If you were buying a Chromebook back in 2011 when they were originally launched. You wouldn’t have much of a choice on the spec as they were all budget devices. This has changed a lot in the last few years and you can get high-powered Chromebooks with a hefty price tag to match.
The good news is, although there is now a huge number of higher-powered Chromebooks available. You can still find many budget devices to choose from. The question you may be asking yourself is what type of Chromebook you should buy.
It’s very easy to get caught in the trap of spending more than is necessary. You may think a higher-priced device will offer you more. This is completely true but this does not necessarily mean you should choose a medium or high spec Chrome OS computer if a budget type offers everything you need. In this article, I’ll explain the differences between them and why most people may be happy with a Budget Chromebook.
The different types of Budget Chromebooks
I have owned many Chromebooks from all the different ranges available. At the moment my budget Chromebook is the Acer 311 C722. This is what I would class as a super cheap budget Chromebook, which is important to note. In fact, I’ve used it to write this article because it has a pretty decent keyboard that I just get on with.
You then get the other type of Chromebook, which usually cost a little more. The great thing about these budget laptops is they can offer you everything you need at a really decent price. Essentially, you get super cheap budget devices and more expensive budget devices.
The super cheap range is something that is costing you less than $250/£250. Most devices in this range will usually have a downside that you need to be aware of. Devices ranging from $250/£250 to $400/£400 still usually come with budget specs but they have fewer downsides.
Processing power and performance
One thing you should not be too concerned about is performance. Chrome OS has been designed to be lightweight. Therefore, you can do what most of us do on our laptops with a budget device. They will usually come with an Intel Celeron or MediaTek processor. These processors are not really fast, but they are fast enough to deal with most tasks.
If you’re looking for a laptop to search the internet, use social media, watch YouTube videos, use productivity software such as a word processor or spreadsheet. Then a budget Chromebook will be able to handle these tasks perfectly fine. You should also be able to use most Android Apps without too many issues, but more powerful Android Apps such as advanced games may run slower.
When you think about it, most of us use our laptops to do tasks similar to what I’ve mentioned above. The fact you can do all these with any budget Chromebook means performance isn’t really something you need to consider. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about performance if you’ll be carrying out these types of tasks with your laptop.
Most budget devices will come with 4GB of RAM. This amount of RAM is perfectly fine for all types of tasks I’ve mentioned above. Find out more about how much RAM you need for your Chromebook.
If you’re buying a budget Chromebook then you’re possibly not that interested in build quality. Most budget devices are plastic, which isn’t going to be for everyone. Some more expensive budget devices may use aluminium, which does look nicer but are usually heavier.
I am the type of person who does like to have nice-looking tech. However, I accept if I’m buying a laptop for under $250/£250 I need to accept I’ll most likely not get that. It’s a compromise you have to make when spending less money. The benefit of plastic laptops is that they are usually a lot lighter in weight, which is a good thing.
Most of the super-cheap devices are laptop-only devices. You’re less likely to find a Hybrid 2-in-1 device in this range. You’ll find more Hybrid 2-in-1 devices in the more expensive budget range. If you’re looking for a Hybrid, you’ll most likely need to spend $300/£300 or more.
Budget Chromebook storage
Something else you need to consider when buying a budget Chromebook is storage. Most Chrome OS devices in this range usually come with 32GB or 64GB of storage. This may not sound like a lot of storage but it depends on what you’ll be doing with your Chromebook.
If you want a laptop for mainly internet surfing and using social media or to use a word processor or spreadsheet. Then the amount of storage isn’t really an issue. This is because you can save all of your files in the cloud and most of these activities can be done by visiting a web address when using a Chromebook.
The only thing you need to consider when it comes to storage is apps. Both Android and Linux apps use your local storage. The storage is used to install the app and sometimes may be used when saving files in the app. If you want to use Linux apps then I’d avoid all budget Chrome OS devices; You’ll need a medium spec device instead. For Android apps, you’ll be fine using most of them but they may run a little slow depending on the type of app.
All Android apps vary in size. However, generally speaking, you should easily be able to install about twenty to thirty apps with 32GB of storage and double that number with 64GB.
Budget Chromebook Display panel
This is the main area where you need to consider what you want. Many budget Chromebooks come with a TN panel. A TN panel may work better in the sun than an IPS panel. However, that is where the positives stop.
The issue with a TN panel is that everything on the display looks rather dull. Nothing will pop out at you and amaze you. You’ll also notice if you’re not viewing a TN panel directly on and viewing it from an angle; the text and images can be difficult to see. The best way to see what I mean is by watching a video I made, which shows the difference between a TN and IPS panel.
There is absolutely no question that if you like a decent-looking display it’s very unlikely you’ll be happy with a Chromebook that has a TN panel. Therefore, you would need to spend more and buy a budget Chromebook that uses an IPS panel. The good news is there are a few available, so you just need to check before buying. If you’re not too bothered about the display quality then you’ll most likely be happy with a TN panel.
