Chromebooks are simple laptops that have replaced netbooks in the low-cost segment of the market. Instead of running Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X, they run the Chrome OS operating system from Google.
Almost the entire time you use a Chromebook, you will be inside a Web browser, and you will have all of Google's services at your fingertips, including Gmail, Drive, Play Music, Hangouts, and others. You need an Internet connection to make the most of a Chromebook, and this means Wi-Fi for most models. Without access to the Internet, a Chromebook can be a frustrating laptop to use, so keep that in mind — they are, after all, designed to make use of the Cloud. However, there are settings that allow you to download and synchronise Drive and Gmail content so that you can work offline if you can't connect to a Wi-Fi network.
Here are some of the Chromebooks we've reviewed so far, arranged from the newest review to the oldest, and identified by generation (according to what the vendor has so far released). Check out the review of each model for details on each model's performance, features, user comfort, battery life, and overall quality.
Physically, the C720P is the same as Acer's C720 Chromebook, but there is one key difference: this is the first Chromebook to come with a touchscreen. There's not much you can do with that touchscreen, but Acer figures that having the option might entice developers to come up with some cool apps for it.
Full review: Acer Chromebook C720P
This is the biggest Chromebook on the market, and perhaps the most luxurious to use for long typing sessions. It's also the heaviest, and this may be its main obstacle in attracting new users. Primarily, HP hopes this model will do well in the education market, and has released it a variety of colours to make it more appealing for this sector.
Full review: HP Chromebook 14
Toshiba has made use of the more well-known 13in form factor for its Chromebook CB30 (part number PLM01A-00200C), and compared to many of the other new-breed, low-cost, Google-centric laptops that we've seen, this one might just be the best yet. Its size and keyboard are suitable for long periods of typing, its styling isn't boring, and it offers the types of ports and slots that always get us excited when we review new computers.
Full review: Toshiba Chromebook CB30
Attractive looks go a long way in a tech product these days, and HP and Google have designed the Chromebook 11 (named after its 11in screen) so that it will appeal to those of you who are after something that looks a little more stylish than the norm. However, not only does this Chromebook look good, it's also quite well built and comfortable to use. Now let's find out how much soul is present in this little cloud-based computer.
Full review: HP Chromebook 11
It must be said that the more we used Acer’s C720 Chromebook, the more we enjoyed it. We didn’t get too hung up on the fact that it isn’t a ‘regular’ computer, and we can see the value in it if you’re after a laptop that will be used purely for Web browsing, creating documents, email, and other online forms of communication within the Google ecosystem. The thing is, it’s designed to be a low-cost computer, which means it simply doesn’t have a physical design that makes it stand out.
Full review: Acer C720 Chromebook
Samsung's XE303C12 is one of the first Chromebooks to hit the Australian market, armed with a small form factor, light weight and an attractive price tag. It's a laptop that resembles a netbook, but because it runs Google's Chrome OS, it's nothing like the Windows-based netbooks of old. In fact, the Samsung Chromebook is a Web-based laptop that requires an Internet connection in order to be used optimally.
Full review: Samsung XE303C12 Chromebook
Acer's C710 (Q1VZC) is one of the two Chromebooks to be recently released on the Australian market, and it's a different beast to the Samsung XE303C12 that we reviewed a few days ago. It's also an 11.6in model, but it looks more like a traditional Windows laptop rather than a laptop designed for a minimalist operating system like Chrome OS. It has a standard array of ports, a busy keyboard, and it even sounds like a Windows laptop thanks to its active CPU cooling.
Full review: Acer C710 (Q1VZC) Chromebook
Article last updated: 1 April 2014.