Is 2015 The Year You Buy A Chromebook?

Category: Laptops

I’m going to put on my Carnac the Magnificent hat and predict that if you buy a new computer this year it will be a Google Chromebook -- not an iPad or even a “normal” laptop running Windows or Mac OS X. Here are my reasons why...

A Chromebook in Your Future?

Amazon’s three best-selling computers during the recent holiday season (November 1 to December 25) were Chromebooks. Chromebooks are outselling iPads in the education market that Apple has traditionally owned. Even in the enterprise, where Microsoft dominates, Chromebooks accounted for 35% of laptops purchased during the first half of 2014.

Chromebooks are finally getting big enough. Acer unveiled the biggest Chromebook yet at CES 2015. The Acer Chromebook 15 sports a 15.6 inch screen that can be ordered in 1920 x 1080 or 1366 x 768 resolution, either an Intel Core i3 or a Celeron CPU, 2GB or 4GB of RAM, and either 16GB or 32GB of SSD storage. Prices start at $249.

Acer Chromebook 15

Consumers now expect to pay less than $250 for a laptop, and there’s plenty of Chromebook competition at that price. None of Amazon’s top three sellers cost more than $230. The best-sellers were, by the way, the Acer C720 Chromebook; the Asus C300 Chromebook 13-inch with Gigabit WiFi; and the HP 11-2010nr 11.6-inch Chromebook.

Sub-$250 Windows laptops are starting to appear, mainly because Microsoft made Windows 8.1 free for PC vendors to install on such low-cost machines. But the Windows ecosystem has a lot of evolution to do before it catches up to Chrome OS and Chromebooks. So does Windows itself.

Location, Location, Location

The critical difference between Windows PCs and Chromebooks is where the application software and user data reside. The Windows paradigm has always been “locally,” on a customer’s computer that has to keep getting bigger, faster, and more expensive to keep pace with upgrades of Windows. The increasingly complicated operating system also requires more user care and maintenance, and provides more “surface area” for hackers and malware to attack.

Chrome OS, on the other hand, expects apps and data to reside in the cloud. Locally, a customer needs only enough hardware to run a browser and connect to the Internet, although amenities like bigger screens and SSD storage are in demand. The operating system can be small, running faster and presenting fewer targets to bad guys. The fact that it's not Windows-based makes it even less attractive to hackers, because they target by the numbers. It doesn’t hurt that Google makes Chrome OS available for free to everyone.

Bang For the Buck

So, while Acer rolls out a 15-inch, $249 Chromebook, HP has its Stream 11-inch Windows 8.1 laptop for $200. It comes with a year’s subscription to Microsoft Office 365, which otherwise costs $70, a year’s worth of McAfee antivirus protection (about $60 thereafter), and a Terabyte of OneDrive cloud storage space, normally $7/month but the TB plan includes Office 365. But as is typical of sub-$250 Windows laptops, it has a tiny 11-inch screen, and a wimpy Celeron processor under the hood.

Apple doesn't play the low-cost computing game at all. The iPad Air 2 starts at $500 and the cheapest MacBook Air models range from $900 to $1100. I'm not trying to compare features, or equate the hardware in low-end PC laptops with the MacBook Air's specs. Just pointing out that Apple has nothing in the laptop or tablet space that's even close to the $250 price point.

Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, has clearly declared war on upstart Chromebooks with his “mobile-first, cloud-first” mantra. Future editions of Windows will probably act more like Chrome OS. But for now, if you want a lightweight, inexpensive, portable device with a real keyboard and adequate screen, your best choice will be a Chromebook.

What About Software?

Of course, the downside of a Chromebook is that you won't be able to run your favorite Windows software. (There are some exceptions. See Windows Apps on a Chromebook.) However, there are excellent web-based alternatives for most everything you need: email, calendar, word processing, spreadsheet, finances, music, games, and photo editing. There's even a free online version of Microsoft Office. You can get lots more apps for Google Chrome OS at the Chrome Web Store.

The beauty of the Chromebook model is there's nothing to download, install or constantly update. As long as you have an Internet connection, you're good to go. Chrome OS and Android (which powers a majority of smartphones and tablets) are becoming more tightly integrated, and that will further boost the adoption of Chromebooks. In fact, some Android apps have been ported to Chrome, and more will be coming this year.

