A Chromebook is a laptop of a different breed. Instead of Windows 10 or Mac OS X, Chromebooks run Google Chrome OS. Chromebooks are often criticized as “glorified web browsing machines” or disparaged for their lack of functionality. It is true that their functionality is limited, but I think the negative comments are unfair.
A Chromebook is designed to be used while connected to the internet, with most applications and documents living in the cloud. You can’t really “install” any applications. If you want to download iTunes, you’re out of luck. But you can listen to your music collection by moving it to the cloud in Google Play Music, a free alternative service. If you want to install Microsoft Office, you’re also out of luck. But you can use Microsoft Office Online, Microsoft’s new (and free!) cloud version of its popular office software. You can also use Google Docs and Slides.
And that is the theme of the Chromebook: if you think you can’t do something, you’re not thinking outside of the box, or outside of the OS! (That was a joke. You don’t have to laugh.)
Think of the last time you used your computer. I bet you were doing something online, and if not, I bet you could have been doing it online through a free cloud-based alternative. The software you use on your computer is more and more likely to be available in cloud-form as the days go by. Even Adobe Photoshop now has free cloud-based alternatives like Pixlr Editor.
On average, Chromebooks cost less than $200, and they have a boot time that’s well under 5 seconds. The Google Chrome operating system (OS) takes up about 4GB of space, compared to 11GB for Windows 10 and 15GB for OS X. This small footprint allows Chromebooks to affordably utilize lightning fast solid state drives (SSDs). They also have a long battery life.
So is a Chromebook right for you?
If you spend the majority of your computer time on the web, whether it’s surfing social media, reading the news, or using web-based services like Gmail and Google Docs, then Chrome OS would meet your needs just fine.
Take a moment and think about the programs locally installed on your computer, like word processors, email apps, image and video editing software. If these can be replaced with web-based alternatives, a Chromebook can work for you.
In fact, there’s a good chance a Chromebook will actually make things easier than what you’re used to with a traditional PC setup. Virus protection is built-in, and you never need to update your apps or your operating system. You never need to download drivers or “optimize” your PC to make it faster. You turn on your Chromebook, and 5 seconds later, you’re on the web.
To learn more, visit Google’s Chromebook site: http://www.google.com/chromebook
Technology Help – Need device advice? Schedule a one-on-one lesson in the basics of computers, laptops, tablets, and eReaders. Call the library at 203-272-2245 to make an appointment or come to our monthly Drop-in Tech Help program.