The fastest computers in my house are my wife’s ASUS Zenbook and my iPad Pro 10.5. All of the other non-tablet computers that I own are pretty old and slow. The 2010 MacBook Air is one of my prized computers, and while it runs High Sierra and MS Office 2019, it does not run Docker for Mac and it is slow.
Consequently, I am pretty sure my next technology purchase is going to be a notebook computer, because it is time. The question is, what to buy? I don’t want to spend a lot of money, I am thinking of a budget of no more than $800, but I would prefer to get as much computer as I can for as little money spent as possible.
I am not seriously thinking of a Windows notebook, mostly because I use Windows all day on my work computer and therefore prefer something different. I am mostly drawn to the latest Chromebooks because that is where all of the new desktop software development is taking place. Mac OS and Windows are mature and stable, but I think Google is doing interesting things with Chrome OS and I find myself drawn to the idea of running applications for three different platforms on one device. I am drawn to the idea of the use of containers for desktop applications and an operating system with built-in functionality to support such a thing.
I want my next computer to run an Intel Core M or I processor, with 8 GB of RAM, at least 64 GB of internal storage, and the ability to expand storage. My next computer should have a 12-inch to 14-inch screen and a backlit keyboard.
When I first wrote this I was considering buying either the Lenovo Yoga C630 or the HP Chromebook X360 14, however at that time I did not factor in the possibility that the Google Pixelbook would fall in my price range. I have decided to buy the Pixelbook for the reasons below.
As I wrote in prior updates, I was really surprised by the large size of the Lenovo when I saw it in person and in the end I decided I didn’t want a notebook that large and heavy. I am glad I got to see the Lenovo in person before I decided whether or not to buy it. The fact that the version of the Yoga that I wanted to buy was not sold by Best Buy and not available from Lenovo was the final nail in the coffin.
I am sure that I would be happy with the HP, and as I write this HP has it discounted to $549 likely making it the best Chromebook that you can buy at that price. So, why did I decide on the Pixelbook over the X360 14?
First off, I believe the performance of the 7th generation Core I5 processor in the Pixelbook is nearly equivalent to the 8th generation Core I3 processor in the X360 14, so both perform at about the same level. For the additional money I am spending on the Pixelbook I get 64 GB (for a total of 128 GB) more storage, a higher resolution (2400x1600 versus 1920x1080) display, a smaller overall size, and the intangible benefit of being a Made By Google product.
The Pixelbook’s large bezels shows its age when compared to the “bezel-less” displays of current notebooks, but I’ll trade that for the higher resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio of its screen. A couple of definite things I am giving up are the two USB-A ports and MicroSD card slot included with the HP, but I am getting a thinner and lighter notebook in the Pixelbook.
Read on further for what I wrote as I was making my purchase decision.
HP Chromebook X360 14
Right now, this is the front runner. It ticks all the checkboxes:
- Intel Core I3
- 8 GB of RAM; 64 GB of storage
- MicroSD card slot
- 14-inch screen
- backlit keyboard
This Chromebook also has two USB Type-C ports and 2 USB 3.1 type A ports, along with a standard headphone jack. Overall dimensions are 13 inches by 9 inches, just over a half-inch thick and weighs 3.7 pounds. Most important, I can buy this for $599.
Update: I got to see the HP Chromebook X360 14 at Best Buy and really like how it looks, but wish that it had an I5 processor rather than the I3. Having seen both this and the Lenovo C630 side by side, I am a bit more on the fence about which to buy. The Lenovo clearly has the better specs, but I think its size firmly keeps it on the desktop where as the X360 14 is more mobile. On the griping hand, I have the iPad for mobile computing so whichever Chromebook I buy is going to be mostly used at home.
Update 2: In comparison to the Lenovo Yogo C630, the X360 here is falling back in to favor. The more I think about it, the more I just prefer the smaller size and overall design of the X360. If I took emotion out of the decision process, I will buy this model because it meets my requirements at a lower price. Still, right now, I am leaning toward the Google Pixelbook.
In the first iteration of this article I did not include the Pixelbook because its standard retail $999 price is more than I want to spend. However, I failed to consider the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Chrome Unboxed reports that Best Buy and the Google Store will both be selling the Pixelbook for $699, which puts it into strong contention.
The Pixelbook is the model by which all new high-end Chromebooks are measured. It has the following:
- Intel Core I5 (7th generation, one version behind others I am considering)
- 8 GB of RAM; 128 GB of storage
- 12.3-inch, 2400x1600 235 ppi screen
- Backlit keyboard
The Pixel book is only 0.4 inch thick, which I think may make it the thinnest of the Chromebooks I am considering. I’ve seen them in person, and think it has a beautiful design. The one draw back is the 7th generation processor, which is not as fast as the 8th generation version in the Lenovo Yoga C630. I am told the 7th gen I5 is comparable to the 8th gen I3 that is in the HP X360 that I am also considering.
Right now I am strongly considering buying the Pixelbook, assuming I can get one at the $699 price.
Lenovo Yoga 15.6-inch, Model X1JXOOO
The 15.6-inch screen of this Lenovo Chromebook is a little larger than I want, and the $699 price is a bit more than I would prefer to spend, but the specs of this computer justify the higher price:
- Intel Core I5 processor
- 8 GB of RAM; 128 GB of storage
- MicroSD card slot
- 15.6-inch screen
- backlit keyboard
The larger screen makes this device a bit larger and heavier than the other computers I am considering, but pictures of the display show pretty small bezels. As much as I like the price of the HP Chromebook X360, the specs of this Lenovo may sway me in the end. An 8th generation I5 processor with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage should last a long time, so I think his may be $700 well spent.
Update: I got to see the Yoga C630 at Best Buy and I am a bit put off by the size of the device. Obviously, it has a larger screen than the HP but I guess I wasn’t prepared for it to actually be so large. Lenovo has different SKUs being sold at Best Buy than what they sell direct, most noticeable of which is that the Best Buy model does not have a backlit keyboard. The Best Buy version costs $649 while the Lenovo version costs $719. If I am going to spend more than $600 on a Chromebook it must have a backlit keyboard. I can’t believe any notebook computer company would sell one without a backlit keyboard today. Lenovo is selling a I3, 64 GB storage with a backlit keyboard SKU of the C630 for $600.
Update 2: I am souring on the C630 the more I think about it. First off, I can’t get passed its size, it looks and feels huge next the HP Chromebook X360 14. Second, Lenovo pulled the listing of the model I was considering from their web site, which I don’t know how to interpret. I am now leaning toward the Google Pixelbook or the HP.
HP Chromebook X2
While I am in the market for a notebook computer, I appreciate the versatility of a 2-in-1. The HP Chromebook X2 is a 2-in-1 that ships with a keyboard and pen for the same $599 price as the Chromebook X360 X14, and at that price if you really want a 2-in-1 running ChromeOS and Android, this is the device I recommend. Google’s Pixel Slate as a slight advantage of being #madebyGoogle but in my opinion it is way overpriced.
For the $599 price tag you get a 2-in-1 that has an:
- Intel Core M3 processor
- 4 GB of RAM; 32 GB of storage
- MicroSD card slot
- 12.3-inch screen
- attachable, solid keyboard
- active stylus/pen
The memory and storage are less than I prefer, but I would be willing to trade that for the inclusion of the keyboard and pen. Another downside is that it does not have a built-in stand like the Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Go, which I think is an under-appreciated feature. The keyboard, however, is solid, lapable, and holds up the screen. With the keyboard attached the X2 functions much the same as a notebook.
Acer Chromebook Spin 13
When I first learned about the Acer Chromebook Spin 13 I thought it might be the one for me, but I am turned off by the $799 minimum starting price for the I3, 8 GB/64 GB model, which are the same specs as the HP Chromebook X360 for $200 more. Yes, the Chromebook Spin is all aluminum and thus attractive, but the Lenovo has even more specs for $100 less and an all aluminum case. I think Acer is going to have to drop the starting price to $599 for this to sell, but I doubt they do that by Christmas.
Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 Convertible
The $599 price is right for this 8th generation Intel Core I3 with 128 GB storage Chromebook from Dell, but only has 4 GB of RAM at that price, and with other products on the market with 8 GB for that price that is a dealbreaker.
Lower cost Chromebooks
There will always be a bunch of Chromebooks available in the $300 to $450 price range that are worth considering for most people. These Chromebooks will come with either an Intel Celeron or Pentium processor, which while good, are not going to perform as well as the Intel Core M or I processors.
Chromebooks in this price range will have 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and higher priced models will have 8 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. If you get a Celeron or Pentium based computer, I suggest getting 8 GB of RAM to help compensate for these lower end processors.
I am balancing purchase price against longevity. You can go with a $300 Chromebook with the plan to replace it in a couple of years, or go with a $700 Chromebook that should get 5 years of service. I am not considering any Celeron or Pentium based models for this purchase.
What about Samsung?
Before I bought my iPad Pro 10.5 I seriously considered the Samsung Chromebook Pro, but in the end I was drawn to the iPad Pro performance, size, and applications. The Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 has a newer Intel Celeron processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage at $499, which is too expensive for those specs. We haven’t heard about a new model of Chromebook Pro, but that $499 price of the Plus model does not have me optimistic for an affordable Pro model.
What about a MacBook?
Short answer, the MacBooks cost too much for what I want to spend. The new MacBook Air starts at $1199 (a $200 increase from the prior model), the MacBook starts at $1299. I didn’t expect to see them matching Lenovo’s I5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB storage spec for $700 price and I wasn’t surprised. I could buy the new iPad Pro for $700, but I just bought my Pro and so I don’t need a new tablet at this time.
Update: I have learned that some stores will be selling the 2017 MacBook Air for $799 on Black Friday, which puts it at the very high end of my budget. Problem is, the 2017 MacBook Air has a 5th generation Intel Core processor, which is pretty old in comparison to the other devices I am considering. The 1440 x 900 display is also worse, so I am not considering this despite it being within my budget.