With slim designs, premium materials and an ever-expanding list of features and capabilities, the humble Chromebook has become one of the hottest laptop categories in years. At CES 2017 in Las Vegas, the trend appears to continue, with models announced by major manufacturers that boast impressive new features and a level of quality most similarly affordable Windows laptops can’t match.
Samsung announced two new Chromebooks during the show, the Chromebook Plus and the Chromebook Pro.
The less expensive Chromebook Plus runs on an ARM processor, while the more premium Chromebook Pro boasts an Intel Core M3 processor. Aside from the processing hardware, the two models are identical, with a 12.3-inch display, 2400 x 1600 resolution, dual USB-C ports, and a 360-degree hinge. The new Chromebooks feature magnesium alloy construction with a slim build and rounded edges that make them very pleasant to hold in your hands. The Plus and the Pro also feature a convertible design that allows you to use it in laptop or tablet mode.
The Chromebook Plus and Pro are also some of the first models to feature native support for Android apps. While early versions of this support have been available on two or three models this year, it was a preview feature that required signing into developer mode or enabling unproven functions on your system. The new Samsung models have this functionality ready to go as soon as you open the package. Combine this with the touchscreen and included stylus, and your Chromebook is now effectively an Android tablet – and a pretty good one at that.
The Samsung Chromebook Plus is available for pre-order now for $449.9 on Samsung's website. The Chromebook Pro will be available sometime this spring, though specifics of pricing have not been announced.
One of the largest uses of Chromebooks is in education, and Acer’s newest Chromebook 11 N7 is built for classrooms. Featuring ruggedized plastic construction, rubber bumpers around the edges of the chassis, and a spill-resistant keyboard with built-in liquid drainage, the device should survive even the rowdiest third-grader.
The rugged Chromebook 11 N7 keeps the feature set basic with a 1,366 x 768 display, available in touch and non-touch versions, and it is equipped with two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI output and a full-size SD card slot. The battery should last an estimated 12 hours per charge, long enough to make it through the school day and some homework afterward.
While Acer expects to sell the majority of these to schools, they will also be available for individual purchase later this month for $230.
Last but not least is the Asus Chromebook Flip C302, the 12.5-inch follow-up to the smaller Asus Chromebook Flip C100, which grabbed attention as one of the first convertible Chromebooks on the market. The new C302 scales up everything that we liked about the original Flip, with a 360-degree hinge, an Intel Core M 6Y30 paired with 4GB of RAM, and 32GB internal storage – though Chromebooks generally rely on cloud-based apps like Google Drive or Dropbox for storage.
It’s also very thin and light, measuring 0.53 inches thick and weighing just 2.6 pounds. Combine that with a convertible design and future support for Android apps, and the Asus Chromebook Flip C302 competes with Samsung’s new models as the most attractive Chromebook we saw.
The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 will be available in more than one configuration (likely with more storage), but the 32GB model we were shown is coming soon for a starting price of $499.