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Are Chromebooks Good? Pros and Cons

Updated on August 12, 2016
Jonathan Wylie profile image

Jonathan is a certified teacher who taught in the UK & the US. He now works as an instructional technology consultant for Grant Wood AEA.

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Who Are Chromebooks Meant For?

Are you looking to replace a sluggish PC laptop, or an older Macbook that you just don't have the money to buy all over again? If so, a Chromebook may be just what you need. If you use your computer primarily for email, Facebook, and general Internet surfing, you will get on just fine with a Chromebook. After all, that is exactly what Chromebooks were designed for. However, they are not necessarily a good fit for everyone.

What is a Chromebook?

Chromebooks are lightweight laptops designed for people who spend most of their time online. They run an operating system called Chrome OS, which is similar to Windows or Mac OS X, but actually sits on top of a Linux platform.

Chromebooks look like traditional laptops, which is kind of the point; they aim to replace traditional laptops. They are fast and secure, and support multiple users. Many Chromebooks have an 11.6-inch screen, but 13, 14 and even 15.6-inch versions are also available. Today you can buy Chromebooks from well-known computer manufacturers like Dell, HP, Acer, Samsung, Lenovo and more.

Samsung Chromebook 2
Samsung Chromebook 2 | Source

Key Advantages of a Chromebook

So, are Chromebooks good enough for what you do with your laptop? Here are some of the features that draw people to a Chromebook as opposed to a Windows or Mac computer.

  1. Price: The majority of Chromebooks cost significantly less than your average laptop. Chromebooks can be had for as little as $200 with mid-range models in the $300-400 range. That makes them a very attractive proposition for some. However, there are a growing number of Windows laptops in the very same price range, so the price advantage is not nearly as great as it was.
  2. Speed: Chromebooks can power on and be ready to use in around eight seconds. They can do this because of their SSD hard drives and the lightweight Chrome OS.
  3. Battery: Expect to get six hours or more from the battery on an average Chromebook. Some even claim as much as 13 hours. This is often more than you might get on a standard Windows laptops, although many newer Windows devices are catching up.
  4. Security: The Chrome OS has built-in virus and malware protection that is always updated to the latest version, so you never need to worry about malicious files when using a Chromebook.
  5. Parental Controls: Chromebook users can create supervised accounts to track or limit online activity for kids online. This makes the Chromebook a great family-friendly laptop.
  6. Sync: Chromebooks sync all your apps and passwords with Chrome browsers on other computers. So, if you use the Chrome browser at work, or on another home computer, your bookmarks and other preferences will automatically sync to your Chromebook.
  7. Cloud Storage: You get 100GB of Google Drive storage free for two years with all new Chromebooks. This is a huge amount of space. Comparable service from Dropbox, OneDrive or Box would cost significant money.
  8. Updates: Chromebooks update themselves silently, automatically, and in the background. So, your device is always up to date and works just the way you need it to.
  9. Weight: This varies, but most Chromebooks are lightweight devices that are portable and easy to carry with you when you need them.
  10. Android Apps: Google have announced that you will soon be able to run Android apps on your Chromebook. This merging of Chrome OS and Android enhances the functionality of a Chromebook. It means you can use Android apps by Adobe, Microsoft and others to play games, create and edit files, or play music and movies.

How to Use a Chromebook

Disadvantages of a Chromebook

So, it all sounds good so far right? Well, it is, but there is no such thing as a perfect device. What follows are some of the reasons people are less than satisfied with Chromebooks.

