07.3-Chromebook: the low cost easy to use alternative to a Microsoft Windows PC or an Apple iOS MacBook-2015-01-05 – UPDATED on 2015-04-15

Are you looking for a low cost easy to use yet powerful ultralight laptop with large storage capacity for less than U$200? The Google Chromebook may be the answer.

The traditional desktop/laptop PC products, such as the Microsoft Windows PC or the Apple iOS MacBook introduced in the early 1980’s, are approaching the end of their life cycle. The newer powerful smartphones and tablets, using the Internet and Cloud storage, are becoming PC replacement alternatives offering a lot more in terms of ease-of-use and portability. To learn more about these alternatives, please read: 12.6 – Find out why most people should replace their PC with a tablet – 2014-03-27

Meanwhile, a more PC like replacement technology has been developed by Google. It’s called the Chromebook. The Chromebook is an ultralight PC like device that uses the Google servers’ computing power, memory, Cloud storage and application software via the Internet for FREE. Therefore, the Chromebook ultralight PC like device you buy does not need to have a costly powerful processor and costly memory and storage capacity, which explains its low cost. On the other hand, it requires you to be constantly connected to the Internet except for a few functions that can be executed off-line. The Chromebook’s main advantages are:

  1. It requires very basic low cost hardware: a screen, a keyboard, a touchpad or mouse, a basic processor and little local main memory and local storage. This is why Chromebook workstations sell for as little as U$150 to U$250.
  2. It comes with its basic local operating system software and uses the FREE Google Chromebook online operating system software over the Internet.
  3. It uses most of the FREE Google application products available over the Internet. It therefore provides a wide range of powerful tools such as: the Chrome browser, Google search, Gmail, Calendar, Drive (Cloud), Docs (Similar to Windows Words), Sheets (Similar to Windows Excel), Slides (Similar to Windows PowerPoint), Google Maps, Google Earth,… basically all the FREE Google products you can access from a PC, tablet or smartphone.
  4. Since all the software is maintained by Google, you will always be using the latest version and will not have to wary about keeping it up to date.
  5. Since it is basically an Internet workstation, you can access and use ALL the Internet based services.
  6. It uses Google Drive Cloud services as remote storage for all your files. Once again, this is a major difference compared with a PC that stores most of your files locally on the PC’s hard drive. It currently come with 1 Tb (1,000Gb) of Cloud storage FREE.

In summary

  1. The major benefit is that IT IS THE LOWEST COST PC like product you can get for the computing power and storage it offers, PERIOD! (Don’t be fooled by Windows PCs’ offered for U$200 with one year FREE software. Next year and each year after you will have to pay for this costly software.)
  2. The other major benefit is that it is the SIMPLEST PC like product available. Since the workstation is so basic and that all the software is installed and maintained by Google on its servers, other than learning how to use the available applications, you don’t have to wary about nothing else.

This is why it’s the most popular workstation used by schools. Since their funds are limited and they cannot afford a technical staff to install and support a sophisticated local technology environment, the Chromebook is their best avenue. Just read the following article to learn about the successes achieved using Chromebooks in the Desert Sands, California, USA, school district where they have deployed 20,000 Chromebooks, at the following link: Chromebooks Win For California Students.

Google was hopping and probably still is, since I don’t know what their plans are, to spread this technology inside businesses. If they were to succeed, which I don’t see happening any time soon, this would cause a major blow to Microsoft. It is not surprising that Microsoft is so active converting Windows to address the smartphone/tablet market and to convert its application software business to a SAS (Software As a Service) approach. Just look at the Microsoft transition to Windows 8.1 and how the Office 365 offering and pricing has become.

The constraints

As mentioned above, there are two major constraints:

  1. You require to be constantly connected to the Internet via a high speed Wi-Fi Internet connection, since most of the processing is done online on the Google servers. There is limited offline work that can be performed. This is not a big deal since most people are connected most of the time to the Internet.
  2. You can only execute the Apps offered in Google Play Store and Web Store. The choice is quite important and therefore should not be a constraint. But it means that you cannot execute certain Apps developed specifically for Windows PCs or Apple iOS PCs, such as Quicken for example. This is most probably not a limitation for most people that basically surf the Internet. If what you do can be satisfied with the Apps offered by you are in great shape.

Here is what the Acer C720 Chromebook that I bought for U$150, during the 2014 Thanksgiving sales, looks like.