Is this the year you’ll be ready for a Chromebook? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 7 Jan 2015


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Most recent comments on "Is 2015 The Year You Buy A Chromebook?"

(See all 21 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

terry
07 Jan 2015

I would love to buy a chromebook but what stops me is the fact that I can't run gotomypc from it. I can run gotomypc from my cell phone but it's just not practical.

EDITOR'S NOTE: See http://askbobrankin.com/free_remote_access_and_screen_sharing.html


Posted by:

Grandpa
07 Jan 2015

Cloud sucks mop water when traveling. And Comcast Xfinity hates their customers. Those are the only two drawbacks to Chromebooks that I see.


Posted by:

Edward Jaime
07 Jan 2015

So,right you're. I purchase my Samsung Chrome book just before X-mas and I'm tickle to death w/the quality and especially w/the price. I'm hopping now that all my transactions are secure.


Posted by:

spinoneone
07 Jan 2015

The question will become, in the next couple of months I would guess, 10" tablet with android or 15" thin laptop with Chrome OS. Once you pair a keyboard with the tablet and case, the weight comes close to the Chromebook. Google Nexus 10 vs Google Chromebook. Interesting proposition.


Posted by:

Greg Chamberlin
07 Jan 2015

I have gone completely Chrome this year. Have a Chromebook laptop and a Chromebox with 32" HDTV for monitor on my desk. Everything just works - no waiting for updates, no crashes, no malware issues.

And there are plenty of apps that work offline as well. All of the Google services (GMail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, etc) can be set up to run offline without an internet connection. So its not just a brick....


Posted by:

Bob VB
07 Jan 2015

No Chrome book for me until they are compatible with Microsoft stuff.


Posted by:

Steve
07 Jan 2015

Why not just offer a PC with NO software or operating system installed and let us find a free one? Thinking Linux here.


Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
07 Jan 2015

I bought a Chrome book a year ago, and I have mixed feelings about it. It's not nearly as useful as my desktop PC for normal day-to-day usage, but my objective was to have a thin, light-weight, inexpensive device for traveling. Unfortunately I can't connect it to the Internet while flying in a plane (unless I pay an exorbitant fee to the airline), and it's very limited in functionality all by itself. It's useful in my hotel room or at a meeting (if I can get a decent Wifi connection), but in a pinch I could use my Galaxy 4 smartphone to perform the same functions (albeit with a much smaller viewing screen and no keyboard).

So the chromebook is okay, and it's an improvement over a dinky netbook that I also have. But in hindsight I probably should have spent the extra money to buy a lightweight-but-powerful laptop that could run all of my normal software.


Posted by:

Chris
07 Jan 2015

"The Windows paradigm has always been “locally,” on a customer’s computer that has to keep getting bigger, faster, and more expensive to keep pace with upgrades of Windows." What a load of nonsense! I have Windows 8.1 running on a 7 year old Lenovo. No one would be disappointed with its speed. The Celeron CPUs are not all "wimpy". I have Windows 8.1 running on a Celeron G1620T based computer and it does an excellent job. I'm a little puzzled as to the motivation for this article as it seems to be lacking your usual impartiality.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm glad you enjoy your laptop, but the CPU Mark score of the Celeron G1620 relative to top 10 common CPUs puts it dead last. (cpubenchmark.net) Celerons tend to be a good low-cost option, but they are not known for speed. According to Wikipedia,

"... their performance is often significantly lower when compared to similar CPUs with higher-priced Intel CPU brands. For example, the Celeron brand will often have less cache memory, or have advanced features purposely disabled. These missing features can have a variable impact on performance, but is often very substantial. While a few of the Celeron designs have achieved surprising performance, most of the Celeron line has exhibited noticeably degraded performance."

My motivation is to inform you of your options, and about current trends. I have no axe to grind, no horse in the race, no dog in the fight.


