My pick for 2020 Chromebook of the year

2020 was a terrible year for many important things that I needn’t remind you of. But, I think it was a great year for Chromebooks. We saw more high-end options from companies not named Google, for example. We saw mid-range choices come in a lower prices, even before sales. And we saw a tablet computer show the form-factor’s potential that didn’t have a horrific launch like the Pixel Slate did. So it’s tough to pick my personal Chromebook of the year.

And there were plenty of contenders. My own choices ranged from the $279 Lenovo Duet Chromebook to the $629 Acer Chromebook Spin 713, with the $409 Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook slotting in between the two from a pricing perspective.

You all had thoughts as well. When I asked what you would recommend for 2020 Chromebook of the year, I received a number of comments.

Here are a few, with others happy using older devices, agreeing with one of my top three contenders and even my pick from 2019, the Pixelbook Go (although it doesn’t qualify for this year’s pick):

If you want premium, I really like the Asus Chromebook Flip 436FA. The i3 feels every bit as fast as the i5 Acer Chromebook Spin 13, and it’s display somehow feels slightly larger. The 128GB PCIe SSD may help give it that extra bit of performance. The fingerprint sensor, back-lit keys, large glass touchpad, and USI stylus are all really nice to use everyday. The separation of the quad speakers sounds great. I often work an eight-hour day with it running only on battery. It’s also very pleasing to the eyes, with the lid open or closed.

Cajun Moses
Asus Chromebook Flip C436

My new Acer Chromebook 715 with its full size keyboard, including a number pad and touch screen is my ideal computer. Those familiar with Chromebook already know the amazing capability compared with Windows 10 computers. During Black Friday sales I was able to buy for less than $300 including shipping and 7% sales tax.

Phil
Acer Chromebook 715

Obviously, a case can be made by anyone that the Chromebook they chose is the best. And it likely is… for them. So as I said last year with my 2019 pick, this isn’t about the “best” Chromebook. We all have different budgets, use-cases, preferences and requirements, so there is no “best” Chromebook for everyone.

Having said that, my pick for 2020 Chromebook of the year is the Lenovo Duet Chromebook.

Now this isn’t a device that I use often. I reviewed it, coming away mostly positive about it, and I take it out every now and again. Because of what I do on a Chromebook it really doesn’t meet my daily needs.

Yes I can, and have, used it for general purpose browsing, email, streaming video consumption and writing blog posts. But I also write code on a daily basis, so I need something with more horsepower and a larger display, or at least, better large display support. I also need strong Linux performance for some of my coding projects.

Still, when I look at what Lenovo has delivered at a price of either $279 or $299, depending on the configuration, I have to admit it is an incredible value. You’re getting a high resolution touchscreen tablet with included keyboard and stand. Frankly, the Lenovo Duet Chromebook is a little workhorse for under $300. And you can often find it on sale. As of today, Best Buy has the 128 GB configuration for $249, a savings of $50.

Lenovo and MediaTek (who made the processor) should be commended for offering so much value for such a low price.

Here’s how I see it: There are still hundreds of millions of daily computer users that haven’t yet taken a chance on Chrome OS. In many cases, folks may have a specific need that a Chromebook can’t meet. I get that. For many others in this group, though, they just haven’t tried Chrome OS.

For a low cost-of-entry, this audience can take the chance of Chrome OS on a Lenovo Chromebook Duet. And they don’t have to worry about spending $400, $800 or even more to take that chance. Simply put, I think the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a great bridge between alternative computing choices and Chrome OS. Not to mention, many current Chromebook users picked one up for a secondary device.

No, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet isn’t the fastest option out there but it’s speedy enough for typical web and Android app usage. And it supports external monitors for use on a desk or in the office. Plus you can use it with a stylus for digital ink.

That’s enough to move folks outside the Chromebook camp to the “hey, this isn’t bad” crowd. And once they’re there, they can explore other options that might be faster, offer larger displays or provide some other features and functions that they didn’t know Chromebooks and Chrome OS even had. I’m thinking fingerprint sensors, multiple virtual desktops, and solid Linux performance.

I really expected the Pixel Slate to do this back in 2018 but it wasn’t meant to be. That device had a much higher price point, for starters, although for good reason: The internal hardware is much more capable and the display is both larger and has a higher resolution than the Lenovo Duet Chromebook.

Design choices, such as the floppy-on-the-lap keyboard add-on and base model with a poorly performing Intel Celeron chip didn’t help. Nor did the weight or the state of Chrome OS at the time, which wasn’t up to par with the actual hardware. That was eventually fixed but the damage had been done. So the Pixel Slate simply had no chance to appeal to new Chromebook owners on a widespread basis at launch.

