We already know Chromebooks are perfect for elderly people who struggle with technology, and we already know they make a great second laptop for people who do a lot of traveling. But they are also ideal for college students.
It’s hardly a revelation: Google has been focusing on their classroom benefits for a long time. Chrome OS now controls 49 percent of the U.S. education market — a 40 percent rise in less than four years. The platform was responsible for 58 percent of new devices shipped to schools in 2016. In contrast, iOS now controls just 14 percent of the market, down from 27 percent in 2014.
But why are Chromebooks so popular? If you’re a college student who wants to buy a new laptop, will a Chromebook be right for you? Here are five reasons why Chromebooks are perfect for students.
1. You’re Protected Against Theft
One sadly reality of college life is there’s a good chance you’re going to get things stolen.
Student accommodation isn’t as secure as a typical family home in the suburbs. Several people have keys and individuals are constantly coming-and-going. Lots of students live under one roof, each with their own trove of expensive gadgets. And many students are living away from home for the first time — they’re typically more naive about security than their elders. It’s an intoxicating mix for thieves.
If the worst transpires and your Windows or Mac laptop gets stolen, what happens? Firstly, you’ll probably pay significant out-of-pocket costs. Secondly, you could lose years worth of work and research. (Be honest, how often are you making regular backups of your data?)
The loss of all your work could be life-changing. If it happens at the wrong time of year, it can lead to failed exams and dropped credits. Bad news.
But if you have a Chromebook? It’s not bad news at all. They’re almost entirely cloud-based. By default, all your data is being saved into your Google Drive account — you won’t lose anything. In fact, you’ll struggle to find more than 32 GB of local storage, even in the top-end models.
Sure, it’ll be annoying if your laptop gets robbed, but you can be up and running again almost instantly on any web-connected device. No downtime, no stress.
2. They Are Easy to Replace
Student life is rough on gadgets. Aside from the risk of theft, your laptop will be taking a physical beating. You’ll be throwing it in your bag every day, heading to rowdy bars with it in tow, and presumably working in less-than-ideal conditions when you’re doing stuff at home. (How many half-drunk Coke cans and empty chip packets are on your desk?)
Laptops don’t like such rough conditions. Screens will break, keyboards will jam up, and hard drives will fail.
Because of the risks, you need something that’s inexpensive and easy to replace. Chromebooks tick both the boxes.
Firstly, they are cheap. Really cheap. You can find older low-end models for around $110, and a typical mid-range new laptop isn’t more than $250 (often less than $200).
Secondly, if you need to buy a new machine, all you need to do is enter your Google credentials and give the laptop a few minutes to sync, and you’ll be back where you left off. All the same apps, all the same settings, all the same files.
3. They Are Lightweight
I touched on this in my previous point: you need something you can throw in your backpack and easily carry around all day. And when it comes to weight, Chromebooks are the clear winner.
Let’s look at some facts.
Apple’s controversial 2016 MacBook Pro (13-inch model) weighs 3.02 pounds. The Dell XPS 13, which is widely considered to be one of the best Windows laptops of 2017, weighs 2.7 pounds. Even the recently-announced Surface laptop, which Microsoft hope will be a Chromebook killer, comes in at 2.76 pounds.
And Chromebooks? There are at least 15 models that weigh less than the Dell XPS. Some models, such as the Asus Flip C100, are as light as 1.6 pounds. That’s less than half the weight of a MacBook Pro. (If you’re a student who already has a MacBook, you can at least take comfort in the great Mac apps available for students.)
4. You’ll Save Money on Apps
Another reality of student life is you’re going to be broke all the time. It doesn’t matter how many part-time jobs you try and juggle or how often you eat Cornflakes for dinner. You’re never going to have any money.
As such, every little way you can save money is a bonus. And these days, one of students’ biggest outlays is on apps.
Thanks to Chrome OS, you won’t need to spend money on some typical apps you might need as a student. Instead, you’ll find free equivalents that are deeply integrated into the operating system. For example, many students might rely on Evernote ($3.99 per month for unlimited devices) for taking notes in lectures, but the free Google Keep is a powerful alternative with lots of hidden features.
Similarly, why spend $9.99 per month for 1 TB of Dropbox space when you get 100 GB of Google Drive storage for free for two years with the purchase of every Chromebook?
I bought a chromebook specifically for college after my freshman year and it's been great, I can't relate to people they have lost papers
— Thalia Mae! ? (aka “beebs”) (@paradiamonds) February 24, 2017
And of course, thanks to the potent combination of Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets, you won’t even need to spend money on productivity suites like Office 365. Google’s products even save all your work continuously and automatically — you won’t be the one crying in the corner because you got a “blue screen of death” just as you were about to finish your thesis. If you insist on the Microsoft products, you can use the web apps for free.
Lastly, remember all new Chromebooks now have access to Android’s Google Play Store. If your favorite apps are available on mobile, you can easily use them on the desktop as well.
5. Multiple Usage Modes
The average student in the U.K. has just over $2,500 of tech. Do they really need all that? Probably not.
For example, some Chromebooks now have 180-degree swivel hinges. It means you can remove the need for a tablet entirely. Do all your college work with the machine in laptop mode during the day, then flip the screen back to watch a movie (or cram your revision) in bed later. It’s a cheap and durable two-in-one device.
Because Chrome OS is based on the Linux kernel, you can also install Linux distros and dual boot your machine. It’s the perfect workaround if an app you need isn’t available on Chrome OS natively. You can have all the benefits of Chromebooks, but still enjoy a broad range of installable software.
Caution: Chromebooks Aren’t for Everyone
The five benefits I’ve listed in this article all suggest Chromebooks are ideal for students. But as always, there will be cases in which they are not the right choice.
You may prefer another browser that helps you be a more productive student, but you can’t swap out Chrome on a Chromebook.
If you’re at college, much of the decision will rest on what subject you’re majoring in. If you’re doing a predominantly essay-based course, such as English or History, you’ll hardly ever need to work on another OS. However, if you’re doing a technical course such as engineering, you may still need access to a traditional Windows or Mac machine that can run specialist software.
Remember, as long as your college has good Wi-Fi, you can rely on a Chromebook when you’re on campus and use Chrome Remote Desktop to connect to your fully-fledged desktop.
Are You a Student Without a Chromebook?
Are you currently in high school or college? If so, what do you use for portable notes and apps? If you aren’t using a Chromebook, why not?
I’d love to hear your stories. What do you like about them? What aspects of use a Chromebook do you find to be appealing or frustrating?
And if you need another option, check out the best student laptops under $400.
As always, you can leave all your feedback and opinions in the comments section below.
Image Credits: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock