Chromebooks Are Catching On!
Five years ago, Google introduced the browser-like Chrome OS and a new hardware specification dubbed the “Chromebook.” Many scoffed at the lightweight laptop replacement that lacked a hard drive and depended on cloud-based apps and storage. But now the laughter is dying. Should you consider a Chromebook now?
Replace Your Laptop With a Chromebook?
According to market researchers at NPD, up to 25 percent of all low-cost ($300 and under) laptops sold in the U.S. are now Chromebooks. Chromebooks have replaced Apple MacBooks in the Number 2 spot among schools, one of Apple’s traditional strongholds. Google says Chromebooks have been deployed in over 10,000 U. S. schools.
Today’s Chromebooks are more spacious and powerful than the originals, though they remain incredibly lightweight. While the sweet spot for new Chromebooks is in the $250 to $350 range, bargains like the $119 factory refurbished 11.6-inch Acer C710-2856 at Newegg are not uncommon.
A Chromebook makes a lot of sense as an alternative to a smartphone or tablet. It can do all that those mobile devices can do, using good old keyboard and touchpad (or even mouse) input instead of imprecise touch-screen technology. An 11-inch Chromebook fits comfortably in a purse or even a large jacket pocket. As long as there’s WiFi available, you need never lack for apps or your data. Some offline computing is possible with the latest Chromebooks thanks to larger local SSD storage.
The hook in the Chrome OS bait is that you have to sign up for a Google account in order to use a Chromebook. Microsoft and Apple wish they had made their online identity services mandatory, because then they would have Google’s omniscient view of customers’ activities too. But hey, you’re already using Gmail, YouTube, Picasa, Search, News, and a slew of other Google services anyway, right? (See Why Do Chromebooks Worry Microsoft?)
If you are already a Google Docs, GMail, and Chrome browser user, a Chromebook will feel like no change at all. Simply sign in to your existing Google account and it will look and feel as if you are using a Chrome browser on a regular computer, with a few enhancements. Chromebooks automatically stay up-to-date, and are more resistant to viruses, because all your software is cloud-based. There's nothing to install, and no worries about having to apply updates patches, or fixes.
All Chromebooks come with 100 GB of free Google Drive cloud storage for 2 years; some use the same micro-USB charger as Android smartphones, and you’ll get to work faster too, as Chromebooks boot in as little as 7 seconds.
"It's not a Real Computer"
What critics (especially those paid by Microsoft) will point out is that Chromebooks do not run Windows programs. That's true, so if you're tied to a specific Windows app or game, a Chromebook is not for you. But there's so much great web-based software now, you can probably find alternatives to most Windows software. See my article Free Cloud Services You Should Know About to learn about free web-based apps for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and email. Then have a look at Free Web-Based Photo Editors and Five Free Alternatives to Quicken.
On the other hand, a $200 machine feels like a cheap machine; don’t expect perfect fit and build quality, or the sturdiest magnesium cases. There are no ruggedized, water-resistant Chromebooks and probably never will be.
On the OTHER other hand, there's the Chromebook Pixel, Google's high-end Chromebook model, which boasts the highest pixel density of ANY laptop, a touch-enabled screen, backlit keyboard, an HD camera, and a stylish aluminum case. And instead of just 100GB of free Google Drive storage, it comes with one terabyte. But it's pricey -- the 32GB model costs $1299.
OEMs have announced 20 new Chromebook models coming up during the rest of 2014, a sure sign that Chromebooks are gaining traction rapidly. The Lenovo N20p looks especially intriguing, with a touch screen and a 300-degree hinge that lets you prop up the Chromebook like a tent. It will cost $329.
Chromebook prices are expected to edge upward as the demand increases. Right now could be the best time to get yourself a Chromebook. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 23 May 2014
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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved