The best Chromebooks for students are a great alternative to Windows laptops and MacBooks because they are much cheaper. They are also light, which makes them practical to carry around school, college or university all day.
And that’s not all. Because they’re not slowed down by bloated operating systems like Windows or macOS, they offer fast boot times and smooth performance, so you can get more done in between classes. In addition, Chromebooks are known for their higher level of security, which reduces the chance of being hacked and scammed, something especially cash-strapped students will appreciate.
So what’s the catch? Well, because unlike most of the best graphic design laptops, they don’t come with Windows or macOS, you’ll be limited in terms of the software you can use. Essentially, all you get is a browser, so you won’t be able to run, say, creative software like Premiere Pro, 3DS Max, or the full version of Photoshop.
You’ll also have to say goodbye to Microsoft Office software, although browser-based alternatives like Google Docs provide a pretty decent alternative for free. Perhaps most importantly, you won’t be able to do much without an internet connection, so if your college’s Wi-Fi network is spotty, you’ll need to use your mobile data to make up for it.
If these aren’t deal-breakers, however, then the affordability, speed and ease of use of Chromebooks have a lot to offer. For a general guide to Chromebooks, read our best Chromebook guide, or for student-specific options, read on.
The best Chromebooks for students available now
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The Acer Chromebook 314 is very low priced: you certainly won’t get a Windows laptop or MacBook this cheap. And yet it does pretty much everything the average student needs. Yes, there are small compromises to be made for the price. Most notably, it doesn’t have a touchscreen. Also, the processor is not the fastest on the market, there is only 4G RAM, the 14-inch screen offers a resolution of “only” 720p, and it is a bit heavy at 1.7 kg.
But really these are minor niggles. On the plus side, our reviewer found it easy to use, quick to boot, and able to handle multiple tabs with ease. And impressively, they got 13 hours of battery life on a single charge. So overall, this laptop offers astonishing value for students. For more information, read our Acer Chromebook 314 review.
Is your budget really tight? Then this is the cheapest Chromebook we can recommend today. For everyday student tasks like writing essays, streaming music and video content, and general web browsing, it will do the job admirably, and at a staggeringly low price.
Let’s be clear: if you want to do something particularly resource-intensive, such as creating art, playing games or editing photos and videos, this is not the best choice, because the processor is relatively low on power, there is only 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage and the screen is only 720p.
But to balance that out a bit, battery life is excellent: our reviewer managed 13 hours and 50 minutes of Netflix viewing on a single charge. And they found the splash-proof cover a welcome addition to the boot. For more information, read our full Acer Chromebook 311 review.
The best 2-in-1 laptops give you the ultimate in flexibility: a touchscreen that you can detach and use on its own as a tablet, plus a keyboard that you can attach to turn it into a full laptop. And the HP Chromebook x2 11 is our pick as the best 2-in-1 Chromebook for students available today.
Yes, it’s more expensive than the first two Chromebooks on our list. But in addition to the flexibility of a 2-in-1 device, you also get a screen with superior 1440p (QHD) resolution. Its edge-to-edge glass finish is super stylish. And the Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c processor makes everything run smoothly and quickly.
Battery life is also strong: our reviewer watched Netflix for 11 hours and 10 minutes on a single charge. And you even get Bang & Olufsen speakers, although our reviewer found these a little disappointing and lacking in depth. For more information, see our HP Chromebook x2 11 review.
At press time, the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook costs over $1,000 / £1,000 on the cheapest configuration, rising to over $3,000 / £3,000 at the highest spec. And that obviously puts it out of reach for the vast majority of students. But if you happen to have some cash to spare, or parents who are feeling extremely generous, you may be looking for the absolute best Chromebook for students on the market. And right now this is it.
Aimed at business rather than education, the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook features a gorgeous touchscreen QHD+ display made of Corning Gorilla Glass 5. It’s beautifully thin and light. Its 12th generation Intel processors, combined with 32GB of RAM, offer blazing speeds. And you get an impressive 128 GB of storage space on board.
All of this is overkill for most student use, and at these prices you need a strong reason to choose a Chromebook over a MacBook or Windows device. But hey, if you really want the Rolls Royce option, and money is no object, you’ll struggle to find a more powerful Chromebook.
If you’re looking for a mid-range Chromebook for student needs, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a worthy option. With an 11th generation i5 CPU, Intel Iris Xe graphics and 8GB of RAM, it delivers enough power to tackle tasks beyond the basics, such as using photo and video editing apps, creating digital art and playing games.
It also has a decent HD touch screen, which can be rotated a full 360 degrees, and 256 GB of flash memory. So while you’re paying more for this Chromebook, you’re getting excellent value overall.
If you want to play AAA games on the go, traditionally you would have needed to invest in one of the best gaming laptops, which tend to be very expensive. However, the rise of cloud gaming platforms such as Nvidia’s GeForce Now and Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass has changed all that.
These services deliver high-end titles over the web, handling most of the processing on their own servers, meaning you can even play them on some Chromebooks. And if that interests you, the Acer 516 GE is our top pick.
It comes with a large 16-inch display, boasting QHD resolution and 120Hz refresh rate, so if your internet connection is good enough, you should enjoy smooth gaming. Plus, even if your Wi-Fi isn’t good enough for stable streaming, there’s a 2.5G Ethernet port to set up a wired connection instead.
The sound from the top speakers is also decent. However, all of this comes at a price, which is why this Chromebook is probably overkill for anyone who isn’t interested in cloud gaming. Also note that the screen is not a touch screen.
Looking for a 2-in-1 Chromebook with a big, beautiful screen? Then check out the ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5, which has a 15.6-inch Full HD touchscreen that’s perfect for both watching video and creative tasks like photo editing.
It’s also impressively spec’d overall, with a choice of 11th-gen Core i3, i5 and i7 processors alongside 8GB of RAM for good performance and a generous 128GB of storage. The sound is strong and surprisingly loud. The full-size keyboard and trackpad are first class. And the slim design means that even though it’s big, it’s very light, so it’s still nice and portable.
Want a 2-in-1 Chromebook but can’t afford the ones above on our list? Then the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook could be the ideal option for you. For a rather surprisingly low price, you get a hybrid device that you can use as both a tablet and a laptop.
To be honest, the processor isn’t the fastest, and the 10-inch screen is a bit on the small side. The keyboard is a bit small and awkward too.
However, the downside of the small size is that this Chromebook is nice and compact, making it very portable for carrying around campus. Battery life is excellent, averaging around 10 hours for mixed use. And in truth, getting any kind of 2-in-1 laptop at this rock-bottom price is pretty amazing.