Chromebooks are capable machines, and the best Chromebooks can be used for browsing, watching videos, and editing documents. You can also use Android and desktop apps via Linux. With its lightweight ChromeOS operating system, Chromebooks are power-efficient and don't need powerful processors and more RAM.
The Google-made ChromeOS is a Linux-based operating system and, like AOSP (Android Open Source Project), derives from the open source ChromiumOS project. GNU/Linux distributions are some of the most efficient operating systems, and ChromeOS is no different.
If you can't decide between two Chromebook models due to the size of their RAM, here's how much RAM you'll need for a smooth-functioning Chromebook.
How much RAM do you need in a Chromebook?
The amount of RAM you need in a Chromebook depends on what you intend to do on it. For multitaskers, we suggest a Chromebook with at least 8GB RAM. The answer to this question in 2020 would've been 4GB. While 4GB is plenty in 2022, apps and services have become more demanding in the last few years. So, to be future-proof, choose a Chromebook with more RAM rather than buying a new one in a few years. Also, like most modern Windows laptops, most Chromebooks don't have expandable memory.
If you intend to use your Chromebook as a multimedia device for streaming Netflix or watching YouTube videos, 4GB of RAM will suffice. However, if your work involves juggling between multiple documents and having multiple instances of Google Chrome open at the same time, you will need at least 8GB of RAM.
Containerization demands more RAM on ChromeOS
With the introduction of Android apps and Linux on ChromeOS, Chromebooks are no longer viewed as just multimedia devices but as machines that can get work done efficiently and effortlessly. While most Chromebooks come with Android apps and Linux support out of the box, the ones with less than 4GB RAM may not be able to handle Chrome apps, Linux apps, and Android apps on Chromebook.
The processor also determines the performance of a Chromebook. Most budget Chromebooks have substandard and old Celeron and Pentium processors with slower, smaller flash storage and 4GB of RAM, resulting in a poor user experience. Hence, getting something with an 11th Gen Intel i3 or i5 processor and at least 128GB NVMe storage could go a long way.
Your workflow may require you to have several apps and browser tabs open at the same time. You may also need to connect your headphones and other devices. The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 has a powerful i5-10310U CPU and can multitask without breaking a sweat. Plus, ChromeOS's Out of Memory Design caches apps in the RAM to open them quickly. That's one of the reasons why ChromeOS uses almost all the available RAM.
The only use case where you might need 16GB RAM is while playing games on Steam. In our hands-on with Steam alpha on ChromeOS, we concluded that users would need at least 16GB RAM with dedicated GPUs or eGPUs to run modern AAA titles, which may not happen anytime soon, judging by Google's push toward cloud gaming Chromebooks.
8GB RAM is plenty!
Chromebooks come in various RAM sizes, and it's crucial to ensure you don't overspend just because one machine has more RAM than the other. Unused RAM is wasted RAM, and it's not the only thing that defines how a Chromebook will perform. However, if you feel like 8GB of RAM may not be enough for your workflow in the next few years or need an upgradeable Chromebook for added flexibility, the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition has you covered.
Google has released a few cloud-based gaming Chromebooks in partnership with OEMs like Lenovo, ASUS, and Acer. All the SKUs have one thing in common, 8GB RAM, which makes sense since consumers will game on cloud platforms like GeForce NOW, and Amazon Luna, which only need one browser tab. Even NVIDIA mentions on the GeForce Now system requirements page that the platform works on most Chromebooks with 4GB of RAM.