Every Black Friday you’ll find good discounts on laptops, but some of the best deals are on Chromebooks. Running on Google’s web-based Chrome OS, they’re typically cheap to begin with, starting around $200, so you can find some amazing prices this time of year.
Chrome doesn’t require a lot of processing power for basic tasks, so you shouldn’t compare their specs against a Windows 10 PC. But that doesn’t mean you should let a low price alone rope you into a Black Friday buy. If you keep just a few Chromebook shopping basics in mind when you’re shopping, you can make sure you what you get does what you want.
Need Windows or Mac apps? Stop here
Before you go any further, know that Chromebooks are not compatible with Windows or Mac software. They primarily use web apps that are available through Google’s Chrome Web Store. Newer models can also be used with Android apps, which can definitely fill in some blanks, like if you need Microsoft Office access. But if there’s no Android or web app to meet your needs, don’t get a Chromebook.
Here are the specs you want
I’ve been reviewing Chromebooks. As I said up top, compared to a Windows or Mac laptop you can get by with lower-end hardware in a Chromebook. However, here’s what I recommend people look for when they ask what specs to get.
- Intel Celeron or Pentium, Core m- or Core i-series processor
- 4GB of memory or more
- 32GB of storage
- Full HD (1,920×1,080 pixels) display
There is flexibility with these recommendations. You can get a 1,366×768-resolution display, for example, but the cheap ones used in low-end Chromebooks look particularly soft next to full-HD models. And you can get by with 16GB of onboard storage as long as there’s a microSD card slot to supplement it.
However, the one spec I wouldn’t skimp on is memory. Chrome can quickly get bogged down if you leave lots of tabs open and/or web apps running in the background. Stick with 4GB of RAM or more just so you don’t end up frustrated using it.
Consider paying extra for these
If you’re planning to use Android apps a lot, you may want to get a touchscreen model. Look for either one with a touch display on 180-degree hinges so the display can lay flat, or go with a two-in-one model so you can use it as a tablet or a laptop. Bear in mind that not all apps will work.
The processors I called out in the last section are basically your “good, better, best” options. If you’re a heavy multitasker or simply can’t tolerate performance slowdowns, it’s worth looking for a Chromebook deal with a Core m- or Core i-series processor.
Also, since many Chromebooks are made for the education and business markets, you can frequently find models with spill-resistant keyboards and reinforced hinges. If you’re shopping for someone who might be a little less careful with their tech, it might be best to search one out.
Samsung 11.6-inch Chromebook for $130 ($130 off)
Best Buy has a $100 Black Friday deal on this model, but it has 2GB of RAM and a 16GB flash drive. For $30 more you can double both the RAM and storage amounts.
Available from Best Buy Nov. 22-24.
HP Chromebook with 14-inch display and Intel Celeron CPU for $210 ($40 off)
Chromebooks are often so inexpensive that retailers have a difficult time marking them down more — even during Black Friday. We haven’t reviewed this particular 14-inch Chromebook by HP, but the specs look decent at this price.
Deal available Nov. 22-24.
Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 for $149 ($71 off)
A safe bet for a younger student, this 11.6-inch Chromebook has a drop-resistant body and a spill-resistant keyboard. It’s available direct from Dell right now.
HP 11.6-inch Chromebook for $130 ($90 off)
This is some dirt-cheap Black Friday business. This HP machine is a basic one: You get an 11.6-inch display, a dual-core Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. For $130.
Deal available Nov. 22-24.
Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 for $450 ($150 off)
This premium Chromebook two-in-one is a great choice if you want to take full advantage of Chrome’s Android app integration. Use it as a laptop or a tablet, and Samsung even includes one of its S Pens for writing and drawing on the screen.
Acer Chromebook 15 for $299 ($100 off)
Chromebooks with 15.6-inch screens are rare, especially at this price. If you like the extra screen real estate, this Acer has everything I look for and a long battery life to boot.
CNET Senior Editor Justin Jaffe contributed to this story.