Moving your primary machine from your work desk may well be a daunting thought for plenty of people. Given most of us have a pretty immovable setup thanks to external monitors and few other tangible add ons, having a secondary machine to move around with can be really important. Maybe your reasons are different, but if you are in the market and looking for a cheap secondary machine, then Chromebooks are a great idea and deserve a place in your thoughts.
I personally had picked the very first Chromebook that Acer had released about two years ago, the Acer C-710 for $199. Since then, I have used the machine on sites of project works, where I did not want to carry my main machine or to just break the monotony and get away from the world of my Mac. It is not the best machine there is, nor the most powerfully spec’d either, but it gets the job done. Here are my five reasons, why Chromebooks make for excellent backup or secondary machines. (Image: Eteknix)
They are Value for Money
Since we are talking about a secondary device, unless you are loaded with cash, you are not going to spend anything beyond $300 or about Rs 20,000. You want something that will get through the majority of your tasks without burning a hole in your pocket. At that value, it is beyond impossible to pick up a good Windows machine unless you are fine, picking up one of those wee netbooks with Intel Atom chipset at the heart, which leaves a lot to be desired on the performance front. For the same prize you can pick a low end to a mid range Chromebook. They might not be very high when it comes to specs reading, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Chrome as an OS is relatively light on the memory and does not require the resources that a full blown Windows OS including something like XP would. So a $300 Chromebook is likely to deliver a much better and faster performance as compared to say a $300 Windows machine which is guaranteed to be slow as a turtle. Add to the fact, most of these Chromebooks come with SSD, you are looking at blazing fast performance.
Chromebooks have specialized keyboards made for Internet Surfing
It is not beyond the realms of imagination that you would be using a secondary machine for basic work like taking down notes or surfing the web generally. Given the Chrome OS basically is nothing but the Chrome Browser, you are for sure going to be spending sizeable time online with it. In this situation, you want a machine that is tailor made for faster internet browsing experience. The Chromebook does that with a keyboard that caters to all your browsing needs. You have a dedicated search button for quick web search, keys for back, forward and refresh that you would not find on a standard keyboard. The keyboards on most of the Chromebooks have great chick-lit designs with good feedback which once again you may not find on a sub $300 Windows machine. So, if you are planning to use the secondary machine for loads of typing and web surfing, a Chromebook would come in really handy. (Image: DI)
You always have the option of loading Ubuntu
Although it is not possible to run Windows on a dedicated Chromebook, you can load up and fire away a full blown version of Ubuntu on the same machine side loaded with Chrome OS. There are countless guides that are available online and basically the process involves, enabling developer mode on your Chromebook and simply installing Ubuntu with the help of a few commands. In subsequent articles on Techsplurge, we would definitely cover how to install Ubuntu on Chromebooks too. Not just this, you can also play around with the Environment that you want post installing Ubuntu picking between XFCE or Unity very easily. (Image: Ars technica)
The experience of web apps is faster on Chromebooks
My personal experience of using web apps on a Chrome browser on my primary machine and Chromebooks so far has been that Chromebook handles them much better. Yes, recently Chrome added the native Chrome app drawers for both Mac and Windows, but on Chromebooks the experience was definitely faster. Maybe, it was down to higher free memory on Chromebooks than task intensive Windows or Mac machines. Also, the fact you can pin your favourite Chrome apps to the taskbar made the whole experience seem a little faster when firing up apps. You could access your Gmail, Facebook or any other web app you may use by simply clicking the icon in the task bar without having to look into the app drawer. (Image: The Verge)
They are Light, Portable and Fully Functional even Offline
One of the biggest fears I had before picking a Chromebook was that the machine would be rendered useless when I am offline. These were laid to rest once I got used to the machine and did a bit of research for the right apps. Yes, being connected to the internet is a large part of how Chromebook functions given that its basically an internet browser in a machine, but thanks to plenty of Chrome Web Apps, you can easily survive even if you are not connected to the internet. For example, I used Writebox a lot, for writing content down which automatically sync’d with my Dropbox account once connected to the internet. Scribble and OrganizeMe were few more apps that worked perfectly well even if there was no internet around. Add to this, most Chromebooks come with an 11 inch screen and are really light in the region of about 3 pounds. This coupled with the ability to use offline makes Chromebooks great travel companions or devices that can be used on the move if you are not interested in tagging your primary machine with you. (Image: Google)
Despite it being almost two years since picking up my Chromebook, it has stood the test of time well. The hardware still feels solid and with iterative Chrome updates always standing on the doorstep, the machine still feels perfectly good to use when/ if need be. Yes, no doubt a Chromebook is not going to replace your primary machine unless all you do on your system is browse the web given fairly limited things it can do. But for what its worth, Chromebook does what it has to do well and works great as a backup machine.