Chromebooks are laptops that run on Google’s operating system known as “Chrome OS”, or Chrome Operating System, instead of Windows OS or Mac OS. These notebooks must be connected to the internet, as most of the applications reside online and require a connection to run and store data. Chromebooks are also called Chrome Computer by the public.

Chromebook was introduced in 2011 during the Google I/O conference and has already become one of the best-selling notebooks since 2012. The NPD sales statistics for the first half of 2015 suggests that  Chromebook sales increased by 43 percent.

You must be wondering if Chromebook is the right machine to invest in, what kind of specifications it offers? Who is it targeted at? Is it as durable and reliable as the other laptops you have been using. Let’s take a look at all the different factors in detail which will help you decide whether this new notebook is something you have been looking for?

Hardware, Specifications, and Design

Google initially partnered Acer, Adobe, Asus, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Toshiba, Intel, Samsung,  Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Dell for the hardware development of the Chromebook. The Google Chrome OS uses the Linux kernel and the Google Chrome web-browser with an integrated media-player. Linux kernel enables the developer mode which allows the installation of Linux distributions on Chromebooks.

Similar to the traditional laptops, Chromebooks with different models offers different features, hardware specifications, and sleeker designs.  You can find the different sizes of these notebooks from 11 to 15 inches.

The 11.6-inch Chromebooks are on the smaller side, and these models are super-light-weight that weighs less than 3 pounds, which makes them the most portable and easy to carry. Other manufacturers such as Dell, Acer and Toshiba also offer 13.3 and the 15-inch Chromebook notebooks, with bigger screen sizes if you want to make your Chromebook a Netflix machine.

Even though Google Chrome proudly relies on the Google Drive online storage system, it still offers USB, SD Card and HDMI ports to support for different USB devices such as an external mouse,  cameras, external keyboards, external screens and flash drives, using a feature similar to plug-and-play on other operating systems.

Each notebook offers different specifications, the better model you go for, the higher will be their specs, and of course, the higher will be the prices. The processor and amount of RAM smoothen the experience of a Chromebook.

When it comes to RAM, 2GB is standard and more than enough for a Chromebook running multiple apps. Chromebooks mostly have Intel Celeron chips, some of the Chromebooks (e.g. Acer Chromebook 13) offer additional graphics Nvidia chip called “Tegra K1” for a much better graphical performance.

The resolution also varies in different Chromebooks, as the lower-end Chromebooks support 1366 x 768-pixel displays, while the most expensive model’s   spring for a full-HD display (1920 x 1080 pixels).  

All of the Chromebooks models come with at least 16GB of onboard storage, which may sound like a lot less as compared to the standard these days but for a Chromebook it is more than enough, since most of the saves are made on cloud and these systems aren’t designed to download large applications or store tons of media. Plus, thanks to SD card ports in some of the Chromebooks, users can extend the storage to their heart’s desire.

Speaking of the online storage, every Chromebook purchase gets you a free 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years. After that the users will have to purchase the subscription to the service, which is highly recommended as it lets you not only save on cloud and protects your data from becoming obsolete in –case you lose your hardware but also allows the users to be able to access all of their data from any other laptop or device without having to transfer anything.

Chrome OS and Apps

As mentioned above, Chromebooks are designed to be primarily used while connected to the Internet. Due to the new OS, Chromebook does things differently. Instead of installing traditional software for word processing and instant messaging, users simply add web apps from the Chrome Web Store (that we can visit on Chrome browser).

This means, the casual user no longer has to go through the hassle of downloading and installing different software. Searching and installation of the desired apps from Chrome Web Store can be done within the matter of a few seconds.   

As you already know by now, Chromebooks are optimized for Google’s apps such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive.  This can be a very smooth experience for the people who already use these services; however, it may not be as smooth of a transition setting up their new notebook for someone who has never used these services.

With the new Chrome OS, we can’t install software. Instead, we can install Android apps from the Google Play store much like our tablets and smartphones. In addition to that, Chromebook users can not use the widely used and popular software such as Microsoft Office suite, however, you can use the web-version of Microsoft Office 365 using your browser..

