What processor should I be looking for when buying a Chromebook

There are many things to consider when buying a new Chromebook and the processor is one of them. The processor your Chromebook uses is important because it’s directly linked to performance.

Some Chromebooks are available in many different configurations (such as the Pixelbook Go), which gives you more of a choice on performance. However, many may just come with one configuration type. Therefore, you may have your eye on a specific device and need to know whether the processor is going to be right for the tasks you have in mind.

The type of processor used will be mainly linked to how much the laptop costs. You will tend to see a pattern where budget Chromebooks use an Intel Celeron or MediaTek for example, and more expensive models may use an Intel i3, i5 or i7.

What is a computer processor?

A processor in your Chromebook or any other type of computer is called a Central Processing Unit (CPU). That’s a bit of a mouthful so it’s widely known as a processor. The processor is the most important part of a Chromebook as it’s the processor that controls all the other components in your computer.

A processor’s speed is currently measured in gigahertz GHz. Generally speaking the higher the GHz the faster the processor. However, it’s not as black and white as that as there are lots of different types of processors. They all do the same job, but some perform differently from others.

For example, an Intel i5 quad-core will perform far better than an intel i5 dual-core. If all this sounds confusing, then you are in the right place. I’ll explain everything you need to know without getting too technical, so you make the right choice when buying your next Chromebook.

What processor should I look for when buying a Chromebook

This all depends on the type of Chromebook you’re looking to buy. If you’re looking to buy an entry-level Chromebook and price is the key factor. Then the type of processor would be totally different compared to a high-spec Chromebook that cost three times that amount.

If you’re buying a budget Chromebook then the processor will most likely be an Intel Celeron or MediaTek. If you’re considering buying the best Chromebook money can buy then you would expect to see an Intel i7 processor, but an Intel i5 isn’t far behind.

If you’re buying a Budget Chromebook

If you’re looking to buy a budget Chromebook then an Intel Celeron processor or MediaTek will do just fine. However, this is because a budget Chromebook would not be able to perform tasks that a high-spec Chromebook can. So it depends on what you want to use your Chromebook for. Most budget ChromeOS devices use either an Intel Celeron or a MediaTek processor.

If you’re buying a Chromebook to surf the web and write the occasional essay then a budget Chromebook with a budget processor will do just fine. You may notice an occasional delay if doing more than one thing on your Chromebook at once, but this delay should not be too noticeable. This is providing you’re not trying to use a budget Chromebook with more intense applications that need more power.

The type of tasks a budget ChromeOS device is capable of:

  • Browsing the internet
  • Internet shopping
  • Social media
  • Word processing
  • Spreadsheets
  • YouTube, Netflix and other video streaming apps
  • Spotify, YouTube Music and other music streaming apps
  • Android Apps (some advanced apps may work slower or not at all)

ChromeOS works well with a budget processor

One of the great things about ChromeOS is that it’s a very lightweight operating system. Therefore, you can do all of the types of tasks mentioned above with a budget processor. You do not need to worry about your Chromebook not being able to cope with these types of tasks.

Of course, the tasks you perform will be a little slower using a budget device compared to a higher-spec one. However, if you’re buying a laptop and the type of tasks above are what you tend to do 99% of the time. You can safely buy a ChromeOS computer with a budget processor, and you’ll not have any frustrating performance issues.

This is completely different if you were using a Microsoft Windows computer. A Microsoft Windows computer with an Intel Celeron or MediaTek processor would perform poorly. This simply isn’t the case with ChromeOS because it has been designed to work well with all types of processors.

If you’re buying a higher spec Chromebook

If your next Chromebook purchase is all about performance than price. Then the type of processor your future Chromebook has is important. You would not expect to see an Intel Celeron processor in a medium or high-spec Chromebook. This is because the Intel Celeron and MediaTek processors were designed to be used in entry-level computers.

For high-performing Chromebooks, you would expect the processor to be an Intel i3, i5 or i7. The Intel i3 is the entry-level, i5 is the mid-range level and i7 is the highest performing processor. However, you should not consider the Intel i3 as a poor-performing processor. It may be entry-level in this particular range of processors, but this range of processors is high performing. The Intel M3 and M5 are also very decent performing processors for ChromeOS computers. Not as powerful as an Intel i3, but not far behind.

The Intel i3 processor is a powerful processor and is more than capable of providing your Chromebook with enough processing power. However, that being said the Intel i5 will outperform a Chromebook using an Intel i3. Just as an Intel i7 would outperform an Intel i5 processor. This is only strictly true if we were looking at processors from the same generation.

There are different processors in the same family

Processors are usually launched with a specific name such as the Intel Celeron processor. It’s called a family because you can get different types of Celeron processors. This usually happens when a new chip is launched. The new chip released is a new generation of chips and they generally perform better than the older generation.

For example, If you had two Chromebooks and both had an Intel Celeron processor. It’s not as straightforward to assume they will both perform the same. One of the Chromebooks may have a first-generation processor, while the other Chromebook could have a third-generation processor. In this situation, you would expect the third generation to perform better.

You can tell they are different processors because the processor name is usually followed by a model number. Searching the internet for a particular model number is not always convenient. So the best way to tell the processors apart is the clock speed. The clock speed shows in gigahertz (GHz). Another important factor for a processor is the cache.

The processor cache

A processor would normally have a cache. A cache is currently measured in megabytes (MB). The higher the MB your cache has the better your computer will perform. However, when looking at this you also need to take into consideration the type of processor as well.

