Chromebooks – are they any good? (Instructs)

Chromebooks in the right conditions of use are a great thing. In conditions of improper use, it is a disaster. With the recent TV saturation ad campaign, you might consider one.

Suitable circumstances are as a light user who is not attached to Windows or Mac. The wrong circumstance is if you are a regular user and expect it to replace your Windows or Mac computer.

Chromebooks started out as cloud devices built on top of Google Cloud Apps (Gmail, Calendar, Google Drive, Chrome Browser, G-Suite, etc.). Today they can do some peripheral computing (on the device) and support some local storage. They mainly use apps from the Chrome Web Store, and you should explore that fully to see if your needs are met. The number of Chrome apps that work offline is not widespread but it is growing.

Chrome OS can also run some Android apps (which emulate Android in Chrome OS) that aren’t as fast, compatible, or necessarily fit a 16:9 screen as an Android smartphone or tablet. These are from the Google Play Store (select the Chromebook section).

Other than that, you can access any online apps via the Internet and Chrome OS (Chrome browser really), so you can use online versions of Office 365 (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.).

The legendary #1 Chromebooks may be a new way of computing, but they never replace the tried and true

Chromebooks in Education

Many parents are attracted by the low cost and lack of understanding of Chromebooks by vendors in education. Google, the maker of ChromeOS, says it’s been used in schools for more than a decade.

The NSW T4L (Technology 4 learning) has a chip on Chromebooks purchased via EdBuy (you can’t bring your own – see page 32) with the Google Education suite and Classroom management tools pre-installed. Chromebooks are usually a group of shared devices where the student logs into any device in the computer lab.

Many schools refuse Chromebooks because they don’t have enough Wi-Fi and internet bandwidth to use online apps.

If you click on the EdBuy link above and look at Windows and Mac devices, you’ll find “what can a device in this category do”.

Chromebooks in the works

Today, businesses do a lot of computing in the cloud — office productivity, accounting, customer relationship management, point of sale, and more.

Like Education, you can buy “fleet” Chromebooks with enterprise management systems pre-installed. The focus is on security and limiting users’ exposure to viruses, restricting access to corporate clouds only, and monitoring potential leakage of corporate data.

The main problem here is that access to Microsoft 365 is online only, and there is no equivalent Windows C:> file structure. And if you don’t have Wi-Fi and a good internet speed, Chromebooks are useless. Finally, cloud storage costs money, and you may find that the cost of providing employees with cloud storage and storage accounts outweighs any device cost savings.

Chromebooks at home

I’ve lived with a premium Chromebook for a week, but we’re not going to get to know it because all Chromebooks work similarly. I also announce that I am invested in the world of Microsoft Office and run several programs to review equipment.

My first impression was the bright 360-degree hinge, Intel i3-1110G4 processor, 8GB/1286 SSD, 14-inch 1920 x 1080 touchscreen, and a stylus. It’s what you’d expect in a low-end Windows laptop.

I have NBN 100/20Mbps and the world’s fastest NETGEAR Orbi RBKE963 Wi-Fi 6E AX 11000 Quad-Band (Network Review), so Wi-Fi speed and Internet access are not an issue.

Microsoft 365 Online – Acceptable

I’m creating copy in Word using a single, bold font, underline, and tables. The document opening speed was just over 10 seconds (instant when you open it on a Windows PC), and it was adequate for basic editing, apart from reacquainting yourself with where the ribbon commands were. What was missing was converting the text to a table and editing the link options to open a new tab. The more I use Word, the more differences (deficiencies) I find.

Excel seemed to have most of the standard features but took an unusually long time to open existing sheets, usually coming up with a ‘We’re having a problem. Please try again later’. New spreadsheets had the message ‘We’re having trouble getting forms’ Overall, Excel worked as it should with fewer shortcomings in the ribbon commands (unlike Word, it has a convenient ribbon).

Outlook opened my CyberShack account but didn’t add my Microsoft or Gmail accounts. Like Word, it had a streamlined feature set.

We use WordPress, which copies and pastes text and tables from Word online.

Significant issues came with device drivers for webcams, microphones, printers, and multiple monitor usage. There are no ChromeOS apps for most webcams and add-ons. The HP PageWide and Epson InkTank do not have printer and scanner drivers. Networking has been a huge problem, and expansion is limited to USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 5Gbps to a single external display.

I couldn’t get any video test apps to work (or find ChromeOS equivalents).

Summary: If I had more time, I might be able to solve some but not all of the problems. It is slower and more difficult than working on a Windows PC.

CyberShack’s point of view: Chromebooks are overrated

It’s incredible how a flashy ad campaign can change people’s perceptions (Google site here – many had no idea Chromebooks were an alternative to Windows and Mac. Despite advertising promises, few would be happy if they switched from Windows or Mac.

In fact, our review unit didn’t come from a salesman but a colleague who spent $800 on a JB Hi-Fi and needed help getting it to work. Now he’s back at JB and traded it in for a $799 ASUS Vivobook 15.6-inch (sold out price) plus a $129 yearly Microsoft Office 365 family (six). The problem has been resolved.

I spoke to a Sydney-based JB Retail ‘spy’ who confirmed that interest in the Chromebook was at an all-time high due to the advertising campaign but also to revenue. Sales personnel are warned to pre-qualify for user friendliness and forget about selling to Mac and Windows owners.

Gartner and IDC reported that Chromebook sales at the end of the second quarter of 2022 were down 51.4% year over year in the USA. IDC’s numbers for the third quarter of 2022 show more “lows.” I can’t help but wonder if the massive ramp-up in advertising is a move of excess inventory.

If potential buyers are in the know, we’ve done our job.

Ironically, Windows users can download Chromium OS on an old laptop to try it out but remember that you’ll need a Mac or Windows activation key if you want to go back.

forefront

lower cost

Works out of the box after connecting to Wi-Fi/Internet

Less chance of contracting the virus

Runs some Android apps

Stick to ChromeOS apps Ad Google-suite (workspace)

Good for SaaS (Software as a Service) cloud applications.

Deceive

Not for Windows or Mac users – it won’t do a lot of important stuff

Poor multimedia editing

Everything online can be an issue with your Wi-Fi/Internet speed and reliability.

Microsoft 365 online is not the same as on your computer

Google Workspace lacks a lot of Microsoft 365 features. Navigating between Microsoft 365 can cause issues like feature loss and formatting.

Limited driver and expansion options

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