With 2023 coming to a close, I’m looking back at the last 12 months. As I do just before December ends, I’m preparing to select my Chromebook of the Year. I’ll be honest, I’m finding it to be a challenge. Far more than usual, in fact.
I’m sure you have opinions though. Even if you didn’t buy a Chromebook in 2023, you’ve likely seen some ChromeOS laptops or tablets that you’ve appreciated.
A Chromebook Plus selection isn’t a bad one
Even though some of them just got a name change, several Chromebook Plus models could be contenders, for example. I’ve enjoyed my time with the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus. I still believe in my review from October, it’s the “best $499 Chromebook I’ve ever used.” Finding it on sale, which has happened a few times lately, makes it an even better value proposition.
Does a small upgrade earn Chromebook of the Year?
I’m also still partial to the laptop I bought in 2022, which is the Acer Chromebook Spin 714. A newer, less expensive model came out in 2023. But at the time I was still happy with my initial purchase, so I didn’t upgrade. Still, the newer hardware paired with the solid design of the prior model could make the 2023 Acer Chromebook Spin 714 a top pick for year.
Then there’s my 2022 annual selection, which was the $999 FrameWork Chromebook. Even if it had received an upgraded model this year, which it didn’t, I doubt I’d pick it again.
I selected because it offered Chromebook owners a very useful unique feature. The FrameWork uses modular ports so you can switch them out on the fly. That’s innovation that we hadn’t seen in a Chromebook until then. And it’s still the only Chromebook that offers such flexibility.
Even so, just an upgraded model would have been more of the same.
Chromebook of the Year can be a low-cost device
More expensive Chromebooks aren’t automatically in the running though. I selected the original Lenovo Duet Chromebook as Chromebook of the Year in 2020.
Obviously, it wasn’t the highest performing device that debuted back then. And that underscores that my annual pick isn’t aimed at selecting the “best” Chromebook. For starters, there’s no universal best Chromebook because everyone has different budgets and use cases. I also look for devices that can make a substantial, positive impact on the overall Chromebook market.
Here’s how that rationale played out in 2020 with the Duet:
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.
That exemplifies why I’m having a difficult time selecting my 2023 pick. Looking back, I don’t see a ton of innovation or Chromebooks that punch way above their price range. This year was more about evolution rather than revolution.
The most surprising Chromebook of the year
Although there is one device I reviewed that truly surprised me in terms of the overall performance and experience for the cost.
Back in May, I reviewed the $349 Lenovo Flex 3 Chromebook. Yes, I know I’m mentioning Lenovo a bunch here. That wasn’t planned. It’s simply a reflection of my device experiences. Anyway, back to the Flex 3.
It’s one of the laptops that exceeded my expectations both for the price and the configuration. A fanless Intel N-100 CPU powers the Flex 3 Chromebook, for example. And when I reviewed this laptop, it was a bit of a new, unproven chipset.
Yet the overall experience was quite decent. Far better than I expected in fact, even with 4 GB of memory. This is a capable little Chromebook with a nice, brighter than average 12.1-inch 1080p touchscreen. More often than not, the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3 is still priced at $349, like it is today. However, occasional sales drop it down below $300.
What would you pick?
Aside from those examples though, I’m still ambivalent about my selection for Chromebook of the Year in 2023.
While I rack my brain over the next few days, I figured to solicit your opinions. Even knowing that my selection criteria is likely different from yours might help me decide. So how about it: If you had to pick Chromebook of the Year for 2023, which would you choose and why?