If you’re buying a budget Chromebook with an 11.6-inch display then an SD resolution of 1,366 x 768 is acceptable. I would not recommend buying a 14-inch Chromebook that uses this resolution. A 14-inch laptop from any range should have a Full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 if you want the best visuals.
Is a touchscreen important to you?
Since the launch of Android Apps on Chrome OS touchscreen devices have become a lot more popular. Personally speaking, if you want to get the best from Chrome OS and Android Apps then a touchscreen is important.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use Android Apps without a touchscreen. However, you get a better experience with some apps if you have access to a touchscreen. Most super-cheap Chromebooks will not offer a touchscreen.
The more expensive budget Chromebooks may come with a touchscreen but this is something you’ll need to check. If it’s a Hybrid 2-in-1 that can be used as a tablet then it will obviously come with a touchscreen. However, you can also find laptop-only budget devices that have a touchscreen.
Checking the model number is really important
One thing you should get into the habit of doing is checking the model number and the specs sheet. The only issue you’ll find is that a lot of online retailers get the specs sheet wrong. They may state a Chromebook has a touchscreen when it does not or that it has a Full HD resolution when it comes with SD resolution.
The reason why this happens is that not all models of the same Chromebook are equal. You cannot assume, as an example, that the Acer 314 Chromebook is only available with a TN panel and non-touchscreen display.
It may have been the case this device was available with these specs. However, manufacturers regularly upgrade the specs on newer models of the same device. This means some retailers may be selling the older model and others the newer model.
This can make it really difficult when looking for a Chromebook to buy. Do not assume if one website has certain specs that this means that a particular Chromebook is only available with those specs. You’ve got to do your homework. The best thing to do is to always check the Chromebook model/part number by doing a search on Google.
See online reviews for what they are
Something else that you need to remember is that online reviews are only correct for the specific model the person reviewed. How many times have you considered buying a particular Chromebook and then search for reviews on Google first?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and reviews are really useful. However, you need to consider when the review was filmed or written and the model they possibly reviewed. It’s really easy to check a website for a review, which shows device cons such as no IPS panel, no touchscreen, and be put off buying that Chromebook.
The issue with this is that the reviewer may have been reviewing an older model of that particular Chromebook. Since then a newer model that does support touchscreen and comes with an IPS panel may have been released.
This could potentially put you off buying a Chromebook that you would have bought if you knew about the different models available. Essentially, you’ve got to do your homework before buying a Chromebook. Always check a few reviews out first and thoroughly investigate the specs shown on online retailers.
The country you live in could be another reason for specs to differ. A Chromebook in the UK may have different specs compared to the same Chromebook in the USA.
Other benefits when buying a budget Chromebook
The good thing about buying a budget Chromebook is that you should get really good battery life. All Chromebooks have a decent battery life compared to other types of laptops. However, budget devices, especially those with a small 11.6-inch display will easily last at least ten to twelve hours between charges.
This is because the processor used needs less power and smaller displays also use less power than larger screens. Higher-spec laptops will use more power and generally last six and nine hours between charges.
Something else that is great about budget and most medium spec Chromebooks is they are silent. As soon as you start looking at higher-spec Chromebooks then you may have to consider whether it uses a fan. Some higher-spec Chromebooks fan noise isn’t too noticeable whilst others are. Something you don’t have to worry about when buying a budget laptop.
When to avoid a budget Chromebook
If excellent build quality and looks are important to you then you’ll possibly want to avoid a budget laptop. These types of qualities are generally only found when you spend more money. This is not completely set in stone and whether a laptop looks good or not is down to individual taste.
If you want to use Linux Apps or advanced Android apps. Then you will need to spend more on a medium or high spec device. This includes the possibility of playing games locally on your Chromebook using Steam. To do this then you’ll need to buy a high-spec device, and only a handful of the current devices are capable of using Steam Alpha.
If you want a fast laptop then a budget device may not be a good choice. Although budget Chromebooks are perfectly usable. You do have to accept most tasks do take longer to run. This can be frustrating if you’ve been used to using a more powerful laptop.
If you’re looking for a laptop to do what most of us use them for. Then you may find a budget Chromebook is all you need. You just need to remember that super-cheap laptops will have some floors such as a poor display. If that doesn’t bother you then go for it.
However, you can still find relatively cheap Chromebooks for around $300/£300 that have a lot fewer flaws. If you’re happy owning a laptop that can perform tasks but may not be really fast at doing them. Yet you still want a decent display. The good news is there are plenty of budget Chromebooks you can choose from.
It’s all about doing your homework and making sure you’re getting the best value for your money. One thing is for sure, a cheap Chromebook will perform much better than a cheap laptop running any other operating system. You can’t go wrong buying a cheap laptop to use with Chrome OS.