Best Windows Alternative to a Chromebook Windows Central 2021
Chromebooks are appealing for several reasons, and while Chrome OS has come on leaps and bounds over the years, there are still limitations you don't get with Windows. One of the big draws is the price and portability since several Chromebooks are on the smaller side. But if you'd rather Windows, there are some great alternatives, lead by the stunning Surface Go.
- Best overall: Microsoft Surface Go
- Best Budget: ASUS VivoBook E203MA
- Best convertible: HP ProBook x360
- Best Performance: Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14
Best overall: Microsoft Surface Go
The Surface brand is desirable, and thanks to the Surface Go, it's no longer out of reach for folks on tighter budgets. Any model is easily a match for most Chromebooks, with the bonus of a touchscreen with inking support. Inking is an essential tool because the size of the Surface Go makes it a truly spectacular digital notebook when used with something like Microsoft OneNote.
The Intel Pentium processor, 64GB of storage, and 4GB of RAM are perfect for lighter computing needs. While the optional Type Cover will get the best experience from it, it's not a compulsory purchase. You can alternatively just use any wired or wireless keyboard you may already have to type on the Surface Go and save a little money.
The Surface Go is a proper Surface but with a much more attractive price. And that's what makes it so special; it's a Surface for everyone. The pick of the bunch is the 128GB SSD model with 8GB of RAM.
- All-day battery life.
- Kickstand built-in.
- Touchscreen with inking.
- Great price
- Keyboard not included.
- Windows 10 Tablet Mode is average.
- Quite small.
A high-end experience with a more affordable price
This is a proper Surface in every way, it's just smaller and much more affordable, and that makes it hard to beat.
Best Budget: ASUS VivoBook E203MA
The VivoBook E203 11.6-inch notebook from ASUS brings some of the style of the company's more expensive models at a really affordable price. It's not all good looks, though, as underneath, you'll find a dual-core Intel Celeron processor, up to 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage.
Despite the size, there's still a full-size keyboard, a MicroSD slot, HDMI out, USB-C, and full-size USB ports. The display is on par with competitors at 1366x768. And with all-day battery life, you'll be able to head out for the day and leave the charger at home. It's durable, too, which makes it great for taking to school.
ASUS has a long reputation for making quality laptops, and that's true even here on the entry-level products. The keyboard is particularly good, and it feels very much like what you'd find on a more expensive ASUS laptop. It makes typing all day a very pleasant experience, which is especially crucial if you're pounding the keys all day on school work.
- All-day battery life
- Superb keyboard
- Great port selection
- Low internal storage
- Lower resolution screen
- Quite small
A great budget alternative to a Chromebook
ASUS makes great quality laptops, and this one is affordable and tough and priced in the same space as the cheaper Chromebooks.
Best convertible: HP ProBook x360 11 G1
Several Chromebooks today have touch displays, but naturally, there are alternatives running Windows 10. HP's affordable x360 ProBook fits the bill with its 11.6-inch, 1366x768 resolution touch display that folds right round. A laptop like this has lots of versatility, for example, being folded over like a tent to give you that perfect angle for watching a movie without the keyboard in your eye-line.
You'll get an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage. Not only that, but there's plenty of full-size USB ports, an SD card slot, and an HDMI output, which makes this cheap convertible notebook great for getting things done.
Convertibles have several advantages over both 2-in-1s and traditional laptops, and this excellent model from HP gives all of that at a really affordable price. It also gives you Windows 10 Pro, which itself a superb value add.
- Touch display
- Lots of ports
- Good battery life
- Windows 10 Pro
- Lower resolution screen
- Quite small
- No USB-C
Type and touch without breaking the bank
A convertible laptop is suitable for both work and play, and thanks to HP, you don't have to spend a fortune to get one.
Best Performance: Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14-inch
What would you say to the idea of a 6-core Windows laptop with outstanding graphics performance for similar money, less even in some cases, to one of the higher-end Chromebooks out there? Crazy, right? Not anymore. This 14-inch laptop from Lenovo boasts AMDs incredible new Ryzen 5 mobile, and it's frankly changed the game.
In the IdeaPad 5, you're getting the new Ryzen 5 with 6-cores based on the new 7nm Zen 2 architecture, albeit without hyperthreading, paired with 8GB of DDR4 3200MHz RAM a 256GB PCIe SSD and six Radeon Vega GPU cores. Added up, that means excellent performance from both CPU and GPU in something that costs under $700.
And as it's a Lenovo you also get a brilliant keyboard and solid build quality, too. The display is a 1080p resolution IPS matte panel, and you get a bunch of ports and even a fingerprint scanner. It's an incredible value package.
- 6-core Ryzen CPU
- Powerful integrated graphics
- Matte display
- PCIe storage
- No-touch option
- RAM isn't upgradeable
A 6-core laptop with powerful integrated graphics
AMD continues to help laptop makers offer performance and value, and the new 6-core Ryzen in the IdeaPad 5 helps it outperform similarly priced Chromebooks.
The bottom line
Chromebooks are popular for several reasons, one of the biggest being their value. The Surface Go is a little pricier than some of the competition, but it's worth every penny.
But some of the other choices here make more sense for other specific requirements, whether you're looking to spend as little as possible or get the absolute best performance you can for Chromebook money. We strongly recommend each and every one of the PCs featured here.
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