  1. Office: If you are married to Microsoft Office products, a Chromebook is not for you. Google encourages you to use its own free online suite of Office-like services. Many of these services are comparable to components of Microsoft Office, but they do lack features that you may have come to rely on. Although you can use the Android version of Office apps, they lack some of the full functionality in their desktop equivalents.
  2. Storage: Chromebooks typically only have 32GB of on-board storage. Limiting storage helps keep the price down because component costs are cheaper. Google wants you to store your data in the cloud, and that is why it often includes 100GB of online storage for free with new Chrombooks.
  3. No Optical Drive: A CD/DVD drive is quickly becoming a thing of the past with new laptops, but if you really need one, and use it regularly, you should know that you won't find one on a Chromebook.
  4. Video Editing: There are definitely some good online video editors you can use on the Chromebook. WeVideo, for instance, quickly comes to mind. However, if you need more control over your media, or deal with a lot of HD footage, the Chromebook might not have the horsepower you need.
  5. No Photoshop: Similarly, if you are a heavy user of Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or other Adobe desktop software solutions, you will need to look for an equivalent online application. Pixlr, or the online Photoshop Express Editor, are perfectly good for casual family photo editing, but they lack the fuller feature set of Adobe's premiere editing products. Adobe are working on an online version of Photoshop, but there is no timeline for when it might actually be available to consumers.
  6. Printing: You can print on a Chromebook without too much difficulty, but depending on the printer you have, it might not be as easy as it used to be, because you are required to use Google Cloud Print.
  7. Compatibility: There is no doubt about it. Windows is the most widely used desktop operating system in existence today. As such, you will find no shortage of apps and accessories to use with a Windows PC. A Chromebook can be more limited in this regard. It has a growing library of software applications, and can be used with a wide variety of accessories, but Windows machines still win in the battle for compatibility.

New Windows Cloudbook PCs Are Fast, Lightweight & Priced Competitively to Compete With Chromebooks

Cloud Computing Is the Future

Still not convinced that Chromebooks are good enough for what you want them to do? Well, consider this. Computing as we know it is changing. The days of buying software on CD or DVD are fading fast. Many laptops don't even come with a CD/DVD drive anymore. Why? The Internet.

There has been a huge increase in the number of people connected to the Internet, and data speeds are faster than ever before. This has led to an increasing number of software developers creating lightweight mobile apps, or moving their products completely online. It also means you no longer need a high-powered device to access these services. This is something that even Microsoft is learning, and new Windows laptops are often optimized to take advantage of the power of the cloud.

So, take a minute and think about what you use your computer for. The chances are high that most of what you do is now done online, or can be done by a very good online alternative. Social networks, banking, email, calendars, maps, music, shopping and even Microsoft Office are all available online, and (in their online forms) they all work perfectly well on a Chromebook.

On top of that, an increasing number of Chrome web apps and extensions actually work offline, and will sync all your data back to the cloud when you get connected again. The same is true for the new Android apps. So, don't fall for the myth that Chromebooks are useless without an internet connection.

The 13-inch Toshiba Chromebook
The 13-inch Toshiba Chromebook | Source

Summary

Are Chromebooks good enough to replace your Windows PC? It all depends on what you use a computer for. If you spend most of your time online and are comfortable spending the majority of your time in a web browser, then a Chromebook will be just fine for what you want to do. If not, you may be better off with a more traditional PC.

Chromebook Poll

Do You Think A Chromebook Could Replace Your PC?

See results

© 2014 Jonathan Wylie

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    • profile image

      marko 2 months ago

      I like your pro experience . You are great . I am planning to buy a SAMSUNG chrome book 3 . I need it for watching " you tube movies " , surfing ( looking up things ) and e mailing . I am somehow concerned about the pixels / is the picture sharp ? Will it work on WI FI ? I would appreciate your advice about buying a SAMSUNG 3 . My email pellee22@hotmail.com

    • profile image

      Emily 2 months ago

      A chrome book could never replace my surface book.

    • profile image

      Franco 3 months ago

      Damn, I was sold until u read that it's incompatible with photoshop :/ that's where I do all my digital art... but I hate PC and to buy another mac is too expensive.

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 3 months ago from Iowa, USA

      In short, yes. Most modern Chromebooks come with HDMI ports, and these can be used to connect to modern projectors or HDTVs. Some projectors only have VGA but yuo can can easily find VGA to HDMI adapters that will work with these projectors.

    • profile image

      bwanner 3 months ago

      Can the chrome book be used to present slideshows used on apple laptos? Is it compatible with traditional slideshow projectors / USB port connections?