In comparison, the Lenovo Duet has had great software support from day one, includes useful accessories for a full computing package at home or on the go and can easily be taken anywhere. It’s a fantastic little device for an outstanding price and showed that even a low-cost Chromebook can keep many people productive and happy using Chrome OS. It’s not a “perfect” Chromebook; that unicorn doesn’t exist. But for the price, you’re getting a ton of bang for buck.

Obviously, my opinion is simply that: my opinion. If you had to pick 2020’s Chromebook of the year, which might not be the Chromebook you might yourself use, what would it be and why?

30 thoughts on “My pick for 2020 Chromebook of the year

  • January 3, 2021 at 12:44 pm
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    Good choice, and good basis for a choice. I dipped my toes into Chrome OS by cautiously buying a lower cost Chromebook, the Asus C100PA Chromebook Spin. That experience gave me the confidence to make a more expensive purchase. So my wife uses an Acer Spin 13. And I use an Asus C436FA now. We both love our devices and Chrome OS.

    Reply
    • January 3, 2021 at 3:15 pm
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      I can’t recommend the duet to any of my family simply because of the absolute baffling poor support for external monitors. Other writers have noted this as well. Being the only factor keep them from recommending it as a solo device. I don’t want to hear it about being fine as a second device. They came so close to perfection in a budget device. For now I’ll keep my eye on dex even though I dislike samsung. I’m really looking at the new year amd devices.

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    • January 3, 2021 at 3:38 pm
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      Shhh, don’t tell anyone that I use my “Too floppy keyboard” on my lap all the time. I even ordered another one when my original went bad.

      That said there are real reasons to gripe at Google’s choices, yes, even about their price. But instead we get complaints about the i3 version and the keyboard.

      If google is going to stay in the hardware game, they do need to look at their design decisions more critically. The price of the keyboard should mean that it’s bullet proof, not dead too early. Shooting for the high end of the market should mean the hardware holds up and the software is as premium as the price. Neither of those were/are. That said, I love my Slate more than I hate it.

      I did buy my daughter the Lenovo lately, its smaller than I’d thought, and the keyboard is a bit cramped, but at that price, those decisions fit.

      Reply
  • January 3, 2021 at 12:50 pm
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    Mine is the Samsung Galaxy in red. The display is fantastic and I’ve been able to use it for almost all things. I wish they would come with a new one that included a 5G unlocked option.

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  • January 3, 2021 at 1:02 pm
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    My Acer C720p went E.O.L. recently so I needed a new computing device. I wasn’t in a real hurry, so I looked for a long time. When I first saw the Acer Spin S713, it met all my requirements: 1) backlit keyboard, and 3:2 display, 8gb RAM, 128gb NVME storage. Then when I saw your tip about the sale at Best Buy I pulled the trigger in July. I drove to my local Best Buy and did the curbside pickup thing.

    Battery life has been great on this device and I have never heard the fan.

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    • January 3, 2021 at 3:03 pm
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      I picked up the Pixel Slate (i5) with included keyboard & stylus when it was on sale for ~$460. It’s too bad reviewers got the bad Celeron version, and I know it’s 2 years old, but I think it’s a worthy contender. In 2020, the Pixel Slate on current software is awesome, esp at that price!

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    • January 4, 2021 at 2:59 am
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      I got on too recently and love it! Its as quick as my I7 Pixel Slate with 16GB of RAM…maybe the ssd hard drive has something to do with it.

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  • January 3, 2021 at 1:10 pm
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    Excellent choice. I began the Chromebook experiment five years ago with an Asus Flip C100PA and eventually migrated through several other choices to a Pixelbook. This year, amidst the disruption of COVID, I sold the Pixelbook and picked up the Duet. I have a Mac desktop for heavy lifting, but the portability, battery life, versatility, and simplicity of the Duet makes it my go to device most of the time. Once travel is possible again, it will be essential.

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  • January 3, 2021 at 1:24 pm
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    Oh yeah, you will keep touting the Lenovo Flex 5 – UNTIL a plastic hinge breaks on you. This has happened to far too many of us. Just read the Amazon reviews. What do you do with a Flex 5 with a broken hinge? Return it? Try to glue the hinge back together? People who returned theirs waited months to hear anything. Those of us who did the superglue fix got a nasty surprise – the broken hinge also disrupts the connection between the camera at the top of the screen and the computer. The only way to use the camera app is with a USB camera, hardly convenient. There are SO many other good choices, Chromebooks that perform as well, that don’t have plastic hinges. Why would anyone in their right mind take a chance on this? Why would anybody who writes about Chromebooks keep recommending it time after time?

