Best Chromebook for Students Android Central 2021
Chromebooks are great computers for a lot of different uses, but the best Chromebook for students single out a few particular features in addition to an easy-to-use computing experience. Education Chromebooks are designed to withstand the use and abuse of a classroom full of kids, as well as being carried around in an overstuffed backpack. Reinforced hinges and ports are the norm, as are water-resistant keyboards and all-day battery life. These lightweight laptops also have some of the easiest and most useful keyboard shortcuts to help your child get homework done quickly once they find their rhythm. There are a lot of great options to choose from, but the best Chromebook for students overall is the ASUS Chromebook Flip C214.
- Best Chromebook for Students: ASUS Chromebook Flip C214
- Best Ports and Durability: Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1
- Best Non-Kidproofed: Acer Chromebook Spin 311 (CP311-3H)
- 8GB RAM Upgrade: HP Chromebook x360 11 G3 EE
- Best for High School: Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5
- Upgrade Pick: Acer Chromebook Spin 713
- Best Chromebook Tablet: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
- Best on a Budget: Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3
Best Chromebook for Students: ASUS Chromebook Flip C214
The ASUS Chromebook Flip C214 is the best Chromebook for students because it provides an excellent experience in a compact, durable package. The 11.6-inch screen is easy to see in a wide array of angles — even in the Florida sunshine — and the zinc alloy hinge allows you to rotate the screen around 360 degrees into tent or tablet mode as needed. A 2-in-1 Chromebook allows your student to interact with lessons and content however they want: with the keyboard and mouse or directly with the touchscreen.
There's also the option for a C214 with a built-in stylus, which is a great inclusion for those who have problems touching smaller touch targets accurately or those who like to doodle in tablet mode. I've adored the usefulness of a stylus for precision tapping in tent/tablet mode and when I'm reading webcomics while eating powdery snacks, which is what I use it for most often.
I have adored the usefulness of a stylus for precision tapping and to keep my screen clean while I'm eating powdery snacks.
The C214 lasts about 10 hours on a single charge, meaning it should last the whole school day and some homework before you need to seek out a charger. Like most modern Chromebooks, the C214 uses a 45W Power Delivery charger, meaning even if your kid loses or breaks the in-box charger, you can find a replacement charger easily and affordably.
There are also USB-C ports on each side of the C214, along with one USB-A port and a microSD slot to help expand the 32GB of storage the C214 comes with. The microSD slot on the side of this model is recessed, helping avoid accidental ejection, but the edges are sculpted so that a clothespin edge is the perfect size for inserting and ejecting cards. As a nail-biter, this small joy speaks to the attention to detail ASUS has taken with the rugged, reliable C214.
Yeah, there's only 32GB of internal storage here and only 4GB of RAM, but 4GB of RAM is enough for schoolwork, research, and Twitch streams — I mean homework!! 32GB of storage could get cramped when installing tons of Android apps, but for most elementary and middle-schoolers, it should be more than enough. The corners of the Chromebook have rubberized edges and the outer shell is covered with non-slip textures that are scratch-resistant. The keyboard is spill-resistant and the ports are reinforced, too, so hopefully, it should be able to withstand a few years of chaos with your child.
- Exemplary battery life
- Stylus is nice
- Screen is readable in full sun
- Compact and rugged
- Spill-resistant keyboard
- Only 4GB RAM
- Popular and sells out frequently
Best Chromebook for Students
Rugged, reliable, and ready to pull an all-nighter
With a durable shell and easy-to-read touchscreen, the C214 is a Chromebook great for the classroom and homework.
Best Ports and Durability: Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1
Dell is a manufacturer long-known for making school-tailored computers — my schools' computer labs and libraries were filled with Dells back in the day — and the Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1 is one of the most popular and durable Chromebooks on the education market today, which is part of why they're so gosh-darned popular with schools that they've been severely back-ordered for most of 2020.
The 3100 2-in-1 has two USB-A and USB-C ports — one on each side — as well as a microSD slot and headphone jack. While the extra USB-A port isn't necessary, spares are always appreciated when they can fit in basically the same size chassis. There's no stylus option here, which is a bummer, but performance is decent and there is an 8GB RAM configuration that I highly recommend getting if your kid has been having issues with Meet or Zoom crashing on their old, school-issued laptop. There was an option for 64GB of storage, too, but that configuration seems to have vanished, which is a bummer.
