The Chromebook: A Great Second Computer
Take a moment to think about how computers are used in your home. How much of that time do you spend browsing the web, working on word processing documents or presentations and checking email and social networks? If your answer is a good chunk of the time, you may be a candidate for a Chromebook computer.
What can a Chromebook do?
Chromebooks run Google's Chrome OS, which looks like the Chrome Web browser but runs apps as well. In fact, there's a whole ecosystem of Chrome apps available through the Chrome Web Store. There are games, like Angry Birds Heikki, Battlefield and Need for Speed World; productivity tools, including Dropbox, Picasa and Evernote; and, of course there are the Google apps, like Google Docs, Gmail and Google Maps. Currently, there are tens of thousands of apps available through the Chrome Web Store—some that are primarily web-based and some that run within a browser tab, but have been downloaded and work offline.
Who should buy a Chromebook?
Chromebooks are best for people who always have access to an Internet connection. That's because many of the apps are built to run online, though staples like word processing and mail will work offline as well. And, you'll be storing most of your documents online, which is fine thanks to the 100GB or more of free online storage that comes with all models.
How secure is a Chromebook?
Google has taken advantage of the way Chrome OS works to bring a high level of security to Chromebooks. The OS is automatically updated, so security fixes are automatically installed. Chrome OS treats each tab in the browser as a sandbox, so if malware is encountered, it can't leave. And, each time the system starts, it does a self-check and makes any necessary repairs. In fact, Google is so confident in the security of Chrome OS that the company just hosted a hack-a-thon and was not able to award anyone a prize for breaking in.
How much do Chromebooks cost?
The other selling point of Chromebooks is their ultra-low price point. Aside from the ultra-sleek, touchscreen Chromebook Pixel ($1,299) introduced earlier this week, models range from $199 to $329. Usually, when you see computers priced this low, it's a red flag for cheap, chunky construction, unresponsive programs and tiny keyboards and displays. Not so with Chromebooks. The svelte 11.6-inch Samsung Chromebook ($249) is just 0.7 inches thick, with sleek styling (albeit in plastic), and easily handles the Chrome apps. Likewise, HP Pavilion Chromebook ($329) tackles apps efficiently, but with a roomier 14-inch display.
Are Chromebooks right for kids?
Naturally, Chromebooks are an attractive option for parents to buy for their kids. However, there are no built-in parental controls—though they're in the works. And, technically, kids aren't supposed to have Google accounts (at least those under 13), unless they've received them through their school via Google Education initiative. So you'll have to share your account, when setting up a Chromebook for a pre-teen.
For many people, a Chromebook can't be their only computer. Either they don't have constant Internet access or they need to use software that not available in the Chrome Web Store, like Photoshop or Skype. You may also have to invest in a Cloud Ready printer if you don't have another computer with a printer attached. That's because you can't hook up just any printer up to your Chromebook. As a second computer, though, it's a great low-cost choice.