Why Are Chromebooks So Expensive?

Chromebooks have become substantially costlier over the years, and the chances are high that some will continue to be pricier. At the same time, they are relatively affordable. However, some cost around a thousand dollars or more.

Expensive Chromebooks aren’t only a better or upgraded version of the affordable models. Most brands offering premium models aim for the same target market as the flagship laptops of other companies.

A Chromebook on a table.

1. Customizations

Customizations aren’t unique to expensive Chromebooks. However, the manner in which every Chromebook is designed and developed isn’t the same as a Windows laptop, which is a crucial factor that influences the costs and, thus, the retail prices of most of the expensive models.

Unlike Windows, the Chrome operating system isn’t designed or intended to work with an array of hardware configurations.

You can’t just build a laptop or PC using the hardware components of your choice. Also, you can’t use all types of software that you may want with the Chrome OS.

Every Chromebook is essentially a custom-built laptop, so all the brands have to work with the Chrome OS team while working on the hardware configuration for each model.

This becomes a tad more complicated when companies have to design and engineer premium Chromebooks.

Consider the examples of the following brands:

  • Acer.
  • Asus.
  • Dell.
  • Lenovo.
  • HP.

These companies don’t have to work with Microsoft or its Windows team to determine the best hardware configuration for their high-end laptops.

Windows operating systems are compatible with various specifications as long as the appropriate drivers are installed.

With Chrome OS, you don’t do anything with the drivers manually, as they are a part of the kernel.

If the operating system doesn’t have a driver for a particular hardware component, you don’t have it. Thus, you need to select only those hardware components that will be compatible.

The issue of compatibility applies to most hardware components of Chromebooks. Consider the example of baseboards in Chromebooks.

A Chromebook doesn’t use the types of logic boards and mainboards that MacBooks and Windows laptops have, respectively.

You’re probably familiar with the fact that AMD and Intel don’t use the same architecture and technology for their processors, so you can’t use the same mainboard for the CPUs made by the two leading brands. Likewise, Chromebooks use different types of baseboards. 

Every company making Chromebooks has to choose compatible hardware for specific designs and features.

This product development phase involves the Chrome OS team, so the process can take longer than usual.

Plus, Chrome OS developers may have to tweak their codes when premium Chromebooks have more advanced features than the base variants. 

Suppose a high-end Chromebook has a feature hitherto unavailable on models running on the Chrome OS.

In such a scenario, the developers have to work on the Chrome operating system to support such a function in both hardware and software realms. 

Here are a few features as examples:

  • Accelerometers.
  • Camera sensors.
  • Display drivers.
  • Gyroscopes.
  • Hall sensors.
  • Trackpads.

This customization requirement applies to many of the following specifications, which explains why some Chromebooks are so expensive.

2. Dedicated Graphics

The original Chromebooks were only about browsing the web, which earned them the moniker: browser-in-a-box.

These affordable Chromebooks weren’t considered an alternative to laptops with many more features. Also, they had (and have) integrated graphics.

Premium models have dedicated graphics. The GPU adds to the cost, whether it is AMD or Intel.

Not all expensive Chromebooks may have the dedicated graphics you might find in gaming laptops, but a GPU is an upgrade from integrated graphics.

The first Chromebooks didn’t have Full HD displays. Nowadays, some expensive models have 4K displays, which demand more graphics support.

Also, a GPU needs a baseboard with a dedicated slot for the processor.

A Chromebook with integrated graphics doesn’t require this extra feature because the CPU slot is all that the chipset or processor needs.

3. Fantastic Designs

Premium Chromebooks are light and sleek, but many laptops are similarly elegant and lightweight.

What makes most of the recent models special is their utility as a laptop and a tablet. You may be familiar with 2-in-1 Chromebooks that are convertible or detachable.

Not all 2-in-1 Chromebooks are expensive, but a high-end model may offer more than just the convertible or detachable feature. For example, a 4-in-1 Chromebook has the following modes:

  • Laptop.
  • Tablet.
  • Tent.
  • Entertainment.

Such 4-in-1 Chromebooks have a 360° hinge that allows you to flip the display all the way over to use the laptop as a tablet or your portable entertainment console.

Any such fancy feature has a cost, which reflects in the retail prices of these Chromebooks.

Furthermore, high-end Chromebooks don’t have the typical plastic clamshell. The shells are likely to be made of the following materials:

  • Aluminum.
  • Glass.
  • Magnesium.

Aluminum is costlier than magnesium, so a premium Chromebook featuring the metal will be a bit pricier than the latter.

Likewise, glass quality impacts the manufacturing cost and, thus, the retail price.

You can expect quite a few other subtle and utilitarian elements in the fantastic designs of costly Chromebooks, such as ridges on the shell to facilitate a better grip.

The same ridges make it easier to hold and pull a Chromebook from a bag or sleeve.

4. Faster Processors

Like all laptops and tablets, Chromebooks feature faster and more powerful processors as the prices go north.

Relatively inexpensive Chromebooks typically have dual-core processors. An expensive Chromebook will likely feature a quad-core processor or even better.

Plus, the processors in premium models are almost always of the latest generation and may also support hyperthreading.

So, a Chromebook featuring a quad-core processor with hyperthreading can have each of its 4 cores perform two tasks simultaneously.

In effect, you get 8 threads or virtual cores, so this Chromebook processor can be twice as fast as usual.

