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Are Chromebooks Good? Pros and Cons

Jonathan is a certified teacher who has taught in the UK and in the US. He now works as a digital learning consultant.

Chromebooks have advantages and disadvantages.

Chromebooks have advantages and disadvantages.

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, then you will probably really enjoy a Chromebook. However, they are not necessarily a good fit for everyone, so here's what you need to know.

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 macOS, but actually sits on top of a Linux platform.

Chromebooks look like traditional laptops, which is kind of the point because 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.

Key Advantages of a Chromebook

So, are Chromebooks good enough for what you want to do with your laptop? Here are some key features that drive people to a Chromebook instead of a Windows or Mac computer.

1. Price

The majority of Chromebooks cost significantly less than your average laptop. Chromebooks can be still be bought for as little as $200, with mid-range models in the $300–400 range. That makes them a desirable proposition for budget-conscious shoppers. 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 once was.

2. Speed

Chromebooks can power up and be ready to use in around eight seconds. They can do this because of their SSD hard drives and the lightweight Chrome OS platform.

3. Battery

Expect to get six hours (or more) from the battery on an average Chromebook. Some models claim as much as 13 hours. This is often more than you might get on 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 continually updated to the latest version, so you rarely 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 and vice versa.

7. Cloud Storage

You get 100GB of Google Drive storage free for two years with all new Chromebooks. This is a considerable amount of space. Comparable services from Dropbox, OneDrive, or Box will cost you an additional subscription. With a Chromebook, you get a decent amount of cloud storage for free.

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.

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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 has recently announced that some touchscreen Chromebooks can run Android apps on your Chromebook. Every Chromebook made in 2017 or later will have this ability.

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.

Disadvantages of a Chromebook

So, it all sounds good so far, right? Well, it does, but technology pros will always tell you that there is no such thing as a perfect device. What follows are some of the reasons people think twice before purchasing Chromebooks.

1. Office

If you love Microsoft Office products, a Chromebook is probably not for you. Instead, Google encourages you to use its 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, or Office Online, these services lack the full functionality of their desktop equivalents.

2. Storage

Chromebooks typically only have 32GB of local storage. Limiting storage helps keep the price down because component costs are cheaper. However, 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 Chromebooks.

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 because there are no offline editors like iMovie, Premiere Elements, or Windows Movie Maker.

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.

Things like Pixlr, or the online Photoshop Express Editor, are perfect for casual family photo editing, but they lack the fuller feature set of Adobe's premiere editing products. Adobe is in the process of bringing Photoshop to the web, but it doesn't have all the features from the desktop app and is only available to Creative Cloud subscribers.

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. Also, it can take a little bit of setup to make it work, but this is not a priority for Google. Instead, they would prefer you to keep digital versions of your files in the cloud.

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 an increasingly wide variety of accessories, but Windows machines still win in the battle for compatibility.

How to Use a Chromebook

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 massive increase in people connected to the Internet, and data speeds are faster than ever before. This has led to many software developers creating lightweight mobile apps or moving their products entirely 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 in an online alternative. For example, social networks, banking, email, calendars, maps, music, shopping, and even Microsoft Office, are all available online, and they all work perfectly well on a Chromebook.

On top of that, an increasing number of Chrome web apps and extensions also 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. There is more to that than you might think.

are-chromebooks-good-enough-to-replace-my-pc

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, and there is no shame in that. Of course, we all need different devices for different things, but if you haven't looked at a Chromebook before, now might be a good time to take a look.

Chromebook Poll

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: I am a writer with many Word files from Microsoft Office. Will they be compatible with Chrome OS and can they be stored in the cloud If I use a Chromebook?

Answer: Yes. You can store Word and other Office files in Google Drive. You can also edit these files with Google’s online tools and save all the changes back to the original Word or Office file. Learn how here: https://gsuiteupdates.googleblog.com/2019/04/offic...

Question: Can I print from a Chromebook?

Answer: Yes! You absolutely can. Here is how: https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/72252...

Question: Do Chromebooks have USB ports?

Answer: Yes, you will find models with USB-A and/or USB-C ports so that you can use them with accessories or for charging.

© 2014 Jonathan Wylie

Comments

None of you business on June 18, 2020:

it was great!

Chinmay Patil from India on May 22, 2020:

Hey Jonathan

Really very happy to say, your post is very interesting to read. I never stop myself to say something about it. You’re doing a great job. Keep it up. Enjoyed reading the article above, really explains everything in detail,

the article is very interesting and effective. Thank you and good luck for the upcoming articles

Read my blogs also:

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on March 22, 2020:

Depends on the kind of gaming you do Bob, but they do have some limitations here.

Bob Mcklare on March 22, 2020:

I CANT USE GAMING!!

dadad on December 10, 2019:

chromebooks are good

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on April 04, 2019:

MY DRIVE is your Google Drive cloud storage space. You get 15GB for free and can upgrade from there depending on how much you need and how much you want to pay.

Go to www.google.com/settings/storage and select a storage plan when you need it.

ashbeauty on April 04, 2019:

I am just a new user of chromebook ...well I like it...I would like to ask only if what is my option if my MY DRIVE which has a capacity of 15GB will run out of space.Thanks

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on January 25, 2019:

They are not for everyone Harry. Sounds like you are more of a Windows person, and that is fine. Lots of great options out there for those that need them.

