We're pretty bullish on Chromebooks around here. Even though they may not fit our lives quite right, we know that for plenty of folks a good, sturdy and inexpensive Chromebook is just the ticket for the things they need. We've talked about the pros and cons since Google first sent out the CR-48 units as a pilot. We'll continue to talk about the pros and cons, because we think the idea of a Chromebook is a great one.
Today we're going around the table to see how we use our Chromebooks. Or why we don't use a Chromebook. I have a feeling that our personal needs and wants will mirror what plenty of our readers think, on both sides of the argument.
Sit back and have a read to see how we do it.
Chromebooks are great — for my kids
Phil Nickinson: I love the idea of a Chromebook. Not for myself, mind you. I just don't have the luxury of not being able to do anything and everything at anytime, from anywhere. And in my case that specifically means Photoshop and video editing. I know, I know. There are apps for that. Chrome apps. And they're quite good.
They're just not the same. That, and I'm old and set in my ways and know what works right for me.
But flash back to the great Talk Mobile series of 2013. We'd write days of content for that at a time. And as it was different than everything else we did (and I often found myself doing it at the last minute on a Sunday afternoon), I'd kick back on the porch with the Chromebook Pixel and just write. No other distractions. No Twitter apps. No RSS readers. Not even a password manager, so oftentimes I couldn't get into my other accounts even if I wanted to.
I'm old and set in my ways and know what works right for me
But I love the idea of a Chromebook for my kids. They love the Pixel. (Though there's no way an 8-year-old needs a thousand-dollar machine, in my humble parental opinion.) Really, though, there's very little else they need besides a web browser. It just needs to be fast and safe and secure. And that (generally speaking) is Chrome.
I could do most of my job on a Chromebook
Alex Dobie: I don't use a Chromebook, but I've played around with Chrome OS on a Chromebox and older laptops enough to know the OS — that is, as much as there is to know beyond the central Chrome browser.
Using a Chromebook as your primary computer is much more feasible now than back when the CR-48 — the original Chromebook — was first released. Back then, the idea of your computer turning into a pumpkin without an Internet connection was new and scary. These days that's basically true of every modern PC or Mac anyway.
For me personally, I could probably do most of my job on a Chromebook, with a few main exceptions. At Mobile Nations we use Google services for a lot of things, and for the outliers like Slack and Skype (for team communications), there are web or Android apps available. The major sticking points are photo and video production. Chrome OS has a few decent image editors, but nothing as full-featured as Photoshop. And you can pretty much forget serious video editing. Naturally, Dropbox — my choice of cloud storage platform, and our team's main way to share files — doesn't integrate as neatly into Chrome OS, and likely never will. That's a big reason why I'd never take a Chromebook on the road with me as my only laptop.
It's still my belief that Android app support coming to Chromebooks is a way bigger deal than most people realize at the moment. It's effectively a shortcut that'll eventually allow Google to have a ready-made native app ecosystem for its desktop platform, something it needs if it's going to seriously challenge Apple and Microsoft in this area. Given time (and the right apps, of course) this could open up Chrome OS to a new audience of power users — folks Google's courting already with the new Chromebook Pixel.
I'd never take a Chromebook on the road with me as my only laptop
Chromebooks started as this crazy Google moonshot — the computer for a future with ubiquitous connectivity. Many of us now live in that future, and as a result the prospect of using a Chromebook for day-to-day computing tasks doesn't seem anywhere near as alien. That said, buying one still means making a big bet on Google's vision of the future, on its ecosystem, and on the web as your primary computing platform.
There's little point in switching back and forth
Russell Holly: I've used Chromebooks on and off ever since the CR-48 hit my doorstep a couple of years ago, and as much as I'd love to go all in and enjoy the All Chrome All The Time experience, I need the video editing tools on my MacBook when I'm mobile. While I could easily use a Chromebook for all of the times I don't have to edit video, for me there's little point in switching back and forth.
