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Thursday, October 17, 2019

How to Shop for a Chromebook

A man's hands typing on a Pixelbook.
Google

Chromebooks are a powerful, affordable alternative to Windows laptops and MacBooks. While they can fulfill just about any need, picking the right one is crucial. Here’s how to choose the Chromebook that will work for you.

What Is a Chromebook, Anyway?

Imagine a netbook that actually works. That’s the basic idea of a Chromebook. They’re affordable laptops that run Chrome OS, a straightforward, lightweight operating system geared toward web browsing.

Chromebooks are great for people who don’t want a complicated laptop experience. In-browser tools, like Google Docs or Microsoft Office, work without a hitch. Facebook and Netflix are easy to access without stumbling over weird menus or an unintuitive design.

Chromebooks aren’t just limited to casual use, either. If you’re more tech-savvy, you can push the OS to its limit and download Android or Linux apps (like GIMP or LibreOffice), or even load Ubuntu alongside Chrome OS. You can even use a touch screen Chromebook to create digital art or control smarthome products, like the Chromecast or Google Home Mini.

RELATED: Google Pixelbook Go Hands-On: I Can’t Wait To Buy It

There are only two areas where Chromebooks fall short. For one, they can’t run professional desktop software (like Photoshop or CAD). They also don’t have the horsepower for most games, although in-browser games work fine. If you’re a gamer or you use professional software, you might prefer a Windows laptop or MacBook.

Otherwise, you’re in the right place! First, we’ll take a look at Chromebook form factors and specs and work our way down to the details, like displays and ports.

Form Factor

Five Google Pixelbooks in different positions.
Google

The shape and size of your Chromebook influence its features, specs, and price tag. So, before you start shopping, you should figure out how you want your Chromebook to look.

Let’s start with a disclaimer: all Chromebooks are thin and portable, but some are thinner and prettier than others. If you don’t care about 2-in-1 stuff and just want to get the best bang for your buck, forget about appearance and focus on specs. Some of the cheapest, ugliest Chromebooks sport great internals and should last for the next few years.

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