Chromebooks come in a staggering array of configurations. Sometimes even trying to decide which options to choose for one model can be overwhelming. As a product tester, I use a spreadsheet to keep things clear. But you don’t have to, so here are some general characteristics to keep in mind.
CPU: Chromebooks use half a dozen different processors, most of which you’ve probably never heard of. There’s a reason for this: these processors are slow, and they don’t show up on Windows laptops. Having tried many Intel Celeron-based machines, I recommend choosing 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 and future-oriented 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 issues using ARM Chromebooks, but they aren’t as fast as the Intel Core chips. There are several newer Chromebooks using the latest AMD Ryzen chips and I’ve had good experiences with them.
RAM: Get 8GB of storage if you can afford it, especially if you plan on running any Android apps. When I encountered major slowdowns and crashes, it almost always happened on a Chromebook with 4GB of RAM.
Screen: Get an IPS LCD. There are some more inexpensive models with crappier TN LCDs and you should avoid them. Your pixel resolution depends on the screen size. I have used (and recommend) several 11″ Chromebooks with 720p displays. Because these screens are crammed into a small form factor, I find them sharp enough, but a 1080p screen would be much better.
Ports: Most of the activities you do on your Chromebook are cloud-based, so you don’t have to worry too much about ports. You may need a computer that charges via USB-C if you want to be able to run your Chromebook on a portable battery/charger, but USB-C charging is available mostly in mid-range and high-end models. It’s also useful to have a microSD slot for extended storage if you need to download a lot of files during a typical day, but that option isn’t widely available either.