Since the launch of the first consumer Chromebook back in 2011, Google's platform has come a long way. Not only has the operating system itself become more versatile, but the choice of hardware has expanded significantly. From budget systems to the wallet-bashing Pixel, there’s a lot of choice out there. Read on as Gizmag compares eight Chrome OS-touting laptops.
Though the range of Chrome OS hardware is still nowhere near that of Windows machines, there’s now a wide selection of Chromebooks on the market, and too many to cover in a single comparison. From screen size to features and build, the systems we’ve selected for this guide represent a cross-section of available products.
The Chromebooks features in this comparison are:
So, without further ado, let’s dive into our full comparison.
Though there is a fair range of sizes on display here, machines with the same display size tend to have similar dimensions. The thinnest device is Google's Chromebook Pixel.
The HP Chromebook 11 is the lightest of the bunch, while the HP Chromebook 14, with its much larger screen, is the heaviest. Acer’s touch screen-touting C720P model is a little heavier than the standard C720.
Most of the Chromebooks we’ve picked are made of plastic, albeit with different finishes. The Pixel is the exception, offering a premium brushed aluminium build.
The HP Chromebook 14 is by far the most colorful of the bunch, while the white version of the HP Chromebook 11 offers accent colors in red, blue, yellow or green (availability varies by region).
The HP Chromebook 14 offers the most screen real estate, though the 13.3-inch models aren’t far behind. Google’s Chromebook Pixel opts for a 3:2 aspect ratio rather than the 16:9 of the rest of the laptops here.
This is one of the most varied and important categories in our comparison. Though the HP Chromebook 14 offers the largest display, it keeps the same 1366 x 768 as many of the 11.6-inch models, giving it the lowest pixel density. The Asus Chromebook C300 has a similar issue, opting for the same so-so resolution on its 13.3-inch panel.
The Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3 comes in at a healthy 166 pixels per inch, while the Chromebook Pixel leads the pack with an impressive 239 ppi.
Broadly speaking, the different CPUs on offer here can be split into three groups. The HP Chromebook 11 and both Samsung Chromebook 2 models run on Exynos processors that are more at home in mobile devices than fully-fledged laptops. That said, Chrome OS is a fairly basic platform that doesn't require much horsepower to run smoothly. The quad core offerings found in the Samsung models are the best choice when it comes to the Exynos-packing Chromebooks.
The systems that pack Intel Celeron processors will generally enjoy better performance than their Exynos counterparts. The 2.42 GHz Celeron N2830 chip found in the Asus Chromebooks is the more powerful of the two choices.
Lastly, Google’s Chromebook Pixel runs a fully fledged Intel Core i5 CPU, though its Ivy Bridge architecture won’t compete with the company’s more recent chips. Nevertheless, the system’s 1.8 GHz dual core offering should easily cope with any task Chrome OS is capable of performing.
There isn’t a Chromebook on the market that doesn’t make do with an integrated graphics solution, and anything more would likely be overkill for the platform. The Pixel’s Intel HD Graphics 4000 is the best of the bunch.
Memory configurations vary between 2 and 4 GB setups.
Nearly all of the systems here are offered with either 16 or 32 GB of internal storage, or a choice between the two.
That may not seem like a lot of space, but Chromebooks are designed to live and work in the cloud, and that’s where Google’s cloud storage solution comes in. Every Chromebook comes with 100 GB Google Drive storage, active for a two-year period. If you want to continue using the service after the included two-year period, you can pay a very reasonable monthly fee (100 GB is currently US$1.99 a month).
Once again, the Chromebook Pixel is ahead of the pack in this category, offering a full terabyte of online storage for a three year period. The LTE model of the Pixel also packs 64 GB storage rather than the standard 32 GB.
All Chromebooks run on Google’s own Chrome OS platform. Almost everything you do on the machine runs inside the Chrome browser, and while there’s now a pretty accomplished selection of online apps available in the Chrome Web Store, the inability to run standalone programs does limit the functionality of the platform.
This limitation means that you’ll never be able to run complex, power-hungry apps like Adobe Photoshop or Avid Pro Tools on your Chromebook, no matter how powerful it is. That said, the OS is great if you spend all of your time online, and Google has some pretty accomplished Office alternatives in the form of Google Docs.
Asus’ new machines lead the charge here, rated for up to 10 hours of varied use. Both the Chromebook Pixel and HP Chromebook 11 suffer, providing just five and six and a half hours on a single charge.
It’s worth noting that these stats refer to the manufacturer stated battery life, which are often a little generous.
All eight Chromebooks are equipped with at least two USB ports, and all but the HP Chromebook 11 and the Pixel offer at least one of the faster 3.0 variety. Every machine offers video-out in some form (though the HP Chromebook 11’s solution requires an adapter), and there are a range of media card slots on offer.
The C720P variant of Acer’s Chromebook comes fitted with a touch panel, as does the high-end Chromebook Pixel.
With all the laptops running on the cloud-centric Chrome OS, none of them are fitted with optical drives.
Just three of the systems here are offered in 4G/LTE variants.
While Chrome OS has certainly matured over the last couple of years, one thing that hasn’t changed is the low price of hardware for the platform. Most of the models here come in below the US$400 mark, and several models even hit the sub-$300 price point. The big exception here is Google’s own Chromebook Pixel, which is a full $1,000 higher than some of the other laptops on show here.
Asus’ C200 and C300 Chromebooks are scheduled to hit shelves in late June, and while we don’t have detailed pricing info for the new range, we do know that it will start at $249, presumably for the 11.6-inch C200 model.
The two prices listed for the Acer system refer to the standard $199 C720 and the touchscreen-touting $299 C720P.
Most of the machines here have launched within the last eight months, while Asus’ offerings are yet to become available. The newer machines tend to have the most up-to-date internals, but none are exactly ancient, and as long as you’re fully aware of the limitations of Chrome OS, all are capable choices.
The Chromebook Pixel is the oldest system here by some eight months, but its premium construction and high-end specs (well, high-end for Chrome OS at any rate) make it the most capable of the bunch.
If you’re considering purchasing a Pixel, its worth noting that the model is now well over a year old, and with Google I/O right around the corner, it might be worth holding off on the chance that Mountain View sees fit to update its Chrome OS poster boy.