Chromebook vs. cheap Windows laptop for light school use
June 29, 2015 12:30 AM   Subscribe

I have a desktop at home and I need to get a laptop that I can carry with me to campus. I only need it for email, reading articles, and writing. I'd go with a Chromebook in a heartbeat, but I'm very concerned about being unable to edit documents if I can't get online. Cost and weight are major factors as well.

Internet access shouldn't ever be an issue on campus, but I don't like that I'd have to be online if I needed to edit something. Plus, they really seem like they're set up for web stuff only - yeah you can use Google Apps, but that's not exactly a robust word processing program. I know printers can be finicky with Chromebooks too.

At the same time, the specs are much worse for similarly-priced Windows laptops (like those little HP ones). They're also generally heavier, and that matters if I'm going to be carrying stuff around with me. The customer reviews aren't nearly as positive. This Acer laptop has decent specs, but is heavier and more expensive.

I don't need something that can run Photoshop, but I had some bad experiences with a crappy (but lightweight) Win netbook back in the day, and I'm not exactly eager to repeat that. Are Chromebooks usable enough for the kind of work I need to do, or is it worth going with a Windows laptop instead, even with the potential drawbacks?
posted by teponaztli to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Chromebooks now have "offline mode" that will let you edit stuff offline. Just make sure your Google Drive app has all the files you may want to edit "sync'ed" up properly.

https://support.google.com/chromebook/answer/3214688?hl=en
posted by kschang at 1:21 AM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ehhhhhhh, don't get a 15in clunker like that. This is the generally accepted as "best" cheap windows laptop.

I would 1000x rather have one of these, and it even includes a 1 year license of real MS office.

The other thing is the capability to run any normal application you might end up randomly needing. Old windows apps, etc. What if you need to load a site that only displays correctly in IE, or is just generally glitched in chrome? What if you want to say, format a flash drive and write a disk image to it?

There's also some even nicer laptops, like the s21e(64gb of SSD/eMMC! quad core celeron!) in this price range on lenovo outlet.

I've used chromebooks, and i'd never buy one. I just find it too limiting. Those 15in mechanical hard drive commodity junk laptops ARE terrible. But stuff like the asus x205, s21e, and the little hp stream are pretty decent. The flash storage combined with windows 8.1 just runs really smoothly.

The only advantage some chromebooks have is a nicer screen. And the screen on the x205 is actually quite nice(the one on the HP stream is mediocre, however).

If your budget is $200~, i'd also look on your local craigslist at used surface pros. A base model pro1, or even pro2 can be that much with the keyboard cover... And it doesn't get much smaller or lighter than that.

Yet another decent option, on preview, would be an asus t100 on sale. That's pretty much nicer than any small chromebook out there, and you can ditch the keyboard module for reading which is nice. It's also very small and light.
posted by emptythought at 2:30 AM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


You could go to a local retailer and try them out in the store. I think spec listings are less important than things like "how easy is the screen to read" and "how comfortable is the keyboard to type on" and "can it run the apps I need". Avoid cheap windows laptops that have only 2GB of ram, unless you are a very patient person.
posted by Poldo at 8:36 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


My daughter has the ASUS that emptythought mentioned, and it is really impressive for the price. I bought it for her direct from Microsoft on sale for $179 minus an education discount, and you get a clean, un-crufty Windows install if you buy from the mother ship.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:08 AM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Chromebooks are great for your use case. If you're especially technical you can boot into developer mode and run your favorite IDE on a real live linux distribution completely disconnected from the internet. If all you want to do is edit office documents, you can do that on your phone, as well as on your chromebook.

BTW: there's a reason that Steam laptop exists, and there's a reason even office applications are moving to the cloud with offline access - Microsoft was behind the curve here and Chromebooks sell like crazy to school districts and college students. The fact that Microsoft is trying to play catch up here just validates the product space.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 3:18 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


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