The cache is used to store data close to the CPU and this data is taken from the main memory. It does this because the cache memory can be accessed much quicker than the RAM on your Chromebook. Therefore, the processor will store data, which is used most often in the cache. This makes the computer perform much faster. The more MB the cache has the more data it can store.

Dual-core or Quad-core processors

Another thing you’ll notice when looking at processors is that some processors state they are dual-core or quad-core. This essentially means a dual-core processor has two processors, which means it can handle twice the amount of processing. Again, it’s not always as black and white as that when it comes to processors. However, generally speaking, a quad-core processor would outperform a dual-core processor. Most Chromebooks currently come with a dual-core processor, but high-end Chromebooks may have a quad-core, and in the future, I’m sure we will see Chromebooks with six cores.

As I’ve already mentioned, a new generation processor means better performance. One way the performance could be improved is by switching from a dual-core processor to a quad-core. For example, an Intel i5 ninth-generation may be dual-core whereas an Intel i5 tenth-generation could be quad-core.

In this example, if the i5 ninth-generation had a clock speed of 3.8 GHz, and the i5 tenth-generation had a lower clock speed of 3.6 GHz. This doesn’t mean the older generation processor is faster because it has a higher clock speed. This is because it only uses two cores compared to the tenth generation, which uses four cores. It may have a lower clock speed, but it has double the number of cores.

It comes down to money

As with most things in life it comes down to money. If you’re buying a budget Chromebook then you’ll most likely see that it uses an Intel Celeron or MediaTek processor. You should not see this as a negative thing, as these processors are what make the Chromebook cheaper to buy. Also, as I’ve already explained; ChromeOS works perfectly fine with budget processors.

If you’re buying a budget Chromebook and you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of models. Check to see what processor they have. They are most likely going to be from the same family ‘Intel Celeron’. However, they may not necessarily be the same generation. The easiest way to check is the GHz rating of the processor. Also, check whether they both have the same amount of cores. They most probably will, so it will be the clock speed and cache that will help you decide, which processor will perform better.

For anyone looking to buy a higher-spec Chromebook then you should not really consider anything less than an Intel i3. Again, there will be different generations, so it’s important to check the clock speed, cache and number of cores if comparing two Chromebooks with the same i3 processor type. You’ll also find ChromeOS computers that use the Intel M3 or M5 processor. These are perfectly good processors, which sit high above the Intel Celeron and MediaTek and just below the i3.

If money is no object then you should try and find a Chromebook with an i5 or i7 processor. This is the type of processor to look for if you will be using advanced software or Linux Apps. An Intel i5 quad-core eleventh-generation or above is needed to use Steam Alpha.

It’s not all about the processor

The processor is the first thing we think about when considering the performance of a computer. However, the processor would be rather useless if it didn’t have Random Access Memory (RAM) to work with.

Generally speaking, a budget Chromebook will work just fine with a budget processor and 4GB of RAM. A medium or high spec Chromebook with an Intel M3, M5, i3, i5 or i7 will work with 4GB of RAM, but really needs more than this. A higher spec processor with 4GB of RAM is a waste, as this type of processor will work much better and offer much better performance if it’s working with 8GB of RAM or even more. Find out more about how much RAM you need for a Chromebook.

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Chromebook buying guide – should I buy a Chromebook?

4 thoughts on “What processor should I be looking for when buying a Chromebook”

  1. We are currently deciding between the Samsung Chromebook 4 and Lenovo Chromebook 3 to buy 50 units for a nonprofit education project. Cost is definitely a factor – but we’re also trying to be strategic with the 5-6 year options on Auto Expiration dates and units that will keep chugging along through those 5 years. Would you be willing to share your advice for those circumstances? Additional question – if you’re willing – would spending the extra $50 up to $279 be worthwhile in “future proofing” the Samsung 4 to get the 64gb storage and 6gb RAM – despite the modest processor? Thanks!

  2. Thanks for your question.

    I’ll answer the second question first. I do not feel paying the extra money for 6GB compared to 4GB will help future proof these devices. The processor is relatively entry-level, so I do not believe this extra 2GB would ever be used when you consider what you could do with a Chromebook with an entry-level processor. You mentioned your budget is tight, so I think the 4GB will be fine.

    The first question. I’ve had to take another look at the devices you’re considering. They both appear to be relatively similar, so I’d go for which one suits you most. In relation to the AUE date. If you feel you’ll need these Chromebooks to last longer than the AUE available, then it may be worthwhile choosing the device with the AUE that expires later.

    However, it’s worth remembering the Chromebooks can still be used after the AUE date. If you only need a further six months out of them, you’ll need to consider do you need that extra security.

    It all depends on what is more important. Lowering the initial cost or having security updates throughout the whole lifetime of the Chromebook devices.

    Hope this helps

  3. Thanks so much, Dan. I appreciate your insight and your reply – especially the recommendation that it wouldn’t be worthwhile to stretch $50 higher for the 6gb ram. We’ve used 50 Acer 11 chromebooks for 5 years. They expired last year, but we’ve continued using them and they’ve performed very well over the years under heavy student use, with the Celeron 2840 processer and 2GB RAM. But now that’s it time to replace, we’ve been looking at options with auto-expiration in June 2026 and initial price points around $229. Yep – you found the devices we’re considering. 11.6 screens/N4000 processors/32gb storage/4gb ram/$229 – and hopefully pretty solid. Thanks again for your insight.

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