Chromebook Specs & Distinguishing Details
(Considerations Before Your Purchase)
Note: Specs Change quickly.
Nevertheless, you will still get an idea of the major Spec Differences among Chromebooks and what to look for in your next purchase.
Screen-Size is the first branch point in picking a Chromebook.
Think about it – working on your website on an 11″ (?), or traveling on the subway with a Chromebox attached to a 24″ monitor (?) — both are not good ideas, but switch the scenario and sizes around and you have wonderful solutions.
This is why the first branch point of our Chromebook Tables start with Screen-Size.
Besides the 11″ and 13-14″ choices, looks like in the mid-2015, we’ll likely start seeing 15″ Acer C910 and Dell Chromebooks showing up in the market place as well.
B) Aspect Ratio & Resolution
The 16:9 aspect ratio has become the standard for notebook displays over the last several years.
Both 720p and 1080p (Vertical Resolutions) display at the 16:9 aspect ratio. This 16:9 W:H ratio follows the US digital broadcast TV std. and international standard format of HDTV and non-HD digital television.
1) 720p: 1366 x 768 (HD) Resolution: All 11″ Chromebooks. Most 13-14″ Chromebooks.
2) 1080p: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) Resolution: (See 13-15″ Tables – screen-spec red highlights). A few 13-14″ Chromebooks have FHD: Acer Tegra 13″, Toshiba CB-2 Bay Trail 13″, Samsung Exynox CB-2 14″, HP Tegra 14 Touch.
C) LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) Technologies ISP (In-Plane Switching)
….is a newer technology that orients and switches the the liquid crystal layers in parallel between the screens glass plates for an improved picture quality and viewing angle over the older TN (twisted nematic field matrix) LCD technology.
IPS panels are more expensive to produce and require 15% more power than TN panels.
Unlike TN panels, IPS do not show tailing or lightening when touched so they are best suited on touch-screen devices so if a touch-screen Chromebook is in your future, consider an IPS display.
Chromebooks using IPS: (See 11″ Table & 13″ Table – screen-spec red highlights).
For example: Toshiba CB-2 Bay Trail 13″, Lenovo Bay Trail Yoga 11e 11″, HP Exynos 11″.
D) Display Scaling
Do you really need a 1080p? The Display Scrolling Capability of the Chrome Browser on the Chromebook is amazing.
Even if you do not have a Full HD screen, it is a snap to scale your display up or down to expand or shrink test on a plain old HD 720p screen.
Simply press Ctrl-minus or plus key combo watch your screen’s text and page grow or shrink. I’m amazed how well this works.
Chromeboxes: Even the lowest end Chromeboxes, like the one I’m using now, allows me to see a huge amount of screen area.
I currently have the Zoom Level (ie: check in the Google Control Icon, under X (exit) icon, at upper right of your screen) set at 75% on a 23″ horizontal monitor and 24″ vertical monitor and can read all the massive amount of text displayed easily on both monitors.
E) Glossy vs Matte Screens
I once loved Matte Screens because I could go outside and still see a bit with the bright sun and they worked better for me under florescent lights.
However the glossy screens have becoming less “reflective” over time and now the Matte Screens to be dull and washed out in comparison.
My glossy 11″ Acer 720 is has a dramatically sharper image quality display than my matte Samsung Series 5 500.
F) Touch Screens See the Chromebook Touch-Screen Table page for more details.
Processor Type is the second branch point found in our Simplified Chromebook Tables for good reason.
Besides Screen-Size, for most of us, Processor-Speed determines how you will use your Chromebook to its max. For example, if you are just browsing and checking a few emails and unplugged on the road when using your Chromebook – then a long lasting Bay Trail may make good sense.
However if you watch movies, have lots of tabs and applications open, and multitask with your Chromebook, then you need to forget the Bay Trail and Tegra Processors and consider a newer processor.
