To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Google’s new Chromebook AI features are here and I’ve given them a road test

Chromebook Plus laptops with new AI features

Google's latest Chromebook Plus update includes writing assistance and AI wallpapers

Google’s Chromebook Plus devices have been impressing us ever since Google announced them late in 2023, but now the search giant is set to give the devices an AI feature boost – and I was invited to Google HQ in the UK last week to give them a try. The new Chromebook Plus features debut alongside some laptops from Acer and HP, including the new Acer Chromebook Plus Spin 714 and the Acer Chromebook Plus 516GE, but it’s the software extras that are most intriguing.

The new features include a handful of clever features for the Google Photos app on ChromeOS, new ways to generate wallpapers and video call backgrounds, a feature to help users write blog posts using Gemini (Google’s AI chatbot) and a load of other handy extras to assist Chromebook users day-to-day.

Plus, as an extra incentive, Google is throwing in a year’s worth of its Google One AI Premium plan, which includes access to Gemini Advanced and 2TB of storage and would normally cost £19/mth, for all new Chromebook Plus purchases.

READ NEXT: Best laptops for students

Google Photos: Magic Editor

One of the bonus features Google delivered for Chromebook Plus devices when they were first introduced last year was the Magic Eraser tool, inherited from the company’s range of Pixel smartphones. Now, Google has supplemented it with some more AI-driven features, all gathered together in the “Magic Editor” section of the Google Photos Editor tool.

The first is a development of the Magic Eraser, which first appeared on this year’s Pixel phones, and also allows you to resize and reposition people or pets onscreen. This works pretty seamlessly, just as Magic Eraser does: just click on your subject to select, long press and you can then drag it around and resize it at will.

Google's new ChromeOS Magic Photo editor in action

The new Magic Editor also includes an additional portrait setting, so you can add a blurry background after you’ve repositioned your subject, but I didn’t find this to work as well.

Rather more effective are Sky, Golden Hour and Stylise options, which are one-click AI edits that work best on landscape photos. You have to wait a few seconds for it to work but the first replaces your existing skyscape with something more dramatic, providing a number of options to choose from.

The Golden Hour option warms up the lighting in the shot, and the Stylise option goes all out, giving you a choice of more substantial edits that include convincing painting effect reprocessing.

Google's new Magic Editor tools in Photos lets you add 'Golden Hour' effects to your photos and replace the sky

Wallpaper AI and video call backgrounds

Also quite fun is the ability to generate custom AI wallpapers for your desktop and video call backgrounds. Here, Google gives you a selection of styles to choose from – Glowscapes or Landscape, for example – which you can then customise by picking out a type of image and its style. With the Classic art option, for instance, the preset prompt is “a painting of a field of flowers in the avant-garde style”; clicking on “field of flowers” and “avant-garde” gives you a list of options and you build up your prompt in this way.

It’s not exactly what you’d expect from an AI tool, to be honest, but there’s a huge variety of images you can generate, even with this more restrictive approach. Google uses the same technique to let you generate video wallpapers, too, with options such as “a modern office with neutral tones” and “pink lemons on a purple background” among your choices.

A screengrab of the new AI wallpapers feature for Chromebook Plus laptops

Text generation, live transcription and reading tools

In addition to the video tools are the new text-generation and summarising capabilities of Chromebook Plus devices. Dubbed “Help me write“, the first of these lets you generate chatbot text from a query – just as you might with ChatGPT – directly with the right-click menu without having to cut and paste.

Oddly, you can’t use “Help me write” in Google Docs yet, but it seemed to work in most other places when I tried it, including the ChromeOS text editor, where I used it to generate some simple HTML for a four-row, two-column table and a cheeky limerick about the new Chromebook Plus AI features:

A screengrab showing the new AI-based Help me write feature for Chromebook Plus laptops

It’s even possible to use this tool to rewrite pre-existing text – a paragraph you might have been struggling with, for instance – but I had mixed results with this. I tried to get it to rephrase a paragraph my recent review of the Huawei MateBook X Pro (2024) and the result was stilted and rather awkward to read.

Google also showcased a number of other upcoming AI features it’s working on right now for Chromebook Plus devices, including a tool for summarising websites or PDF documents using a right click, and the ability to use face and hand gestures to control your Chromebook via the webcam.

It’s also adding a number of non-AI features today to all Chromebooks, including the ability to create GIFs more easily, integration of Google Tasks with the ChromeOS calendar view and a Game Dashboard that gives you a way to capture gameplay with voiceover and re-map game controls on the fly.

READ NEXT: Best laptops

Chromebook Plus AI: Early verdict

I’ve been a fan of Chromebooks for a while now and whenever anyone comes to me asking for a budget laptop recommendation, I always make sure I include a Chromebook in the list of options. My current favourite is the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34, which you can pick up from Amazon right now for a mere £272. It’s a fantastic little laptop with a sharp, colourful 14in 1080p IPS display, a sleek smart design and nippy performance thanks to a 12th-generation Intel Core i3 CPU and 8GB of RAM.

And with this update, Google is giving budget laptop buyers even more reason to choose a Chromebook instead of a Windows machine, especially given you’ll be getting a year of 2TB of cloud storage and Gemini Advanced thrown in for free.

Read more

First Look