    • profile image

      chrome 4 months ago

      I own a chromebook (I am writing this from my chromebook)

      and believe me it is the fastest os i have ever used.

      it boots up within seconds unlike windows and turns off in seconds.

      I use it for all my internet stuff and I just love it.

      buy one if you want to carry chrome browser around with you.

    • profile image

      kjlsd 4 months ago

      they are not good trust me

    • profile image

      jknj 11 months ago

      I have no idea what an optivam drive or whatever is - I got a chrome book a month ago for 300$ and it's awesome sometimes I am online all day and its great the batttery does last long without the charger it's great for email fb and watching movies - for sure a good buy well spent 300$

    • profile image

      johnmoses 11 months ago

      You are correct it doesn't have an optical drive. However, a USB drive or external hard drive is read/writable with Chromebook and an external optical drive will NOT work.

    • Bob Schroeder profile image

      Bob Schroeder 14 months ago

      Very interesting, thanks for the info

    • profile image

      Alan 16 months ago

      I have a 4GB Dell Chromebook 11, it does everything I want a laptop to do. I will never own another Windows laptop...ever.

      My Chromebook looks better, is much easier to use and the performance is much quicker.

      I should of switched a long time ago...

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 17 months ago from Iowa, USA

      Gucci, you would be able to use Word and PowerPoint if you used the free online versions at Office.com. However, you cannot use the desktop versions like Office 2013 or Office 365 because they don't work on the Chromebook operating system.

      So, if the online versions of Office work for you, a Chromebook will be fine, otherwise, I would look at one of the new low cost Windows laptops like the HP Stream or something like that. Some are listed above in this article.

    • profile image

      Gucci 17 months ago

      Hi jonathan. Would i be able to type and submits my sch assignments,courseworks and project on a chrome book. That is, would i b able to use Microsoft offices like word and power point?

      Thanks

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 23 months ago from Iowa, USA

      Hi Imran,

      There are Microsoft Office apps in the Google Play Store for Android, but yes, you are right, they are a different ecosystem, so will not run on a Chromebook. If you are interested in an Office experience on a Chromebook, you should check out Office Online. There are apps for Office Online in the Chrome Web Store, and these work with Chromebooks. Or, you can go to Office.com and login with a Microsoft account.

      Can you transfer app from the Play Store to the Chrome Web Store? No. They may be under the same Google Account, but most Android apps will not run on Chrome OS. Google is working to change that, because a small number of Android apps will run on Chromebooks, but it is only a select number of apps right now. More info here: http://is.gd/yCRjGj

    • profile image

      Imran 23 months ago

      I notice that there are Microsoft Office "apps" available in the Android eco-system, but presume that Chromebooks run in an entirely different system? Also, can you transfer purchases made from the Android app store to the Chrome app store?

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 24 months ago from Iowa, USA

      Hi Katie,

      I agree. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 looks like a great choice. iTunes will not work on your Chromebook, however, you should take a look at Google Play Music to see what it could offer you. They even have a tool to upload all your existing iTunes music to the cloud. See: https://youtu.be/qbNsxMkrF8A.

      The Google Play Music app for the iPhone would let you access all your music stored or bought from the Google Play Music Store. See: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-play-music/...

      As for your other requirements, a Chromebook could be fine for that. It will handle social media sites just fine. I don't know what apps you are wanting to use for your college work, but if Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets are the kinds of things you are looking for, they will also work just fine on a Chromebook.

      For photos, most Chromebooks have an SD card reader or a USB slot that you can use to transfer photos. However, onboard storage is often not very much so you would be better storing pictures online, instead of on the device. The new Google Photos offers unlimited, secure storage for your photos. See: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2015/05/picture-thi...

      I hope this helps.

    • profile image

      Katie R 24 months ago

      Firstly, thank you for such an informative article Jonathan!

      I'm a student wanting a light, preferably good looking chromebook at a decent price (being a poor student and all). So far I'm really thinking about the Toshiba Chromebook 2 as I've read good reviews.

      I'm sorry if i've missed this somewhere in your article, but can I get music on to my iphone from a Chromebook? I have an iphone 5C and have always used iTunes.

