Best Chromebooks for Back-to-School

Category: Education , Laptops

There are few students who can legitimately claim they need a full-blown desktop or laptop computer. That's because inexpensive, lightweight Chromebooks are just about ideal for both scholarly and extracurricular activities. Here's a roundup of Chromebooks you should consider…

Chromebooks for Students

The cloud-centric Chromebook easily supports homework, term papers and other typing with Google Docs; math and statistics with Google Sheets; research with Google Search; and much more. Music, games, and other extracurricular activities are available too.

The Chromebook category is crowded with dozens of entries, a sign that Chromebooks are definitely mainstream now. But the variety of makes, models, and configurations available can be rather confusing. Here are five of the best-reviewed Chromebooks in several price/performance catgegories.

The best all-around Chromebook may well be the Toshiba Chromebook 2. Its 13.3 inch 1080p screen is midway between the perhaps-too-small 11.6-incher and the arguably-too-big 14-incher. Configured with 4GB of RAM and a speedy Intel Core i3 processor, it goes for around $480 online these days. With 4GB of RAM and a slower Celeron processor, the price drops into the $250-$300 range. If you dare to go with only 3GB of RAM, you can get a Celeron-powered model for about $150. A backlit keyboard is ideal for all-night studying or “whatever.”

Chromebooks for Students

If you plan to be unplugged most of your school day, the Asus C201 Chromebook gets an impressive 13 hours of battery life. Available for as little as $169 on Amazon with an 11.6-inch display, Celeron processor, and 2GB of RAM,the C201 is a low-budget, long-life option.

If you’re a tablet fan, the Asus Chromebook Flip may be right for you. It comes with a touchscreen display that flips back on a 360-degree hinge to laptop, tent, presentation, or tablet mode. But it’s only a 10.1 inch display, which seems rather small for the $249 to $279 price (2GB or 4G of RAM, respectively). Its Rockchip processor is even less capable than a Celeron, but adequate for what a Chromebook does.

A step up in touchscreen Chromebooks is the Acer Chromebook R11. It has a faster Celeron processor and an 11.6 inch display, but 2GB of RAM is the only option. Like the Asus Chromebook Flip, the Acer R11 has a 360-degree screen hinge for maximum flexibility.

A Step Up...

If you can’t live with a small screen, the Acer Chromebook 15 is a good choice. Yes, 15 inches of diagonally-measured screen real estate, and the range of options if equally wide. This model is available in configurations and prices ranging from $199 with 2GB of RAM and 720p HD, with 16GB flash storage, to $249 for 1080p Full HD with 32GB storage.

Chromebooks are ideal for on-the-go students. And don't forget that Google Docs and Sheets can both be used in "offline mode" so you can still get work done when there's no wifi connection available. These tools can produce output that's compatible with Word and Excel. But if you must use a Microsoft Office product, check out Office Online, which provides free access to web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Office components.

The range of configurations for these machines means you can be sure to find something that will fit in any backpack and budget. Do you (or a student you know) have a Chromebook? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Best Chromebooks for Back-to-School"

Posted by:

12 Sep 2016

(It pays to proofread before submitting! Sorry.)

I'm seeing a lot of Chromebooks that use eMMC storage which, as I understand it, is pretty much a glorified SD card. Besides being slower than a true SSD drive, is the risk of failure higher with eMMC?

Posted by:

Bob C.
12 Sep 2016

Can you comment on the 5 yr lifespan of Chromebooks(no more updates etc.)

Posted by:

Pat C.
12 Sep 2016

I've got an Acer Chromebook 15 and I'm happy with it. Took some getting used to, but now I like it as much as I do my HP desktop running Win 10.

Posted by:

Dave S
12 Sep 2016

I have a question about these because I was looking at them for my son.

I have found at my job (when my employer had us, for a while, use other programs which can create and save at PPT files) that presentations don't always translate properly when created on a 'compatible' product and then are opened on MS PowerPoint.

Wouldn't this be a problem for students since PowerPoint presentations are a big part of college work? They will be turning in presentations that when opened by professors may not be lined up or formatted properly.

At work this became a HUGE problem when we would create a presentation and then have to deliver to a customer who was using MS PowerPoint. Eventually, because of the problems, my employer decided to provide MS Office.

Would students buying a Chromebook then have to buy a subscription to MS Office (Office 365)?

Posted by:

Jay R
13 Sep 2016

Praise GOD that I'm old and content with my desktop. I have never had any fear that I would lose my desktop. The Chromebook and my mind- well, it's dead heat!

Posted by:

13 Sep 2016

I'm one of those people who typically builds her own systems, so I have a fairly high-end Windows system that I built about two years ago (updated to Win 10 last year.) This system certainly has its place, but, there are so many hardware/OS options available (think Raspberry Pi and Arduino,) that I am almost sure that machine is the last of my "big builds." I find myself using it less and less. I also own a Toshiba Chromebook 2 2015 edition (yes, there's an earlier edition also called the Toshiba Chromebook 2!) I really enjoy it. I love the back-lit keyboard, the 1080p display and the 13" size. It's great for my needs and looks terrific, as well. I got the one with the Celeron, and feel it is definitely adequate for the lightweight Chrome OS. It is also one of the Chromebooks that is slated to receive an update that will give it integration with Android apps. While it doesn't have a touchscreen, I'm thinking that, with Google Playstore integration being included on new Chromebooks, more and more Chromebooks will have touchscreens, gyroscopes, GPS and other features often found in Android devices. ChromeOS development seems to be on the move quite a bit, and updates come seamlessly to the Chromebooks, further enhancing how easy they are to use and maintain.

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