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: Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook
Let's face it — students are tough on computers. You'll be lucky if your laptop makes it through four years at a university being tossed on tables, bumped around in bags and used for every single piece of computing for both school and fun. Lenovo's education-focused ThinkPad 11e Chromebook is built to take on the extra strain of being used in an education setting, and will be a fantastic choice for a college student.
The ThinkPad 11e Chromebook takes that legendary Lenovo toughness and backs it up with a new BayTrail processor (the higher-end N2930 at 1.83GHz), 4GB of RAM and an IPS display for great screen visibility — it even has a touchscreen as well. It's a bit pricey at an MSRP of $379, but at the time of writing we're seeing it on Amazon for just a hair over $300. That's a great deal for a tough Chromebook with great specs, and it's going to be a great choice for college students of all kinds.
If the extra money is no object, Lenovo also offers a "Yoga" version of the ThinkPad 11e, which adds the ability to flip around the screen for several different viewing options. Considering that the ThinkPad 11e offers a touchscreen this may be intriguing, but with an MSRP of $479 it doesn't make much sense unless you really want to flip your screen around.
On a budget: Acer C720 Chromebook
Chromebooks are a great choice for school for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest is their price. If you have a tight budget for a computer for school, look no further than the Acer C720 (read our full review) when it comes to getting the best bang for your buck. At a starting price of $199 you really can't do better than the C720, and best of all you're getting a very capable machine for that price. No matter what model you choose you're getting a good keyboard and trackpad, powerful internals and a travel-friendly size and weight.
The baseline C720 model with 2GB of RAM is regularly marked down to $179 — or even less — online, and will be a fantastic choice if you need a computer and don't have a bunch of dough to spend.
And for just a small bump in price, you can have the same machine with some combination of more memory, storage and a touchscreen as well — just keep your eyes peeled for deals on different models if you're looking to save a few dollars.
With mobile data: HP Chromebook 14
While many college campuses have pretty reliable and widely-available Wifi, you don't always want to be stuck within certain Wifi areas to get your work done. Having mobile data connectivity in your Chromebook can be a real boost to productivity, but there are only a few Chromebook models out there that support it.
The best of the bunch right now is the HP Chromebook 14. It offers a big 14-inch display, Intel Haswell Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and comes in three different colors, but the big draw here is the ability to buy a model for $50 extra that comes with lifetime T-Mobile 4G (that's HSPA+) internet connectivity.
You get 200MB per month for the lifetime of the device — that isn't a whole lot of data, but it's more than enough to get some work done and a little casual web browsing on the side. And if you ever need more data, you can buy it on a pay-as-you-go basis for $10 per GB or less, with no contracts or fees from T-Mobile.
At over 4 lbs the HP Chromebook 14 isn't the most portable machine out there, but screen size is merely personal preference. If you need to have mobile data baked-in to your Chromebook to avoid carrying around a hotspot or leeching off of your phone's connection, this is the one to get. Just be sure to buy the right model that advertises the 4G connectivity — it should retail around $329, but at this point in its lifecycle can show up for less around the Internet.
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. With these sleek, light and inexpensive laptops, you may just be the envy of a few of your friends who are dealing with their clunky Windows laptop as well.