Chromebook buying guide – Everything about Chromebooks and Chrome OS

Buying a new Chromebook can be confusing if you’re unsure what to look for. If this is you, then there is no need to worry as this Chromebook buying guide will help you make the right choice.

The great thing when it comes to Chromebooks is that you have a lot more choice today compared to a few years ago. This is because the Chromebook has really taken off, but all these choices can make it more difficult when choosing your next Chrome OS device.

This Chromebook buying guide will look at everything you need to consider. It’s pretty in-depth, but this isn’t a bad thing because it will provide you with all the essential information you need.

Whether you’re are new to Chromebooks or have owned them previously. I’m sure you’ll find this guide really useful. The guide works on the basis that you’re a complete newcomer to Chrome OS and Chromebooks, so everything will be covered.

WHAT IS CHROME OS

Chrome OS is the operating system that is used on all Chromebooks. An operating system is needed for your Chromebook or any other laptop in order to run.

If you’re new to Chromebooks then you may not have heard of Chrome OS before. However, if you’ve ever owned a Microsoft computer you would have heard of Microsoft Windows.

Chrome OS is fast, secure and easy to use
Chrome OS is created by Google and updated regularly

Microsoft Windows is also the operating system that allows MS computers to run. So Chrome OS is exactly the same but has been specifically designed for Chromebooks.

The great thing about Chrome OS is that it’s a much lighter, faster, secure and easier to use system than Microsoft Windows. This is one of the reasons why Chromebooks have grown in popularity over the years.

THE TYPE OF CHROME OS DEVICES AVAILABLE

The Chromebook is the most well-known device type for Chrome OS. It’s so common in fact most people refer to the Chromebook to cover all devices running Chrome OS.

However, it’s important to recognise that Chromebook simply means a laptop. So when you see the word ‘Chromebook’, if you think of laptop, then you’ll be going down the right tracks.

DIFFERENT TYPE OF CHROME OS DEVICES

  • Chromebook
  • Chromebox
  • Chrome OS Tablet
  • Chromebase
  • Chromebit

Another type of Chrome OS device is a Chromebox. The Chromebox is not as popular as the Chromebook, but that does not mean it’s an inferior product. It just depends on what you’re looking for. A Chromebox simply means a desktop computer instead of a laptop. Find out whether a Chromebook or Chromebox is more suitable for you.

Chromebook buying guide - Hybrid 2-in-1 Chromebooks are a popular choice
A 2-in-1 Chromebook can be used as a laptop or tablet

You can also get tablets that run Chrome OS. At present, these are not as popular as the Chromebook or Chromebox. This is because Chrome OS was originally designed for a computer rather than a tablet.

This is beginning to change though, and I’d expect to see more Chrome OS tablets become available in the next couple of years. Interested? Have a read of why Chrome OS tablets are the next big thing.

You can also buy a Chromebase. This is a computer that is built into the monitor. I will not be covering this type of device in this guide, as they are not very popular. I’ve added links below though for USA and UK readers if you want to know more.

You can also get Chrome OS by using a Chromebit. Again, I’ll not be covering these in this guide. However, I’ve added links for USA and UK readers below.

THE BENEFITS OF A CHROMEBOOK

There are many benefits of switching to a Chromebook or other Chrome OS device. The main reasons why people switch to using Chromebooks is the following:

  • Chromebooks are generally cheaper
  • They are easier to use
  • They are great for surfing the internet
  • Chromebooks are fast
  • Chromebooks are safe – no need for virus protection software
  • They receive free automatic updates
  • They have an excellent battery life

So let’s take a look at these benefits individually, so you’ll get a better idea why switching to a Chromebook is a good choice to make.

CHROMEBOOKS ARE CHEAPER

One of the main reasons why a lot of people make the switch to a Chromebook is because of the price. Generally speaking, they are much cheaper than any other laptop you can buy.

Over the years Chrome OS has got more advanced, you can now get devices that cost a lot more. So it’s important to understand what you want from your laptop computer.

