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Best Chromebooks for Linux

For Linux users (or readers who want to start using Linux), this is my round up of some of the most popular Chromebooks that support Linux.

Linux is an amazing operating system and I think it’s unfair that we consumers are forced to buy Windows licensed laptops when all we need on them is Linux. Chromebooks are excellent well designed laptops that can be turned into Linux ultrabooks without having to pay for Windows licenses.

Is modifying the BIOS difficult and can I replace the SSD?

Chromebooks are designed for cloud storage and so the internal drives tend to be only 16GB or 32GB. You can easily replace these because most new Chromebooks (except the Acer Chromebook 14) use M.2 NGFF SSD’s that can be purchased relatively cheaply. I have included links to compatible SSD’s for each model featured in this post.

Replacing the drive does require opening the Chromebook up but it’s a fairly simple process of removing the screws from the underside (including any under rubber feet or warranty stickers). You can see how I opened my Toshiba Chromebook 2 in the video in this post and my guide to dual booting Linux and Chrome OS in this post.

I first became aware of them a couple of years ago when I read the headline Chromebook’s biggest fan: Linus Torvalds (Linus is the creator of the Linux kernel). I thought if ol’ Linus thinks they’re good, well it’s an opinion worth considering.

When I did need to buy a laptop, after a bit of research I realised how right he was and ended up buying the Toshiba Chromebook 2. I realised that Chromebooks come with excellent hardware, are very reasonable priced, and have a sleek ultrabook look.

Yes, I could have brought a normal laptop but would have ended up paying twice the price for a bulky laptop with the same spec. Linux isn’t as resource hungry as Windows so the battery focused specs of Chromebooks work really well.

I’ve put together this list to help those of you who want a Chromebook to dual boot Chrome OS and Linux OR run Linux on its own natively. All models on this list have variants that usually physically look the same but differ in terms of their processor, RAM and hard drive capacities.

The ones featured in this post are those which I think are models that have the right specs to be an effective Linux ultrabook.

Toshiba Chromebook 2 Intel Core i3-5015U Dual Core (click to check price)

 

The full HD IPS screen is one the main reasons to buy.

The full HD IPS screen is one the main reasons to buy.

2.1 GHz Intel Core i3-5015U Dual Core (Broadwell)

4GB DDR3L RAM

16GB (replace with 128GB or 256GB SSD)

13.3” IPS screen (1920×1080)

Intel HD Graphics 5500

1 HDMI, 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0 and SD card reader

HD webcam and built-in mic

Bluetooth and WIFI

Backlit keyboard

About 8 hours battery life

2.97 lbs (1.3kg)

The stand out feature of this Chromebook is the IPS HD 13.3” screen – it’s a high end screen at a low end price. Viewing angles and colours are nice although the screen is quite reflective especially outdoors.

I have the 2014 HD version and would have loved to get this new 2015 version because it has a speedy i3 processor and a backlit keyboard. This version never made it to the UK and it seems never will. According to a recent announcement, Toshiba is pulling out of making consumer laptops in favour of the business laptops market. Inevitably as stocks runout, these laptops will become harder to buy – so grab one while you can!

At under 3 lbs this 13" Chromebook is easily portable.

At under 3 lbs this 13″ Chromebook is easily portable.

At only 2.97 lbs and a screen size of 13.3” this is an ideal portable ultrabox that is slim and sleek. Yes it doesn’t have an aluminium or magnesium alloy casing but it has the best display out of all the current Chromebooks on the market at the moment.

Linux users who want more storage without replacing the SSD will like that an SD card can be inserted fully into the card reader so that the card becomes barely noticeable.  I recommend installing Linux on the internal drive and using the SD card as storage though. Even ultra-fast SD cards have slower read and write speeds so installing Linux on them will slow things down.

I recommend the i3 processor version of this Chromebook as your Linux daily driver.

I recommend the i3 processor version of this Chromebook as your Linux daily driver.

