Tue. Mar 5th, 2024


While Chromebooks are generally affordable laptops, you can save even more money if you know where to look. You can get a fantastic Chromebook for under $400 if you’re willing to make some compromises.


UPDATE: 10/26/2023

We’ve updated our recommendations with new versions of our favorite budget Chromebooks. Give it a look!

What to Look For in a Budget Chromebook in 2023

A budget Chromebook doesn’t have to be a bottom-tier product—far from it. You can find ChromeOS notebooks that pack IPS screens, four-core processors, and excellent keyboards priced at or below $300. Also, while you can’t get away from an all-plastic chassis, you can find many budget Chromebooks with great build quality.

A solid budget Chromebook should feature 4GB of memory, a two or four-core CPU, a 720p IPS or twisted nematic (TN) display, and 32GB or 64GB of storage. If you’re ready to spend over $300, you can find 1080p IPS screens, 8GB of RAM, and some extra features such as Wi-Fi 6 or multiple high-speed USB ports.

The two things found on every budget Chromebook that are less than ideal are embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) storage and basic webcams. The good news is that while eMMC is slower than most SSDs overall, it’s more than a decent storage option for a budget notebook. And while the webcams found on budget Chromebooks are basic, they’re good enough for video conferencing.

Budget Chromebooks feature displays with peak brightness of around 300 nits or lower and slightly washed-out colors, as well as up to 8GB of memory and 64GB of storage. Luckily, almost every Chromebook comes with a MicroSD card slot allowing you to easily upgrade the storage.

But, with many of these Chromebooks, you wouldn’t have to deal with all of these sacrifices—you can pick what features are most important for you and find a Chromebook within your budget from there.

How Did We Research

Models Evaluated

Hours Researched

Reviews Analyzed

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Acer Chromebook 314

Pros

Cons

Sleek build considering the price

So-so battery life

Plenty of power for web apps and productivity

Full HD touch-enabled screen

Includes 100GB Google Drive storage

Chromebooks may have started out as budget machines, but as time went on, companies began setting their sights higher, taking aim at lower to midrange Windows-powered competitors. The Acer Chromebook 314 retains the spirit of the original Chromebooks, meaning it’s a solid, affordable computing platform perfect for web apps, productivity, and watching videos.

On paper, the specs don’t look especially impressive, but they’re not really supposed to. The Intel Celeron N4000 and 4GB LPDDR4 RAM wouldn’t cut it for 4K video editing, but that’s not the aim of this machine. If you’re mainly using the G Suite or other web apps, these specs combined with the 64GB eMMC storage will be more than enough for what you’re doing.

Chrome OS is a lightweight OS, so much like putting Linux on an aging laptop, the operating system gets more out of the hardware than you may expect. As long as you’re not keeping 20 or 30 tabs open at a time, you likely won’t even notice the restraints imposed by the 4GB RAM.

Like most modern Chromebooks, the 314 doesn’t just support web and Chrome OS apps, but Android apps. This means that, at least compared to older Chromebooks, you’ve got access to nearly any app you’d expect to find elsewhere. Don’t worry about the low onboard storage either, as this model comes with an additional 100GB of space via a complementary Google Drive credit.

The screen is a 14-inch full-HD display with a resolution of 1366 x 768. This is a touchscreen, which is especially handy given the amount of Android apps you can use on this model. Battery life isn’t the best at around five hours, but recharge time is fairly quick, so you won’t be stuck charging for hours on end.

Acer Chromebook 314

Acer Chromebook 314

Best Budget Chromebook Overall

The Acer Chromebook 314 proves that you don’t need to spend much for a great Chromebook. It’s not the most powerful, but it has everything you need for everything from browsing to office webapps.

Acer Chromebook Spin 311

Pros

Cons

Moisture-resistant touchpad

Not especially rugged

11-inch screen is sharp

Great battery life

Handing an expensive laptop to a child isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re looking for a first laptop for a kid, a Chromebook is a great idea, especially if you go for either a more rugged model or a model affordable enough that you don’t mind replacing it. The Acer Chromebook Spin 311 meets both of those criteria to a certain degree.

While this Chromebook isn’t IP-rated waterproof or MIL-SPEC certified, it’s still a relatively tough model given the price. That said, Acer does mention on its website that the touchpad is moisture-resistant, which means that you can rest easy when your child starts using the Spin 311 without making sure that their hands are entirely dry.

Of course, another key feature for kids is making sure that the Chromebook is small enough that it’s easy for them to carry around. This is a smaller model with an 11.6-inch IPS display, which is surprising, considering the price. It has a resolution of 1366 x 768, which will look especially sharp here because of the overall smaller size of the display,

When it comes to connectivity, the Spin 311 isn’t lacking, but it is decidedly old-school in terms of the protocols it uses. You get 802.11ac Wi-Fi, not Wi-Fi 6, for example. Bluetooth is similar, with this model limited to Bluetooth 4.2, which is several years behind the current standard. Still, while they might be slightly outdated, these protocols still work well with modern routers and Bluetooth accessories.

Finally, you get a 2-cell Lithium Polymer battery. This type of battery wouldn’t offer much life to a power-hungry Windows laptop, but on a Chromebook, it’s capable of delivering up to 15 hours of use on a single charge.

Acer Chromebook Spin 311

Acer Chromebook Spin 311

Best Budget Chromebook for Kids

The Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is affordable, lightweight, and small enough that anyone can easily haul it anywhere, which makes it a perfect choice for a Chromebook for kids.

