Ever wondered if what you do might be better managed on a Chromebook? There’s a lot to like about these machines. From primary school to University, they’ve even done quite well for themselves in the education market. And if you aspire to the luxury of working remotely, a single Chromebook can reduce your computing costs by eliminating the need for a laptop, smart phone, and tablet. Just about every well-known manufacturer like Dell, Acer, HP and Lenovo offers an interpretation of the Chromebook experience. These are some of the pros and cons of a Chromebook to determine if this lightweight laptop is right for you.
What’s a Chromebook?
A Chromebook is a lightweight laptop primarily used when connected to the Internet. You won’t be able to save files directly on a Chromebook. But nearly every other activity, like word processing, studying spreadsheets, taking notes and Web surfing can be accomplished on the Google browser.
Chromebooks look like laptops. But they don’t come with that much on-board storage. And the CPU isn’t particularly fast, which makes them quite cheap compared to standard laptops.
What Operating System Do Chromebooks Use?
Chromebooks run the Chrome OS – Google’s operating system. It’s a stripped-down, Linux-based operating system revolving around the Chrome browser.
As you use it, you’ll notice that it heavily features Google’s suite of apps. It isn’t a full desktop operating system like Windows. But functionally, it’s like the Windows OS.
Additionally, a wide range of free apps that work offline are available for it — The idea being that most of what you do will be accomplished online using the Chrome browser. As such, apps like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive are getting much better every day.
The Skinny on Apps
This deep integration provides a near seamless user experience compared to other platforms. If you already use Google apps, setting up your Chromebook will be a piece of cake.
Many Android apps are finally making their way to the Chromebook market. But only a select few Chromebooks can actually access the Google Play store right now.
Android-capable Chromebooks include: Asus Chromebook Flip, Dell Chromebook 3189, and the Google Pixelbook.
There are many great things about Chromebooks – and some not so great things about Chromebooks. We’ll look at the Pros and cons of a Chromebook in turn starting with the good stuff.
Chromebooks have several advantages over most laptops that can’t be ignored. To help you determine if a Chromebook is good enough to deliver what you need from a laptop, below are some of the key features that drive 25 million people to be Chrome OS users:
1. If You Travel a Lot…
A Chromebook will be your best companion.
They’re generally much lighter and thinner than the average laptop. Most weigh less than 3-pounds, making them an excellent option for kids. And because they lack moving parts – like a mechanical hard drive (MHD) – Chromebooks are much safer to transport.
Many Chromebooks like the Acer Chromebook Spin 11 and Dell Chromebook 11 come with an 11.6-inch display, which adds to the reason why they’re so nimble to carry. But there are an increasing number of outliers with a 14- or 15-inch display to indulge your desire for a large screen.
2. Need a Durable Machine?
Chromebooks are designed for the work and educational environment.
As far as construction and build quality, they’re a lot like business notebooks: Chromebooks are built tough to survive drops, scratches and minor disasters. The Acer Chromebook 14 and Lenovo 500E Chromebook are MIL-STD-810G certified.
You can just imagine how useful a feature like this is in the educational sphere: The keyboard on the kid-friendly Acer Chromebook Spin 11 can even get drenched by a full glass of water and keep typing without missing a stroke!
3. Battery Endurance is Top-Notch
Compared to mainstream laptops, Chromebooks have an exceptional battery life.
The average Chromebook battery life is at least 8 hours. And if you don’t forget to leave it in sleep mode when it’s not in use, you’ll be left with even more usable hours.
Many new windows laptops are catching up, though. But Chromebook standouts like the Acer Chromebook R 13 boast a runtime of 11 hours.
4. Chromebooks Can Get Up and Go
2 major reasons for this:
An eMMC flash drive and the lightweight Chrome OS platform. Trust us when you’re running from meeting to meeting on a Wednesday morning. Or need to get to a certain file for a quick last-minute presentation edit, a few seconds shaved becomes a bigger time saver than you think.
Chromebooks offer superior boot times compared to almost any other computing device; they can boot up at an incredibly fast 5-10 seconds! They’re instantly ON from sleep mode and can shut down just as fast. Laptops are catching up, however. Ultrabooks can resume from hibernation mode in less than 8-seconds.
5. Do Chromebooks Get Viruses?
Well, they’re not protected from Phishing Attacks.
But the emphasis on cloud-based working and multi-layer protection like automatic updates, ‘sandboxing’ and ‘verified boots’ help prevent an infection of a Chromebook system. If you’re thinking about a Chromebook, the great news is the Chrome OS has virus and malware protection baked in.
Viruses and malware are executable applications that wreak havoc on an operating system. There’s not that much software you can install on a Chromebook. And executable programs can’t be installed, making it difficult to get a virus; this has the added benefit of eliminating the cost of malware protection.