      I only really use a laptop to use social networking sites, download and store my photos, and do college work. Could I do all of those things easily on the Chromebook?

      Thank you in advance!

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 24 months ago from Iowa, USA

      Couldn't agree more Charlie!

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      Charlie Gerancher 24 months ago

      Like any device, your choice should depend upon your needs. I have been using a Samsung Chromebook in addition to my PC at work and my Mac at home. I work in a GAFE district, so the tool fits the job well. The only issue that sometimes causes me frustration is the screen size. I like big screens, better yet dual monitor setup! But, for what it is and can do given the work location(i.e. Panera, Dunkin Donuts) it does the job.

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Glad it works for you Alan. The Dell Chromebook is definitely one of the better Chromebooks...in my opinion :)

    • profile image

      Alan 2 years ago

      My Dell chromebook 11 has already replaced my Windows PC for good, I just lost faith in Microsoft and their ability to make a decent stable OS. Chromebooks rock!

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Great question. No, Chromebooks do not support Java. Flash works fine, but Java does not.

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      Dakota 2 years ago

      May sound silly, but does it support java? For in browser games? That's a must for me.

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      You can do both! :)

    • profile image

      jozzy 2 years ago

      *move. Sorry.

    • profile image

      jozzy 2 years ago

      Can you download something from the web and it'll go directly to google drive? Or do downloads go to the on board storage & I'll have to more them to drive?

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      You are most welcome Vihaan!

    • profile image

      Vihaan Bhatnagar 2 years ago

      Thank you so much. Your review is really very useful.

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      A Chromebook? Each could be a little different, but the power button is usually in the top right-hand corner of the keyboard.

    • profile image

      Cheech 2 years ago

      how do you turn it on?

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Oh, if you tinkered with the internals you could probably upgrade the SSD, but I doubt it would be worth the hassle. Most have an SD card slot that you could use, but the main use of these types of devices is cloud apps from Google or the Chrome Web Store.

    • TTGReviews profile image

      TTGReviews 2 years ago

      Is there a way to increase the amount of on-board storage? Or is there a way to install and run applications from off the cloud?

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      It's certainly the future that Google, Microsoft and Apple are investing in right now, but things have a funny habit of changing quickly in the technology world, so I wouldn't be surprised to see something else as the soupe du jour...you know...some time in the future ;)

    • profile image

      pcguy 2 years ago

      Near the end you quoted that cloud computing is the future not so sure pal we don't know who has virtual access to our data all it takes is one black hat hacker and google drive servers are down and boom someones bank account is clean.not to be too harsh but it is partially the future but don't forget about intel and amd the possibility of chemical or even biological computer systems in the future

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Yes Elaine, you can use Google, Bing Yahoo! or any other search engine that you want to use. Google is the default search engine on a Chromebook.

    • profile image

      ELAINE 2 years ago

      This will sound dumb, but I`m a novice. Can I GOOGLE information on a ChromeBook...

    • profile image

      Claude 2 years ago

      Hi Jonathan

      I'm already downloading documents from bank and suppliers already in a pdf format. I have read on several blogs that for Google, we are not the customers but the product. At this point, all those docs are stored on my hard drive. A flash drive is a good idea to store archives. A 32 GB hard drive is more than enough to store what I have (not exceeding 150 mg) Thanks for your response.

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      I guess it depends on your definition of anyone :) Where do you store these statements now? A Chromebook will let you print to PDF, giving you a digital version of a document you can save, store and organize in Google Drive. Would that work? Otherwise, there is around 32GB of hard drive space on most Chromebooks and you should be able to attach a USB drive or external flash drive if you need more space or portability.

      As for the digitizing process, that would probably be best performed on another device. There are not any scanners that I know of that work with Chromebooks. In a pinch you could use the webcam, but that may not be very good for that purpose.

    • profile image

      Claude 2 years ago

      Thank you for this very informative article. A few years ago I went paperless which means that I'm digitalizing bank statements, invoices and a host of papers I don't wish to share with anyone. How can that be possible with a Chromebook? 90% of my time is spent online. I am in the Apple ecosystem.

