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Posted by on Feb 15, 2016 in Fundamentals, Laptops |

What is a Chromebook?

What is a Chromebook?

Perhaps you’ve heard people talking about Chromebooks, but you’re not quite sure what they are.  Let’s remedy that.

Picture you starting your computer, signing in, firing up Google Chrome, then working, but only in Chrome.  You don’t use any other programs, just Chrome.  That is essentially the Chromebook experience (only the Chromebook probably started in 5 seconds). It’s just you and Chrome working together to get done what you can online.  Can you picture that?

At this point there are typically a plethora of questions to be asked, so let’s handle the rest in Q&A fashion.

Is it a laptop?

This is a common question, after all, the Chromebook does look quite similar to a standard laptop.  Yes, the Chromebook is a laptop, however, it is quite different from what you may expect.  How is it different? Not so fast.  Let’s answer some other questions first.

What is a typical laptop?

Your typical garden-variety laptop comes in two flavors, Windows (PC) and Mac.  Apple is known for a couple of laptops, known as MacBooks.  As of this writing, they have the MacBook Air, MacBook, and MacBook Pro. (The MacBook Air is the primary laptop I recommend when asked) These laptops all run the Mac OS (Operating System).  Not sure what that means? Read my Operating System post.

Windows laptops (also known as PCs) are offered by many hardware manufacturers.  Some of these include HP, Dell, Acer, Toshiba, Lenovo, Asus, MSI…I could go on for a very long time.  Windows laptops all run the Windows OS, hence the name.

Whether a Mac or Windows laptop, each is pretty much like your standard desktop computer, only smaller and more portable. This is what you will find most using when they are using a laptop.

How is a Chromebook different?

Chromebooks don’t run either Windows or the Mac OS.  Chromebooks run the Chrome OS, made by Google.  What does that mean?  That means that the software that controls the entire machine is different than most of the devices you’ve likely used.

Do I have Chrome on my computer already?

If you use the Google Chrome browser, then you are already familiar with Google’s Chrome branding. Many computers don’t come with Chrome pre-installed, however, so you may not have it.  Google Chrome is a web Browser, similar to Internet Explorer (Microsoft), Safari (Apple), Edge (Microsoft), and FireFox (Mozilla).  Chrome is offered by Google for free and it runs on both Windows-based and Apple computers. If you’ve never used Chrome before, this would be a good time to download, install, and use it.

What is the Chrome OS?

The Chrome OS is more than just the Google Chrome browser, but that’s essentially what it is for most end-users.  When you fire it up, you sign in and then use Chrome to do everything.  The OS typically presents the user with different “apps”, but essentially these are just links to sites on the web that can be used through Chrome.  This gives the appearance of a traditional laptop/computer, but it is merely a facade.

Update: Many Chromebooks are now capable of running the Google Play store which allows for app installation (like those you’d install on your Android-based tablet/phone).

What can I do with a Chromebook?

As the opening paragraphs state, you can do with it exactly what you’d do with just Chrome on your computer.  Essentially you are doing whatever you can do online.  Check email, Facebook, Pinterest, and news…these can all be done with a Chromebook.  Watch YouTube videos, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu…yup, you can do all of these things too.  Type documents, edit spreadsheets…at this point I think the better question might be, what can’t I do with it? Let’s address this…

What can’t I do with a Chromebook?

If you are accustomed to using a Windows or Mac device, you may be used to being able to install applications and run them offline.  For example, perhaps you use Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint and save your documents on your local computer.  This is not really what a Chromebook is designed to do.  Perhaps you edit video on your machine.  The Chromebook is not going to satisfy you here either.  A Chromebook really isn’t a replacement of your main machine, but it is a strong contender to be your mobile or child’s device.  This is why it works so well in the educational environment.

Chromebook – First Use


I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of Chromebook brands (HP, Dell, Acer) and here are a few of the models I felt are best. Note, the links that follow are affiliate links.

Acer Chromebook 14

The Acer Chromebook 14 is a handsome MacBook Air look-alike unit. It is sleek and quick to respond and satisfies most needs. I like the 14″ screen as it is not too big, and not too small. The unit itself is not much bigger than the Acer Chromebook 13 (14″ compared to 13.3″).

Acer Chromebook 11

The Acer Chromebook 11 is a nice low-profile unit for children or areas short on space. For older students or adults, this is probably not your main machine, but it does do the trick if your needs aren’t overly complex.

Samsung Chromebook Plus

The Samsung Chromebook Plus is a higher-end Chromebook with two special upgrades. First, the Chromebook is a “2-in-1”, which is, today, a numerical way of saying that the screen flips over. This allows you to treat the Chromebook as a tablet or tent it for movie viewing.

The second upgrade, which is what separates this from many of the others, is that is touch-sensitive and writeable. Touch sensitivity is feature of many mobile devices today, but that doesn’t mean you can write on it comfortably with a stylus. This Chromebook is both. Using the built-in stylus and a nice writing app like Squid, you can handwrite and draw quite nicely on this device.

The only issue I have with this device is that the battery life, compared with other models, is quite poor. If you want to extend the battery life you need to make sure that you use the power button to put it to sleep; don’t just shut the lid.

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