Chromebooks Are Catching On!

Category: Laptops

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.

Chromebooks are Rising

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...

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Most recent comments on "Chromebooks Are Catching On!"

Posted by:

23 May 2014

I bought a Chromebook a month ago and love it...for the most part. It's easy to use, QUICK wake-up time, lightweight, good battery life and yes, it fits in my purse like a glove. I have a love for my Chromebook...except for one thing.

What's aggravating is the connection to wifi.

My issue: I open my Chromebook, Google Search is my home page. On occasion, when I type in my search query, the site will not connect to Google, and I get my local provider's DNR page. On occasion, when I type in an address that I KNOW is valid, it still routes me to the DNR page. There have even been occasions where I typed in "" and got the damn DNR page. These occasions are random, and eventually solve themselves after repeated refreshing.

I have one HP laptop, a Kindle Fire, and a Dell desktop all connected to the wifi at any given moment of the day. I have had an iPad, Kindle Paperwhite, cell phones, and a Dell laptop connected at random times as well. None of these items has had a problem with the wifi like the Chromebook has.

The help pages say it's a contaminated cookie error; I think if every other piece of technology in my household is connecting without fail, it's the software or operating system, not the cookie. What's the most frustrating part is that the page this happens most often on is Google's search page.

Posted by:

23 May 2014

I've had a chrome book for over a year now. Had problem with touchpad, tried several fixes suggested by their support team. Nothing worked, so I sent it to their repair facility, they said they could not find the problem, nothings more frustrating than to be typing and the cursor starts blinking and disappears.
Makes a good paperweight!

Posted by:

23 May 2014

The only problem I see with the chromebook is the cloud storage. I used cloud for my music collection. Luckily, I did not trust it and kept a copy on my own external hard drive. I said luckily as the cloud operator deleted 6 GB of my 8 GB collection without warning. Never again will I use cloud storage for anything I want to keep.

Posted by:

Joe M
23 May 2014

Allison, cookies are local to each device. You can purge them from the chromebook browser and see if that helps, but I doubt it as you're having issues that seem to be more in line with DNS issues. Have a look at this and see if it helps.

Good luck!

Oh, as to the article, I still prefer my apps and data to be local where I have access to them any time, day or night.

Posted by:

23 May 2014

I bought one and had the same issues as Allison. Took forever to connect to a website or DNR error. I have 2 Samsung Tablets 10 and 7 inch, Wifi Only and they connect with no DNR Error messages. I gave the Chromebook away within 2 weeks after wasting my money on it.

I have 3 Notebooks 17.3" screens and 4 Desktops the slowest of them connecting at 98,54 Mb and the fastest at 123.08 Mb. The only cloud I want is White Cloud TP.

Posted by:

Oswaldo Gómez
23 May 2014

Hi folks! I own a C7 Acer Chromebook for a year and a half now. I am pleased. Back to the beginning, it was limited to WiFi connectivity, and a set of features that grew with successive OS upgrades (last upgrade was yesterdeay midnight). I discovered two months ago that I can plug a USB internet dongle and connect to the web, something that couldn't do at the beggining. Continuous improvements in web-apps, a growing number of offline applications (which actually sync to the cloud when you get online) and new features make your Chromebook a new laptop from time to time. Upgrades involves two things: A system notification, asking to reboot, and you rebooting your chromebook. Thats it.
I still use my laptop for mode demanding tasks, but it's been at home for the las 1.5 year. A thing I don't like? I can not print by other means but Google Cloud Print.

Posted by:

Tom Bullock
23 May 2014

How does this compare to a Kindle Fire. I have a Kindle DX and am not satisfied with the display of lighter fonts found in PDFs of e-books. Do you think this would be a good alternative as an improved e-book?

Posted by:

23 May 2014

We are "test driving" a couple Acer C720s at our school. Presently, we are a 97% Mac school...but, after having used the C720 for only a couple weeks, I WAS SOLD. My Chromebook does nearly EVERYTHING my 16GB RAM Mavericks MacBook Pro (coupled with Windows7 running virtually) can do.

People continue to come to my office wanting help with Word, Excel, or PowerPoint too; but alas, I gave up MSOffice about 2 years ago. Coming into the Mac world from the military PC world meant having to stay proficient with 2 different versions of Office...Thank goodness for Google. Now I preach Google Docs, Sheets, and Presentations to everyone who comes in. My files are ALWAYS available ANYWHERE in the world...on EVERY computer (and cell phone) with an internet connection.

Light, powerful, versatile, easy to use, quick-booting, quiet, cool (to the touch and to look at), easily repairable, minimalistic OS, always up to date, inexpensive, non-proprietary hardware...what is not to love about a list like that?

Yeah, I'm sold.

Posted by:

23 May 2014

If Wi-Fi is not available....thus no Internet connection....I assume a chrome book is useless if all the programs are cloud based. Ergo.....useless to me. I use my HP laptop in connection with my other hobbies. So a chromebook would be of no use to me....for many of the same reasons that other tablets are not of any use. I think perhaps the latest Surface Pro 3 with the largest amount of memory might be good. But us ordinary peasants can't afford them.

Posted by:

23 May 2014

@Allison: Too Funny! Not to belittle your situation, but that sounds exactly like a typical "Install/Demo" situation where someone is giving an on-site software presentation demo and even though everything has worked correctly for months during development, etc., it now blows up during the presentation (been there, done that, lost the client).

Posted by:

23 May 2014

Hey Bob, can you suggest, if Chrome will also be good for Word Press Publishing (Self Hosted Blog)? Another query is, I am a writer; how can i send written content to my clients in attachment. Will they able to download it?

Posted by:

23 May 2014

Chromebooks are nice but i wont be surprized if Amazon makes a Kindle OS laptop, considering that Amazon has their own browsers, they have made tablets, the whispers of Amazon smartphone coming.

Microsoft and Apple are into serious computing but i think Google and Amazon want people to consume the stuff they sell like moies, music and products.

Posted by:

23 May 2014

I'm not the sharpest tac in the drawer I will admit. So one night the power went out and I was going to play some games on my computer. I found out that every thing on my computer is stored in the cloud and I couldn't do anything. My laptop was now a door stop! What a crock. Who says the cloud is better. Not me.

Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
24 May 2014

Okay, Bob, you convinced me. I've been looking for a new tablet/netbook type of lightweight portable computer to replace an old Gateway netbook which is just too slow. I need it for occasional business trips, and my wife wants something bigger than her Galaxy S3 smartphone for reading Kindle books and for Facebook (including Facebook games). I hadn't given too much serious consideration to a Chromebook because I still have an old-fashioned nervousness about being tied to the Internet in case it isn't available.

But after reading your articles and thinking about it further, I realized that a Chromebook really should be sufficient for most purposes. It appears that I can do enough when the Chromebook is temporarily off-line that it won't be the "brick" Microsoft would like us to believe. I'll still need my desktop computer for heavy scientific computing. But even there I can use a remote desktop connection to access my regular computer if I need that extra computing power while I'm on the move.

Therefore a few minutes ago I hopped over to Amazon, perused the various Chromebook reviews and features and prices, and ordered an Acer 720 with a 32GB SSD drive. Thanks again for your excellent advice (or so I hope it will prove).

Posted by:

24 May 2014

All well and good. But:

1) Wi-Fi in the area in which I work and live is next to non-existant in terms of avaialbility, Also hotels and convention venues often charge a chunk of change for internet access, "Cafes" have costs and limited hours, and places like McDonald's have a 30 minute limit "while consuming (McDonald's) food." Trying to do any serious work is near impossible.

2) as you pointed out, if you have programs that REQUIRE an OS like most on-line games and some programs like eBay's Turbo Lister (which one place I work with uses heavily), you're SOL. I've been working as much as possible to move the "office work" of another organization I work with over to Googgle Drive, but there are still some things you just can't do reliably.

Chromebooks, like tablets and smartphones, may be great for the "content consumers" out there, but for us "content creators" they have a way to go.

One other note: when you depend on wi-fi, you also depend on speed and reliability of the connection, as well as security concerns. I've found myself dead in the water at times or very concerned about the safety of accessing some sites (especially financial ones including banking and credit card procesing) over public networks. An "old fashioned" non-totally web-based hard-wired to the internet setup is still preferred by some of us. Maybe a diminishing or small number of us, but it's going to be a fairly long time before "Chromebooks" become (near) universal.

My thoughts.

Posted by:

25 May 2014


Make your default search page!

You'll see the difference.


Posted by:

Dave Ruedeman
25 May 2014

If I ever bought a Chromebook I would use it for about 5 minutes before I installed Linux on it. Just to be contrary I would install TAILS. Anonymous browsing, take THAT Google!

It is a thing of beauty that companies like Google, Amazon, the cell phone carriers ,cable providers, computer manufacturers and even Apple sell you equipment so that you can live in their walled garden.

Posted by:

26 May 2014

Are the speakers any good?

Posted by:

Bob D
26 May 2014

The cloud's server-based computing is nice, because of its accessibility from (almost) anywhere. It's a nuisance because of its inaccessibility when power fails or a wire breaks.

And all that Google account and Microsoft Live stuff is turning us into a land of Borgs. No thanks.

My precious bytes are inside my house, and ain't nobody touch them! (OK, I confess. Google has my email, curse them.)

And Chromebooks? Do they run emacs? No? Piffle.

Posted by:

Oswaldo Gómez
07 Jun 2014

Im the happy owner of an Acer C7 Chromebook for a year and a half. It suits me for what it's intended to do. Mobility and security. It will never replace my laptop for heavier tasks, but helps me a whole lot. Just take it for what it is. Three months ago I discovered I could plug a broadband dongle and connect to the internet where there is no WiFi. That was a major upgrade for my C7. A Chromebook is the only piece of equipment I know that gains functionality instead of losing it, thanks to its continual OS upgrade.

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