Every Black Friday you’ll find good discounts on laptops, but some of the best deals are on Chromebooks. Running on Google’s web-based Chrome OS, they’re typically cheap to begin with, starting around $200, so you can find some amazing prices this time of year.
Chrome doesn’t require a lot of processing power for basic tasks, so you shouldn’t compare their specs against a Windows 10 PC. But that doesn’t mean you should let a low price alone rope you into a Black Friday buy. If you keep just a few Chromebook shopping basics in mind when you’re shopping, you can make sure you what you get does what you want.
Need Windows or Mac apps? Stop here
Before you go any further, know that Chromebooks are not compatible with Windows or Mac software. They primarily use web apps that are available through Google’s Chrome Web Store. Newer models can also be used with Android apps, which can definitely fill in some blanks, like if you need Microsoft Office access. And, if you don’t mind poking around a bit in the OS, you can load Linux apps onto some models, too. But again, you’d be dealing with substitutions, so if you need or want a specific Windows or Mac app — and there’s no suitable web, Android or Linux app substitute — don’t get a Chromebook.
Here are the specs you want
I’ve been reviewing Chromebooks from the start. As I said up top, compared to a Windows or Mac laptop you can get by with lower-end hardware in a Chromebook. However, here’s what I recommend people look for when they ask what specs to get.
Intel Celeron or Pentium, Core m- or Core i-series processor
4GB of memory or more
32GB of storage
Full HD (1,920×1,080 pixels) display
There is flexibility with these recommendations. You can get a 1,366×768-resolution display, for example, but the cheap ones used in low-end Chromebooks look particularly soft next to full-HD models. And you can get by with 16GB of onboard storage as long as there’s a microSD card slot to supplement it.
However, the one spec I wouldn’t skimp on is memory. Chrome can quickly get bogged down if you leave lots of tabs open and/or web apps running in the background. Stick with 4GB of RAM or more just so you don’t end up frustrated using it.
Consider paying extra for these
If you’re planning to use Android apps a lot, you may want to get a touchscreen model. Look for either one with a touch display on 180-degree hinges so the display can lay flat, or go with a two-in-one model so you can use it as a tablet or a laptop. Bear in mind that not all apps will work.
The processors I called out in the last section are basically your “good, better, best” options. If you’re a heavy multitasker or simply can’t tolerate performance slowdowns, it’s worth looking for a Chromebook deal with a Core m- or Core i-series processor.
Also, since many Chromebooks are made for the education and business markets, you can frequently find models with spill-resistant keyboards and reinforced hinges. If you’re shopping for someone who might be a little less careful with their tech, it might be best to search one out.
Deals and prices have been verified and updated as of Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 1:30 p.m. ET. Added is a deal direct from Google on its Pixelbooks.
CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.
We linked to the current listing at the retailer’s website when one was available, but of course sale pricing won’t be available until the respective sales begin.
Google Pixelbook starting at $700 ($300 off)
One of the nicest — and priciest — Chromebooks available gets a price chop for the holidays. At $700, it’s still expensive, but its high-quality build, two-in-one design with a pen-enabled touch display and speedy performance are worth it.
HP Chromebook with 14-inch display and Intel Celeron CPU for $210 ($40 off)
Chromebooks are often so inexpensive that retailers have a difficult time marking them down more — even during Black Friday. We haven’t reviewed this particular 14-inch Chromebook by HP, but the specs look decent at this price.
This premium Chromebook two-in-one is a great choice if you want to take full advantage of Chrome’s Android app integration. Use it as a laptop or a tablet, and Samsung even includes one of its S Pens for writing and drawing on the screen.