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Chromebooks
When Chromebooks first appeared, the TR staff was somewhat suspicious of them. After all, they appeared to be little more than underpowered, low-end laptops with limited usefulness. How wrong we were. When we spent some time with Asus' Chromebook Flip, we came away impressed with what the cloud-centric platform can do on modest hardware. Unless you need Windows in a truly low-end machine (that is, sub-$350 territory) for some reason, we think Chromebooks can serve as a great way to do basic computing tasks on an inexpensive PC that doesn't require a lot of care and feeding.

Manufacturers everywhere are jumping into the Chromebook bandwagon, and this time around we have some rather nice machines for you to choose from.

Product Specs Starting price

Lenovo N22
(80VH0001US)
Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 11.6" 1366x768 IPS LCD
Processor: Celeron N3060
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 16GB eMMC
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.9"
Weight: 2.8 lbs
$229.99

Acer Chromebook 14 CB3-431-C5FM
Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 14" 1920x1080 IPS LCD
Processor: Intel Celeron N3160
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 32GB SSD
Battery life: 12 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.7"
Weight: 3.7 lbs

$299.99

Dell Chromebook 13
Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 13.3" 1920x1080 IPS LCD
Processor: Intel Celeron 3215U
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 16GB SSD
Battery life: 12-plus hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.51" to 0.84"
Weight: 3.2 lbs
$429.00

Lenovo N22 (80VH0001US)
Computing hardware and laptops in particular tend to be delicate things, sometimes damaged with an apparently-insignificant drop or bump. What if there was a decent, affordable machine that could take a few scrapes and bruises, and even the occasional liquid spill? Enter the Lenovo N22. The version we picked has a 11.6" IPS screen with a 1366x768 resolution, 4GB of RAM, and a Celeron N3060 CPU. Those are decent specs for an entry-level Windows machine, let alone the slim and streamlined Chrome OS.

The Lenovo N22's reinforced hinge and rounded corners should help it survive a rough day at the school or office. The 10-hour battery life could even make it through a day and a half of work without the need to use the charger, too. The machine is a little pudgy at 0.9" thick, but given its diminute overall size, that's not likely to matter much. And the best part? It'll only set you back $230.

Acer Chromebook 14 (CB3-431-C5FM)
An 11.6" machine like the Lenovo above may score high on portability, but many tasks really ask for a larger screen. The Acer Chromebook 14, as its name implies, has a 14" IPS display with an honest-to-goodness 1920x1080 resolution. The CPU on this machine is a quad-core Celeron N3160, packing more than enough computing punch for a machine of this class. Despite Chrome OS' reliance on cloud storage, the Chromebook 14 offers a relatively spacious 32GB SSD, too.

The Acer Chromebook 14 is a tad heavy at 3.7 lbs, but it makes up for some of that bulk with a battery that ought to go for 12 hours between charges and a gorgeous metal finish. At $300, we think that this Chromebook is a fine choice for a no-nonsense, affordable work computer.

Dell Chromebook 13
Last but certainly not least, we have something a tad more luxurious. The Dell Chromebook 13 has slightly inferior specs to the Acer Chromebook 14 and costs $429, so what's so special about it? For starters, its chassis is made of magnesium alloy and carbon fiber. Then, it's only 0.51" thick at its thinnest point. Third, it's pretty light for a 13" machine, tipping the scales at only 3.2 lbs. Finally, according to reviewers, its battery can last between 12 to a whopping 15 hours. If the idea of a Chromebook has some appeal to you but you still want a premium-quality machine, then look no further.