Operating systems are a big part of our daily lives. If you’ve used a Mac or Windows PC for years, you might be asking yourself, should I buy a Chromebook? On the other hand, the appeal of something new is exciting. Are you intrigued by the idea of lower cost hardware and 5 second boot times? If so, Chrome OS and a new shiny Chromebook might be for you.
Generally, Chromebooks and Chromeboxes are much more cost-effective than a Mac or PC machine. If you can make the move to the cloud, you also won’t need top of the line specs for a pleasant Chrome OS experience. Price isn’t the only consideration though — you also get amazing battery life and access to millions of Android apps. Let’s run down the main reasons you should make the move to a Chromebook today.
Buy a Chromebook for lower hardware cost
When we say Chromebooks are more cost-effective, we mean by a wide margin. You can get a quality Chromebook for around $300, and one that doesn’t sacrifice experience for price either. This is possible because Chrome OS doesn’t require the same specs as Windows or macOS. You don’t need a Core i7 and 16GB or RAM to have a decent experience running apps or opening a lot of Chrome browser tabs.
In addition, there isn’t a need for a large SSD with Chrome OS. This does require some commitment to cloud-based storage, but this is fairly easy once you get used to it. Services like Google Drive and Dropbox make storage in the cloud an elegant and unified solution across all devices.
Of course, if you want a high-end machine, you can still get that with a Chromebook too. On the higher end, Chromebooks still undercut PC and Mac machines on price. The excellent Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is occasionally on sale for under $400. This machine offers a Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128 GB SSD for storage. Those are fairly beefy specs by Chrome OS standards, with an amazing price to boot. Other excellent Chromebooks with top specs around the $500 price point include the Acer Spin 514 and the Lenovo Yoga Chromebook.
Buy a Chromebook for the light and fast OS
Chrome OS is one of the lightest operating systems out there. Owing to its cloud-based nature, lag is nearly nonexistent on Chrome OS devices. Even with lower end devices, you won’t notice much slowness or stuttering around the general user interface.
Boot times on a Chromebook are also nearly instantaneous. Most Chromebooks we’ve tested boot to the login screen within 5 seconds, some of them much faster. Using web apps is also very convenient. With cloud storage you won’t lose any of your important files if your Chromebook becomes corrupted locally.
If you care about security, Google also has you covered in Chrome OS, which locks malicious code in a sandbox. Sandboxing locks a process into an isolated environment that doesn’t share resources with anything else. There are far fewer exploitable bugs on Chrome OS when compared to Windows, or even macOS. Considering Chromebooks run primarily in a browser, the incredible security comes as a surprise to many. Fast, efficient, and secure — what more could you want?
Buy a Chromebook for great battery life
Battery life is a chief concern to all users. Using a laptop all day for work and play can chew through your battery quickly. On a Mac or PC, it’s fairly common to expect between 5-8 hours of battery life on a typical day. With lighter use, you could squeeze around 10 hours of use out of ultrabooks like the MacBook Air.
With a Chromebook, 10 hours of battery life is pretty much the norm. You can expect almost all Chromebooks to get around 10 hours of regular use (working on documents, listening to music, watching media). Some Chromebooks, like the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3, can reach up to 16 hours of battery life on a single charge.
Buy a Chromebook for access to Android and Linux apps
If you use an Android phone on a daily basis, you’ll already know how to install apps from the Play Store. On the other hand, the process might be a bit new for those using an iPhone as their daily device. Installing apps from the Play Store is very similar to the process for Apple’s App Store for iOS or macOS.
How to download Android apps on your Chromebook
- Turn your Chromebook on and log in.
- Open the app drawer. Either tap on the Launcher icon, or swipe up from the bottom.
- Find the Google Play Store app and open it.
- Search or browse for your app of choice. If you’re looking for options, see our list of best Android apps coming up in this article.
- Click on Install.
- Wait for the app to install, and it will appear in your app drawer shortly after.
We recommend downloading Microsoft Office, Netflix, and Twitter to get started. Check out our full guide to Android apps on Chrome OS for more app suggestions.
Linux apps on your Chromebook
What exactly can you accomplish running Linux apps? Chrome OS by default is a cloud computing platform, which leaves out some desktop-class apps you might see on a Mac or PC. For instance, if you need to run Photoshop natively, that’s not possible on your Chromebook. Video editing is also quite difficult by default on Chrome OS. Both of these problems are addressed by Linux apps.
In addition, if you’re a developer, you undoubtedly need Linux for coding tools. While not all Chromebooks support Linux apps (there are some baseline system requirements), most modern Chromebooks will have the option available. You can also grab a docking station and connect an external monitor to maximize productivity.
How to enable Linux apps on Chrome OS
As mentioned before, you need to check that your Chromebook actually supports Linux apps first. To do this :
- Open up the Chrome OS settings (by clicking the time area in the lower-right corner of the desktop and then clicking the gear-shaped Settings icon).
- Click on the Advanced tab and select Developers.
- Turn on the Linux (Beta) option seen in the menu below. Currently Linux is in beta testing on Chrome OS (as it has been the past three years), but Google says it will exit beta soon.
- Follow the on-screen prompts to install Linux on your Chromebook. During the setup process you’ll choose a username for the Linux environment. The username can be just about anything, so don’t worry about this too much. You’ll also need to decide how much of your available storage to devote to Linux, but this can be modified later. Installation will take a few minutes, so a little patience is needed at this step.
- When the installation concludes you’ll see a terminal window like the one below. Now you’re finally ready to download and install some Linux apps.
The process to download and install Linux apps is a bit technical, but you can check out our full guide to Linux apps on Chrome OS for the full step-by-step overview.
Chrome OS is powerful and versatile, running on a variety of hardware. There are Chromebook options out there for just about anyone. If you are in the market for a new Chromebook, check out our guides on the best Acer Chromebooks, Samsung Chromebooks, and Lenovo Chromebooks. Also, if you want a Chromebox for a desktop experience, we have an excellent primer on choosing a Chromebox as well.
Let us know your favorite part about switching to Chrome OS in the comments below.