Should I Buy a Chromebook? [Buying Guide & Advice]

Kenny Trinh Updated on August 21, 2020
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We are used to selecting between Apple’s macOS and Windows for buying a PC or Laptop. However, During 2011 Chromebooks became a third option to consider when buying a computer. What is a Chromebook though? Where did it start? 

The first Chromebook available, by Acer Inc. and Samsung, began exporting on June 15, 2011. Later in May 2012, a desktop version referred to as Chromebox was introduced, and an “all-in-one” device called Chromebase was introduced in January 2014, by LG Electronics.

Instead of Windows or macOS, Chromebook operates in Google’s Chrome OS. It is manufactured around Google’s cloud which makes it perfect for the educational market. Chromebooks are intended to be lightweight, low-priced, and portable. Android users will feel right at home with it, Google’s web-based operating system stands out from the other OS’ because it relies heavily on the Chrome browser.

…it is also popular for students who do all their coursework on the web for it keeps things efficient.

Since it runs in Chrome OS, it runs in an exceedingly customizable desktop interface however most of your time will be spent on Chrome. This is why it is also popular for students who do all their coursework on the web for it keeps things efficient.

Chrome OS heavily highlights Google’s suite of applications and oftentimes relies on an internet connection. Logging in as a Chrome OS guest is nice, but we recommend that you log in using your Google Account for the most pleasing experience.

How Much Do Chromebooks Cost?

If your day-to-day computing demands involve browsing the web, working on documents online, streaming videos and playing mobile games, then the Chromebook is an excellent – not to mention, very affordable – laptop alternative.

The minimalist layout of Chromebooks works for several people who find themselves doing most of their daily work in Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. There is a pretty fine price range for Chromebooks. That is still chiefly the case.

Apps

Chromebooks got much better than before, but these machines were still originally processed for Google’s Apps, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. This deep blend can be either positive or negative. Chromebooks can efficiently set up if you already use these apps.

Now that Android Apps are getting more into Chromebook, most can access the Google Play store at this time. The concept is to give Chromebooks access to more games, productivity options and other apps to make these machines more versatile, though the apps are apparently run via an emulator, with mixed results.

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It is best to stick with the Android Office Apps or Office Online if you already have a lot of Office files that you’re bringing over to your Chromebook. There are often formatting issues when importing third-party Documents into drive. Fortunately, Google Drive allows you to save documents to Microsoft formats, so you’ll still be able to share files with non-Chromebook users.

If you’re familiar with Linux’s applications, you’ve got more options coming soon. Early, pre-release builds of Chrome OS revealed that Chromebooks will support Linux programs, satisfying demand from some of the more tech-savvy Chromebook owners.  The Pixelbook is the first that will get this option, and others will gain this feature later.

Offline Use

Chromebooks heavily rely on the internet, which simply means many applications may not work if you’re out of Wi-fi rage. There are more than 200 offline Chrome apps that can work without Internet connectivity, including Gmail, Pocket and Google Drive and tons of the Android apps coming soon will also work offline. You can sync your work when you get back online which makes it more efficient.

Games

You’ll still be able to play games on the Chromebook, but your options are sparse. The Chrome Web Store offers casual titles such as Bejeweled and Cut the Rope, but you won’t have the same selection as you would on a Windows machine or a Mac. 

With Google Stadia, using Chromebook for gaming sessions is possible, you can technically play even the most cutting-edge games of today. Stadia is the service that Google shows in March 2019 that will bring PC-gaming titles to desktops, laptops, and phones, but more importantly to any Chrome OS devices, regardless of its graphical capabilities.

That’s because all of the gameplay actually takes place on custom Google servers and a network dedicated to stream games with as little latency as possible. Offline games such as Spelunky, Tank riders Super Mario, and other several games can also be played in Chromebook.

Special Features

Chrome OS brings the Google Assistant to more Chromebooks. It’s beginning to roll out now to more non-managed, user devices. The Assistant on Chromebook helps you stay productive, manage your smart devices, and have a bit fun along the way.

The platform’s latest version makes Assistant available “on most Chromebooks,” and all users need to do to summon it is to say Hey Google” or click the Assistant logo from the Launcher.

The Pixelbook Pen and the stylus for the HP Chromebook x2 are the only two active styli accessible in the Chrome OS ecosystem in May 2019. Other pen-equipped devices utilize the more-passive EMR tools that passed power to the pen using a magnetic field that the stylus then interprets using built-in sensors.

Soon, Android smartphone users will be able to get text and call-pop-up notifications on their desktop. You can download and use Android apps on your Chromebook using the Google Play Store app. Currently, the Google Play Store is only available for Chromebooks.

Battery Life

Chromebooks generally offer outstanding battery life, but not as much as they used to. Of the 10 Chromebooks we’ve reviewed within the past year, we’ve seen an average of 9 hours and 15 minutes of endurance on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi.

While some affordable Windows 10 notebooks, like the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 (13:39), offer amazing battery life, the ultraportable notebook average is a shorter 8 hours and 21 minutes.

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Durability

The advent of Google Assistant and Android app emulation via the Google Play Store increased the capability for your average Chromebook. And since Android apps are designed for touch, this means it’s harder and harder to promote a Chromebook without a touchscreen. 

Chromebooks for Work are built to withstand falls, scrapes and similar penalties. In our testing, the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work proved durable, surviving unscratched and fully functional after our Dropbot 5000 test bench dropped it from a height of 48 inches onto a plywood plank. 