A student happy with their Chromebook
Chromebook prices make them popular with students

Although there are now Chromebooks available that can cost up to $1,000/£1,000 and more. Does not mean you have to spend this amount of money to take advantage of what Chrome OS and the Chromebook can offer.

You can still buy devices that cost as little as $200/£200 and they may offer you everything you’ll ever need. I’ll go into more detail along the way, so you’ll know exactly what it means when buying a Chromebook at a certain price level.

CHROMEBOOKS ARE EASY TO USE

This is without question one of the main reasons why people prefer Chromebooks. Once you’ve made the switch to a Chromebook you’ll never want to go back to using Microsoft Windows again.

Before Chrome OS was available you had very little choice when choosing a laptop. Most laptops would run on Microsoft Windows, which is known for being hard to understand for many.

Technology does, unfortunately, scare some people. This is especially true if you’re not confident about how computers work or you just have a phobia towards technology.

Technology has advanced, which makes it much easier for technology companies such as Google to provide you with an easier to use computer. Chrome OS is designed and updated by Google on a regular basis. One of the main goals of Chrome OS is to offer technology to all without having to worry about getting confused along the way.

A chromebook being used by two people having fun
Chromebooks are easy and fun to use

You’ll not have to deal with unexpected errors that mean nothing to you when it comes to using Chrome OS. This is why they have been extremely popular in education around the world, and they are also popular with the older generation because of how easy they are to use.

The best way to see how easy a Chromebook is to use. Well, it’s to do just that. Once you’ve used one and got used to how it differs to other computers. You’ll wonder why you never made the switch to Chrome OS computing earlier.

CHROMEBOOKS ARE PERFECT FOR INTERNET SURFING

This is what the Chromebook is really good at. You may think that all computers are used to surf the internet. This is true, but the Chromebook is far better for internet surfing than any other computer.

The reason for this is because of Chrome OS. Chrome OS is a lightweight, fast and secure. This means you can surf the internet much quicker than you would be able to do with a traditional computer.

CHROMEBOOKS ARE FAST

I come from the times when the only option I had for a laptop was either Microsoft Windows or Apple. The most popular of these was Microsoft Windows, which is what the majority of people used.

If you’ve ever used a Microsoft Windows computer you will already be aware of how slow they can be. They may not be slow when you first buy them, but over time you’ll notice they get slower and slower.

A man running - Chromebooks fast off the mark
Just like a sprinter – Chromebooks are fast off the mark

This can make using a computer really frustrating. Especially if all you want to do is surf the internet. This is one of the great benefits of Chrome OS. Its lightweight OS coded by the experts at Google means you will be using the internet just ten seconds after switching on your Chromebook computer.

It takes about three seconds after switching on your device for you to be presented at the login page. Once you’ve entered your password the Chrome OS desktop is fully ready and available within another three seconds.

If you are wanting to surf the internet, then all you need to do is click on the Chrome browser icon at the bottom of the desktop. You’ll then be instantly connected to the internet. There is no delay like you get with Microsoft Windows. You’ll have instant internet availability all within ten seconds.

CHROMEBOOKS ARE SAFE

The internet is a great invention and it’s more popular now than it has ever been. Unfortunately, this also means there will always be people who want to take advantage of this.

Something that regularly worries people when using the internet is computer viruses. A computer virus is a piece of computer code written by an individual to either steal your identity, your data or even worse, your money.

This is why you may be familiar with virus protection software. Other types of computers need virus protection software to keep you safe when browsing online. Most of the times this means an additional cost to you because virus protection software is usually purchased separately.

Chromebook buying guide - A secure safe showing how safe and secure Chromebooks are
Chromebooks are secure

Luckily, all Chrome OS devices come with built-in virus protection. This means you don’t need to buy any additional virus protection software for your Chromebook.

