Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Five reasons to consider buying a Chromebook as your next computer...

Thinking about your next computer? Planning your Christmas list? David Barrett has some advice for you...

Acer C7 Chromebook by Luis Roca
Used under a Creative Commons license
Almost everything I do at work makes use of Google tools - Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive
(containing docs, sheets, presentations), or is browser based (Jira, LucidChart, HipChat), so when my Windows laptop needed replacing I decided to give a Chromebook a go.

It's been nearly a year now and I don't regret that decision. In fact,
if you don't need to install and run specialist software as part of your job, I'd recommend doing the same.

Here are five reasons why:

Number 1: It does pretty much everything I need it to do

Pre-Chromebook, my use of Microsoft Office was dwindling. Using Excel to enter my working hours into a spreadsheet was the highlight. But now my timesheet is a Google sheet, so problem solved. Drive is a great way to collaborate on, share and store docs and sheets I'm working on. I've found it far more flexible than working off a shared drive.

  HDMI to VGA Adapter by SparkFun Electronics
Used under a Creative Commons license
All I needed to add were a couple of cheap, plug & play accessories; an HDMI to VGA adapter lets me connect to projectors or screens in meeting rooms, and if I need a wired connection, the USB to ethernet adapter sorts that.

But what if you're not online? The Chromebook and Google Drive does a reasonable job of caching recently used docs so you can type away when offline and changes are synced when you connect to the Internet again.

Printing? When I really have to print something I use the York Print Plus EPrint service. This works by emailing a copy of the doc you want to print to ypp-eprint@york.ac.uk. It's as simple as that.

It's also just as easy to take files away as it is on a traditional laptop. The Chromebook has its own internal storage if you really want to store files, or downloads outside Google Drive and my device has an SD card reader, and of course USB for external storage.

Number 2: You can use the Virtual Desktop Service if you really need to use Windows

A couple of times I've had to attend a webinar using GoToMeeting, or Blackboard Collaborate, both which require a Java client to run. In these cases I've logged onto the Virtual Desktop Service (VDS) and accessed a Windows 7 desktop in a browser tab.

The technology used to access the Desktop is called HTML5 and is a core part of the Chromebook which does not require installing any special software. IT Services have enabled the HTML5 feature on the VDS so anyone on "any client device" can access Windows/Linux desktops and applications.

Number 3: Price

Chromebooks are really cheap compared to mid-range Windows laptops. The cost of the laptop I replaced could buy six Chromebooks.

Number 4: Performance

From pressing the on switch it's ready to accept your login details in seven seconds. Once logged in, it's another couple of seconds before it's loaded the Chrome browser and you're ready to go.

The battery goes a long way. The longest period of time I've managed to use it without recharging is two days. Its internal storage is a solid state drive, which provides fast read times and low battery demand.

It also doesn't appear to get slower the longer I use it, which seems to be a feature of Windows machines, as updates are layered over each other, week after week.

Number 5: Security

The device is encrypted, security is built in, and the whole device is self updating. This is all out of the box and doesn't require you to do anything.


So far, so good. I've found my Chromebook to be an excellent bit of kit and easily up to the job.

If you cannot use one for your main day to day computing requirements, it's certainly worth having one for general office use, taking to meetings or conferences. With its low cost and in-built security, it's a much lower risk than taking an expensive laptop out and about, and is also highly shareable.

Cockatiel sadly not included
Acer Chromebook 11 by Kenming Wang
Used under a Creative Commons license

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