Chromebooks: The Device For The Rest of Us

What inspired this piece of writing was my first-hand experience with a premium Chromebook, the Chromebook Pixel. As a staunch Windows user, I am blown away by the experience offered by the simplicity and ‘lightness’ of Chrome OS (alongside the incredible hardware and build of the Google-made Chromebook Pixel). I had never been able to justify the purpose of buying a separate low powered laptop that is effectively a Chrome-one-trick machine, now I have realized that one trick is one trick good enough for 90% of my (and a lot of others’ workflow) with much lower power consumption on the move.

Undemanding on Hardware

It is easy to make the argument that Windows devices can easily do what Chromebooks do and much more, but what if less is really more?

Chrome OS is incredibly lightweight and runs on low specs. It is already very usable on ‘joke specs’ like 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage, and can load and perform common tasks (mostly on the cloud) comfortably while still maintaining incredible battery lives. Slightly more powerful ones (4 to 8 GB of RAM, and 32 GB storage options) runs buttery smooth over extensive periods of time while keeping 20+ tabs open. The fact that you can power through most of your tasks on these specifications is enough reason to consider a Chromebook over ultraportables if you don’t need raw brute power (gaming, professional editing, modelling) or sophisticated features (academic formatting, specific executable software) on the go. With these assumptions in mind, for the some money spent on a satisfactory laptop, you can get an well-built Chromebook that will make you look forward to every moment spent on it.

Low Power Consumption

Also, compared to an average laptop, the Chromebook is bound to have good battery life. Powerful laptops tend to cheap out on battery life and often require extra user intervention on the power profiles. Again, the low power consumption of Chrome OS simply averts this problem and consistently allows every Chromebook to offer AT LEAST 5 hours of active use unplugged, which is a feat only managed by either bulky, battery life centric cheap laptops, or premium ultrabooks at double or triple the price.

Minimalist

If you want a usable, reliable budget laptop that is great to use, chances are a Chromebook is good enough. Most of the average laptop user’s workflow involves using Chrome for most of their tasks, whether it is writing emails, documents, browsing the web, and playing simple media. If your workflow does not tap into the full features of Windows and Mac, there is almost no reason to NOT use a Chromebook as a daily driver. Cloud Services and Android apps are plenty powerful enough for most of these tasks and more. In fact, there are many web apps that can perform powerful tasks like checking for writing errors, edit photos and videos, and shop online. On the media consumption side, there is the full YouTube experience alongside Spotify and Netflix. Conventional laptops are overkill and a waste of money and power, especially when considering we have access to so much powerful web applications. On a Chromebook, you are also less likely to accumulate files that you don’t need. In a world of too much, good Chromebooks are really a godsend.

Extremely Intuitive

There is no need to ‘setup’, tweak, or mess around with Chrome OS to make it usable. Simply log in to any Chromebook, and all of your applications, preferences, and settings are instantly downloaded with an internet connection. While Windows devices have improved over the years in terms of usability and chances are most users are already rather familar with the interface, it is still very complex to fully make use of them, so why not consider paying less for an experience that is lightweight and user-friendly? Chrome OS fits that bill exactly with its basic interface of wallpaper, app shelf, settings on the bottom right, and a full app drawer with a powerful search bar. This interface benefits even more from a touch screen. Aside from learning certain key combinations and trackpad gestures, there has never been a single moment that a Chromebook leaves me frustrated. Perfect piece of technology to introduce to less tech savvy people, and still amazing to use for veterans who are looking for something comfortable and simple.

Android and Offline Features

One valid criticism of Chromebooks are that they effectively become bricks when they are disconnected from the Internet, but this is becoming less and less of a problem. Internet is now more accessible than ever, with Wi-fi spots easily available at almost every cafe and restaurant, library, and office, alongside the option of using our own mobile data plans. Also, more and more Chrome and Android apps are usable offline on Chromebooks, such as document writing apps, offline games, and media players. You can still get some writing down or kill some time in Cut The Rope on the public transport.

The Case For Premium Chromebooks

Chromebooks have historically been built cheap, with laughable hardware and frustrating trackpads, with the software being its only redeeming feature. But better premium Chromebooks are going to be more and more accesible for the average user. In fact, the low hardware demands means that it is comparatively easier to make thin and light Chromebooks that still does what it does with incredible performance, user experience, and battery life (as Chromebooks worry much less about thermals, processors, and graphics, bypassing performance issues of having thinner chassis). Pair these up with a solid keyboard, good trackpad, nice touch screen, and even all aluminium build, and suddenly you get one of the best portable experience at a staggeringly lower price than a Macbook or a premium ultraportable.

Consider Getting A Chromebook

If you already have a functional computer (especially a PC) to do that last 10% of your professional work either through raw power or sophisticatry or hoard all of your beloved files locally, you have every reason to consider getting a Chromebook if you just want a affordable and portable option to type and browse comfortably. Aside from highly specific use cases on the move (iPad Pro for on-the-move sketching for instance), most Chromebooks can easily beat out any other option from both price and performance perspective. The proper clamshell form factor beats out every laptop-wannabe tablet-Bluetooth keyboard combination, while the long battery life beats out most entry to medium Windows laptops (when graphical demand and loading 20 tabs at once is discounted). Topping it off, the possibility of having premium build and physical hardware makes the great software-hardware integration and satisfying user experience that premium ultraportables are famous for accessible at a much lower price point.

Chromebooks are a rarity in the place I am from, which is frustratingly surprising. I can find premium Surface devices, ultrabooks, MacBooks, iPads, and even Android tablets, and all of these actually fade in comparison to a good Chromebook in terms of actual usefulness, money-for-value, longevity, power efficiency, and usability. Again, I don’t think Chromebooks alone can be that sole primary device that you will ever need, but neither can most of the devices listed above. That gap for a light, portable, and reliable clamshell computer in the average person’s workflow, might just be filled in by a reasonably priced Chromebook. I know mine did.

I hope slowly but surely, tech consumers all over the world can start recognizing that incredible value brought by good Chromebooks and give them the market demand and recognition they deserve.

Psychology enthusiast, trainee counsellor, washed up scientist, struggling writer. Sometimes reviews games and books, but mostly rants about life’s left hooks.