Best Chromebook 2016 - all our top-scoring reviews

On a tight budget? Nothing beats a Chromebook for simple tasks. We rate the best Chromebooks

Computing has moved ever further into the cloud, with many people's everyday tasks now taking place entirely inside a web browser. Why pay for a full desktop operating system such as Windows when you're only going to be using a browser? If that sounds like you, then this list of the best Chromebooks will be right up your street.

What is a Chromebook and how does Chrome OS work?

Chromebooks run Chrome OS, an operating system developed by Google. If you've used Google Chrome, you'll be mostly familiar with how Chrome OS works. It differs slightly in that it has a file browser, a desktop and an apps menu that also displays Google Now, but it's all simple stuff.

Instead of using conventional desktop applications, you'll be using Google's excellent web-based suite of apps that includes Docs for word processing, Sheets for spreadsheets and Slides for presentations. Everything is stored in the cloud, meaning every change you make is saved automatically. You will need a persistent internet connection for this to work, but if you're going to be offline - such as when travelling - there is an official Chrome OS tool that lets you work on your documents while you're offline. 

In terms of more conventional desktop apps, many options and alternatives are available for Chrome OS from the Chrome Web Store. For image editing, Polarr or Pixlr Editor are both great choices. Chromebooks all have USB ports, too, so you can transfer your media and documents around just like on a standard laptop.

The great thing about Chrome OS is that updates are constantly being released. Provided you have an internet connection it's always updating to the latest version, just like the Chrome browser.

If you're feeling confident, you can easily install Linux on your Chromebook, meaning you can buy a super-cheap laptop and run Linux applications on it. For more on how to do this, read our Chromebook Linux installation guide

Android Apps on Chromebooks

Google has just announced that its Google Play Store is coming to Chromebooks, which frankly is excellent news. It means a raft of Android apps will now be available on Chrome OS. This opens up all manner of apps, from office productivity, communication and games, such as Hearthstone. 

Google has said that the Google Play Store will first begin rolling out to specific models including the Acer Chromebook R11 and Chromebook Pixel listed below. More models will begin supporting the Google Play Store later in 2016 and a list is being maintained here.

Google Play Store Chromebook

Judging by the models, most Chromebooks bought within the last two years will have support and all of the models we've listed below will be getting the update. Future models will support the Google Play Store, too. All in all, having access to Android apps is great news and makes Chromebooks an even more viable platform. Google has said that it has already overtaken Mac sales in the US, so this could well be a further catalyst for adoption.

Best Chromebooks to buy in 2016

HP Chromebook 14 (2016)

HP Chromebook 14 (2016) front angle

This is the second HP Chromebook 14 we've reviewed and fortunately the second iteration builds upon many things we liked about the first. You still get excellent build quality considering the Chromebook 14's reasonable price but performance has been improved as well. With its sky blue finish, it's certainly hard to miss but at 1.72kg it's reasonably shoulder-friendly if you want a 14in Chromebook.

There's a good array of USB ports and battery life is enough to get you through a day before you're desperately clamouring for mains power. The keyboard and touchpad are even surprisingly good. The only disappointing element really is its display, which was also distinctly average on the previous model. Overall, the HP Chromebook 14 is great value and one of the best 14in Chromebooks you can buy.

Price when reviewed: £230. Read our HP Chromebook 14 review.

Processor: Dual-core 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840, RAM: 4GB,Dimensions: 344x240x17.8mm,Weight: 1.69kg, Screen size: 14.1in, Screen resolution: 1,366x768, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics, Total storage: 16GB eMMC

How to: Convert an old laptop into a 'Chromebook' for free

Acer Chromebook R11

Acer's 360-degree hinge Chromebook R11 jumped straight to the top of our list of best Chromebooks. Despite costing just £230 it has the build quality of a much more expensive laptop, not to mention its ubiquitous, flexible hinge and excellent touch screen. Coated in gleaming white, the chassis feels expensive and doesn't feel like it'll break the first tume you bump it up aginst something. Performance is middling, but for the money you can't ask for much more. Battery life is fantastic at over 8 hours, which is more than good enough for a full day of work. 

