I think the biggest problem is not what Chromebooks are but how the world has been looking at them. It's not a replacement Mac or a Windows laptop and it definitely is not an iPad alternative. Forget compromises, forget filling spaces that other devices left behind. No, the hero of our story, the Chromebooks, has a very niche market that the internet has been ignoring right from the start.
Let's talk about what you cannot do with a Chromebook before we move on to who should be buying one.
Can I use it to code?
Yes. While you won't find a default IDE included in the Chrome OS, there are ones such as ShiftEdit that can be accessed for free online. Mind you, this does not make the Chrome OS an ideal programming environment.
Can I use it to edit photos and videos?
You'll have to depend on web apps in this case too. They're nowhere near as efficient as the full Adobe suite but you'll get basic editing done.
No CD/DVD drives.
You can only print using Google Cloud Print.
There's not much onboard space other than the 16/32GB SSD but you do get 200GB of free cloud storage on Google Drive.
Can I use the Chromebook offline?
On a Chromebook you are solely reliant on apps provided by Google and those available on the Chrome Web Store. While some of these apps can be used offline, the majority need an internet connection. But yes, you can use Google Docs, Drive, Sheet, Keep and a few other basic apps offline.
Can I download all kinds of files?
Yes, all kinds. But you cannot install anything outside the Chrome Store.
When you look at the list of things a Chromebook cannot do compared to a Windows laptop or a Mac, it seems like it really isn't the kind of device worth buying.
But thing is, if you have a powerful desktop at home and you need a device that'll let you browse, check emails, get on social media, listen to your favorite songs, watch movies, store photos, make video calls and get work done on the go- a Chromebook would be a perfect fit for you. Why not a budget Windows laptop then? Wouldn't one of those under $300 be more capable?
To an extent, yes. But chromebooks are significantly cheaper and because what they can do is limited, they're exceptionally good at it.
You don't have to worry about slow loading times, lags and other inefficiencies that come with a Windows laptop at that price range because the hardware is clearly not capable of utilizing the OS's full potential. You're not supposed to do heavy video and photo editing, let alone gaming, on a $300 laptop and that is exactly why the Chromebook makes sense.
And the fact that Chromebooks have attached mechanical keyboards is a big hook for many. Try to compare it with an iPad and it comes second based on the features these two provide. But then again, when you're better off with a cheap device that gives you the feel of a complete laptop and lets you do all the usual work, why choose a $800 tablet which is a huge overkill for your needs?
At the end of the day, whether or not you need a Chromebook or should be buying one, depends on what you expect from your device. If you want a portable powerhouse, then no. If you want a laptop that lets you work, browse and can entertain you without screwing up, go on, buy a Chromebook.