A Chromebook for a Windows guy

I use computers a lot.  I mean a lot.  At work, at home, on the road, you name it.  I usually have a laptop or tablet handy to research, to write, to blog, to build crazy spreadsheets.  I need a machine that can keep up, but also stay out of my way.

I have just finished going through a string of Windows laptops.  None of which really met my needs.  The latest was the Dell Inspirion 3162 in Bali Blue.  I was looking for something small and portable to handle my frequent work travel.  I needed something for watching streaming content and handling mundane things like online banking and email while on the road.  It did suit the purpose but was not well executed for my needs.  The screen was too small, the keyboard to cramped and the 2GB of RAM was just not up to the task.  I spent more time trying to squeeze every last bit of performance out of it, that I almost didn’t have time to use it.

I started researching Chromebooks a couple of months ago.  I had looked at them before and the thought of a cloud ready, light OS, always on connection seemed intriguing, but I could never really put together the use case for one.  Plus the early Chromebooks were ugly.

Now Chromebooks are serious machines, just look at some of the current offerings and you will also see.  Devices like the Google Chromebook Pixel, which is the “flagship” Chromebook experience to the Asus C300SA which is available in a great 13 inch screen size show that the Chromebooks are now serious computing devices.  They not only work well they also look the part.

So what did I end up choosing?  Let’s go through my checklist from my “How to buy a Laptop” post.

  1. Use – I needed something for play, with a little bit of work thrown in.
  2. Where will I be using it – I knew I would mostly be using it on the road, so battery life was a key component.
  3. What Screen Size – After working with the Dell I knew that I wanted at least a 13 inch screen size, since it would give me a better viewing space and a larger keyboard.  I also wanted a full HD screen
  4. Which OS – I was looking for a Chromebook since I thought the OS would be the best choice between power and performance.  I really only needed something to accomplish a lot of web-based tasks
  5. Material – I wanted something metal, I just like the look and feel of it
  6. Options – I wanted something with USB 3.0 and HDMI out, I would like a SD Card reader for expanding the available storage, but not a deal breaker
Acer Chromebook 14So my search led me to a couple of options, it really came down to a couple of options.  The Toshiba Chromebook 2 and the Acer Chromebook 14.  The Toshiba was high on a lot of list of best laptops but the fact that Toshiba is getting out of the consumer laptop market worried me a little.  The Acer did hit all of the items I was looking for, with the exception of the SD Card slot.  You can read my review of the Acer here.
The Acer gets a lot of things right, and the ChromeOS is what I hoped it would be.  It just lets me do what I need to do.  It takes a little getting used to, it’s not Windows.  I have found replacements for most of the things I use on a Windows laptop, with the exception of Skype.
Skype does not run natively on a Chromebook, something about Microsoft owning that I think is the issue.  There are other applications like Google Hangouts that have a video calling option but it is not as widely accepted as Skype is.
Do I mind the web-centric focus of the ChromeOS?  Not really, I was using the Chrome Browser on my Windows laptops and computers already, I use GMail and Google Drive, so the fact those are natively supported was a plus.
I have always been a Windows guy, but the latest iterations of the Windows OS has left me kind of wanting.  I look for convergence, I want to work on my laptop then be able to head out the door with my phone or tablet and pick up where I left off.  Chrome does allow me to do integrate my Chrome and Android devices.  Since both systems are Google products it is second nature.
Some of the things I use on the Chromebook to make my life easier are Google Remote Desktop, which allows me to use my desktop computer from my Chromebook, which is great when I need to use a Windows only application.  I have another application called Pushbullet that syncs with my phone to show my notifications and text messages on my Chromebook.  I can send and receive text messages without even taking my phone out of my pocket, it’s amazing!
Acer Chromebook 14So, if you are a Windows or Mac user and are looking for a new laptop and don’t need to run applications that are native to those OS environments, I would give a Chromebook a good luck.  The lightweight OS lets you get going on what you need to do.  Sure on paper the laptops seem to be underpowered and lacking in RAM but when you leverage the power of the internet and almost always available WiFi, you don’t need a lot of computing horsepower.
Have you thought about a Chromebook, do you have questions about switching?  Ask in the comments and I will be happy to answer you.