I wanted a change from the traditional Windows and Apple computers so I got a Chromebook and have been using it for the past month. Here is my review.
Why change my computer (again!)?
Over the years, I have used various traditional computers running Windows or Apple operating systems. Some have physically broken, others have been rendered
useless because the software or the operating system has become outdated. This planned obsolescence approach to computing means I was in a constant state of change, spending too much money and exhausted with it all!
My main frustration with traditional computers is the amount of time I spend waiting for things to happen. Things like recovering from crashes, waiting for an update to complete, configuring email programs, reacting to antivirus popups, checking files have backed up…the list goes on and even if you are good with IT, you still need to be monitoring these things to ensure your life is running smoothly.
All my information (email, documents, photos and music) is stored in the cloud using my Google for Work account which means everything is saved securely across Google’s servers. For the past five years now I have only been using a browser (i.e. Chrome, Firefox, or Opera) to write documents, edit photos, listen to music and send emails).
So I wondered how I could capitalise on working in the browser and let go of the other distractions of a normal computer?…Queue the Chromebook…
What is Chrome (also known as Chrome OS)?
Chrome is a browser enabling you to open web pages and run Chrome Apps (for music, office documents, photos etc). All your Chrome apps, preferences, bookmarks and data are linked to your Google account and automatically saved to Google’s servers in the cloud .
What is a Chromebook?
A Chromebook is the Chrome browser neatly boxed inside a laptop and named the Chrome OS (operating system).
When you log in to a Chromebook with your Google account all your Chrome apps, preferences, bookmarks and data are synced from the cloud.
Anyone who has a free Google or Google for work account can login to a Chromebook and access your data instantly without having to download anything.
Light, fast and quiet
Chromebooks tend to be light and the Toshiba Chromebook2 which I am using to write this blog weighs 1.35 kg – I hardly notice it in my bag these days. Chromebooks range in screen sizes from 11.6 to 15.6”, some are touchscreen and others with backlit keyboards.
Chromebook hard drives use solid state drive (no movable parts) which means it takes 7 seconds to boot up – Some of the most recent Windows 10 ultrabooks can boot in 10 seconds but then you need to wait a bit longer after logging in for the operating system to start. Updates take around 15 seconds, definitely beating the time it takes to boil a kettle!
One of the annoyances I have with traditional laptops is the noise the fan makes. Fortunately, most of the newer Chromebooks are fanless and quiet.
Chromebooks range in price from £199 to £299 and you would be hard pressed to buy a similar traditional laptop for this price and there is the cost of the Microsoft Office and security software to consider as well.
Long battery life
I am using the Toshiba Chromebook 2 and so far it gives me 8 hours of continuous use before needing a recharge. This really helped on a recent six hour flight.
When you sign into a Chromebook, a private, encrypted area is created for you. This ensures that other users can’t read your local data, nor could anyone access your data by taking out the Chromebook’s hard drive and accessing it. Chrome OS also has a “Guest Mode,” so anyone can surf anonymously without logging in.
There can be a risk entering your Google account password on traditional computers as key loggers or other malware could be running in the background; something which is impossible on a Chromebook.
I currently have over 100gb of data (documents, photos and videos) stored in the cloud. Normally with a traditional computer, you would need a hard drive to fit the size of your data. Not so with a Chromebook because the storage is in the cloud and no need for anything to be local. This means that even in poor internet areas I can still access ALL my files.
Edit documents and spreadsheets with ease
Everyone who has a Google account can use Google Drive which comes with its own word processor, spreadsheet and presentation web apps. I have been using all three for the past four years to write blogs, design client presentations and produce complex spreadsheets. As you type Google Drive instantly saves so you don’t have to remember.
Work on Microsoft documents too
You can’t install Microsoft Office on a Chromebook but that doesn’t matter as Google Drive enables you to seamlessly edit Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint files and create pdf documents.
For those times when you don’t have an internet connection a Chromebook stores all your emails, documents and music offline. I am currently on a flight to South Africa writing this blog, managing emails, checking my diary and listening to downloaded music.
All Chromebooks come with at least 16GB of storage and the SD Card can provide more space if needed for those offline moments.
Video and conference calling
The Chromebook incorporates Google Hangouts where you can have both voice and video calls with others and share your screen. Video calls can also be recorded and reviewed by participants afterwards.
Works with Dropbox and OneDrive
I use Google Drive to store all my documents but sometimes a client will share a Dropbox or OneDrive folder with me so we can work on a project together. This is easy with the Chromebook allowing me to access that folder locally and collaborate with the client.
If your printer is Google Cloud Ready then you will easily be able to print from a Chromebook wirelessly but not with a cable.
Are Chromebooks worth it?
I was pleasantly surprised that I managed on a non Windows or Apple product for so long. My clients were easily supported and I was able to work as normal for a
whole month. In fact, the Chromebook is now my only computer!
The most noticeable factor is that my stress levels have reduced and my working day flows more easily without all the interruptions associated with traditional computers.
If you’re the type of person who spends most of your time on a computer simply using a web browser, I recommend you get a Chromebook.