The best affordable Windows laptops you can buy

If you’re a regular Engadget reader, you probably don’t think of cheap Windows laptops when you think of daily drivers. But it would be a big mistake to ignore these devices — if not for yourself, for others you may know. There’s a reason why companies like Acer, ASUS, Dell and the like make Windows devices under $500 — lots of people have strict budgets to adhere to and others just don’t need the power that comes with a flagship laptop.

Affordable Windows notebooks are great options for people that only use a computer to check email, shop online or post on Facebook. (Hello, mom and dad?) They’re also good for kids who have no business putting their sticky little hands on a $2,000 gaming rig. And, depending on what you need them for, these devices can be decent daily drivers, too.

What about Chromebooks and tablets?

Now, you may be inclined to recommend a Chromebook or a tablet to all of the people listed above. Those instincts aren’t wrong, but Chromebooks and tablets aren’t for everyone. Tablets will only work for the most mobile-competent users like kids who have been grabbing smartphones out of their parents’ hands since they’ve been dexterous enough to do so. Tablets can also be just as expensive as some of the cheapest Windows laptops, and that’s without a mouse or keyboard.

Chromebooks are a good alternative for those that basically live in a browser. However, there are some who just don’t want to give up the “traditional desktop.” And Chrome OS is more limited than Windows when it comes to the programs you can install and run.

What Windows laptops do well

Bangkok, Thailand - August 20, 2020 : Computer user touching on Microsoft Edge, a web browser developed by Microsoft, icon on Windows 10 to open the program.
Wachiwit via Getty Images

So what can you realistically accomplish on a cheap Windows laptop? Quite a bit, especially if you’re doing one thing (or a limited number of things) at a time. They’re great for web browsing, checking email, video streaming and more — but, yes, all of those things can be done on Chromebooks as well. Windows laptops have a big advantage, though, in Microsoft Office. While yes, there is a browser based version, the native, desktop apps are considered a must have for many and will run smoothly on even the most bare-bones laptops. The only caveat is that you may run into some slowdown on low-powered devices if you’re working with large data sets in Excel or a lot of photos and graphics in Powerpoint.

When it comes to specs, a bright spot for Windows laptops is storage. Even the most affordable devices tend to have at least 128GB SSDs. That will come in handy if you prefer to keep your most important files saved locally on your laptop. In contrast, cheaper Chromebooks often have less storage because they’re built on the assumption that you’ll save all of your documents in the cloud. Not only is that less convenient when you need to work offline, but it also limits the size of programs and files that you can download. So, not great for hoarding Netflix shows before a long trip.

Windows also has thousands of apps that you can download from its app store. Chromebooks have some Chrome apps, numerous browser extensions and the ability to download Android apps, but quality control is… inconsistent. Android apps, in particular, often haven’t been optimized for Chrome OS, which makes for a wonky user experience. Windows may not have as many apps as Android, but at least the experience is fairly standard across the board.

Windows also gives you the ability to download and use programs from other sources, like direct from the developer. You can run things like Adobe Creative Suite, certain VPNs and programs like GIMP, Audacity and ClipMate on a Windows device, which just isn’t possible on Chrome OS. Chromebooks limit you to the apps and programs in The Play Store and the Chrome Extensions store, reducing any others to unusable, space-sucking icons in your Downloads folder.

What to look for in a cheap Windows laptop

While you can do a lot even when spending little on a Windows laptop, you must set your expectations accordingly. The biggest downside when purchasing a budget laptop (of any kind, really) is limited power. Many Windows laptops under $500 run on Intel Celeron or Pentium processors, but you can find some with Core i3/i5 and AMD Ryzen 3/5 CPUs at the higher end of the price spectrum.

Specs to look for in a sub-$500 Windows laptop

  • Intel Core i or AMD Ryzen 3 processors

  • 8GB of RAM

  • An SSD with at least 128GB of space

  • 1080p display

  • Mostly metal designs

We recommend getting the most powerful CPU you can afford because it will dictate how fast the computer will feel overall. RAM is also important because, the more you have, the easier it will be for the laptop to manage things like a dozen browser tabs while you edit a Word document and stream music in the background. However, with sub-$500 laptops, you’re better off getting the best CPU you can afford rather than a laptop with a ton of RAM because the CPU will have enough power to handle most tasks that cheap laptops are designed for (If you’re editing RAW images or 4K video, you’ll want to invest in more RAM… and a laptop well above $500).

When it comes to storage, consider how much you want to save locally. If you primarily work in Google Docs or save most things in the cloud, you may not need a machine with a ton of onboard storage. Just remember that your digital space will also be taken up by apps, so it may be worth getting a little extra storage than you think you need if you know you’ll be downloading big programs. A final side note: SSDs are ubiquitous at this point, not to mention faster and more efficient than HDDs, so we recommend getting a laptop with that type of storage.

You also don’t have to settle for an entirely plastic notebook either. There are options in the sub-$500 price range that are made, at least in part, with metals like aluminum. Those will not only be more attractive but also more durable. As for screens, there’s a healthy mix of HD and FHD options in this price range and we recommend springing for a notebook with a 1080p display if you can. Touchscreens aren’t as common in the under-$500 space as standard panels, but you’ll only really miss one if you get a 2-in-1 laptop.

A final note before we get to our picks: Cheap Windows laptop models change all the time. Unlike more expensive, flagship machines, these notebooks can be updated a couple times each year. That can make it hard to track down a specific model at Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart or any given retailer. We’ve listed some of our current favorite models below, but if you can’t find any of them available near you, just keep in mind our list of specs to look for in a cheap laptop – they’ll guide you to the best machines available at the moment.

Engadget picks

Acer Aspire 5

Acer Aspire 5
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Acer’s Aspire 5 series has been a reliable pick for quite some time now. Most recently, we tested out the A514-54-395V, which has a 14-inch 1080p display and runs on an 11th-gen Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

Performance was similar to the previous Aspire 5 model that we tested, but you will find some design differences on the A514-54-395V. Namely, it’s a 14-inch machine, not a 15-inch one, and it doesn’t have a full number pad on the right side of the keyboard. It still has an aluminum top cover, which gives it a more premium feel, but Acer removed the backlight on the keyboard on this one, which is a bummer. Thankfully, though, the keyboard is just as comfortable to use as the one on the previous model.

In addition to new WiFi 6 support, the latest Aspire 5 has an additional, crucial USB-C port. This was lacking on the previous model we tested, so we’re happy to see it included on this version. And it accompanies the ports that were already present: three USB-A connections, one HDMI socket, a headphone jack, a lock slot and a drop-jaw Ethernet port. As promised, Acer increased the average battery life on this model to 10 hours. On the previous model, we were clocking in roughly six hours of battery life, so this is a much-needed improvement.

Buy Acer Aspire 5 at Adorama - $430

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5

Lenovo Flex 5 14 laptop
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Lenovo’s Flex 5 14 is a good alternative if you want a more portable laptop with a battery life that will keep you going all day long. It runs on an AMD Ryzen 3 4300 processor, with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and it’s accompanied by a 14-inch 1080p IPS display and an array of ports that includes one USB-C connection. If you care about future-proofing, that USB-C port will be critical. You may not have a lot of USB-C accessories right now, but that will most certainly change in the coming years.

The typing experience is also top-notch: while it doesn’t have a number pad, its keys have that rounded-bottom shape that’s similar to keys on Lenovo’s ThinkPad machines. They make a satisfying clicking sound while you’re typing, but they’re not loud enough to bother those around you.

And despite being a budget machine, the Flex 5 14 isn’t flimsy. The palm rests don’t creak under pressure and it’s easy to carry this laptop one-handed around a room. I also appreciate its convertible design, which gives you more flexibility. And like most Lenovo machines, the Flex 5 14 has a webcam that you can cover with a physical shutter.

The Flex 5 14 also has the upper-hand over the Aspire 5 when it comes to battery life: The former lasted about 16.5 hours in our testing, whereas Acer’s machine lasted roughly 10 hours. That makes the Lenovo option the clear winner if you’re looking for a laptop that can last all day and then some.

Buy Lenovo Flex 5 14 at Walmart - $470

Surface Laptop Go 2

In keeping with other Surfaces, the new Surface Laptop Go 2 features a minimalist design with an aluminum lid and deck, and a plastic bottom.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Microsoft's new Surface Laptop Go 2 here, even though it starts at $600. It’s certainly a decent option to consider if you’re really into the Surface line. Undoubtedly, the Laptop Go 2 has one of the best designs you’ll find on any cheap Windows notebook, with a minimalist aesthetic, thin bezels surrounding its display and a relatively like 2.5-pound weight. It’s 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen has 1,536 x 1,024 resolution, and it’s still pretty crisp despite not being an FHD panel. You’re also getting a 720p webcam, a fairly comfortable keyboard (albeit with no backlight) and a port array that includes one USB-A connection, one USB-C socket, a headphone jack and a power slot.

In addition to the attractive design, another reason why you may want to spring for the Laptop Go 2 is that even the base model runs on an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 processor. We found it to provide snappy performance, and you’ll probably notice a difference if you’re coming from a machine with a Core i3 processor or something even less powerful. We were also impressed by the Laptop Go 2’s battery life – it lasted nearly 15 hours in our testing, and since Microsoft improved the interior thermal system, you shouldn’t hear excessive fan noise when you’re using it.

