Remember when Chromebooks first came out and people claimed they were cheap and all they needed to run was a web browser so you didn’t have to worry about the specs? Yes. Well, they mostly lived up to the cheap part, but the specs… that’s a hit or miss. To resolve this issue, Google recently introduced a solution a major upgrade called Chromebook Plusan umbrella category for a new class of devices from different manufacturers.
The “plus” means better performance – faster processors, more memory, more storage and better video cameras. The surprising thing is that the prices… are still cheap. Even more surprising than the already low prices (most are under $400) is the fact that this week Best Buy is having a sale on some of these Chromebook Plus models, including two that we tested positively.
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This is the fastest Chromebook we’ve tested. It has a 3.75GHz Intel Core i3-1315U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of flash storage. The Flex 5i has two USB-C ports (one is for charging) and one USB-A port. You also get a microSD card slot to expand storage capacity, making this a good choice for those who don’t want to keep everything in the cloud. The 14-inch touchscreen features a 2-in-1 design, making it ideal for media streaming. As with most Chromebooks, the screen isn’t the best, with medium brightness and a standard screen resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.
Acer’s 15-inch Chromebook Plus (8/10, WIRED Recommends) features a 12th-generation 3.85GHz Intel Core i3-1215U processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of flash storage. The beauty of these new Plus models is that the agonizing slowness that once plagued cheap Chromebooks is no longer present. Even this base model is quite fast, and battery life is a solid 8.5 hours of full-screen video playback time.
This Acer offers two USB-C ports (with DisplayPort support), a USB-A port and an HDMI 1.4 output jack. The latter replaces the aforementioned Lenovo’s microSD card, making it a better choice if you often give presentations or need to otherwise use the HDMI port. The only thing to note here is that it is not a touchscreen.
We haven’t had a chance to test Asus’ Chromebook Plus yet, but some of the best benchmarks we’ve ever recorded in a Chromebook have come from models with AMD Ryzen 3 chips. Since the Ryzen 3 is the focus here, I can recommend it without any problems. You also get 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD as standard.
Like the Lenovo, this is a 2-in-1 flip Chromebook (convertible) with a touchscreen. The screen is brighter for a Chromebook at 300 nits (compared to 250 nits for most others). Also note that although this model supports a stylus, it is not included in the box.