Chromebooks are becoming increasingly popular. They’re well recognized as being the best operating system for non-tech savvy elderly users, students love them, and according to the latest figures, they boast a massive 58 percent market share in the education sector.
Because of their popularity, the pace of development is rapid and the choice is vast. As such, it can be confusing if you want to upgrade your old machine or dive into the operating system for the first time. How do you know what to look out for? What are the key specs and features?
If you’re about to hit the shops, read this article first. I’m going to introduce you to seven features your next Chromebook must have.
1. Android Apps Compatibility
Google had been talking about bringing Android apps to Chromebooks for a long time, and in early 2017, we finally saw the dream become a reality.
The first Chromebook that supported Android apps fresh “out of the box” was the Samsung Chromebook Plus, but an increasing number of pre-existing models are now being brought onboard.
They include popular machines such as the Dell Chromebook 13 (7310), the HP Chromebook 14 G4, and the Lenovo N23 Chromebook. On its website, Google lists more than 80 devices that’ll eventually be able to install the Google Play Store.
Android apps on Chromebooks bring a lot of benefits. You can access more productivity tools, more offline content, and more games. At the moment, a lot of the developers still haven’t optimized their apps for the platform, but it’s clear the momentum is building.
2. 32 GB of Storage
I’ll confess, my Chromebook is three and a half years old. And guess how much storage it has? That’s right, 16 GB.
It confuses me, therefore, why some expensive models are still shipping with only 16 GB all this time later. I appreciate Chromebooks are “online” devices and integrate seamlessly with Google Drive, but saving files in the cloud isn’t always practical or desirable.
At the other end of the scale, the Lenovo N22 only comes with 16 GB. Avoid it.
3. Tablet Mode
Tablets are another category of device that have been losing market share to Chromebooks in the last 18 months. It seems consumers prefer a lightweight fully-fledged browser rather than locked-down ecosystem and range of apps.
However, their shape has always put them at a slight disadvantage. It’s simply not as comfortable to sit with a laptop on your knee as it is to hold a 10-inch display.
But all that’s about to change. The latest class of Chromebooks now offer 180-degree barrel hinges. They allow the screen to fold back on itself, giving you a tablet-esque user experience.
The Samsung Chromebook Pro (and its little brother, the Plus) both offer tablet screens. If the $450 price tag is too steep for you, check out the Dell Chromebook 11 for $225.
4. 4 GB of RAM
I’m going to refer back to my three-and-a-half-year-old HP Chromebook. It has 2 GB of RAM, and while it still performs most tasks with aplomb, it definitely struggles when several browser tabs are open at the same time. It even lags when I’m using TweetDeck and have a few live searches running at once.
Therefore, it raises the question: Why are we still seeing some manufacturers release 2 GB models in 2017?
Avoid them like the plague. You need a machine with 4 GB of RAM, especially now using your Chromebook is about to get even more resource intensive with the arrival of Android apps.
Once again, the current best-in-class Samsung Chromebook Pro has 4 GB, as do the Acer Chromebook R11, the HP Chromebook 14, and the Toshiba Chromebook 2. Depending how much you’re willing to spend, you can even bump the HP Chromebook 13 as high as 16 GB.
Chromebooks are durable and portable. Ideally, therefore, they should also be lightweight. You want to be able to throw it in your bag and forget it’s there, not feel like you’ve done a gym workout by the time you get home.
The weights of the different models vary wildly. For example, the Acer Chromebook 15 tips the scales at a porky 4.85 pounds (2.2 kg). Sure, it boasts a larger-than-most 15.6-inch HD screen, but such high-end specs almost defeat the purpose of a Chromebook.
Several models weigh less than 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg). They include the ASUS Chromebook Flip, HP Chromebook 11, and ASUS Chromebook 11.
Not all Chromebooks are created equal — some have a wider selection of ports. Sure, you’ll always have a couple of USBs ports and an HDMI point, but what else is available?
When you’re looking for your next device, you need to make sure it has either USB Type-C connections or an SD card slot. SD card compatibility is the more common of the two.
The ASUS Chromebook Flip has two USB-C ports and an SD card slot, while the HP Chromebook 13 G1 only has one USB-C port to accompany its SD card slot. The Acer Chromebook 15 and Dell 7310 Chromebook only have SD card compatibility.
Don’t worry about the headphone jack. All Chromebooks have one!
7. Battery Life
Google touts Chromebooks as being perfect for students and people on-the-go. Therefore, a long battery life is an essential feature.
To be fair to ChromeOS, it’s always been quite light on battery consumption. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some laptops that are better than others.
The aforementioned Samsung Chromebook Pro and Plus both come with a 5,140 mAh battery that the company claims will last up to seven hours of continuous usage. ASUS goes one better with its Flip model, boasting nine hours.
On the other hand, the HP Chromebook 13‘s QHD+ display eats through power. You’ll be lucky to see more than four hours.
Which Features Are Important to You?
I’ve shown you seven essential features and specs you need to pay attention to if you’re about to hit the shops for a new Chromebook. However, these might not be the most important things you consider.
I want to know what you’re going to be looking in your next Chromebook. What features are must-have and which features don’t matter to you?
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