There are two big downsides to the Laptop Go 2: the higher starting price and the base model’s 4GB of RAM. You’ll pay $600 for a machine with a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and while those specs aren’t terrible, we usually recommend spring for a machine with at least 8GB of RAM. It’ll make multitasking much easier and more efficient, thereby improving your experience using the notebook in the long run. You’ll have to spend $700 to get that amount of memory in the Laptop Go 2, which is still cheaper than flagship notebooks, but not as affordable when compared with our other picks.

Buy Surface Laptop Go 2 at Microsoft starting at $600

The best smart displays you can buy

Smart displays have evolved quite a bit since the initial debut of Amazon’s first Echo Show back in 2017. In fact, the category didn’t really come into its own until Google joined the fray with its own line of hardware about a year later. Now, both of these companies are essentially dominating the smart display landscape, with each offering their own take on a smart assistant with a screen.

It’s that screen that makes smart displays so much more useful than smart speakers. Rather than just having a voice recite the current weather report, for example, you can see a five-day forecast as well. The same goes for when you ask about your shopping list or calendar; it's simply easier to see the whole list or your day's appointments at a glance.

Plus, displays offer other benefits that speakers can't, like watching videos or checking your webcam to see who's at your front door. They're especially handy in the kitchen, where you can use them for step-by-step cooking instructions. And, thanks to touchscreens, you can often navigate through functions and settings a lot faster than using your voice.

Amazon vs. Google

The first question you should ask is whether you'd rather be in Amazon's ecosystem or Google's. If you have a lot of Google products in your home, like Nest thermostats or Nest cams, then a Google-powered model makes more sense. If you have Amazon products, like a Fire TV Stick or a Ring cam, Amazon would obviously be a better choice. Of course, it's perfectly acceptable to have products from competing companies in the same home, but just realize they might not work seamlessly with each other.

Aside from that, the two systems also offer some unique features. Google, for example, works best if you have an existing Google account and use services like Calendar and Photos. In fact, we especially love Google smart displays because they work well as digital photo frames. You can set it up to automatically pull in pictures of friends and family from your Google Photos library, and the algorithm is smart enough to use what it thinks are the best shots — so less chance of blurry photos or images of your eyes half-closed showing up, for example.

It might seem like a minor point, but seeing as the display is on standby 90 percent of the time, its secondary function as a digital photo frame is very welcome. All Google smart displays also support YouTube and YouTube TV, step-by-step cooking instructions and all of the usual benefits of Google Assistant, like weather reports. As with Assistant on the phone, it also has voice recognition, so only you can see your calendar appointments and not others.

Amazon's smart displays, on the other hand, are slightly different. Instead of YouTube, they offer some alternative video streaming options, including Amazon Prime, NBC and Hulu. They also come with two browsers (Silk and Firefox), which you can use to search the web or watch YouTube videos – a handy enough workaround given the lack of a dedicated app.

Amazon devices offer step-by-step cooking instructions as well, thanks to collaborations with sources like SideChef and AllRecipes. In fact, the cooking instructions sometimes include short video clips. But although you can use Amazon's displays as digital photo frames, the process is not quite as intuitive as Google’s, and Amazon doesn’t have anything comparable to Google’s photo-sorting algorithm.

The best smart displays

Smart displays come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and some are better suited to certain rooms in the home than others. So while we do have some favorite all-around picks, we've also compiled a list of smart displays that would suit specific use cases as well.

The best Google smart display: Google Nest Hub

Google Nest Hub

We at Engadget tend to prefer Google smart displays because most people are likely already entrenched in the Google ecosystem due to the ubiquity of Google services like Gmail, Calendar and so forth. We also tend to find Google Assistant to be a little smarter than Alexa, especially when bringing up answers from the web. As mentioned earlier, we also really like the tie-in with Google Photos and the smart photo-sorting algorithm.

Our favorite smart display overall is Google's latest Nest Hub. Its 7-inch size is a better fit in more rooms, and its unobtrusive design combined with its soft fabric exterior blends nicely into your existing home decor. It does everything we think most people would want in a smart display, like YouTube videos, step-by-step cooking instructions, smart home controls and the ability to check in on your Nest cams if you have any.

In fact, the Nest Hub is especially useful if you have a Nest video doorbell, as the camera view of who’s at the front door will show up on the screen. An ambient light sensor helps to detect the light and color temperature of the environment and adjusts the screen to match. Plus, if you choose, it can help track your sleep patterns if placed next to your bed.

Another feature of the Nest Hub is actually a lack of one: It doesn't have a camera. That gives it that additional layer of privacy that many people covet, and it's also a lot more suitable for personal spaces like the bedroom. Sure, you could also cover up a camera with a shutter, but with the Nest Hub you don't have to remember to do that.

Buy Nest Hub at Walmart - $100

Runner up: Google Nest Hub Max

Google Nest Hub Max

If you like Google but you miss having a camera for video calls, or you just prefer a bigger screen, consider the Google Nest Hub Max. At 10 inches instead of seven, it works a lot better for watching videos from YouTube and YouTube TV. It's especially useful in the kitchen, where it functions as a kind of portable television, and you can see more of those step-by-step cooking instructions at a glance. The bigger display also means a larger photo frame, which you may prefer.

As mentioned, the Nest Hub Max adds a camera to the mix. It doesn't have a physical shutter, which is a concern, but you can shut it off with an electronic switch. You can use the camera for video calls with Google's Duo service as well as Zoom, and it can also function as a Nest Cam to help you keep an eye on your house when you're away. Another benefit of the camera is the addition of Face Match facial recognition for authentication purposes, which we found to be a little more accurate than just using Voice Match.

Last but not least, the Nest Hub Max's camera adds a unique gestures feature that lets you play and pause media simply by holding up your hand to the screen. It's not entirely necessary, but it's potentially useful if you're in a noisy environment and just want the music to stop without having to shout over everyone. Or perhaps you have messy hands while cooking and don’t want to dirty up the display.

Buy Nest Hub Max at Walmart - $170

The best Amazon smart display: Amazon Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8
Amazon

Our favorite Amazon smart display is the second-gen Echo Show 8. Its 8-inch screen is just right; it doesn’t take up as much space as the Echo Show 10, but it’s also more suitable for watching videos than the tiny Echo Show 5. Like other Amazon smart displays, it has a built-in camera, but there is a physical camera cover to help alleviate privacy concerns.

As such, the Echo Show 8 is a compelling choice if you want the option of using your smart display for video calls. Not only is the camera quality fantastic, but the Show 8 has a feature that automatically frames your face and follows your movements during video calls. It’s useful if you want to move around as you’re chatting, or if you have rambunctious children and pets running around the house and you want to involve them in the conversation. You can use the Echo Show 8 to make calls between other Echo Show displays, or through Skype or Zoom.

As with the other smart displays, the Echo Show 8 also works as a digital photo frame and can be used to keep up with the news, check the weather and control smart home devices. If you want to use your smart display to play music, we also really like the Echo Show 8’s audio quality on account of its deep bass and rich tone.

Buy Echo Show 8 at Amazon - $130

Runner up: Amazon Echo Show 5

Amazon Echo Show 5 smart speaker
Nicole Lee / Engadget

At only 5.5 inches wide, the Echo Show 5 is one of the smallest smart displays on the market, and as a result, will work nicely on a desk or a nightstand. In fact, one of the reasons we like the Echo Show 5 so much is that it doubles as a stellar smart alarm clock. It has an ambient light sensor that adjusts the screen's brightness automatically; a tap-to-snooze function so you can whack the top of it for a few extra minutes of shut-eye; plus a sunrise alarm that slowly brightens the screen to wake you up gently.

The Echo Show 5 does have a camera, which might make you a touch queasy if you are privacy conscious – especially if this is supposed to sit by your bedside. Still, it does have a physical camera cover, which can help ease any fears.

Buy Echo Show 5 at Amazon - $85

The best smart clocks

Lenovo Smart Clock

Perhaps a smart display doesn't appeal to you because you don't care about watching videos on it. But maybe the idea of a smarter alarm clock like the Echo Show 5 intrigues you. In that case, I’d recommend the 4-inch Lenovo Smart Clock 2, which isn't a full-fledged smart display because you can't play any videos on it, but it does use Google's smart display tech, so you can use it for controlling your smart home as well as checking out your Nest Cams.

We also like it because it lacks a camera, which makes it perfect for your nightstand. It has all of the features we want in a smart alarm clock, like an ambient light sensor, that tap-to-snooze function and a sunrise alarm. Plus, the latest version can double as a night light – you can swipe down the display to enable it – and you can get an optional wireless charging base to go with it.

If the Smart Clock 2 is too advanced for you, Lenovo does offer an even simpler version called the Smart Clock Essential. It really isn’t a smart display at all – it’s really more of a smart speaker with a clock – but it does perform many of the same functions as the Smart Clock 2.

Lenovo sells the Smart Clock Essential in two different versions: One has Google Assistant, while the other is powered by Alexa. The one with Google Assistant has a built-in night light, an extra USB port for charging devices and a mic-mute button. The one with Alexa, on the other hand, is compatible with an optional docking station that can be used with accessories such as a wireless charging pad or an ambient light dock (it comes in either a sea lion or a squid shape) that can act as a night light.

Buy Lenovo Smart Clock 2 at Walmart - $70Buy Lenovo Smart Clock Essential at Walmart - $33

Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 offers a massive 27-inch screen for casting and other productivity needs

Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 Where to Buy

Lenovo continues to deliver modern gadgets that prove to be really useful. The brand remains one of the more prolific mobile device makers with its phones, tablets, and laptops.