Google provides a decent Office alternative, Google Drive. With Google Drive, users can create everything from text documents to spreadsheets and presentations. In addition to that, we can import all of the Microsoft Word documents and PowerPoint presentations directly into Google Drive, allowing you to work on your already existing files.   

It would be a bit of a bumpy ride in order to get used to the new apps, which is why you can still get the online variants of the software like Microsoft Office Online, which is available as a series of apps for Chromebooks, and you can always use the native Google Drive to open and edit documents and spreadsheets.

There are many photo editors available for Chrome OS, including the open-source GIMP image editor. However, Photoshop is not supported as there is no Chrome OS app that can edit Adobe’s .PSD files right now.

Apart from some of the software not being available on Chromebooks, you as a potential consumer should also be aware of the fact that there are more than 200 offline Chrome apps that can work without Internet connectivity, including Gmail, Pocket, and Google Drive  as well as the tons of the Android apps coming soon, but there are still many apps that simply won’t work if you’re offline.

Games

Whether you’re buying a new desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone or a smart TV, today’s buyer always wants to know which kind of games will they be able to play on their shiny new machines in their free time.

You should know that Chromebooks were not designed with AAA video games in mind. Which means you will not be able to play a demanding game like The Witcher III.

However, you will still be able to play games on your Chromebook, but you’ll be limited to the titles available in the Chrome Web Store. Casual games like Arcane Legends, and Polycraft are available right now, but due to the specification limitations, you won’t have access to the game library as you would on a Windows machine or a Mac.

On the bright side, Users can have access to many more casual games like Temple Run and Asphalt, thanks to the Android support which recently arrived in Chrome OS users.  Now the Chrome OS users can install all of the Android apps from Google Play Store.

Battery Life

One of the selling points of Chromebooks is their exceptional battery life. The Chromebook can endure continuous web surfing through a Wi-Fi connection and still give you an average of 6-7 hours of battery life depending on your chromebook model and on your usage, as battery consumption varies on different activities such as web surfing, online streaming, and playing video games.

Durability

There have been times when all of us have experienced that scary moment when we drop our precious electronic items and wonder if we have murdered them. Chromebooks are built to withstand the tortures of falls and scrapes.

Some of the Chromebook notepads such as “Acer Chromebook 14 for Work” and the” ThinkPad 13 Chromebook“ are MIL-STD-810G certified, which means they’re capable of passing the durability testing that U.S. Military equipment must pass as well as survive extreme temperatures, humidity, rain, and dust.

If anything happens to your Chromebook then you can just log into a new Chromebook and your entire data will be available on the new hardware without you having to use any external storage device.

Pricing

One of the biggest reasons for Chromebook’s existence and its success is the pricing; Chromebooks are known to be the budget laptops and are targeted not just at hardcore electronic buffs but at the casuals who only need a notebook for their very basic usage regarding work, connectivity, and entertainment.

Whereas the average Windows laptops are priced at $500 and the very basic Apple laptops at $1000, Chromebook notebooks are reasonably priced. From low-end Chromebooks can go upwards to more high-end Chromebooks with better hardware. The average price of a top of the line Chromebook is at $300 (Toshiba Chromebook 2 for $289).  

At the average of $300, Google and its partners have made an offer which is very hard to refuse. It is an affordable option for every student who needs a reasonably priced laptop, every casual who doesn’t want to use highly demanding and complicated software and every traveler who needs a super lightweight notebook which is easy to carry.  

Conclusion

Chromebooks are incredibly affordable and highly capable machines that are great for the basic day to day uses for work and entertainment purposes. If you want a laptop to run and install large software, save tons of media files and play AAA video games then Chromebooks might not be for you.  

However, if you are looking for a portable notebook for writing papers, editing spreadsheets, browsing the internet, using social media websites and apps, online streaming such as Netflix/Hulu/Amazon and playing the casual mobile video games then getting yourself a Chromebook would be a very economical decision that you won’t regret.

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