Manageability and Security

Chromebooks use the policy of “defense in depth” to provide multiple layers of protection, so if any layer is bypassed, others are still in effect. So while it’s still necessary to take precautions to protect your data, Chromebooks allow you to breathe just a little bit easier. Your Chromebook has the following safety features built-in:

Automatic updates

The most effective way to protect against malware is to make sure all software is up-to-date and has the most recent security fixes. This can be troublesome to manage traditional operating systems with several software elements from many vendors all with different update mechanisms and user interfaces. Chromebooks manage updates automatically so Chromebooks continually runs the most recent and the most secure version.

Sandboxing

On a Chromebook, each web content and application runs in an exceedingly restricted environment called a “sandbox.” If the Chromebook is directed to an infected page, it can’t affect the other tabs or apps on the computer, or any else on the machine. The threat is contained.

Verified Boot

Even if malware manages to evade the sandbox, the Chromebook is still protected. Every time the Chromebook starts up, it does a self-check called “Verified Boot.” If it identifies that the system has been tampered with or corrupted in any way, typically it will repair itself without any effort, taking the Chromebook back to an operating system that’s pretty much good as new.

Data Encryption

When using web apps on a Chromebook, all necessary data is stored safely in the cloud. Certain kinds of files, like downloads, cookies, and browser cache files, may still be existing on the computer. The Chromebook encrypts this data using tamper-resistant hardware, making it very tough for anyone to access those files.

…you can simply push a button or use a quick keyboard combination to enter recovery mode and restore the operating system to a known good version.

Recovery Mode

If anything goes wrong with a Chromebook, you can simply push a button or use a quick keyboard combination to enter recovery mode and restore the operating system to a known good version.

Chromebook for Work models also offer tools that IT administrators need to manage laptops in and out of the office. The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Chromebook and Google’s Pixelbook include the Trusted Platform Module, a security chip that helps keep malicious attackers away from your passwords.

Dell’s upcoming Enterprise Chromebooks feature Chrome Enterprise, a subscription-based add-on introduced in 2017 that gives IT teams unique management tools that the cheaper Chromebooks don’t provide.

What Size Screen Do I Need? 

With a few exceptions, most Chromebooks have an Intel processor, usually the Celeron. The outliers have an ARM processor or an Intel Core i3, and we’re starting to see some appear with the Nvidia Tegra K1. They are all available with 2 or 4GB of memory, and 16 or 32GB of onboard storage.

Due to the similarity within the hardware components of most Chromebooks, the deciding factor for many when considering a purchase is the appropriate screen size. There are currently Chromebooks with an equivalent display size found in the conventional laptop world. Chromebooks are available in these screen sizes: 11.6, 13.3, 14, 15.6 inches.

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Those searching for more real estate for Web surfing, getting work done, watching movies and playing games can pick up the 14-inch Acer Chromebook 14 for Work, or the 15-inch Acer Chromebook 15, a number of few Chrome OS notebooks above 13 inches.

Unfortunately, both are on the older end of the spectrum, as there hasn’t been much demand for large Chromebooks. Don’t even look for a 17-inch Chromebook; they’re not out there.

The Acer Chromebook 715 and 714 are newly announced 15.6-inch and 14-inch aluminum notebooks with fingerprint readers. The Chromebook 715 also sports a number pad. 

What Specs Do I Need? 

Because Chromebooks are meant primarily for online use, the specs aren’t as important as they are for Windows laptops, but you’ll still want to know how much power and storage you need if you want or require one. Here’s a quick guide.


Usage

Ram

CPU

Storage

Screen

General

4GB

Intel Pentium

32GB

12 in, Full HD

College

4GB

Intel Celeron

32GB

14 in, HD

Portable gaming

8GB – 32Gb

Intel Core i7

256GB

15.6 in, Full HD

Kids

4GB

Intel Celeron

16GB

11.6 in, HD Anti Glare Display

Who Are You Buying It For? 

Overall, the best way to tell if someone will enjoy owning a Chromebook is if you know they already spend most of their time in the Chrome browser. Those users will take to the notebook naturally.

If you are getting a Chromebook for someone else, you should examine how they are going to use the device. Chromebooks are good for younger students, as they are easy to use and are reasonably secure.

Children who are still learning how to use computers may be more sensitive to learning how a new operating system works, and while there’s no official Minecraft title for Chrome OS, the Android-based Minecraft: Pocket Edition will become available on certain Chromebooks later this year.

Conclusion

The Chromebook is attending to a stage where it can be used as the only computer in the home. This is great news for Chromebook users. Though Chromebooks with small storage may still be fitting for some people.

If you’re planning to use a Chromebook as your only device. Then you should try and spend as much as possible, so you can buy a Chromebook with a lot more storage space than they’ve traditionally come with.

Chromebooks are affordable and contribute a decent performance, and the introduction of Android apps is increasing their abilities. Microsoft is fighting back with claims that Windows 10 S mode will give laptops better performance and battery life, but if you’re looking for a simple way to get online and you prefer Google’s services, you can confidently answer the question “Should I Buy a Chromebook?” with a bold “Yes!

Kenny Trinh
Article by:
Kenny Trinh
Editor @ Netbooknews. While he’s not editing articles on the latest tech trends, he likes to discuss business and entrepreneur tips and tricks which featured Forbes and other places.

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