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    • January 4, 2021 at 5:30 am
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      Because it looks and feels almost as nice, solid and well-made as theThinkPad X1 Yoga I was issued by my employer, performs well, and is very reasonably priced? Anything that cheap that feels like a premium product will get some love. It sucks that you’re home broke. Did you look for a local shop that can fix it?

      Reply
  • January 3, 2021 at 2:39 pm
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    Can’t agree more Kevin. While I use my i5 Pixelbook Go for the heavy lifting, I picked up the 128gb Duet on sale at Best Buy the end of October and have been very happy with it. Since I’ve had it, I have not undocked my Pixelbook Go one time.

    The Go is still my desktop favorite while docked to two large screens, headset, webcam, large keyboard and mouse, but the Duet just serves every other purpose when I’m not at my desk. I also purchased the Lenovo pen and it works great with the device, no lag with Squid or Keep.

    In my four-year journey from Windows and OS X, to Chrome OS, I’ve owned the Acer R11 (still have it), Samsung Chromebook Pro, 2017 Pixelbook, Pixelbook Go and now the Duet, and things just keep getting better every year. A recent new feature that I love is since I’m on Google Fi, I am able to get messages, calls and voicemail right on my Duet and PB Go without having my Pixel 5 even turned on! J

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    • January 3, 2021 at 7:35 pm
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      Exactly how I view this thing. For the price it’s one of the best on the go devices with the ability to do some work at a desk or whatever when needed. Super bright 400 nits w no glare, 1080p, thin bezel’d display, plenty battery , updates til 2028. Heck I was playing Cyberpunk via Stadia at a Starbucks on this thing no problem. Lenovo Usi pen is a +.

      I don’t think the #1 priority of the majority of people buying a 10.1″
      tablet/notebook would be secondary monitors as someone was complaining. Even tho it will connect fine via usbc. I think the 30 hz issue is what some are having. Idk because I didn’t buy the thing to connect to other monitors as I do with my office setup. I did see others on YouTube saying they were connecting at 1080/60hz tho. At $249 I grabbed two. I ain’t complaining.

      Reply
    • January 4, 2021 at 11:57 pm
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      Tell me more, tell me more! I too am a Fi customer, and love that my phone rings on my Windows machine, my Samsung tablet and my phone -I don’t carry my phone when at home..

      But how do you do it on a Chromebook? Acer Spin 713 using Hangouts

      Reply
  • January 3, 2021 at 3:12 pm
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    For ~$300, Duet should have 8 GiB of RAM. RPi can do it at $75, there’s no excuse anymore. Only 1 USB-C port is also annoying. I can forgive the lack of 3.5mm, but it could use 2 more USB-C ports, or +1 and a microSD slot.

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  • January 3, 2021 at 5:19 pm
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    The best one out there is the Acer Spin 13. Sturdy and well designed with all the ports I need. I use the HDMI port daily to broadcast to my new Sony 900H tv through my Denon receiver. 8 gb and 128 gb works for me.
    Thanks to no more Windows and their forever updates to correct errors.

    Reply
    • January 4, 2021 at 9:53 pm
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      I really like my HP chromebook X2. Doesn’t get much love and they’re hard to find on the used market but it’s a gem. Touchscreen, remove able tablet like the Duet but bigger. It’s been clutch for online grad school so far.

      Reply
  • January 3, 2021 at 5:56 pm
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    PixelSlate was the best choice for me. I do miss the Pixelbook, got it as an open box and then they matched the free keyboard at the time and ended up paying only like $390 for both but sold it later and do miss the Pixelslate.

    Reply
  • January 3, 2021 at 6:36 pm
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    Are there any Chromebooks with a 15″ or 17″ screen and a normal size keyboard? Now, that would be my choice for the Best Chromebook of 2021!

    Reply
  • January 3, 2021 at 7:30 pm
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    For me, the Acer Chromebook 713 is a perfect workhorse. The display is gorgeous in both brightness and QHD-definition. Simply stunning. Tenth generation i5 makes it scream. Best device for Linux Crostini. I don’t do coding or any other high performance tasks but for writing and school tasks as a language teacher it’s a very very great lappie.

    Reply
  • January 3, 2021 at 8:13 pm
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    I came to Chrome OS in 2018 looking for a high quality replacement for an Android tablet. I was completely dissatisfied with the system support time frames for Android anything really but especially for high end hardware. I had dabbled with CloudReady and so I knew what to expect. This was going to be a secondary device for me because I still have, and still do have, some Windows programs that I need to use.

