A major growing category in the past few years of computing hasn’t been the tablet or traditional PC, but a new kind of computer — Chromebooks. These computers essentially look and function like any regular Mac or PC with one significant difference: Just about everything you do on the device is stored online. While there’s the obvious disadvantage of needing internet access to fully utilize your machine, how often are we offline anyway?
Once you move your files, applications and life to the cloud, you gain some major productivity advantages. Being untethered can be a whole new way of looking at computing.
1. It’s as easy to use as your web browser
Chrome OS is essentially a modified version of the Chrome browser, so if you know how to browse, you can figure out how to use a Chromebook pretty quickly. Instead of downloading big applications, Chrome gives you the ability to download apps and extensions from the Chrome Web Store. These apps have as much functionality as most Mac and PC apps. You can do just about everything from photo editing to word processing. Unless you’re looking to do advanced video editing or need a specific software suite, the Chrome Web Store is incredibly extensive for a variety of tasks. It’s not just productivity suites though — the store carries a wide array of fun games, music and entertainment apps as well.
2. Updates are easy
While most computers need significant upgrades and have a tendency get slower over time, the Chromebook runs incredibly light. Installing updates are impressively quick and simple. Plus, because your data on a Chromebook is stored on the cloud, you don’t have to go through the laborious process of backing everything up each time you want to upgrade. You can even lose your whole computer and get a new one with the same files and configuration. With this, the likelihood of viruses or malware dramatically decreases. There’s no need to install antivirus software or be deeply concerned with where you browse.
3. Impressive battery life and performance
Because Chromebooks run just about everything in the cloud, this relieves your local hardware from having to drain significant resources to function. As long as you have a good connection, this results in a faster, zippier machine that boots up in just seconds. Battery life tends to range from around 10-12 hours on most machines, and your typical Chromebook doesn’t have a fan or make any noise.
4. They’re inexpensive (usually)
Because Chromebooks don’t require significant hardware to run effectively, the machines themselves can be incredibly inexpensive to produce. This means instead of paying $1,000 or more for a lightweight, stylish machine, you can spend as little as $150 to $300. Now, there are substantially more expensive Chromebooks for those craving a premier experience with a high-density display and build quality, but the core benefits don’t have a high cost entry point. This can make Chromebooks ideal for education or increasing computer availability in developing countries when paired with efforts to widen the universal availability of internet access.
5. Works beautifully with other Google devices
Because Chrome is designed by Google, integration with other devices from the company tend to be a pretty streamlined, seamless experience. Google or Android phones sync perfectly with Chromebooks while requiring little effort in terms of connecting the devices. While often we come to expect having to work with complex plugins or installing new software just for our devices to recognize each other, much of this disappears when using Chrome and Google devices.
6. They’re lightweight, and perfect for travel
Most of us have a number of ways we access similar information. First, our phones, which give us access to apps, email, Facebook and the web. Then, we usually have some kind of desktop or laptop, and in some cases we also have a tablet for reading, casual gaming, etc. The Chromebook fits beautifully in a category where the others fall short. A simple, lightweight machine that can be carried around easily, but doesn’t have significant limitations in terms of productivity. While tablets are incredibly lightweight and can be fitted with Bluetooth enabled keyboards, the process isn’t nearly as smooth or built-in as it is with a Chromebook. Plus, while traveling the Chromebook only carries access to your Google account. If you lose it, not only is your data backed up, but because the data is stored elsewhere you don’t have to worry about someone else gaining access to it. That said, as with any computer remember to password protect your machine while traveling.
7. Chromebooks represent the future
As we move our lives into the cloud, Chromebooks represent a vision and way of computing more in line with where things are going. The idea of confining information to single pieces of hardware can limit our mobility and access to photos, work documents and information on the go. The Chromebook is more closely aligned with a cross-platform, widely accessible approach to computing. One where your laptop, phone, TV and even watch have access to the same information you use in your daily life. No longer is there this idea of needing one specific machine to access what matters most. Perhaps this kind of freedom, more than anything, is what’s so exciting about Chromebooks. This, along with the broader potential of cloud computing on the whole as we watch the line between what is and isn’t a computer disappear.