In today’s market, there’s an all-out war set by computer manufacturing companies trying to get you, the student, to buy their computers. In this war, one of the groups is Google (the other’s being Apple and Microsoft).
But why would you want a Chromebook? What benefits does it give you when deciding on picking a Chromebook? In this article, I want to give you an idea of what Chromebooks are, and whether they’re good for students.
So let’s get straight to the point and answer the question, are Chromebooks good for students?
The answer is yes. Chromebooks are actually built with students in mind. They are extremely cost-effective, powerful, long-lasting, and are capable of most, if not all, a student’s educational needs. Chromebooks are also praised for their focus on ease of use and best-in-class security. You don’t need anti-virus software. People claim that it does nearly 95% of what they need and that number continues to grow. However, there are a lot of additional things you should know before buying one.
I want to give students from elementary school to high school to even college what it’s like to use a Chromebook and what you should consider when looking for one.
Let’s get started.
What is a Chromebook?
Now is a good time to explain what Chromebooks are.
A Chromebook is a laptop computer running the Linux-based Chrome OS as its operating system. It’s often marketed as an inexpensive laptop for schools, usually priced less than $300. Chromebooks are designed to use the Google Chrome web browser. In fact, that’s all it really was at the beginning.
Google has since then expanded Chromebooks to immense proportions. There are so many features now in Chromebooks and it’s safe to say, it’s maturing into a very powerful and convenient, yet unbelievably easy-to-use operating system.
What are the benefits of a Chromebook?
A Chromebook is an inexpensive, durable laptop that connects right to the internet and is built for easy use. It has a whole host of online applications, including Google Docs (their best-in-class document editing platform) and Google Drive (a phenomenal cloud storage system).
The Chromebooks, touted as the computer of the future, are fundamentally computers that run on a browser. Google Chrome is all it really uses (as well as your own internet connection) and that accounts for why it’s so fast. You won’t believe how quickly web pages load up with this computer. You’re going to be blown away when you see how fast they load up.
Security on a Chromebook is at the forefront. The majority of Chromebook enthusiasts claim that it has 95% of everything you need and that it’s growing every day. You don’t even need ant-virus software for a Chromebook, most people are saying that there’s no point since they’re so secure.
The low price point also makes it a good option for people looking to purchase their first laptop, as well as students who are looking for something affordable but reliable. And you don’t have to worry about whether or not your data can be stolen – the best security features are built into its core.
The impact of this is that they are surprisingly affordable. They’re also much more durable and have above-average battery life, which eliminates the need for bulky power cords. Chromebook laptops are becoming much more prevalent in America with a new one released every few months by a handful of major manufacturers. Overall, I strongly recommend Chromebooks to anyone who is looking for an inexpensive laptop that can handle all of their everyday tasks and anything else you throw at it.
Lower-tier Chromebooks can set you back as little as $200 USD while high-end Chromebooks can go as high as close to $800 or even $1000 for the top models.
It all depends on the design, speed, and capabilities.
No matter what Chromebook laptop model you purchase, you will enjoy the same powerful security features. Chromebooks are built with automatic updates and can detect malware, viruses, and other threats before they actually harm your computer.
Another perk of Chromebooks is that these updates typically occur at least once a month, meaning you will always have the most up-to-date protection possible.
Security is also built into your specific Chrome OS model. Google connects all of its devices in a special way and keeps all devices updated all at once.
Google carefully took into consideration how they will provide updates to new features and stronger security patches.
Let me tell you something really insane. In the past, Google promised 5-6 years of updates for all of their Chromebook devices, no matter what manufacturer it came out of. However, Chromebooks of today are promised with up to 8 years of security updates, and some of the higher-end models may be eligible for even 9 years.
Promising 9 years of updates on a computer is just bonkers.
Another major benefit that some people absolutely love about Chromebook updates is that they don’t get in the way of your work.
Let me explain. You know when you’re on other devices and you’re working, but you get a message asking you to download the latest update? After doing so, you’re then asked if you would like to go ahead and install the update. Little did you know that when you accepted the install, you’ll need to wait for several dozens of minutes while the system is updating. During this time, you can’t do anything at all.
