Are you considering purchasing a Chromebook and doing your research for its pros and cons? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Chromebooks are different than legacy laptops, so you should perfectly understand what you are getting yourself into before spending any money.
In this post, we are going to provide you with an in-depth overview of the advantages and disadvantages of Chromebook computers compared to Windows or Mac machines.
By the end of this post, you will have a great understanding of Chromebooks and will know whether they are suitable for your production needs.
Let’s get started without further ado!
What are Chromebook Computers?
Chromebooks are laptops that operate with Chrome OS – an operating system developed by Google.
Although the hardware components of a Chromebook are similar to that of standard Windows laptops (e.g Intel or AMD CPU processors, SSD disks etc), their software side is very distinct.
Most apps and data on Chrome OS are stored in the cloud, and apps can typically be accessed through the Google Chrome web browser.
Since late 2017, all Chromebooks can also run Android apps, and some laptops also support Linux programs.
Chromebooks have been extremely successful since their release in 2011. These machines have been particularly popular among students and educators, with about 30 million students and educators worldwide using them as of early 2019.
Thanks to the features and the cloud nature of Chrome OS, Chromebooks have a wide range of advantages over Windows- and macOS-based laptops.
On the other hand, they have some drawbacks as well, so we can’t say that they are the best option on the market for everybody. Let’s see the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision.
Pros Of Using a Chromebook
Let’s start our Chromebook overview with the advantages of such a computer system.
1. Low hardware price
First up, Chromebook computers typically cost less than comparable Windows laptops and MacBooks. Given how expensive Windows laptops and Macs can be, Chromebooks may particularly appeal to those who shop on a low budget.
The cheaper price is partially due to the lower-end hardware used. A Chromebook laptop doesn’t require much oomph to run Chrome OS apps. Since apps run on the cloud, the local CPU and RAM requirements are pretty low.
With that said, if you are looking for top-tier performance, you will still have to pay for it. But compared to a Windows or Mac machine, the pricing will be several hundred dollars lower, which is huge.
2. No reliance on locally installed software
Perhaps the main attractor of Chromebooks for computer users is the fact that they don’t rely on locally installed software. Originally, Google conceived Chrome OS as an operating system where all apps would reside in the cloud. Well, Google did deliver on its promises.
Now, you will need to have quite a beefy internet connection to be able to comfortably use such a system. If you are in the US though, then you shouldn’t have huge issues with the internet in most areas.
And in the end, those who do have high-speed data plans will be able to enjoy apps and documents shared in the cloud without the need to install anything.
And let’s be honest, installing programs on a Windows machine can be pretty annoying, so the cloud-based nature of Chromebooks is awesome!
3. You don’t need an IT expert to help you with problems
Chromebooks are also easier to use than Windows laptops. This is somewhat thanks to the cloud-based environment of Chrome OS.
If you’ve heavily used Windows, then you know how frustrating it can be to troubleshoot problems. Sometimes, you may need to delve into the Windows registry on in complex configuration screens, which may result in unusable software if you aren’t careful. Installing drivers can be a headache as well.
With a Chromebook, everything’s in the cloud and done for you. Additionally, Google has a fairly decent knowledge base that should allow you to treat most issues.
4. No software updates are necessary
You know what else is great about the cloud environment of a Chromebook? You don’t have to do any software updates!
All the updates are done in the cloud – since it’s Google’s responsibility to maintain its servers, you don’t have to do anything to keep your apps up to date. Updates require zero effort from you and are nearly instant.
5. Everything is backed on the cloud
Although Chromebooks have local SSD storage (usually 32GB) , they primarily rely on Google Drive cloud storage.
Now, Google Cloud isn’t free – to be more precise, you get access to only 15 GB of storage space if you aren’t a paid user. If you need more cloud storage, you’ll have to purchase a Google One plan.
Speaking of Google One, Chromebook purchases come with a free 12-month subscription of Google One that offers 100 GB of cloud storage. There are some other perks as well.
Thanks to cloud synchronization, you may actually switch to another computer with Google Chrome and pick up your work. Saves in documents are done automatically, so there’s no risk of losing your edits either. All data on the cloud is encrypted as well.
Some data like browser cookies, cache files, or downloads will still be stored on the computer, but they are small and shouldn’t fill your local limited storage.
6. Very low software costs
The next big advantage of Chromebooks is their low software costs. To confirm this, just have a look around Google Play or the Chrome Web Store – you will struggle to find an app that requires tens or hundreds of dollars of monthly investment.
No matter what you are doing – editing videos or writing content – Chromebooks give you the chance to do your job at little to no costs.
HOWEVER, software availability is fairly limited on Chrome OS. But we’ll talk about this more in-depth a little later.
7. Less prone to viruses
Such computer systems are extremely secure and as of this post’s writing were completely virus-proof.