Posted by:

Doc
07 Jan 2015

The real drawback is that HUGE areas of the inter-mountain west (Great Basins and Ranges) and most of N/NE Cali is the lack of ANY kind of web-signal - Even a mile from a 'large' town (1, 000+) signals from phone lines are so corrupted and dirty with such slow speeds running a program, even with current Lap-tops and Desk-tops, the Spinning Wheel of Death is far more common than the earlier Blue Screen of Death. I guess that's the price one pays for living in a 'captive' area - an area where you are completely at the mercy of your local ISP and phone/cable company (often one and the same). Thus cloud storage of programs would make this kind of cloud-based storage next to impossible to run. Thank God I only live there part of the year - and even then it's a good two plus hour drive to the closest wi-fi connection to get books for my Kindle. The saddest part is that with such a 'quaint' population, there is little reason for ANY utility to run clean lines. Heck I'd bet that if you put more memory in an 8088 you could surf at the same speed as a screaming i-7 hooked up to a 14.4kb/s dial-up. (E.g. not at all). Only with the i=7 notebook/desk-top you still have programs resident and could cut your time in half or more by not having to wait for the two-way connection between you and he Cloud. While it looks empty- there are almost TOO many people out in that area anyway - just another reason to regulate the Web like we do Power and phones - everyone gets to have it - not just the people in the big cities. The REA was not a bad thing.


Posted by:

SSpiffy
07 Jan 2015

My biggest reason for not buying one is gaming. If I can't make the WoW Guild Raid, it's not going to take up room in my bag.


Posted by:

henry
07 Jan 2015

Cloud printing caused me to abandon my Chromebook and go back to my PC.


Posted by:

Jim
07 Jan 2015

What about privacy? If I do on-line banking will my account numbers and passwords be stored in the cloud? I realize that nothing is safe with all the malware these days but I feel safer knowing that my info is not out on a cloud waitng for some hackers who are looking for mass data to steal.


Posted by:

John Pettett
08 Jan 2015

Hi Bob,
I was startled to learn recently that cloud computing is generating a huge carbon footprint. This report claims it now exceeds that of the entire airline industry.
Is this true? What responsibility do we all have? What can we do about it?
Regards,
John


Posted by:

Chris
08 Jan 2015

I'd love to run chrome OS for a specific computer that keeps getting screwed up because Luddites + Windows + Internet = Fail (tires of cleaning the crap out). Problem is, the main purpose of that box is to access a service that only supports IE.


Posted by:

Chris
08 Jan 2015

In Australia Chromebooks cost from $400 up. Not good value for the money. BTW Bob, quoting a Wikipedia article about Celerons doesn't convince me. Try one of the latest ones (G1840)and you might be surprised. I did not accuse you of having an axe to grind only of not your usual impartiality. Not the same thing. There are down sides to owning a Chromebook which I have read in other articles. In this article you fail to mention any.


Posted by:

mike
08 Jan 2015

I will not buy Chromebook or any other book, or hand watch even if that will be the newest mode of the 20/20 generation, lol. I like PC, and as big configuration as feasible. And I want to use of that expensive capacity! Evidently, I hate M$ eats up most of my hardware capacity not to mention my time to keep Windows running safely if that is possible at all. Windows is an outdated monster software sitting and eating up everything like an elephant in a limited place with limited resources. And that unwanted monster is prone to anybody's bad will who has limited brain power. Is there an OS which is similar to the good old computer operating systems that do just operate the hardware as simply as possible without fancy stupidities?


Posted by:

Dave
08 Jan 2015

I would be interested in a Chromebook, if I were not on a metered service, my non-terrestrial internet connection only gives me 250 MB per day other than off hours, 2:00 to 7:00 am, and a 600 to 700 mS latency.


Posted by:

Smoky Lowe
08 Jan 2015

Didn't like my comments about chrome but I don't care, Google sucks and would never use it for any thing. Will stick with tried and true Microsoft. Thank you.


Posted by:

Morgan
08 Jan 2015

I have and love my Chromebook. I vowed to get away from Microsoft and all the licensing fees as well as the constant upgrades, fixes and patches. Not just Microsoft but other software programs too. I love not worrying about updating files, for virus protection as one example but all programs on my PC laptop and desk computer need updating during the year. There's none of that with my Chromebook. It's also noticeable that when I open the Chromebook it connects to the Internet in about five seconds. So, the end result is the Chromebook is faster to connect to the Internet, does not need updating versions of programs and I can do almost anything I could do with my PC's, with rare exceptions. It's a no brainer in my opinion.


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