Let’s start by talking about my chronic and desperate love for all things technology. When I started looking at computers for our local homeschooling group I initially thought that lower end Windows computers would be the way to go. As I began the selection process, I found that they just did not have the “out of the box” experience I was looking for. To get into something that was going to be “usable” for the curriculum I was putting together, I would need to pay a lot more cash per unit to get the specs that would accomplish my goals.
So I began looking outside the box for some other options. I started with some Android clamshells but quickly let those go as unacceptable. Then, while researching more products, I found that the newer Chromebooks had the ability to work natively with the Google Play Store and millions of Android Apps. That’s when things got a little crazy.
Here’s what’s currently in my Chromebook Stable listed in order of cost. I’ll list their basic specs as well. (Additionally, you can click here to see all the details, including performance specs for each unit. As we get more units in, we’ll continue to add their details to this list) In later articles we can look at how these features impact performance and usability in the real world.
- $1649.00, Google Pixel Book: Core i7 (y class), 16GB Ram, 512GB storage, 2400×1600 12.3” Display
- $699.99, Lenovo C630: Intel Core i5 (u class), 8GB Ram, 128GB storage, 1920×1080 15.6” Display
- $599.00, Samsung Chromebook Pro: Core m3, 4GB Ram, 64 GB Storage, 2400×1600 12.3 Display
- $599.00, HP X360 14”: Intel Core i3 (u class), 8 GB Ram, 64GB Storage, 1920×1080 14” Display
- $599.99, Dell Inspiron 14”: Intel Core i5 (u class), 4GB Ram, 128GB Storage, 1920×1080 14” Display
- $499.00, Samsung Chromebook Plus V2: Core m3, 4GB Ram, 64GB Storage, 1920×1200 12.2” display
When looking at processors, the “y” class processor is really more like a rebranded mobile, “m” class, processor. It’s very energy efficient and does not require a fan, but also has less overall horsepower. The “u” class is more your typical, higher powered, laptop processor. It has a lot more processing power and requires a fan under load. You can see how this works when you take an i5y class processor and put it next to an i3u class processor. The i3u will often outperform the i5y and even the i7y class processors in raw processing power and multi-tasking. Other options typically found are Celeron and Pentium. These are much less desirable than the m, y, or u variants. We’ll talk about just what that means in another article.
There are a couple more models that I would like to evaluate as time and resources allow, for now we will start with these.
At the top of the list is the Google Pixelbook with a retail price point of $1650 and some ridiculous specs for a Chromebook. Regardless of configuration, even including the base model, this device has set the standard for all other chromebooks in the market. It is an exquisitely crafted device with outstanding build quality and top quality input devices, i.e. keyboard, trackpad, and pen. The base config retails for $999.00 with bargains to be had down at the $700 level when you can find them. The base model supersedes nearly every other model listed above with an i5 processor, 8GB Ram, and 128GB storage. Knowing that it was the standard, I opted to get the top of their configuration line with an i7 Intel Processor, 16GB Ram, and 512GB storage. While the retail price is $1649, look around before you buy. I found a like new i7 Pixelbook on eBay for around $1000. It has met or exceeded all my expectations and has probably spoiled me when looking at other models. Although as I work with different up and coming chromebooks, I’m finding that it may not be my favorite “go to” chromebook for long.
Everything people say (good) about the Pixelbook keyboard, trackpad, and display is spot on. The keyboard is one of the most solid feeling, comfortable, responsive keyboards that I’ve tested on any laptop full stop. The trackpad is flawless. And the display, is it just very easy on the eyes, bright, crisp, and sharp. Other important points of note, the wifi works great and the weight and form factor are what you’d expect from a top tier product. The one downside to me is that it does not have a MicroSD slot for additional storage, but with at starting point of 128GB, that may not be real issue. It may be more of a psychological block than something that’s really ever going to be a problem.
But what about the price?? We’ll I’ve thought long and hard about this. In the last several months I’ve spent a few thousand dollars on Chromebooks trying to really understand their place in the market and how they can be used to improve productivity. When they were first introduced they were marketed almost as “disposable” tech. Essentially a step above a cheap tablet but adding a keyboard and trackpad as part of the deal. They’ve obviously grown to be a lot more than that. Because they started out as “cheap” alternatives to PCs, and because you can get basic windows PCs so cheap today, it’s very hard to justify anything near $1000 for a “chromebook.” Or is it???
In reality, the $600, $700, or even $1000 you spend on a Chromebook will go a lot further than the same money you’d spend on a traditional Windows PC. A truly top of the line Windows laptop is going to push the $3000 mark. Just go price out a Dell XPS, Latitude, Alienware computer, or Microsoft Surface Book and you’ll quickly see what I mean. If you go to the Mac side of things and look at the new Macbook Pro Laptops, some of those are coming in at over $6000. Here’s another thing to consider. So the comparative performance Chromebook is still on the way low end of the money curve. As another comparison, what did you shell out for your last cell phone? I bet it was close to $800 or $1000 by the time you were done. So is it really that big of a deal to drop $600 on something that’s top of the line and built exceptionally well? No, I don’t think it is. It’s just going to take a change in how we look at this kind of tech in general.
The title of this article is “Why EVERY computer user should have a Modern Chromebook.” Here’s the short answer; productivity. I have a LOT of computers. Some really expensive ones that do specific tasks as part of my daily workflow. What a Chromebook does for me is take all the rest of my mundane computing tasks and brings them into one very convenient, exceptionally portable, unplugged package. Essentially they do what tablets have always promised but never truly delivered. Moreover, they give me what I call “instant computing.” They turn on instantly, launch applications nearly instantly, and give me access to all my critical data, well… instantly. I did not always find this to be the case. It has been a bit of a learning curve and adjusting of my workflow to achieve this freedom.
I’ve found them invaluable to me personally. But, not everyone should buy a Chromebook as their “main” computer or even try to use them as a secondary computer. Or should you? I think that after you go through some of the articles you may decide, that as a secondary device, they are a no-brainer, even for hard core computer users. But there is a segment of users who, with the right understanding of how to use them, will find that Chrome OS and top level Chromebook hardware can greatly improve their workflow and productivity. So let’s jump into that in our next article.