Windows 7 is dead. If you’ve been using it for the last decade but are looking to upgrade, maybe you should consider a Chromebook. Chrome OS has come a long way over the last several years, and the odds are it can do 99 percent of what you’ve been using that old Windows machine for.
Let’s Talk About Your Windows Usage
It’s time to be real with yourself: do you really need Windows? If you just had a knee jerk reaction, shouting “What?! Of course I do!” at your computer screen, I urge you to take a few steps back and really think about your usage. When’s the last time you opened a program that wasn’t Chrome?
If you’re having a hard time remembering, then it may be time to look at a Chromebook. Hell, even if you opened something that wasn’t Chrome, it may be time for a Chromebook. Was it your calendar? What about a calculator? Both of those are available on Chrome OS (along with nearly almost all other basic programs included in Windows).
The truth is that all but the most advanced functions—think photo or video editing, music creation, etc.—are possible in Chrome OS now. Unless you need Photoshop, After Effects, or some other very specific software, then a Chromebook will be your jam. I promise.
Chrome OS Has Come a Long Way
I can hear your cries now—“But Cam, isn’t Chrome OS just a browser?!” Nah, man. That’s a rinse-and-repeat trope from years ago that some people somehow still keep pedaling. Honestly, it’s a load of crap.
Sure, at its core, Chrome OS is based on Chrome—that part is accurate. But it’s also running on a Linux kernel, so it’s more than just a browser. Most modern Chromebooks can even run Android and Linux apps. Collectively, Chrome OS actually has the largest selection of apps on the planet. Wild, right?
Of course, the odds are you won’t even need to break out of the Chrome shell and into things like Linux apps. The fact is that web apps have come a long way over the last few years and there’s a pretty solid chance that you can find what you need to do without ever having to journey outside of the Chrome ecosystem.
There are photo editors, office suites, system tools, and all sorts of other stuff readily available and built on modern web technologies that work great on Chromebooks. And like I said, if you need a specific tool that doesn’t yet have a web counterpart, there’s a good chance you find it as a Linux app—just keep in mind that setting up Linux and installing apps may take a bit of tinkering.
There’s also the point of security for Chromebooks. Chrome OS is essentially impervious to viruses and it’s updated automatically in the background to keep it safe and secure all the time. Now that Windows 7 is officially out of support by Microsoft, each new security hole found is a cause for concern. Do yourself a favor and get an OS without all the worry.
The Best Chromebooks You Can Buy Right Now
If you’re new to this whole Chromebook thing, you’re probably wondering which ones are worth buying and which aren’t. Ultimately, it all depends on what you’re looking for out of a ‘Book. Here are our picks for the best ones you can scoop right now.
The Best Premium Chromebooks: Google Pixelbook or Pixelbook Go
If you’re looking for the best Chromebook you can buy right now, it’s hard to do better than a Google Pixelbook. There are two versions of the Pixelbook available: the original Pixelbook (which has been around since the end of 2017) and the more modern Pixelbook Go. These are two different machines, but they both end up with the same excellent experience.
In terms of hardware, the two devices are pretty similar—you can get either one with Intel processors, 8 or 16GB of RAM, and more than enough storage for a Chrome OS device (a max of 256 GB on the Go and 512 GB on the Pixelbook).
The biggest difference between the two comes in the ways they can be used. The Pixelbook is a fully convertible laptop, so it can be flipped around and used it like a tablet. Its 12.3-inch 3:2 display is well suited to be used as a tablet, but it’s still awkward to feel a keyboard on the backside of the device when in this mode. It also supports the Pixelbook Pen, which is a stylus designed specifically for the Pixelbook.
The Pixelbook Go, on the other hand, is a traditional clamshell laptop. It has a 16:9 touchscreen display, though it doesn’t flip around into a tablet. It also lacks support for the Pixelbook Pen, because why would you need a pen on a laptop? (To be completely honest, the Pen is almost useless anyway. I can’t remember the last time I used mine.)
But wait, there’s a third contender! Announced at CES 2020, the new Samsung Galaxy Chromebook is an absolute beast of a machine and a true Pixelbook competitor. It isn’t available yet, but it will be packed with Intel i-Series chips, up to 16 GB of RAM, and a whopping 1 TB of storage.
