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16 Mar 2021

Three big changes coming to Chromebooks in 2021

Google is celebrating 10 years of Chromebooks, and new features are coming thick and fast - we explain how they could enhance your laptop when they hit

Google's assortment of new Chromebook updates are designed to make the software easier to use. We run through the big changes so you know what to expect when the update comes to your computer.

For those not in the know, or if you were considering whether a Chromebook is right for you, these devices are essentially a standard laptop that runs Google's own Chrome OS software. It neatly integrates Google Drive and Google Play apps, and Chromebooks are quick to start up, easy to update and don't get bogged down with bloat.

For more advice on whether Chrome OS is right for you, read our guide to Chromebooks.

1. Phone Hub: manage your Android phone

ChromeOS Phonehub

If you have an Android phone, this is a really useful feature that brings some basic phone features from your smartphone to your Chromebook. Features include the ability to turn on your phone's wi-fi hotspot so you can immediately get connected to your phone's own 4G or 5G connection on your computer, and you can also remotely silence your phone to minimise distractions.

You can also have your phone's notifications filter through to your Chromebook, so you don't have to keep picking up your phone to see whether you have anything you need to respond to or take action on. It's all right there on your Chromebook.

For those of us who lose our phone down the back of the sofa multiple times per week, the 'locate phone' button is just a click away, letting you sound your phone's alarm at maximum volume so you can easily locate it.

One more handy addition in Phone Hub is the ability to open websites you just had open on Chrome on your phone. You can start reading the morning news on your phone, and when you eventually roll out of bed to your computer, you can pick up where you left off.

2. Tote: for recent and important files

ChromeOS Tote

Tote is a new area of Chrome OS that stores things that you need within a (virtual) arm's reach. This space is similar to Windows 10's Quick Access function, but a little bit smarter. It stores a variety of things including recent downloads and recent screenshots, and also lets you pin files from Google Drive so they're always readily available within Tote.

If you find yourself working with a lot of recently downloaded files, Tote is going to be very useful so you don't find yourself hunting around for the files you use the most.

3. Clipboard storage

In a similar vein, Chrome OS now makes it a lot harder to lose things you're copying and pasting. We've all been there when we've copied one thing, and then copied another without pasting the first. It's frustrating and wastes time.

Windows 10 solved that problem a few years ago with its own clipboard management (hit the Windows key and V at the same time), and now Chrome OS is doing something similar.

Simply hit the search (or on newer Chromebooks, the 'Everything' key with a circle on it) and V at the same time, and you'll be presented with the last five things you copied, including images, so you can choose which one to paste.

Three Chromebooks at different budgets

Not sure where to start on your hunt for a Chromebook? Here are three options at three different prices.

Premium: Asus Chromebook Flip C436FA, £799

Asus Chromebook Flip C436FA

This 14-inch laptop features a flexible screen hinge that lets the laptop be flipped around and used like a tablet. Despite the extra features, this laptop only weighs 1.18kg and is super slim. It has a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor and a huge (for a Chromebook) 256GB of SSD storage.

Read our full Asus Chromebook Flip C436FA review to see if it's worth the cash.

Mid-range: HP Chromebook x360 14c-ca0003na, £449

HP Chromebook x360 14c-ca0003na

You get quite a lot for your money with this HP, including a 2-in-1 design that lets you use the laptop like a tablet, 128GB of storage and a reasonably nippy Intel Core i3 processor. It's heavy at 1.53kg given its size, but otherwise, on paper, this could be a great-value laptop for a student or anybody else who wants a versatile, mid-priced laptop.

Read our full HP Chromebook x360 14c-ca000na review.

Budget: HP 11a-nb0000 Chromebook, £199

HP 11a-nb0000na

This cheap-as-they-come Chromebook typifies the genre. The tiny screen and slim design makes it ideal for a child or for anybody who's often on the move but only needs a laptop for basic note-taking. Its low-performance processor and miserly 32GB of storage are downsides, but for the money it's hard to ask for more.

See how it fared in our HP 11a-nb0000 Chromebook review.