Choosing a Chrome OS Device As a Secondary PC – Computer Tip of the Day
In the years since the first Chrome OS devices arrived in 2011, the platform continued to evolve and mature. What was initially an OS so light on features that even average users were somewhat confused by the concept blossomed into a viable Windows alternative covering many software needs through Google’s suite of webapps, and more recently, full Android app support.
Still, Chromebooks and Chrome OS aren’t for everybody. Jobs and hobbies that demand access to specific apps will still find gaps in the Chrome OS offerings. And while the range of Chromebook offerings is now fairly broad, there are pitfalls to look out for in the space, as some devices very directly target users who simply need a cheap and straightforward way to access Facebook.
Here are 5 tips on how to figure out whether Chrome OS is right for you:
- Does a Chromebook cover your needs, or do you need a traditional laptop? Primarily, you’ll have to decide if there are any major Windows or OSX applications that you can’t live without, even on a secondary device. While many simpler web-based alternatives for things like photo editing are available, power users who need something like Photoshop are out of luck here. The other major decision is how integrated into Google’s ecosystem you are. Users who rely on Google’s services already will find themselves seamlessly integrating into Chrome OS usage.
- Is a touchscreen necessary? In the wake of Google rebuilding the Chrome OS keyboard for touchscreen use, most new Chromebook models support touchscreens and convertible tablet hybrid models are common. It’s telling that the Chromebook to get the greatest pre-release buzz so far in 2017 was the Samsung Chromebook Plus hybrid model. While initially touchscreens were a token feature for some of the more expensive Chromebooks, today most devices support the Google Play Store and full Android apps. Only users who intend to stick to Google’s web services should consider going for the handful of models that don’t come equipped with touch support.
- Do you really need to spring for a high-end Chromebook? In the early years of the Chromebook, this was an easier question to answer: you didn’t. Today, Android app support, the need for snappy touchscreen performance, and Ultra HD video support on services like Netflix and YouTube means springing for a mid-range or higher model will have tangible benefits for most users. Also, for niche users looking to fill in the gaps of Chrome OS with a traditional alternative, many of the higher-end Chromebooks contain x86 processors, which allow Linux support in some cases.
- Do webapps really replace conventional apps for everything? While HTML5 is a proven boon to the usefulness and quality of web-based applications, the lack of direct hard drive support limits their usefulness compared to traditional applications. Uploading photos to your Google Drive gives you passable editing capabilities, and Google Docs are easy to share to other Internet-connected devices. For many people this covers most use-cases, but the remaining 10% or so could relegate a Chromebook to a secondary device.
- Should you get an Android-supported Chromebook over a dedicated Android device? New Chromebooks (as well as some legacy models) now support Android apps straight from the Google Play Store. However, most of these aren’t built with the high-resolution displays of the average 2018 Chromebook in mind, a problem that also extends to most Android tablets. Almost all Chromebooks eschew graphics processing as well, so while most games are playable, demanding 3D graphics in some of them won’t work as well as they would on a flagship Android device.
Over the years, Chromebooks slowly expanded from focusing entirely on the void left by low-end (and too often low-quality) Windows Netbooks, and are now robust enough in software and hardware usability to hold up as worthwhile choices for many mid-range buyers. As long as you consider the drawbacks of Chrome OS as a web-focused device in your buying decision, there is likely a 2018 Chromebook to match your needs for a primary or secondary device.
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