The latest from the company is the Yoga AIO 7. This 27-inch display offers 4K IPS display resolution. It provides 95 percent DCI-P3 and different viewing angles. The narrow-bezel display allows more extensive viewing. It’s adaptive to however you want to use the display, whether for entertainment, work, or creating.

Designer: Lenovo

Yoga AIO 7 Home Office

The Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 is easy to adjust with a simple push of a finger. It boasts a flexible hinge design so that the device can rotate 90 degrees. It can work as a secondary screen for your smartphone when you want a larger view.

The computer system is powered by AMD Ryzen 6000 Series. The AMD Radeon RX 6600M graphics with AMD RDNA 2 architecture are optional. For audio, the dual JBL 5W speakers are powerful enough. It’s not just a secondary display because it’s an all-in-one desktop computer.

Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 Design

The packaging of the computer allows for a smaller footprint. There is no need to get or build a more powerful CPU because this one from Lenovo can offer the decent computing performance you need. It’s ideal for the modern home and is good enough for a hybrid work-home-school lifestyle.

The Yoga AIO 7 is suitable for wireless casting via these standards: AirPlay, LElink, Miracast, and DLNA. As smartphones become more powerful enough for work, your phone may need a more prominent display when you need to finish a task or a project. Feel free to check your social media networks on a larger display, watch your favorite TV series or movies, or view photos.

Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 Specs

The 27-inch screen may be used vertically or horizontally. The computer has a Type-C port so that you can use a keyboard and mouse. This 4K all-in-one PC follows a previous model priced at $1,599, so the price range could be the same. Unfortunately, it will be available in select markets, not including North America.

Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 Product

This Yoga AIO 7 is ideal for sharing and collaboration. It can be used for work or school or simply for entertainment. In addition, the display is massive, which makes it great for creatives and designers.

There are other impressive Lenovo products we’ve featured before. The Lenovo Y90 gaming phone left a durability question unanswered. The Lenovo ThinkBook Gen 3 also arrived with a secondary screen to keep users productive and creative in a strange way. We also won’t forget that Lenovo Yoga Pad Pro tablet with its own stand. We also enjoyed looking at the Lenovo Lavie Mini.

Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 Details

The post Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 offers a massive 27-inch screen for casting and other productivity needs first appeared on Yanko Design.

Lenovo Legion Y90 gaming phone design leaves a durability question unanswered

Gaming smartphones have spiced up designs to some extent, but one new design, in particular, raises concerns about its overall durability.

Smartphone designs have been changing almost every year, with brands thinking of ways to stand out from the crowd. Most of these changes happen on the back of phones, where materials, textures, and camera bumps serve as differentiating factors. That said, the standard format of phones has remained mostly the same, with cameras on the top left corner or taking up the entire area on top. Lenovo’s latest gaming phones throw that formula out the window, but it may come at a hidden price that unsuspecting owners might be unwilling to pay for.

Designer: Lenovo

One look at the Lenovo Legion Y90’s back, and you immediately know this is not your typical smartphone. While other phones have a block on one side to house the cameras, the Lenovo phone’s bump sits right in the middle of the phone instead. Even without knowing the Lenovo Legion gaming brand’s logo, the multi-colored “Y” on that island clearly suggests that the phone is meant to be held sideways rather than upright like almost all other smartphones.

That’s because the Legion Y90, like the Legion Duel 2 before it, is a gaming smartphone not only in name or hardware but also in design. It takes into consideration how most mobile games are played in landscape orientation and has been designed around that convention, even if it means eschewing normal phone conventions in the process. The cameras, for example, are located in the middle, along with that RGB-backlit bump, so that your fingers don’t smudge the lenses while playing.

The phone also has a USB-C charging in the middle so that you can charge and play at the same time without the cable awkwardly dangling off one side, getting in the way of your hand. Unseen from the outside are two tiny fans that help with thermal management. This goes above and beyond the typical passive cooling that most smartphones have today, utilizing things like thermal pastes, copper vapor cooling chambers, and similar technologies.

While the Lenovo Legion Y90 is definitely interesting from a design perspective because of its novelty, it leaves the door open to one element of uncertainty. Last year, YouTuber Zack Nelson of JerryRigEverything easily snapped the Lenovo Legion Duel 2 into three parts when doing his usual bend test. Those parts included that large middle camera bump and the two sides flanking it.

Lenovo’s design was indeed bold and novel in how it kept its core audience in mind when making the phone, almost from the ground up. That design, however, also created structural compromises, especially on the phone’s back. While few people will probably be strong enough to bend a phone that way, it still leaves the possibility of one ugly accident heralding the end of what is supposed to be a very powerful phone.

To be fair, the Legion Y90 this year has a slightly different design from last year’s model, which visually had three parts anyway. That said, the camera bump still leaves a large gaping hole, which in turn could still weaken the entire surface of the phone’s back. That’s not even considering how the phone might be less durable in some other ways, like in dust and waterproofing. Those mini fans invite dust and water to wreak havoc and destroy your phone from the inside. Hopefully, that will not be the case, but we won’t know for certain until the phone actually becomes available.

The Lenovo Legion Y90 is admittedly an eye-catching phone, at least from its back. Some of us might even reminisce about oddities like the Nokia 5510 or, closer to the theme, the Nokia N-Gage, both of which were designed to be held more like gaming devices than typical phones. On the one hand, it’s proof of how smartphone design doesn’t have to settle for the status quo, especially when targeting specific audiences. On the other hand, it is also proof of how change for the sake of change could be a recipe for disaster.

Lenovo isn’t the only brand making gaming-centric smartphones today, but it is definitely the only one embracing this handheld-centric design. Others, like ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers), nubia Red Magic, and Xiaomi Black Shark, have features like internal fans and RGB lighting but still stick to the standard phone format and, therefore, benefit from tried and tested designs. In that light, it definitely feels like the Lenovo Legion gaming phones’ unique designs are designed just to be noticed, even if that means compromising the longevity of the device in the long run.

The post Lenovo Legion Y90 gaming phone design leaves a durability question unanswered first appeared on Yanko Design.

The Best of MWC 2022 – Product Design in a Mobile World

The Mobile World Congress this year is unsurprisingly filled with phones and Metaverse references, but producers and consumers are thankfully becoming more aware of the deeper impact these products have in our lives and on the planet.

Next to CES, MWC is an auspicious time for companies to show off their wares, especially those related to smartphones, tablets, and even the new “Metaverse.” Despite the onslaught of COVID-19 since 2020, the smartphone market shows no signs of declining, at least to a significant degree. After two years, MWC 2022 sees a return to face-to-face exhibits and interactions that almost feels surreal given previous events. It’s not as jam-packed and as frantic as before, but that’s not the only thing that’s different this year. There’s also an increased consciousness of the role that thoughtful product design plays in improving people’s lives, both directly and indirectly through sustainable products.

Like every year, a few of these designs and products manage to grab our attention more strongly than others. Some through their design, others through their commitment to the environment, while others are just plain fun or useful. Without further ado, here is Yanko Design’s Top 8 picks for MWC 2022, ranked!

1. OPPO Find X5 Pro

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and some smartphones are regarded to be beautiful, mostly from the standpoint of people who love gadgets and tech products. They are well-designed, of course, but few would probably be standout to a designer as a thing of beauty. The OPPO Find X5 Pro breaks out of the mold in more ways than one.

The phone’s design takes minimalism to heart without going overboard and ditching features. The cameras are still there, but they aren’t as in your face as most camera bumps are these days. The structure rises so smoothly and so softly from the surface of the phone, like a dune in a desert after a sandstorm. You have a single continuous form that looks and feels unbroken, even with the camera holes and branding.

OPPO’s choice of ceramic material also brings joy to the hands. The white colorway exudes an atmosphere of peace, while the black finish pulls you into its dark depths and into a meditative state. Both are sleek and clean, even if the black does become a fingerprint magnet. Wiping off those smudges can itself even become a mindfulness practice.

What makes the OPPO Find X5 Pro’s understated beauty even more compelling is its relevance. We live very busy lives in an ever-changing world that’s still recovering from two chaotic years. Smartphones have become our faithful companions and weapons in navigating this world, but they have also become sources of stress and, in some cases, addiction. OPPO’s “futuristic” design actually goes back in time and back to the basics, offering an oasis of calmness and comfort for the eyes, the hands, and the mind.

Designer: OPPO

2. Realme GT2

Realme gets the silver medal for the GT2 and GT2 Pro phones not in the uniqueness of their designs but for the boldness of their statement. True, the Paper White and Paper Green models of these phones do have unique patterns and textures that try to recreate the look and feel of paper, but that pales in comparison to the message that the design is trying to send.

Taking inspiration from paper and other sustainable materials, Realme adopted a bio-based polymer to create the shell of these two colorways. Although the phone is far from being recyclable, the novel material significantly reduces the carbon emission overhead of producing these phones. The Realme GT2 is only the second of two phones boasting a TCO 9.0 certification for its positive impact on the environment.

This bio-based polymer might be a one-off thing, but Realme is at least making a lot of noise about its other efforts to create a greener tomorrow. Like many smartphone makers these days, it is reducing the amount of plastic in its packaging and increasing its use of sustainable materials. With the Realme GT2 series, it’s also committing to planting a tree for every phone sold. As one of the fastest-growing smartphone brands in the market, it has a big responsibility in creating awareness and doing its part to help protect the environment. It deserves major props for getting the ball rolling in this arena.