Also, Chrome OS is built around the Linux operating system. Linux is considered the most secure and powerful operating systems in the world. It’s the reason why most supercomputers are run on Linux.

CHROMEBOOKS GET FREE AUTOMATIC UPDATES

To ensure you’re always using the latest version of Chrome OS. Google provides you with free automatic updates for your device. These updates have two benefits.

They ensure you always have access to the latest updates, which expand Chrome OS functionality. The second is that it ensures any security threats are dealt with quicker than any other operating system.

A typewriter with the word update. Showing Chrome OS devices get free automatic updates.
Chrome OS devices get automatic updates

Google releases full Chrome OS updates about every six weeks. Security updates also take place every two to three weeks to deal with any known issues. You don’t need to worry as this is all done automatically. In fact, the updates are so quick you may not even realise when they happen.

There is no other consumer operating system that offers updates as regularly as this. This is why Chromebooks and Chrome OS is considered one of the safest computers you can use.

AUTO UPDATE POLICY

For Chrome OS to stay fast and secure it’s not possible for Chromebooks to be provided with updates forever. This is because technology and hardware changes over time. This ensures Chrome OS is not kept back by older hardware, so it can still continue to improve.

This means that updates of Chrome OS for Chromebooks do expire after a certain date. When Chromebooks originally launched this was five years, it was then increased to six and a half years.

This has now been extended and any Chromebook launched after 2020 will receive updates for eight years. The majority of people do not own laptops for more than five years, so the Auto Update Policy should not be a problem for many.

However, it does mean you need to be careful if buying a second-hand device. You can still use your device after the Auto Update Expiry date as normal, but no further updates of the Chrome OS will take place.

You can find out more about this by reading why the Auto Update Policy for Chromebooks is not as bad as it may sound.

THEY HAVE EXCELLENT BATTERY LIFE

Chromebooks are known for having the best battery life you can find on any type of laptop. This makes them perfect for people who not only wants a laptop to use at home, but also to take out and about with you.

The battery life of a Chrome OS laptop is typically between 7 to 12 hours, which is much more than you would get from any other computer. Find out more about the Chromebooks battery life.

This is mainly due to how Chrome OS has been designed to use very little power. It’s also because Chromebooks do not come with moving parts such as a hard disk.


WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A CHROMEBOOK

In this section, we’ll look at things you’ll want to consider when buying a new Chromebook. There are many things you might be unaware of or have questions about, so hopefully, they’ll be covered in this section.

You can get Chromebooks from many different online stores and stores on your local high street. They vary in size, price and the functionality what they can offer you.

So it’s always best to go prepared by doing your homework. That way, even if you’ve still not made up your mind you’ll have a rough understanding of what you’re looking for.

WHAT TYPE OF CHROMEBOOK DO YOU WANT TO BUY

So I’ve mentioned earlier there are different type of Chrome OS devices. Being that most people choose to buy a Chromebook, which is the laptop version of Chrome OS. This section concentrates on the Chromebook over any other type of Chrome OS device.

There are three main types of Chromebooks and these are budget, mid-range and high-spec. It’s important to know what type you’re after, so you don’t spend too much time looking at devices that you don’t need.

We’ll look at what you can expect from these three ranges of Chromebooks shortly, but first, we need to talk about your budget. Find out more about the three ranges of Chromebooks available.

WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET

The budget you have for your new Chromebook will play a big part in your buying decision. If you don’t have a budget and can spend as much as you want, then you’ll obviously have a lot more choice.

However, most people tend to have a budget to work with and you should try to stick to this if possible. Obviously, you’ll always be tempted to spend more if you see something you really like. It’s important to remember what you intend to use your laptop for and not get carried away buying something you don’t need.

A calculator to explain to work out your budget for your next Chromebook
Work out your budget for your new Chromebook

I have a tendency of spending more than I needed. Loving all types of gadgets means I’m regularly on the lookout for the next big thing. However, I always end up buying something with more specs than I actually need. Realising I could have spent a lot less money. So if this is you. Try to keep yourself in check whenever you’re looking at buying a new Chromebook.