Any reasonably powerful processor of the latest generation is costly for any brand. Also, the costs of most processors have increased in recent times.

All such variables affect the cost of a Chromebook. Hence, some models can turn out to be surprisingly expensive.

5. Faster RAM/Memory

Like processors, all premium Chromebooks have greater memory or RAM. While 4 GB is typical for affordable models, the premium models of almost every brand feature 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM.

Additionally, the technology standard is usually the latest for expensive Chromebooks.

Affordable Chromebooks may feature LPDDR4, while most older models have LPDDR3 RAM.

In contrast, a costlier new Chromebook is likely to have LPDDR5 RAM that has faster speed and peak transfer rate. LPDDR5 also consumes much less power than the preceding standards.

It is needless to point out that both RAM capacity and standard significantly impact the cost of a Chromebook.

A higher RAM capacity and the latest standard improve a Chomebook’s user experience by leaps and bounds.

6. Long Battery Life

Most Chromebooks have a longer battery life than conventional laptops running Windows. You may get around 6 to 10 hours of battery power with most entry-level models.

An expensive Chromebook model may deliver a couple of hours more.

You can expect 10 to 14 hours of battery life from a premium Chromebook, which is much more impressive than when you factor in the better specs, faster performance, and power-intensive features. Some Chromebook batteries may last for up to 16 hours.

7. Solid-State Drive

Many Chromebooks have embedded multimedia card (eMMC) storage. Expensive models use solid-state drives (SSD).

Some moderately pricier models have eMMC storage, but the truly expensive ones have SSD, typically 128 GB, 256 GB, etc.

Entry-level and moderately priced Chromebooks have 32 GB to 64 GB eMMC storage.

So, not only do you have a larger storage space with an expensive Chromebook, but you will also have a lot faster access to the drive. All eMMC storage systems are slower than SSDs.

Like CPUs, GPUs, and RAMs, any solid-state drive storage capacity has a direct and significant effect on the cost of a premium Chromebook, which obviously gets passed on to the buyer.

It is important to note another experiential factor of eMMC and SSD storage systems.

You may be aware that Chromebooks generally boot quickly, especially compared to Windows laptops.

A switch from eMMC to SSD may not appear necessary or significant because of a few similarities, such as being solid-state drives and using NAND flash chips. 

However, there are huge differences. Both eMMC and SSD have somewhat comparable data transfer speeds. But SSDs have more chips and lanes.

A quick boot time isn’t really the issue here because Chromebooks don’t have the kind of baggage that Windows laptops carry.

What is significant is the data access and transfer rates when you engage in more than browsing.

SSDs with more lanes are unlikely to encounter the bottlenecks that eMMC storage drives might have whenever you overwhelm a Chromebook.

In fact, SSD is what makes costly Chromebooks capable of supporting demanding software and games, which eMMC will struggle to facilitate.

It is worth noting here that expensive Chromebooks are trying to compete with premium laptops with high-end specifications.

Hence, they are no longer just browsers in a box. The moment you start working with software beyond apps or cloud-based solutions, you will need more efficient storage systems, among others. SSD is a costly but necessary component in this pursuit.

8. Touchscreen

The Chromebooks launched in the first few years, for almost half a decade since inception, did not feature touchscreens.

But convertible or detachable Chromebooks have a touchscreen. Any premium 2-in-1 or 4-in-1 Chromebook will likely have a touchscreen, so it costs much more.

The convenience of having a touchscreen so that you can use a Chromebook as a laptop and a tablet isn’t the only factor regarding costs.

There are Chromebooks with a stylus, which adds to the cost. Of course, some premium models require you to buy the stylus separately.

The other major impact on cost is the resolution of the touchscreen display of a Chromebook.

If a Chromebook features 4K resolution with Molecular Display, that’s a very different realm than an HD-Ready or Full HD (FHD) screen. These regal features come at a high price to the buyers.

9. World of Apps

Chromebooks are no longer confined to the most used apps or what Google creates anymore. Almost all expensive models support a myriad of applications, including but not limited to the following:

  • Android apps.
  • Linux apps.
  • Windows apps.

Some web apps may not be available on every premium Chromebook. However, you can get access to Microsoft or Windows software and others if you have Chrome Enterprise on your Chromebook.

10. Other Factors

All Chromebooks have a few inherent advantages that make them desirable for certain computing needs, which is why they became popular in the first place.

One of the best features or rather strengths of Chromebooks is cybersecurity.

A Chromebook is phenomenally more secure than Macbooks and Windows. One security report found the following numbers of vulnerabilities in these three major operating systems:

  • Chromebook: 55.
  • Mac OS: 2,212.
  • Windows: 1,111.

You can use a Chromebook without any antivirus software and still be safe. This is a massive advantage for institutions such as schools, where laptops were initially the most prevalent.

The other distinct advantage in comparison with Windows is the lack of bloatware.

Chromebooks don’t come with a plethora of pre-installed apps or software that undesirably and unnecessarily slow down a Windows laptop.

This is one of the reasons for the quick boot times, even with entry-level models that continue to be reasonably priced.

Many other factors make premium Chromebooks expensive, like the following:

  • Market dynamics: supply and demand.
  • Native support: Android, Google Drive, Chromecast.
  • Specific utilities: Chrome-based and many web apps.