AS YOU PONDER your next computer purchase—should you get a Windows device or a
new Mac?—remember there’s a third major
Running Google’s Linux-based Chrome
operating system (OS), these (mostly) affordable machines are already dominating in the
education space. It’s quite impressive, especially
if you consider Chromebooks have been around
for only seven years.
To decide if a Chromebook is for you, consider the following tips.
Models and prices vary
As with the wide assortment of Windows ;;
devices, there’s a hearty selection of Chrome OS
machines to choose from. Most Chromebooks
are like a clamshell laptop, but there are a
few desktop and tablet models, too. You can
even find ;-in-; Chromebooks that can transform into a touch-screen tablet, thanks to a
Prices for Chromebooks range from about
;;;; on the low end all the way to more than
;;,;;; for Google’s own Pixelbook. Most
Chromebooks, however, cost between ;;;; and
;;;;. The more you pay, the more power and features are offered. You’ll save some cash by going
with a smaller screen, a non-touch display and
less system memory (RAM) and storage.
In other words, when it comes to Chromebook
pricing, they’re not all cheap and cheerful—but
most still are.
Internet access is important
Because Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome
OS, they often come preloaded with a suite of
Google apps, such as Gmail, Google Calendar,
Google Chrome (browser), Google Docs,
You Tube and Google Drive. If you’re a heavy user
of these, then a Chromebook might be for you.
Just log in with your Google ID and you should
be up and running in seconds.
Since these apps run in the cloud, an Internet connection is incredibly important with
Chromebook devices. Some apps will let you access
files offline, but because most Chromebooks don’t
offer a lot of storage—;; gigabytes on the low
end—you may opt to pick up a memory card and
keep it inserted in the Chromebook.
Some support Android apps
One major advantage of a Windows-based
computer is the huge assortment of software, but
Google is upping its game by including access to
the Google Play Store with some models.
Typically, the higher-end Chromebooks
support Android apps—but not all do—so be
sure to look for this feature if it’s important to
you. Be aware, however, that Android app performance varies greatly between devices. Also,
Chromebooks aren’t ideal if you’re a gamer, as
these machines generally have limited graphics
power, RAM and storage space.
Because Google’s Chrome OS powers these
devices, it’s no surprise that Google Assistant
is starting to make its way into some pricier
Chromebooks. Press a button and talk to your
assistant, just as you would with an Android
phone or smart speaker.
Thankfully, a few hardware-related issues
that plagued Chromebooks in the early days—
like not making it easy to print to a nearby
printer—have been addressed.
Chromebooks are secure
Because Chrome OS and Google’s apps focus
heavily on the cloud, these always-connected
devices will automatically download new updates
for you (look for the “Restart to update” notification near the clock). Cybersecurity experts often
praise Chromebooks for making protection a
priority. Chrome OS takes advantage of various
Google-powered security measures, so it’s not
likely you’ll be hit with malware, or even annoying pop-up windows or toolbars.
Another advantage of Chromebooks? Many
have an all-day battery, topping about ;; hours.
The bottom line
Chromebooks have come a long way and
aren’t just for education any longer. Yes, they’re
designed for simpler tasks, but that might be all
you need. If budgets are tight and you don’t mind
a smaller computer for basic tasks, you can’t go
wrong with a Chromebook for less than ;;;;. C
The other notebook
Chromebooks worth considering
for back-to-school PCs
Costco offers a wide range of
computers, including Chromebooks, in the warehouses and
online at Costco.ca, to meet a
variety of computing needs.
Marc Saltzman, a leading
high-tech reporter, contributes to more than three dozen
appears on radio and TV,
and is the author of more
than ;; books. He’s on Twitter
Saltzman will answer
selected questions in this
column. He regrets that
unpublished questions cannot
be answered individually.
Please include “Marc Saltzman
Q&A” in the subject line.
Q&A with Marc Saltzman
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