On the other hand, you also want to ensure you think about the future as well. Don’t buy for what you need now, think about what you might want to use your laptop for five years from now. It’s better and cheaper to spend more now than having to replace your laptop two years down the line.

TYPE OF CHROMEBOOKS AVAILABLE

So before we take a look at what you can expect from the different range of Chromebooks. Let’s have a look at the type of Chromebooks you’ll be choosing from.

You can get a traditional laptop or a Hybrid also known as a 2-in-1 device. The traditional laptop is just that. It can be used as any other laptop you may have used before.

A Hybrid or 2-in-1 can be used as a laptop as normal. However, it also has the capability to be used as a tablet. This is done by the hinges on the display, which enables you to rotate the screen into a tablet.

A hybrid chromebook in tablet mode
This is a Hybrid Chromebook in tablet mode
Hybrid Chromebook in laptop mode
The same device in laptop mode

The type you get depends on what you will be using your device for. Some people love the 2-in-1 because of the extra functionality. It does offer extra functionality, but it does not necessarily mean a laptop device isn’t just as good.

It really is a matter of personal preference. Personally, I’m not really convinced on 2-in-1 devices being used in tablet mode. They feel a tad bulky and it feels strange being able to feel the keyboard underneath. Find out more about 2-in-1 Chromebook devices.

This is why I believe tablets will be more successful now Chrome OS works more seamlessly with tablets. If the tablet has been created to work well with a keyboard, then you truly are getting a 2-in-1 device without any compromises.


BUDGET CHROMEBOOKS

If you’re looking for a laptop without spending too much money then a budget Chromebook is a good choice. There is a huge selection of budget devices available.

You’ll find plenty of laptop and 2-in-1 Chrome OS devices in the budget price range. Obviously, you should expect a few compromises when buying a budget device.

Chromebook buying guide - What is your budget for your Chromebook
You don’t have to break the bank to buy a budget Chromebook

However, that does not mean these compromises are not necessarily a bad thing. You just need to ensure the Chromebook will give you everything you’ll need. Most devices in the budget range are made from plastic.

The price range for budget Chromebooks generally fall between $150/£150 to $350/£350. The Acer 14 CB514-1HT is a great budget Chromebook or take a look at these three great budget Hybrid 2-in-1 Chromebooks.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A BUDGET CHROMEBOOK

A budget Chromebook is usually going to be perfect for someone looking for a laptop to surf the internet. If you’re looking for a laptop where you’ll spend most time internet surfing, then a budget device might just be right for you.

Also, due to the cloud computing aspect of Chrome OS devices. You’ll also have access to software such as a word processor and spreadsheet. You get access to these by using Google Docs, which are free to use and you can access them from your web browser.

You’ll come across no problems using a word processor or spreadsheet with a budget device.

Join the Chromebook Community

BUDGET CHROMEBOOK PROCESSOR

Most budget Chromebooks use the Intel Celeron type processor. They will not necessarily be identical processors, as there are many different Intel Celeron processors available.

The Intel Celeron processor is regularly used in all types of budget laptops. As mentioned, with this type of processor internet surfing and using Google Docs will work just fine.

You’ll also be able to use streaming services such as Netflix and Youtube without too many issues. However, you may find streaming in HD will push your device over the edge. That being said, most budget Chromebooks don’t support HD, but we’ll look at the type of displays to expect a little later.

BUDGET CHROMEBOOK RAM & STORAGE

You’ll find some budget Chromebooks come with 2GB of RAM. This is less common than it once was, but you will still find devices with this amount of memory.

Although 2GB of RAM is perfectly acceptable for internet surfing and using Google Docs. You may find when it comes to streaming videos that your computer may struggle with this a little.

Ideally, you’ll want to look for a device with 4GB of RAM. This amount of RAM is more than enough for what a budget device will be used for. You’ll have to spend a little more money, but it will be worth it.

