Remember when Chromebooks first launched with the pitch that they’d be cheap and all they’d need to run was a web browser, so you didn’t have to worry about specs? Yeah. Well, they mostly lived up to the cheap part, but the specs … those are hit or miss. To address this, Google recently rolled out a big upgrade called Chromebook Plus, an umbrella category for a new class of devices from various manufacturers.
The “Plus” stands for better performance—faster processors, more memory, more storage, and better video cameras. The suprising thing is that the prices … are still cheap. Even more amazing than the already low prices (most of them are under $400) is the fact that this week, Best Buy is running a sale on some of these Chromebook Plus models, including two we’ve tested positively.
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Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook Plus
This is the fastest Chromebook we’ve tested. It features a 3.75-GHz Intel Core i3-1315U CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of flash storage. The Flex 5i has two USB-C ports (one is used for charging) plus one USB-A port. You also get a microSD card slot for expanding the storage capability, making this a good choice for those who don’t want to keep everything in the cloud. The 14-inch touchscreen uses a 2-in-1 design, making it ideal for media streaming. As on most Chromebooks, the screen isn’t the best, with mid-level brightness and a standard 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen resolution.
Acer Chromebook Plus 515
Photograph: Best Buy
Acer’s 15-inch Chromebook Plus (8/10, WIRED Recommends) comes with a 12th-generation 3.85-GHz Intel Core i3-1215U processor with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of flash storage. One of the nice things about these new Plus models is that the groan-inducing slowness that once afflicted cheap Chromebooks is nowhere to be found. Even this base model is plenty fast, and battery life is a solid 8.5 hours of full-screen video playback time.
This Acer offers two USB-C ports (with DisplayPort supported), one USB-A port, and an HDMI 1.4 output jack. The latter takes the place of the microSD card found in the Lenovo above, making this one a better choice if you frequently need to give presentations or otherwise use the HDMI port. The only thing to note here is that this is not a touchscreen.
Asus 2-in-1 Chromebook Plus
We have not yet had a chance to test Asus’ Chromebook Plus, but some of the best benchmarks we’ve ever recorded in a Chromebook came from models using AMD Ryzen 3 chips. Given that the Ryzen 3 is the centerpiece here, I have no problem recommending it. You also get the standard 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD.
Like the Lenovo, this is a 2-in-1 flip (convertible) Chromebook, with a touchscreen. The screen is on the brighter side for a Chromebook at 300 nits (compared to 250 for most of the others). Also note that while this model supports a stylus, it does not include one.