6. When It Comes to Security…
Not only is virus and malware protection automatically updated to the latest version…
But updates happen quietly in the background, so you never have to think about it. This ensures that your Chromebook always works the way you need it to. And did we mention that you never have to think about performing updates on your own?
You also get parental controls so you can digitally manage your kids by creating supervised accounts to track and limit their online activities. For work, Chromebooks like the Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook and Google Pixelbook include the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and IT administrator tools.
7. Chromebooks Offer a Robust Platform
What do the software and programs you use for work all have in common?
They’re applications that run on the Web browser. Whether you’re talking about email clients like Gmail, CRMs like Zoho and e-newsletter apps like Mailchimp. Even a modest Chromebook can provide a surprisingly fast and stable environment for working with browser-based apps.
As of 2017, the Chrome OS and Android apps have joined forces to enhance the functionality of Chromebooks. Now you can use Android apps by Adobe, Microsoft and many more to create and edit files, stream movies, music and games.
8. Generous Cloud-Based Storage
When you buy a Chromebook, you get 2 years of access to 100GB of Google Drive Storage.
This much cloud space normally costs a large amount of money on other platforms like Dropbox. Having all your files synced to cloud-based storage has the bonus advantage of allowing you to access them from any workstation, your desktop at home and your smart phone.
To keep things lightweight, on-board storage is limited to 16GB. But Chromebooks have features like an SD Card Reader, which effectively allows you to expand storage space up to 64GB! Similarly priced Windows notebooks provide 32GB of local storage, half of which is occupied by the Windows OS.
9. Chromebooks Encourage Collaboration
And new ways of working.
The ability to store things in the cloud facilitates collaboration between remote workers: Since Chromebooks don’t encourage the installation of stand-alone software. Using a Chromebook nudges you in the direction of using Web apps that allow multiple users to access and edit files together in real time.
As we touched on above, the Chrome browser syncs all your apps and passwords. So, no matter where you use the Chrome browser, your bookmarks and other preferences are automatically saved. This alludes to another boon the Chromebook platform offers… namely, an improvement on your productivity.
10. Chromebooks Have a Narrow Price Range
The #1 advantage that makes Chromebooks such an attractive proposition is price.
Many Chromebooks cost less than the average laptop (currently $600). You can buy a Chromebook for less than $200. A mid-range model is priced between $300 and $400. But in the interest of full disclosure, a growing number of Windows laptops can be had within the same price range.
Whether you’re getting this device for work or the kids, huge savings come with buying a Chromebook. And we hate to think about this, but unlike a Windows laptop, if your Chromebook gets broken, lost or stolen, it’ll have less of a financial impact than the loss of a $1,000 laptop.
Now it’s time to look at why you might reconsider a Chromebook…
It all sounds good. But depending on the kind of user you are, Chromebook challenges may not completely replace your main computing device. These are some reasons why you might think twice about purchasing a Chromebook:
1. Many Apps Won’t Work Without…
You guessed it… an Internet connection.
The underbelly of the Chromebook platform is that to gain access to all those wonderful features and benefits requires constant access to the Web. But there are Android apps designed to work without a connection to the Internet — Chrome apps like Gmail give you offline working options.
Plus, with ever improving Wifi, and tethering options via your phone, the need for a Web connection is less of an issue than it has been in recent past. Still, you can find yourself just out of reach of a Wifi hot spot, and just when you desperately need it, too. It’s something to think about.
2. Limited Local Storage
And there’s no optical drive.
It’s no secret that Chromebooks typically have a 32 to 64GB storage capacity. Maximum. It’s a minimalist design feature that helps keep these lightweight machines relatively affordable. Google encourages you to store your stuff in the cloud. That’s why Chromebooks often come with 100GB of online storage, free.
That’s fine. But allow us to run a scenario by you… Remember that presentation you need to tweak? Let’s suppose you have no access to the Internet. How are you supposed to get to it if it’s stored on the cloud? You could just take an external storage drive with you. But that’s just more stuff to lose or get stolen.
3. They Have Awful Displays
It’s not that you can’t get a good Chromebook with a sharp display:
The Asus Transformer Mini, Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA, and Google Pixelbook for example, quickly flood the mind with visions of crystal-clear images. Many brands make Chromebooks with Quad HD (QHD) displays which looks good on units with bigger screens.
But most Chromebooks have 1366 x 768-pixels-per-square-inch HD screen. It doesn’t look bad on an 11-inch display like the Dell Chromebook 11, which supports a lot of detail. But if you want to fit more on your screen, the difference between a Chromebook display that’s HD and one with Full HD is noticeable.
4. You Can Use a Chromebook for Entertainment
But they’re not that great for working on multimedia projects.
It’s not like Chromebooks like the Google’s Pixel can’t handle this sort of work. It’s more that the software typically used for multimedia projects like Final Cut Pro aren’t browser-based. There are Web apps that try to duplicate the same functionality. But… well, just use them for yourself and see.
