A common argument against getting a Chromebook is that you can do so much more with a real computer, i.e., a laptop running on MacOS, Windows or a Linux distro. This is generally true, but again, many people don’t need to do more. What can be done with web, Linux and Android apps on Chromebooks are increasingly more than enough to get through your day-to-day tasks. Not sure if a Chromebook is right for you? Start by making a list of exactly what you need to do on a computer. Include what you’d like to do, too. If everything on your list is done in a web browser, congratulations, Chromebooks are a perfect fit. So many things, especially when it comes to productivity tasks like word processing and spreadsheets, can happen in a browser or with a web app. Web apps are essentially websites that function like downloadable mobile apps and Google has a web store full of them.
Commentary: Chromebooks are a viable option to more expensive Windows and Mac laptops today, as they are far more adaptable than they were ten years ago. As Chromebooks were taken up for remote learning and working during the epidemic, a lot more individuals were introduced to the world of Chromebooks in the last year and a half. It’s probably because of this that I’ve spent more time answering queries about them from relatives and friends when they initially came out in 2011. Chromebooks have come a long way in the last ten years. The majority of my Chromebook talks are with parents who are purchasing them for their children. However, they frequently conclude these Q&A sessions by asking, “Should I get one for myself?” “It depends on your needs,” is usually the standard response. Many people, however, discover after just a little digging that they don’t need to do any more than what may be done.
If you can’t find a web app to meet your needs, all modern Chromebooks can run Android apps, too, from the Google Play store. It’s basically this combination and some other key Chrome OS features (I’ll get to those in a sec) that make Chromebooks an easier recommendation than they were even just a few years ago. Price is one of the big things that makes Chromebooks so attractive. While premium models start at around $500, you can find excellent options for everyday use for $200 to $300. One of my favorite models from last year, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, sells for less than $300. It’s a two-in-one Chromebook with a detachable keyboard cover so it can be used as a tablet or a laptop. With its USI pen support, you can draw and take notes on the screen. You can connect a Bluetooth gaming controller to it and play Android games on it.
Also, some of the same reasons Chromebooks are good for schools and businesses make them excellent family computers. Everyone in the family can have separate Google accounts and signing in gives them access to only their stuff and not yours. Accounts for kids can be managed with Google Family Link. It’s more difficult for Chromebooks to get hit with viruses or other malware. And if it isn’t running quite right, you can reset it with Chrome’s Powerwash feature and in a couple of minutes, the system is clean and fresh.
Speaking of gaming, while you won’t be able to play the latest PC games directly from a Chromebook, game-streaming services like Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now make gaming possible. And, again, you can play Android and browser-based games on them, too. Plus, the availability of apps for services like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and, of course, YouTube and YouTube Music mean you’ve got plenty of entertainment options.
Google regularly updates the OS for security and adding new features and installs are quick and painless. In fact, Google just announced several new tools and updates to celebrate its 10th anniversary. And if you’re an Android user, there’s even more reason to pick up a Chromebook. Google added a Phone Hub feature that makes it easier than ever for the two devices to work together.
There is one thing to be aware of in regard to updates. Google Chrome devices have an Auto Update Expiration date. Non-Google hardware is only supported for so long before it stops receiving Chrome OS and browser updates. For models released in 2020, the date is roughly 7 to 8 years from the initial release of the device, but that’s not always the case. Google maintains a list of AUE dates for all models and it’s definitely worth checking before you buy a Chromebook, new or used.