Chromebooks come in a bewildering array of configurations. Sometimes even deciding which options to get on a single model can be overwhelming. As a product tester I use a spreadsheet to keep everything organized. But that shouldn’t be necessary, so here are some general specs to keep in mind.
Processor: Chromebooks use six different processors, some of which you’ve probably never heard of. There’s a reason for that: these processors are slow and don’t show up on Windows laptops. After trying out numerous Intel Celeron based machines, my recommendation is to go for something more powerful if you can afford it. The next step after the Celeron is the Core m3, which is the best choice for most people. If you want a more powerful, future-proof machine, get an i3 or i5 chip.
We’re starting to see more ARM-based Chromebooks like the Lenovo Duet above. I’ve had no problems using ARM Chromebooks, but they aren’t as fast as the Intel Core chips. There are some newer Chromebooks that use AMD’s latest Ryzen chips and I’ve had good experiences with them.
RAM: Buy 8 GB of memory if you can afford it, especially if you plan to run Android applications. When I’ve experienced serious slowdowns and glitches, it’s almost always on a Chromebook with just 4GB of RAM.
Screen: Buy an IPS LCD screen. There are still a few low-end models with crappy TN LCDs, and those you should avoid. Your pixel resolution depends on the size of the screen. I’ve used (and recommended) some 11-inch Chromebooks with 720p displays. Since those screens are squeezed into a small form factor, I find them acceptably sharp, but a 1080p screen will be much nicer.
Ports: Most of the things you do on a Chromebook are cloud-based, so you don’t have to worry too much about ports. You may want a computer that charges via a USB-C port if you want to run your Chromebook on a portable battery/charger, but USB-C charging is usually available in mid-range and higher-end models. It also helps to have a MicroSD slot for extended storage if you have a lot of files to download in a typical day, but that option isn’t available everywhere either.