I purchased my first Chromebook about eight years ago and about four years ago I upgraded to the Toshiba 2 13″ 4GB Full HD one. The actual cost of the Chromebook was $249.00. Last year, in 2018 I saw an add at Office Depot for a closeup sale on a Samsung Pro 12¨ convertible to a tablet touch screen Chromebook. Mary and I bought the last two they had at the store for only $230 each. I can’t say enough of how easy and fast these little machines are. I do most things in a browser and I do have WiFi at home, so I guess I fit the profile who benefits from these laptops. I have tried to convince other people to switch but I have found some resistances in most people, so I thought about sharing with everybody my experience with the hope it could help them have a better understanding of how the Chromebooks (and Chromeboxes) work.
The Basics: Chromebooks are laptops made cheaply (lately, no so cheaply) with all the same attributes of a regular laptop, so I don’t need to go in depth here. The differences are in the way these machines are structured and here is the part I like to point out. They are designed to work within a browser, so they do not need a complex operating system like Windows or Mac OS. The Chrome OS is light and adequate to give you an incredibly fast and good experience from the get go. When you turn on the Chromebook, it takes approximately 8 seconds for the system to power up and be ready for you to start working. I have a Dell Laptop with Windows 10 and it takes forever. At least 1.5 minutes provided that there are no updates. Once you sign-on with your Gmail account (if you don’t have one, get one for free) the browser opens (Chrome browser) and you are in business. You can read your email. I have emails with Yahoo and Microsoft, so I can read them online, you can work on any documents either using Google Docs or Microsoft Office online. You can do almost everything you normally do in your other laptop or desktop in a Chromebook.
Advantages: Extremely fast start-up. No malware or viruses, therefore no need to worry about antiviruses. Updates are always done on the background and I have not yet noticed them in terms of time for the machine to start; still around 8 seconds or when working. When working on browser, open tabs to keep all your work available and switch from tab to tab as needed.
Software: If you use Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Dreamweaver, you can’t directly use those applications. My workaround is simple. I remotely access my windows machine and then I can use everything available in that computer. I only use Dreamweaver, MS SQL and Adobe Fireworks. I prefer to use Skype on my phone so I don’t have to access it via remote. I access my windows machine remotely using a Chrome Extension called “Chrome Remote Desktop”. It takes about a minute and half to install it in the Chromebook and another 2 minutes to install it in your windows machine. You setup the password and you can access any computer that way whenever you need to. I also use it to remotely access computers around the world.
Google offers free the equivalent of Microsoft suite. You can access it via Google Drive. I tend to use Google Docs a lot because it is a simple Word Processing tool and powerful enough to create a book, a document with columns or pretty much anything you create with MS Word. Same is valid with Google Sheets and Excel. If you do not like any of the Google alternatives, you can access the entire Microsoft Suite online – Office Online – and work in your browser. If you are a heavy Auto Cad user, the Chromebook is not for you. Many people use the Intuit software for accounting purposes and I am not sure if there is a version you can use online or not, but if you are willing to remotely access your windows computer, there you have a solution. You may ask why bother to use a computer that doesn’t offer every program available. The answer is short: Because of the speed, the security and the simplicity of the Chromebook approach is unmatched. I spend an enormous amount of time helping people remove malware and viruses from their machines. I receive lots of calls asking me to “tune” their computers because they are slow as molasses. I also spend a lot of time “troubleshooting” drivers, versions of software and many other issues people have with their Windows machines. I understand Macs well but I refuse to work on them. If somebody is rich enough to buy a Mac, they should demand free service from Apple – but that is another story for another blog.
Hardware: Chromebooks are essential. They come in either an 11″ or 13″ and now 15″ in screen sizes measured diagonally. I have used the 11″ and the 13″ and I like both. The screen resolution is also average 1366 X 768 on most 11″ and in some 13″ you can find 1920 X 1080. The hard drive in most Chromebooks is about 16GB and SSD type (solid state drive) making it extremely fast and not apt for storage. The idea with storage is that you take advantage of the “cloud” storage. Chromebooks come with 100GB of cloud storage, and it is a very convenient option. If you don’t like to have all your stuff “in the outer space”, then you can use a very small portable hard drive with 500GB to 5TB of space connected via USB to your Chromebook. Or you can purchase a 64GB to 256GB SD card and plugin it the side of the Chromebook. Or you can use all those options at the same time — like me. Storage is a non issue for Chromebooks. The ports are also standard in most Chromebooks: 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 HDMI port, 1 SD card slot, 1 Headphone/Mic combo. No CD/DVD. Bluetooth and WiFi options. Most Chromebooks come with 2GB of RAM and it is enough, but you can get the with 4GB and 8GB and in some cases the Chromeboxes could have up to 16GB of RAM. The processors vary from Dual core to Intel 3’s and 5’s. The battery last at least 7 hours and in some new Chromebooks, an entire day. Quite convenient.
I am posting here some pictures of the setup I have at home with a Chromebox. The Chromebox is just a Chromebook in a 5 X 5 box. I connected my wireless mouse, Bluetooth keyboard and HDMI monitor. The printer is connected to the cloud, not to the box. Right next to the Chromebox a have a 500GB iomega HD for storage and fun.
There are a lot of details about these machines, specially on how to use them to their full potential. I might do another section on Extensions, Tips and shortcuts, but the Online support is probably enough. There is plenty of information out there and I hope this blog helps a little if you are trying to decide. Remember that the most significant ideas for purchasing a Chromebook/Chromebox are Simplicity, Performance and Price.
I would like to offer my time FREE OF CHARGE to any person 50+ years old who lives in Portland, OR and may be interested in buying a chromebook. I can set it up, I can work with you on how to use a chromebook until you feel comfortable. I can also recommend a model base on your needs. For someone living outside of Portland, please feel free to write me an email and we can coordinate via phone.