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Chromebooks are a divisive topic. For the casual web enthusiast with a thirst to stay updated on social media, play games, email and download apps; Chromebooks are probably better than a laptop Looking For A New Laptop? Get A Chromebook Instead! Looking For A New Laptop? Get A Chromebook Instead! Read More . Others argue that they’re completely useless without a full-fledged offline operating system that allows them to run the programs they’re used to.

There really isn’t a right answer, and Chromebooks certainly aren’t for everyone. But Google has excelled at finding a niche and delivering a powerful solution aimed to serve them. In fact, Chromebooks now outsell Windows laptops. Whether you think Chromebooks are useful or useless Chromebooks – Useful or Useless? Chromebooks – Useful or Useless? My wife gave me a choice of gadgets for Christmas – a new MP3 player, or a Chromebook? Read More , you can’t argue that the Chromebook has staying power.

Here are 5 things you should know about Chromebooks if you’re thinking of buying one.

It’s Not a Watered-Down Version of Another Operating System (or an Expanded Chrome Browser)

Since Chrome OS is rather new (in comparison to OS X and Windows), there are a lot of misconceptions about what it actually is. Some argue Chrome OS is a watered-down version of a desktop operating system, others think Google essentially expanded on the Chrome browser and called it an operating system.

In fact, Chrome OS is based on the Linux kernel and designed by Google to provide a web-first experience as opposed to the traditional laptop. By offering a more concise version of a laptop or desktop operating system, Google can minimize the hardware demand, and thus offer the Chromebook at a more consumer-friendly price since web browsing, email and apps make up a bulk of what most consumers use their computers for anyway.

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While it’s certainly not a full-fledged powerhouse that can do anything a laptop running Windows or OS X can, it’s not exactly a tablet or mobile operating system either. Chrome OS is something new entirely and it finds itself firmly ingrained between the two. This offers its own set of benefits The Fundamental Advantages Of Using A Chromebook The Fundamental Advantages Of Using A Chromebook Chromebooks are highly divisive and a consensus about the merits of Google's offering is a long way from materialising. Here are the key advantages of using a Chromebook when compared to Windows and Macs. Read More (a much lower price tag, for example) and frustrations, but overall it’s something that certainly deserves your attention.

You Can Do Just About Any Basic Task You Would Do on a PC Running Windows or OS X

Photo and video editing, documents, spreadsheets, games, web browsing, email; you name it and Chrome OS can handle it (through apps of its own). However, if you’re switching from Windows or OS X, that’s not to say that you can continue with business as usual. The switch to Chrome OS Everything You Need To Know About Switching To A Chromebook Everything You Need To Know About Switching To A Chromebook Chromebooks run a slimmed-down operating system optimized for getting on the web with just the Chrome browser and Chrome apps. Can you switch to a Chromebook? Read More could require minor-to-significant changes in user behavior in order to complete the same tasks.

For example, if you use desktop-specific apps, such as Numbers, Keynote, PowerPoint, or Excel, you’ll now have to use Google Docs or Microsoft Office Web Apps. Even so, we have tips to make your life easier 24 Google Docs Templates That Will Make Your Life Easier 24 Google Docs Templates That Will Make Your Life Easier Templates can save you lots of time. We compiled 24 time-saving Google Docs templates for work, health, home, and travel. Get on with your projects, rather than struggling with putting together documents. Read More through the transition.

If you’re an Excel power-user, you may be disappointed to find out that even though Chrome has the Microsoft Office suite, they operate as web apps on Chrome OS and they don’t allow you to use them offline. Fortunately, Google Sheets handle Excel spreadsheets Excel vs. Google Sheets: Which One Is Better for You? Excel vs. Google Sheets: Which One Is Better for You? Do you really need Excel? Both desktop and online solutions have their advantages. If you have trouble choosing between Excel and Google Sheets for managing your spreadsheets, let us help you decide. Read More pretty well.

Now, on the other side of the spectrum, there are programs that you just have to get used to living without. The Adobe Suite, for example, isn’t available on Chrome OS. Adobe is working on a beta version of Photoshop for Chromebooks – called Photoshop Streaming – but according to Adobe, it isn’t available for everyone just yet.

“Project Photoshop Streaming enables selected participants to access Photoshop on Chromebooks.”

That said, Chromebook’s aren’t designed for those that require professional-grade applications like Photoshop and Illustrator (or Pro Tools, Final Cut, and other pro-level software). For most of us, the Chromebook and Chrome OS offer plenty of apps and programs to meet basic to intermediate needs, and the alternatives (such as Pixlr Four Excellent Image Editors For Your Chromebook Four Excellent Image Editors For Your Chromebook Do you like editing and tweaking images but find the Chromebook's default editor too limited? Here are some alternatives. Read More and Sketchup) are gaining ground on their premium counterparts (Photoshop and AutoCAD).

And if you’re not satisfied with Chrome OS, you can always install Linux on your Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook Do you need Skype on your Chromebook? Do you miss not having access to games through Steam? Are you pining to use VLC Media Player? Then start using Linux on your Chromebook. Read More .

It Isn’t Just an Online PC

Chromebooks are designed to work with an always-on connection. There’s no doubt that they’re infinitely more convenient when connected, but many are surprised that – for the most part – they work just fine offline Chromebooks Don't Work Offline? Debunking the Myths Chromebooks Don't Work Offline? Debunking the Myths One of the biggest criticisms aimed at Google's Chromebooks is that they are online-only machines – ergo, no Internet, no point. How true is this statement? Read More .

