What is a Chromebook? This was a question asked by many when they were first introduced back in June 2011. Well, Chromebooks are a kind of laptop which runs on Google’s Linux-based Chrome OS operating system. Unlike traditional computers, the Chromebook is intended to be used exclusively while connected to the internet, with most of the computer’s applications and data being based in the cloud and accessed remotely. Although the operating system is provided by Google, third party companies such as Samsung and Acer provide the hardware for Chrome OS to run on.
Chromebooks rely heavily on an internet connection to fully function, so they are ideally suited for surfing the web, checking emails and social media, as well as media streaming. Most Chromebooks cost a lot less than standard laptops, with pricing for low-end models as little as $200, and, thanks to their SSD hard drives and the optimization of Chrome OS, they hardly take any time to power up. Being constantly connected to the internet, means that Chromebooks are able to automatically update themselves to the newest version of their software, and similarly, the built-in virus/malware protection is always kept up to date. Chromebooks tend to be pretty light weight, so coupled with their decent battery life, are a great choice for those who need to take their laptop on the move. It was recently announced that Google plans to bring Android Apps to Chromebooks, with the introduction of the Google Play Store to Chrome OS, something which will hugely increase the number of apps available on Chromebooks.
Although all of this might seem like the perfect recipe for a great laptop, the closed nature of Chrome OS also introduces a lot of limits for users. For starters, Google are heavily pushing their own cloud-based alternative to Microsoft Office, meaning that the latter is not able to run on Chromebooks, and similarly, Photoshop is conspicuous in its absence from the platform. Until Android Apps come to Chrome OS, do not expect to run many games on your Chromebook, and even when they do, don’t expect anything graphically intensive.
Since they are intended to run from the cloud, Chromebooks have extremely limited amounts of onboard storage (although to remedy this, Google include two years of 100gb online storage for free with every purchase). The same is true for a lot of modern devices, but it is worth nothing that Chromebooks lack a CD drive and require a wireless printer for printing.
In some ways, Chromebooks are like a web-based compromise between tablets and laptops. They offer the portability and simplicity of the former whilst giving the physicality and familiarity of the latter.
If you’re looking for a laptop which is quick, secure and lightweight, then the Chromebook might be just what you are looking for – the device is perfect for daily, low-intensity use – but those looking for a more feature-rich, open ended experience should go elsewhere. Still, there can be no doubt that there’s a place for the Chromebook in the current tech ecosystem.