When it comes to storage you’ll find that most come with 16GB or 32GB of storage. Some may come with 64GB, but you’ll not find many in the budget range with this amount of storage.

To make the most of your storage it’s a good idea to save as many files as you can in the cloud. Using the cloud storage service Google One. This works seamlessly with Chromebooks, so you’ll find it really easy to save files in the cloud rather than locally.

A device with 16GB is very low. However, it’s still manageable providing you take advantage of the cloud computing capabilities Chrome OS offers. 32GB of storage is the preferred option. It all depends on whether the device is capable of supporting Android Apps.

BUDGET CHROMEBOOK DISPLAY

This is where you’ll usually find where the money has been saved. A lot of budget Chromebooks do not come with fantastic displays. That being said, you can still find decent displays if you shop around.

A lot of budget devices come with 1,366 by 768 display, so you’ll not get HD with this resolution. This resolution will also mean images and text will not necessarily be as crisp.

However, that does depend on the size of the display. If the display is under 12-inches then for a budget device, you’ll have nothing to worry about with 1,366 by 768. You’ll only really notice a problem with this resolution when the display is 14-inches or over.

Old displays to watch out for when choosing a budget Chromebook
Watch out for the display when choosing a budget Chromebook

Also, some displays may suffer from not providing a very good viewing angle. It’s part of buying a budget device. If you don’t want to compromise on the display quality, then try to ensure you get one with an IPS panel.

It’s worth remembering though, budget Chromebooks with an IPS panel generally do cost a little more. You can even find some with full HD 1,920 by 1,080. If the device comes with Android Apps you ideally want a touchscreen display.


MID-RANGE CHROMEBOOK DEVICES

There are a lot more mid-range Chrome OS devices to choose from today. This is great because this range used to be a lot more limited.

Generally speaking, mid-range devices range from prices of $350/£350 to around $650/£650. You can find a lot of mid-range devices in my 2019 best Chromebook list.

This range of devices offers the best value for money and really decent specs. If you buy a mid-range device you can expect a decent quality build and a lot more functionality.

There is no question that the Google Pixel Go basic model is the best mid-range Chromebook currently available.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A MID-RANGE CHROMEBOOK

As briefly mentioned, most mid-range devices are well built. You’ll tend to not find many made of plastic. Instead, most of these devices are made of metal, which is usually aluminium.

Again, you’ll find both laptops and 2-in-1 devices in this range. Generally speaking, most devices in this range come with displays of 13-inches or more.

MID-RANGE CHROMEBOOK PROCESSOR

When it comes to mid-range devices you should not expect to see an Intel Celeron processor. If you do, then you need to ask yourself whether it truly is a mid-range device.

In this range, you’d expect to see Intel M3 as a minimum. The Intel M3 processor works extremely well with Chromebook devices and you should not encounter any problems.

However, you’ll also find better processors than this such as the Intel M5 or Intel i3 and even the i5 processor. Find out more about the type of processor you need for your Chromebook.

With these type of processors, you should be able to do everything you can expect from a budget device and a whole lot more. For example, streaming HD movies will not be a problem for these processors. Also, Android Apps will work fine, but more intensive apps will work better with a more powerful i5 compared to an Intel M3.

MID-RANGE CHROMEBOOK RAM & STORAGE

When it comes to RAM you should not be looking for anything less than 4GB. A mid-range device with anything less than this is not a mid-range device.

4GB of RAM is fine for most of the tasks you would expect to do on a mid-range laptop. You’ll come across very little issues, but you may find some tasks such as image editing large files or even using advanced Android Apps a little bit of a struggle at times.

If you can afford it and you find a Chromebook you like with 8GB of RAM. Then this is definitely the better option if you want to buy a laptop that is future proof. 8GB of RAM is more than enough for almost any type of task you will carry out on a Chromebook at the moment.