While you can indeed save a few dollars opting for the clamshell version, I recommend most users get a 2-in-1 Chromebook and for studious children, a 2-in-1 is darn near required. Tablet mode is great for using away from classroom desks or in the car, and tent mode turns the 3100 into a digital art easel. It's absolutely worth the extra cash.
However, there's an Achilles' heel with the Dell 3100 line: you can't get it immediately. Dell will let you put in a purchase order and get on the list, but delivery dates for both the 2-in-1 and clamshell models are slated for February right now, meaning that your child would be without it for a couple of months.
- MIL-spec durability and spill resistance
- Plenty of USB-A and C ports
- 8GB RAM option
- Chrome updates until June 2025
- No delivery dates for months
- No stylus
- More expensive
Best Ports and Durability
Made for the real world, but priced above the classroom
While you can get higher memory/storage than the C214, the base model starts at a higher price, but you'll get a quality device.
Best Non-Kidproofed: Acer Chromebook Spin 311 (CP311-3H)
Acer's had several generations of the CP311 over the last several years, and the latest one is a great option for parents that want their child to have a Chromebook with a long support life ahead of it and enough power for distance learning — or for full-time adult work, as I worked full-time on this Chromebook for a month. This Mediatek-powered Chromebook can handle a Google Meet call and 6-10 tabs at a time, so it's perfectly suited to students that know how to take care of a laptop.
This isn't as rugged or rough-and-tumble as the ASUS C214 or Dell 3100, but that also means you don't have to pay for all that extra kid-proofing and durability testing. While most Chromebooks have a decent level of durability, there's no replacement for buying an Education model, so be sure your kid won't do anything like throw their laptop or stick crayons in the USB-C port.
That last bit is especially important because unlike most Chromebooks from the last 2-3 years, the Spin 311 (3H) only has one USB-C port and one USB-A port. I usually prefer Chromebooks with USB-C ports on each side of the laptop so that you can charge from either side, but it's easy enough to get by on just one. There's also no microSD card slot, so you'll need to figure out the storage level you'll need before buying since there's no expanding it.
For this reason, I highly recommend grabbing the 64GB option, especially since few 11.6-inch Chromebooks have 64GB options. Both the Dell and ASUS lack a 64GB option right now, and more internal storage is uber-important when it comes to using Android apps, as most can't properly utilize external storage due to quirks in Chrome OS's permission structure.
- 14-hour battery life
- Lightweight, thin design
- 64GB storage option
- Chrome OS updates until June 2028
- Not ruggedized
- Limited ports / no microSD
If you trust your kid, this is all you need.
If your student is ready for a "big kid" Chromebook, the Acer Spin 311 is perfect for long days of homework and distance learning.
8GB RAM Upgrade: HP Chromebook x360 11 G3 EE
Stop me if you've heard this one: you're in the middle of a video conference, you go to pull open an email or some notes, and then the audio suddenly cuts out. You pop back to the video call only to find it's crashed — or worse, the whole dang browser's crashed. Rushing to reload the windows and rejoin the meeting, you miss vital information or hold up the class.
That happened because you ran out of RAM.
See, RAM is the temporary storage that your Chromebook uses to hold your current tabs and do whatever operations you're undertaking, be it scrolling through Twitter or trying to finish that digital test before time runs out. And when you go to do something new when the RAM is full, it dumps some of the older activities to carry them out — or it tries to dump the old activity, fails, and crashes. This is why RAM is important, and while 8GB Chromebooks are becoming more common for bigger, beefier business models, they're still relatively rare in the 11.6-inch segment, which is why I'm grateful to HP for offering an 8GB model of the HP Chromebook x360 11 G3 EE.
The x360 11 G3 EE (EE is the Education Edition) is as durable as the ASUS C214 and Dell 3100, and it has the same ample selection of ports and the same 11.6-inch 1366x768 pixel touchscreen. What it has over the ASUS and the Dell is that it has an 8GB model that's not back-ordered from here to Spring Break, and it also packs 64GB of internal storage, which is important if you or your kid will be downloading a lot of apps or offline content to watch during long trips or lazy Sunday afternoons.
- 8GB RAM for more tabs
- Compact, durable design
- Plenty of ports for peripherals
- Hard to find 8GB model
- The name is ridiculous
8GB RAM Upgrade
For long days of video calls and multi-tasking.
If your kid is fed up with their video call crashing while they were pulling up notes or assignments during class, this is the perfect solution.
