As a college student, I saw almost every student spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on laptops they thought they needed, only to use it for surfing the internet and writing papers. This made me wonder how much computer the average college student needed. During my last semester of college, I purchased a Chromebook for less than $200 just to see how well it would handle in an academic environment.
What is a Chromebook:
First of all, what is a Chromebook? If you have been searching around for a new computer, you have probably come across the name. In short, a Chromebook is a small, lightweight computer, with Chrome OS (not Windows or OSX). However, instead of reading me drone on about what Chromebooks are, check out this great video explanation released by Google:
Great! Now that you are up to speed on what a Chromebook is, let's look at the advantages, disadvantages, and misconceptions I have discovered while I used my Chromebook as a college student.
Price: Chromebooks are cheap! Probably the cheapest laptops you will be able to find. My favorite model, the Acer C720, is only $199.00 at the time of this article. I know many students that took out student loans 4 times this amount just for a low end MacBook Air.
Speed: When my Acer C720 is turned completely off, it takes me about 5-6 seconds to turn it on and be on the internet. As a side note, there is no annoying noise that plays when I boot up the computer in the middle of class. When using Chrome, I have had 30+ tabs open while doing research and never once did it feel like there was a delay when switching between tabs or creating new ones.
Safety: Many students get their computers infected. It just happens. However, that is not something to necessarily worry about with a Chromebook. Of course, there is still things out there like phishing scams that everyone is vulnerable too, but a full on infection is very unlikely.
Automatic Saving: I worked for my school's IT department and had countless students come to me in tears because they lost their research paper or thesis when their computer crashed. If you use Google's products like Google Docs, your files are automatically saved to the Google's servers every time you make a change.
Portability: My Acer C720 weighs in at 2.8 pounds and easily fits into almost any bag. I thought the 11.6 inch screen would bother me when doing research or writing a paper, but it never did.
Battery Life: I can easily get 8 hours of use out of my Chromebook before having to recharge it. If I turn my Chromebook off when I'm not using it, it could easily go almost a week without a recharge.
Third-Party Applications: The only disadvantage I found is if you have specific applications that you need to use like Adobe Creative Cloud applications or AutoCAD, a Chromebook may not be for you. However, most schools have this software available on public computers for student use. Additionally, I can usually find an alternative solution either in the Chrome Web Store or when searching for other web apps.
Microsoft Office: Many people believe that they will not have access to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel on a Chromebook. Google does have it's own versions of these applications, but if you want Microsoft's products, they are available FREE in the Chrome Web Store:
Storage Space: Additionally, lot of people get driven away when they see that Chomebooks usually only come with 16-32GB of hard drive space. However, Google offers quite a bit of free online storage, so not only are you keeping all your files from filling up your hard drive, but you have access to your files from almost any device with an internet connection.
Offline Access: Lastly, it is commonly believed that if you don't have internet access, you cannot work on anything. Google allows you to download files so you can work on your documents and such while you are offline. When you reconnect to the internet, your documents automatically sync to your online Google Drive storage.
In my experience, my Acer C720 was perfect for what I needed. and for less than $200, I was more than happy. I could boot up in an instant to take notes in class, write papers and create PowerPoint presentations without an issue, listen to music, video chat with friends, and watch movies. For most students, a $200 Chromebook is all you will ever need.
Have you ever used a Chromebook for school? if so, how was your experience? Have any questions before you get a Chromebook? Tell us about it in the comments below.