The excellent security of Chromebooks is possible thanks to sandboxing. Each app and web page runs in a separate, restricted environment called a sandbox. Each sandbox is isolated from the others and cannot interact with them.
Even if you do visit an infected page, it will not be able to affect data in any other sandbox or on computer’s local storage. Once you close the tab, the threat will be gone.
Now, although the sandbox approach does wonders and appears to be very secure, we think that you should still exercise caution. No matter how secure Chrome OS is, hackers may work around the system’s security one day.
Don’t visit suspicious pages and be careful where and what information you give online.
8. No need to upgrade hardware frequently
Another huge advantage of Chromebooks is that they don’t need hardware upgrades nearly as frequently as Windows machines.
The primary reason for this is that all the apps are running in the cloud. The only thing you need to access your apps is a fresh version of Chrome OS and a good internet connection. As for the hardware side, it’s all taken care of by Google.
So no, you won’t have to throw away your laptop every 2-3 years because it can no longer run your apps smoothly.
With that said, keep in mind that older Chromebooks may be unable to update to newer versions of Chrome OS. According to Google, Chromebooks that are more than 5 years old are likely to stop receiving updates.
You may continue using your laptop if it runs fine and supports all the apps you want, but upgrading would be a good idea.
Still, upgrading a laptop only once about every 5 years is great and isn’t a thing that you can do with MacBooks or Windows laptops.
9. Better battery life and endurance
Most systems can last 7 hours on a single charge.
Like Windows laptops and MacBooks, the more you use a Chromebook, the faster it runs out of battery. However, where Chromebooks excel is battery life when idle.
The primary reason why these computers are more power-efficient when idle is that they have very few locally installed apps. So you don’t have to deal with apps running in the background and eating through your battery even when you are doing nothing.
With that said, keep in mind that some models run longer on a single charge than others. Besides, you should still be conscious about your power consumption and close unneeded apps, keep the screen brightness low, and lock the screen when inactive to save battery charge.
10. Lower weight and thickness compared to traditional laptops
Chromebooks generally weigh less and are thinner compared to traditional laptops. With that, these laptops are great if you are traveling often – a Chromebook won’t be adding much weight and bulk to your travel backpack.
Besides, some people may find Chromebooks more aesthetically pleasing due to their more streamlined and elegant design.
With that said, if you are going for aesthetics, then perhaps a MacBook would be a better choice. However, a MacBook is a completely different beast, so you’d need to do some more research to determine if it’s truly a better choice for you than a Chromebook.
11. Better collaboration and productivity
If you have to frequently collaborate with your team remotely, then a Chromebook is going to be a fine choice for you as well. Thanks to its aim at the cloud, Chrome OS makes remote collaboration very easy, allowing you to check the edits of others and submit your work for review no matter where you are.
Now, many Windows and Mac apps also support remote collaboration, so we wouldn’t say that Chromebooks are a must-have just because they make remote work easy. However, thanks to their inherent security and convenience, Chromebooks might be optimal for many remote workers out there.
12. Best for users who travel a lot or work remotely
Do you have to work remotely often? Or perhaps you travel a lot and need to stay in touch with others at all times? A Chromebook would be ideal in these situations because it stores everything in the cloud and allows you to continue your work no matter where you are.
This isn’t all – Chromebooks are also excellent when you are away from home because they are light and have long battery life!
However, if you want such a system specifically because you travel a lot, you should be careful when shopping. Some Chromebooks are lighter and smaller than others, and some other models have larger and longer-running batteries. Read reviews and have a good look at specs before investing in anything.
13. Access to the extensive library of Android apps on Google Play Store
Not everybody is going to care about this, but Chromebooks also have access to Google Play Store apps. This includes office suites, productivity apps, and games. There are millions of apps on Google Play Store, so there’s a lot for you to look forward to.
However, keep in mind that not all Android apps work on Chrome OS. Additionally, even if an app does work on your Chromebook, it may not be adapted to the form-factor of Chromebooks well.
Finally, not all Chromebooks support Android apps, so if you do want access to Android apps, be sure that you are getting a Chromebook that works with them.
14. Developed and supported by Google
Chromebooks are supported by Google, a company that is very unlikely to go out of business any time soon. With that in mind, you could be sure that Chromebooks are going to be supported and will stay in the game for many years to come.
These systems have been on the market for nearly a decade too, so we can be sure that Google isn’t going to shut them down in the near future.
However, Google is notorious for killing apps – as of this post’s writing, they had shut down slightly over 200 apps and platforms, including Google Hangouts and Google+. This is very unlikely to happen to Chromebooks and Chrome OS though because they have been highly successful.
Cons Of Using A Chromebook
Chromebooks have over a dozen of attractive advantages, but they aren’t perfect. If you want to invest your money right, then you should also be aware of the platform’s drawbacks.
