There are a couple of other downsides. For one, Chromebooks are not computing workhorses. You won't want to use one to create complex Word documents or demanding spreadsheets. You can't store all your photos on one (they'll need to go online, and you'll need network access to get to them) and you can't edit them. The displays on the ones we tested were okay at best, so they're not tops for looking at pictures or watching movies.
And although a few come with touchscreens, save your money and skip that feature. Chrome wasn't built as a touch operating system, so you just don't need one.
Bottom line: If you want to save money on a highly portable laptop, and you're already used to storing and sharing lots of docs online, say with a service like Google Drive, a Chromebook could be a useful tool.
Here's a little more info on the two we liked best.
Acer C720-2848, $225. At 10.75 hours, Acer's 11.6-inch Chromebook had the longest battery life of the seven models we tested. That, combined with its light 2.7-pound weight, also made it the most portable. And after all, that's what Chromebooks are about. Performance was good, which was on par with a couple of $300 models we tested.
HP Chromebook 14 q010nr, $300. You might want a Chromebook with a little more display real estate, so this 14-inch model is worth a look. Battery life was just about as long as the Acer at 10.5 hours. But of course it's bigger so it weighs a little more—4.1 pounds. Performance was good, and its larger size means the ergonomics are better than smaller models.