Best for High School: Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook
The Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook is the best value in Chromebooks today because it offers up just about all the features you'd want in a mid-size Chromebook without costing a whole semester's worth of allowance. This laptop is physically less than an inch bigger than the ASUS C214, but it has a much larger 13.3-inch 1080p touchscreen, a backlit keyboard, and nice, loudspeakers. You also get a more powerful Intel Core i3 processor instead of a Celeron and you get more internal storage for running Linux apps or downloading Disney+ movies for when you're bored in study hall.
To quote Han Solo, "she's got it where it counts, kid".
This laptop hasn't been ruggedized and life-proofed like the C214, but the Lenovo Flex 5 is as perfect for an older kid as it is for many adults. You get a comfortable, evenly-backlit keyboard for late-night procrastinated projects and a pair of big, front-facing speakers on either side to keep the tunes going while you work. The port configuration here is a match to the C214 — two USB-C ports, one USB-A port, a microSD slot, and a headphone jack — but you'll need to be more gentle on this laptop if you want it to last you its full eight years of Chrome OS updates.
The battery here should last you a whole school day and homework, and charging it back up shouldn't take too long with the in-box 45W PD charger. Not many families have Wi-Fi 6 routers — and even fewer schools do — but you should still get better Wi-Fi stability with it, and the same can be said of Bluetooth 5.0 for your headphones or Bluetooth mouse.
If there's a downside to the Flex 5 besides it not being kid-proofed, it's that it's a brand-spanking-new model and has been very hard to find in stock. If you can find it, your high schooler will thank you for getting them one of the best Chromebooks for students and adults alike.
- Crisp 1080p touchscreen
- Loud upward-facing speakers
- Great internal specs
- Backlit keyboard
- Wi-Fi 6 compatibility
- Not as durable
- Limited availability
Best for High School
Everything a teen could want
The best Chromebook for everyone is also a great model for middle or highschoolers who don't need a kid-proofed laptop.
Upgrade Pick: Acer Chromebook Spin 713
If you absolutely need all the power you can get in a Chromebook but don't have buckets of money to spend on a new laptop, turn your attention to the Acer Chromebook Spin 713. This Project Athena Chromebook has a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor — powerful enough to run Windows programs via Parallels whenever the program comes from Chrome Enterprise to Chrome Education — 8GB of RAM so that you can multitask all the live-long day, and a 128GB SSD. That SSD is important because it's faster and longer-lasting than the eMMC storage the majority of Chromebooks use.
Another benefit of the Spin 713's powerful internals is that whenever Steam gaming properly comes to Chromebooks, the Spin 713 is beefy enough to handle it, let alone any game streaming services like Stadia, GeForce Now, or Xbox Game Pass. This power also means that the Spin 713 can handle just about any Linux app you throw at it, which is good news for STEM kids who might need to run CAD software or a programming IDE — there's a whole lot of IT professionals and programmers who use a Chromebook because they're low maintenance but can still do everything they need.
Another benefit of the Spin 713 is that unlike the other early Project Athena Chromebooks, this Chromebook packs a USB-A port and an HDMI port in addition to the two USB-C ports and the microSD slot.
Then, of course, there's the feature that you'll adore every single day whether you're working hard or hardly working: the 13.5-inch touchscreen, which gets to a bright 450 nits — so you can use it outside more easily — and features a 2K resolution, so videos and classroom handouts alike will look absolutely stunning. The screen is a 3:2 aspect ratio, which means you'll see further down a webpage at one time, especially when split-screening your research paper and that Twitch stream— I mean TED Talk, boring, educational TED Talk.
- Powerful futureproof specs
- Bright 3:2 screen for productivity
- HDMI port built-in
- Speakers aren't great
For power-users and would-be gamers
If you're someone who loves a 3:2 screen and a beefy, beefy processor to power it, this Project Athena Chromebook is for you.
Best Chromebook Tablet: Lenovo Chromebook Duet
While I'd love to direct you towards a kid-proofed Chrome OS tablet — because they're about half a dozen versions of one out there — I can't in good conscience do it. The education-grade Chrome OS tablets on the market today are either two years old, severely overpriced because of 2020's lockdown-fueled Chromebook shortage, or they're just not sold in commercial channels.
The only Chrome OS tablet worth recommending isn't a kid-proofed model, but it's a very, very good Chrome OS tablet with a very crisp 1080p screen, at least 64GB of storage, and 8 years of Chrome OS support ahead of it. Oh, it also comes with a detachable kickstand and detachable keyboard, so you don't have to go spend an extra hundred bucks on accessories straight out the gate like you would with an iPad.