With a powerful i3 processor the 8 hours battery life is expected but a bit disappointing at this price point. Although there is a cheaper version of this Chromebook with a Celeron processor, I think as a Linux ultrabook it’s worth paying a bit extra for the more powerful processor.

Other great features are the chiclet keyboard, multi gesture touchpad and the Skull Candy sound. In fact it’s surprising the depth of sound you get from such a slim laptop.

For some, the higher end price may be something that stops them buying but the snappy processer and gorgeous screen in my opinion, makes this Chromebook well worth the money.

What to find out more? Click here to get more information.

Dell Chromebook 13 Intel Celeron 3215U Dual Core (click to check price)

 

The durable magnesium alloy casing is the wow factor of this Chromebook.

The durable magnesium alloy casing is the wow factor of this Chromebook.

1.7 GHz Intel Celeron 3215U Dual Core (Broadwell)

4GB DDR3L RAM

16GB (replace with 128GB or 256GB SSD)

13.3” IPS screen (1920×1080)

Intel HD Graphics

1 HDMI, 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0 and MicroSD

720p HD webcam and built-in mic

Bluetooth and WIFI

Backlit keyboard

Glass touchpad with integrated button

About 12 hours battery life

3.23 lbs (1.47kg)

Dell have improved on their previous 11” version with this new 13” version. It’s got a premium look and feel but is slightly heavy for a 13” Chromebook, in fact it weighs about the same as the bigger Acer Chromebook 14.

The Dell chrome 13 has up to 12 hours battery life.

The Dell Chromebook 13 has up to 12 hours battery life.

The casing is made of durable magnesium alloy rather than plastic and along with the nice grip casing it’s a beautifully designed high quality build. There’s also the convenient front battery indicator light and glass trackpad that make this an elegant machine.

With quality comes cost and compared to similar Chromebooks it’s priced higher. If I were buying it I would justify the extra spend by telling myself that I was still saving money by not buying a Windows licensed laptop 🙂

Hardware wise it’s got similar internals as other 13” Chromebooks like a Broadwell Celeron processor and 4GB of RAM. I should mention there is also an i3 version but in my opinion the price is too high to justify buying as an affordable Linux ultrabook.

Ultra thin but a bit heavier than similar 13" Chromebooks.

Ultra thin but a bit heavier than similar 13″ Chromebooks.

The glass trackpad is large and responsive and the backlit keyboard is pleasant to use. The full HD IPS screen may not be as good as the Toshiba Chromebook 2 but it comes close. It’s also an anti glare display which reduces reflections particularly useful outside.

The 720p webcam is ok but nothing special and the sound from the speakers is average. It has a MicroSD card reader so if you plan on using your existing SD card you’ll need a USB card reader instead.

The stand out features of this Chromebook are it’s design and battery life coming in at around 12 hours. Although it’s on the high price end it’s a popular choice if you want a 13” premium solid durable laptop.

What to find out more? Click here to get more information.

Acer C740 Intel Celeron 3205U Dual Core ($249.99)

 

The Acer C740 is a great choice in the 11" range.

The Acer C740 is a great choice in the 11″ range.

1.5 GHz Intel Celeron 3205U Dual Core (Broadwell)

4GB DDR3L RAM

16GB (replace with 128GB or 256GB SSD)

11.6” LCD screen (1366 x 768)

Intel integrated HD Graphics

1 HDMI, 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0 and SD card reader

HD webcam and built-in mic

Bluetooth and WIFI

About 8 hours battery life

2.87 lbs (1.3kg)

The C740 looks the same as the earlier C720 model and is another good Chromebook from Acer. For Linux the 4GB RAM one is recommended.

The C740 looks identical to the earlier C720 version.

The C740 looks identical to the earlier C720 version.

It uses the newish Broadwell processor, is lightweight at 2.87 lbs and is thin and portable. This well-built durable design has a nice matte finish with strong hinges that will please those who what a minimal plain look.

The screen is a slight let down compared to the other Chromebooks in this post since it’s not full HD at 1366 x 768 and viewing angles are not as good as an IPS display. The trackpad and keyboard are nice overall but the keys feel a bit small.

Some Linux users that use an SD card for extra storage will find it annoying that the card sticks out of the side considerably but overall this is an impressive ultrabook.

If you’re looking for a smaller more portable solid Chromebook, this 11.6” screen laptop is a great choice. It retails at an affordable price and has a good battery life and works really well as a Linux machine.

What to find out more? Click here to get more information.

Acer Chromebook 14 Intel Celeron Quad-Core N3160 ($270.95)

 

The aluminium casing will be a must have feature for some.

The aluminium casing will be a must have feature for some.

1.6 GHz Intel Celeron Quad Core N3160 (Braswell)

4GB LPDDR3 RAM

32GB eMMC (internal drive is NOT replaceable)

13.3” IPS screen (1920×1080)

Intel HD Graphics 400

720p HD webcam and built in mic

Bluetooth and WIFI

About 12 hours battery life

3.42 lb (1.54kg)

At first glance this Chromebook looks like it should be double the price because of the amazing aluminium casing. It oozes style and it’s premium look and feel will be a major selling point for some.

The 14" size of this Chromebook will appeal to those looking for a bigger screen.

The 14″ size of this Chromebook will appeal to those looking for a bigger screen.

It comes with the newer Braswell processor with 4 cores which is great for multitasking and is a powerful processor for your Linux ultabook. Combined with the 4GBs of RAM and a 32GB internal drive, it’s a powerful laptop.

The LPDDR3 RAM and internal eMMC drive are designed to use less power and so help conserve battery life. Unfortunately, eMMC drives cannot be swapped our for higher capacity drives which could be a problem for some under Linux. There is also no SD card reader so the only option is a compact USB 3.0 flash drive for boosting storage space.

Luckily this Chromebook has 2 USB 3.0 ports but it’s weird that Acer hasn’t included a MicroSD or SD slot. No backlit keyboard I can understand but those slots are really useful not only for Chrome OS users but for Linux users as well.

No SD card reader...what were you thinking Acer?

No SD card reader…what were you thinking Acer?

If you don’t need an SD card reader and a 13” Chromebook is a bit small for you, the Acer Chromebook 14 has some other useful features like a 14” full HD IPS display, a 720p webcam and 12 hrs battery life. The bigger size means that it’s a bit heavier than some of the other Chromebooks on this list but it’s still portable and lighter compared to other normal laptops close to this price range.

On the point of price I think combined with it’s amazing aluminium casing and 14” IPS screen, this Chromebook makes a very affordable Linux ultrabook.

What to find out more? Click here to get more information.

Acer C720P Intel Celeron 2955U (click to check price)

 

This may be an older model but is still very popular.

This may be an older model but is still very popular.

1.4 GHz Intel Celeron 2955U Dual Core (Haswell)

4GB DDR3L RAM

32GB (replace with 128GB or 256GB SSD)

11.6” LCD screen (1366 x 768)

Intel HD Graphics

Touchscreen

1 HDMI, 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0 and SD card reader

HD webcam and built-in mic

Bluetooth and WIFI

8.5 hours battery life

2.98 lb (1.4kg)

Acer’s 11” C720 released in 2014 but is worth mentioning for those of you looking for an 11” laptop. Even though it’s an older model, sales are still going strong and I think it’s because it’s a solid touch screen Chromebook – not bad at this price point.

This Chromebook has a touch screen which makes it stand out from the crowd.

This Chromebook has a touch screen which makes it stand out from the crowd.

This is a popular choice for people wanting to install Linux on a Chromebook because it has the powerful Haswell processor, 4GB of RAM and a 32GB internal drive. Haswell processors tend to be less power efficient than newer processors but are as fast as the newer ones in some cases.

It's portable and reasonably priced too!

It’s portable and reasonably priced too!

The touch screen is nice to use and is responsive. Touch screens have very good support under Linux with almost all gestures supported under the newest Linux kernel. I’ve found that the Gnome desktop environment works well using touch screens although touch to right click is always a problem.

At less than 3 lbs and 11” this Chromebook is portable too. If you really want a touch screen Linux ultrabook you can get this one for about the same price as some of the newer Chromebooks.

What to find out more? Click here to get more information.

27 Comments

  1. E.J

    Hey Captain,

    I have the Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35-B3340. I want to know what linux distribution you would recommend? I have been testing out some distributions so far and I really like the look and feel of Elementary OS and Xubuntu! But I cant commit until I hear an expert such as yourself. Thanks!

    • Captain

      Hi E.J,
      For now you might what to stick with Xubuntu, it’s fast, looks nice and gets the job done, particularly on Chromebooks. elementary has the newer version in Beta testing (Loki), once that’s out go for that because it will have newer software and security updates will be supported for longer. I’m currently testing 5 lightweight distros including these two and performance is pretty good across the board.

      Lastly, it’s a personal choice, although I like both Xubuntu and elementary, I always end up going back to a Gnome based distro because I personally like the clean look and feel of that desktop. It’s not as lightweight and is slightly slower on a Chromebook but hey that’s what I like using.

      • E.J

        Thank you for the advice! I tried out Xubuntu for a while, but Elementary OS Loki was so clean, simple, and polished! I made the move permanent for Loki and I am now eagerly waiting for the Stable version!. 🙂

  2. Captain

    Vinny posted in another post:

    Thank you Captain! I just read your affordable Chromebooks article and tried to find options that you posted in my price range but I have come up with a few that are remarkably similar to the ones you wrote down in your list. Would you be able to tell me what you believe out of my list of potential Chromebooks is the best bang for buck with full Elementary OS functionality?

    ASUS C300SA-DS02-LB
    Acer Aspire One Cloudbook
    HP Chromebook 11 G4
    Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ
    Acer Chromebook CB3-111-C670
    Acer C720 Chromebook

    ——————————————————

    As with all things in life, look is not the most important thing. That being aid I prefer the all white Acer Chromebooks and the Acer and HP MacBook Pro-esque looking ones.

    The first choice ASUS seems to me to have the best specs and the only Chromebook in my list that has 4GB RAM which is a plus but from what I have seen on YouTube, 2GB RAM seems to work just fine -yet I am looking for fastest functionality for efficient work on the go and at home as my main internet and website work laptop.

    I truly appreciate your help and will in turn spread the knowledge you give me to others 🙂 Thanks, friend!

    • Captain

      Hi Vinny,

      That’s an interesting list, with something in the $200 budget the 2 that I would consider is the Acer Chromebook CB3-131-C3SZ and the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook.

      The Acer CB3-131-C3SZ‘s internal hard drive is not replaceable so you’ll need to use a USB 3.0 or SD card for storage (Here’s the video).

      Ideally, you would want 4GB RAM but for general and website work 2GB should be fast enough. For the price all the other specs are pretty good.

      The Acer Aspire One Cloudbook is a curious find, it’s a normal laptop and not a Chromebook so you won’t need to modify the BIOS. Both the RAM and the internal drive are not upgradable but at least you get a 32GB internal drive.

      The processor is slightly better and more power efficient than the Acer. I would go for this one if your budget is one of your main pirorities.

      So why not the Asus C300? It’s a clunky design with a poor screen. For an 11″ laptop you want a confortable keyboard and touchpad experience and this laptop doesn’t have that. For the price, I don’t recommend it.

      Let me know which one you end up buying and go forth and spread the word, Linux is awesome!

  3. Vinny

    Hello Captain! Thank you for the help! I decided to go with the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook and just put in the order. This week I will be installing Elementary OS on it and setting everything up for my business. Thank you so much! I will be showing off my new Linux OS to friends and slowly but surely convert them to the light side with us! You the man Captain! 🙂

  4. Ignacio

    I cannot afford the Toshiba 2 2015 version. Would you recommend getting the previous version with the Intel Celeron N2840 as the next best choice?

    • Captain

      Most definitely, that’s the one I have. You can’t replace the internal drive though but the full HD IPS screen is the best screen around.

  5. bastien

    Hi Captain,
    I use linux since I saved my files and old laptop from garbage, but it’s time for me to get a dual-system operating machine, really portable and affordable.

    I have looked at the Toshiba chromebook but have difficulties choosing for the screen solely when others are cheaper and offer 4gb ram… Maybe you know where to get a better deal ?
    I would like to hear your opinions, advices… Asus seems better perf with 4gb but lack the quality screen of toshiba ?

    I found these also : both at 169eur : which would you choose between these 2 ? And why ?

    – ASUS C201PA-DS02 11.6 inch Chromebook (1.8GHz Quad-Core, 4GB LPDDR3, 16GB SSD), Navy Blue
    or
    – ASUS Chromebook C300SA-DH02-LB 13.3-Inch Traditional Laptop

    Your answer will be much appreciated, thanks in advance for your time.

    bastien

    • Captain

      Hi Bastien,

      Since Toshiba aren’t going to be making or selling the CB2, it’s really difficult to find them at a good price 🙁

      The ASUS C201PA-DS02 has a Rockchip processor and so cannot be turned into a Linux laptop.
      The ASUS C300SA-DH02-LB is the better choice out of the two since it’s a bigger 13″ screen but I don’t really like it’s plastic calmshell design. The screen is average but be aware that sound will not currently work under Linux and the internal drive is not upgradable.

      In the 4GB RAM range you’ll need to look at spending a little more the Acer chromebook 14 is around the $300 mark depending on which country you’re from (audio won’t work as well though).

      Alternatively have a look at this value for money laptop, it’s not a Chromebook so you won’t need to do anything special to install Linux.

      • bastien

        Thanks,
        I did look around after your advices. I’m still unsure ..Maybe the AsusC300 or something else..
        Though, I have been reading people have succes with ubuntu on the C201. using crouton and developper mode. I’m not as knowledgeable as you but from a rapid tutorial/blog article lecture it doesn’t seems impossible => how-to-install-ubuntu-linux-on-your-chromebook-with-crouton/ on “howtogeek”

        Do you think there will really problem with sounds, etc..?
        Cause if i’m sure performance and that it will run ok with the basics I’m fine ! I’m not going to play games, etc…
        Simple bureautic, web, apps, … + videos, music..

        thanks for clearing my vision, i’ll still dig though..

        • Captain

          This post focusses on natively installing Linux on a Chromebook. The crouton method installs Linux inside of the ChromeOS and so most Chromebooks will work just fine.

          I have an ultimate guide to installing Linux on a Chromebook planned (which will include a guide on crouton as well) so that may help you as well.

          • bastien

            Sounds good, I found a few articles really on point for my interest on your blog, thanks !

            Now I see where my confusion was ! Do you think this a good offer on the Asus C201 ?

            I already have a laptop natively on ubuntu (at that time I had no much choices) and I wanted to push myself toward linux. So now I was thinking it could be good to have the choices ..
            Do you think having dual boot on a chrome isn’t as good as having native linux ? Why would it be better or not ? I understand the partition “part problem” with the disk size, but we can still use external drive ?
            Sure I’ll need some help, is it much harder to set it with crouton then native ? Can a newbie do it easily without too much trouble ?

            Thanks so much for your answers, I was pretty sold on that Asus because of the price.

          • Captain

            I agree the ASUS C201 looks like a great buy but the main issue is that Rockchip is an ARM processor, which limits how you can install Linux on Chromebooks.

            To clarify further and answer some of your questions, the method of installing Linux on a CB is more a personal choice whether that’s a native install or dual boot. Dual is only needed if you still want to use ChromeOS, if not wipe the drive and replace it with Linux. Performance wise Linux works equally as well using the dual or native method.

            This is only possible with John’s and Mr Chromebox’s BIOS mods which do not support ARM processors.

