Chromebooks come in a bewildering array of configurations. Sometimes even trying to decide which options to get on a single model can be overwhelming. As a product tester, I have to use a spreadsheet to keep it all straight. But you shouldn’t have to do that, so here are some broad specs to keep in mind when choosing one.
Processor: Chromebooks use half a dozen different processors, most of which you’ve probably never heard of. There’s a reason for that: these processors are slow, and they don’t show up in Windows laptops. After trying out plenty of Intel Celeron-based machines (usually labeled N4000), my recommendation is to go with something more powerful if you can afford it. The next step up from the Celeron is the Core m3, which is the best choice for most people. If you want a more powerful, future-proof machine, get an i3 or i5 chip.
We’re starting to see more ARM-based Chromebooks, like the Lenovo Duet above. I haven’t had any issues using ARM Chromebooks, but they aren’t quite as speedy as the Intel Core chips. There are some newer Chromebooks using AMD’s new Ryzen chips, and I’ve had good experiences with them.
RAM: Get 8 gigabytes of memory if you can afford it, especially if you plan to run any Android applications. When I’ve experienced severe slowdowns and glitches, it’s almost always on a Chromebook with only 4 gigs of RAM.
Screen: Get an IPS LCD display. There are still a few low-end models out there with crappier TN LCD displays, and you should avoid those. Your pixel resolution depends on the size of the screen. I have used (and recommend) some 11-inch Chromebooks that have 720p displays. Because those screens are squeezed into a small form factor, I find them acceptably sharp, but of course, a 1080p screen will be much nicer.
Ports: Most things you do on a Chromebook are cloud-based, so you don’t really need to worry too much about ports. You might want a computer that charges through a USB-C port if you’d like to be able to run your Chromebook off a portable battery/charger, but unfortunately, USB-C is really only available in mid- and higher-priced models. It also helps to have a MicroSD slot for expanded storage if you need to download a lot of files during a typical day, but that option is also not widely available.
A good host always shares Wi-Fi with visitors, but explaining which network to join and spelling out the password (if you even remember it) can get tedious. Maybe you think you remember it, but it’s just not working and you insist your guest must be typing it in wrong. Then it hits you, you’ve been reciting your email password. Hey, it can happen to anyone.
There’s a much easier way to bestow Wi-Fi connectivity to your guests. If your router offers the option of creating a guest network, which we recommend because it helps you maintain a more secure Wi-Fi network, then that’s the password you should give them. Either way, here’s how to share Wi-Fi access quickly and easily on different devices.
How to Share Your Wi-Fi on iPhone, iPad, or Mac
Sharing Wi-Fi passwords between Apple devices is very easy, but your visitor needs to be listed in your Contacts and vice versa. Once you’re in each other’s Contacts list, make sure iPhones are on iOS 11 or newer, Macs on macOS High Sierra or later, and iPads on iPadOS. Here’s how to share it:
Turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on both devices, ensure Personal Hotspot is turned off, and make sure their device is unlocked and nearby.
Your device should be connected to the Wi-Fi network you want to share. (Connect to the guest network if that’s what you’re sharing.)
Have your guest select your Wi-Fi network from the list of available options on their device.
You will get a pop-up message on your device asking if you want to share your Wi-Fi password.
Tap Share Password.
How to Share Your Wi-Fi on Android
Photograph: Simon Hill
Not all Android phones have the same Settings menu, so yours might look different. Head to the Settings app and tap on Network and Internet.
With Android devices, you can use a QR code to share Wi-Fi details, provided the phones or tablets in question are running Android 10 or later. Here’s how:
Make sure your device is connected to the Wi-Fi network you want to share and go to Settings, Network and Internet (it might be called Connections depending on your device), then Wi-Fi.
Tap on the cog next to your Wi-Fi network.
Tap the Share icon on the right and you should see a QR code on the screen. (You may have to authenticate this action.)
Have your guest scan the QR code. You can scan QR codes using the regular camera app with most phones, including iPhones. If your guest has an Android phone, on their device head to Settings, Connections (or Network and Internet), then Wi-Fi. Scroll down to find where it says Add Network; next to it, you’ll see a QR code icon. Tap on it and they can now quickly scan the code.
Scanning the code should automatically connect the device.
How to Find Your Wi-Fi Password on Windows
Microsoft used to allow you to automatically share your Wi-Fi details with contacts through something called Wi-Fi Sense, but it was scrapped due to security concerns. Sadly, there’s now no quick and easy way to share a Wi-Fi password from a Windows device. All I can show you is how to find your Wi-Fi password in Windows:
Click on the Windows icon, then the Settings gear icon on the left, and choose Network & Internet.
Make sure you’re on the Status tab at the top left, then choose Network and Sharing Center.
Click on your network where it says Connections: Wi-Fi [your network name]. (This won’t work if you’re connected via Ethernet.)
Choose Wireless Properties in the pop-up window.
Select the Security tab and tick the Show characters box under the Network security key.
Have your guest pick the right network on their device and type in the password you found.
Now that you’ve hooked your guests up, read our guides on how to make your Wi-Fi faster and how to secure it.