Home Chromebook Why the latest powerful Chromebooks are not going to be for everyone

Why the latest powerful Chromebooks are not going to be for everyone

by Dan Millward

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Why a super powerful Chromebook is not for everyone

I will never forget purchasing my first Chromebook in 2011. It was the HP 11, which I loved because it had an IPS panel, so the visuals were great and the 11-inch display meant it was a really easy laptop to carry around.

Before Chrome OS was launched I’d owned a few laptops and all of them used Microsoft Windows. I bought a powerful gaming laptop and I also owned a couple of cheaper entry-level MS laptops.

One thing you had to get used to when using an MS Windows laptop was the noise. The noise from the fans was not only frustrating they also made the laptop and the surrounding area hot. Using a laptop with fans may not be too uncomfortable if you have it on a desk, but if you have one on your lap the heat from the fans can be very uncomfortable.

The fanless Chromebook

When I bought my first Chromebook I was more interested in understanding how it worked. Because of this, I didn’t really notice at first that the reason why I enjoyed using it a lot more than my previous MS laptops was because it was fanless.

Once I got used to using Chrome OS I started to pay more attention to the actual laptop. The fact it could operate without any fans was a huge benefit. I was a little concerned at first about whether it would overheat because of this. However, after using it for many months without any issues I was really happy to own a laptop that did not need fans to cool down the processor.

Pixelbook Go fanless slim chassis
Pixelbook Go slim fanless design

It wasn’t just the fans for the processor that used to frustrate me with my previous MS windows laptops. The rotating moving hard disk was another reason why MS laptops were really noisy and frustrating to use for long periods of time.

I’ve got used to using a quiet laptop

I’ve owned a few different Chromebooks over the years. Each one was different in terms of build quality and specs. The one thing they all had in common was being fanless and quiet. It just became the norm, and it’s fair to say I started to take it for granted.

It’s not always easy to know why you like using a laptop compared to others. After using Chromebooks for a number of years I had completely forgotten how annoying it was to use my MS laptops with the noise and heat they gave off.

What made them even more frustrating was the heat they gave off got worse the longer you used them. A couple of hours of using a laptop that uses a fan to keep the processor cool can get seriously hot. If you’ve got it on your lap it gets to the point where you can’t take it any longer. It’s simply far too uncomfortable especially on hot days during the summer.

The latest powerful Chromebooks use fans

In the last couple of years, I’ve bought a couple of powerful Chromebooks. The first was the Acer 713, and I immediately noticed it didn’t offer the glorious bliss of being quiet when operational. In all fairness, the Acer 713 fan noise wasn’t too bad, as the fans only kicked in for a few seconds when you powered it up.

Asus CX5 Chromebook
Asus CX5 Chromebook

Providing you were using your Chromebook to do what most of us do, which is surf the internet, using social media, word processing or spreadsheet work. Then I noticed the fans on my Acer 713 didn’t really kick in too much.

However, if you started to multi-task or use some Android Apps that were a little more demanding than the average. You would soon notice the fans would kick in. It would get even worse if you really pushed your device by using Linux apps and running multiple tasks.

They will only get noisier and hotter

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. My Acer 713 came with a tenth-generation Intel i3 processor, which has two cores. Although I liked the Acer 713 it was not the laptop for me, so I replaced it with the Asus CX5 eleventh-generation Intel i5 processor.

The main difference with the upgrade from the i3 to an i5 processor was the number of cores. Instead of coming with a dual-core processor, it came with a quad-core. Fantastic news when it came to performance, as it meant I could use Steam Linux Alpha, but not so great when it came to fan noise.

I noticed the Asus CX5 fans kick in a lot more than my Acer 713. I still own my Asus CX5 Chromebook, but I could never use it as my daily laptop. I tend to write a lot of my blog posts away from a desk. Whether that is sitting in front of the TV in my lounge or last thing at night when I’m in bed. I soon realised the Asus CX5 was far too noisy and the heat it gave off was too uncomfortable to use on my lap for long periods of time.

