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Why Are Some Chromebooks So Expensive?

A photo of Samsung's Galaxy Chromebook.

Chromebooks are often thought of as “cheap” or “entry-level” machines. So what’s with this new crop of $1,000 Chromebooks, like the Pixelbook? It sounds like a difficult question, but the answer is simple. Like expensive smartphones or Windows laptops, high-end Chromebooks are faster, stronger, and more enjoyable to use than their cheaper counterparts.

Call me Captain Obvious, right? Well, in order for the “expensive Chromebooks are just better” answer to feel satisfying, we need to discuss why the average Chromebook costs just $200 or $300, and we need to dispel the myth that Chromebooks are “just a browser in a box.”

Let’s Flip the Question: Why Are Most Chromebooks Cheap?

Unlike Windows or macOS, Chrome OS is built to be as lightweight as possible. This means that, even on a low-spec machine, you can expect Chrome OS to be snappy, reliable, and beautifully energy efficient.

As everybody knows by now, cheap Windows laptops are not snappy, reliable, or energy efficient. They’re frustrating to use, they crap out under pressure, and they suffer from abysmal battery life. Even if you love your $300 Windows laptop, you can’t deny that a similarly priced Chromebook, with its fast performance, light build, and 8 to 10-hour battery life, is a tempting morsel.

That is unless you’re stuck on the idea that Chromebooks are just a browser in a box. This longstanding myth is probably the main reason why high-end Chromebooks, like the Pixelbook, are so rare. People simply refuse to believe that a Chromebook could replace their big boy laptop.

Chrome OS can’t do everything. It can’t run AAA video games, and it doesn’t work with professional software like Photoshop. But Chrome OS, which runs on a Linux kernel, is more than just a browser. Between running web apps, Linux software, and Android apps, Chrome OS actually supports a larger selection of apps than any other operating system. Many of these apps are built for things like productivity and photo editing, and when you can’t find an app that you need, there’s usually a browser-based alternative.

All in all, people think of Chromebooks as cheap “starter” machines because they’re more efficient than Windows laptops, yet limited for some gamers and professionals. Silly, right? But if Chrome OS works so well on cheap machines, then what’s the point in buying one that costs $1,000?

A Favorite Budget Chromebook

Acer Chromebook 514, CB514-1H-C0FF, Intel Celeron N3350, 14" Full HD, 4GB LPDDR4, 32GB eMMC, Backlit Keyboard, Google Chrome

The Acer Chromebook 514 sports modern specs, a large screen, and USB-C charging. It's a great example of why many customers are migrating from budget Windows laptops to Chromebooks.

High-End Hardware Offers the Best Experience

A photo of the Google Pixelbook.

Again, Chrome OS works well on cheap devices. If you’re shopping for a laptop on a budget, then a Chromebook is probably your best option. But that doesn’t mean that expensive Chromebooks are a “bad deal.” The extra money that you spend on something like a Pixelbook simply amplifies everything that’s great about Chrome OS.

Let’s do a quick comparison. The popular Acer Chromebook 514, a device that costs less than $400, runs on an Intel Celeron N3350 processor, 4 GBs of RAM, and a 32 GB eMMC drive. It has a 14-inch 1080p display, and it charges by USB-C. All in all, it’s a solid modern laptop.

But let’s say that you spend around $900 on the base model Pixelbook. For that price, you get a 7th Gen i5 processor that’s four times faster than the Celeron N3350, along with 8 GBs of RAM, and a 128 GB SSD that supports faster boot and load times than an eMMC drive. You also get a razor-thin convertible body, a 2400 x 1600 12.3-inch touchscreen display, stylus support, and fast charging.

It’s hard to overstate the difference between these laptops. In the end, the Pixelbook will always work faster and offer a better user experience than the budget Acer option. And since it’s loaded with crazy hardware, it’s poised to work at full steam for years. Hell, it may stand as a better long-term investment than cheaper Chrome OS alternatives.

Think of it like this: The Android operating system runs fine on $100 smartphones, but phones that cost $500, $800, or even $1,000 offer an infinitely better user experience. They’re fast, they have beautiful builds and displays, and they last a lot longer than their cheap counterparts. Why not think of Chromebooks in the same way?

The Flagship Chromebook

Google Pixelbook (i5, 8 GB RAM, 128GB) (GA00122-US)

The Google Pixelbook comes in a variety of configurations, and offers the highest quality experience of any Chromebook.

Should You Buy a High-End Chromebook?

A photo of the Pixelbook Go.
Justin Duino / Review Geek

We’ve written a few laptop-shopping guides in the past. But this article raises an interesting question: Should you bust open your piggy bank for a high-end Chromebook?

As we’ve mentioned countless times, there’s a ton of high quality affordable Chromebooks on the market. There’s the Acer Chromebook 514, the Dell Chromebook 3120, and the mid-range Lenovo Yoga C630. These laptops kick ass, and they’d work well in most people’s hands (even those who spend all day working online). But if you need the extra speed, quality, and portability of a Pixelbook or Galaxy Chromebook, then you won’t regret taking the leap.

But what if you’re stuck between buying a high-end Chromebook, Windows laptop, and MacBook? Well, you’ll need to do a bit of soul searching. A Windows laptop, like the Dell XPS 13 or the Surface Laptop 2, is a decidedly better option for anyone who needs to use professional software that isn’t available on Chrome OS. PC gamers may want to stick with a device like the Razer Blade, and creatives or iOS fans will almost certainly get more use out of a MacBook than a Chromebook.

If you’re one of the many people who aren’t wrapped up in professional software, video games, or the Apple ecosystem, then a high-end Chromebook is definitely worth your consideration. And remember, you don’t have to buy a $1,000 Pixelbook. You could always buy something like the Galaxy Chromebook or Pixel Slate. You could even buy a mid-range product like the Pixelbook Go, the Lenovo Yoga C630, or the iPad-esque IdeaPad Duet.

Google's Mid-Range Chromebook

Google Pixelbook Go - Lightweight Chromebook Laptop - Up to 12 Hours Battery Life[1] - Touch Screen- Just Black

Don't want to drop $1,000 on a Chromebook? The Pixelbook Go offers similar specs for a few hundred bucks less.

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »