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Chromebooks are beating Macs, but which Chromebook's for you?


History was made in the first quarter of 2016 as more Chromebooks were shipped in the U.S. than Macs according to market research company International Data Corporation.

Sure, less-expensive, non-Mac computers don't offer the same high-end performance that allows you to professionally edit photos and videos, but that's not what most people need in a computer. The numbers are showing that instead of dropping $900 on a laptop with a bunch of features they don't need, people are starting to lean toward the more fiscally responsible option: Chromebooks.

SEE ALSO: The Evolution of Mac OS, From 1984 to Mountain Lion

The Chromebook appeal

The majority of people using laptops aren't graphic designers, video editors or other audio-visual creatives. Mostly, we use our laptops to hang out on the Internet — check Facebook, scroll through Twitter, watch shows on Netflix and answer emails.

Sure, a Mac can do that, but if that's all you're really using your laptop for, you would be better off putting $300 down on a decent, new Chromebook than $900 on the cheapest new MacBook Air. With things like cloud storage and web apps ironically put in the spotlight by the iPhone, the need for high-performance computers has gone down. 

In the first quarter of 2016, companies like HP, Dell, Lenovo and Acer shipped 1.6 million Chrome OS computers, while Apple shipped 1.5 million Mac OS computers. Now that Chrome OS is getting access to the Google Play store, Chromebooks will likely gain even more ground in shipments.

Chromebooks have proven to be very successful in the classroom, IDC's Linn Huang told The Verge, where students don't need to use very demanding applications and programs — the high-performing computers can stick to the computer labs while laptop carts can be filled with less-expensive Chromebooks.

Finding the right Chromebook

One thing that sets Chromebooks apart from MacBooks is the variety. Chromebooks come in a bunch of different designs from several companies and have price tags that range from less than $200 to more than $1,000. It may be difficult to figure out which one is right for you.

From least to most expensive, here's what you're going to get out of different Chromebooks:

Asus Chromebook Flip: $270

Image: Asus/amazon

For people on a budget, the Asus Chromebook Flip is a pretty good laptop with a few tricks up its sleeves. Although its 10-inch screen and keyboard can feel a bit cramped, the Flip can convert into a tablet, stand or tent.

It has 4GB of RAM, 16GB of solid state storage and a 1.8GHz quad-core Rockchip processor — more than enough for browsing the web, word processing and using apps from the Google Play store. It can also reach up to 9 hours of battery life.

SEE ALSO: Google is finally bringing Android apps to Chromebooks

Acer Chromebook 14: $300

Image: acer/amazon

The Acer Chromebook 14 is quite a step up performance-wise from the Asus Chromebook Flip for only $30 more. While it can't convert beyond its laptop state, the Chromebook 14 has a larger, 14-inch screen, more ports, a webcam and up to 12 hours of battery life.

The Acer Chromebook 14 has 4GB of RAM, 32GB of solid state storage and a 1.7GHz quad-core Intel processor (which can punch up to 2.2 GHz) all in a sleek, tapered metal design. 

HP Chromebook 13: $599

The HP Chromebook 13 is pretty comparable to a regular laptop performance-wise and comes with some extra features that put it in a better class than lesser Chromebooks. It has 2 USB-C ports, a media reader, a backlit keyboard, a webcam and a battery life of up to 11.5 hours.

This beautiful and super thin Chromebook has 4GB of RAM, 32GB of solid state storage, a 2.2GHz duo-core Intel Core m3 processor and Intel HD Graphics 515, which can power its better-than-HD 13.3-inch screen as well as external 4K displays.

SEE ALSO: Apple wants to replace your laptop with the powerful iPad Pro 9.7

Chromebook Pixel 2: $1,300

Image: google

For the most powerful Chromebook, take a look at Google's Chromebook Pixel 2. Its 12.85-inch, HD+ touchscreen is gorgeous and the metal build quality is sturdy, plus its battery can push of to 12 hours of life. Like HP's Chromebook 13, the Pixel has USB-C ports, a webcam, a media reader and can support 4K external displays.

This is the Chromebook on 'roids. The Chromebook Pixel has 16GB of RAM, 64GB of solid state storage and a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor. It will be awhile before you'll need to get an upgrade to keep up with the ever more demanding Internet. All that power doesn't come cheap, though.

Additional reporting by Raymond Wong.