Which Chromebook is better for students?
Anyone who’s gone to school in the past decade or so understands that a three-ring binder and some notebooks alone don’t cut it anymore. With a new age of remote learning upon us, student-friendly Chromebooks are going to be more important than ever.
There are tons of Chromebook options out there for anyone who wants a low-maintenance laptop that does most of the work for them. And they’re great for students in particular because of their utility with word processing and other classroom-focused productivity apps. Most importantly, Chromebooks are relatively affordable.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the HP Chromebook 15 and the Google Pixelbook Go. Both devices were released in 2019, and have their own pros and cons when it comes to school and everyday use. So, here’s how they stack up.
What’s so special about a Chromebook?
In case you aren’t familiar with Chromebooks, they run a special operating system called ChromeOS. It’s a stripped-down operating system that’s mostly compatible with Android apps as well as Google’s Chrome browser and email ecosystem. While that means Chromebooks can’t do quite as much as a Macbook or high-end Windows laptop, it also means they don’t need as much juice under the hood to get things cracking.
Google’s latest Pixelbook starts at $649.99 and comes with a minimum of 8GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and one of three Intel Core processors (m3, i5, or i7), depending on how much you’re willing to pay.
The best thing I can say about the Pixelbook Go is that you don’t need to worry about it keeping up with your daily tasks. When I reviewed it, I found it adeptly handled full days of work that I’d usually do on a Macbook Pro without giving me any reasons to complain.
Web browsing, writing, streaming HD videos, and other tasks you’ll probably do as a student all worked admirably. And the Pixelbook Go didn’t roar its fans or freeze up from keeping a bunch of Chrome tabs open.
I wasn’t quite able to hit the 12 hours of battery life Google claims the Pixelbook Go can achieve on a full charge, but it was close enough that I can’t knock it. The Pixelbook Go will get you through at least a full day on campus, and if it doesn’t, USB-C fast charging will perk it back up in a jiffy.
The HP Chromebook 15 only comes in one $449.99 model with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and an Intel Pentium Gold 4417U processor. Those are indeed slightly worse specs than the Pixelbook Go, but the Chromebook 15 won’t go gently into that good night. As I noted in my review, it’s a massive performance upgrade over its predecessor.
The Pixelbook Go may be able to handle slightly more activity, but the Chromebook 15 is more than adequately usable for your daily tasks. It’s compatible with the same Google apps and, unless you truly go overboard with Chrome tabs, you shouldn’t encounter much slowdown or freezing. There weren’t even any hangups when watching high-frame-rate videos, which was a problem I’d noticed on the Chromebook 14. It’ll get you through a school day just fine with a battery life that I would peg between 10 and 13 hours on a full charge.
Still, Google’s Pixelbook Go is just a little bit better spec-wise. You may have to pay more to hop on the bandwagon (which we’ll talk about in more detail later), but at least you’re getting more RAM. That alone gives it the crown here.
The winner: Pixelbook Go
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How light is it? Will it fit in my backpack?
First things first: These are both pretty handsome laptops, for different reasons.
Pixelbook Go comes in both black and pink colors, with the pink one obviously being the more attractive option. (That’s not up for debate, sorry.) The bottom of the device has a distinctive ridged texture that, according to Google, makes it easier to grip as you carry it around. It doesn’t make a huge functional difference, but it sure feels nice to hold.
Aside from that, this is a very nondescript laptop, much to its benefit. With just half an inch of thickness and 2.3 pounds of heft along with its 13.3-inch touchscreen display, it’s both compact and light. You might as well be carrying air when you haul this bad boy around campus… or between your living room and your bedroom, depending on how things shake out this year.
Oh, and the keyboard is fantastic. The keys are spaced out just far enough, they push in just deeply enough, and it’s quiet. You won’t likely find a better keyboard on a Chromebook.
The only knock I have against the Pixelbook Go in this category is its track pad. It’s perfectly responsive, but clicking on it is too loud and its central placement makes it a tad too easy to accidentally touch while typing.
The HP Chromebook 15 isn’t nearly as inconspicuous. Its 15.6-inch touchscreen display is moderately bigger than the Pixelbook Go, but that also means it’s thicker, at 0.7 inches, and heavier, coming in at a whopping 3.99 pounds.
It’s more bulky than its opponent, sure, but don’t mistake that for a lack of elegance. HP designed the Chromebook 15 with a sleek, metallic finish that I personally think looks cool as hell. It’s more flashy than the Pixelbook Go, so if you want to remain anonymous, maybe this isn’t the one for you.
The keyboard, by the way, is fine. I don’t love it as much as the Pixelbook Go’s keyboard, but it’s still leagues better than the atrocity that is the Apple butterfly keyboard. Basically, you’re looking at a difference between “good” and “great” with these two Chromebook keyboards.
This one is almost a toss-up, but the Pixelbook Go is smaller, lighter, has a better keyboard, and comes in a sweet pink color. So, Google’s Chromebook gets the edge here by the slimmest of margins.
The winner: Pixelbook Go
Are there other must-have features?
Chromebooks are fairly basic by nature, and these two don’t do much to stand out in terms of bonus perks. As such, we have to dig deep into things like ports to make arguments for one over the other.
Both of them have headphone jacks. Awesome. Cross that off the list. They also both have two USB-C ports, but the Chromebook 15 also has a USB type-A port for older devices that may not be USB-C compliant. On top of that, the Chromebook 15 has a microSD slot. Students who specialize in things like photography and video could benefit a lot from that.
You’ll find touchscreens on both laptops. Pixelbook Go’s touch display isn’t remarkable in any meaningful way, which is to say it works as intended and I don’t recall having many problems with it. Ditto for the Chromebook 15.
One last minor point for the Pixelbook Go is that the most expensive model comes with a 4K display. The Chromebook 15, meanwhile, only goes up to 1080p. That’s cool, but as we’ll get to in a little bit, it’s way too costly.
I’m going to give this category to the Chromebook 15 because of the presence of a USB type-A port and a microSD reader. Those are both genuinely useful on a daily basis for plenty of people, students included.
The winner: Chromebook 15
Which has the better overall value?
This one is easy. The Chromebook 15 is $449.99 and that’s it. There are no other models to consider. It’s not the best value, considering it only comes with 4GB of RAM, but it’s cheaper than any model of the Pixelbook Go.
Speaking of which, Google’s contender starts at $649.99, but goes much further beyond that. Models with more RAM, storage, and better displays go for $849.99, $999.99, and a whopping $1,399.99 for the top-end 4K version. If you have that much cash lying around, just buy a Macbook. The base version of the Pixelbook Go will likely be more than good enough for most students, so don’t worry about the more expensive ones.
That said, there’s no way Google wins this round. It’s simple math, folks.
The winner: Chromebook 15
I like using the Pixelbook Go more than I like using the Chromebook 15. Its pool of higher memory made me feel safer doing more things at once, and it’s such a nice device to hold and touch. Seriously, the keyboard and ridged bottom are just lovely. That said, when you stack them up against one another like this, it’s hard to make a definitive case for Google’s Chromebook over HP’s.
Pixelbook Go is gorgeous, doesn’t get in the way, and packs enough RAM into even the cheapest model to handle what most students will throw at it. If you’re willing or able to pay enough to get 16GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage, and a 4K display, you’ll have yourself a powerful little machine that’s nonetheless held back by the limitations of ChromeOS. But the keyboard is so good.
Even with all of that being true, the Chromebook 15 can do most of the same things for $200 less than the lowest-end Pixelbook variant. It might have a worse time with more intense computing demands because of its lower RAM, but limit yourself to schoolwork, social media, and streaming, and you’ll most likely be alright. Plus, it’s pretty in its own way and the keyboard is good, too.
The winner: Chromebook 15