Well, Chromebooks don’t do this. Google specifically came up with a plan to make this transition as painless as possible. When a new update comes to your Chromebook, you aren’t asked if you would like to download it or anything. It’s automatic (You can turn this option off if you want, but I recommend you keep it on). In fact, you won’t even know about it.
You can continue doing work on your Chromebook without interruptions. When the download is done, you will get a single notification that it’s ready and installed and all you have to do is restart your computer.
Without getting into the technical details of what Google has accomplished here, basically speaking, Chromebooks downloads and prepares to install a fresh new update onto your hard drive while leaving the current firmware untouched; while leaving you alone. Then when you restart your Chromebook, it will automatically boot up the new update and throw out the old one. You won’t be left hanging for minutes while your system is updating.
Because ChromeOS is such a lightweight operating system, it doesn’t require much processing power and that translates to strong battery life. The average Chromebook can last anywhere from 8 to 13 hours (even longer with the right model). That’s a lot for an inexpensive laptop. The average found from laptopmag.com is 9 hours and 58 minutes!
Battery life will vary in regards to your use of it. If you’re on it all day long, using your web browser, streaming videos, and other applications, then of course you’ll drain the battery at a faster rate than someone who only uses their Chrome OS computer for simple text documents and research.
Ultimately, your miles may vary. But what you can be certain of is all-day battery life.
Chromebooks are snappy.
Here’s a story about my first experience with Chromebooks. My dad needed a computer since his PC was getting old and had crashed unable to turn on again. I decided to get him a Chromebook seeing as how everyone claimed it being fast and easy to use.
It’s been more than 5 years now and I swear, it’s still as fast as the day I remember it! That’s amazing!!!
To this very day, it boots up in less than 8 seconds, websites open up fast and snappy, and I could have up to a dozen tabs open at one time. Also, no viruses… EVER reported.
This is a clear testament to the power of the operating system. Since it’s so lightweight and fast, I’ve come to expect this from all my devices. Sadly, I don’t just own Chromebooks, and using other computers has been a bit disappointing especially when they get old.
Using a Chromebook requires that you have a Google account, ie Gmail. Having an account allows you to sync your browser with your online documents, access Google Drive, Google Play Music, and more.
There’s no getting out of it. You have to have a Google account to use a Chromebook. But this isn’t something to mope over. It is an advantage if you’re already planning to use a Chromebook since you can easily just sign in with the same account info. The benefit, in this case, is that all of your documents (Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc) and data are all connected to other devices you may have (phones, tablets, etc).
How to pick out the right Chromebook for you
In this section, I want to dive into the specs sheets for someone who’s looking to get a Chromebook for school. There’s a lot to consider and it’s important that you make the right decision because this is more of an investment device that you might end up holding onto for a long time.
Step 1: Touchscreen
The real question is whether or not you really need to touch the screen for school purposes. My answer is honestly no. Touchscreens aren’t exactly necessary to succeed in school, nor will they exclusively add any benefit to your education career.
At least for now, you can do almost everything you ever need to do simply with a keyboard and touchpad as the input devices.
The reason why I say this is that I have a Chromebook with a touchscreen and I rarely ever use it myself for school. I tried, I really tried every time I could remember to touch my screen, I would. But the feeling of reaching my hands out of the keyboard either slowed down my work or felt very uncomfortable.
Step 2: Pen input
I separated this from the touchscreen and it may sound a bit hypocritical, but if you like writing on your screen, then the Chromebook pen input capabilities make an excellent feature.
Taking notes by hand on a Chromebook is entirely possible, however, some apps are limited. My recommendation would be just to use either the Google Keep note-taking app or the more powerful Squid Notes to take notes. You can also use Microsoft’s OneNote, but don’t bother with the Chromebook Google Play Store app. Just use the web version through the browser. The pen input is extremely laggy on the app and Microsoft doesn’t seem to want to fix this. Surprisingly, OneNote handwriting on the web is pretty decent. Squid is probably the best note-taking tool for Chromebooks.
Step 3: Processor
I know you’ve heard that Chromebooks don’t need a powerful processor to run smoothly and that’s true. However, if you’re the kind that plans to use Chromebooks for extremely heavy-duty tasks then you might want to at least get yourself a processor with an Intel Core i3. At the lowest, you can go for an M3.