The Galaxy Chromebook will ship with an integrated stylus, a 13.3-inch 4K display, and a sexy red finish (it’s also available in gray if you prefer boring things).
So, what about pricing for these things? The Pixelbook starts at $999 and goes up to $1750 (though you can often find it on sale), the Go starts at $650 and goes up to $1400, and the Galaxy Chromebook will start at $1000 with no word on how high it will go.
Any way you go, if you’re looking for a premium piece of kit and don’t mind the price tag, any of these Chromebooks will knock it out of the park.
The Best Midrange Chromebooks: Pixelbook Go or ASUS Chromebook Flip C434
What’s this, a Chromebook listed as the best premium and midrange pick? You betcha—depending on which model you go for, the Pixelbook Go and easily fit into either category.
The base model Go, which has an Intel Core m3 chip, 8 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage, goes for $650. That’s a solid midrange device that offers a lot of bang for the buck. Of course, I also understand that $650 may be slightly stretching the boundaries of what most people consider “midrange.” It’s cool, I understand.
So for you guys, there’s another option for a solid midranger: the ASUS Chromebook Flip C434. This 14-inch device also comes with a Core m3 processor and 64 GB of storage, though it backs the RAM down to 4 GB. Honestly, that’s probably enough for a lot of users, but having more RAM is never a bad thing. Since this one comes in at around $460 (ish—the price fluctuates), you have to ask yourself if it’s worth an extra couple hundred to double the RAM for the Pixelbook Go.
ASUS Chromebook Flip C434 2-In-1 Laptop, 14" Full HD Touchscreen 4-Way NanoEdge, Intel Core M3-8100Y Processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC Storage, All-Metal Body, Backlit KB, Chrome OS- C434TA-DSM4T, Silver
The Flip C434 is a great Chromebook for the money. Probably the best bang for your buck 'Book you can buy right now.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is a version of the C434 with 8 GB of RAM as well, but it’s currently listed for $610. Unless you’re absolutely married to the idea of a convertible device, I’d recommend dropping the extra $40 and getting the Go. I think you’ll be happy that you did.
The Best Budget Chromebooks: Samsung Chromebook 4+ or Lenovo C340
The whole Chromebook ecosystem was built on the budget scene, but now it’s sort of all over the place. It’s hard to pick just one or two budget models, because while there are a lot of great options in the sub-$300 price range, that’s also where you’ll find the biggest compromises.
Still, when it comes down to it, there are a pair of clear winners here. Depending on what you’re looking for, one of these will be the best choice for you. Simply put, if you want a big ol’ Chromebook, the Samsung Chromebook 4+ with its 15.6-inch display is the one for you. If you’re more into portability, the Lenovo C340 with its 11.6-inch panel is your huckleberry. It’s really that simple.
SAMSUNG XE350XBA-K01US Chromebook 4 + Chrome OS 15.6" Full HD Intel Celeron Processor N4000 4GB RAM 32Gb Emmc Gigabit Wi-Fi, Silver
The Samsung Chromebook 4+ is a big Chromebook that comes in at a great price point.
Why is it that simple? Because apart from the display size, these two Chromebooks are pretty damn similar. They’re both powered by an Intel N4000 Celeron processor, have 4 GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. The biggest difference is just in the screen size—if you want a big screen, get the Samsung. If you’re looking for portability, get the Levono. I wish all choices in life were that easy.
Oh, but hold up—let me throw a wrench in all this for you. If you’re really after an ultra-portable experience and also want a tablet, the upcoming Lenovo IdeaPad Duet is the jam. This thing was just announced at CES 2020, and it was my favorite device of the entire show. It’s the Chrome OS equivalent of the Surface Go and it’s so well done I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Seriously.
It won’t be out till May of 2020, but if you don’t mind a bit of a wait, you’ll be able to nab the whole shebang (tablet, stand, and keyboard) for $280. Hell, maybe you can hook it up with a Samsung Chromebook 4+ right now and supplement it with the IdeaPad Duet in a few months. Just a thought.