As Google’s ChromeOS has evolved, Chromebooks have grown right along with it. They now range from basic models for less than $200 to premium options up to $1,000. It can make shopping for one to fit your needs a headache, especially if you’re on a budget. To simplify the process, Google is introducing a new device category: Chromebook Plus.
With Chromebook Plus, you’re guaranteed to get at least the following specs, with a starting price of $399:
- 12th-gen Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 7000 processor or better
- 8GB or more of memory
- 128GB or more of storage
- 1080p-resolution IPS LCD or better
- 1080p webcam with temporal noise reduction
But being a Chromebook Plus model isn’t only about the hardware. The devices will also get extra ChromeOS and Google software features. For example, you’ll have access to Google Photos’ HDR and Portrait Blur and to the Magic Eraser tool to remove unwanted people and things from photos. There’s also offline file sync, which basically gives you offline access to files saved to Google Drive’s My Drive folder. It also means you can start or edit a doc while offline, and when you reconnect, it’ll sync to Drive.
Recognizing how important video call quality has become, Google made a 1080p-resolution webcam with temporal noise reduction part of the Chromebook Plus specs. But it also added a new video chat control panel to the OS. When the camera or microphone is accessed, the panel is available with options to improve lighting, add a background blur and turn on noise cancellation for non-human speech sounds like leaf blowers and construction.
Another part of the Plus package is the Material You UI and dynamic wallpapers and screensavers. The former adds some personalization to the ChromeOS experience with a UI color palette that matches your wallpaper, as well as the Google Sans typeface and rounded corners to windows. The dynamic wallpapers (there are two at launch) are nature scenes with lighting changes to match the time, going from sunrise to sunset.
Over the past year, Google tackled making gaming better on Chromebooks by adding cloud gaming and Steam support and bringing Minecraft to the platform. (Chromebook Pluses come with three months of GeForce Now’s priority tier.) Now, with Chromebook Plus models, it’s making a play for creators by including three months of Adobe Photoshop on the web and Adobe Express. With more tools going online, the need to have a pricey laptop for some graphically demanding tasks is less necessary. Chromebook Plus laptops also come with 25% off LumaFusion’s video-editing suite.
Google also promises free AI-powered ChromeOS features for Chromebook Plus will be available in the coming months. Those include a personal writing assistant for everything from emails to YouTube video descriptions and the ability to generate custom wallpapers and video-call backgrounds.
There are eight Chromebook Plus laptops at launch in the US to choose from — two each from Acer, Asus, HP and Lenovo — and they’ll be available on Oct. 8.