I picked Intel solely because it’s the brand that currently offers the best performance to battery life ratio out of all the competition. If you decide to go for anything higher than an Intel i3, like an Intel i5 or i7, then you basically own what is basically considered a beast.
While you can get a Chromebook with an unfamiliar processor (there are more than you can imagine), most of these Chromebooks, especially in the range of $200 to $300 price point are running on processors no faster than the latest smartphones.
If it were me, I’d make sure my Chromebook is future-proof running on either an Intel chip or perhaps one that’s custom-built by Google.
Step 4: Ram
Ram is an important issue. The more ram, the better. That is the law of computers. However, ram allows you to open up more tabs and have many different processes run at the same time. Chrome OS often times will need more ram if you are the kind of person who likes to open up 50 tabs at a time on your browser.
It’s important to know that 4GB of ram should be just enough for a normal person who simply has up to 20 tabs open. And any more than that may end up just crashing your tab.
These days you can get Chromebooks with up to 16GB of ram and this would allow you to have 100s of tabs open without issues.
In fact, a user found out that it would take roughly 8000 tabs opened to crash a 4GB ram Chromebook.
Step 5: Storage
Storage is actually something that Google didn’t push towards on Chromebooks. The idea with Chromebooks was that you shouldn’t have to store anything directly on your device.
Instead, your files and folders were preferably stored in Google Drive as cloud storage. And because of this, early Chromebooks were released with up to merely 32GB of storage.
It’s entirely possible to use a Chromebook on 32GBs of storage but since you’re in school and maybe sometimes not having an internet connection can deeply affect your learning process, it’s better to try to get one with at least 128GB.
More, it’s important to realize that some lower-end Chromebooks come in 64GB. I would recommend getting at the bare minimum a 64GB model if you plan to store a lot of files directly on your device.
If you’re wondering about what advantage there are with Google wanting you to use cloud storage. The answer is that Google sees a future where all your data is placed in one stronghold and is readily available for you to access at any time, on any device. It’s not specifically locked into one device and so there’s a lot of advantages and disadvantages to those.
You have access to your data wherever you go, but you need an internet connection to access it.
Step 6: Design
I think design is extremely important because you’d have to look at this laptop almost every single day. You want it to be sleek, but you also don’t want it to be horrible.
I’d say that the design of Chromebooks is a tad bit plain. It’s not bad, it’s just not as premium as other devices. But you can’t really blame them for looking plain if you plan to buy some of the most affordable ones.
If you’re interested in something that looks really good, can impress your friends, and inspires you, then spend a little more. Chromebooks come in all sizes and shapes.
When are Chromebooks not good for students?
Chromebooks have a few drawbacks when it comes to schoolwork. Like any other lower-end computer, they can struggle if given difficult tasks. It’s also limited in your ability to customize the user interface (UI).
But you can say that this is attributed to the extremely simple-to-use UI. But for the most part, Chromebooks are pretty reliable in the classroom.
Chromebooks are not compatible with downloadable programs that you can find on the internet. Chromebooks do everything they do through the web browser and aside from downloading Android apps from the Google Play Store and even activating Linux to download Linux apps, you won’t find it easy to download and run programs compatible with Chrome OS.
If let’s say your school requires a certain downloadable and installed program that’s not available for Chrome OS, then Chromebooks might not be right for you. It’s best at this point to call your school first and ask if there are any such requirement.
However, I’ve noticed that most, if not, all the ways we use a laptop in education requires very little or no specialized software that’s only installable on a different OS.
Remember, Google believes the future is not about downloading and installing programs. They believe programs will be run on a web server and you simply need to go online and go to the website to use the program from your Chrome browser. A lot of what Google is focusing on is termed web apps and software as a service (SAAS) where the programs are actually just websites that provide software-like features and functionality.
I would say that Chromebooks are a great investment for students because it provides lots of features that are invaluable for students. Whether it be the Chrome web browser, easy-to-use word processing using the slew of made by Google office tools and classroom apps, the ability to access school apps, and even play games at home (using web tools like Stadia), there’s always something for you to do on your Chromebook.
Chromebooks may not be perfect but if you’re looking for something simple and that can do most of the work that you need to do then a Chromebook is your best friend.
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