    • profile image

      joseph cherian pulikkottil 2 years ago

      1. From the article it appears that chromebooks are more stable. i would like to know about the availability of hardware spare parts and service centres. if i buy a toshiba chromebook and get some hardware problem after sometime whether the chromebook has to be totally discarded or it can be set right.

      2. jonathan has given the details nicely and congrats to him.

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Bree, right now there is no official Photoshop for Chromebooks, however, Google have announced that they are working with Adobe on a streaming version for Chrome OS. It is currently in early testing with a few select education partners, but if all goes well, you may see it some time in the not too distant future.

      More details here: http://chrome.blogspot.com/2014/09/adobe-joins-chr...

    • profile image

      Bree 2 years ago

      I can deal with not being able to use Office, but I need my photoshop :( I was going to buy one until I saw the "no photoshop" downside.

    • etaCarinae profile image

      Sara Johnson 2 years ago from United States

      I disagree with Hezekiah - I use my Chromebook almost exclusively for business - it's so fast and convenient; and, with 100 GB of cloud storage, I never have to worry about losing my work. HP Chromebook all the way!

      http://pinstor.us/2014/09/15/best-chromebook-home-...

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 2 years ago from Japan

      Nice articles. The Chromebook looks more like something for social network users rather than a serious Pc for work.

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Michael, just wanted to clarify your comment. If you buy the Office 365 suite that you linked to above, you CANNOT install it on a Chromebook. It is ONLY available for Mac or PC. The desktop software will NOT run on a Chromebook.

      However, as you correctly stated, Office Online is available for free on the web for everyone with a free Microsoft account when you visit http://office.com. No subscription is needed. The web apps are more limited versions of the desktop suite, but often more than adequate for a lot of tasks.

    • profile image

      Michael Sall 2 years ago

      For those of you who are wary of getting a Chromebook due to its “lack” of Office, please do not listen to the naysayers. As is known, a Chromebook is a cloud laptop. Google Drive is integrated with the system. People who say that Chromebooks can’t use Office are mistaken.

      Microsoft has the Office 365 suite available that can be used easily from a Chromebook. Office 365 requires a subscription ( http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/html/pbp... )to the service with a cost of $70 or $100 depending on your requirements. If you do not need the full functionality of the full suite there are free versions available in the Chrome Store to use online (Word Online, OneNote Online, PowerPoint Online, Excel Online). You will need to have a valid Windows Live Account to use them.

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Indeed you can. The Chromebook supports Adobe Flash Player for online games like these :)

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      Noor_Cutie_55 2 years ago

      Can you play games like poptropica,animal jam or club penguin??

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      You might be able to do that one day, but right now, they are coded differently, so they won't run on Chrome OS, at least not natively.

      However, the ability to use some Android apps on a Chromebook is coming soon. See: http://www.engadget.com/2014/06/25/google-to-bring...

    • profile image

      Rachel 2 years ago

      I like it but i wish it was able to us download whatever we want i wanted to download a game but its like an android its not compatible with its device i hate that .. able to download games beside from Google store

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Thanks lieberbliss! The "best" one is probably always going to be subjective. The one that I like a lot right now is the Dell Chromebook. It is a little more expensive than some, but it is very well made.

    • profile image

      Liberbliss 2 years ago

      Good article! As on today which Chromebook make is the best?

    • Jonathan Wylie profile image
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      Jonathan Wylie 2 years ago from Iowa, USA

      Akira, you can use Google Drive and its free online suite of productivity tools like a word processor, spreadsheet or presentation tool. A recent update to that even allows you to edit Microsoft Office documents inside Drive too.

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      Akira 2 years ago

      I need my office and editing programs. When chromebooks get them then I'll be interested for sure.

    • luvtoowrite profile image

      Luvtoo Write 3 years ago from Chicago, IL

      You are right, Chromebooks are not useful for someone with a heavy workload, especially in photo editing. It would be useful for someone needing a first time laptop, as long as they just used it for online surfing and no major downloads.

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