Skip to content

How to Select a Chromebook: 4 Key Items to Consider

BetterCloud

April 28, 2014

4 minute read

Chromebooks

David Hoff is the Chief Technology Officer and a co-founder of Cloud Sherpas. He leads corporate technology strategy and thought leadership across the organization. Find David on Google+ here.

Chromebooks

Over the last year, the number of people purchasing Google Chromebooks as PC replacements has skyrocketed. Chromebooks provide so many advantages over traditional PCs that, for most users, the devices should be the first machines they look to when contemplating purchasing a new computer.

Traditional PC providers like HP, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Toshiba, Dell and Samsung have all released new Chromebook models offering more options to choose from than ever. But, before you go out and purchase one of these Chromebooks, understanding a few key items will help you make the right choice.

Hardware

In many ways, Chromebook devices have their roots in lightweight traditional laptops. They run a specialized and hardened version of Linux under the covers, so they’re suitable for a large variety of in screens and CPUs, however it’s important to understand a few basics about the Chrome Operating System.

First, Google has gone to great lengths to remove anything from the operating system that would draw attention away from the Chrome browser. For users, this means the CPU doesn’t have to be as powerful in order to provide the same level of performance required from heavyweight operating systems like Mac or Windows. In fact, the efficiency is so much better that many Chromebooks are powered by the same processors you’d find in higher-end smartphones and tablets.

The processor is an important part of your Chromebook and generally, machines that are powered by Intel CPUs are going to provide higher performance than ARM-based tablet or smartphone processors. If you want to get hard facts around speed, a good benchmark for evaluating performance of a Chromebook is Google’s Octane test. You can run this tool on any machine with a browser here. For example, the HP 11 Chromebook ($279 USD), powered by Samsung Exynos (ARM-based) CPU, provides an Octane result of about 5,000. In contrast, the Acer 720p ($299 USD) uses an Intel Celeron and scores around 10,000.

High numbers indicate better performance, and the disparity between these two devices is noticeable, especially for power users. If you anticipate very light usage, with just a tab or two open in the browser at a time, the HP and other similar ARM-based Exynos chips provide a decent experience. However, if you’re a heavy Google Docs or Hangout video conference user, you’ll definitely want to stick with the faster Intel chips.

Storage

Historically, when it comes to purchasing a laptop, users heavily consider hard drive size. But, this is far less relevant when it comes to Chromebooks, which are built to leverage the cloud. Since files are stored in the cloud (and primarily on Google Drive), Chromebook users no longer have to worry about hard drive crashes. Additionally, you can access data stored on Drive from any device – tablets, smartphones and even someone else’s PC or Mac.

Google provides tight integration with Google Drive, which provides users with 30 GB of online combined cloud storage at no additional cost. Many Chromebooks also include an additional entitlement of 100GB of free storage for two years. Most users find they only need a small amount of local storage for things like downloads, and combined with the generous online storage provided and very small footprint that the Chrome operating system requires, a standard 16GB drive provides more than enough storage for almost all users. However, If you want to cling to having files locally, consider using either a Secure Digital (SD) card or a USB jump drive. A 64GB SD card can easily be found for around $40, and provides full transportability between machines.

Memory

While local hard drive storage isn’t important on a Chromebook, you should look at how much system memory (RAM) is provided on the machine you’re purchasing. Most devices currently ship with 2GB, which is adequate for most use cases. But, if you expect to use an external or dual monitor setup with your Chromebook, you should carefully consider purchasing a machine with 4GB of memory. When working with an additional screen, I often find that I have multiple tabs open in each and these individual tabs take up memory space. If you start to run out of memory on a Chrome device, you’ll notice pages performing a full refresh when you click on tabs, rather than immediately displaying the content. Some machines can be upgraded with memory after the fact, but most have it permanently attached, so it’s important to consider if you’ll run the browser with many tabs (more than 10) open at any given time before making your purchase.

Screen Size and Resolution

Lastly, take into account a Chromebook’s screen. Most current generation devices use a traditional 11 inch screen with 1366 x 768 resolution, however, new devices are shipping with large 13 or 14 inch screens and some even include full HD resolution. On the high end, Google created the Pixel complete with touchscreen running a full high definition (2560 x 1700) screen. While the machine comes with a similar high-end price tag, it represents the best display available on a Chromebook. In the coming weeks, Samsung will release the 13 inch Chromebook 2 with an HD 1920 x 1080 display.

Final Thoughts

With most devices going for less than $300, it’s almost hard to make a bad decision when purchasing a Chromebook. But, you should still consider the above factors to make sure you select the device that’s best suited to your needs.

If you’re considering deploying Chromebooks across your organization, you should also consider purchasing the Chromebook Management Option, which allows you to push wireless credentials and other configuration settings automatically to devices using just a web-based console. Find more information on the Chromebook Management Console here or contact Cloud Sherpas at (888) 260-7660 for more details.

Categories

Sign up for our newsletter