In this section, we’ll have a look at the biggest downsides of Chromebooks and Chrome OS.
1. Very low storage capacity
Glance over the specs of most Chromebooks on the market, and you’ll easily spot the #1 disadvantage – low local storage capacity.
Most Chromebooks on the market have only 32 or 64 GB of local storage. You can find Chromebooks with 256 GB or even 1 TB SSDs, but these are pretty expensive, and the vast majority of Chromebooks are limited to just 32 or 64 GB.
Now, with such computer systems your will store most of your data on the cloud, but if you install a lot of Android apps or don’t clean your browser cache often, your 32/64 GB of space is going to get filled pretty quickly.
If you are shopping for a Chromebook, you should probably go for at least 128 GB. 256 GB would be even better.
2. No Microsoft software supported
If your company’s workflow is based around Microsoft apps – most importantly, Office – you won’t be able to use them on Chromebook. At least, you won’t be able to use their desktop versions which are way more functional than their cloud counterparts.
If you need desktop Teams, Office, or any other Microsoft app, then a Chromebook would be suboptimal for you. You could use their cloud options, but these may not provide you with the full functionality you need.
3. Limited software compatibility
Microsoft apps aren’t the only thing Chromebooks don’t support – Chrome OS doesn’t support Adobe apps too, for example. Autodesk solutions also may not work on Chromebooks (though they do have web apps).
If your workflow is heavily dependent on GPU or CPU power, then Chromebooks also aren’t the right choice because they have limited horsepower. These computers don’t need much hardware juice because they operate in the cloud anyway.
Basically, apps that are dependent on local hardware will probably not work on a Chromebook. If you must use a local version of some program, then a Windows or Mac machine would be optimal.
4. Limited multimedia support
Chrome OS has somewhat limited support for multimedia formats. This is going to especially matter if you are doing video or audio editing.
Now, Chromebooks support plenty of file formats, and unless you need something really specific, Chrome OS will be able to satisfy your needs. But if you are working with a very niche file format, then have a look at the supported file types first – a Chromebook may not be able to provide you with what you need.
5. Not able to play demanding games
Do you like to play video games every now and then? Well, if you are going to make a Chromebook your workhorse, you can forget about your evening sessions in Battlefield V. There are plenty of reasons for this:
- Chrome OS doesn’t support video games.
- Chromebooks often have insufficient storage space for modern games.
- Chromebooks don’t have enough hardware power for demanding games.
So no, you won’t be able to play your favorite games on such a system.
With that said, if you are an avid gamer but have to get a Chromebook, then you may try GeForce NOW. GeForce NOW is a cloud gaming service that allows you to play your games in the cloud on NVIDIA hardware. GeForce NOW has been recently made available for Chromebooks.
GeForce NOW has a few caveats though:
- You need to own the games that you want to play via Steam or Epic Games Store.
- GeForce NOW requires you to buy a monthly subscription whose price may differ on where you are.
- GeForce NOW requires a very good internet connection if you want a smooth experience.
- The library of supported games is limited.
So there are ways to play video games on Chromebooks, but the experience isn’t going to be as smooth as on a Windows laptop.
6. Need for a good internet connection
If you want to get the most out of your Chromebook, then you will need to be online at all times. This is because Chromebook apps are all in the cloud – you need internet to be able to work remotely or collaborate with your team.
Chromebook does allow you to do some things even without internet, but the functionality is pretty limited. You may watch downloaded movies, music, play installed games, or edit documents via Google Drive.
Not all apps support offline operation too, so if you don’t have internet, your options are pretty limited. Whereas on Windows or Mac, you may continue working regardless of your internet connection since all the apps are installed on the device.
7. No external optical drive
Finally, Chromebooks never come with optical drives.
Optical drives are arguably useless today because everything is available online and because we have USB storage. However, if your workflow still relies on CDs or DVDs, you are out of luck with Chromebooks.
Best Use Cases For Chromebooks
Thanks to their advantages, Chromebooks particularly excel in some environments. If you aren’t sure whether a Chromebook would be ideal for your needs, here are some areas where a Chromebook would be the best:
- Chromebooks are easy to set up and use, which has made them very popular among students and faculty staff. Google also offers competitive pricing for bulk computers for educational institutions.
- Companies with Google-based workflow. If the workflow of your company is entirely or mostly based on Google apps and services, then a Chromebook is going to be a great choice too because it is natively integrated with Google solutions.
- Kiosks and info platforms. Chromebooks have a kiosk mode that allows you to turn your Chromebook into a library catalog, POS system in a store, or a guest registration desk.
So there you have it! Now, you should be able to make the right decision.
Chromebooks are excellent machines if you don’t really care about their disadvantages. However, keep in mind that such laptops aren’t as versatile as Windows laptops. With that in mind, you should probably have both a Windows machine and a Chromebook – one for production and the other for fun.