 45W charger
Auto Update Expiration date (AUE)June 2029

Pros

  • Extra-large touchscreen and trackpad
  • Good backlit keyboard
  • Good battery for a large laptop

Cons

  • Heavy
  • New with fewer sales

ASUS is one of the most well-known Chromebook manufacturers and has been since day one. What sets the company apart from the competition is focusing on creating a premium hardware experience in as affordable and compact a package as possible. While there’s only so much you can do to slim down a 15.6-inch laptop, ASUS did wonders with the ASUS Chromebook Flip C536.

Within the crisp white shell sits an obsidian abyss, illuminated by a 15.6-inch 1080p touchscreen where you can quickly spread out two or three windows as you rush to get all your work done by the weekend. The 2-in-1 design here means you can flip the laptop over into tablet or stand mode while you’re working, but the only time I did that was when I wanted to use the touchscreen while at my standing desk. After all, a 15-inch tablet is just too unwieldy, but stand mode will let you prop up the screen at a nice angle if you’re having a movie marathon in bed.

That nice big screen is matched by a giant glass trackpad and a full keyboard with a number pad. The keyboard is softly backlit, which is helped by the high contrast between the black keys and white lettering. If you do a lot of typing, you won’t be disappointed by the keyboard on the ASUS C536.

Powering this supersized Chromebook is an 11th Gen Intel Core i3 with 8GB of RAM, and that extra RAM will come in handy if you need to keep multiple tabs or windows running during a video call. ASUS also has i5 and i7 models of the C536, but I’ve yet to find any of them on sale yet.

You get a USB-C port on each side (USB 3.2 Gen 2) along with HDMI 2.0, USB-A (also USB 3.2 Gen 2), microSD, and audio combo jack. You’ll have little use for the microSD port, given that it has 128GB of SSD storage inside, but it’s always nice to have options, I suppose.

This model just debuted this summer, so there haven’t been many sales on it yet, but I’m sure they’ll start coming as we get closer to the holiday shopping season. That said, for the build quality, latest-gen processor, long support life, and that large screen, the regular price is quite reasonable.

Best balanced Chromebook

ASUS Chromebook Flip C536

With a stylish two-tone design and a crisp 15.6-inch touchscreen, this big-screen Chromebook will serve you for years to come.

6. ASUS Chromebook Flip C214

Best Chromebook for students

Bottom line: Lightweight and portable, the ASUS Chromebook Flip C214 is one of the most versatile Chromebooks out there. It’s got a spill-resistant keyboard and has been Mil-STD 810G certified, which means a drop from a bag or table won’t hurt it, making it perfect for a student of any age. Plus, the included stylus makes it school-friendly!

CategoryASUS Chromebook Flip C214
Display size11.6-inch 1366x768px touchscreen
CPUIntel Celeron N4000
RAM4GB
Storage32GB
Battery life12 hours
Ports2x USB-C, 1x USB-A, microSD, Audio combo jack
Weight2.6 lbs
ColorsBlack
Other features720p camera, 45W charger, optional built-in stylus
Auto Update Expiration date (AUE)June 2026

Pros

  • Durable, drop-resistant build
  • Spill-resistant keyboard
  • Built-in stylus (on some models)
  • 360-degree hinge

Cons

  • Limited storage options
  • Almost two years old

The 11.6-inch ASUS Chromebook Flip C214 folds completely flat into a tablet with a high-strength zinc alloy hinge that shouldn’t wear out no matter how hard your kid — or you — are on it. With a channeled, spill-resistant keyboard, dropping a drink on it shouldn’t immediately send you to a repair store, just to the kitchen for a cloth.

ASUS has several student-friendly features on the C214, including a fully-articulating hinge, a built-in stylus on the premium model, and plenty of ports for plugging in accessories. The main draw here, though, is how portable the laptop is: it can fit in the smallest of backpacks, making it perfect for kids starting out bringing a computer to school.

You’re also going to get a very school-friendly battery life of around 12 hours of use, which should get most people through an entire day. Even better, ASUS has thought of every use case, adding a rubberized grip to the edges of the C214, ensuring that clumsy hands won’t drop it while toting it around the classroom, and the anti-scratch coating should keep it from looking too scuffed after months and years of constant attention.

There are only 4GB of RAM, which should be just fine for everyday homework and research. I would try to keep tab-switching while on video calls under control, but 4GB should be enough for most kids’ workloads. 8GB would be better, but there’s no option for it in this generation. Maybe in the next version.

The other problem facing the C214 isn’t a product issue. It’s a market issue. This year’s surge in distance learning and working from home led to a run on education-grade Chromebooks, so while you can find the C214 pretty easily, chances are the price will be marked up about $50-$100 by resellers. It’s a captive market, and resellers are taking full advantage, but I wouldn’t go higher than $450 for the non-stylus version or $500 for the stylus version.

ASUS debuted the C214 in 2019, so we’re also due for a refreshed model soon. Hopefully, prices will stabilize at that point, but given the C214’s popularity, it might sell out entirely first.

Best Chromebook for students

ASUS Chromebook Flip C214 (C214MA-YS02T)

Durable, dependable, and ready for the classroom, the ASUS Chromebook Flip C214 is built to withstand the abuse of a younger user.

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