Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
One of the best gifts I’ve ever received from a company was a Chromebook. The CR-48 was the first Chromebook offered to the public, and I snagged mine a decade ago as part of the Chrome Notebook pilot program.
Since then, Chromebooks have become a popular and affordable alternative to more expensive Windows and Mac laptops.
Here’s a deeper look at modern Chromebooks and whether they might make sense to you.
What is a Chromebook?
Chromebooks are laptops running the Google Chrome operating system, which shares a name with the popular Google Chrome web browser. Chromebooks include laptops, desktops, and tablets, powered by the lightweight Chrome OS experience.
Chrome OS supports a large number of apps available in the Google Play Store. Installing an app is similar to adding an app to an Android phone or adding a plugin to a Chrome browser. In fact, many Chromebooks can run Android apps directly.
In my experience, Chromebooks handle tasks that you can perform from your web browser very well. This includes email, web browsing, watching videos, editing documents, spreadsheets, and light gaming. You can still do some of these things while your Chromebook is in offline mode, but this is definitely a first online experience.
Can a Chromebook replace a Windows or Mac laptop?
Chromebooks are a good choice for anyone with typical computing needs. For example, if you spend most of your time online in your email, browsing the web, visiting social media, and watching videos, a Chromebook may be just right for your needs.
Apps available for Chromebooks include Google Workspace (Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc.), Microsoft Office (Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, etc.), Google Keep, Dropbox, Evernote, Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook Messenger, Zoom , Adobe Lightroom, Canva and many more.
Most Chromebooks use less powerful processors and other components than more expensive Windows and Mac computers, which means they can run a little slower for intensive computing tasks. However, for web browsing and email, you’ll find good battery life and a speedy experience overall if you choose the right Chromebook for your needs.
When I got my first Chromebook, my daily computer was a Windows laptop. These days I mainly use a Macbook Pro. For my intensive computing needs, where I spend my entire working day online and do a lot of multimedia work, a Chromebook isn’t ideal. But for most people, including most Living on the Cheap readers, there’s no reason to shy away from a Chromebook if it fits your budget and needs.
Typical Chromebook Pricing
Value-priced Chromebooks start around $200-250, though you can find cheaper models if you’re looking for bargains. Mid-range Chromebooks cost around $300-500. High-end Chromebooks, such as the Google Pixelbook Go, cost around $600-900.
If you’re looking for an everyday laptop for browsing the web, shopping, using Facebook, and checking email, a budget model around $250-$350 should meet your needs quite well.
For pro users and anyone interested in gaming, you’ll probably want a higher-end version with an improved processor, more memory (RAM), a larger hard drive for storage, and a high-quality graphics card.
How to Choose a Chromebook
To choose a Chromebook, start by understanding your computer needs. Knowing how you’ll be using the computer can guide you to the right price and features for your needs and budget.
For example, if you already have a desktop computer, a low-cost Chromebook might be a good choice for a travel computer when you’re away from home. But if you’re looking to replace a daily-use laptop, you might want to spend a little more for more power and features.
Budget Chromebooks under $250 can feel a little slow compared to the mid-range. And power users will definitely want to pay more for a premium version.
The high-end Pixelbook, Google’s own Chromebook, is developed entirely by Google and competes with Microsoft’s Surface line of tablets. Pixelbooks are great for Google purists and anyone grounded in the Google ecosystem, though they come at a higher price. Chromebooks at a wide range of prices are also made by many of the same companies that sell Windows PCs, including Dell, HP, Samsung, Lenovo, Asus, and Acer.
Is a Chromebook for you?
If you’ve made it this far in the article, you’ll likely find that a Chromebook is a good fit for your needs. They make a great everyday computer for typical computing needs and often cost far less than Windows and Mac alternatives.
If you want to buy a Chromebook, you can find one at Amazon, Best Buy, Target, the Google Store, and many other retailers.
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