The Graphics processors are integrated right into the CPU chip making it a CPU/GPU chipset to reduce cost.
The big 3 chipset players in the chromebook market are: 1) Intel Core i3, Core i7, m3, and Haswell/Broadwell Celerons 2) Bay Trail/Braswell Celerons, 3) Nvida (Tegra K1 A15, Rockchip/Samsung OP1 and CorePilot ARMs.
You can’t simply look at the Manufacturer, CPU type, number of cores, or GHz speed to gauge which Processors will provide the best performance.
The best way is to run processor through a series of Benchmark Tests such as Octane and Geekbench.
You can do a quick Octane 2 test on your own machine right from your Chrome Browser at http://octane-benchmark.googlecode.com/svn/latest/index.html if you are interested.
From my reading, I think one can generalize a bit, and make it easy as I’ve ranked the CPU choices here based on Processing Power (Least [left] to Most [right]):
Rockchip/OP1 > Tegra K1 > Bay-Trail/Braswell > …
… CorePilot > Haswell/Broadwell/Skywell > Core-i/m3
Memory (RAM & SSD)
Random-access memory (RAM) is very fast, designed to be written over and erased repeatedly without wearing out.
Most Chromebooks come with 2 GB but if you can get 4 GB, go for it, as it is probably then next most important consideration on your Chromebook’s performance behind Processor Type.
Solid State Drives (SSD) are standard on all Chromebooks.
A SSD stores data on interconnected flash memory chips, rather than a magnetic coating on top of a metal platter, and are so much faster.
No more spinning hard drives (HDD) to fail and break down.
However the cost is much higher so your SSD will be much smaller than any HDD.
Chromebooks come with 16 GB standard, 32 GB SSD are now upgrade options found on many Chromebooks in 2015 and later.
The SSD size is usually not as important as the RAM size as you can always plug in an SD Card or USB Flash “thumb” Drive to your Chromebook to add more local storage memory, or even better, use cloud storage (ie: Google Drive, Box, Drop Box, etc).
Memory Card Slot
Standard Size SD Reading Card Slot is standard on all Chromebooks, Chromeboxes. and the Chromebase — except that a micro-SD card slot is used instead on the HP Chromebook 14″ (Tegra K1s) and the Samsung Chromebook 2 11 & 13″ Models.
All Chromebooks have these. A USB 3 Port is nice for data transfer – most Chromebooks have one or two of these mixed with a USB 2.
USB 2 is fine for a keyboard, mouse, etc. These Chromebooks all come with Bluetooth as well — so you can usually use most most newer bluetooth keyboards, mice, speakers, etc as well.
Do remember you can’t print through a USB cable but will need to use Google Cloud Print to access your printers.
All of the Chromebooks, Chromeboxes, and Chromebase come with AC or N, and below (802.11 a/b/g/n), connectivity.
Our Airport Express Router is AC capable and we receive/send in AC (my wife’s iPad) and N (all my current Chromebook/boxes ).
In our home, I can’t notice speed difference; however, if all other things are equal on my next Chromebook purchase, of course, I would go with the faster AC choice.
The Chromeboxes, Chromebase and some Chromebooks also come with a physical Ethernet Port that accepts RJ-45 cable connectors.
If yours does not have a Ethernet Port, don’t worry, you can always buy an inexpensive USB Ethernet adapter on Amazon to plug and play – just check the adapters specs before you buy to make sure it is Chromebook compatible.
Unless you have security concerns, the N and AC wireless connections these days are so fast – that I’m not sure why you wouldn’t just go wireless.
All the Chromebooks (and Chromebase) have a HD Webcams that can be used with Google Hangouts (as a Skype or Face Time alternative) for Video Calling.
This Webcam also works well in a pinch to take a quick photo to email someone.
Just go to the App Icon (L lower corner), click on Camera, spin your Chromebook around and look on the screen to see a nice view of the photo you are going to take when you click the button with your track-pad mouse.