Tech Corner – Is a Chromebook for You?
Chromebooks had a rough and slow start when it was released in mid-2011 and were primarily met with doubt and mockery. But that was then and this is now. 2014 has come to a close and currently, Chromebooks represent 3 out of the top 10, and 7 out of the top 20 best selling laptops on amazon.com today.
But before we get too ahead of ourselves in answering the question if a Chromebook is for you, we should first cover our bases as to what a Chromebook is. Chromebooks run on Chrome OS which is based on Linux. The OS is browser-based and leverages cloud-based applications and apps. Chromebooks are predominantly a lightweight and reliable mobile device.
Ok…but is it a tool or is it a toy?
To answer that, let’s first start with the pros. As previously stated, Chromebooks are lightweight and are a reliable mobile device. Battery life is very good at typically over 8-9 hours, plenty long for a full day’s work. A cold boot is done in less than 10 seconds while resuming from sleep is instant, enabling you to be productive at any moment while on the go.
Chromebooks have a seamless integration with Google Apps (Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides). While the local storage on a Chromebook may be rather small at either 16GB or 32GB, each Chromebook comes with 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years, which is a huge benefit.
Chromebooks tend to reduce IT costs in the long run. There are no moving parts to go bad (e.g. A Solid State Drive (SSD) is used rather than a traditional hard drive). The browser based OS is not as susceptible to slowing down after years of use. It will run as fast as it did the day you bought it. Additionally, since there aren’t installed applications there’s little to no concern for malware and virus infections.
Last but not least, Chromebooks are very cost friendly. The prices typically range from the sub $200 mark to around $400. The Google Chromebook Pixel breaks the mold and comes in at a pricey $1,299 but it certainly does come with all of the bells and whistles. Excluding the Google fanatic and the Google Chromebook Pixel, most of us will be contemplating models in the $300-$400 range.
That all sounds very positive, but there are limitations. You cannot install traditional applications. This means no Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Skype, iTunes, QuickBooks Pro, etc.
As scary as that sounds, there are viable alternatives to these traditional applications. Instead of Microsoft Office, Google Apps can be used with its Gmail, Docs, Sheets and Slides. Use Pixlr instead of Adobe Photoshop. Google Hangouts is an alternative to Skype and allows for video chat with up to 10 people. Use Google Play Music instead of iTunes, which allows online storage of up to 20,000 songs.
Another limitation to Chromebooks is that since it is primarily cloud based, it requires Internet access. While most of us are connected just about everywhere we go, it really isn’t a huge issue. However, in the rare times when you don’t have Internet access you can still use offline-ready apps. Read and write emails with Offline Gmail. Write and edit documents with Google Docs. Create and edit spreadsheets with Google Sheets. View and RSVP to events with Google Calendar.
The inability to install mainstream applications like Microsoft Office, QuickBooks Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Acrobat, iTunes, etc. are deal breakers for many. However, more and more things we do on our computers are cloud based and can be done within the context of a browser.
Sure, there are some of you out there who make and edit videos but the majority of us utilize cloud based software every day including email, calendar, document management and collaboration, QuickBooks Online and DocuSign. For these tasks the Chromebook is an excellent choice and, therefore, I don’t see Chromebooks as toys.
When it comes to answering the question: “Is a Chromebook for you?”, focus on your daily computer needs. When asked about suggestions on purchasing a computer, I always recommend that you go out and spend a few hours trying it out. Don’t just go online and look at it on a screen. Go somewhere, hold it and most importantly, try it out! Both Best Buy and Costco have Chromebooks and I encourage you to take a test drive. You never know, you just might love it!
Stay tuned for Part 2 – Chromebook Setup Survival