The best Chromebooks are the perfect examples of how Chrome OS has outgrown its label of being solely a cheaper device that isn’t quite a fully-featured laptop but gives you more than what a tablet can offer. It’s time to give Chromebook deals as much consideration as we do when a traditional laptop is on sale.
Nowadays, a Chromebook laptop can include useful features like a powerful Intel Core processor, a backlit keyboard, and an experience that would rival any Windows laptop. They run on ChromebookOS rather than macOS or Windows, so they generally run smaller and lighter than your standard laptop. Because of that, they rely on connectivity a bit more so due to smaller hard drives that are supplemented with cloud storage. Some have the option to install an Android app or two, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t productivity powerhouses at times too.
But if you think that these machines can’t keep up with the competition, well, it’s time you catch up. Chromebooks are increasingly capable machines. So let’s dispel some misconceptions about these laptops and help you pick the one that is best for you.
Can I run all my favorite apps on a Chromebook?
Unless you’re a creative and need very specific apps like Adobe After Effects, odds are there is a way to run just about anything that you need on a Chromebook — or at least find a viable alternative. Because Chromebooks are a popular option for students, there are plenty of ways to run apps like Microsoft Word and other parts of the Microsoft Office suite on a Chromebook.
If there isn’t an app option available, there is typically a web-based alternative that will let you create and edit documents and store them in the cloud so you can access them anywhere. Even an app like Zoom has the ability to run on Chromebooks so you’ll be able to stay connected to your class or your office while operating remotely.
Isn’t Chrome OS pretty limited compared to Windows or macOS?
Don’t get us wrong, there are definitely limitations to Chrome OS. It’s an operating system designed specifically to operate on Chromebooks, and it’s relatively young compared to its competitors in macOS and Windows. But it’s more than capable of handling most tasks.
Chrome OS is based on Linux and in recent years has become capable of running Linux apps, which gives it a whole new arsenal of capabilities. Linux has many alternatives to popular apps — GIMP for Photoshop and LibreOffice for Microsoft Word, for instance — and being able to tap into this well of existing apps makes Chromebooks more fully featured than you might have imagined.
Additionally, some Chromebooks have the capability of running Android apps. While this is limited to Chromebooks that have access to the Google Play Store, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. If you’re already using an Android phone or tablet, being able to seamlessly hop into that same ecosystem on a laptop makes it easy to pick up your work anywhere.
So what can’t a Chromebook do?
While Chromebooks are more than enough to help you keep up with your school work or make the commute to the office, they aren’t fully featured machines. If you want to do some high-level creative tasks like photo or film editing, you’re going to find the Chromebook a bit lacking. Same goes for gaming.
That said, these machines are more powerful than you might think. Many come equipped with Intel processors that you might find in mid- to high-tier Windows machines, and have 8GB to 16GB of RAM available, as well.
What you’re more likely to find lacking is physical memory. You aren’t going to be able to load up a Chromebook with lots of photos and videos, nor are you going to be able to download your favorite series from Netflix to watch offline. Chromebooks ditch big hard drives, which can often add a significant amount of weight, in favor of cloud storage. This keeps the machines portable, but also makes you more reliant on having an internet connection available.
What Chromebook should I get?
Almost all the major brands now offer Chromebooks, so you can purchase an Acer Chromebook, Lenovo Chromebook, Asus Chromebook, Samsung Chromebook, as well as an HP Chromebook (and on and on). Understandably, given the ties to all things Google, the Google Pixelbook is a standout example too, along with other more expansive fare such as the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. With so many options out there, we’ve put together a list of some of the best available to get you started.