It also weighs just 1.2kg, making it a great companion on the road. There's very little not to like about it; our only genuine concern was a rather laboured physical click action on the touchpad, but that's something you can get used to or avoid altogether if you choose to tap - rather than press - the touchpad. It's a great buy and Acer's best budget laptop in years. 

Price when reviewed: £230. Read our Acer Chromebook R11 review.

Processor: Dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3050, RAM: 2GB,Dimensions: 20x295x203mm,Weight: 1.2kg, Screen size: 11.6in, Screen resolution: 1,366x768, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics, Total storage: 16GB eMMC

Dell Chromebook 11 (2015)

Dell's Chromebook 11 is a chunky device that's intended for use in educational environments but there's no reason why you couldn't buy it for use at home. It's powered by a 2,16GHz dual-core Intel Celeron N2840 processor, so it's not exactly powerful, but thanks to Chrome OS's lightweight architecture you probably won't notice its shortcomings in normal use, although if you open lots of media-heavy tabs, you will definitely notice. It lasted over 10 hours of normal usage, too, which is better than most Windows laptops.

Price when reviewed: £231. Read the Dell Chromebook 11 review on our sister site IT Pro

Processor: Dual-core 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840, RAM: 4GB,Size: 297x218x20mm, Weight: 1.3kg, Screen size: 11.6in, Screen resolution: 1,366x768, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics, Total storage: 16GB SSD

Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB30-B-104

Toshiba Chromebook 2

One of our favourite budget laptops, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is the best budget Chromebook you can buy if you like to multitask. Its best feature is its Full HD screen, which lets you put two windows comfortably side-by-side without having to squash either of them. It's also slightly larger than the cheapest Chromebooks, with a 13.3in chassis meaning everything is more comfortable and usable than on a more conventional 11in Chromebook. Powerful it ain't, but the screen is a huge selling point for us.

Price when reviewed: £270. Read our full Toshiba Chromebook 2 review

Processor: Dual-core 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840, RAM: 4GB,Size: 320x214x19mm, Weight: 1.35kg, Screen size: 13.3in,Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080,Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics, Total storage: 16GB SSD

Acer Chromebook 15 C910

The headline feature of the Chromebook 15 is its 15.6in screen, making it the largest Chromebook you can buy today. This will put to bed any naysayers who refuse to buy a Chromebook due to their normally fairly dinky size. Sadly the screen isn't Full HD and the processor hasn't been ramped up despite the extra real estate, but it does make for one of the cheapest 15.6in laptops you can buy today.

Price when reviewed: £200. Read the Acer Chromebook 15 C910 review on our sister site IT Pro

Processor: Dual-core 1.5GHz Intel Celeron 3205U, RAM: 4GB,Size: 383x245x25mm, Weight: 1.35kg, Screen size: 13.3in,Screen resolution: 1,366x768, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics, Total storage: 16GB SSD

Google Chromebook Pixel 2015

The Pixel line of Chromebooks is supposed to demonstrate the best possible Chromebook experience. At £799 for the base model, you'd accept nothing less. You could say that the Pixel is too powerful for Chrome OS, but with lots of tabs open and media-heavy webpages on the up, the more power, the better. It's a superbly designed 12.9in device that weighs just 1.5kg and lasted nearly 11 hours in our battery benchmarking test. Web pages load in a snap and we never found the Pixel chugging along. If you're a power user but stick to web browser-based tasks, this is the ultimate Chromebook.

Price when reviewed: £799. Read our full Chromebook Pixel review

Processor: Dual-core 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5500u, RAM: 8GB,Size: 297.7x224.6x15.3mm,Weight: 2.2kg, Screen size: 15.6in, Screen resolution: 2,560x1,700, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics 5500, Total storage: 16GB SSD

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