Practical or not? A beginner’s guide to Chromebooks

What are Chromebooks?

Introduced to the market in 2011, Chromebooks were initially built around Google’s cloud apps i.e. Chrome, Gmail, etc., and required a consistent internet connection to perform virtually any task. They were basically laptops that could only run a web browser, and that was the end of their functionality.

Fast-forward 10 years, Chromebooks have evolved over time and their functionalities have increased. However, at the heart of it, they are supposed to offer powerful features thanks to the cloud at a fraction of the cost of mainstream laptops and Macs.

Since Chromebooks run on Google’s Chrome OS, an operating system based on the Chrome browser, they are also able to run Android apps, making cross-platform work easier and convenient.

Use cases for Chromebooks

The majority of Chromebooks are affordable, making them popular with businesses, as most of them prefer issuing Chromebooks to their employees due to the price, while students also form a large percentage of Chromebook users as their needs typically involve note-taking, research work and the occasional movie streaming which newer chromebooks handle with ease.

Now, since most of the work is done on the cloud, Chromebooks can be much more secure than other machines. Everything you do is saved in the cloud and encrypted, further appealing to businesses. If you happen to damage your Chromebook, get a replacement, log in, and your backed up work will still be available to you without any loss of data.

Are Chromebooks practical in Kenya?

One of a Chromebook’s main selling point is the cheap entry price. For around Kshs 15,000 you can get one having an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and an internal storage of 32GB.

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Now, admittedly, 32GB is just too small even for mobile phones as even the budget ones have at least 64GB of internal storage nowadays. Coupled with a poor performing Celeron processor, the entry-level Chromebook does not look appealing for any type of demanding offline work.

However, the beauty of having most of the work you are doing on a Chromebook tied to the internet, makes the hardware powering the Chromebook matter less, if at all. Therefore, if you have access to a consistent internet connection, Chromebooks can be a must-have if your budget is limited.

On the other hand, If you want to get a Chromebook without an internet connection that is reliable, or with intentions of doing video editing, gaming or other intensive tasks that do not necessarily rely on the internet, you will be severely disappointed. They are just not built with offline work in mind.

Traditional laptops vs Chromebooks

At the end of the day, your everyday laptop running Windows or Linux can also run the Chrome OS powering Chromebooks. Therefore, if you want a more streamlined experience that is lightweight to your processor while leveraging the power of the internet, consider giving a test run to the Chrome OS, you might be pleasantly surprised.

However, it is good to know that Chrome OS does not natively support Microsoft Office range of products from Excel to Word. Therefore, you will be forced to use the web versions, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you have an application that you cannot do without on Windows or Mac, then a Chromebook might not be a good fit for you.

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At the end of the day, the cloud is becoming more important in our daily lives and affordable products like Chromebooks leveraging the internet offer the same quality of services as you get buying a laptop that is 10 times more expensive.

The gaming scene has also started experiencing this with the likes of Google Stadia giving people access to games with only a compatible controller and a subscription being the only requirements rather than expecting people to drop almost Ksh 60,000 on the newest game console.

Naftaly is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for tech, video games and pop culture. When he is not writing articles for AndroidKenya, he is probably rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the hundredth time. Email at Twitter @KarisNaftaly

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