It can be a bit hit-or-miss, but many of the apps (such as Gmail and Google Docs) you use every day allow you to work offline and then sync the data to the cloud once your connection is restored. Most of the apps with offline functionality come this way by default, while others require you to tweak settings or install additional extensions from the Chrome store.

That’s not to say all apps allow you to work offline, but Google Docs, editing images/video, and playing most games – which is probably what makes up the bulk of your offline use anyway – can all be accomplished while offline.

Chromebooks can also read data from USB flash drives in addition to its internal storage. So you also have the option of storing videos, music, and files locally for offline access.

Security is Top-Notch, But They Aren’t Completely Immune to Malware

For all the debates about whether OS X or Windows is the more secure operating system, the Chromebook is routinely overlooked, and it’s actually the most secure of all of them. Not only is it supremely secure, the Chromebook operates securely without the need for much – if any – input from the user.

Unlike an antivirus suite, which notifies you of potential problems, or scans your system at specified intervals, Chrome OS runs in a stateless configuration, which means that none of the software is saved locally. Instead, your Chromebook saves programs on the cloud, which it syncs at regular intervals.

In addition, it features automatic backups and updates, sandboxed browsing, strong data encryption, and verified boot processes. If things do go wrong, Chrome OS offers a Powerclean option which restores the Chromebook to factory setting. If that happens, hardly any data will be lost since they’re stored in the cloud and retrieved as soon as you log in to your Google account.

It’s not completely bulletproof 3 Reasons Why Chromebook Does Not Solve Digital Security Issues 3 Reasons Why Chromebook Does Not Solve Digital Security Issues Google's ChromeOS is probably the most secure operating system in the world (at the cost of some limited functionality). Unfortunately, ChromeOS isn't a panacea, and serious security concerns about the platform remain. Read More (in a security sense), but it’s close.

Chromebooks Require Little-to-No Maintenance

pc-maintenance

Mac users tout Apple products as low maintenance machines while Windows users are constantly griping about installing updates. Chromebooks are better than both of them.

Since Chrome OS thrives on an always-on web connection, the operating system is constantly updated in the background without you typically ever knowing about it. Virus scans, registry errors, drive maintenance and other common Windows tasks are completely unnecessary due to the stateless configuration of Chrome OS.

Maintenance on the Chromebook is virtually nonexistent. The machine starts up in a flash, runs smoothly, and syncs and updates from the cloud all without much input from you, the user. So Chromebooks are perfect for users who are not particularly savvy in performing operating system updates.

Do you own a Chromebook? What do you love or hate about it? What took you the longest to get used to when switching from Windows or OS X? If you don’t own one, what’s the one thing that’s keeping you from buying one?

Image Credit: Pavel Ignatov via Shutterstock.com

  1. Madison M
    January 1, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    You cant use skype or practically anything. Honestly it sucks... you cant get linux to install games and when ever you download things it goes strait to book shelf. so if you want to use it for work of school, go for it. but if you want a good computer for games, this is practically useless.

  2. Christopher HasARightToPrivacy
    August 28, 2015 at 4:23 am

    I personally believe that SaaS is ultimately unfair to the consumer and I don't think I'll ever see any use for a web-first device. I want real, compiled, autonomous (preferably open source) software running on my computer (not someone else's). I want software that does not *require* an internet connection to access or function. I want to be able to store the documents I create locally, not spread out over 50 cloud devices that I have no control over.

    I would never begrudge anybody who does like this type of "operating system" but it's just not my cup of tea.

    • Ozzie
      October 4, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      I would say you can do that with genuine Linux (I prefer Ubuntu) and it'll run on most existing hardware. It also doesn't require a lot of resources and is VERY secure.

  3. Phid ippides
    August 28, 2015 at 2:05 am

    I got a Samsung Chromebook about two and a half years ago. I would never want to use one as my main PC, but as a portable, day-time PC, it works well. I love the quick startup speed, the slim and light build, and the low cost. I also love the long battery life. Because of its size, I can leave it in my messenger bag without thinking about it, and take it out and turn it on lickity split. I guess what I don't like about it is that because of its size, it feels a bit cramped (I know - I can't have it both ways). Also, while you can work on it without a wifi connection (e.g. writing in Google docs0, I have found that many apps don't work without it. I don't think you can always tell this beforehand, as I installed a bunch of games that I was hoping to play offline, only to find out that maybe 1 in 5 actually worked without wifi.

    Overall, I think that the Chromebook is like a glorified iPad as far as its function is concerned. It's great to have one around the house for those times you need it, but you may not want it to be your main workhorse.

  4. Marte Brengle
    August 27, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    I'm typing this on my new Asus Chromebook. I've enjoyed reading this series of articles.

    I bought the Chromebook specifically for traveling, not wanting to risk my Macbook Air or my large Android tablet, but it's so light and versatile I can (and do) use it at home and take it just about everywhere. And the security is great. I'm glad I bought it.

  5. Yodi Collins
    August 27, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    If you purchase a garden-variety Chromebook and equip it with a 128GB SD card (and load it with stuff) you are already getting better bang for your buck than you would from an iPad, specifically if you have small children, since a Chromebook facilitates functionality without benefit of a wi-fi connection. An iPad without a wi-fi connection is tantamount to a doorstop.

    • L. Kimball
      August 28, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      My 128GB SSD was $54. Now my Acer Chromebook has room for testing various Linux distros (using Crouton) and it still boots in ten seconds. I can switch between Chrome OS and Linux with a key combo, no reboot required. Really slick.

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