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Back to school: Google Chromebook a cheap laptop solution

Sam Chada • Aug 7, 2013 at 11:19 AM

We’re venturing into the dog days of summer, which signifies that school is kicking back up in a couple of weeks. This is usually the time when students are looking for the latest technology to help them succeed in the upcoming school year. There are many great technology options that are available on the market and are designed for education and entertainment needs. These gadgets include, the traditional computer/laptop, tablets like the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab and Windows Surface. There is also a little known underdog that is lurking in the shadows and starting to generate interest, the Google Chromebook.

The Chromebooks runs Google Chrome OS, meaning work is accomplished through the web browser and users are encouraged to store everything to the cloud and nothing locally. In layman’s terms, the Chromebook boots directly to Chrome, the web browser, you can’t install Windows software but you still use web apps for word processing, spreadsheets, light photo editing and getting your daily dose of Candy Crush. You can pretty much accomplish anything you that you do in a web browser using the Chromebook.

The Chromebook also boasts additional features like minimal maintenance as there is anti-virus software built in, and updates that run automatically, a camera and microphone for video chat, thousands of apps in the Chrome app store, about 4-hour battery life, offline mode for when you’re traveling or unable to connect to WiFi. It also connects easily to external monitors or your TV using the HDMI or VGA outputs and has multiple USB ports. It’s also super light weight and extremely portable.

To get started, all you will need is a Google account and access to the internet either by an ethernet cable or WiFi. The Chromebook also supports multiple logins, which allows different family members to share the Chromebook and switch between accounts with ease. If a friend is visiting and needs to borrow your Chromebook but they do not have a Google account, they can still use the laptop using the guest account.

The Chromebook is an extremely slick and efficient device, but there are a couple downsides. First, you can’t install any software. So if you’re a power user of iTunes or Microsoft Office you may not like the Chromebook. Second, there is no CD drive so you cannot play music or watch a movie from a disc but you can stream content (link to streaming content article). But if you’re looking to browse the headlines on the Register, check in with friends on Facebook, and send a couple quick emails, than the Chromebook may be a suitable option.

Major brick and mortar stores like Best Buy, Walmart and Staples now sell Chromebooks. The Chromebook has long been available through Amazon and the $249 Samsung Chromebook has been at the top of Amazon’s laptop best-sellers list for months now. Regarding pricing, there are a couple different Chromebook models that are available. The cheapest is the Acer C7 and retails for $199, the Samsung Chromebook for $249, the HP Pavilion Chromebook for $329, and the most expense - the Google Chrome Pixel at $1,299.

The Chromebook also comes with two important freebies — extra Google Drive storage and free in-flight WiFi passes. With the purchase and activation of the Chromebook, the Google account holder is given two years of 100GB Google Drive storage (a value of $119) and 12 free Gogo inflight passes (a value of $179). In total, the account holder is saving close to $300 over two years — it’s like Google is giving you a free Acer C7 and paying you to use it.

I have been a proud owner of an Acer C7 since the beginning of the year and absolutely love it. The Chromebook syncs with my Chrome browser at home and work and with my Samsung Galaxy 3. And rather than emailing myself files (because I don’t usually have a USB drive handy) I simply save documents to Google Drive and have access to them where ever I am. It’s really a beautiful thing.

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.

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