Google's Chromebook Plus initiative pushes higher spec standards and handy software tools

The Plus branding promises faster processors, more RAM and storage, and quality screens starting at $399.


Google’s pitch for Chromebooks has been pretty straightforward for a while now. They’re laptops that don’t require a lot of fuss, with easy set-up, fast boot times and a simple software update process. They’re also secure from things like viruses and malware, and Google recently committed to 10 years of automatic software updates.

The hardware side of things isn’t quite as simple. Chromebooks started as cheap computers meant mostly for web browsing, but both Chrome OS and the laptops themselves have gotten a lot more advanced since then. There are still plenty of budget models out there, many with questionable build quality or specs; there are also lots of “premium” Chromebooks with powerful internals, high-end screens and great industrial design.

Then there’s a middle ground: utilitarian but well-designed laptops with powerful enough hardware for most users that don’t break the bank. In the last few years, I’ve had a hard time finding that sweet spot, but today Google is announcing the Chromebook Plus initiative to make that easier.

Essentially, Chromebook Plus devices have a guaranteed set of specs to ensure a consistent and quality experience. That means every Chromebook Plus has an Intel Core or AMD Ryzen (7000 series) processor, at least 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. A full 1080p IPS display and 1080p webcam also come standard.

Detail view of three Chromebook Plus laptops.

Google and four OEM partners are announcing a total of eight Chromebook Plus models today: two each from HP, Acer, ASUS and Lenovo. With the exception of two 15.6-inch models from Acer and HP, all of these devices will feature 14-inch screens, making them solid all-around options for most people. And while the “Plus” name might imply that we’re strictly talking about premium hardware, like HP’s $999 Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, these devices start at $399. That’s not the absolute cheapest price we’ve seen for a Chromebook, but quality can be hit or miss below that price – but with the Plus initiative, buyers will hopefully be a lot more secure in what they’re purchasing.

Chromebook Plus devices will also get access to a handful of software tricks, including a Material You design, dynamic wallpapers and the Magic Eraser tool in Google Photos. Some of the AI-powered tricks Google uses to improve calls in Meet will also work on other video call platforms, as well. Specifically, you’ll be able to use the auto “improve lighting” and “noise cancellation” features on Meet as well as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Google Photos Magic Eraser

There’s also a new File Sync feature that’ll automatically keep files from Google Drive locally available for when you’re offline. Google says that’s thanks in part to the minimum 128GB of storage available on Chromebook Plus models, but it’s not clear how the system will decide what to download or how much space to use up. But expanding offline utilities for Chromebooks should nonetheless be handy. Google says that all the software improvements it announced as part of Chromebook Plus will be coming to all Chromebooks that meet these minimum specifications soon, as well.

Adobe Photoshop for the web

Google is also smartly partnering with Adobe, who just announced Photoshop for the web last week. While the company acknowledges that it’s a “streamlined” app for the web, it still represents the first time that Chromebook users will get a taste of the Photoshp experience. (It’s worth noting that existing Photoshop customers get access to Photoshop on the web as part of their subscription.)

Adobe and Google are giving Chromebook Plus buyers a three-month trial of Photoshop on the web, along with access to the Adobe Express creation tool that lets you quickly build things like animations, logos, flyers and so forth. Express users Adobe’s Firefly generative AI models, and Chromebook Plus owners will get to try that out too.

Google AI writing assistance

Google also teased a slew of AI-powered software improvements coming to Chromebook Plus laptops next year. One is a text composer that understands the context of the tool you’re using, whether it’s something like YouTube video descriptions or short-form comments on social media. There’s also going to be a generative image AI that’ll let you make custom wallpapers for your Chromebook with text prompts. Similarly, you’ll also be able to generate image backgrounds for when you’re on video calls.

The initial eight Chromebook Plus models will be released on October 8. Lenovo will offer two Intel-powered 14-inch models, the IdeaPad Slim 3i and the IdeaPad Flex 5i for $550 and $500, respectively. Acer has a 14-inch Chromebook Plus 514 with a Ryzen 3 or Ryzen 5 processor and the 15.6-inch Chromebook Plus 515, with an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor. Both models are priced at $400.

Google Chromebook Plus lineup

HP also has a 15.6-inch model with an Intel Core i3 processor for $600 and the Chromebook Plus x360 14 inch with a 360-degree hinge and up to a Core i5 processor for $750. Finally, the ASUS Chromebook Plus CX3402 includes up to an Intel Core i5 processor and a 14-inch screen, while the Chromebook Plus CM34 Flip has a 360-degree hinge and a more rugged design. (ASUS didn’t provide pricing for these models as of publish time.) Obviously there are a lot of smaller details that differentiate all these devices, and we’ll be looking forward to getting our hands on them soon so we can see what this all translates to in terms of the end user experience. But if Google can standardize solid specs across a wider range of price points, it’ll be a lot easier for people who want to give Chromebooks a shot.