Designer: Naoto Fukasawa for Realme

3. TCL Ultra Flex

Foldable phones are going to be around for a while, even if they won’t become the future. The new experiences it enables are both exciting and challenging, especially for designers. We’re still a few hundred steps away from the perfect foldable screen, which makes it the perfect time for designers and manufacturers to play around with new ideas and test out prototypes.

Samsung and LG aren’t the only ones having fun with deformable screens, of course. TCL is right up there with some even crazier ideas that actually become working prototypes. It hasn’t sold any of that technology yet, though, or at least the flexible screens it has been developing. That gives it at least more time and leeway to bring more ideas to light, including this one it showed off at MWC 2022.

Foldable phones seem to have adopted Samsung’s “innie” design, where the flexible screen folds inward like a book, protected by the phone’s external frame. It’s not the only way to fold, of course, but it is currently the winner, despite requiring an extra screen on the outside to make the phone usable even when folded. Some think that allowing a screen to fold in and out would be the ideal option, leaving the owner to decide which method is best, and that’s exactly what the TCL Ultra Flex tries to do.

As a prototype, it’s not exactly the prettiest nor the most usable, but it does try to prove that it can be done. Of course, there remain many questions about its durability, not to mention its economy, but there’s plenty of time for the company to figure that out. Once it does, TCL will have the opportunity to shape the foldable device market and, consequently, shape the new experiences that these devices will offer.

Designer: TCL

4. Huawei MatePad Paper

Tablets are making a comeback, especially from the Android side. These increasingly larger slates are getting more powerful to the point that they are being positioned as laptop replacements. Tablets, however, do have new competition in the form of more powerful and more talented e-book readers, often called eReaders. Huawei, however, is putting a different spin on that idea and is targeting a very specific and probably niche market.

The Huawei MatePad Paper does come with the trappings of a typical e-book reader, one that uses the popular E-Ink display to give your eyes and the device’s battery a well-deserved reprieve. What makes this new contender different is that reading is actually just its secondary purpose. Its primary goal is to replace your paper notebook instead.

That is definitely a tall order, especially with so many expectations coming from die-hard pen and paper users. You can really only do so much to try and replicate the feel of pen or pencil writing on a material like paper using a plastic stylus nib and glass. Huawei has made a good approximation, but the MatePad Paper’s features try to make up for whatever flaw there is in that experience.

The Huawei MatePad Paper is designed primarily to be a notebook, and the software it has reflects that purpose. In addition to typical note-taking, it even has features for creating your own digital journal and copying content directly from a Huawei laptop. It can also record audio while you’re jotting down notes and play it back later when you need more than just a visual reminder. Its lightweight and portable design makes it an almost perfect companion to keep your design ideas and references, and its simpler functions, at least compared to a tablet, leave very little room for distractions as well.

Designer: Huawei

5. HTC Viverse

The Metaverse is everywhere, at least when it comes to marketing and buzzwords. Just like the early days of the cloud, the term is still a bit hard to qualify and quantify in its current form. This, of course, leaves the doors wide open for any interpretation, implementation, and vision. Despite its name, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, doesn’t have a monopoly on the Metaverse (at least not yet), and its rival in the VR space is putting down some stakes on the ground to claim a bit of that space.

HTC’s Viverse is still a work in progress, but its ambition is no less grand than others. Its Vive VR platform already laid the groundwork for some Metaverse-compatible experiences, like holding events and meetings in virtual worlds. It is also envisioning more interactive experiences, like buying or paying for goods using cryptocurrencies and, of course, buying NFT art.

What makes the Viverse more encompassing is that HTC isn’t stopping with its Vive VR platform. Ideally, the Metaverse experience will extend to almost any device with a screen, like a smartphone, a tablet, or even a computer with a web browser. Without this seamless cross-platform experience, the Metaverse will be limited to a few people that have no problems wearing headsets or eyewear all the time, which doesn’t really sound Metaverse-like.

Designer: HTC Vive

6. Lenovo ThinkPad X13s

Let’s face it, most laptop designs don’t exactly excite, especially when they look like any other laptop in the market. Although there are a few that do stand out, they are far and few in between. When Lenovo announced a host of new laptops at MWC 2022 this week, we almost gave it a pass, but one new entry piqued our curiosity in more ways than one.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s has the distinction of being the first ThinkPad to be powered by an ARM Snapdragon processor, a glowing recommendation considering the strength of Lenovo’s brand. With the attention that Apple’s M1 chip has been getting since it launched, there has been a great deal of interest in seeing more Windows laptops running on this platform.

What this means for designers is that the ThinkPad X13s will last longer than most other laptops on a single charge. This translates to longer working times away from a power outlet and more freedom to work the way they want. There are still some problems with app compatibility with Windows on ARM, but staples like Adobe’s suite and ZBrush are completely supported already.

The ThinkPad X13s also has a rather intriguing design that could be best described as a “reverse notch.” Instead of going the way of the latest MacBook Pro, Lenovo opted instead to have a bit of a lip at the top of the screen to accommodate the camera and security hardware. That said, the bezels around the screen are still on the thick side, so there doesn’t seem to be anything gained from that unusual design.

Designer: Lenovo

7. Prinker

We’ve already seen the Samsung-backed Prinker make its debut back in CES 2022 last January, and it has returned to once again show how well-thought design can also be fun and whimsical. Basically a handheld inkjet printer in the shape of a gigantic ink cartridge, Prinker offers almost endless fun in putting temporary tattoos on almost any part of your body.

What makes this product special is that it combines existing ideas and technologies in a way that creates a totally new experience, the marks of a great product design. Plus, it’s also fun and safe, a win-win situation for young people craving to add a bit of personalization and identity, even at the wildest of parties.

Designer: Prinker (Samsung)

8. Fauna

Sometimes, the best solutions are also the simplest and the most inconspicuous. That’s the kind of solution that Fauna’s audio sunglasses try to offer, solving multiple problems with a single and stylish product. Part eyewear and part open ear headphones, Fauna lets you enjoy your music while keeping safe and looking great, all at the same time.

This kind of integrated solution will be critical in the next few years, especially as technology becomes even more deeply embedded in our lives. Ordinary objects like eyeglasses, rings, and even clothing will soon be connected to a network thanks to technologies like 5G (or 6G even), flexible screens, and wearable circuitry. These, in turn, will pave the way for the so-called Metaverse to become as normal and as ordinary as the real universe.

Designer: Fauna

Wrap-up

Mobile technology and consumer devices have grown by leaps and bounds ever since the iPhone first came out more than a decade ago. Smartphones, tablets, and the accessories built around them have become almost unavoidable parts of modern life. There are no signs of things slowing down, which doesn’t bode well for humanity and the planet in the grand scheme of things. Fortunately, there are signs of things shifting for the better as well.

Just like at CES 2022, we saw positive indicators that both manufacturers and consumers are becoming more aware of how these devices have indirect effects on lives and the environment. From focusing on mental health in addition to physical fitness to embracing and promoting sustainable practices, the design of products, both physical and digital, are seemingly taking a turn for the better. While foldable phones, the Metaverse, and dozens of identical devices will continue to flood the market, there is at least some hope that the people pushing these products and technologies have grown more conscientious of the role they play in building a better future.

The post The Best of MWC 2022 – Product Design in a Mobile World first appeared on Yanko Design.

Lenovo’s latest laptop comes with a secondary screen to keep you productive + creative in the strangest way

Lenovo seems to be a big believer in the “two screens are better than one” adage, and it is putting that into practice in an unconventional yet surprisingly attractive way.

CES is always a time for companies to show off their latest gadgets and trinkets, which also includes new laptops to pique your curiosity until they become available for purchase. Design-wise, many laptops have started to look too much alike, differentiated only by color and branding. Lenovo’s new ThinkBook Plus seems to be part of the same flock on the outside, but flipping it open reveals an almost magical trick that’s promising to level up your work, or at least your artwork.

Designer: Lenovo

This isn’t the first time Lenovo actually went off the beaten path to offer a new take on mobile productivity. Aside from launching the world’s first foldable laptop, it also created a new line of notebooks with two screens. The first two ThinkBook Plus models put a second screen, actually an e-ink display, on the back of the laptop. This third-gen laptop does away with that but manages to still cram in a second display inside.

Opening the Lenovo ThinkBook Gen 3 immediately reveals its special feature, an 8-inch screen off to the right side of the keyboard. It’s a multi-functional screen that acts as more than just an extension of the large 17.3-inch main display. It is actually more like an extension of the keyboard that just so happens to be dynamic and completely digital.

It can be a sub-screen that apps can use to display controls like buttons and sliders, freeing the main screen for content. It can also be used like a Wacom tablet with the integrated stylus, or a handy notepad on the side for jotting down meeting notes. It can even mirror your smartphone screen, specifically Motorola phones that support the ill-named “Ready For” feature, giving you a tablet that’s always within reach. And, yes, you can also use it as a calculator in lieu of the usual numpad.

While the idea behind this unorthodox design is really appealing, the implementation does come with a few drawbacks. With a 17.3-inch screen, a thickness of 0.7 inches, and a weight of 4.4 lbs, the ThinkBook Gen 3 isn’t exactly the most portable laptop around. The placement of that second screen is also biased towards right-handed people, and there doesn’t seem to be an option for those with the opposite dexterity.

