I bought a chromebook earlier this year. This exact model, for $300, to be precise. I was curious about two things:
- Would I miss desktop software?
- Would a seemingly underpowered computer frustrate me?
The answers are no, and no.
As usual in life, your mileage may vary. But I found it really easy to transition to browser computing. Most of the things I do on the computer have browser-based alternatives. And I find that living in the cloud gives me an incredible lightness of being. I never install or update software. I don’t get malware. If my chromebook falls in a well, I can just buy another one (they’re cheap, and easy to find), and be right back in business. Heck, I could borrow a browser and be right back in business.
Predictably, I use Google Docs in place of office tools, though I am not a heavy user. Microsoft has ported real Office to the web now, so you could always pay for that if you don’t love Google’s 80% solution.
I’ve ripped my last cd, I think. I subscribed to Google’s music service a couple of years ago. There is so much to listen to, I think I can just live without whatever is missing.
Actually, that’s pretty much the dividing line. Some people are complete-ists. They want every single thing, just in case. They may never use pivot tables, but if your spreadsheet doesn’t support it, they’ll reject it. Those people won’t buy chromebooks. I shed no tears for them.
You can make music, edit video, draw pictures, and even program from inside a browser. You’ll sacrifice some features (for now), but you won’t be blocked from accomplishing your mission.
A few delightful things that I didn’t expect to be a big deal, but they are:
Instant on. Open the lid, and chromebook is up and moving. It’s shocking how useful that is.
Really long battery life. Mac people already know about this superpower, but I’m a Windows refugee. Going hours and hours without plugging in is also really useful.
No malware. Mac people used to know what this is like, until they didn’t. But it was just an accident on the Mac. ChromeOS is military-grade secure by design. I can visit any website, open any attachment, plug in usb sticks of unknown provenance. ChromeOS has my back.
ChromeOS keyboard. At first, I thought it was funky. But the more I used my chromebook, the more I grew to appreciate the thoughtfulness of the special keys. I wish my Windows computers had this keyboard.
What about offline use? Well…
I spend the lion’s share of my time at home, my office, Starbucks, and McDonalds. Lack of internet is not a problem that I actually have. If I were still riding trains on my commute, I might feel differently.
There are, in fact, many things you can do offline with your chromebook. The same things, mostly, that you can do offline on regular computers. But you need to plan ahead. When you own a chromebook, you get used to just streaming everything off the cloud. To do offline stuff, you have to remember to save files to local storage. Then you can access them offline. You can read Kindle books, watch movies, play music, look at pictures, and work on office docs.
A few notes on the hardware:
There probably are no bad chromebooks, but I think you’ll be happiest with an Intel Haswell processor. Benchmarks show the Haswell outperforming the other chromebook chips, and anecdotal reports on the internet say the other chips sometimes lag. There is no price premium ($200 for the Acer C720), so prefer the Haswell.
I, personally, love the 11″ screen form factor. It’s the right size for couch-surfing, and makes an unobtrusive companion around town. But there are 13″ and 14″ inch screens too.
Surprisingly, 2GB of ram is fine. I guess 4GB would be even better, but I really haven’t felt any pain.
My chromebook has a touch screen. I don’t use it a ton, but I’m glad it’s there.
Some chromebooks come with 16GB of storage. Others, like mine, come with 32GB. It never hurts to have more, but I wouldn’t notice if someone stole half my storage. Everything is stored on Google Drive.