Why Chromebooks Are Still Useful, Even in the Tablet Age

Poor Google. Every time it unveils a new Chromebook, like the $249 version announced on Thursday, the company gets confronted with critics who think the concept has no business existing.

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Poor Google. Every time it unveils a new Chromebook, like the $249 version announced on Thursday, the company gets confronted with critics who think the concept has no business existing.

You can’t blame people for being skeptical. The new Samsung Chromebook, like all its predecessors, is little more than a Chrome web browser running on a laptop. It raises questions about why anyone wouldn’t prefer a more full-featured laptop instead, and one that isn’t as crippled without an Internet connection.

I’ve made the case for the Chromebook once before, when I reviewed Samsung’s Series 5 550 in June. My argument was that Chromebooks strip away the baggage of other laptops, things like long start-up times, viruses and extraneous keyboard keys. Trimming the fat allowed the Series 5 550 to focus on things like slim design, a solid keyboard and trackpad at a low price. If you spend most of your time on the web, it was a fine choice for a secondary computing device.

The problem with my argument then was that it didn’t address tablets. Devices like Apple’s iPad and Google’s Nexus 7 also ditch the baggage of traditional laptops. They are thinner, lighter and often cheaper. They’re mostly safe from viruses, and they resume from standby in a snap.

With the cheapest Chromebook now less expensive than many tablets, the relevance of Google’s browser-based laptops is worth revisiting. I still think there’s value in the Chromebook, because unlike inexpensive tablets, it’s still capable of providing the experience of a desktop browser.

I know, I know. Mobile is the future of everything, right? But in the present day, sometimes the mobile-optimized, appified version of what you’re trying to do just isn’t good enough. When that happens, you need a laptop browser, and you want it to be up and running right away. I can think of a few personal examples:

  • Gmail is better on a laptop. You can see more messages at a time, use search filters and type faster on a real keyboard.
  • Tab management is easier on a laptop. If you’re the type that likes to sort tabs into windows, or juggle more than a few tabs a a time, a tablet or smartphone browser won’t cut it.
  • Blogging is better on a laptop, especially if you’re looking for links to copy and paste. I know there are apps like Blogsy that address the need to browse and blog at the same time, but nothing works as well for me as a full-featured browser.

Those aren’t the only examples, just my favorite ones. And maybe I’m an anomaly but I don’t always want to boot up my work PC just to use its web browser.

Maybe some day better apps and websites will eliminate Chromebook’s usefulness. In that sense, it’s funny to think that a supposedly futuristic concept–that of the entirely web-based computer–risks obsolescence. But for now, a full-featured web browser inside a $250 laptop makes a lot of sense.

14 comments
kleinercomputerfreak
kleinercomputerfreak

A lot of the web is made with flash, with Android, the simple usage of these sites isn't possible or very comfortable - Yes, it works!! - but you have to consider that it works better with a PC than with touchscreen devices, because the icons are far way too small for 7inch tablets, an 11inch model is just perfect for portability and for usable display space!

Personally I use the PC just for the Internet, Windows boots, the messenger opens with Autostart and I open Chrome in fullscreen to watch video sites like Youtube, do research or going to facebook, sometimes when I want to print something out, I am even too lazy to open Word and use Google Docs, Yes, for my picture management Chrome OS wouldn't be the best way but as a second device it would work for me too!

me086729
me086729

I think the chrome book will be in time a good seller . New up dates to windows will have many reconsider this subject 

UfoHq
UfoHq

Folks, the Chromebook is running Chrome OS, a Linux (Linux has been around for 20 yrs) based operating system.  I believe Google is trying to make the point that the OS is irrelevant - it's the apps that matter.  Android, a Linux-based OS is open source...

croberts
croberts

I am hoping that the Chromebook catches on in education.  It seems like a nearly perfect solution to achieve the 1:1 goal that school districts are pursuing in terms of having a device on every desk.  Unlike most devices the Chromebook is a muti-user device.  The user logs in and manages their own environment.  I have been piloting Chromebooks in my district for nearly a year and my users report that they are very happy with the devices.  If we adopt these district wide I will no longer need to purchase MS Office for all of our machines, and the management suite that comes with Chromebooks is very functional in terms of controlling student access to the web.  Maintenance and support are nearly zero, because the OS is continually updated and we have no issues with viruses.  It is an incredible solution as far as I am concerned.  We are now purchasing these devices by the hundres.

blessedgeek
blessedgeek

I want a touchscreen chromebook that can also play netflix. Is there one?

tigerdactyl
tigerdactyl

I don't understand why they created another OS when they've already got Android with a robust ecosystem. If this ran Android I'd probably be all over it. 

blankenshipmg
blankenshipmg

They certainly have their place.  I got a MacbookPro as a hand-me-down.  I 'mostly' use it as a dumb terminal to the web. Remote Desktop to work, several Google services, general web browsing.  Usually only when I need more than my android phone or iPad.  I am predicting that Android, ChromeOS, Tablets with docking keyboards will all merge into a single multi-function platform.  (I also predict that Mac OS and iOS finally merge in the same way).

cfinch5
cfinch5 like.author.displayName 1 Like

I agree with Jared. The Chromebook certainly has its place. I received a Cr-48 test unit which I still use frequently for many tasks. My household has a iPad 2 and a Samsung Tab 10.1. There are many times when we use the Chromebook. For things like email, bills and creating documents (on Drive) it works extremely well. I am a teacher and find this to be excellent for classroom/ student use. (Battery life, quick start). Chromebooks are great device (many of my coworkers like mine a lot). However, there are two caveats:

1) Must be comfortable using the Cloud (File on Drive, etc).

2) Not a power device (i.e No Photoshop, No PowerTeacher Gradebook. However, I did use Picasaweb easily on a trip).

justinsreed
justinsreed

@RickCaffeinated thought you were an ios only guy

RickCaffeinated
RickCaffeinated

@justinsreed I’m an enigma with iPhone iPad chromebook dell and moleskine.

Gussy2000
Gussy2000 like.author.displayName 1 Like

I agree with the author.  I have an iPad (hypothetically speaking), I turn it on.  What do I usually do with it?  I browse the web or use Facebook or some other social website.  All of those typically require 1) typing 2) an Internet connection.  At $249, this new Chromebook is a no brainer.  It falls perfectly between the shortcomings of both a tablet and a full fledged laptop.  My wife has a Kindle Fire and she mentioned the Chromebook to me.  She sits on the couch simultaneously browsing Facebook and the Food Network at the same time she is watching the Food Network.  A fast, light Chromebook with a REAL keyboard is perfect for her.  And I'll say it again for the cheap seats:  $249

ElCapitano
ElCapitano like.author.displayName 1 Like

I too own one of the Samsung series 5 550 Chromebooks and I love it, primarily for the reasons you cite.  I don't think you're an anomaly when it comes to not wanting to boot your work PC for web browsing and I use my unit in exactly the same way.

The problem for the Chromebook is it's always compared to both PCs and Macs.  However, it's neither.  It's a portal to the web and, if that's where you spend most of your time, then it's a great option.  The latest Chromebook at $249 is a great value for anyone whose computing is web-centric, especially when you also recognize the fact that you also get 2 years of Google Drive storage subscription (100GB) which is a saving of $120.  I don't know of any Microsoft or Apple products that offer an equivalent value proposition.  If you live in the web or want a secondary device for quick and easy surfing, this makes for a pretty compelling case.

mikemomo59
mikemomo59 like.author.displayName 1 Like

How about android book. Can't they get it?