Powerful processors with fans mean a bigger chassis

Something else you need to consider when buying a powerful Chromebook is the size of the outer casing. Both the Acer 713 and Asus CX5 are pretty bulky and heavy compared to a typical Chromebook. That’s fair enough with the CX5 because it has a 15.6-inch display. However, the Acer 713 with its 13.5-inch display felt pretty big compared to less powerful laptops with similar display sizes.

As soon as you start looking at using a processor that needs a fan to operate. The manufacturer must also consider how the fan will be kept at a certain temperature to stop it from overheating. One way of doing this is making sure the chassis is big enough for the heat to circulate. You also need to ensure the chassis is big enough to add vents for the heat to escape.

This means you’ll not find a powerful Chromebook that needs fans for the processor to operate with a super-slim outer casing. I don’t know about you, but that is something I tend to prefer because they are much easier to handle and far lighter to have on your lap for long periods of time.

Are we going backwards?

At the beginning of this article, I explained why I loved my first few Chromebooks. One of the reasons for this was because of how silent they were to use. Being able to use a Chromebook that doesn’t give off too much heat when using it is essential for me as a daily laptop.

I’m not saying for one second that you shouldn’t buy a powerful Chromebook. There are obvious reasons why you may want a more powerful Chromebook. However, you seriously need to ensure you’ll be happy with what this means.

Asus CX5 and Pixelbook Go chassis size comparison
Asus CX5 and Pixelbook Go

It’s the main reason why I replaced both of my more powerful Chromebooks with a Pixelbook Go. I still have my Asus CX5, but it’s strictly used at my desk only. When I’m away from my desk my laptop of choice is always my Pixelbook Go. It’s what I’m using right now to write this article. The weather is pretty hot at the moment, so using a laptop that doesn’t give off any heat is an important factor.

When I tried to write a post on my Asus CX5 on my lap before I bought the Pixelbook Go. I noticed after about 15 minutes that the heat from the fans was annoying me. Not only that, It’s a far heavier laptop and I could notice the lid was digging into my legs.

How will you use your laptop?

If you’re looking for a laptop that will be located on a desk then I don’t think you need to be too concerned. You will of course still have to deal with the noise from the fans, but at least you’ll not have to deal with the heat being dispersed onto your body.

On the other hand, if you’re buying a laptop to use in many different locations. Especially if you’ll be using it on your lap. Then I’d strongly consider whether you could cope with the noise and heat these more powerful Chromebooks give off.

I accept we have to move forward and the more powerful Chrome OS gets; means we’ll need more powerful Chromebooks. However, you can do most of the things Chrome OS is capable of without spending money on a superpowerful laptop, which needs a fan to operate. In one way we’re going forward, and at the same time, we’re going backwards.

The super-powerful Chromebooks of today are getting more like the MS windows laptops I used to use. They are big, heavy, noisy and hot when in operation. The total opposite of what I loved about Chromebooks when they were originally launched.

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2 comments

Dave_W June 25, 2022 - 4:50 pm

Great article – couldn’t agree with you more. Choosing a new chromebook is a real dilemma. I’ve been using a chromebook since 2014 and have got through 4 so far, the first coming with only 2GB memory and I think an N2820 processor with 32GB storage – it was a real workhorse and I think the chromebook that I’ve been happiest using. I only used it for web browsing, email, the odd spreadsheet/letter, and of course google photos, which covered 90% of my use. As time and technology moved on, I too progressed to an i3 processor with 8 GB ram, mainly so that I could try running linux underneath it and yes I can still hear the fans whirling away! But I’ve come to a decision and that is to stop trying to use one operating system and one device to cover all my needs.
So if I want to slouch on the sofa, browse the web or listen to YouTube I’ll use a low powered chromebook. If I want to edit some videos, do my tax return or just want a larger screen, I’ll sit at my desktop and use Windows 11 (I’m very happy with this). And if I just need a change and feel like tinkering round, I’ll swap the drive out and use linux mint.

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Dan Millward June 27, 2022 - 9:59 am

Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. I’m not overly convinced with super-powerful Chromebooks. They may be right for some people, but for the majority I don’t think they are necessary.

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