7 things you need to know about Chromebooks

ASUS Chromebook Flip
Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

What makes Chromebooks different from Windows and Mac laptops is the OS itself.

Chromebooks are gaining in popularity across the board -- in businesses, homes and schools, according to ABIresearch: "Chromebooks will continue to lead growth for the notebook PC category, with Chrome OS systems expected to ship more than 8 million units by year's end, with a 22% CAGR over the next five years."

If you are among the multitudes who are planning on buying a Chromebook, here are a few things that you should know about it.

1: Automatic updates: I recently bought a Windows licence (my first in the last 20 years). And I am appalled by the way I had to look at the blue screen for over 30 minutes while Windows installs updates. And that happens every time there are updates. I also have a Mac OS system and, admittedly, its update is not as bad as Windows. But the best update experience is when updates are installed while the system is running. And this is something that all Linux distros, as well as Chrome OS, offer.

How the background update works is that there are two versions of the operating system (in this case, Chrome OS) installed on the device: let's call them A and B. At any given time you are running either the A or B version. If there are updates, they are installed on the inactive version. When you reboot your system it switches to the updated OS… and the cycle continues. As a result, Chromebook users are always running the latest version of Chrome OS without any interruptions.

2: Works offline: It's true that Chrome OS is geared towards Google's cloud applications, but you can use a Chrome OS device without an internet connection. A majority of Chrome OS apps work in offline mode. So if there is data that you don't want stored on Google's cloud, you can use third-party apps that don’t need a login and work locally. You can also mount a local file server and work locally.

3: No data loss: While you can work offline, if you are using the default Google services such as Google Drive or Google Docs, you don't have to worry about losing data because everything is stored on Google servers -- and that's true even if your device is damaged or lost.

4: The cost: Chromebooks are inexpensive. You can get a decent, touch-based Chromebook for just under $200. But if you are looking for premium devices, you could spend over $900 for a Pixel device.

5: Easy sharing: You can share the same Chromebook with friends and family without gaining access to each other's data or account. From the home screen of Chromebook, you can log into your own Gmail account and you have access to your (and only your) account.

6: Easy to use: Chrome OS is just a Chrome browser. It has the same interface. It uses the same WIMP (windows, icons, mouse and pointer) paradigm plus touch interface. There is no learning curve; you can give it to anyone and they will be able to use it.

7: Run Android apps: Google is working on technologies that allow users to run Android apps on a Chrome OS device, so you will gain access to those millions of apps. There are also reports that Google is bringing Android and Chrome OS together so both platforms will benefit from each other.

Conclusion: I love Chromebooks, I only wish that there were full-fledged, native versions of Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom for the platform. If you are someone who mostly lives online and don’t need professional grade image/video software then Chromebooks are for you.

If you are a Chromebook user, tell us what do you love about it (or suggestions for improvement) in the comments below.

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