Does Chromebook Deserve Laptop Respect?

Category: Laptops

The first Chromebooks began shipping from Acer and Samsung in June 2011. During the intervening seven years, Chromebooks have come to dominate the K-12 education market, accounting for 60% of units sold. But elsewhere, people still think laptops come only with Windows or Mac OS installed; they don’t consider a Chromebook to be adequate for “serious work.” Allow me to set that record straight.

Is Chromebook a Serious Laptop Contender?

It’s not the operating system on a laptop that determines what you can do. Chrome OS is perfectly capable of running apps that crank out documents and other work products in abundance and high quality. Those work products can even be shared with co-workers or clients running Windows and Mac.

No, what limits a laptop to “entertainment” instead of “productivity” is the physical workspace it provides. That’s because humans need an adequate amount of space to get work done over sustained periods.

A stage magician deftly fanning a full deck of cards and making specific cards do startling things needs only a hand-sized space in which to entertain us for five minutes. But a blackjack dealer needs space to spread out his hand and six others, plus accommodate trays of chips and drinks; the dealer is doing serious work over a six to eight hour shift. A decent four-hand poker game requires a folding table, at the least.

Google Pixelbook Laptop

Smartphones and phablets are for entertaining. Laptops and tablets are for mobile work. Desktop PCs are also known as workstations for a reason. Size matters even in “pure” knowledge work.

That’s why the puny “netbooks” that heralded Chromebooks never caught on. That’s why the size of screens and keyboards on high-end Chromebooks keep getting bigger. Google, the arbiter of Chromebook standards, is learning that humans need a “big” machine on which to do big things.

The Acer Chromebook 15 series can hold its own with any other 15.6-inch laptop. That’s the biggest screen you will find on a Chromebook, and it’s in the middle of the “productivity” scale. And the price tag may surprise you as well. The 2018 Acer 15.6-inch model sports a Full HD screen, Bluetooth, webcam, 4GB RAM memory and 16GB SSD storage, for just $239. The Acer 'Pure Silver' model has a touch screen and 32 GB SSD.

Getting Things Done on a Chromebook

Smaller screens are difficult to read even with perfect vision; larger screens are for gaming and image-editing, activities that are generally beyond Chrome OS’ purview. But for anything you can do with a web browser, 15.6 inches is adequate. That includes word processing, spreadsheeting, slideshows, desktop publishing, and other office productivity functions are supported in Google Docs, and can be shared with Microsoft Office users.

Chrome OS comes with Google's office suite, which includes Docs (word procesing), Sheets (spreadsheeting), Slides (presentations) and other apps for getting things done. There are thousands of Chrome OS apps in the Chrome Web Store. Plus, the latest Chromebooks run Android apps from the Google Play Store.

But a Chromebook is not just a Windows or Mac equivalent. Along with matching the benefits of those platforms, Chrome OS also eliminates much of their pain, as this 60-second Google “attack ad” makes plain.

“If you want virus protection, all-day battery, automatic updates, less charging, more battery life, quicker starts, faster loading, less lag, a new kind of laptop, you Chromebook.” Sigh. Google had to go and spoil it by making a noun do a verb’s job… oh, well.

Pixel: The High-End Chromebook

The Pixelbook is the pinnacle of Chromebook evolution, although is screen is only 12.3 inches measured diagonally. An ultrathin (10.3 mm max), light (2.4 lbs.), stunningly designed beauty, the Pixelbook is a 4-in-1 machine. Its 360-degree touchscreen hinge allows it to be used in Laptop, Tablet, Presentation and Audience modes. It features instant tethering; if a WiFi signal becomes unavailable, the Pixelbook instantly switches to a cellular data connection.

There’s a dedicated button for Google Assistant, which makes speech-to-text computing a breeze. Just say, “OK, Google….” and order it to write and send an email or text, report the current local outdoor temperature or tomorrow’s weather forecast, and all the other things a personal digital assistant should do.

The essential specs of the Pixelbook are not exceptional: 8 or 16 GB of RAM, 128 to 512 GB of SSD storage; 2,400 × 1,600 resolution. But most of the processing and storage work is done in the cloud, so you don’t need to haul pounds of hardware on your back. All of this comes at a list price of $999 in its lesser RAM and SSD options. Amazon is running a back-to-school special that brings the Pixelbook i5’s price down to $749.

