- 1 What is a Chromebook?
- 2 Chromebooks vs Laptops
- 3 Chromebook Capabilities
- 4 Chromebook Operating System
- 5 Chromebook Benefits
- 6 How Much is a Chromebook?
- 7 What to Look For
What is a Chromebook?
Before going any further, it’s important to understand that a Chromebook doesn’t operate in the same way as a standard PC or Mac. They run on Google’s very own operating system, ChromeOS. They are primarily designed to be lightweight and connected to the internet for much of their normal use. They have very little internal storage, although you can easily upgrade storage capabilities with USB and flash memory.
Chromebooks vs Laptops
A traditional PC laptop will run on a Microsoft Windows operating system. Newer Macs run on OS X. Chromebooks have entirely different operating system altogether, rendering them incapable of running Windows and OS X software, for the most part. Chromebooks are mainly designed to run a very lightweight operating system based on Google’s Chrome browser. All of the software you use will either be web-based or a Chrome app.
Although Chromebooks run ChromeOS, it is possible on most models to run a Linux operating system alongside ChromeOS. This opens up the capability of running Linux desktop applications as well as a possibility to emulate Windows software through the WINE emulator. While it may be possible, it would require a fair bit of knowledge regarding the Linux operating system to be attempted.
Chromebooks are designed to live in “the cloud”, with “the cloud” being the internet and all of the many applications that are available online. Think about how much time you spend in your browser. What if you had a computer that was inexpensive, lightweight and ONLY focused on web applications and NOT supporting a bloated operating system? That’s a Chromebook in a nutshell.
Anything you can do on the web you can do with a Chromebook. With applications such as WebGL and HTML5, the web is largely becoming its own type of operating system. Almost any application you can imagine is now available online. Anything from video editing, photo editing, and management, games, applications for education and more can be found online. The Chrome Web Store makes it easy to find software to use on your Chromebook quickly and easily, much like you might find on your smartphone.
Integrated Media Player and File Browser
Although most of your ChromeOS experience will be spent in the browser, there is also an integrated media player and file manager included. The media player handles all common audio and video files while the file manager makes it easy to manage your media and documents stored locally. Between the browser, media player and file browser, ChromeOS has about 95% of my daily computing tasks covered.
Chromebook Compatible Printers
The main compatibility issue with switching to ChromeOS is finding printers that are compatible with Chromebooks. In order to use a printer with your Chromebook, it must be cloud ready. Being cloud ready means that you can connect to a printer directly through the web and don’t need a PC to set them up. Cloud Ready printers connect to your Google Cloud Print account and can be accessed immediately.
Chromebook Operating System
ChromeOS is built and Linux and designed to be extremely lightweight and agile. It’s primarily built to run on very limited hardware making Chromebooks much less expensive than a traditional laptop yet perform nearly as well. ChromeOS runs the Chrome browser and has very little functionality outside of that. Literally everything you do will be run from within your browser of from a Chrome App.
ChromeOS vs Windows
ChromeOS is much different than Windows. It is much more lightweight, but in turn, much less feature rich. You don’t install programs on ChromeOS like you do Windows, for the most part. Instead, you use the web to carry out your tasks.
#1 Benefit – Value: Chromebooks are relatively inexpensive yet provide much of the same functionality of a traditional laptop. They use less expensive hardware with a stripped down operating system that can provide great performance.
#2 Benefit – Learning Curve: Learning how to use a Chromebook is similar to learning how to use a smartphone. If you can use a smartphone, there’s not much to learn. You install apps through an app store and everything else is more or less taken care of for you.
#3 Benefit – Portability: Most Chromebooks are incredibly thin and compact. They are easy to transport which makes them perfect for students and mobile professionals.
#4 Benefit – Battery Life: Chromebooks all use very power efficient hardware. Some of them use processors similar to those found in smartphones to save power. This gives them great battery life. Most Chromebooks clock 8-13 hours of use on a single charge.
#5 Benefit – Speed and Simplicity: Chromebooks boot up in under 10 seconds and automatically update. There’s really no maintenance involved at all. Like a smartphone, they simply do what they’re supposed to without all of the headaches associated with a traditional computer like viruses and bluescreens. A Chromebook antivirus isn’t even necessary.
How Much is a Chromebook?
Chromebooks range in price from around $150 on the low end to $500+. Check out our top picks to check out prices.
What to Look For
Picking a Chromebook is fairly straight forward. Many of the models offer very similar specs. Below I’ll give you some guidelines for evaluating a Chromebook review.
2 GB and 4 GB of RAM are most common. 2 GB of RAM is fine for light use, although I’d suggest getting a model with 4 GB of RAM if possible. This will help keep your system speedy.
In the past, there were a few Chromebooks that offered mechanical hard drives. New Chromebooks now mainly offer 16 GB and 32 GB of internal storage. I wouldn’t worry about internal storage as much considering that you can import media easily though a flash card slot or USB expansion port. Paying for 32 GB of storage isn’t worth it unless you HATE dealing with SD cards or USB memory sticks.
USB: Most Chromebooks have 2 USB ports. Most models have a single USB 2.0 on one side and a single USB 3.0 on the other side. I could only see USB 3.0 being really important if you had USB 3.0 data storage and you wanted to transfer large amounts of data to your Chromebook, otherwise it doesn’t really matter much.
HDMI: Do you want to connect your Chromebook to your TV or a monitor using HDMI? Better get a model that has an HDMI port. Be careful, though, some models have full-size HDMI ports and some have micro-HDMI ports. The only difference is the type of cable used to connect to the port.
Flash Card Slot: Most models come with a flash card slot. Find out what type of memory it takes in order to determine the largest possible card size to use.
Many of the older Chromebooks suffered from a common symptom, lousy LCD display. The bottom line, if you want a really nice Chromebook display then get a model with a full HD IPS display.
There is a standard style and layout for all Chromebook keyboards. The only difference is in how well made the keyboard is. The full-size keyboards are designed to be space efficient and easy to type on, even on the smallest Chromebooks.
The touchpads vary from model to model, although most offer multi-touch gestures and other time-saving features. Unless you’re going to splurge on a Pixel, the touchpad is likely to be the least of your concerns.