What are the Pros and Cons of using a Chromebook?

Posted on

The ability to work remotely is a luxury that many professionals aspire for nowadays. As the workforce shifts towards working on-the-go, the demand for inexpensive and ultra-portable laptops and notebooks has also started to grow. Right now, the Chromebook is at the forefront of this movement. Just above every major laptop manufacturer has already come up with their own version of these Chromebooks. It’s hardly surprising considering that the number of users of the Chrome operating system has reached 25 million in the previous year.

Despite the popularity of Chromebooks, it is not a portable workstation that suits everyone. Are you wondering if you should make the shift to a Chromebook? Let us help you by looking at all the benefits and drawbacks of using a Chromebook.

The rise of cloud computing

The Internet continues to change the landscape of technology in several huge and wonderful ways. Internet technology is faster than ever and has become far more accessible. As of October 2018, an estimated 4.2 billion people are considered active Internet users. Internet access is no longer limited to personal computers; a huge portion of Internet users access online content through their mobile phones.

The change in how users access the Internet has led software developers to come up with lightweight mobile apps that are less demanding of the device’s hardware. Some applications have even come up with, or completely migrated to, online alternatives. Nowadays, most of what we do is done through an online platform – streaming of music and movies, storage of files on the cloud, online banking, online shopping, and social networks.

Although we may not have noticed it, this movement to more online-centric processes has decreased our dependence on our physical hardware. We no longer need to store media in our laptops and phones, as we can access them online anytime. Our important work documents are stored in a cloud-based drive or are safely backed up in our emails. Cloud-based data processing can be done even without high-end processors on the side of the user.

What is a Chromebook?

Laptop manufacturers recognized an opportunity to take advantage of this movement and come up with a laptop that relies heavily on online services. Without the need for high-end hardware, these laptops – called Chromebooks – were exceptionally cheap and lightweight. These laptops were made for users who spent most of their time online.

Chromebooks run on the Chrome OS which operates on top of a Linux platform. They are fast, secure, and like most traditional laptops, can be used by multiple users. In the early days of Chromebooks, manufacturers focused on making them small and lightweight and were generally only available in 11.6-inch screen sizes. Nowadays, Chromebooks as big as 15.6-inch screen size are already available. Practically every single popular computer brand has come out with their own Chromebooks, including HP, Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung among others.

The pros and cons of using a Chromebook

Chromebooks are a very special product that was designed for users with specific needs and workflows. If you are considering buying a Chromebook as your next laptop, then these are the pros and cons you need to consider:

PROS

1. Price

The first thing that will stand out when you go shopping for a Chromebook is the fact that they are really cheap. Most Chromebooks go for $300 to $400, but there are models that can cost as low as $200. Meanwhile, a mid-range Windows laptop can easily cost four times or more than this amount. Whether you’re an individual user or are buying laptops for a business, you can get huge savings when you buy a Chromebook.

There is a bit of a caveat in this aspect, as there are now Windows laptops that are in the $300 to $400 price range, so the price gap is no longer as pronounced as it was a few years ago.

2. Weight

Since Chromebooks do not rely on powerful hardware or large storage spaces, they are generally thinner and lighter than traditional laptops. The enhanced portability makes Chromebooks a great choice for workers who need to move around a lot. With Chromebooks, carrying your laptop in your bag or carry-on bag no longer needs to be a huge burden.

3. Battery

With less power-intensive processes, a Chromebook can typically stretch its battery life of at least 8 hours. This is especially impressive considering their thin and lightweight construction. Most traditional laptops would be lucky to last up to 6 hours, and that usually comes with a price of heavy and clunky batteries. 

4. Security

Most Chromebooks come with a built-in trusted platform module that manages passwords and protects against viruses. Moreover, the Chrome OS comes with its own virus and malware protection. The system continuously updates this protection to the latest version, so you almost never need to worry about your laptop getting infected by malware or viruses.

5. Speed

Many Chromebooks boast of the ability to boot up in as little as 8 seconds. They also shut down just as fast. This is made possible by the use of solid-state drives (SSDs) instead of hard drives. SSDs have exceptionally fast read and write speeds.  The Chrome OS is also an exceptionally light platform, which helps Chromebooks start up quickly.

6. Cloud-based storage

Buying a Chromebook also gives you 2 years of access to 100 GB of Google Drive storage. This is a huge amount of cloud-based space that will normally cost a large amount if you get it from another platform, such as Dropbox. Having all your files synced to cloud-based storage allows you to access them from different workstations and from your phone. It also facilitates collaboration between remote workers.

7. Extensive library of Android apps

The merging of Chrome OS and Android was a huge development that massively enhanced the possibilities of what you can go with a Chromebook. Modern Chromebooks can now access and download apps from the Android library through the Google Play app. This includes apps from Microsoft and Adobe, as well as mainstream apps such as Netflix, Slack, and Evernote. With a library that has more than one million apps and continues to grow every day, there is near limitless potential for Chromebooks in the future.