The $1,399 price tag will also be a tad hard to swallow, but you are at least getting what you pay for in terms of hardware and features. One might even argue you are getting more because of that second screen. Admittedly, it will not appeal to everyone, but the Lenovo ThinkBook Gen 3 is unusual and quirky enough to at least get people thinking and talking about it.

The post Lenovo’s latest laptop comes with a secondary screen to keep you productive + creative in the strangest way first appeared on Yanko Design.

Smart home gadgets and kitchen tech that make great gifts

Keeping your home clean, organized and secure can be a chore, and your loved ones likely feel the same way. Fortunately, there are gadgets that can help make it a little easier. We review smart speakers, robotic vacuums and Instant Pots all year long, and for the holiday season we’ve compiled a list of our recent favorites in the home tech space that will make excellent gifts. And your giftee doesn’t have to be tech savvy to use all of them either — plenty of our recommendations amount to baby steps into the smart home world for those who would rather start off slow.

Instant Pot Pro

Instant Pot Pro for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Instant Pot

We almost always recommend the multi-purpose Instant Pot in our holiday gift guides and this year is no exception. But instead of giving your loved one the regular model, why not level up? Designed for avid cook, the Instant Pot Pro brings several key upgrades over previous models. The inner pot has an extra thick bottom that lets you heat it on the stove, plus handles that make it easier to lift. It has 28 customizable programs for different foods, and there are five favorite buttons that you can assign to frequently cooked meals. It also has steam release reminder alerts with 5- and 10-minute pre-sets. It’s available in two different sizes, but we’d recommend the six-quart version for most families.

Buy Instant Pot Pro at Amazon - $130

Anova Precision Cooker Nano

Anova Precision Cooker Nano for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sous vide cooking essentially means keeping foods in a temperature-controlled water bath, ensuring they’re done to perfection. This used to require expensive equipment, but sous vide cookers have become inexpensive over the past few years. One such device is the Anova Precision Cooker Nano, which can be found for around $100, and can be controlled through either an app or physical buttons. It’s one of the most affordable sous vide machines around, yet it delivers precise temperature controls. The app also comes with an assortment of helpful recipes to help get users started on their sous vide journey.

If you don’t mind spending a bit more, we also like Breville’s Joule for its sleek, minimalist design. It doesn’t have the physical controls that the Nano does, but it makes up for that with its compact form factor that’s a little easier to fit in a kitchen drawer. Either option will ensure medium-rare steak, juicy chicken breasts or just a perfectly soft-cooked egg.

Buy Precision Cooker Nano at Amazon - $130Buy Breville Joule at Amazon - $200

Anova Precision Oven

Anova Precision Oven for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Anova

If your loved one is a great cook with counter space to spare, consider getting them the Anova Precision Oven. It’s a luxury purchase, for sure, but it’s well worth the price for serious home cooks. This combination convection-steam oven can cook food in both wet and dry heat, letting you control temperature and humidity levels. What this means is that your special someone can make juicy roast chicken with crispy skin as well as crusty artisan-style bread all in one machine. Plus, it has WiFi and a companion app that lets cooks keep an eye on their food from anywhere.

Buy Precision Oven at Anova - $599

Google Nest Doorbell Battery

Nest Doorbell for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Nest

Video doorbells are useful for seeing who’s at the front door from the comfort of your couch. One of our favorites is the Nest Hello (now called the Nest Doorbell Wired), which is why we were pleased when Nest came out with a new battery-operated version, the Nest Doorbell Battery. It’s a great gift for both homeowners and renters, as you don’t need to hardwire it. Battery life is anywhere from one to six months depending on how active it is (it’s shorter if you live on a busy street, for example). The Doorbell notifies them whenever there’s a person, animal or vehicle near the front door. It can also let them know when a package has been placed, which is great for pre-empting theft. In addition, it offers three hours of event video history for free, with the option to purchase more space through a Nest Aware subscription.

Buy Nest Doorbell Battery at Best Buy - $180

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen)

Nest Hub (2nd gen) for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Nest

If you do get a Nest Doorbell for someone, you might want to consider gifting them a Nest Hub as well. The two are designed to work together: anytime someone rings the doorbell, the camera view of who’s at the front door will show up on the Nest Hub’s screen. Even without the doorbell, however, the smart display is a great device to have around the home — especially if your loved one already uses the Google Assistant. It works as a digital photo frame and they can use it to watch YouTube and Netflix. It can also make calls via Google Duo and offers recipe videos along with step-by-step cooking instructions. If the user so chooses, they can track their sleeping patterns when they place the device next to their bed.

Buy Nest Hub (2nd gen) at Best Buy - $100

Amazon Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

For those who prefer Alexa over the Google Assistant, the Echo Show 8 is a great alternative to the Nest Hub. It also works as a digital photo frame and its 8-inch display is a good size for streaming shows from Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu while prepping dinner. It can also be used to keep up with the news, check the weather and control smart home devices. Since Amazon has a partnership with Allrecipes and Food Network Kitchen, users can find assorted recipes and instructional videos as well.

Buy Echo Show 8 at Amazon - $130

Mila Air purifier

Mila Air purifier for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Air purifiers are great gifts for anyone who has allergies, lives in a polluted area or just wants to breathe easier at home. And if you want to give someone a smarter air purifier, consider the Mila Air. It ships with one of seven pre-configured HEPA filters that can filter out particles and allergens like pollen and dust. It also has a ton of customization options: there’s a “Housekeeping Service” mode that goes full blast when no one’s in the room, a “Sleep Mode” that turns the lights off and reduces the fan speeds at night, plus a “White Noise” mode that mimics soothing sounds like waterfalls. The Mila also has a bevy of sensors that can tell you if there’s carbon monoxide in the air, or if the humidity is too high.

Buy Mila air purifier - $349

Blink indoor camera

Blink indoor security camera
Blink

Blink’s indoor camera offers the gift of peace of mind in a compact and affordable package. Your loved one will appreciate the fact that Blink is wireless and battery-powered; since they don’t have to place it near an electrical outlet, it can sit almost anywhere. They also won’t have to worry about recharging the camera since it can last up to two years on its two included AA batteries. Aside from just letting them monitor their home, it also features customizable motion alerts so they’ll only get alerted when they want to. Plus, there’s two-way audio so they can hear and speak to the person (or pet) on the other end.

Buy Blink Indoor at Amazon - $80

iRobot Roomba 694

iRobot Roomba 694 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Maybe you have someone in your life who could use a little help cleaning up after themselves. For that, we recommend getting them one of our favorite robot vacuum cleaners, the iRobot Roomba 694. It can suck up dirt and debris from both hardwood and carpeted floors, with an edge-sweeping brush taking care of dusty corners. The companion app lets them control it remotely, or they can set up a cleaning schedule so the little robot can do its thing at a set time. It even automatically docks and recharges itself if it’s low on battery.

Buy Roomba 694 at iRobot - $275

August WiFi smart lock

August Smart WiFi smart lock 4th gen for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
August

Smart locks are a great way to add security and convenience to any home. We recommend August’s WiFi smart lock because it’s easy to use, and since it fits over an existing deadbolt, it’s great for both homeowners and renters. It lets your loved ones unlock the door completely hands-free, which is great if they have their arms full of groceries. They can set it so that it automatically locks once the door is closed, or after a set period of time. If someone’s at the door but they’re at the office or in the backyard, they can easily let them in with a single finger tap. Plus, they can grant access for specific friends or family members, which means they might never need to put the key under the doormat ever again.

Buy August WiFi smart lock at Amazon - $229

TP-Link Kasa smart plug

TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug  / Smart Plug Mini for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

With a smart plug, any appliance can be part of a connected home for not a lot of money. TP-Link’s Kasa smart plug is a particularly good one because it is both affordable and incredibly compact (and if you’re really short on space, there’s a mini version that’s even smaller). Together with its companion app, they can schedule a timer to turn on and off anything from Christmas lights to a coffee maker. It’s also compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant, which lets them add voice control to any outlet.

Buy Kasa smart plug (4 pack) at Amazon - $30Buy Kasa mini smart plug (2 pack) at Amazon - $20

Eero 6 WiFi mesh router

Amazon eero wifi 6 router for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Amazon

With most of us having so many gadgets and smart home devices, perhaps the best thing you can give your loved one is the gift of better WiFi to keep things running smoothly. Amazon’s Eero routers will deliver just that. The latest models support WiFi 6, the latest and fastest WiFi standard, and will support 75-plus devices simultaneously. It also covers up to 1,500 square feet with WiFi speeds up to 900 Mbps, so it’s unlikely they’ll ever have to deal with dead spots or buffering again. The Eero 6 also comes with a built-in Zigbee smart home hub that lets them connect compatible devices without having to purchase a separate device.

Buy Eero 6 router at Amazon - $129

Philips LED Smart Bulb starter kit

Philips Smart light starter kit for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Philips

Add some color to your loved one’s life with the Philips LED smart bulb starter kit, which comes with four multi-color bulbs plus a Hue Hub that connects them all together. The bulbs can fill the room with millions of different colors so they can choose from warm moody lighting for a cozy atmosphere or rainbows for parties. In the companion app, they can create timers and routines so that their lights gradually turn on in the morning or off in the evening. And it’s scalable: They can eventually have up to 50 lights connected to one Hue Hub, giving them the freedom to outfit their whole home with smart lights if they wish.

