Pros And Cons Of A Chromebook

Chromebooks have gotten a lot of attention lately, and rightfully so. With a Chromebook, you get a fast and compact laptop, that too with Google’s backing, at an affordable price. So, it is easy to understand how they have done so well in many sectors like business, education, etc. With the popularity of Chromebooks rising every day, you might want to try it out yourself. 

But before investing in a Chromebook, it’s best to be well informed about its advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we have listed all the major advantages and drawbacks of owning a Chromebook and explained them in detail so that you can make a well-informed purchase.  

What is a Chromebook?

A Chromebook is a compact laptop running on Google’s Chrome OS. It is a much lighter OS than Windows and Mac, with most of its functionality being web-based. Now being a web-based operating system does not mean that Chromebooks are just meant for surfing the web. 

A Chromebook can do nearly everything a normal laptop can, from word processing to spreadsheets, note-taking, and much more. You can do all of this online via the Chrome web browser. The reliance on the internet, in turn, helps the Chromebooks to get away with much less powerful hardware than their Windows/mac counterparts, as most of the processing required by software is executed on their server’s end. 

They even come with little storage spaces, which you can expand infinitely. That’s, of course, by using Google’s cloud storage. Although the developers have made some recent offline apps for Chromebook, the idea is to use the internet, through Chrome browser, to get all your things done.

In simple words, Chromebooks are all about using minimal hardware to get the same things done that a laptop would require a lot of processing power by using cloud-based applications. 

The Advantages of a Chromebook

A Chromebook can offer you a lot of advantages over a traditional laptop. At the same time, there are a few factors where a Chromebook might fall short. Let’s start with the advantages first.

1. Chromebooks Are Cheaper In More Than One-way

When compared to traditional laptops, Chromebooks are a lot cheaper. You can credit this affordability to its compact design and lightweight hardware. They are not made for extensive computing, like graphic designing, gaming, etc. So, manufacturers offer less-powerful hardware, sometimes even mobile processors, for prolonged battery life and low cost. 

However, Chromebooks are great at everyday tasks, like note-taking, writing, sketching using web applications, and saving them in Google cloud. So, when it comes to everyday light usage, more often than not, getting a Chromebook will save you a lot of money. 

But apart from the direct cost involved, Chromebooks are also cheaper in terms of their software and apps. For example, the Google workspace that comes with all the different web-based software like spreadsheets, word processors offers an all-in-one solution at a very low price.

But if you want to go with free office software, you won’t be disappointed with the number of alternatives. Not to mention, there is a free web-based version of MS office at disposal too. But other than office apps, some Chromebooks also come with the Google Play store, which opens the door to a plethora of android apps, most of which are free.   

2. Chromebooks Have A Longer Battery Life

Chromebooks generally have a battery life of 8-9 hours under mixed usage. When compared to the average battery life of 4-5 hours of a normal windows laptop that you would get for the same price, Chromebooks take the lead here. 

The longer battery life of the Chromebooks is especially impressive when we consider their compact size and lightweight. They don’t have to deal with most of the power-hungry Windows processes, so they can utilize their battery more efficiently. The ChromeOS itself also plays a major role in maintaining the background processes, further boosting the laptop’s battery life. 

Although some Windows laptops are catching up in battery life, they can’t be put side by side with a Chromebook as they are much more expensive. 

3. Chromebooks Are More Secure And Aren’t Much Prone To Viruses.

The virus and malware protection software in the Chromebooks get lifetime updates, but they happen automatically. That’s right, you don’t even have to think about updating your pre-installed antivirus software, as Google does it for you. 

The best part is that, unlike Windows, it takes only a few minutes and happens in the background without you even noticing it. Google also regularly offers updates to the ChromeOS itself, making it more stable and secure with each subsequent update. 

Apart from that, the fact that you are using a cloud-based device means you are not installing third-party software. This means you are highly unlikely to get a virus from sketchy software. As the Chromebook has very advanced security software and does not use third-party apps, it means that you don’t have to pay a hefty amount for antivirus software too. 

Additionally, Chromebooks also come with parental controls built right into them. So you can track and limit your kid’s online activities and monitor their online presence. This provides an additional layer of protection to kids and keeps out any unwanted traffic.  