Chromebook buying guide - RAM needed for mid range chromebook
4GB of RAM is a minimum for a mid-range Chromebook

When it comes to the storage you should be looking for 32GB as an absolute minimum. This is because you’ll no doubt be wanting to install plenty of Android Apps. These apps use your local storage, so anything less than 32GB will be a challenge.

That being said, you should ideally be looking for a laptop with at least 64GB. This gives you a lot more opportunity to install more advanced apps that take up a lot of storage.

Also, mid-range devices should also support Linux Apps. These apps will also take up your valuable storage space.

MID-RANGE CHROMEBOOK DISPLAY

Personally, I think the display is one of the most important aspects when looking for a decent laptop. When you’re looking for a mid-range laptop then you should be ensuring it comes with the right specification.

You would not expect to find a mid-range Chromebook that offers anything less than True HD. What I mean by True HD is 1,920 by 1,080. If the display does not offer this, then I’d be concerned about paying mid-range prices.

You would also expect the viewing of the display to be a pleasure. The main factor in this after the resolution is the brightness and the viewing angle.

Always ensure the display on a mid-range device offers an IPS panel or another type of technology that provides great viewing angles and crisp images.

You should also avoid any device from the mid-range that does not offer a touchscreen. A mid-range Chromebook without a touchscreen is a complete waste of money. This is because Android Apps works well with touchscreen and absolutely awful without it.

ANDROID AND LINUX APPS

It seems strange even having to mention this, but a mid-range Chrome OS device should definitely offer Android App capability.

By offering Android App capability means you’ll have access to the thousands of Android Apps available for Chrome OS from the app store.

You would also expect the majority to offer Linux App support, but this is arguably less important. I say this because not all mid-range devices offer Linux Apps.

Chromebook buying guide - Android figurine
Android Apps is available on most Chromebooks

At the moment Linux Apps is still a work in progress. Yes, it’s better than it once was, but I would not let you put this off buying a Chromebook you love.

You need to ask yourself whether you will ever even need to use Linux Apps. Yes, we can’t predict the future, but I don’t see Linux Apps providing any game-changers for the Chromebook anytime soon.

The only real interesting development is between Steam and Google, which I must admit would be a game-changer if it works. I still feel we are a long way off though.


HIGH-SPEC CHROMEBOOK DEVICES

The High-Spec category of Chromebook devices is a bit of a strange one. We’ve found devices in this category before such as the original Pixelbook. Also, the higher-spec Pixel Go devices fall into this category as well. Find out more about the different ranges of the Pixel Go.

You would obviously expect a high-spec device to offer everything you would expect from a mid-range model. That would mean including Android Apps and of course Linux App support.

Where you’d expect to see the big differences is in the display, build quality, processor and RAM and storage. However, a Chromebook with a lot of RAM and storage would not get into the high-spec hall of fame without something extra.

You’d expect to see a high-spec device come with an Intel i5 processor at the minimum, but the i7 processor would be more favourable. A display offering more than 1,920 by 1,080 would also be expected. Some high-spec devices even come with 4K.

It’s got to be a truly groundbreaking device. The problem with this is that we’ve seen this recently with the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. It’s definitely an amazing device but is plagued with battery life issues.

At the moment I’m a bit uncertain about this category. We’re in a place where we’ll need to see what comes in the future.

CONCLUSION

I hope this article has helped you understand more about what Chrome OS is and why the Chromebook is a great laptop.

I also hope this Chromebook buying guide has helped you understand what type of device is right for you. At the moment, budget devices are great for anyone looking for a laptop to surf the internet and to use office applications such as word processing or spreadsheets.

If you want the best that Chromebook has to offer. At the moment I’d concentrate on the mid-range devices. All of these devices offer great functionality, and the additional Android and Linux App support bring a whole lot of fun to your Chromebook as well.

If you have any questions about this Chromebook buying guide. Please leave your comments below and I’ll ensure I get back to you. I’m sure other readers will also help you by replying with their thoughts.

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