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Chromebooks have come a long way in the last few years. When they launched in 2011, critics derided them as a fad and misconceptions spread quickly. However, they’ve now developed into a serious player in the laptop world.

Sure, they might not be suitable for professionals who need to run heavy-duty software, but for home users who want to browse the web, check Facebook, and send the odd email, they’re ideal.

How do you know if a Chromebook is right for you? In this article, I’m going to explain seven things you need to consider before making a purchase.

1. Do You Use the Google Ecosystem?

Chromebooks are a brainchild of Google. As such, they rely heavily on Google’s suite of apps. If you’re already heavily invested in services like Gmail, Google Keep, the Chrome browser, and Google Drive, you’ll find it easy to use the Chrome OS and remain productive.

If you’re an Apple user and looking for a cheaper portable computer than the MacBook Air or new MacBook Pro, it might be a bigger jump. Apple apps are not available in the Chrome Web Store; it won’t be as easy to stay synced up across all your devices.

Chromebook Launcher Screen

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2. Do You Use Proprietary Productivity Apps?

Do you rely on the advanced features in the Microsoft Office suite or need to use powerful image editing software like Adobe Photoshop? If the answer is yes, you need to consider how much of your day-to-day workflow will be affected.

Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets are a viable alternative to Office Zoho Writer vs. Google Docs & Microsoft Word Online: Is It Time to Switch? Zoho Writer vs. Google Docs & Microsoft Word Online: Is It Time to Switch? If you're not completely satisfied with Office Online or Google Drive, try this free online word processor: Zoho Writer 4.0 comes with a clutter-free interface optimized for widescreen monitors. Read More for simple tasks, but they come up short when you need to do complex work. They also tend to meddle with your document’s format when you import files.

Similarly, there are alternatives to Photoshop if you just want to reduce red-eye in a photo of your dog or reduce the sun’s glare in a holiday snap. GIMP is arguably the most well-known, but there are other less-complex apps available too. But unfortunately, there are no Chromebook apps that can edit Photoshop’s PSD files The Best Ways to Open a PSD File Without Photoshop The Best Ways to Open a PSD File Without Photoshop While PNGs, JPGs, and BMPs can be opened in nearly every image editor, PSD needs special support. If you don't want to pay for a Creative Cloud subscription plan, there are free options available. Read More .

3. Are You Comfortable Using Linux?

Some of the shortcomings of the Chrome OS can be circumnavigated by installing Linux 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 . You can then install any apps that are available on Linux. Chromebooks are already Linux-based, so running a distro is reasonably straight-forward if you’re computer literate.

Chromebook Linux

But you still need to consider the processing power of Chromebooks. Most manufacturers’ top-of-the-range models only have 4 GB of RAM. That’s not enough to use Photoshop effectively, even if you do manage to get it installed through Linux.

The exception is the Google Pixel Chromebook. It offers up to 16 GB of RAM, but it comes at a price. The entry 8 GB model starts at around $650.

4. Do You Have a Reliable Internet Connection?

Although it’s true that Chromebooks now rely less on the internet 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 than when they were first launched (there are more than 200 offline apps in the store), they are still primarily designed to be used with an always-on internet connection.

This impacts their usefulness as a productivity machine. If you’re hoping to do work on a plane or train, or operate a lot out hotel rooms with less-than-stellar Wi-Fi, you might find the experience to be a frustrating one.

Chromebook No Internet

Furthermore, the OS relies heavily on the cloud for storage. The built-in SSD drives lean towards the small side. Failure to regularly connect to services such as Google Drive and Dropbox will render it nearly impossible to do work with several large files.

5. Do You Use an Android Phone?

Android apps are coming to Chromebooks 12 Android Apps You Need to Install on Chromebook 12 Android Apps You Need to Install on Chromebook With the Google Play store about to come to our fingertips, the power of an incredible number of apps is about to reach Chrome OS. So what will we install first? Let's see. Read More . It’s been discussed for a long time, but in a soon-to-be-released version of the operating system, you’ll be able to install them as easily as you can install Chrome apps from the Web Store.

If you already use an Android phone, it’s a great plus point. Any apps you’ve paid for in the Google Play Store can be ported to your laptop and used in all their glory. Although it’s not be confirmed, this should also solve the aforementioned .PSD issue; Adobe have a suite of apps on the Android system.

6. Do You Use Skype?

There is no Skype app in the Chrome Web Store, and the web-based version of the app does not include video.

It seems like Google has deliberately created the problem: it wants users to use apps like Hangouts and Allo instead. Given how many people use Skype, it seems like a poor policy. There is a workaround How to Install Skype on a Chromebook: The Ultimate Guide How to Install Skype on a Chromebook: The Ultimate Guide The lack of Skype is regularly cited as one of Chromebook owners' and would-be buyers' biggest gripes. All that has now changed. Here's what you do. Read More that allows you to install the Skype Android app on the system. If you can get it working the video will function, but people seem to get mixed results with the installation process.

Skype on Chromebook

7. Do You Value Durability?

Chromebooks are built to last. They’re far more robust than most Windows and Apple machines and can take a serious beating before they go to laptop heaven.

For example, the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work and the ThinkPad 13 Chromebook have both received the MIL-STD-810G certification. It means they’ve passed the same rigorous testing procedures that U.S. Military equipment needs to pass before being allowed into the field.

Aside from surviving falls, the Acer model can operate in conditions ranging from -20.2 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and is resistant to rain, sand, and extreme humidity.

Will You Buy a Chromebook?

I’ve given you seven points you need to consider before you buy a Chromebook, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. No two users are exactly the same The Chrome OS Challenge: A New User's Day on a Chromebook The Chrome OS Challenge: A New User's Day on a Chromebook What are Chromebooks like for someone who's used to a Windows or Mac setup? As a newcomer to Chrome OS, I'm here to tell you. Read More — everyone has different needs, different usage patterns, and different circumstances.

What are your opinions on these laptops? I’d love to know your thoughts. Are you a Chromebook convert or are you still unsure whether they’re right for you?

As always, you can leave your thoughts and viewpoints in the comments section below.

  1. Carl Draper
    November 11, 2016 at 12:49 am

    "t seems like Google has deliberately created the problem: it wants users to use apps like Hangouts and Allo instead. " It's not Google's fault that Microsoft made the browser version of Skype not work on Chromebooks

  2. Robert Fane
    November 10, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Already a big fan and have talked many friends and relatives into switching to a Chromebook. I got tired of having them bringing their systems over frequently to remove malware, viruses and unwanted browser extensions. Has made life easier for all concerned.

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