As a platform, Chrome OS has grown into something amazing
I still recommend Chromebooks to anyone who is browser-focused and not playing hardcore games on their computers, and that has a lot to do with the no nonsense experience Chrome OS provides. No need to worry about updates, no point in bothering with antivirus software, and everything about the Internet is at your fingertips. As a platform, Chrome OS has grown into something amazing, and as soon as I'm able to do some kind of video editing — likely through Adobe's streaming app service for Chrome — I look forward to trying once again to jump into the Chrome OS lifestyle for myself. That new Chromebook Pixel is calling my name something fierce.
Playing second fiddle to my MacBook Air
Andrew Martonik: As I have watched Chromebook hardware and Chrome OS itself advance in the past couple years, my Chromebook has still remained as a secondary machine in my life. For both work and play, my Acer C720 plays second fiddle to my MacBook Air in most situations, though it edges its way into use more and more as the OS receives much-needed refinements.
While the MacBook is still my go-to laptop that sits in my bag any time I need to leave the house, there are quite a few situations where I'll swap it out for the Chromebook that otherwise sits on its charger on my desk. When it comes to non-work duties, I'll bring the Chromebook along when I'm heading out for a weekend trip or an overnight stay somewhere, knowing that it can get most things done while also being lighter in my bag and less of a worry because it's an inexpensive machine.
As Phil already mentioned, Chromebooks are wonderful for straight-up writing — and that's just what I use it for. When I need to get my thoughts out into a Google Doc (or just a plain text editor — I like Caret), I'll put the Chromebook in my bag and sit somewhere comfy to get that kind of work done. And with our work here at Android Central revolving around a web-based post editor and Google Apps accounts, I can keep up with most everything for the site from the Chromebook without any hiccups.
Shortcomings keep me from using a Chromebook more at this point
As you'll often hear in relation to Chromebooks, my big concern with relying on them personally comes down to photo/video editing, and a handful of native apps that are still missing. I have a gigantic library of RAW photos in Lightroom and a workflow in Final Cut Pro that I just can't break, and even if I wanted to change there's just nothing powerful enough on Chrome OS to replace them. And with my daily reliance on apps like Skype and system-level Dropbox sync, it's hard to spend more time on a Chromebook no matter how much I really want to. Of course a great Chrome Remote Desktop experience certainly helps, but it's not a perfect solution.
Interestingly, the fact that I don't use the Chromebook that often shows off one of its major strengths — even without powering up for a week or so, given a few minutes on Wifi when signed into my Google Account it's synced up and ready to work. Chromebooks don't need anything approaching what you'd normally call "computer maintenance" — if you left any other computer sitting around unused for a while you'd spend 30 minutes getting things updated and back to a usable state before you could work.
A Chromebook clearly fills my computer needs much of the time, but the same shortcomings keep me from using it more at this point. Chrome OS is changing rapidly and in a positive direction, though, so we'll see how the needle moves.
It does just about everything I need it to do
Jerry Hildenbrand: I use my Chromebook far more than I use any other computer. It's the laptop I take with me when I leave the house (and might need to do a little work) as well as the laptop I take out on the porch when the weather is nice and the great outdoors calls me. It does just about everything I need it to do.
The key is what I need it to do. I write for a living, and having access to Google Docs as well as a great keyboard and trackpad on the Pixel means I have a great word processor — even if I'm offline. When I need to assemble a video or do serious Lightroom or Photoshop stuff, I have to wander into my office and use another computer, or use Chrome Remote Desktop and access another computer.
It does just about everything I need it to do. The key is what I need it to do
It's not a secret that I enjoy playing a game or two, and while a Chromebook does a fine job playing browser-based games, you'll not be playing the latest 3D shooter or anything similar on one. The games aren't programmed to run on Chrome, and most Chromebooks don't have the horsepower to run them if they were. I've moved all my gaming needs to the console or Android tablet, so I'm fine with it. You might not be.
In short, a Chromebook works for me. It does what I need to do most of the time, and when it doesn't easy remote access tools let me use my desktop right from my Chromebook display. I probably wouldn't try to take my Chromebook as my only computer to something like Google I/O. But for most things, most times, it's my go-to. Only you know if a Chromebook will work the same for you.