Harry on January 24, 2019:

CHROMEBOOKS ABSOLUTELY SUCK!!!! IT TAKES FOREVER TO LOAD AND HAS NO START MENU! ITS A RIPOFF! DON'T BUY!!!!!!!

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on January 06, 2019:

...and that's ok. I love that we have choices for the device that best fits an individual's needs and budget. They are not a good fit for me either, but I have devices that are, so find what works for you and stick with it until you find something better :)

Sarah on January 06, 2019:

i have a chromebook and i don't really think that it is the best fit for me.

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on November 18, 2018:

Cloud storage is always an option if you are short on space. You can upload your images to Google Photos, Dropbox, Drive or any number of services and store them there.

However, many would say that it is good to have more than one back up of your photos, so maybe consider an external hard drive too, or a secondary cloud service, just in case the worst happens.

Ronda McCormick on November 17, 2018:

I’m looking for a laptop that is inexpensive that I could place my pictures on from my Canon camera. Could you store them on a cloud with chromebook?

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on November 03, 2018:

Yes. YouTube works just fine on a Chromebook, but YouTube is owned by Google, so it should work well! :)

Adele L Hayes on November 03, 2018:

I'm looking forward to getting my new Chromebook, After reading about them I do believe that it will be a perfect fit for me I do not like Microsoft @ all !!! Only a few more days & it will be here.

Does YouTube work well on a Chromebook?

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on October 17, 2018:

Thanks Liil!

Liil pump on October 17, 2018:

Good job

Sophia on September 14, 2018:

this is a good text

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on August 18, 2018:

Glad it is working again. A power wash is a great fix for most problems on Chromebooks

Lindsey on August 18, 2018:

I really enjoy the chromebook. But, I ran into an issue with the sound So, I signed in as a guest and the sound worked. I ended up doing a power wash and now it works fine.

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on August 02, 2018:

Great questions. Word and Excel can run on Cloudbooks, so you should have no worries there. Not all Cloudbooks are created equal, so some may be a little zippier than others, but if they run Windows 10, they will run Office apps.

As for the Internet connection, is it the Wi-Fi that is bad or the Internet in general? Just wondering if you got a laptop with an ethernet connection that you could hardwire into for a better connection. Otherwise, it just depends on what you want to do. Obviously you can't do online research, but there are some offline capabilities for Google Docs, see: https://support.google.com/docs/answer/6388102?co=...

decodeco on July 27, 2018:

Hi , I am looking for a bit of laptop vs chromebook or cloudbook !

I am researching to buy for work. I manage a cafe business and the only tasks I need to do are basic,creating documents (google docs have all I need) some menu researching allergens etc which is basically just internet surfing i suppose. So creating/editing docs, email and surfing as well as some basic record keeping. When I read all about it I think, yep ticks the boxes

BUT !

Where I am getting conflicting information is regarding WORD & EXCEL, if I get sent any of these,which I do occasionally, will Cloudbook work with it.

And lastly. Internet connection at work can be soul destroying sometimes. Does this mean the laptop will be rendered useless?

Thanks for any info you can offer. Greatly appreciated

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on July 11, 2018:

A fair and well stated point. I would venture that Chromebooks are not used by main pro media people for just that purpose, but on the other hand, I don't think that was necessarily the market Google was aiming for with these devices.

Dillon on July 11, 2018:

The downfall I have with a chromebook is like you said a lot of apps are internet based and as a musician I use DAW(digital audio workstation) softwares, and don’t get me wrong google has some pretty good internet based DAW’s but all the high end DAWs like protools(strictly runs on Apple) and mixcraft(what I used to use on my hp laptop before it broke) and a lot of others like fl studios, cubase and the majority of the DAW’s require Windows or ISO so won’t work with a chromebook and music production is why I purchased one. As well as video editing softwares which some of the DAWs like mixcraft come built in so my main purpose was recording, mixing and mastering music and recording cover video(that’s why the video editing software is nessicsery. Chromebook has a few like 2 Main DAWs that are internet based but chrome wouldn’t support Tracktion a free and good internet based DAW you download. So they should make that able to run on Chrome Os as well as some other DAWs that it can support

h on June 17, 2018:

i primarily use computers for gaming, but these don't support any games on steam or any other platform

basically useless for me

G on April 27, 2018:

I use Chromebooks for everyday office work. They are fast and secure, and I think more about the work than trying to get my computer to work. Overall, they are a great replacement for light-duty Windows PCs.

Eric Farmer from Rockford Illinois on February 27, 2018:

"...the Neverware version is actually based on Google’s open source version called Chromium OS"

Yes, I did forget to mention that. That is just like how Google Chrome is based on Chromium as well. CloudReady does just about most things the official Chrome OS does and I liked it a lot when I used it.

Jonathan Wylie (author) from Iowa, USA on February 27, 2018:

I think that's a pretty fair assessment Eric. The premium Chromebooks have always been a curiosity for me too. I know some schools are using CloudReady to turn some older machines into Chrome machines with CloudReady. Although very similar to Chrome OS, the Neverware version is actually based on Google’s open source version called Chromium OS, but like you said, it can provide a very usable option for some people.