They all run the same software, but there are big differences between these Chromebook models
We've done our best to keep up with Chromebook coverage here at Android Central for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that we use these machines every single day. We spend time with every Chromebook model we can get our hands on, putting in full reviews whenever possible.
With the rapid pace of releases pumping out new Chromebooks on a regular basis it's hard to say what's "the best," but every so often we need to put our collective feet down and make a list — these are the best Chromebooks available as of April 2015.
1. The best: Toshiba Chromebook 2
We can pretty easily say that the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is the current front-runner in the Chromebook space. It comes in under three pounds, has a nice looking design, and actually has a wonderful 1920x1080 IPS screen that can make us forget about the competition entirely. And it doesn't skimp on internals either, with an Intel N2840 BayTrail processor and an option to go with 4GB of RAM on the top-end model (which we'd recommend) that gives solid, albeit not chart-topping, performance.
At $299 for the high-end model it isn't the cheapest Chromebook out there, but falls right in the range of what consumers are expecting to pay for this kind of machine. And honestly, when you see that screen you'll think that it's a steal for the price. It's the best Chromebook out there right now, it's quite easy to say.
2. On a budget: Acer C720
If you're looking for a Chromebook and want the best bang for your limited bucks, we still can't find a better recommendation than the Acer C720 Chromebook. This 11-inch machine is light and portable, has a solid build quality, good battery life and an Intel Haswell Celeron processor that can handle any work that you'd want to throw at it.
Best of all the base model is just $199 and can be found for much less (in the $129 range) refurbished or on sale if you keep your eyes open for deals. If you can find it we recommend picking up the model with 4GB of RAM to give it a little more pep when multitasking, but at this point if you can't get it for a good price you're better off going with a newer Chromebook model like the Toshiba Chromebook 2 mentioned above.
When hunting for deals make sure to steer clear of the previous version, the C710, which is just too old at this point to recommend.
3. Big screen: Acer Chromebook 15
Chromebooks are designed to be light and portable, but as the 11- and 13-inch segments have filled out manufacturers have started to move to larger screen sizes. If you need more screen real estate but still want some sort of portability, the Acer Chromebook 15 is the way to go.
It follows a very similar design to the 13-inch model, but this 4.4 pound behemoth has a nice 15.6-inch display and a pair of user-facing speakers flanking the keyboard. As is the case with the other Acer Chromebook models there are several different configurations to choose from, ranging from a low-end Celeron N2830 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 1366x768 display all the way up to a Celeron 3205U, 4GB of RAM and a 1920x1080 display.
Price points from $199 to $349 will help you decide which is for you, but if you can spring for it we always recommend a model with the latest processor and the most RAM you can afford.
4. Honorable mentions: Lenovo Yoga 11e, Acer Chromebook 13
Outside of the leading Chromebooks listed above, we think it's worth mentioning a couple runners-up that are worthy of a look for some users out there.
The first is the Lenovo Yoga 11e Chromebook, which will be a go-to choice for students or someone that's going to put their Chromebook through some wear and tear. It's built like a tank — as you'd expect with the ThinkPad name on it — and is backed up by solid internals and even a high-end touchscreen that flips over to make it into a pseudo-tablet.
It isn't pretty, nor is it light or cheap, but this 11.6-inch laptop will get through just about anything and keep on going — it's up to you to decide if the extra price (and weight) is worth it to you. If you're a fan of the design and features but don't need the flipping screen ability, you can pick up the standard (non Yoga) version for $360 instead.
In the larger screen size class, we think it's worth tossing in a mention of the Acer Chromebook 13. This is the first Chromebook with an ARM processor — in this case a Tegra K1 — that we can actually recommend because it finally has relatively comparable performance to some Intel models.
Beyond the processor the Acer Chromebook 13 comes in a few different configurations with a 1920x1080 or 1366x768 display, 2GB or 4GB of RAM and 16GB or 32GB of storage, but we would heavily recommend getting a 4GB of RAM model for performance's sake.
In any case you're getting a sleek machine with good build quality and absolutely excellent battery life (thank the Tegra K1 for that), though it's a bit on the heavy side at 3.3 lbs. It also has a pretty low quality screen, so if you're one to appreciate a higher-end screen this isn't going to be the unit for you. Despite its shortcomings this is still our go-to recommendation for an ARM-powered Chromebook with great battery life.
5. Money's no object: Chromebook Pixel
If you're looking for the best possible Chromebook experience, and don't care how much it'll cost you, look no further than the new Chromebook Pixel. The 2015 refresh of the Pixel actually cut the price by a considerable $300 and still jumping to the latest Core i5 processor and improving the screen a bit, while keeping the same wonderful build quality and simplistic design.
You'll also be getting cutting-edge USB-C ports for charging and peripherals, which really is the way of the future. Spending $999 on a Chromebook really isn't advisable for most people, but if you're all-in on Chrome OS it may be worth consideration.
6. It's hard to go wrong with any of these picks
With these options, there's something to satisfy most any need that you may have when it comes to picking out a Chromebook. Whether you're buying for yourself, as a gift, or giving guidance to someone else for their own purchase, be sure to start here before making a buying decision. We'll be keeping up with this "best Chromebooks" list as new models come out, so you'll always be able to turn to it for the latest information.