If my friend sticks to her current moving schedule, I have 2 months left to find new places to couch-surf. The type and number of places I end up staying at will affect what I can carry with me and how much. If I have to hop a lot from place to place, then the best I can carry is about a week’s worth of clothing and supplies. My current laptop, a Lenovo Thinkpad running Ubuntu, will not work under these circumstances. It has served me well in my job search, but it’s too heavy and awkward to lug around. A lighter alternative is required that I could carry at the drop of a hat. The problem, however, was that most of the notebook and laptop brands were out of my budget — except for one.
Enter the Chromebook. An example of a thin-client, produced by Google, this type of notebook uses the cloud to store most of its user data, and runs on the ChromeOS operating system, which is a Linux-based and requires the user to work most of the time from inside a browser. At a back-to-school bargain at around $250 (Canadian), was it worth it?
Well, first the pros: It’s very light, thin and has nice large keys for my clumsy sausage fingers. The 11.6 inch screen is very easy to read, and the fully charged battery gives between 6 and 7 hours of off-outlet use. The boot-up time is very fast. Instead of traditional function keys that represent a feature (brightness, volume, etc) that you have to remember, there are a row of keys that explicitly state the above functions. You work with apps, not programs and the Chromebook comes preloaded with apps like the Chrome browser, Gmail, Google Docs (documents), Google Sheets (spreadsheets), Google Slides (presentations), Google Drive, Google+, YouTube and more. If you want to install more apps, Google Play is the place to get them. The Chrome browser uses the Pepper-based Flash plug-in so if you like Farmville, Criminal Case, Trainstation or any other Flash-based games, fear not, the Chromebook can handle it very well. This particular Chromebook (HP) uses a dual-core Samsung processor.
It has its limitations, though. The amount of RAM and file storage on the Chromebook is quite small: it only has 2 gigabytes of RAM and 16 gigabytes of local storage, both using flash drive technology. The Chromebook is designed to allow the user to create, store, and manipulate data on the cloud courtesy of Google Drive, not locally. While Google claims any stored data is both secure and always easily accessible, and you get 100 gigabytes of additional storage free for two years on top of the additional 15 gigabytes a new Google account is allocated, you are very dependent on a constant Internet connection. The Chromebook can operate in offline mode, but in that mode you have to work with is the base 16 gigabytes of storage. You can use USB flash drives to increase offline storage, but those are not directly synchable with Google Drive. You’ll need to drag and drop there, which on a Chromebook is murder to do since there are no mouse buttons on the track-pad. To emulate a specific mouseclick, you need to tap the pad with one, two, or three fingers. I’m very computer-savvy, yet found the group finger taps hard to do, so I decided to use a portable mouse instead.
The bottom line? If you want a very affordable laptop that is great for working on the cloud and for websurfing, has a fast boot-up time and a long battery time, the Chromebook is perfect for you. However, if you are comfortable with Windows and how a mouse traditionally handles under that operating system, enjoy the wide variety of Microsoft games and applications, and need a lot of offline hard drive storage, perhaps you may want to try putting more money towards a standard notebook, laptop, or ultrabook. In my case, the Chromebook will serve me well as an important part of my mobile life and job search strategy.
Thanks for reading.