Computers, like all electronics in our lives these days, have been evolving and adapting alongside us as we change the ways we work. Businesses shift more and more of their services and applications to the web to avoid worrying about local machine compatibility for clients or employees. Schools have gone to the cloud for homework and coursework, whether they're in person or distance learning. We get lost on Reddit looking at r/baking and all the sweet rolls recipes you could ever imagine.
Between this web-centric shift and Chromebooks being compatible with both Android apps (through Google Play) and Linux apps (through the Linux container), there are fewer reasons than ever to spend the extra hundreds on a Mac or Windows over a great Chromebook.
So, whether you're shopping for yourself or shopping for your child, your grandpa, your great aunt, or your dear, dear friend who needs to get off that old Windows Vista laptop, here's why you can and should get a high-quality Chromebook for them. Thanks to last-minute Best Buy curbside pickup or last-minute Amazon holiday delivery, you can still get them one in time for Christmas.
Tight security + automatic maintenance = Worry-free computing
You cannot install traditional applications to the core Chrome OS system the way you would on a Mac or PC. While in the early days that did lead to some usability issues, that's been almost entirely fixed these days while still giving us a more stable, secure operating system. This year, Android apps on Chrome OS got better and better, which helped 50% more people start using Android apps on their Chromebooks in 2021.
Combine this with the ability to save and work directly from the cloud with Google Drive integration in the Files app, and you have a system that's drop-dead easy to set up, use, and troubleshoot. Thanks to how ridiculously easy it is to factory reset a Chromebook, troubleshooting a Chromebook becomes a wonderfully brief checklist:
- Did you install a new app/extension? Uninstall it, reboot, and see if that fixed it.
- Did a Chrome OS update just install? It may have changed a keyboard shortcut, feature UI, or added something new that they may not recognize.
- Have you tried turning it off and on again? Reboot and see if that fixed it.
- Powerwash and set it back up again. Setting back up a Chromebook takes less than ten minutes between Chrome sync and Google/Chrome autofill for your favorite websites, so reset and see if the problem persists.
That's it. The only other tech support you'd need to perform is "How do I do this?" and that's what how-tos right here on Android Central are for. And if you know you'll need to coach them through how to do something, have them bookmark the Chrome Remote Desktop website and install the Chrome Remote desktop extension while you're initially helping them set up the laptop. All they'll have to do is hit Generate Code can tell you the 12-number code over the phone.
Upgraded hardware features are becoming the norm on Chromebooks
Yes, the vast majority of Chromebooks sold today are still budget-minded laptops that will be running the gauntlet of student ownership or the beating of corporate use, but in the consumer space, Chromebooks got downright exciting this year. Last year's Lenovo Chromebook Duet proved that Chrome OS tablets were finally ready to play with the big boys, but it was small and slightly underpowered.
The Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 Compute Platform powering the Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook won't be mistaken for an Intel Core i5 anytime soon, but I could work full-time on the Duet 5 while taking advantage of that much brighter touchscreen. The flexibility of having a full-size keyboard when I need it and the lightweight convenience of just having an extra-large, extra-bright tablet once I'm done with work for the day has been utter bliss.
Great speakers are also becoming more common on Chromebooks too, with the Duet 5, Lenovo Flex 5i, HP x2 11, and many others delivering robust stereo speakers, either up-facing or side-mounted to avoid muffled, tinny tunes.
Speaking of the HP Chromebook x2 11, it sports a fingerprint sensor inside the power button. Fingerprint sensors in previous generations of Chromebooks were reserved for Enterprise-grade models in the $800+ range, but the $600 HP x2 11 — which is currently $399 at Best Buy — gives us a solid sensor in a convenience place whether you're using it in laptop or tablet mode.
Another wonderful trend in 2021 saw more and more Chromebooks launching with 8GB of RAM as a widely available option, if not the standard. Random Access Memory is important in any computer. While Windows laptops started setting 8GB of RAM as the minimum years ago, Chrome OS is designed to perform well on limited hardware, so manufacturers thought 4GB was just fine for a long time.
That mindset shifted during the pandemic as people struggled to balance a resource-heavy video call with trying to actually work during them. Schools distance learning on 4GB of RAM quickly found student machines crashing and re-joining during lessons. Optimizations for Google Meet, Zoom, and other video platforms helped a little, there's no replacement for having ample RAM to start with.
High-quality Chromebooks are more affordable than ever — while lasting years longer
In addition to the improved hardware, new Chromebooks are getting Chrome OS updates for 6-9 years, meaning that if you buy a good Chromebook today, you can comfortably keep using it until 2028 or beyond. This means that investing a few extra dollars upfront can pay dividends by giving you a more future-proof and comfortable Chromebook that won't wear out or stop getting Chrome OS updates in just a few short years because they're older models.
The Lenovo Duet 5 with its 13.3-inch 400-nit 1080p touchscreen can be had for $500, and its more traditional cousin, the Flex 5i, is down to $420. HP's x2 11 is back down to $399, and the wonderfully powerful Acer Chromebook Spin 713 currently sits at $600, slightly up from the $529 deals it saw on Cyber Monday. Even rugged business-grade Chromebooks like the Lenovo C13 Yoga are down to $450 while offering up tremendous performance, built-to-last hardware, and over the top features like 300-400-nit screens and a built-in USI stylus pen.
Even last year's Lenovo Chromebook Duet can be easily found for $206, letting you test the Chrome OS waters with an excellent tertiary/backup device that does everything you need while still easily fitting in a satchel or sling bag. There's a great Chromebook for each and every person these days from students to businesswomen and beyond, but expect the deals and discounts currently at play to evaporate into a trickle, one or two model deals at a time, between January and Prime Day in June.
Best of both worlds
Part tablet, part laptop, all-around awesome.
With a 440-nit screen you have to see to believe and battery life that can go all day and then some, the Lenovo Duet 5 takes the best of being a laptop and a tablet. For casual computing, homework, and weekend Disney+ binges in bed, this Chrome OS tablet fits the bill perfectly.
Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.
"Save money and your sanity: buy a no-maintenance Chromebook that can still do everything you need" Did I miss the launch of a Chromebook containing an Nvidia Quadro, and the launch of a full parametric CAD application for Chrome OS?
Haven't you seen the "best Chromebooks for parametric modelling in 2021" post? lol
Google really dropped the ball with Chromebooks by getting rid of Microsoft Office apps. Now that so many Chromebooks come with a stylus or have USI support, you can’t use them on Excel or Word docs. Not for handwritten annotations anyway. The “Draw” button has even been removed.
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