There are good online video editors like WeVideo. But if you need more control or work with HD content, forget about it. However, if you want a portable computing device to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime, the Chrome OS lets you access video content perfectly well.
5. You Can Play Games on Them Too
But not all Android games run on the Chrome OS.
Still, the Chrome Web Store offers titles for casual gamers like: Bejeweled and Cut the Rope. The recent addition of Android support opens you up to more modern titles like: Fallout Shelter and the perennial favorite – Minecraft.
Additionally, you can look forward to the fact that as Chromebook technology improves, there is hope for even better gaming options. Google’s Stadia platform promises streaming for AAA games like Assassin’s Creed and Doom to any device with a Chrome browser.
6. But for Now, Forget Hard-Core Gaming
Or playing the latest titles.
To reiterate: For light gaming, you have some good options when it comes to gaming devices and Android games. But there are relatively few titles you can play using the Chrome OS compared to the wide selection of games developed for the Windows operating system.
As we said earlier, Chromebooks aren’t built with the most storage or powerful CPU. And without the all-important dedicated graphics, they’re not powerful enough to cope with the graphical and computational demands of most modern games. But this will change.
7. Using Peripherals is… Different
Think about the devices you plug into.
These are peripherals like: printers, document cameras, scanners, and other tools that plug into a USB or VGA port. Printing has always been a headache. But connecting to a printer from a Chromebook requires the use of cloud services like Google Cloud Print — which takes some time to set up.
And, legacy devices that rely on traditional software and drivers are unlikely to be compatible with a Chromebook. Furthermore, Chromebooks (and laptops in general) are moving away from the old ports a plenty model; the two USB-C adapters you’ll need for the future are: a USB-C Ethernet adapter and USB-C HDMI adapter.
8. Special Keyboard Layout
To accommodate for their usually diminutive size…
The ultraportable laptop segment has come up with a rather unique take on the keyboarding experience that also takes some getting used to. For instance, if you’re used to the layout on PC laptops, you’ll find a dedicated SEARCH key where the CAPS LOCK used to be on Chromebooks.
If you’re used to Windows shortcut keys such as the HOME button and PrtScn keys. In their place you’ll find a whole row of new Chromebook-specific variation designed to both navigate and maximize browser windows. Okay, so, they do help get things done more quickly.
9. Windows Wins the Battle Over Compatibility
Oh sure, Chromebooks have an ever-growing library of software applications.
And they’re designed to run smoothly on the Chrome OS. But think of all the software and apps you use regularly. At least for now (and into the foreseeable future), there are still waaaaaaaay more apps and accessories created for the Windows OS.
G Suite is adept at creating, editing and saving MS Office files. But its charm starts to fade when it comes to editing complicated MS Office documents. The online version of MS Office edits most Word, Excel and PowerPoint files without many of the formatting headaches that come with G Suite. But the tools aren’t as comprehensive as the desktop version.
10. Chromebook’s Biggest Fail…
You can’t install the desktop version of Microsoft Office.
As a generation that grew up watching The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, we were brought up using MS Office apps. If you’re an avid user of Microsoft Office like we are, we can’t imagine a bigger deal breaker.
And if you’ve spent years perfecting your craft in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, this one’s going to hurt… there’s no Adobe Suite products for the Chrome OS. The Android library has a few popular photo editing apps like Pixlr. But it’s not the full Adobe’s industry-standard software you love.
Still, what makes Chromebooks attractive is that they’re on the more affordable side of the laptop spectrum. If the list of cons hasn’t scared you off…
Below is a list of some popular Chromebooks we think you’ll like; they’re highly rated on Amazon. Acer tends to do quite well in this laptop segment.
Which Chromebook is right for you?
|Best Overall||Asus Chromebook Flip||CHECK|
|Value Pick||Acer Chromebook 11||CHECK|
|Best for School||Dell Chromebook 3189||CHECK|
|Best for Business||Google Pixelbook||CHECK|
If you’ve got some cash to splash, the current king of the Chromebook mountain is the Google Chromebook Pixelbook. Google’s take on the Chromebook category is beautifully designed and extremely fast.
As if it weren’t enticing enough, Google Assistant recently landed on the Chrome OS platform in the Pixelbook! But If the Chromebooks on this list intrigue you, wait till you see these Chromebook reviews.
The appeal of Chromebooks is broadening. The introduction of Android apps is only increasing capabilities. And Google’s Stadia platform makes Chromebooks an increasingly formidable gaming option. But should you get one? If you’re needs aren’t particularly demanding the costs of a regular laptop become exponentially expensive. But it’s not all sunshine and roses — If you’re coming from another operating system, the Chrome OS has a slight learning-curve you’ll need to factor-in before you become completely comfortable with this platform. However, if you already like using Google services and you’re in the hunt for a simple way to get online… Why not a Chromebook?