Chromebooks have long had a reputation as being cheap notebooks that run Google’s browser-based operating system. And that’s certainly true for some Chromebooks. But PC makers have been putting out higher-priced models with better specs, performance, and build quality for almost as long as Chromebooks have been around.
Now Google is making it a little easier to know at a glance whether you’re looking at a budget Chromebook or a premium model. The new Chromebook Plus category of devices are Chromebooks that meet a minimum set of specs and offer some additional software features. But with prices starting as low as $399 for some models, even a premium Chromebook can be fairly inexpensive compared with Mac or Windows laptops.
So what does qualifies a Chromebook for the Plus branding? Here are the minimum specs:
- Display: 1080p IPS or better
- CPU: Intel Core i3 12th-gen or higher or AMD Ryzen 3 7000 or better
- RAM: 8GB or more
- Storage: 128GB or more
- Webcam: 1080p or better with Temporal Noise Reduction
And one thing to keep in mind is that while some of the higher-priced models have 12th or 13th-gen Intel Core i5 U-series chips, some of the more affordable models have Intel Core i3-N305 Alder Lake-N processors (with 8 Efficiency cores and no Performance cores) or AMD Ryzen 3 7320C Mendocino processors (with Zen 2 CPU cores and RDNA 2 graphics).
Those chips are still better than what you’ll find in most sub-$300 Chromebooks though, and it’s nice to know that nothing solder under the Chromebook Plus brand will have a 1366 x 768 pixel display, 4GB or RAM, or 32GB of storage… all things that you often find on budget models.
But the minimum hardware requirements only tell part of the story. Google is also promising extra software features for Chromebook Plus models, including:
- AI-enhanced video conferencing with lighting effects, background noise reduction, and enhanced background blurring in Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other apps
- Magic Eraser support in Google Photos (for removing unwanted objects from images)
- File Sync makes files saved to your Google Drive available offline
- Free 3-month subscriptions to:
- Adobe Photoshop on the web
- Adobe Express on the web
- NVIDIA GeForce NOW priority tier
- Adobe Photoshop and Express on the Web 3-month subscription for free with purchase of a new Chromebook Plus
Google says it’s also planning to bring more AI features to Chromebook Plus in the future including support for generating custom wallpapers from text prompts, or suggested edits to your written blog or social media posts, among other things.
Google and its hardware partners are announcing nine new Chromebook Plus models that will be available in the US starting Oct 8 before hitting Canada and Europe a day later. But Google also plans to bring Chromebook Plus software to a bunch of existing Chromebooks that already meet the minimum hardware requirements.
That software update should begin rolling out October 17, 2023 and should be coming to a number of Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, Dell, Framework, HP, and Lenovo.