Chromebook-10

For more information on the Chromebook, here are a few hyperlinks of articles and YouTube videos to review:

 YouTube- What is a Chromebook – Explained

A Google Chromebook Should Be Your Next Laptop And Here’s Why

Why you should seriously consider a Chromebook as your next laptop

The guiding principles

The guiding principles that govern all the recommendations made on this web site, that I invite you to review at 02-Approach, are:

  1. A pragmatic approach, to minimize your learning investment.
  2. Keep things simple, not to get bogged down with complex technologies.
  3. Stick with market leaders and limit the number of suppliers.

In my opinion and that of many experts, Google is by far the most innovative and progressive software and services company in the world. The Chromebook is just another example of this. Chromebook breaks with the concept of local PC computing and takes away all the complexity associated with local PC computing. To my knowledge, it is the only such product on the market.

I invite you to read 07.2 – The Google Universe-2013-06-24 to familiarize yourself with the Google products. This article is a complement to this article, since Chromebook uses many of the Google products. The Chromebook is 100% in-line with the guiding principles of this blog web site.

My Chromebook pre-installed Apps

Below are the symbols of the Google and other Apps that came preinstalled on the Chromebook I purchased. These may vary from one supplier to the next and from time to time. Not to worry, you can download them if they are not pre-installed.

Chromebook-11Chromebook-12Chromebook-13

Chrome (Browser) – An Internet browser is the essential App that controls all your Internet activities. It’s comparable to an operating system which controls all your computer’s activities. It works in conjunction with the Operating System to take care of all the Internet traffic. Chrome is the best Internet Browser available for a Chromebook. It integrates with all the other Google products. Why bother with anything else? By the way, remember that you are using a Chromebook.  

Gmail – The best free email services provider. For me, I would not consider any other free email service, period! Before Gmail, I initially used my local Internet provider email service. Then, I used Microsoft Outlook for years on my PCs. I moved to Gmail because it was the first service provider to offer free outgoing mail server services to send emails from anywhere around the world. Since then, Gmail as kept itself ahead of the pack and it is still the number 1 email services provider today.

Get Help – The best learning tutorial I have seen to date! It is organized by topic and is interactive. A must use for any new Chromebook user.

Google Drive – This is the Google Cloud storage App. All your Chromebook Cloud files, unless you specify to file them otherwise, will be stored on Drive. Not only will these files be available on your Chromebook, but you can access them from any other computing devices such as a PC, a tablet or a smartphone. When you buy a Chromebook, you currently get 1Tb (1,oooGb) of free Drive Cloud storage. Impressive!

Google Search – This is by far the number 1 Internet search engine. Personally, I don’t need or use any other Internet search engine.

Gmail Offline – To allow you to compose and answer emails while you’re not connected to the Internet. Those emails will be sent once you reconnect to the Internet.

Google Calendar – Calendar is the Google time management App for your time management, tasks and appointments scheduling. It is the only calendar product I have been using for many years, ever since I have moved from Microsoft Outlook to Google’s Gmail and Calendar.

YouTube – Several years ago Google acquired YouTube and continues to offer it as a free service for viewing YouTube videos.

Dropbox – Dropbox is and continues to be the easiest and most cross platforms Cloud services App available. It’s nice that it is available on Chromebook for all those that are Dropbox users.

Google Maps – The most used and respected online and offline map services available, with the choices of car, train, bus, plane, ferry, cycling and walk routes. Anyone can choose which mean of transportation is best for the transit contemplated. With the Google earth and street view add-ons, you can visit the world using any internet device: a PC, tablet or smartphone. A must for anyone who travels, even within its own city.

Google Play – The Android Google Play store offers Apps, Movies & TV shows, Music, Newspapers and Magazines that you can download and review.

Web Store – There are lots of Apps, Extensions and Themes that you can find in the Web Store to add to your Chromebook functionality.

Google Finance – The well recognized financial and stock market news with stock quotes is another available online service.

Google Docs – A world class word processing for text document App is a must on any computing device. Google Docs is similar to Microsoft Word and can work with existing Words documents. You can create new documents, edit existing ones and file them locally or on the Cloud.

Google Sheets – A world class spreadsheet App is a must on any computing device. Google Sheets is similar to Microsoft Excel and can work with existing Excel documents. You can create new spreadsheets, edit existing ones and file them locally or on the Cloud.

Google Slides – A world class presentation App is a must on any computing device. Google Slides is similar to Microsoft PowerPoint and can work with existing PowerPoint documents. You can create new presentations, edit existing ones and file them locally or on the Cloud.

