Is it Time to Consider a Chromebook?

GEEK FREE
By Joe Callison
24 February, 2019

Chromebooks were introduced in 2011 as low cost alternatives to Windows and MacOS computers. They run the Google Chrome OS using either Intel or ARM processors. The goal was to make computers and the internet available to the masses for under $200. The first Chromebooks were a little pricier than that and had very few capabilities as a computer without being connected to the internet. Since then, Chromebooks have become available from sub-$200 models up to $600 or more for high-end models. 
More and more apps are providing capability to use downloaded content while offline, and since 2017 all Chromebooks are also capable of running Android apps. Printers with Google Cloud Print capability make printing from a Chromebook simple to set up. Other printers will require downloading software, if available, to enable cloud printing from a Chromebook. Chromebooks are available with wi-fi only or with 3G or 4G cellular capability requiring a data plan from a cellular network.

Schools have been the biggest adopters of Chromebooks which now account for about 60% of the school computer market both inside and outside the U.S. Running only secure web-based apps makes Chromebooks much less vulnerable to computer malware than computers with other operating systems. Bad Chrome browser extensions are the most likely threat and are easily removed from the browser.

Chromebooks are very capable at doing most common computer tasks like browsing the internet, email, reading books and publications, downloading and/or watching movies, viewing and editing photos and such. For office type apps, using Google Drive and its associated apps for documents, spreadsheets and presentations will provide both online and offline capability. The free Microsoft Office 365 will provide online access only, unless the screen size is 10.1 inches or less, which should allow use of the free Android mobile apps (not verified).

If you plan on using a Chromebook offline, be sure to purchase one with enough storage space for the downloaded content you plan on using since you will be keeping movies, photos, documents, etc. on your Chromebook. Normally such content would be kept in the online cloud storage, which starts out at 100GB free for two years with purchase of a Chromebook, but is reduced to 15GB free after that. Currently the cost for 100GB of online storage from Google is $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year.

A recent review of Chromebooks with lots of information on them and Chromebooks in general is in the following link:
https://bestreviews.com/best-chromebooks

Another informative article is available here:
https://www.laptopmag.com/articles/chromebook-buying-advice

Chromebooks were intended to be low cost, so the lower priced models often have slower Intel Celeron or ARM processors and the storage may be slower eMMC flash memory instead of SSD. This will not affect performance of a Chromebook as much as it would a Windows 10 computer, but I would still opt for a little higher performance processor and storage if possible. I am not sure I would go for a high end Chromebook like the Google Pixelbook though, that costs as much as a good Windows or Mac laptop, unless I was just fed up with all the update and security problems they both seem to keep having.

Posted by Joe Callison

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