Are Chromebooks for you? Here are my first impressions of using a Chromebook. Normally, I use a Macbook Pro and a Surface Pro, but this this week, I’ve strictly used a HP Chromebook 14 to truly experience this new operating system.
Chromebooks are laptops which run an operating system (OS) called Chrome OS, which has been designed by Google – the desktop version is called Chromebox. While it looks like a normal operating system, Chrome OS is nimbler and doesn’t require as much processing power or storage – since most of the information is saved and synced in the cloud.
I was surprised how quickly the Chromebook was up and running, after pushing the power button, roughly 5-7 seconds later a prompt asked for my login (gmail required). From there, I was able to access all of my Google accounts and data (Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Keep, Google Music, etc.).
After launching Chrome and logging in, all of my apps and extensions I had previously installed appeared, along with my bookmarks. Shortly thereafter, I had to restart the computer to install updates and I was up and running again in less than 5 minutes. If you are a Google and Chrome poweruser, using Chrome OS will be second nature. However, for first time Google (Gmail/Chrome) users, using the Chromebook can be quite tricky.
What can a Chromebook do? Basic things done on a computer can also be done on a Chromebook. Checking emails? No problem. Typing a document? No problem. Instant messaging (IM)? No problem. Listening to music? Got that too. YouTube videos? Of course! Printing a document? You’re covered. The Chromebook can do many of these things but with 1 caveat – Chrome Web Store. While the app store is being updated with new apps and extensions, there are glaring omissions which may take away from your experience.
Everything must be downloaded via the Chrome Web Store, which limits you to many of Google own services. For example, IM is limited to Google Hangout – no more Viber, Message Me, or other messaging apps. Voice calling? Also limited to Google Hangout – you will not be able to use Skype. While there is a workaround to get your iTunes collection to your Chromebook bia Google Music (and therefore stream your music collection on your Chromebook), since you will not be able to install iTunes nor sync your device to the laptop.
Two of the best features of Chromebooks are updates and antivirus (you don’t need it!). Chromebooks are updated every 6-8 weeks with new features and to work out any kinks which exists, and because you cannot install local software, you will not need antivirus for your laptop.
What can’t a Chromebook do? Install third party applications. No iTunes, Skype, or any applications that require Java or Silverlight.
Chromebooks are affordable. If you’re price sensitive when it comes to technology, a Chromebook maybe a good option for you. The most affordable Chromebooks will cost you £179.99 ($229.99), but refurbished models can be found on Amazon.com and eBay.com.
An alternative for a Chromebook is Windows RT. While there are many opinions regarding Windows RT (most unfounded since most compare this OS to a fully pledged OS), this OS provides more functionality and applications that are available within its respective ecosystem. Similar to Chromebooks, Windows RT only allows apps from it’s store, but has more applications and sleeker devices (Surface 2)
While laptop powerusers may want to stay clear of Chromebooks, for the everyday user, a Chromebook provides a great, affordable alternative for basic computing needs. Recommended for college students and people who only need to check their emails, stream media, check social media and occasionally use documents.
Do you have any questions about video games or mobile technology? Tweet away @hawaiiinsomniac or #askmax at his YouTube channel.