    I found the HP Chromebook X2. It had the premium look and feel I sought, had adequately spec’d and had that beautiful screen. The detachable keyboard gave me the ability to use it as a tablet even if it was a tad unwieldy in that respect. I still love it and regularly use it. When the Duet came out earlier this year I was highly intrigued and nearly bought it several times. But with the X2 I just couldn’t justify the expenditure for myself.

    Cut to Christmas, I find a Duet under the tree! It too gives a premium feel in the hand. It too has a bright, sharp, vivid display rare among its size class. It comes with a useable keyboard and stand, and now USI styli can be found. Its size and portability means that I am picking the Duet up more and more often in lieu of the X2. The value of the device is way beyond the asking price. And that, because with it Lenovo has shown other OEMs how it should be done, is why the Duet is also my choice for Chromebook of the Year.

    Yes, the Duet has its faults, and I can rattle them off as well as anyone. If they are deal killers for some, I can understand that. I certainly would not buy it if it were to be my only device. My X2 is more suitable for that function but several 2020 devices are even more suitable in that scenario. Remember where I was coming from: I was looking for a tablet, not a laptop. I was looking for something highly portable but bigger than my smart phone. I was looking for something with a decent life span, decent response and something that could be used outside.

    I think the Duet was designed with someone like me in mind.

    Reply
  • January 3, 2021 at 8:24 pm
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    I am still waiting for a Pixelbook upgrade to be honest: Great Keyboard, high density 3:2 screen, and thin enough to be a one handed convertible is all I ask from a Chromebook.

    Reply
  • January 3, 2021 at 8:46 pm
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    I picked up a Duet for $250 refurbed; despite its modest specs it’s been able to handle everything I’ve thrown at it. I find myself grabbing it 9 times out of 10 instead of my 14″ laptop. Solid little device.

    Reply
  • January 3, 2021 at 10:41 pm
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    I bought a Duet..in fact 2, but was unable to get it either to work in my home. The first arrived and I tried setting it up. It asked to connect to my network, and succeeded with credentials. However, despite showing it connected, got an IP address etc, could not go on with the rest of the setup process, looping between “Network Unavailable” (it was) and please wait for hours. Lenovo support told me to return it, so I did, and went to buy another. Same problem, when I tried to get help from the Best Buy store, they were too busy… even though it somehow got into setup on their network. However, I was too leery of getting stuck with something that didn’t work, and returned it. To be honest I feel bad about the experience, but Lenovo shouldn’t let customers get stuck like this.

    Reply
  • January 4, 2021 at 9:39 am
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    What kills me about Chromebook is that not only do they last but they get better. So while I lust after these new beauties, it’s hard for me to justify getting a new one.

    My son is still using his C720 that we got for $99 with a Windows PC trade-in.

    My daughter’s ASUS C100P still makes a great “throw it in my oversized purse” machine.

    I’m still rocking my Samsung Chromebook 2 which has been made all the better with Linux and Android.

    I also have a ten year old Thinkpad X220i that I installed ChromeOS on over the summer.

    Yeah, yeah, I know…..not getting updates on the older ones anymore, but heck, they work, and still work very well!

    Reply
  • January 4, 2021 at 10:40 am
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    Sometimes I’m baffled by the praise reviewers give to some devices, like the Pixelbook Go. But the praise for the Lenovo Duet is pretty clear… it is primarily price.

    At $299 for the 128GB model with keyboard it is fine for what it is. “chromebook of the year” fine? I’m not seeing it. If it had a headphone jack and support for microSD, then I could see it being in the running.

    But it really is a matter of one’s own opinion so we’re likely going to disagree… but I do appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into explaining why these devices are worthy of consideration.

    Reply
  • January 5, 2021 at 12:48 am
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    Poor choice for #1. You can’t use it on your lap. Using a laptop on a table is so 1990’s. I always have my Pixelbook Go wherever I am sitting – on the couch, wherever. The problem with the detachables is that they are not stable unless they are sitting on a table. The keyboard just can’t hold the screen itself the way a clamshell or 2-in-1 can.

    Reply
  • January 10, 2021 at 7:28 pm
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    How can you call this the best chromebook of the yr and you hardly use it. I think it is a good product for the price but I’d hardly call this the best of 2020. Unless you are a daily user of chromebooks and rely on chrome os on a daily basis then your opinion is not very credible.

    Reply
    • January 11, 2021 at 8:51 am
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      I think you missed the point of the article. It’s not to pick the best Chromebook, for starters. There is no “best” device for everyone.

      Reply

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