Buy Philips Hue starter kit at Amazon - $195

The best Chromebooks you can buy

Chromebooks have earned a reputation for being cheap and limited, but that hasn’t been true for a while now. The combination of years worth of software updates and laptop manufacturers making more powerful and better-built Chromebooks means there are a ton of good Chrome OS machines that work well as everyday drivers. Of course, there are an unnecessary number of Chromebooks on the market, so choosing the right one is easier said than done. Fortunately, I’ve tried enough of them at this point to know what to look for and what to avoid.

What is Chrome OS, and why would I use it over Windows?

That’s probably the number one question about Chromebooks. There are plenty of inexpensive Windows laptops on the market, so why bother with Chrome OS? Glad you asked. For me, the simple and clean nature of Chrome OS is a big selling point. If you didn’t know, it’s based on Google’s Chrome browser, which means most of the programs you can run are web based. There’s no bloatware or unwanted apps to uninstall like you often get on Windows laptops, it boots up in seconds, and you can completely reset to factory settings almost as quickly.

Of course, the simplicity is also a major drawback for some users. Not being able to install native software can be a dealbreaker if you’re, say, a video editor or software developer. But there are also plenty of people who do the vast majority of their work in a browser. Unless I need to edit photos for a review, I can do my entire job on a Chromebook.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Google has also added support for Android apps on Chromebooks, which greatly expands the amount of software available. The quality varies widely, but it means you can do more with a Chromebook beyond just web-based apps. For example, you can install the Netflix app and save videos for offline watching; other Android apps like Microsoft’s Office suite and Adobe Lightroom are surprisingly capable. Between Android apps and a general improvement in web apps, Chromebooks are more than just a browser.

What do Chromebooks do well, and when should you avoid them?

Put simply, anything web based. Browsing, streaming music and video and using various social media sites are among the most common things people do on Chromebooks. As you might expect, they also work well with Google services like Photos, Docs, Gmail, Drive, Keep and so on. Yes, any computer that can run Chrome can do that too, but the lightweight nature of Chrome OS makes it a responsive and stable platform.

As I mentioned before, Chrome OS can run Android apps, so if you’re an Android user you’ll find some nice ties between the platforms. You can get most of the same apps that are on your phone on a Chromebook and keep info in sync between them. You can also use some Android phones as a security key for your Chromebook or instantly tether your laptop to use mobile data.

Google Pixelbook
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Google continues to tout security as a major differentiator for Chromebooks, and I think it’s definitely a factor worth considering. The first line of defense is auto-updates. Chrome OS updates download quickly in the background and a fast reboot is all it takes to install the latest version. Google says that each webpage and app on a Chromebook runs in its own sandbox, as well, so any security threats are contained to that individual app. Finally, Chrome OS has a self-check called Verified Boot that runs every time a device starts up. Beyond all this, the simple fact that you generally can’t install traditional apps on a Chromebook means there are a lot fewer ways for bad actors to access the system.

As for when to avoid them, the answer is simple: If you rely heavily on a specific native application for Windows or a Mac, chances are good you won’t find the exact same option on a Chromebook. That’s most true in fields like photo and video editing, but it can also be the case in fields like law or finance. Plenty of businesses run on Google’s G suite software, but more still have specific requirements that a Chromebook might not match. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll also miss out on the way the iPhone easily integrates with an iPad or Mac, as well. For me, the big downside is not being able to access iMessage on a Chromebook.

Finally, gaming is almost entirely a non-starter, as there are no native Chrome OS games of note. You can install Android games from the Google Play Store, but that’s not what most people are thinking of when they want to game on a laptop. That said, Google’s game-streaming service Stadia has changed that long-standing problem. The service isn’t perfect, but it remains the only way to play recent, high-profile games on a Chromebook. It’s not as good as running local games on a Windows computer, but the lag issues that can crop up reflect mostly on Stadia itself and not Chrome OS.

Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook


What are the most important specs for a Chromebook?

Chrome OS is lightweight and usually runs well on fairly modest hardware, so the most important thing to look for might not be processor power or storage space. That said, I’d still recommend you get a Chromebook with a relatively recent Intel processor, ideally an eighth-generation or newer M3 or i3. Most non-Intel Chromebooks I’ve tried haven’t had terribly good performance, though Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 runs surprisingly well on its MediaTek processor.

As for RAM, 4GB is enough for most people, though 8GB is a better target if you have the cash, want to future-proof your investment or if you’re a serious tab junkie. Storage space is another place where you don’t need to spend too much; 64GB should be fine for almost anyone. If you plan on storing a lot of local files or loading up your Chromebook with Linux or Android apps, get 128GB. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt like I might run out of local storage when using Chrome OS.

Things like the keyboard and display quality are arguably more important than sheer specs. The good news is that you can find less expensive Chromebooks that still have pretty good screens and keyboards that you won’t mind typing on all day. Many cheap Chromebooks still come with tiny, low-resolution displays, but at this point there’s no reason to settle for anything less than 1080p. (If you’re looking for an extremely portable, 11-inch Chromebook, though, you’ll probably have to settle for less.) Obviously, keyboard quality is a bit more subjective, but you shouldn’t settle for a mushy piece of garbage.

Google has an Auto Update policy for Chromebooks, and while that’s not a spec, per se, it’s worth checking before you buy. Basically, Chromebooks get regular software updates automatically for about six years from their release date (though that can vary from device to device). This support page lists the Auto Update expiration date for virtually every Chromebook ever, but a good rule of thumb is to buy the newest machine you can to maximize your support.

How much should I spend?

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Chromebooks started out notoriously cheap, with list prices often coming in under $300. But as they’ve gone more mainstream, they’ve transitioned from being essentially modern netbooks to the kind of laptop you’ll want to use all day. As such, prices have increased a bit over the last few years. At this point, you should expect to spend at least $400 if you want a solid daily driver. There are still many budget options out there that may be suitable as couch machines or secondary devices, but if you want a Chromebook that can be your all-day-every-day laptop, $400 is the least you can expect to spend.

There are also plenty of premium Chromebooks that approach or even exceed $1,000, but I don’t recommend spending that much. Generally, that’ll get you better design quality with more premium materials, as well as more powerful internals and extra storage space. Of course, you also sometimes pay for the brand name. But, the specs I outlined earlier are usually enough.

Right now, there actually aren’t too many Chromebooks that even cost that much. Google’s Pixelbook Go comes in $999 and $1,399 configurations, but the more affordable $650 and $850 options will be just as good for nearly everyone. Samsung released the $1,000 Galaxy Chromebook in 2020; this luxury device does almost everything right but has terrible battery life. Samsung quickly learned from that mistake and is now offering the Galaxy Chromebook 2 with more modest specs, but vastly better battery life at a much more affordable price (more on that laptop later). For the most part, you don’t need to spend more than $850 to get a premium Chromebook that’ll last you years.

Engadget picks

Best overall: Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook

Google Pixelbook Go
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Look beyond the awkward name and you’ll find a Chromebook that does just about everything right that’s also a tremendous value. It gets all the basics right: The 13-inch 1080p touchscreen is bright, though it’s a little hard to see because of reflections in direct sunlight. It runs on a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, the eight-hour battery life is solid, and the backlit keyboard is one of the best I’ve used on any laptop lately, Chromebook or otherwise. The Flex 5 is now a little over a year old, but it still holds up well and is even cheaper than it was when it first launched. It can now regularly be found for well under $400 on Amazon. (As of this writing, it’s priced at $329.) That’s an outstanding value for a Chromebook this capable.

Naturally, Lenovo cut a few corners to hit that price. Most significantly, it only has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy a computer with those specs — but Chrome OS is far less dependent on local storage. Unless you were planning to store a ton of movies or install a huge variety of Android apps, 64GB is enough for moderately advanced use. I was concerned about the non-upgradeable 4GB of RAM, but my testing showed that the IdeaPad Flex 5 can run plenty of tabs and other apps without many hiccups. If you push things hard, you’ll occasionally have to wait for tabs to refresh if you haven’t viewed them recently, but other than that this is a solid performer, particularly for the price.

Other things in the IdeaPad Flex 5’s favor include that it has both USB-C and USB-A ports and a 360-degree convertible hinge. I personally don’t find myself flipping laptops around to tablet or stand mode very often, but it’s there if you like working in those formats. At three pounds and 0.66 inches thick, it’s not the lightest or slimmest option out there, but those specs are also totally reasonable considering the price.

Ultimately, the Ideapad Flex 5 hits the sweet spot for a large majority of potential Chromebook buyers out there, providing a level of quality and performance that’s pretty rare to find at this price point. That said, given this laptop has been out for over a year now, we’re keeping an eye out for any potential replacements Lenovo offers, as well as comparable options other manufacturers release.

Buy Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook on Amazon - $430

Upgrade picks: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 laptop with its lid open sitting on a wooden table.
Engadget

Premium Chromebooks with more power, better design and higher prices have become common in recent years. If you want to step up over the excellent but basic Lenovo Flex 5, there are two recent options worth considering: Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 and Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713.

The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is infinitely more stylish than most other Chromebooks, with a bright metallic red finish and a design that looks far better than the utilitarian Flex 5 and Chromebook Spin 713. As I mentioned earlier, Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 fixes some of the serious flaws we identified in the original. Specifically, the 2020 Galaxy Chromebook had terrible battery life and cost $999; this year’s model starts at $549 and can actually last seven hours off the charger. That’s not great, but it’s far better than the lousy four hours the original offered.

Samsung cut a few corners to lower the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s price. Most noticeable is the 1080p 13.3-inch touchscreen, down from the 4K panel on the older model. The good news is that the display is among the best 1080p laptop screens I’ve seen in a long time, and the lower resolution helps the battery life, too. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is also a bit thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but it’s still reasonably compact.

