Should I buy a Chromebook? Many have asked this question, wondering if these devices are just the affordable yet capable laptop they’ve been looking for for a long time.
It is because during Chromebooks have been around for quite some time now, with their pioneers hitting shelves in 2011, they haven’t quite achieved mainstream success until recent years. This means that there are still a lot of laptop users who don’t know anything about them except their existence.
So what exactly is a Chromebook? Essentially, Chromebooks are laptop that run on this lightweight operating system called ChromeOS, which is much less demanding than Windows 10 or the latest macOS and relies primarily on the Chrome browser – and therefore internet connectivity – to perform tasks.
Not that this operating system’s reliance on the Chrome browser makes an entire Chromebook useless without the Internet, however. It has expanded its capabilities over time to support apps so that you can perform creative and productivity-related tasks, as well as play games and consume media, all while being offline.
Chromebooks might be more powerful than before, but they’re still meant to help you with light tasks like word processing, surfing the internet, streaming video, and playing mobile games – maybe even from time to time a slight photo retouching.
So, to answer your “should I buy a Chromebook?” Question, it ultimately depends on what you need from your laptop. Chromebooks are great replacements for traditional laptops if you don’t need pure power and your day-to-day computing needs don’t include using CPU-intensive apps or specific software not available in Chrome OS. .
Not all Chromebooks are created equal
Much like traditional laptops, not all Chromebooks offer the same features, capabilities, and price tags. Some are more powerful than others, a handful are more feature-rich than the rest, and a small number even come with a higher price tag.
These days there are Chromebooks that will set you back $ 1,000 / £ 1,000 / AU $ 1,300, although they still won’t be able to run software outside of the Google Play and Google Chrome stores. They just have higher specs and more premium versions. Some Google Chromebooks, as the Google Pixelbook, will cost you even more. Yet most Chromebooks are either inexpensive, which makes them great for students, or at least reasonably priced at the very least.
When it comes to features, there are Chromebooks that come equipped with them like a touchscreen, 2-in-1 form factor, and the ability to expand your storage. Meanwhile, some low-end models only come with the most basic features.
Software for Chromebook
The main difference between Chromebooks and other laptops is the operating system. These laptops come with Google Chrome OS installed instead of the traditional Windows or macOS.
While that sounds a bit restrictive, you’ll be happy to know that there are thousands of apps to choose from and all the basics are covered. For text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, you have Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. For movies and TV, apps like Google Play Movies, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Instant Video are available. There are even apps for quick photo editing, including Adobe Photoshop Express.
However, Chromebooks perform best when connected to the internet. Chrome OS updates silently in the background when you’re online, and your documents sync with your Google Account so you can access them anywhere. But, thanks to these apps, you can now use Chromebooks offline.
Of course, if you need specialized software for your day-to-day tasks, a Chromebook might be a bit underpowered for you. Photographers or designers who rely on the full version of Photoshop should always opt for a Macbook or Windows laptop and serious gamers should always stick to one gaming laptop.
There are two types of Chromebooks: traditional laptops and two-in-one devices that effortlessly convert into tablet-like computers. Many Chromebooks have touch screens, but those that don’t work as well with apps downloaded from the Google Play Store, as those apps are primarily designed for mobile devices.
Chrome OS can run on less powerful hardware than Windows 10 or macOS, which means Chromebooks are often more affordable than other laptops. For example, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is a great Chromebook that costs less than $ 250 / £ 200 / AU $ 300 – great for a student budget.
Keep in mind that often the cheaper the Chromebook, the less storage space it will have – typically 32GB or 64GB. If you use Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for your work, this won’t be a problem because all your documents will be saved in the cloud rather than on your device. This is also not a problem if you are streaming videos and TV shows.
However, if you plan to keep large files on your device, such as photos and videos, you will need to add an SD card. Fortunately, most Chromebooks have a slot for one. And, if you’re looking for one that doesn’t have an SD card slot, you can always invest in one. external hard drive or one Portable SSD.
There are also premium Chromebooks with more storage, like the Google Pixelbook, if you have the budget. Just keep in mind that for the same price you could get a Windows 10 laptop with similarly good specs.
Finally, the devices you can connect to a Chromebook are limited. You can connect a printer, keyboard, mouse, or even a monitor as long as this accessory doesn’t require its own driver or software to operate. Fortunately, most devices these days are plug and play and only really use the software that comes with them for customizations.