8. Regular updates

Like your smartphone or tablet, the Chrome OS continuously checks for updates that it can download and install. This keeps the OS up-to-date, ensuring that it is always safe from malware and that it is always running optimally.

CONS

1. Small storage capacity

Since Chromebooks focus on cloud-based storage via Google Drive, most Chromebooks only have local storage of up to 32 GB. This is one of the ways that manufacturers have kept Chromebooks cheap and lightweight. This is not as much of a drawback considering the 100 GB of Google Drive storage that comes with new Chromebooks. You will probably only need local storage for the Android apps that you will be installing, most of which are also very light.

2. Offline use

The Chrome OS and most of the apps for Chromebooks rely heavily on an active internet connection. Some of these apps, such as the Pixlr photo editor, may not be usable at all if you are not online. However, app developers have recognized this limitation and added some offline capabilities to their software. Apps such as Google Docs and Gmail can save local versions on the cache of your Chromebook, which then sync to their cloud-based counterparts as soon as an Internet connection becomes available.

3. No optical drive

It may not be as important now as it used to be in the past, but Chromebooks no longer have CD or DVD drives. This development is hardly unique to Chromebooks, as even some of the newer Windows laptops no longer consider optical drives to be important. We have started to move away from this technology, so this should be not be as much of an issue. If you really need to access the contents of a CD or DVD, you will be better off purchasing an external optical drive.

4. Lack of compatibility

Although Chromebooks are more popular now than they have ever been, there is no doubt that most of the software being developed are still being made to work with Windows. You can find practically any type of software that is compatible with your workstation if you are using a Windows laptop. The same cannot be said for Chromebooks despite its access to an ever-growing Android library. Thus, Chromebooks will always have to play catch-up with Windows in terms of software compatibility.

5. Graphics and gaming

Chromebooks are not designed to have powerful graphics processors, so any sort of high-end gaming is out of the question. There are a few games that you can download via Google Play, but these are the same sort of games that you can play on your mobile phone. Chromebooks are also notorious for having disappointingly low-resolution displays, and the difference is very noticeable if you’re used to working with Full HD displays.

6. No Microsoft Office

Since Google has its own suite of Office-like products such as Google Docs and Google Sheets, Chromebook does not work with the traditional Microsoft Office platform. This can be very limiting for users who are used to working with Microsoft Office who suddenly find themselves in an unfamiliar platform where they cannot find the same features that they have come to rely on. The Google Suite is an excellent platform on its own, but it does take some getting used to.

Microsoft Office apps can now be downloaded from the Android library which may alleviate the loss of the desktop Microsoft Office. Still, these lightweight apps do not offer all the functions and capabilities of their desktop counterparts.

7. No Adobe Suite products

Another major loss when shifting over Chromebooks is the absence of the Adobe Suite platform. This can be especially painful for professionals who have spent years perfecting their craft in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or Premiere. Although the Android library has a couple of popular photo editing apps such as Pixlr, none of these options offer the full set of features and capabilities of Adobe’s industry-standard software.

Adobe has announced that they are working on a version of Photoshop that can be used through an online platform. However, there is no timetable for when this might be available.

8. Using peripheral hardware

The focus of Chromebooks on Internet-based services will force users to do things differently. Even mundane things such as printing a document (which has to go through the Google Cloud Print service) and watching a movie (which can only be done through a streaming service such as Netflix) have to be done through some sort of online component. This can take a little getting used to.

9. Video editing

One field where Chromebooks probably do not excel in is video editing. Online video editors, such as WeVideo, can certainly be used with a Chromebook but these do not offer as much features as standard desktop video editors such as Adobe Premiere. In any case, a Chromebook does not have enough power to handle video editing of full HD footage. If editing videos is part of your job, then it would be best to stick with your high-powered rig.

Is a Chromebook for you?

Chromebooks are great for professionals and students who are looking for cheap and lightweight laptops. The modest specs of Chromebooks are good enough for minimal computing needs such as office work or photo editing. A network of Chromebooks who work entirely on the cloud also sounds like a great idea for an office that puts a lot of importance in collaboration. Chromebooks are also an excellent choice for remote workers who need to move around a lot.

If you spend most of your time online, then perhaps you should consider getting a Chromebook. After all, most of the best functions of Chromebooks are available with an Internet connection. If you would like to test if you can work with a Chromebook, you can try and see if you can do most of the work you are doing within the Chrome browser.

However, if your work requires software that has no online equivalent, then a Chromebook is out of the question. A professional that needs powerful hardware, such as a video editor, will also have very little use for a Chromebook. Lastly, a Chromebook is not for you if you spend a lot of your time working offline.

Chromebooks offer a new way of doing things, but the technology is not quite there yet to expect Chromebooks to be embraced by everyone. Although we agree that cloud computing is the future, it appears that the future is yet to come.