OneDrive – OneDrive also called the Microsoft Cloud storage service comparable to Google Drive and Dropbox. It works similarly to Drive and Dropbox. It therefore offers you a third Cloud storage alternative.

WGT Golf Channel – The World Golf Tour Game: lets you play online some of the best world golf courses.

TV – Internet TV from around the world, in English or local language. Excellent for accessing TV broadcasts from specific countries in the local language. Foreigners will feel closer to home with broadcasts they used to watch in their native Countries.

Google+ – The Google social network App that is similar and competes with Facebook.

Solitaire Game – For solitaire payers like me this is a must. It offers a variety of card games.

Offline Solitaire – Nice solitaire game for when you are offline. For example, while you’re traveling.

Hangouts call – The video chat and phone call App. Equivalent to Skype from Microsoft. It offers most of the Skype internet video and phone calling functions. Go to HELP “Discover” to learn more.

Files – The Chromebook file manager App. Currently it provides access to Google Drive Cloud service and local files. Google is working on providing access to other Cloud services such as Dropbox in the near future. As for now, you have to work directly with Dropbox online files if you want to use Dropbox.

Play Music – Play Music is the Google App for organizing and playing your music on your Chromebook and other Android devices.

Google Play Store – To acquire Movies and TV shows.

Play Books – Google Play Store for Books.

Play Movies – An App to play Movies and TV shows.

NY Times – To read the New York Times.

Games – To play games.

Calculator – Useful for calculations.

Camera – To take pictures.

Chrome Remote Desktop – To work online on your PC using your Chromebook or vice versa in the future. This is quite impressive. Once you install this extension on each computer and activate it, you can work from one computer, for example from the Chromebook, on your PC just as if you were using your PC.

Google+ Photos – If you want, you can gather all your photos in Google+ Photos and easily share them.

Google Keep – An equivalent to Notes on Android for building, keeping and accessing you notes and to do lists.

Play Music – To buy and /or play your music.

Google’s Chromebook Pixel

In the spring of 2014, Google has introduced in the USA, a high end high priced Chromebook: the Chromebook Pixel. This indicates that Google wants to compete with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and the Apple MacBook Pro, the two other competing ecosystems that I will cover in a future article. This Chromebook is very different than the low cost Chromebook I have written about in this article. If you want to learn about the Chromebook Pixel, read the Chromebook Pixel review.

Other than being powerful and offering very stylish hardware, this latest Chromebook does not do more than the low cost ones do. It may represent a high end product for corporate executives’ and/or market positioning for something to come. The future will tell. In the meantime, I recommend the Acer C720 or similar quality Chromebooks, in the U$200 or lower price range. These Chromebook represent real value for the functionality they offer.

More Chromebooks, for everyone2015-04-15 – UPDATE

As we have seen above, Chromebooks are the lowest priced computers you can buy. Now, ASUS is pushing the Chromebook technology one step further. This summer (2015) ASUS will offer a new type of Chromebook device: the Chromebit. The size of a USB flash drive, the Chromebit will sell for less than U$100. Plugging the Chromebit into any display (computer or TV display) and adding an existing keyboard and mouse, you can turn the components of an old desktop into a modern Chromebook computer. 

Here is what the Chromebit will look like:

Chromebit

Last year, in 2014, ASUS had come out with the Chromebox that would also connect to a display to deliver Chromebook functionality when adding an Asus U$50 wireless keyboard and mouse.

Here is what the Chromebox looked like:

Chromebox

In other Chromebook developments, ASUS will soon offer the Chromebook Flip. A premium, all-metal convertible, ultra-portable (just 15mm thin and weighing less than two pounds) Chromebook. The Chromebook Flip has a great keyboard and a touch screen for immersive experiences like gaming and educational apps. It will be available later this spring for U$249.

Here is a picture of a Chromebook Flip:

Chromebook Flip

Lately, two other new Chromebooks were introduced: the Haier Chromebook 11 (available at Amazon) and the Hisense Chromebook (available at Walmart). These two new Chromebooks are fast, lightweight, have long-life batteries and are available for $149. They join Chromebook makers such as: Acer, AOPEN, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, TRUE, XOLO, and Nexian.

SUMMARY

The above review covers just a small sample of what’s available on a Chromebook and a few of the Chromebook products. The important thing to remember is that nothing beats a low cost Chromebook in terms of price/functionality.

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