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Some of the Chromebook Family

Why would I buy a Chromebook?

There is a question that hangs around the topic of Chromebooks that is yet to be truly answered: Why would I buy a Chromebook? Chromebooks are becoming more popular every day, and people are beginning to use them as their main computer. However, there are still limitations to using a Chromebook. One such limitation is lack of support for Unity, a major game engine that is the backbone of many popular games. Without Unity support, many games can not be played on Chromebooks right now. That is just one limitation out of many, which are causing people to hesitate purchasing Chromebooks. Thus the question, that with all of these limitations, why would I buy a Chromebook?

In addition, Android tablets do support these games, and have far fewer limitations than Chromebooks, so why not just buy an Android tablet at the same or lower price? Right now, Chromebooks are in a tough spot, trying to combine the simplicity of a tablet and the power of a computer, but being a new device, it is difficult to gain support. Teaching the market about Chromebooks has been difficult, and most people are still unconvinced about how useful a Chromebook can be. Despite their limitations, Chromebooks are still powerful machines, and there are reasons why someone would consider purchasing one.

Simple to Use

Honestly, Chromebooks make iPads look like complicated machinery. Anyone who knows how to work a keyboard and trackpad/mouse can use a Chromebook. The learning curve is just learning Google’s Chrome browser if you have never used it. That means that if someone has used a PC, they could figure out how to use a Chromebook over the course of a day or two.

Powerful

A year ago, you probably would not be able to say that Chromebooks were powerful. However, with Chromebooks now running Intel’s Bay Trail Celeron chips, and Samsung’s Chromebook 2 scheduled to be released in a month with their Exynos 5 Octa chip, Chromebooks can now be called powerful. For instance, using HP’s Chromebook 14 with the Intel Celeron processor is a breeze, and I have yet to experience any difficulties with using it. In fact, it keeps up with my Windows desktop, which has Intel’s Core i3 processor. The reason why Chromebooks do not need those high end processors is because Chrome OS, the operating system on a Chromebook, is just a browser. Browsers do not need a ton of resources, unlike Windows, which needs a those resources in order to run smoothly.

Long Life

The first Chromebooks had terrible battey life, ranging from three to five hours. However, more recent Chromebooks have been getting much better battery life, ranging from six to nine hours. This is better than any budget Windows laptop, which usually have three to five hours of battery life like the first Chromebooks. In addition to long battery life, Chromebooks have a better life expectancy than PCs do. Every couple of years, Microsoft releases a new version of Windows, and they expect PC owners to upgrade their PCs to the new operating system. However, this upgrade usually costs over $100. In addition, when upgrading to the new version, there is no guarantee that it will work on the computer, or that all of your programs will transfer over. Instead, Google’s Chrome OS updates are free, and are done in the background. This way, every Chromebook is up to date on all of Chrome OS’s new features and fixes.

Cost Effective

When I tell people that my HP Chromebook only costs $349, they are shocked. In addition, that is high end for a Chromebook, because most of them cost between $200 and $300. Their power, simplicity, and long battery life is better than most of the competition, at those price points.

Acer's $200 Chromebook

Acer’s $199 Chromebook

What can I do on a Chromebook?

People like the idea of tablets, a simple device that can be used to play simple games and do simple browsing. Chromebooks can do those things, and many of the tasks that a PC can do. Chromebooks are great for browsing the web, since they are built around the Chrome browser, which is the most popular browser across devices. They also offer the thousands of games available online, games that were created for computers. In addition, the Chrome Web Store offers thousands of apps and games that can be installed on Chromebooks to enhance their productivity. The Chrome Web Store holds a surprising number of programs that can be used on Chromebooks to replace the program that you used on your PC. Here are some examples of programs that have comparable alternatives in the Chrome Web Store.

Photoshop

Many people still believe that there is nothing that can compare to Adobe’s Photoshop image editor. However, if you search Google for “image editor,” Photoshop is not the first one to show up. In fact, Photoshop does not show up on Google until page three, after going through ten different free image editing programs. The first image editor to come up is my favorite: Pixlr. Pixlr has been covered before on Muktware, so I will not say much, other than it does everything I need it to do. It is a simple program, yet offers all of the tools I need in order to style a picture however I need to. It may not be as powerful as Photoshop, but majority of users do not need that many tools, just an editor that has the ability to crop and re-size photos, and do some styling with them.

