Just over four years ago, I first shared my experience with a Google Chromebook. Now I have a new one to play with and I’m quite impressed!
For Christmas my wife picked me up an Acer C720, a very affordable and portable Chromebook. It sells for around $200, and was the top selling laptop on Amazon this holiday season. It’s worth noting that the second and third most popular laptops on Amazon were also Chromebooks.
The C720 is a solid little machine. It has an 11″ screen (just a smidge larger than an iPad) and a battery that lasts up to around 8 hours. Given the tiny size of it and the great battery life, I expect it will be my go-to laptop for meetings and Meetups.
Chromebooks are Google Chrome and nothing else
The key to a Chromebook is the special operating system that Google has built for it; it runs the Google Chrome browser and literally nothing else. This means it can use less processing power and memory, which allows them to produce them very inexpensively and you still get solid performance. The catch, of course, is that if you need to run software that doesn’t work inside of Chrome you are out of luck. In my case, I can do roughly 95% of my work using my Chromebook (though I’m much more productive on my three screen Windows setup).
- Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Analytics: All are just websites, so no problem.
- Feedly, Slack, Wufoo, Freshbooks: More normal websites that work perfectly fine.
- Evernote: The web version isn’t as fast as the native Windows version, but it’s suitable.
- Dropbox: It doesn’t sync to your computer, but you can access it via the web to get what you need.
- Google Drive: Same as Dropbox.
- Tweetdeck: I use the Windows version on my main computer, but the web version is virtually identical.
- CodeAnywhere: My main development software, and it runs perfect in Chrome.
The one issue is FileZilla, which I use for FTP. It only works on Windows or Mac, as do any of the alternatives. So far, I’ve not found a good way around it. CodeAnywhere will let me FTP in and edit files individually, but FileZilla is needed when I have a bunch of files to upload (such as the ~1000 files for a new WordPress installation).
A Chromebook won’t do the job for my main computer yet, but perhaps they’ll be able to in a few years. For now, it’s an excellent second laptop to have around, and it’s ideal for our kids to use (simple, no chance of viruses, etc). I’m excited about what Google has done with them to this point, and looking forward to where they take them in the future.