4. A Welcome Step Towards Cloud Computing

There is no denying the fact that cloud computing is the future. The ability to store all of your important work on the cloud and retrieve it using any device will make work easier. 

It is great for traveling individuals, as they can get back to their work on any device with only their credentials, without the need to carry their office laptops. Similarly, in projects where inputs from a large group are participating, many people can work on the same piece of software using cloud computing services. 

Furthermore, as the chrome browser syncs all your bookmarks, passwords, and more, no matter where you use it, your preference and websites are always saved on all of your devices. This does simplify things and makes it very easy to switch between multiple devices. 

With cloud computing having huge potential, it is easy to see why Google uses it as their base operation model. 

5. Chromebooks Are Fast and Portable

Chromebooks have managed to be fast even after using fairly low specs components by simply removing unnecessary processes and keeping things simple. And with a plethora of features geared towards portability, Chromebooks are no doubt one of the most travel-friendly laptops too. This fast performance and portable design combo make the Chromebook an excellent device for both students and office workers. 

First comes the robust battery life. Like we already said in the previous sections, the average battery life of a Chromebook is 8-9 hours on a single charge. So, even if you forget to pack your charger, you can easily manage your work without the battery giving up on you. 

Additionally, the light chassis and compact size of the Chromebook mean it can fit easily in any bag or travel pouches and are very easy to carry.

What’s interesting to see is how every component of a Chromebook has been refined to best fit its use case. Let’s take its storage drive, for example. 

Chromebooks neither have HDDs nor SSDs. Instead, they use eMMC flash drives to store all the data. The eMMC flash drives are like SD cards, except they are much faster and have higher bandwidth. This storage setup, combined with the lightweight Chrome OS, gives the Chromebook a lightning-fast performance. So, whether you need to quickly edit a file for the Monday morning presentation or you have meetings lined up, the Chromebook has got your back. 

Thanks to flash storage, Chromebooks also offer superior boot times than almost any of their competitors. They almost instantly get back from sleep mode and can shut down just as quickly. 

Cons Of A Chromebook

Now that we’ve looked at some of the key advantages of a Chromebook, it is only fair to talk about some of its drawbacks. Most of the drawbacks stem from having low-powered hardware and the ever-online model. Let’s take a deeper look.

1. Very Little Local Storage 

Most of the Chromebooks come with very little local storage of around 32-64GB. Most Chromebook manufacturers expect you to use cloud storage, so they compromise on the local storage to keep the price low. But this means you can only store a few important files on your local device.  

You can use the 100GB of free cloud storage you get with every new Chromebook to store all your files. But the problem arises when you run out of free cloud storage. More often than not, a power user needs at least 250GB of space, which they have to buy with a monthly or annual subscription.

Another problem with cloud storage is its inaccessibility without an internet connection. Imagine you have to make a last-minute tweak to an important presentation file, but you have no internet connection. You are helpless unless you are carrying a backup file on external storage media. But that just adds more baggage that you need to carry around, and it kind of kills the point of having a compact and portable device.

2. Most Of The Apps Need An Internet Connection To Run

Remember how Chromebooks were based on a web-based model? Well, even though it’s more efficient, it has a few drawbacks too. The thing is that Chromebooks are kind of useless without an active internet connection. Like we mentioned when talking about cloud storage, you cannot access any of your files without an internet connection. 

But moreover, most of the applications like Google workspace will also not work offline. The Chrome OS is based on a model that demands constant internet connectivity to keep all of its features accessible. That being said, there are some android apps too that retain some of their functionality offline as well, but they won’t offer anything significant. 

Additionally, the main features of cloud computing, like group projects, remote access, all are inaccessible without the internet. But rapid development in WiFi technology and the use of mobile hotspots have made the ‘no internet’ problem mostly a thing of the past. But in some countries where they don’t have a strong internet infrastructure, Chromebooks can be hard to use. 

3. No Advanced Gaming or Multimedia Capabilities

As the entire idea behind a Chromebook is to use web-based applications and cloud software for computing, they don’t tend to have robust hardware. As such, Chromebooks are bad at high-end gaming. 

And the fact that most of the games are incompatible with ChromeOS also certainly doesn’t help. There are a few games available for Chromebooks from the Google Play Store, but they are not very popular. Most of the popular gaming titles don’t have a Chromebook version, and neither is the hardware powerful enough to run them. 

