August 04, 2022
Top 10 Pros and Cons of Chromebooks
No matter your intended use, you need to be made aware of the pros and cons of Chromebooks before you make your purchase.
The 10 Pros of Chromebooks
- Battery Life – Chromebooks have outstanding battery life, often exceeding 10 hours on a single charge. It isn’t unheard of for a Chromebook to have 18 hours of battery life. The average non-Chromebook has a battery life under 10 hours. Chromebooks owe their long battery life to both a lack of moving parts and fewer power-hungry components than the average laptop. If you often find yourself kicking yourself for leaving your charger at home, a Chromebook should be your top consideration.
- Security – Chromebooks are some of the most secure devices you can buy. ChromeOS takes the sandboxing approach to security, where each app and web page run in separate environments where they cannot interact. Any threats remain contained and cannot infect the rest of your Chromebook.
Google can remotely update Chromebooks with the most up-to-date security features. For school, IT administrators worrying about device security — this is a dream come true. You can save money on separate security software and still have the peace of mind that your Chromebook fleet is safe.
Every time you boot up a Chromebook, it performs a self-check and can repair any issues with ChromeOS if they arise in the background as you go about using it. When Chromebooks connect to the web, they receive security patches and protection from the latest threats. All the data within local storage is encrypted as well. While malware and phishing are still a factor for Chromebooks, this is one less thing to worry about.
If you’re looking for top-notch security, Chromebooks deliver.
- Durable—Many Chromebooks are designed for use in K-12, and as many a parent will attest to, kids don’t always treat their belongings with the utmost care. For this reason, many Chromebooks are built with special durability features and even to military standards. The Acer Chromebook 311, for instance, is built to the MIL-STD-810G military specification: it has been tested for drops, water, extreme temperatures, and much more.
Several Chromebook models have mechanically anchored keys to prevent damage to the keyboard and water-resistant touchpads. Other durability features include gutters in the keyboard to wick away accidental spills, rubber bumpers to mitigate damage from drops, and Corning Gorilla glass to prevent cracks, scratches and stains.
- Easy Setup—Chromebooks are cloud-centric devices and therefore don’t need software downloaded locally on each device, nor do you need to worry about manually installing software updates. While Chromebooks do require an internet connection to access cloud apps and updates, this radically simplifies the life of the IT admin as well as the average user. The only thing you’ll need to use your Chromebook is a Google account.
Deployment and management is easy for IT admins — Google Admin Console provides a single pane of glass approach, making it radically simple to track device usage, grant/remove access to applications and decommission devices.
- Simple—ChromeOS, the operating system of Chromebooks, is simple by design. It is a Linux-based OS modeled after the Chrome web browser. Chromebooks are meant to be accessible to the least computer-savvy among us with simplified UX and features like “The Everything Button”, which searches through files, apps, and the web all with one button.
The cloud-based software is simple, too. Google Workspace integrates email, chat, voice and video conferencing all into one cloud-based software suite. Getting large numbers of users set up with Chromebooks is a snap. For K-12 teachers and students, Google offers Google for Education, which includes Google Workspace apps. Users are offered a free tier as well as paid, subscription-based tiers with additional tools and capabilities. CDW can help your organization implement Google for Education with our no cost services (PDF).
If you prefer, you can also get the web app versions of Microsoft 365 apps and the Microsoft Office suite. While they may not have all the features of their desktop equivalents, they’ll work just fine for most users’ purposes.
- Fast Bootup—Chromebooks boot up fast—you can get from pressing the power button to the task at hand within 5-15 seconds, depending on the model you buy. Apps open fast too and generally the OS is quite stable.
- Lightweight—Chromebooks tend to be very lightweight relative to laptops. A typical Chromebook only weighs between 2.3-5.0 lbs. The smaller the screen size, the lighter the Chromebook. The Google Pixelbook Go weighs only 2.3 lbs. and a half inch thick with a 13.3” display. This makes them great on-the-go companions that will never make your shoulders sore.
- Cloud data—No need to worry if your Chromebook gets fried—all the data resides in the cloud. This takes the performance load off Chromebooks as well. If you want to access your work on another device, all you do is log into your Google account and away you go. Chromebooks come with 100GB of cloud storage for a year with Google One and storage is free for 15 GB and under with Google Drive.
- Inexpensive—One of the most apparent perks of Chromebooks -- they generally cost a fraction of most laptops. You can find Chromebooks for under $200 quite easily. There are now more expensive Chromebooks with similar components (and costs) to a typical laptop—full HD displays, top-of-the-line CPUs, and 8 GB RAM, for instance. While the line continues to blur with laptops vs. Chromebooks, Chromebooks typically are less expensive.
- Android and Linux Compatibility— you aren’t limited to the millions of apps on the Google Play store with a Chromebook—you can also use Android apps as well as Linux-based. Android apps generally work well with 2-in-1 Chromebooks, although they are compatible with non-touchscreen Chromebooks and some of the functions may be different. If you’re looking to use a specific Android app on a Chromebook, you should check first if it’s compatible.
The 10 Cons of Chromebooks
- Local Storage—Chromebooks typically have eMMC storage between 32GB and 64GB. Some of the newer models have 128GB SSDs. Since Chromebooks are built on a cloud-based model, the focus is more on cloud storage, namely Google Drive. Many Chromebooks models have an SD card slot you can use to expand your storage, but not all. You can always use an external hard drive as well to increase your storage capacity.
- Display—Chromebooks typically don’t have full HD (1920 x 1080) displays and mostly are either HD (1366×768) or HD+ (1600×900). Images and video are not quite as sharp on Chromebooks. Increasingly, there are Chromebooks with full HD and even 4K screens, but the cost is significantly higher and the battery life is typically lower. This also means you’re able to fit less on your screen, so for users that like to have multiple windows or applications open at once, the smaller Chromebook screen is not ideal.
- Multimedia Editing—Chromebooks have limited capabilities when it comes to multimedia editing. Adobe web apps for video editing and graphic design aren’t as robust as their desktop equivalents. Pro Tools, a digital audio workstation app for editing audio, does not have a web app equivalent. Chromebooks also tend to have weaker GPUs and can’t handle editing high-definition media like a laptop with a more powerful GPU can. If you’re a multimedia professional this is probably not the device for you.
- CPU—In order to keep costs low, Chromebooks typically don’t have the latest and greatest CPUs. You may notice the device chugging if you open a ton of browser tabs at once, try running several different applications at once, or are working on big, complex spreadsheets or using macros. There are Chromebooks with the latest AMD Ryzen series and Intel "i" series processors, but they cost several hundred dollars more than ones without them.
- RAM—Chromebooks tend to have about 4GB RAM, which is about half of a standard laptop. RAM is short-term storage that only holds data while your device is powered. Active applications hold their data within RAM as well as background processes. When you open a new browser tab, for instance, the RAM holds the data needed for you to interact with the page. Chromebooks utilize RAM very efficiently due to the ChromeOS operating system and generally you won’t have RAM issues unless you plan on running virtual machines, streaming games, running some Linux apps, or having a ton of browser tabs open at the same time.
- Software Compatibility—Chromebooks are limited to the apps available in the Google Web Store and Linux apps. This includes the most popular video streaming apps and social media, so you’ll most likely find what you want. However, you won’t be able to use the full versions of the M365 suite, including Outlook, Word and Excel. The web app versions are fair game but don’t offer all the same capabilities, although most users will be satisfied. Chromebooks are best used with Google Workspace, which includes Google’s M365-equivalent applications.
- Gaming—Chromebooks will struggle to run AAA desktop gaming titles due to their limited specs. However, gaming on a Chromebook has become increasingly viable with the development of gaming streaming services such as Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now. The hardware limitations are not a problem since Google’s servers handle the graphics load, although you’ll need a strong, consistent internet connection.
In terms of desktop gaming, there are modern Chromebooks capable of handling modern titles requiring lesser specs that have Linux support. Valve’s Steam, a game provider and social hub, has Linux support in beta at the time of writing this. ChromeOS now offers an alpha version of Steam for a limited selection of Chromebooks, including the Acer Chromebook 514 & 515, ASUS Chromebook CX9, and HP Pro c640 G2 Chromebook.
- Limited Offline Uses—Chromebooks are meant to be web-connected devices and their functionality is significantly reduced without an internet connection. You can still open and edit Google Drive files offline, which includes Doc, Sheets, Slides, Gmail and others if you adjust your settings. You can also watch downloaded video, play certain games and listen to music with YouTube Premium or the YouTube Music Android app offline on a Chromebook. Google has a list of tasks you can do offline and which apps from the Chrome Web Store that are offered offline.
- No Optical Drive—while optical drives have become basically nonexistent in laptops these days, it’s worth mentioning that Chromebooks also do not have them. Most Chromebooks do have USB-A ports and you can purchase external optical drives to play CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs.
- Printing—Local printing has traditionally been tricky with Chromebooks since they used to only offer print support via Google Cloud Print, which was retired in 2020. Most modern printers have ChromeOS compatibility, but make sure to check first if you’re in the market for a new printer. This Chromebook printing guide should be helpful if you’re having issues—if anything, you usually can connect your Chromebook directly to your printer via USB and print that way or use a thumb drive.
Chromebooks are great devices for many use cases and will no doubt continue to evolve over time. The line grows increasingly undefined between the capabilities of Chromebooks versus regular laptops. CDW sells budget Chromebooks to the most modern, top-of-the-line Chromebooks from the top brands including Acer, ASUS, Google, HP, Lenovo and many more.