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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 Price
Asus Chromebook C301
(C301SA-DS02)
Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 13.3" 1920x1080
Processor: Celeron N3160
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 16GB eMMC
Battery life: 11 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.8" to 0.9"
Weight: 3 lbs
$256.83

Acer Chromebook 14
(CB3-431-C5FM)
Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 14" 1920x1080 IPS
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

Asus Chromebook Flip C302
(C302CA-DHM4)
Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 12.5" 1920x1080 touch-screen
Processor: Intel Core m3-6Y30
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB eMMC
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2x2), Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.54"
Weight: 2.7 lbs
$469.00

Our Chromebook recommendations now start at a higher price point. We made this decision based on the fact that Chromebooks with better-quality hardware (namely more powerful CPUs, better-quality screens, and more RAM) have dropped in price, making them far more appealing than before. The "Goldilocks" models now live in the $250 to $300 range, and we've adjusted our recommendations accordingly.

Asus Chromebook C301 (C301SA-DS02)
$250 wasn't an amount that would get you much of a laptop before, but right now it can get you the Asus Chromebook C301. The model on hand has a quad-core Celeron N3160 CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of eMMC storage. The amount of storage may be on the small side, but the machine makes up for that with an SD card reader and 1920x1080 screen—a characteristic that used to be reserved for far more expensive models. Two USB ports and 802.11ac Wi-Fi complement the package.

Acer Chromebook 14 (CB3-431-C5FM)
For those that feel that 16GB of integrated storage may be a little tight, look no further than the Acer Chromebook 14. As its name implies, this machine has a 14" IPS display with an honest-to-goodness 1920x1080 resolution. Like the Asus C301 above, the CPU in 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 for local files, 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 body. At $300, we think that this Chromebook is a fine choice for a no-nonsense, affordable work computer.

Asus Chromebook C302 (C302CA-DHM4)
Last but certainly not least, we have something a tad more luxurious. How about an affordable laptop with a 360° hinge, an all-aluminum body, and even two Type-C USB ports? The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 says "hi." This machine's build quality evokes that of laptops going for twice its price, and the fact that the screen can rotate behind the keyboard makes it useful as an impromptu Android tablet. To top it off, the chassis is only 0.54" thick, making it easy to carry.

The innards don't disappoint, either. There's an honest-to-goodness Core m3-6Y30 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a fairly capacious 64GB of eMMC storage. A 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter and Bluetooth 4.2 take care of speedy wireless connectivity, and a microSD slot offers further expansion options. For $469, we think the Chromebook Flip C302 is well worth the money.