Finally, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 has a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor rather than the Core i5 Samsung included last year. All these changes add up to a laptop that isn’t as ambitious, but is ultimately much easier to recommend. Instead of pushing to have the best screen in the thinnest and lightest body with a faster processor, Samsung pulled everything back a bit to make a better-priced but still premium laptop.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713, by comparison, doesn’t look like much from the outside — it’s a chunky gray slab with little to distinguish it from many other basic laptops. While it doesn’t seem exciting, the Spin 713 is just as well-made as the Galaxy Chromebook 2, with a sturdy hinge and body. But what’s most interesting is the display, a 13.5-inch touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. That makes it a much better option than 1080p displays when you’re scrolling vertically through documents and webpages. It has a somewhat unusual resolution of 2,256 x 1,504, thanks to the taller aspect ratio, but it makes for a more pixel-dense display than you’ll find on your standard 13.3-inch, 1080p laptop. Long story short: The screen is great.

As for the rest of the hardware, the 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor is more than enough power for most tasks, and the keyboard and trackpad are solid, if not the best I’ve used before. The same can be said for battery life: I got about the same six to seven hours using the Spin 713 as I did using the Galaxy Chromebook 2. I wish it were better in both cases, but it’s in line with other premium Chromebooks I’ve used lately.

The Spin 713 configuration that I tested costs $699, the same as the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Because I’m such a fan of the 3:2 display, I prefer the Spin 713 (which also has a more powerful processor), but the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is worth a look if you want a laptop that has a little more style and a better keyboard.

Last year, Google’s Pixelbook Go was our pick for the best premium model. It’s still an excellent choice and one of my favorite Chromebooks to use, but it’s almost two years old. Its age coupled with its aging 8th-generation Intel processor make it tougher to recommend. That said, it’s still one of the thinnest and lightest Chromebooks around, and it still handles everything I can throw at it. It also has the best keyboard I’ve used on any recent Chromebook. There’s still a lot to like, but it’s harder to justify spending $650 or more on it. Hopefully Google will release an updated version this fall.

Buy Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 starting at $549Buy Acer Chromebook Spin 713 at Best Buy - $629

A good option for kids: Acer Chromebook 512

Acer Chromebook 512
Acer

While Lenovo’s Flex 5 is inexpensive enough that you could get one for your kid, Acer’s Chromebook 512 might be a better option for young ones in your life. First off, it’s specifically built to take abuse. In addition to the military-rated (MIL-STD 810G) impact-resistant body, you can spill up to 330mL of liquid on the keyboard. A drainage system will flush it out and keep the insides working. (Note that I haven’t actually tried that.) The keyboard features “mechanically anchored” keys that should be harder for kids to pick off, too. Regardless of exactly how much water you can pour onto that keyboard, the Chromebook 512 should handle a child’s abuse better than your average laptop.

This computer isn’t a speed demon, but the Intel Celeron N4000 chip coupled with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage should be fine for basic tasks. The 12-inch screen isn’t a standout either, but it has the same taller 3:2 aspect ratio as Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713. That means you’ll get more vertical screen real estate than you would on the 16:9, 11-inch panels typically found in laptops of this class. (The Chromebook 512’s screen resolution is 1,366 x 912, whereas most 11-inch Chromebooks use a 1,366 x 768 panel.)

All in all, it’s a fairly modest computer, but grade-school kids, a computer that can take some abuse and runs an easy-to-use OS that’s well supported in education should fit the bill well. The Chromebook 512 is priced at $249.99 direct from Acer, but it's going for $219.99 as of this writing at other retailers.

Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Best Buy - $220

The best Chromebooks you can buy

Chromebooks have earned a reputation for being cheap and limited, but that hasn’t been true for a while now. The combination of years worth of software updates and laptop manufacturers making more powerful and better-built Chromebooks means there are a ton of good Chrome OS machines that work well as everyday drivers. Of course, there are an unnecessary number of Chromebooks on the market, so choosing the right one is easier said than done. Fortunately, I’ve tried enough of them at this point to know what to look for and what to avoid.

What is Chrome OS, and why would I use it over Windows?

That’s probably the number one question about Chromebooks. There are plenty of inexpensive Windows laptops on the market, so why bother with Chrome OS? Glad you asked. For me, the simple and clean nature of Chrome OS is a big selling point. If you didn’t know, it’s based on Google’s Chrome browser, which means most of the programs you can run are web based. There’s no bloatware or unwanted apps to uninstall like you often get on Windows laptops, it boots up in seconds, and you can completely reset to factory settings almost as quickly.

Of course, the simplicity is also a major drawback for some users. Not being able to install native software can be a dealbreaker if you’re, say, a video editor or software developer. But there are also plenty of people who do the vast majority of their work in a browser. Unless I need to edit photos for a review, I can do my entire job on a Chromebook.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Google has also added support for Android apps on Chromebooks, which greatly expands the amount of software available. The quality varies widely, but it means you can do more with a Chromebook beyond just web-based apps. For example, you can install the Netflix app and save videos for offline watching; other Android apps like Microsoft’s Office suite and Adobe Lightroom are surprisingly capable. Between Android apps and a general improvement in web apps, Chromebooks are more than just a browser.

What do Chromebooks do well, and when should you avoid them?

Put simply, anything web based. Browsing, streaming music and video and using various social media sites are among the most common things people do on Chromebooks. As you might expect, they also work well with Google services like Photos, Docs, Gmail, Drive, Keep and so on. Yes, any computer that can run Chrome can do that too, but the lightweight nature of Chrome OS makes it a responsive and stable platform.

As I mentioned before, Chrome OS can run Android apps, so if you’re an Android user you’ll find some nice ties between the platforms. You can get most of the same apps that are on your phone on a Chromebook and keep info in sync between them. You can also use some Android phones as a security key for your Chromebook or instantly tether your laptop to use mobile data.

Google Pixelbook
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Google continues to tout security as a major differentiator for Chromebooks, and I think it’s definitely a factor worth considering. The first line of defense is auto-updates. Chrome OS updates download quickly in the background and a fast reboot is all it takes to install the latest version. Google says that each webpage and app on a Chromebook runs in its own sandbox, as well, so any security threats are contained to that individual app. Finally, Chrome OS has a self-check called Verified Boot that runs every time a device starts up. Beyond all this, the simple fact that you generally can’t install traditional apps on a Chromebook means there are a lot fewer ways for bad actors to access the system.

As for when to avoid them, the answer is simple: If you rely heavily on a specific native application for Windows or a Mac, chances are good you won’t find the exact same option on a Chromebook. That’s most true in fields like photo and video editing, but it can also be the case in fields like law or finance. Plenty of businesses run on Google’s G suite software, but more still have specific requirements that a Chromebook might not match. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll also miss out on the way the iPhone easily integrates with an iPad or Mac, as well. For me, the big downside is not being able to access iMessage on a Chromebook.

Finally, gaming is almost entirely a non-starter, as there are no native Chrome OS games of note. You can install Android games from the Google Play Store, but that’s not what most people are thinking of when they want to game on a laptop. That said, Google’s game-streaming service Stadia has changed that long-standing problem. The service isn’t perfect, but it remains the only way to play recent, high-profile games on a Chromebook. It’s not as good as running local games on a Windows computer, but the lag issues that can crop up reflect mostly on Stadia itself and not Chrome OS.

Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook


What are the most important specs for a Chromebook?

Chrome OS is lightweight and usually runs well on fairly modest hardware, so the most important thing to look for might not be processor power or storage space. That said, I’d still recommend you get a Chromebook with a relatively recent Intel processor, ideally an eighth-generation or newer M3 or i3. Most non-Intel Chromebooks I’ve tried haven’t had terribly good performance, though Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 runs surprisingly well on its MediaTek processor.

As for RAM, 4GB is enough for most people, though 8GB is a better target if you have the cash, want to future-proof your investment or if you’re a serious tab junkie. Storage space is another place where you don’t need to spend too much; 64GB should be fine for almost anyone. If you plan on storing a lot of local files or loading up your Chromebook with Linux or Android apps, get 128GB. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt like I might run out of local storage when using Chrome OS.

Things like the keyboard and display quality are arguably more important than sheer specs. The good news is that you can find less expensive Chromebooks that still have pretty good screens and keyboards that you won’t mind typing on all day. Many cheap Chromebooks still come with tiny, low-resolution displays, but at this point there’s no reason to settle for anything less than 1080p. (If you’re looking for an extremely portable, 11-inch Chromebook, though, you’ll probably have to settle for less.) Obviously, keyboard quality is a bit more subjective, but you shouldn’t settle for a mushy piece of garbage.

Google has an Auto Update policy for Chromebooks, and while that’s not a spec, per se, it’s worth checking before you buy. Basically, Chromebooks get regular software updates automatically for about six years from their release date (though that can vary from device to device). This support page lists the Auto Update expiration date for virtually every Chromebook ever, but a good rule of thumb is to buy the newest machine you can to maximize your support.

How much should I spend?

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Chromebooks started out notoriously cheap, with list prices often coming in under $300. But as they’ve gone more mainstream, they’ve transitioned from being essentially modern netbooks to the kind of laptop you’ll want to use all day. As such, prices have increased a bit over the last few years. At this point, you should expect to spend at least $400 if you want a solid daily driver. There are still many budget options out there that may be suitable as couch machines or secondary devices, but if you want a Chromebook that can be your all-day-every-day laptop, $400 is the least you can expect to spend.

