A good alternative

A good alternative
Credit: HP.

Need a new laptop? You don’t have to choose between a Mac and a PC. Chromebooks are laptop computers that run on Chrome OS, an operating system made by Google. Chromebooks have some advantages over machines running desktop operating systems such as Windows or OS X. Chrome OS is lightweight, so it runs smoothly, even on mediocre hardware. For that reason, Chromebooks tend to be more affordable than comparable Windows notebooks. Chromebooks are also secure, since you can’t install malicious applications on them. And on top of all that, they’re just plain easy to use.

But there are big trade-offs to choosing a Chromebook. Unlike Windows or Mac OS, Chrome OS does not run regular desktop applications. Instead, the platform is based on a souped-up version of Google's Chrome Web browser, so it relies on Web-based applications. If you need to run a particular piece of computer software, the platform might not suit your needs — though virtualization does provide a workaround if you’re really desperate to run a Window or Mac program. Regardless, a Chromebook might be all you need for basic business tasks like email, Web browsing and document editing. Here are five of the best.

HP Chromebook 14

HP Chromebook 14
Credit: HP.

With a 14-inch display, the HP Chromebook 14 is one of the only full-size Chromebooks around; most are ultraportable devices with screens under 12 inches. Other highlights include the device’s attractive design and an affordable price point, starting at $299. It boasts a slim, attractive build with a soft-touch finish on the lid. The keyboard and touchpad are roomy and responsive, while the 14-inch display is sharp and colorful. It’s also a long-lasting laptop, running for about 8 hours between charges. And the package includes a few bonus items: 100GB of free storage on the Google Drive cloud storage platform for two years and 12 free sessions of GoGo in-flight Internet.

HP Chromebook 11

HP Chromebook 11
Credit: HP.

Starting at $279, the Chromebook 11 is one of the most affordable business notebooks around. Overall, it offers good bang for your business’s buck, with solid, high-quality hardware. The notebook features a magnesium frame under its plastic exterior that adds heft and gives it a solid feel, and specs that match midrange 10-inch tablets, but at a lower price. It’s far from fast, but expect smooth performance for basic productivity tasks. And like HP’s Chromebook 14, the Chromebook 11 comes with productivity-boosting freebies including expanded cloud storage on Google Drive and free in-flight Internet.

Lenovo N20p Chromebook

Lenovo N20p Chromebook
Credit: HP.

The highlights of Lenovo’s N20p Chromebook are its sharp touch screen and flexible hinge. The affordable 11.6-inch notebook can fold back 300 degreesfor easier access to the touch screen. The functionality does give business users more options during daily use, since it makes touch-optimized Web applications easier to use. It also allows the notebook to be used like a display kiosk for presentations. In addition to the standard $329 model, Lenovo launched another more affordable version of the N20p Chromebook for budget-minded users. The cheaper $279 model matches its more premium sibling in most respects, with a few key differences: It lacks both a touch screen and a flexible hinge.

Acer C720P Chromebook

Acer C720P Chromebook
Credit: HP.

Acer’s C720P Chromebook is a well-rounded and affordable business notebook. Hardware highlights include a sharp 11.6-inch touch-screen display, a zippy Celeron processor and 32GB of onboard storage. And at $299, it’s the cheapest Chromebook to include a touch screen. The C720P Chromebook is a long-lasting laptop; Acer claims the machine can run up to 7.5 hours on a charge. That makes it a good pick for business users who rely on their laptop while traveling or conducting business on the go.

Samsung Chromebook 2

Samsung Chromebook 2
Credit: HP.

Samsung’s 13.3-inch Chromebook 2 is a more premium device than the average Chromebook — and its $399 price point reflects that. The notebook packs a large, sharp display and a bit more power under the hood; its octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM allow for smoother multitasking and better overall performance. It also offers good longevity, offering about 8 hours of battery life between charges. As an added bonus, the Chromebook 2 is fully integrated with Google Hangouts, Google's video-chat platform. The notebook itself features dual-array microphones and 720p cameras for a top-notch videoconferencing experience.