If your main objection to buying a Chromebook is lack of Windows support, that may not be a problem. According to reports in Engadget, Google is working on a new Chrome OS feature called Campfire, that would let Chromebooks dual-boot Windows 10. Best of both worlds? We'll soon see.

Would you consider a Chromebook for your next laptop? If it could dual-boot Windows 10, would that tip the scales for you? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Does Chromebook Deserve Laptop Respect?"

(See all 26 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

13 Aug 2018

I didn't grow up with laptops. I didn't even grow up with PCs. PCs grew up with me.Computers reach the end of life much sooner than I. I have no desire for the progeny of the PC. Therefore, I don't want Chromebook, Chromedome, or Chromagnon. Bob, I thank you for another great article.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2018

I love my Chromebook for 90% of my computing needs, mainly because I can sit in the living room with my wife rather than retreat to my basement office to the desktop computer. But for those other 10% of my needs, I'm glad the desktop is there. (90% of THAT work is done in Linux, then I boot into Windows for the remaining sliver of the computing pie).

Posted by:

David Baker
13 Aug 2018

I own two Chromebooks. I love them because they all sync with my Android Phone and my two tablets. I can access all my doc's, photos, and email. They boot up fast and update with just a reboot. To the best of my knowledge Chromebooks don't have cooling fans to maintain and make unnecessary noise. Plus they are thin and light for easy travel.

Posted by:

carol austin
13 Aug 2018

For at least five years I have been using Chromebook. Easy to use and does everything I need. i.e. Facebook, gmail, docs, net surfing. Am using a new one now. Good price also. Went to larger 15" screen because of diminishing vision. Old one may have programmed obsolescence; it stopped working. Very pleased with performance and apps. I recommend this product for users like myself with less sophisticated requirements.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2018

No. I have, and probably always will, maintained a desktop for heavy lifting. Older eyes have trouble with the small screen. Any smaller version of a desktop has to have, for me, an ethernet connection, hdmi ports, keyboard port, or equivalent. I've a MacBook Pro that I keep downstairs but it too is tethered with an ethernet connection and used primarily to mirror to my big screen tv for various things. Serious work I do in my office on the desktop - when I've the laptop up there it is also mirrored to a large HD monitor. So, something like this? Plus the Evil Empire? No, never.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2018

Great timing, Bob! From today's headlines:

"TURNED OFF LOCATION HISTORY TRACKING? GOOGLE MIGHT STILL BE FOLLOWING YOU. Google stores the location history of users even when they turn privacy settings on to limit location data collection, according to an AP investigation."

I wonder whether Chromebook tracks user location?

Posted by:

13 Aug 2018

>>Mr. Rankin asks: "Would you consider a Chromebook for your next laptop?" RandiO replies: "No!"
My "...main objection to buying a Chromebook is..." the fact that it is a Google/Android aberration. Too bad Google/Android has become the ultimate monopoly for trading privacy concerns for convenience' sake!

Stephe could not improve on that, RandiO

Posted by:

13 Aug 2018

If it could dual-boot Windows, *maybe* I’d buy one if Chrome had some compelling feature or capability I wanted, but if it had Windows I doubt I’d get much use from Chrome OS. I frequently use software to do electronic design and circuit board layout; that software is available for Windows, Linux and MacOS, but not Chrome. Also, the 3D rendering features of the board layout module require some grunt from the computer, which is often lacking in Chromebooks. So, no, count me out.

Posted by:

Big Al
13 Aug 2018

Forgive them father, for they now not what they say.
Ignorance of they who comment with their minds closed + a few repeat what only others say, and. Chromebooks will stay on top because they are a better machine with a much better OS.
Win. 8 thru 10 is problematic and bugs love it.
I'll keep my Chromebooks, they are the best.

Posted by:

John Shalack
13 Aug 2018

I have owned a Chromebook for several years and find it very useful.
It is light, boots quickly, and fast.
Everything I save is in "the cloud".
If my CB fails, my data is safe.
No worries of malware.
I've never had problem printing (see Google Print).
I did replace my 32GB SSD with a 12GB SSD (which was very easy).
Many CBs will run Android apps, too.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2018

Can I do my H&R Block taxes on a Chrome Book? When that answer is yes (with no buts) I'll buy a Chrome Book when I next need a new computer.

Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
13 Aug 2018

My nephew is in the market for an inexpensive laptop which can do graphics, and asked for my recommendations. Among other things I specifically advised him NOT to get a Chromebook, even though they are generally cheaper than a Windows 10 or Apple computer. He will probably want graphics software which runs on Windows 10 and needs lots of memory and can handle large displays. But most of all he should be dependent on the Internet. This is my personal main objection (and I do own a small 4-year-old Chromebook which is useful in limited circumstances). I don't trust the Internet to always be available, I don't trust the wifi upload and download speeds, and I don't trust the cloud to safely store all of my data. I still want a heavy-duty desktop computer with a large monitor (or dual monitors) to handle my multiple heavy-duty applications and store my (encrypted) data locally.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2018

My wife had 2 chromebooks in 3yrs.First locked up aftet guarantee period and despite repair failed yet again. So bought new one and failed aftersl 12mths back to acer for repair. Within 6 mths failed again so reimboursed by amazon and bought windows laptop instead. Battery life not as good but system works. Android unstable and cause of problem each time.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2018

I have 2 main requirements for a laptop, one is at least a 17" screen because of aging eyes and accounting software and the other is Windows 10 because the accounting software and other programs which I use require Windows.
So in short the answer is no, I will not be buying a Chromebook. And that's why I'm still using a laptop which I bought in 2010, although it has had a new HDD and then an SSD plus 2 RAM upgrades and a new battery. But it works and does what I want it to, and has a 17" screen.

Posted by:

T Larsen
13 Aug 2018

My wife has had a convertible touch screen Chromebook for 2 years and it is perfect for her. She doesn't want to do Windows or Word, just check email and Facebook, and this is perfect. I picked up a basic model for $100 on Amazon, and it is my travel companion - light, quick booting, easy web browsing.

Posted by:

14 Aug 2018

I use a laptop in lots of places with no internet connection. I live half the year in a country with very limited internet, so unless I misunderstand the concept, I cannot use a chromebook most of the time. If you can compute and the then upload to the cloud, I guess it would be useable, but then I can do that with my windows machine.

Posted by:

14 Aug 2018

For those of us who play World of Warcraft, and similar games, you need Windows.
I also do a lot of video editing/manipulation and on-line software does not cut it.

Posted by:

15 Aug 2018

I got my first Chromebook when my old laptop failed. It cost me $149 and I still use it. Nobody wants to steal it. It's great for email and web browsing! Also good for writing and presentations. Love that it's maintenance free. I got a second one to loan out to relatives and friends when their Windows machines break. They often buy one themselves, although often as a second machine.
Indeed, mine is my "second" machine. Well, in truth, I've got Windows desktop, Mac, and Linux, too. I enjoy parts of each one. My Chromebook is by far the best for traveling. I don't really care that my new Chromebook does Android phone does that well.

Posted by:

Rea Laiblin
17 Aug 2018

I've tried 2 chromebooks. Neither of them (right out of the box)would retain settings. I would tell it to open browser where I left off, but when I closed browser and reopened, it was back to new tab. Go so frustrated, I returned them. I spent a total of about 4 hours on phone with Costo tech and Asus tech, and neither could solve it.

Posted by:

17 Aug 2018

I have an "Acer Chromebook 14 for Work" model CPS-471, and I use it for all my tasks. It is about 2 years old, has 8G of Ram, 2 USB 3.1 ports, 1 Type C port, slot for a memory card, and up to 10 hour battery life.
My initial issue was no direct connection to a printers (printer drivers cannot be installed), but Google Cloud Print allows printing to a large number of printers, including all my printers (InkJet, B&W Laser, and Color laser). Problem solved! Have not NEEDED to use my Windows Desktop machine in over 9 months. Chrome updates automatically and with no issues, unlike Windows updates that sometimes broke my system till another update corrected the "bad" windows update. I'm a happy camper.

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