Screenshot of the Pixlr Editor in action.

Screenshot of the Pixlr Editor in action.

Microsoft Office

Actually, this one is simple, because Microsoft has a free, online version of their Office suite, called Office Online. Google also has there own office suite called Google Docs. Both are great office productivity suites, and meet all of your basic needs. Again, majority of users do not need a full featured office software, just a simple document writer, spreadsheets program, and presentation creator. I have compared these two office suites in a past article, so read my article to get a full understanding of what these services both offer.

Screenshot of the Google Docs document writer app

Screenshot of the Google Docs document writer app

Visual Studio or VIM/emacs

If you are a developer, you need a program that you can write code in, such as an IDE or text editor. Office programs will add formatting to your work, so those will not work, but there are text editors and IDEs available for Chromebooks.

The text editor that I prefer using is Text. It is a simple text editor, and works offline. There are other text editors on the Web Store, along with VIM and emacs editors, if those are what you prefer to work with.

If you need an IDE, these are a few available for Chrome that I like to use.
-Codenvy IDE is my favorite, because it is simple to use and is free.
-Cloud 9 is my second favorite, because it is more polished, but only the basic version is free. The premium version costs $19 per month.
-Codeanywhere is extremely simple, and not as polished, but is free to use.
There are many other options on the Chrome Web Store, it is just a matter of finding the one that works best for you.

Extras

In addition to the popular programs above, these are other programs available for Chromebooks that most people do not realize are on the Chrome Web Store.

  • Chrome Remote Desktop allows users to view other PCs or Macs that are running Google Chrome.
  • Kindle Cloud Reader allows you to read all of your Kindle eBooks on a Chromebook.
  • Desmos is a great graphing calculator, though it only works online, and Scientific Calculator is a great calculator, and it works offline.
  • Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Google Play Movies all work on Chromebooks.

 

Between the many different aspects of a Chromebook, and the different apps available from the Chrome Web Store, it become clear why a Chromebook could become a primary computer. Many people have come to realize the things that I mentioned above, which is why Chromebooks are becoming more popular all the time. However, there is one more reason why you should consider a Chromebook: Google’s Chromecast streaming stick. The Chromecast is a little bigger than a USB drive, and plugs into the HDMI port of an HD television. This stick has the ability to stream Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Pandora, all of your Google Play movies and TV shows, and can stream the content from a Chrome browser on any computer. As the name implies, this small streaming stick was designed with Chromebooks and the Chrome browser in mind, and that becomes even more relevant when viewing the dozens of apps available on the Chrome Web Store and the Chromecast. Pairing a Chromebook and Chromecast creates an awesome center for entertainment. In addition, developers can create content and programming for each device, opening up a world of possibilities in the future.

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Over the next year, support for Chromebooks will grow, and as a result the features and abilities of Chromebooks will increase. Thus, I believe that the best time to purchase a Chromebook is now, since we should expect them to rival PCs and tablets within the next year.

Joseph Hall

A research addict with a lot of free time, Joseph always is looking for the “next big thing.” He is homeschooled and proud of it, and continues to learn in his free time through online resources. He does not like Windows but cannot afford an Apple Macintosh, so he saw Chromebooks as the way to go. He now uses his free time showing people why a Chromebook can be used as a Windows replacement, and why living “in the cloud” is so freeing.

4 Comments

  1. If you are in the market, I would wait for the Asus C200/C300 and the Lenovo 11e models to hit the stores in the next month or so. Expectations of double the performance and triple the graphics performance are expected with the Bay Trail CPUs while keeping the same battery life.

    • Bay Trail cpu perf. should be equal to the haswell celeron. but the haswell has more “bang per Core” witch make the celeron the better choice for everyday usage.
      bay trail gpu perf is much worse ( 4eu vs. 10eu ) than haswell celeron.
      But bay trail processors should have better battery live.

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  3. I use an Acer C720, which is the cheapest machine on the market. It’s awesome! I mostly write and surf the internet, so it’s perfect for what I do. I mainly use Google Docs for writing, so I never have an issue. I bought my Chromebook on a whim with $200 I scrounged up. I thought I would play with it and then give it away after I grew tired of it. 6 months later, this machine has become my “go to” device. Not bad for $200.Oh yeah, I have not had to spend another dime to do all I want to do.

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