Best Budget Chromebook for Students: HP Chromebook 14

HP Chromebook 14 on watery background
HP

Pros

Cons

✓ Large, 14-inch display

✗ TN panel is less than ideal in a world where lots of budget Chromebooks pack IPS displays

✓ Excellent keyboard and touchpad

✗ Another USB-A port would have been ideal

✓ Four-core CPU

✓ Compact and portable

The HP Chromebook 14 includes a large, 14-inch display, an excellent keyboard for the price, a four-core Intel Celeron N4120 CPU, 4GB of memory, and 64GB of eMMC storage.

Generally speaking, the hardware here is solid for a budget Chromebook, with the only downside being the 720p TN panel with narrow viewing angles. While the screen can be grainy, you’ll love the keyboard and the large and responsive touchpad.

As for the design, the HP Chromebook 14 is another Chromebook that follows the thin & light philosophy. It’s portable, compact, and doesn’t have thick bezels around the display.

Moving on to ports, you’ve got one USB-A 3.2 5Gbps port and two USB-C 3.2 5Gbps ports. One of the USB-C ports comes with DisplayPort video output support, while you can use both USB-C ports for charging the device. There’s also a MicroSD card slot.

If you’re strapped for cash and are looking for something for less than $200, the basic version of the Acer Chromebook 315 matches the HP Chromebook 14 in everything sans the CPU.

acer 317 chromebook

HP Chromebook 14

Best Budget Chromebook for Students

$200 $290 Save $90

Thin and light while packing a 14-inch screen and a brilliant keyboard and touchpad combo, the HP Chromebook 14 is an excellent budget Chromebook for every student out there.

Best Budget Chromebook for Productivity: Acer Chromebook 317

Acer Chromebook 317 on blue background
Acer

Pros

Cons

✓ Massive, 17-inch 1080p IPS screen’s perfect for productivity

✗ The screen’s not adequate for outdoor use

✓ Excellent hardware for the price

✗ Not the most portable Chromebook on the market

✓ Tons of ports

✓ Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1

✓ Full-sized keyboard that’s great for long typing sessions

✓ Sturdy build quality

If you’re looking for a budget Chromebook device for work, the Acer Chromebook 317 is hands-down the best choice. We recommend it mainly because of its huge, 17-inch 1080p IPS screen.

Yes, it’s dim, and its colors aren’t great, but you won’t find a screen this big on any other Chromebook. It’s perfect for working in a text editor on one side of the screen while having multiple Chrome tabs on the other for editing massive spreadsheets.

The Intel Celeron N4500 CPU isn’t the fastest you can find in a budget Chromebook, but it’s got four cores and is powerful enough for basic multitasking.

This Chromebook’s design is plain, but the device is sturdy and feels nice—and a loud design isn’t the best for a professional setting anyway. What also feels nice is the full-sized keyboard and a massive touchpad that, while made of plastic, is precise, responsive, and very smooth.

Port selection includes dual USB-A 3.2 5Gbps ports and a couple of USB-C 3.2 10Gbps ports, one of which supports video output—a generous package for a budget Chromebook device. You’ve also got a MicroSD card slot for expanding storage.

Connectivity-wise, you’ve got Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, which is great to see on a budget device. The battery life is also surprisingly strong for a 17-inch device. You can expect around eight and a half hours while doing light work or watching videos.

hp chromebook 14

Acer Chromebook 317

Best Budget Chromebook for Productivity

The Acer Chromebook 317 is a unicorn among Chromebooks with its massive 17-inch screen. Add a superb keyboard, powerful hardware, and a rich selection of ports, and you’ve got an outstanding budget Chromebook for productivity.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 11-inch

Pros

Cons

Convertible design switches between tablet and laptop modes

Stylus is sold separately

Sharp, touch-enabled display

Front and rear cameras

Kickstand is great for drawing or watching videos

While a touch-enabled screen in a laptop almost always sounds like a plus, they’re not easy to use in many configurations. Reaching over your keyboard to touch the screen isn’t easy, so a laptop-style Chromebook doesn’t often feel great. Instead, if touch is important to you, consider a 2-in-1 model or, even better, a convertible like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 (11-inch).

The Duet 3 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 chipset, clocked at up to 2.5 GHz. This is bolstered by 4GB LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB of onboard eMMC storage. The specs aren’t really what makes this worth looking at, however, as the form factor of the Duet 3 is much more enticing.

This is a 2-in-1 convertible with a kickstand and a detachable keyboard. The best way to describe it is like a Chromebook version of Microsoft’s Surface Go models. The screen portion features the kickstand and, on its own, works like a tablet. Throw on the included keyboard, and suddenly, it’s a laptop.

This way of working is perfect for many use cases, especially if you’re torn between buying a laptop and a tablet. If you like to draw or take notes by hand, you can even use a pen-style stylus with this model, though it’s worth noting that this stylus is sold separately.

The Duet 3 only features an 11-inch screen, but it boasts a resolution of 2000 x 1200, so it will look especially sharp compared to many Chromebooks in the same price range. You also get a pair of cameras, with a 5MP lens on the front and an 8MP lens on the back, which is handy if you’re looking to do photo work on your Chromebook.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 11-inch

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3

Best Budget Touch Screen Chromebook

The Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 is a convertible Chromebook that easily switches duties between working like a tablet and working like a full laptop, plus the optional stylus can make it great for making art on the go.



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By John P.

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