The State of Chromebooks – 2017

By | October 11, 2017

Google Chromebook Logo

 

It is not a secret that I am a huge fan of the Chromebook.  When it comes to a day-to-day laptop it is the best device for my needs.  The low cost and low power requirements of the ChromeOS means I can get high dollar like performance from a laptop with stats that would choke when trying to run Windows 10.

As we move more and more online the need for high horsepower laptops and desktop machines are dwindling.  Is there a market for those computers, yes, very much so.  I would say that for 99% of computer users a Chromebook would be a perfect fit.  I am talking about people who normally use their smartphone as their primary computing device, to do things like email, social media, and online shopping.  I am not talking about those who need to run applications like Photoshop or Microsoft Access.  If you need to run those kinds of applications, then you probably have a computer that can do that.

If you are the kind of person who likes to wander down to the local coffee shop or library and want to have the ease of creation that comes from a laptop form factor, then look to the Chromebooks.  They have come a long way from the “ugly” cheap looking plastic clamshells that they started as.

Major manufacturers, that you have actually heard of, are starting to put some serious design behind the Chromebook platform.  Samsung currently has two very good looking laptops, the Chromebook Plus and the Chromebook Pro.  There are not cheap machines in the original Chromebook sense of the word.  These are premium devices with aluminum construction and touchscreens.  The Pro even comes with a Pen interface so you can use the tablet function like a piece of paper.  Something the Galaxy Note users would be right at home with.

I personally use an HP Chromebook 13 G1.  I actually use it as my go to, day to day laptop, over my 13 inch MacBook Pro.  The Chromebook is lighter, faster and handles all the tasks I can currently think to use it for.  It has two USB-C ports, a USB 3.0 and MicroSD card reader.  While it only has 32gb of storage on board, the seamless connection to my 100gb Google Drive storage means I never run out of space.

Running Android apps on my Chromebook is something that adds another layer of usefulness.  I can take pictures with my Canon SLR and transfer them to my Chromebook, then edit the pictures in Adobe Lightroom and then upload them to my Instagram.  All from the same device.  Can’t do that with my Mac.

While the heft of my Mac makes it seem more substantial and the retina 5k screen is gorgeous, the HP I run has a 4k resolution that looks almost as good, if not quite as bright, but then, I paid $350 for my HP, not $1,300 for the Mac.  So some compromises are made, but nothing that is a deal breaker.

With the announcement of the Google Pixelbook last week, we are seeing a new page in the Chromebook evolution.  This Chromebook will be the first purpose-built laptop to take advantage of the Chromebook/Android Apps ecosystem.  The inclusion of the dedicated Google Assistant button also is a sign that Google is committed to continuing to improve the Chromebook experience.

The Pixelbook comes in at an eye-watering $999 for the basic model.  Is this price crazy?  Not really, when you compare it to most peoples other main computing devices, their phones.  The iPhone X is going to base retail for $999 and the iPad Pro with a keyboard comes in pretty close to the $1,000 mark also.  This should put the Pixelbook in the running for a lot of people looking for a powerful/futureproof laptop that can handle the day-to-day tasks they expect.  And the Pixelbook looks great also.

So, where are we in the state of Chromebooks?  Bright.  Chromebooks are starting to shake off the perception as cheap, throwaway devices, and are starting to be taken seriously as a viable alternative to Windows or Apple based laptops.  Now there are some cheap Chromebooks out there, and they are a value especially when compared to an Android tablet at the same price point.  I think the sweet spot for a Chromebook is around $400.  At that range, you can usually get one that is either a standard laptop or a 2-in-1 (you can fold it over to use like a tablet).  Touchscreens are becoming more the standard than the exception.  Backlit keyboards are also becoming more common also.

When shopping for a Chromebook I would say, as a baseline, look for at least 4gb of RAM and a 32gb Hard Drive, which will be in the form of eMMC or SSD.  The processors should be the latest in Intel Mobile chips Core m5 or Core m7, the 7 will drive the price up a little more, but if you tend to have a lot of tabs open or want to do some Photoshop type work, the faster processor will come in handy.

No matter what you are looking for in a laptop, there is sure to be a Chromebook out there to fit your need.  I use a laptop every day and I do not ever find myself really needing one of the “mainstream” operating systems.  The Chromebook fits perfectly into my life, and I think the ChromeOS system will only get better from here.

 

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