Much like gaming, the multimedia capabilities of a Chromebook are also limited. Even though the hardware can handle basic photo editing and video editing tasks, there isn’t any high-quality editing software available on the platform. 

On top of that, Chromebooks also don’t allow installing executable files, so you cannot even install your favorite editing software. So, if you want a cheap laptop for editing, Chromebooks are certainly not the way to go, and they are more suitable for everyday basic use cases. 

4. Not Many Chromebooks Come With a Good Display

As a cost-cutting maneuver, most of the Chromebooks come with low-resolution displays that are okay for everyday tasks but aren’t really eye-pleasing. There are some Chromebooks with high-resolution screens too, but it’s rare to spot them. 

Most Chromebooks come with a standard HD display with a resolution of 1366×768. The HD displays are decent and look alright on the small 11-inch screen of the Chromebooks. But if you go for more screen real estate, the difference starts to show up pretty quickly. 

The difference especially comes to notice if your tasks involve a lot of visually intensive workload, like photo editing or multimedia playbacks. When viewing an FHD video on your HD screen, you certainly miss out on a lot of finer details and crispness. Unless you don’t spend a little more to get the high-end models, you will not get a mesmerizing display with a Chromebook. 

5. Limited App Choices and Compatibility Issues

No doubt, the Chrome OS has an expanding library of software written for it, and they run very smoothly on Chromebooks. But most of the common software that we use regularly is made for windows OS without any Chrome OS counterpart. 

Even when it comes to the native office software G-Suite (Google WorkSpace), it is adept at handling most of the tasks like document editing, presentation-making, etc. But it also struggles when it has to edit a complicated MS Office file. Although there is an online version of MS Office that can edit most files and offer you a sigh of relief, it is still nowhere near as comprehensive as the desktop version. 

Apart from MS Office, most other popular software suites like the Adobe creative cloud, Visual studio do not have a Chrome OS version. So, you won’t be able to use all your favorite software, rather their ChromeOS equivalents, if any. 

This incompatibility with most of the desktop environments also shows up when using peripheral devices like printers, projectors, etc. For example, you cannot connect a printer directly to the Chromebook, rather you will have to take the online route of Google Cloud Print Service. You might need some time to get used to all of these minor things. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Let us quickly go through some of the most popular questions people have regarding Chromebooks and answer them. 

What’s The Difference Between A Chromebook And A Laptop?

A Chromebook is a compact laptop that mostly operates using online web-based applications and services. Chromebooks are best for light tasks like writing, browsing, making presentations, etc. Unlike most laptops that come with Windows or Mac, Chromebooks come with Chrome OS, which is much lighter and hence less taxing on the hardware. 

Are Chromebooks Good For Education?

Yes. In an educational context, people generally need cheap and compact machines that have long battery life, and a Chromebook ticks all those boxes. An additional bonus you get is the seamless Google classroom integration that every Chromebook has because of ChromeOS. 

What Are Chromeboxes?

Chromeboxes are basically the desktop equivalent of Chromebooks. They are compact desktop PCs that run on Chrome OS. They look similar to a Mac Mini in aesthetics. Generally, you have to get a keyboard, mouse, and monitor if you get a Chromebox, but they still cost a lot less than traditional desktops. 

Can I Use Microsoft 365 On A Chromebook?

Yes, you can use the web-based version of Microsoft Office. Or you can also use the android version of Microsoft Office 365 on your Chromebook. But the android version is a little cut down than the desktop version. A fair warning, Chromebooks don’t use the desktop version of Microsoft Office or Microsoft 365. 

Conclusion

If you are looking for a cheap laptop for daily use and not a gaming or programming powerhouse, a Chromebook might be a great choice for you. 

They completely operate on Google cloud and Chrome and use all the best features Google has to offer. Additionally, most of them are priced very competitively and offer great value for money. 

And like any other laptop with so many upsides, Chromebooks also have a few downsides like we already mentioned. But if you have an active internet connection and get used to the chrome environment, you are good to go. 

Written By Eric Smith

My name is Eric Smith and I've been working within the tech space for over 10 years, both at one of the largest computer manufacturers (for which I have no affiliation with anymore) but also in the retail sector where I gained a lot of experience in helping people finding suitable tech products.

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