You'll be surprised how much schoolwork you can get done on a Chromebook, and appreciate the cost savings at the same time.
Chromebooks have proven to be an extremely valuable tool for schools teaching younger children that want to introduce them to technology, but they have also shown to be a great go-to machine for young adults heading away to college. Whether you're going to a big school on a full-time basis or are just getting started with a smaller program, you'd be surprised as to how much of your college work you can get done with an inexpensive Chromebook rather than a full-fledged laptop running Windows or OS X.
If your school is one making use of Google Apps for your .edu email address as well, Chromebooks can be even more of a no-brainer considering the deep integration with Google's services. And depending on your choice, you could stand to save a huge amount of money going with a Chromebook for your laptop rather one running any other operating system. Read along to see our picks for the best Chromebook to take to college this year.
The best choice: ASUS Chromebook C201
The ASUS Chromebook C201 is the larger, less-flexible sibling to the Chromebook Flip, with both sharing the same design, internals and basic features — but the C201 is a easier to use on a daily basis with its larger screen and full-sized keyboard.
You're getting a powerful machine here that can handle what you throw at it in terms of schoolwork and entertainment, and does so with a rated 13 hours of battery life. The screen is easy on the eyes, and though it's not a touchscreen you won't be missing much there. It also just looks sleek, maybe garnering a little envy from your friends.
The Chromebook C201 is also just a bit over two pounds, making it easy to tote around with you all day. We wish Acer would've refreshed its 13-inch Chromebook model with similar specs to give another option for those who want a little more room to work, but the C201 represents pretty much the best overall package as-is.
And here's the kicker — the higher-end model with 4GB of RAM is just $219 retail, which is a screaming deal for a great Chromebook. We definitely recommend you get the larger memory option, and with that price it's hard to say "no."
Durable workhorse: Acer C740 Chromebook
Acer's C720 Chromebook has been our go-to Chromebook recommendation for most people since it was released in 2013, and now the C740 Chromebook is here to carry on the legacy. It hasn't changed much in design since then, and though that means it looks a tad dated it also lets you know the C740 can take a beating and keep on going.
The few subtle hardware changes Acer has made have beefed up the outside of the C740 meaning it'll last you a few years of carrying it around every day, and it's proven to stand up to abuse. The processor has received a small bump that'll give you better battery life — rated at nine hours — while also keeping up awesome performance.
The only real downside of the Acer C740 is its 11.6-inch TFT screen, which really isn't up to speed with the latest 2015 Chromebooks. It's passable for sure, but isn't going to blow you away with clarity, colors or viewing angles. That's just a small mark on an otherwise wonderful machine.
Because of the lower-quality screen and slightly higher price — $275 retail — when compared to the ASUS Chromebook C201 it falls a step below, but is still worth a look for lots of students. Just make sure you don't accidentally buy an older model.
Big screen needs: Acer Chromebook 15
When considering laptops for college students we usually lean toward portability because they're often carried around everywhere you go, but some people prefer to have a larger machine that can give them a better experience when they're sitting at a desk or around the house.
Acer is the only manufacturer right now making a "big" Chromebook with its Chromebook 15 line, and it's the way to go if you need a bigger display. It has the same basic design as its 11 and 13-inch variants, but on the 15 it goes with big speakers on either side of the keyboard and a nice 1080p wide viewing angle display. It weighs twice what a smaller Chromebook does and doesn't get the best battery life, but that's the tradeoff you make.
Acer makes a literal pile of different models of the Chromebook 15, all with different prices and spec sheets, so when you shop you have to be careful to get the right one. You'll want to get a model with at least the Celeron 3205U processor, or even a Core i3 or i5 if you want to spend the cash. We always recommend getting 4GB of RAM — and if you want to go all out, 32GB of storage (but that's not quite necessary).
Prices range from $219 to $469 retail, but you can get yourself into a great model for about $279, or less when they're on sale. It's a wonderful price for a big-screened laptop, and a good choice if you don't need the portability of a smaller model.
Honorable mention: ASUS Chromebook Flip
If you're focused on ultimate portability and are willing to give up a little bit, the Chromebook Flip is worth a look. The screen and keyboard are a bit too small to be your only computer (which is why we pick the Chromebook C201 above), but as a secondary machine that gets carried around to class — maybe using the touchscreen and tablet mode as you go — it's worth considering.
It drops a few hours of battery life compared to the C201 as well, but is even lighter and easier to move around. Just be ready to spend about $275 retail for one, a good bit more than the C201.
No matter your choice, we're sure you'll be able to keep up with school work and personal business with any of these great Chromebooks while attending college.
Article originally posted August 2014, updated August 2015.