By: Quinton Lawman, Product Owner.

Since a lot of you work in schools, I’ve saved the best for last. We’ve covered eBook readers and tablets. Let’s talk about Chromebooks, shall we?

The first thing you need to know is that Chromebooks are in a pretty interesting place right now. Google is working on a super-secret operating system that some think will replace Chrome OS. At the same time, they’re massively successful in the education sector, managing to capture about 25% of the market the first year they were available. In the 3rd quarter of 2017, Chromebooks hit 59.8% of the educational market, which has Microsoft freaking out a little. That’s bonkers.

Versatile apps & brands

You can now install Android apps on many Chromebooks, which makes them really versatile little machines that don’t cost a lot of money. There are a lot of manufacturers trying to get in on the Chromebook fun too, because there isn’t a clear winner in the space just yet. In contrast, if you start talking cell phones in the USA, Samsung and Apple are clearly the two to beat, capturing the majority of the market (though, Google is gaining a lot of attention with the Pixels). It’s almost just as cut-and-dry internationally, but Chromebooks are another story. While Acer, by all reports, is leading the pack right now, most consider there to be six top brands. A lot of people can’t even name six phone manufacturers.

In other words, when I say “chromebook,” most don’t associate the term immediately with a specific manufacturer. Sure, they might say Google, but they’re not a major manufacturer—they just supply the OS. So there’s an arms-race of sorts. You can find cheap, crappy Chromebooks, and you can find over-engineered beautiful Chromebooks. You can find everything in-between. It’s kinda like a magical cornucopia of technology full of both regular folks and unicorns. To put it another way, you’ve got a plethora of options in terms of features and price.

If you want my advice? Stick to something that lives in the middle of it all. Chrome OS just isn’t demanding enough to need ultra-high-end hardware, and the stuff you’re going to do on it isn’t going to push a mid-range system. By picking a mid-range machine, you’ll get performance and with all the horsepower (or unicorn-power) you’ll need.

Many price points

  1. ASUS Chromebook Flip C302: This is kind of the one to beat. It’s a little pricey at $469, but this will run all the things, including Android apps (very important), and it’s cheaper than the top-o-the line (which can run $550 to $1,000).
  2. Samsung Chromebook Plus: This is only a little cheaper than the ASUS(~$429), but it should still be beefy enough to maintain longevity. I added it to the list because it comes with a stylus, which I rather like.
  3. ASUS Chromebook Flip C213SA: This is a less expensive, “ruggedized,” and slightly slower version of the C302 above. However, at $326, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the quality and cost vs. performance.
  4. Samsung Chromebook 3 (4GB RAM): If you want to go full-on budget, the Samsung Chromebook 3 is the one to beat at $208.99. I wouldn’t recommend the savings going with the 2GB option, though, and this is just a bit below “mid-range.” Though, owners do appear to be happy with it!

Hopefully these recommendations give you an idea of what’s out there, and about what a decent Chromebook might cost. I think it also highlights the “interesting” topography that makes up planet Chromebook. There’s a price gap of about $260 between the Chromebook Flip C302 and the Samsung Chromebook 3! That means, you could buy yourself and your significant other one Samsung each, along with a nice dinner to talk about your new gadgets, for the price of a single C302.

Again, I don’t think you need to spend $1,000 to get a good Chromebook (but you can, and it is definitely nice). Yes, project Fuchsia is looming (Google’s experimental OS), but if that ever lands, it won’t be soon. By the time it does, you’ll likely be ready for a new Chromebook anyway.

That’s all, folks!

This concludes my three-part series on gadgetry! I plan to be back to write more, and welcome your comments and feedback in the comments!