What Is A Chromebook? [MakeUseOf Explains]

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We’ve seen so many changes over just the last couple of years that it’s getting rather difficult to keep up with everything. However, you can still get the jist that everything is moving towards the web, which is now more commonly being dubbed “the cloud” (except that it doesn’t rain on you).

As such, your devices should probably be ready and well equipped to make full use of cloud services for your convenience. However, our big and slow desktops and laptops still have many unnecessary components from our long computing past. At least, that’s what Google says.

Google’s Approach with Computers

Google has decided to take a different approach with computers, right down to the hardware. As computing is moving to the cloud, where Google is a major player of cloud services with Gmail, Google Docs, and much more, computers should depend less on data stored on the machine itself but rather put all the data in the cloud.

Plus, most of a modern user’s activities is online, where a browser is used to surf around Facebook, play Flash games, and more. Rarely do they touch other applications, especially any that cannot be replicated through online cloud services (such as Microsoft Office –> Google Docs). With that logic, Google came up with the Chromebook.

The Chromebook

A Chromebook is just like a small laptop, with some key differences. It is relatively thin, and to the untrained eye doesn’t seem to have an operating system. Yes, you heard right, there’s no obvious operating system. Of course there is one, else the device wouldn’t work, but there isn’t a Start Menu or anything else that you recognize as part of your operating system. Instead, all you get is a nice login screen and a browser. That’s it.

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Benefits of Chrome

As it’s Google’s device/idea, the included browser is obviously Chrome. Honestly it isn’t a bad thing, as Chrome’s userbase is growing at an exponential rate. Just look at this graph if you don’t believe me! Also, Chrome’s focus on speed and overall performance is a plus for the low powered device (which still sports a dual-core Intel Atom processor).

That’s it; it’s just you and the Chromebook with literally only Chrome on it. While it isn’t meant to replace all your computers (and I don’t see that happening anytime soon), it is a good replacement for netbooks and laptops for those who just use the Internet anyways.

Hardware and Firmware Differences

Because the devices are built for the web (cough, Chrome), Google engineers have taken a lot of effort to take away a lot of system processes that each traditional computer carries out that, in this case, are unnecessary. This includes checking for devices to see which one to boot from and so on. Instead, all these checks are taken out so that the device is ready to log you in after just 8 seconds of booting. And the device is also supposed to wake up instantly.

The Samsung models of the Chromebook get around 8.5 hours of battery life, which should be enough to get you through the day.

Go Worry-Free with Automatized Updates

Also in line with this simplistic approach, Google makes sure that any behind-the-scenes jobs such as updates and corruption protection are taken care of automatically and transparently. Since everything a user does on a Chromebook is stored online, Google emphasizes the ease of simply using a different device (whether Chromebook or not) to get back to the data you’ve always had in front of you in case your Chromebook breaks, gets stolen, or worse.

Pricing and Alternatives

You can see the speed of the Chromebook in the video below, which almost instantly makes me want to go get one, but sadly I don’t have $430 to spend on a Wi-Fi only model just yet (or $500 for a 3G model where you only get 100MB/month for free for two years).

However, I’m doing some research where it may be possible to install the operating system that is on Chromebooks onto your own laptop or netbook, but I need to find out more first. A safer, sure-fire way to get a similar experience is to install JoliOS, which happens to be installed on the other computer used in the comparison video below.


There isn’t much else to say about these little devices, as Google wanted to make them as simple as possible with the “Boot and Go” approach. They seem to be a nice, practical tool for the average user once they get to understand that there are online versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. While this isn’t the perfect device for everyone, it can still be helpful for plenty.

What do you think about Chromebooks? Will they eventually become a tool that everyone can use for anything? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments (37)
  • Aibek

    thanks for the input

  • Rainbowdinosaurz

    If it’s a web only laptop, does that mean I can’t use software like Adobe Photoshop and SAI Paint Tool? I’m a digital artist and I need photoshop on my computer, though I could live without SAI. If it weren’t for that, this laptop would be perfect for me.

    • Danny Stieben

      That would be correct. However, you can use any online tools that replicate Photoshop features. I know deviantArt has a decent painting tool, but I doubt that will be enough. If you ever find one that replicates more features of Photoshop, let me know!

  • Mdshaffer

    Recently my laptop was unresponsive for 45 minutes as it did its anti-virus scan and downloaded 9 Microsoft Security updates in the background and installed them.  That was enough for me.  I ordered two Chromebooks for my wife and I.  We couldn’t be happier.  We are retired and 99.9% of our computing is done on the web.  Finally a computer that meets retirees needs!  Its so fast in comparison to our bloated window machines that a comparison can’t be made

  • Allisondcnt

    Two questions: Can I use excel and word if I am not connected to the internet? Can I use them if I am connected to the internet

    • Danny Stieben

      You cannot use the full, original version of Word and Excel on a Chromebook as the Chromebook is only a browser, and nothing more. You can however, use the online versions of Word and Excel that Microsoft offers, or you can use Google Docs which offers the same functionality. I’m not sure about Microsoft’s offline capabilities, but I know Google Docs works offline as well.


    • Danny Stieben

      You cannot use Word and Excel, period. However, you can use online alternatives such as Google Docs’ documents and spreadsheets. I believe they also work when you’re not connected to the internet as long as you’ve accessed the site at least once.

  • kev

    Yes this will become the standard and it should.

    • Danny Stieben

      It’s definitely an interesting concept for it to become “the standard”.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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