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Google Chromebook: What it is and what it isn’t

DENVER — The Chromebook is billed as a device that starts in seconds and it doesn’t have anything complicated to learn. It also isn’t nearly as expensive as a standard laptop computer.

What is a Chromebook?

Let’s pretend you sat in front of a computer and loaded up the Google Chrome browser and then somebody told you that you were not allowed to leave the browser. You had to do everything from within the web browser. That’s Chromebook. It’s a laptop computer that boots directly into the Chrome browser. There are “apps” that you can install but they are all web based apps that load up in Chrome. If you can’t do it in the Chrome browser, you can’t do it on a Chromebook.

How does this limit me?

This depends on how you use your computer. How many apps do you use outside of the browser?  For some people the answer might be zero. Our email is in the browser, our word processors are in the browser and our photo libraries are in the browser. Remember, apps like Photoshop, iTunes and Microsoft Word will not work on a Chromebook. If you can’t load it up in a browser window, it won’t load on a Chromebook.

Who is a Chromebook best for?

Casual internet users. People who spend a good portion of their computer time checking e-mail, browsing Facebook and checking the latest news headlines. Students who don’t need access to specific software programs and can get away with basic word processing, photo and e-mail tools.

Why would I NOT get a Chromebook?

Power and programs. If you need a super powerful notebook computer that can run specific programs, the Chromebook is not for you. If you need to edit video, do major photo editing or you simply need access to specialized software, avoid the Chromebook. You’ll want to look at a typical Windows or Mac laptop for that.

If it’s so limited, why would I get a Chromebook?

Price and portability. They start at just $200. I tried the Samsung Chromebook (A01US) that sells for $250. Chromebooks are typically very thin, lightweight and have long battery life. Samsung claims the battery in the A01US lasts 6.5 hours. Impressive for a laptop that only weighs 2.5lbs. You’ll be hard pressed to find a normal laptop in that price range and it won’t be a lightweight portable model.

Conclusion

The Samsung Chromebook that I tested is a great laptop for a small price. At $250 it’s half the price of an iPad and one-third of the price of many laptops. It’s snappy, has plenty of storage space and even includes a built-in web camera for video chatting. If you’re on the fence about buying a laptop for your student or yourself, a Chromebook might be the perfect compromise. It’s not everything to everyone and for power users it might not make sense. For the rest of us it’s a perfect lightweight laptop for basic web access.