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet has a battery that goes on and on and on, especially if you're just doing some reading and "edutainment" games, and the screen is nice and bright for watching videos and reading comics. The specs say the battery lasts 10 hours, but I've averaged 10-12 hours on an average charge.
With a 10.1-inch screen, it's little wonder that the included keyboard can feel a bit cramped to adults, but the keyboard is a great size for kids, and since it's a pogo connector rather than Bluetooth, you don't have to worry about charging the keyboard or spotty connections. And it's easy to detach when you're done with homework and ready to veg out with some e-comics for a few hours. I've lost whole weekends reading fanfiction on the Duet, and I do not regret a single second of it.
There's only one port on the Duet, one single USB-C port, so you'll want to use Bluetooth headphones and leave the port free for charging. There's also no microSD slot, but 64GB should be enough for most kids and there's a 128GB model available. I'm slightly disappointed there isn't a USB-C port on both sides the way that basically every Chromebook released in the last two years has, but there had to be a compromise somewhere.
It's also worth noting that the Duet comes with a 10W USB-A charger that you'll want to upgrade to an 18W Power Delivery charger for faster recharges — unlike regular Chromebooks, the Duet does not charge at 45W, though since it's Power Delivery, you can plug it into a 45W charger and it'll still charge at 18W.
- Excellent battery life
- Kickstand and keyboard included
- Bright 1080p screen for comics and videos
- Too small for some
- Only one USB-C port
Best Chromebook Tablet
A great tablet for kids and adults
The Duet is the Google tablet we've wanted for a decade. It comes with a keyboard, but it works well all on its own.
Best on a Budget: Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3
A Chromebook that held a place of honor in both this roundup and the Best Chromebooks roundup for much of 2019 and into the first half of 2020 was the Lenovo Chromebook C330, which was my beloved run-and-gun that I used all over Walt Disney World on sunny afternoons and deep into the evenings as I waited for fireworks. The battery lasted all day, there were just enough ports for everything I needed, and it was lightweight enough that it wasn't a chore to carry it around all day in my gear bag. It was a great Chromebook that is gett price gouged thanks to the Chromebook shortage, but we can get that same sweet experience at a lower price in the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3.
How do I know the Flex 3 is the same great Chromebook guts as the C330 in a newer, harder-to-blemish Platinum Grey shell? The ports line up exactly — even the full-size SD card slot (newer platforms use microSD) — we're dealing with the same MediaTek processor and 4GB of RAM. While that does mean this Chromebook is a tiny bit older, it still runs Chrome OS excellently and is a perfect Chromebook for parents on a budget who now need laptops for every kid in the house.
The full-size SD card and the single USB-C port aren't as good as having two USB-C ports and a smaller microSD slot — microSD slots are easier to keep a card in all the time without them getting jostled or broken — but this is a dependable little laptop for those that need a good experience at an even better price. You still get solid performance, you get a 2-in-1 touchscreen form factor, and you get all-day battery life for hundreds less than education-oriented models like the ASUS C214 and Dell 3100.
The Flex 3 also inherited a propensity for sales from the Lenovo C330, and Best Buy has discounted it several times over the last few months.
- Affordable and durable
- Touchscreen 2-in-1
- Dependable keyboard
- Frequent sales
- Older specs
- No higher storage/RAM options
- Shorter Chrome OS update life
Best on a Budget
New name, same great performance
The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3 might be a rehash, but it's a remake of a good laptop and it'll serve your kid well for years to come.
What makes the best Chromebook for students?
When picking a Chromebook for a student, you may be tempted to go with a non-touch model, but fight this urge! Touchscreen Chromebooks aren't much more expensive these days, and they are far easier to interact with, especially for students that may be playing educational games or using artistic apps to doodle away their boredom. Styluses like the one on the ASUS Chromebook Flip C214 are great for art apps — and for people who tend to fat-finger their touch targets as I do — but it's alright to skip it if you don't think you need the extra (easy to lose) piece.
The C214 can be a little hard to come by right now — honestly, most good Chromebooks are hard to find right now without price gouging — and if you can't find the C214, I highly recommend the compact, 8GB RAM-packed HP Chromebook x360 11 G3 EE or the larger and slightly more powerful Lenovo Flex 5 for older students. Between school districts clamoring for more Chromebooks and parents scrambling for laptops for their kids, 2020 has made Chromebooks a hot commodity, especially the education-oriented Chromebooks built to endure classroom abuse.