            For your price range the C201 is a good buy but the only easy option you have for Linux is using crouton (BIOS mod isn’t supported). The install is fairly simple and the dev (dnschneid) of crouton not only has done an excellent job but also has some really good documentation. See https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton

            Trying to find laptops for Linux at your price point is a struggle. If anyone reading this has any recommendations, please let me know.
            Hope this helps 🙂

          • bastien

            Ok, thanks again, you did help of course.
            Sure if you or someone as any recommendations : I will appreciate.
            Unfortunately, the sale is over on the Asus..

  6. Robert

    Wondering if you have any feedback on using the Samsung Chromebook 3, XE500C13-K02US, for Linux. This model is plenty fast for ChromeOS, but I would like a native install for Ubuntu or Mint. I’m experiencing some failures during the install, including non-responsive keyboard and mouse. Wondering if anyone has accomplished a successful install on this platform yet.

  7. Daniel

    Thanks for that listing 🙂
    I´m thinking about getting a Acer 14 chromebook using Linux on it since similar well built windows notebooks are twice as much.

    What is the touchscreen like when putting Linux on it?
    Does 2 finger scrolling and stuff still work as well as on Chrome OS?

    • Captain

      Hi Daniel, there are issues with sound on this CB and your best bet would be to try Fedora or GalliumOS.

      GalliumOS should support all features except sound according to their website, although touchscreens have always been a bit hit and miss under Linux.

      Fedora uses Gnome 3 by default and it has the best out of the box touchscreen support in my experience.

      This is a great value Chromebook and would make a even better Linux laptop.

      • bastien

        Hi FC,

        I was commenting earlier about a CB purchase for dual-booting with linux. I use currently an old laptop with xubuntu so i’m use to this but having a dual boot would help to use others software and apps.
        Also i’m not at ease with install for dual boot and correctly making the partition, if you have any links or advices or article I havent seen ?

        My main question now : I found a Toshiba CB30-B-104 for a good deal. Would this be suitable for dual booting and have no problems with sound or whatsoever with “crouton” (I suppose I’ll have to “use” crouton for install ) ? Again, i don’t know much, just searching before to be in front of the “issues” and avoid it as much as possible. I need that affordable dual-boot solution cause i will be travelling soon.Thanks a lot for your answers and help.

        • Captain

          Hello again Bastien, the Toshiba CB30-B-104 is an excellent choice and is the one I have and use in my videos and posts. There are issues with sound (and the mic has never worked) however with newer versions of Ubuntu. As long as you stick with Xubuntu 16.04 everything will work as I show in this step by step guide.

  8. CHRIS

    Hey captain! I found out about you recently and I am truly amazed! I am thinking about buying an chromebook for linux (I work in academia and I could use something that could support simulations in Python and\or-if need be- Matlab). I cannot find the toshiba chromebook-2 available in a reasonable price and I have found instead a used chromebook pixel 64 LTE on ebay. I see that you don’t mention at all this option here, could you please tell me what you think on the matter?

    Thank you and keep up the good job!!

    • Captain

      Hi Chris, appreciate the kind words.
      I missed out the pixels because they were too pricey and it just makes sense to get a normal laptop instead of modding a Chromebook. If you can get one at a good price and it’s an i5, well that’s a different story! From a quick Google search it’s fully supported in GalliumOS (make sure it’s the 2015 version not the 2013 one) (model: SAMUS) but some reviews say the battery life is only about 5 hours, also it’s not got any USB 3.0 ports.
      If you do buy, use Mr Chromebox’s mod and let me know how you get on 🙂

  9. Derek Jackson

    I’m looking at pre ordering the Samsung Chromebook Plus Touch-Screen Laptop XE513C24-K01US. Does anyone know if this would handle linux well?

    I’m looking to order quite a few for a dev laptop.

    • Captain

      Hi Derek, this looks like a nice Chromebook but I don’t see it on the supported list for installing Linux natively. You’ll probably have better luck with Linux installed via Crouton.

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