There are also plenty of premium Chromebooks that approach or even exceed $1,000, but I don’t recommend spending that much. Generally, that’ll get you better design quality with more premium materials, as well as more powerful internals and extra storage space. Of course, you also sometimes pay for the brand name. But, the specs I outlined earlier are usually enough.

Right now, there actually aren’t too many Chromebooks that even cost that much. Google’s Pixelbook Go comes in $999 and $1,399 configurations, but the more affordable $650 and $850 options will be just as good for nearly everyone. Samsung released the $1,000 Galaxy Chromebook in 2020; this luxury device does almost everything right but has terrible battery life. Samsung quickly learned from that mistake and is now offering the Galaxy Chromebook 2 with more modest specs, but vastly better battery life at a much more affordable price (more on that laptop later). For the most part, you don’t need to spend more than $850 to get a premium Chromebook that’ll last you years.

Engadget picks

Best overall: Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook

Google Pixelbook Go
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Look beyond the awkward name and you’ll find a Chromebook that does just about everything right that’s also a tremendous value. It gets all the basics right: The 13-inch 1080p touchscreen is bright, though it’s a little hard to see because of reflections in direct sunlight. It runs on a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, the eight-hour battery life is solid, and the backlit keyboard is one of the best I’ve used on any laptop lately, Chromebook or otherwise. The Flex 5 is now a little over a year old, but it still holds up well and is even cheaper than it was when it first launched. It can now regularly be found for well under $400 on Amazon. (As of this writing, it’s priced at $329.) That’s an outstanding value for a Chromebook this capable.

Naturally, Lenovo cut a few corners to hit that price. Most significantly, it only has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy a computer with those specs — but Chrome OS is far less dependent on local storage. Unless you were planning to store a ton of movies or install a huge variety of Android apps, 64GB is enough for moderately advanced use. I was concerned about the non-upgradeable 4GB of RAM, but my testing showed that the IdeaPad Flex 5 can run plenty of tabs and other apps without many hiccups. If you push things hard, you’ll occasionally have to wait for tabs to refresh if you haven’t viewed them recently, but other than that this is a solid performer, particularly for the price.

Other things in the IdeaPad Flex 5’s favor include that it has both USB-C and USB-A ports and a 360-degree convertible hinge. I personally don’t find myself flipping laptops around to tablet or stand mode very often, but it’s there if you like working in those formats. At three pounds and 0.66 inches thick, it’s not the lightest or slimmest option out there, but those specs are also totally reasonable considering the price.

Ultimately, the Ideapad Flex 5 hits the sweet spot for a large majority of potential Chromebook buyers out there, providing a level of quality and performance that’s pretty rare to find at this price point. That said, given this laptop has been out for over a year now, we’re keeping an eye out for any potential replacements Lenovo offers, as well as comparable options other manufacturers release.

Buy Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook on Amazon - $430

Upgrade picks: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 laptop with its lid open sitting on a wooden table.
Engadget

Premium Chromebooks with more power, better design and higher prices have become common in recent years. If you want to step up over the excellent but basic Lenovo Flex 5, there are two recent options worth considering: Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 and Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713.

The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is infinitely more stylish than most other Chromebooks, with a bright metallic red finish and a design that looks far better than the utilitarian Flex 5 and Chromebook Spin 713. As I mentioned earlier, Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 fixes some of the serious flaws we identified in the original. Specifically, the 2020 Galaxy Chromebook had terrible battery life and cost $999; this year’s model starts at $549 and can actually last seven hours off the charger. That’s not great, but it’s far better than the lousy four hours the original offered.

Samsung cut a few corners to lower the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s price. Most noticeable is the 1080p 13.3-inch touchscreen, down from the 4K panel on the older model. The good news is that the display is among the best 1080p laptop screens I’ve seen in a long time, and the lower resolution helps the battery life, too. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is also a bit thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but it’s still reasonably compact.

Finally, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 has a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor rather than the Core i5 Samsung included last year. All these changes add up to a laptop that isn’t as ambitious, but is ultimately much easier to recommend. Instead of pushing to have the best screen in the thinnest and lightest body with a faster processor, Samsung pulled everything back a bit to make a better-priced but still premium laptop.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713, by comparison, doesn’t look like much from the outside — it’s a chunky gray slab with little to distinguish it from many other basic laptops. While it doesn’t seem exciting, the Spin 713 is just as well-made as the Galaxy Chromebook 2, with a sturdy hinge and body. But what’s most interesting is the display, a 13.5-inch touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. That makes it a much better option than 1080p displays when you’re scrolling vertically through documents and webpages. It has a somewhat unusual resolution of 2,256 x 1,504, thanks to the taller aspect ratio, but it makes for a more pixel-dense display than you’ll find on your standard 13.3-inch, 1080p laptop. Long story short: The screen is great.

As for the rest of the hardware, the 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor is more than enough power for most tasks, and the keyboard and trackpad are solid, if not the best I’ve used before. The same can be said for battery life: I got about the same six to seven hours using the Spin 713 as I did using the Galaxy Chromebook 2. I wish it were better in both cases, but it’s in line with other premium Chromebooks I’ve used lately.

The Spin 713 configuration that I tested costs $699, the same as the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Because I’m such a fan of the 3:2 display, I prefer the Spin 713 (which also has a more powerful processor), but the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is worth a look if you want a laptop that has a little more style and a better keyboard.

Last year, Google’s Pixelbook Go was our pick for the best premium model. It’s still an excellent choice and one of my favorite Chromebooks to use, but it’s almost two years old. Its age coupled with its aging 8th-generation Intel processor make it tougher to recommend. That said, it’s still one of the thinnest and lightest Chromebooks around, and it still handles everything I can throw at it. It also has the best keyboard I’ve used on any recent Chromebook. There’s still a lot to like, but it’s harder to justify spending $650 or more on it. Hopefully Google will release an updated version this fall.

Buy Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 starting at $549Buy Acer Chromebook Spin 713 at Best Buy - $629

A good option for kids: Acer Chromebook 512

Acer Chromebook 512
Acer

While Lenovo’s Flex 5 is inexpensive enough that you could get one for your kid, Acer’s Chromebook 512 might be a better option for young ones in your life. First off, it’s specifically built to take abuse. In addition to the military-rated (MIL-STD 810G) impact-resistant body, you can spill up to 330mL of liquid on the keyboard. A drainage system will flush it out and keep the insides working. (Note that I haven’t actually tried that.) The keyboard features “mechanically anchored” keys that should be harder for kids to pick off, too. Regardless of exactly how much water you can pour onto that keyboard, the Chromebook 512 should handle a child’s abuse better than your average laptop.

This computer isn’t a speed demon, but the Intel Celeron N4000 chip coupled with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage should be fine for basic tasks. The 12-inch screen isn’t a standout either, but it has the same taller 3:2 aspect ratio as Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713. That means you’ll get more vertical screen real estate than you would on the 16:9, 11-inch panels typically found in laptops of this class. (The Chromebook 512’s screen resolution is 1,366 x 912, whereas most 11-inch Chromebooks use a 1,366 x 768 panel.)

All in all, it’s a fairly modest computer, but grade-school kids, a computer that can take some abuse and runs an easy-to-use OS that’s well supported in education should fit the bill well. The Chromebook 512 is priced at $249.99 direct from Acer, but it's going for $219.99 as of this writing at other retailers.

Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Best Buy - $220

Lenovo’s YOGA Pad Pro tablet comes with its own stand and can double up as an external monitor





The common saying “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” really doesn’t work in the tablet industry. Apple’s successfully left every Android and Windows tablet in the dust with its ridiculously powerful iPad Pro, so the only way to really stand out in the tablet market is to do something the iPad really can’t… Someone at Lenovo seems to have figured that out early.

Lenovo’s new YOGA Pad Pro tries to stand out by not copying the iPad. While the iPad Pro is a pretty powerful machine that Apple often touts as a laptop replacement, the YOGA Pad Pro takes up the role of being a laptop accompaniment. With its own built-in kickstand and an integrated Micro HDMI port, the Lenovo YOGA Pad Pro is the perfect sidekick to your laptop. Make no mistake, it’s a pretty neat Android tablet on its own, but it manages to do a good job at the one thing the iPad can’t do – acting as a neat HDMI external monitor. Plug the YOGA Pad Pro into any device like your laptop, Nintendo Switch, or even your PlayStation or Xbox and you’ve got yourself a nice 13-inch touchscreen that you can prop up at any angle, hang on a hook, or carry around with you anywhere.

On the hardware front, the YOGA Pad Pro comes powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 processor, with 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage. While that absolutely pales in comparison to the 2021 iPad Pro with the M1 chip, it’s really an ‘apples to oranges’ sort of deal (no pun intended). The Lenovo YOGA Pad Pro isn’t trying to replace a laptop, it’s trying to augment it. The 13-inch screen is larger than the one found on the iPad, but then again, it’s perfect for pairing with a Windows desktop or laptop. It’s even great for watching movies or playing games, thanks to the presence of four JBL speakers on every corner of the tablet… Plus that built-in kickstand proves incredibly useful when you want to prop the tablet on your workspace, kitchen counter, or even hang it on a wall! The YOGA Pad Pro is currently available for pre-order in China with a pretty commendable price tag of $515 – Lenovo is yet to announce a worldwide rollout.

Designer: Lenovo