11.6 inches is the standard size for Chromebooks — education and regular — because it's small enough to be easily portable while still being big enough to get your work done on. While 13-14 inch laptops make sense for teachers that stay in one room most of the day, for students lugging laptops between periods, smaller and lighter is better. Quality 14-inch touchscreen Chromebooks will also strain your wallet, but if you want something larger than a standard spiral notebook, head on over to our best Chromebook guide for those recommendations.
Why use a Chromebook for students in the classroom?
There are several reasons so many schools use Chromebooks in the classroom, and each one is just as important as the next.
- Powered by Google — Google is a household name when it comes to technology and school districts know the company will be around to offer support for the life of the product.
- Ease of use — Chrome OS is a lightweight system that's easy to find your way around, even for younger users and parents that aren't tech-savvy.
- Security and administration tools — Chrome OS is designed with security at the forefront (since Chromebooks are also aimed at the Enterprise space), and a G Suite administrator can lock things down to meet the needs of a school system's IT policies.
- Price — Chromebooks designed for classroom use can be bought in bulk for hundreds of dollars less than other devices like iPads and Windows laptops.
- Parents can provide a Chromebook, too Because they are inexpensive and easy to use, parents can provide a Chromebook for a child who isn't in a 1:1 school program or during the summer recess.
School systems are notoriously cash-strapped and understaffed, yet they have the responsibility of shaping the next generation through their formative years and beyond. School officials have told me that this can be the most frustrating part of their job because sometimes they can't provide teachers and other hands-on educators with the tools they need to teach our children. Because Chromebooks are inexpensive to buy and support, they are a welcome option for frustrated, underfunded school districts.
In the classroom itself, Chromebooks provide a gateway to everything a student needs to learn, and everything a teacher needs to guide them. Little things a consumer may take for granted, like automatic updates and the ability to sign in to any device and have your profile available mean more time can be dedicated to studies instead of administration.
Chromebooks are designed to be used with Google's educational suite of applications.
Chromebooks also work seamlessly with Google's educational software: Google Classroom, G Suite for Education, and even Google's consumer applications like Gmail or Google Keep. With these apps and services, students and teachers can work online or offline, seamlessly syncing with Google's servers.
It's very difficult to tell you're working with an app that stores its data in the cloud because the experience is so good, but you'll know it did when you pick up a completely different Chromebook and everything is just as you left it. This is great for students, allowing them to get back to work after they spill water all over their Chromebook and have to be issued a new one.
Chromebooks and Google's educational application suite are simple to use, well integrated into inexpensive Chromebooks, and are the perfect foundation for education.
What's special about a Chromebook for Education?
You'll see a lot of Chromebooks out there branded as being Chromebooks for Education, and you may be wondering what exactly the difference is between an Education Chromebook and a regular one.
Really, to normal buyers, there isn't one, at least from a hardware standpoint.
Any Chromebook can be used in the classroom and still have access to Google's educational suite and work, communicate and collaborate with other students and teachers, just as soon as you log into it. What is different is the support contract. School districts that purchase through education channels can also contract various levels of support from the company that made the Chromebooks or through Google itself, such as on-site service and having a Google specialist help students and teachers get started in person.
Education Chromebooks all have one thing in common: they're tough.
Education-focused Chromebook models are often built with an eye on durability. You'll find thick polycarbonate shells and rubber bumpers to withstand bumps and falls, MIL-SPEC approval for survivability in the elements, and even special features like microbe-resistant screens to cut down on spreading germs from student to student or waterproof keyboard pans — kids are messy, after all.
Google does have some standards a Chromebook must adhere to for the educational certification, but they are common-sense requirements that almost all Chromebooks follow. Ever wonder why a Chromebook has lower-case letters on the keyboard instead of capital letters like most other keyboards? That's part of Google's requirements. For a small child learning how to read and type, a key must be marked with what it will print on the screen when pressed. Ingenious!
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Ara Wagoner themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing help and how-to's, she's running around Walt Disney World with a Chromebook. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco. If you see her without headphones, RUN.
Jerry Hildenbrand is Mobile Nation's Senior Editor and works from a Chromebook full time. Currently, he is using Google's Pixelbook but is always looking at new products and may have any Chromebook in his hands at any time. You'll find him across the Mobile Nations network and you can hit him up on Twitter if you want to say hey.
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