Can a Chromebox work sucking data through a tiny, tiny straw?
December 24, 2017 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Considering a new PC for my mom, as her current one is a six-year-old Win 7 machine that is increasingly twonky, and not convenient for me to maintain. All she uses it for is Facebook, the occasional email, and light web browsing. We'd kind of like to get her set up with a webcam for facetime with the granddaughter. I'm considering a Chromebox. But...

A Chromebox (I'm looking at this one) seems like it would solve a lot of problems. Fast, simple, its constraints don't sound like an issue for her. It's not like she's creating MS Office docs or running a media library in iTunes. The problem is that she lives out in the country where her only broadband option is DSL and she's so far from the switch that it's very slow. Faster than dialup, I guess, but still really annoyingly slow. Obviously that means web access is slow for her regardless of her hardware, and I'm not convinced video chat is ever going to be practical, but the whole OS run through the cloud? I'm concerned. Is this a good idea? If not, what might you suggest?
posted by Naberius to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
If she's already using Facebook and email through a web browser, I don't think she'd notice much difference. The operating system is local, just it's optimized to store most of the data online. You can do things like configure it to store recent emails locally which will help with some of that.
posted by Candleman at 9:02 AM on December 24, 2017

I have 7/1 DSL where I am. It's fine for video chatting. And, correct me if I'm wrong but the OS is still on the box, it just mostly serves to just run Chrome and then you interact with web-based apps, right? If so, that should be fine. The big limitation I would think would be whatever her upstream speed is in case she wants to put photos online etc. And, just checking, does she already use gmail or some other webmail for her email? Because if not, the switch from Outlook (or whatever) to web based email can be jarring for some people.
posted by jessamyn at 10:28 AM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

If all she’s doing is FaceTime, email, and light web browsing, why not an iPad? Practically maintenance free, does everything she needs, has a built in camera, and eliminates the worries of the cloud-based OS over shaky networks.

We have an iPad with no data plan, just Wi-Fi.
posted by erst at 11:15 AM on December 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, get her a tablet. Although considering an iPad is more expensive than a Chromebook, a Kindle Fire might be a suitable choice if cost is a factor.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:54 PM on December 24, 2017

My dad moved from an old Windows 7 laptop to a Chromebook for similar needs--mainly reading the news and email. That switch was relatively painless. He wasn't using Gmail and I guess still gets his aol email and just uses the Comcast webmail so no problems with the change. The OS is on the box so that's no problem. I've used really cheap low spec Chromebooks on crappy wifi. It's just like using a slow network on any machine--frustrating to wait for things to load but it works.
posted by Gotanda at 10:18 PM on December 24, 2017

I've noticed that Facetime does much better over sketchy connections than Skype or anything else. It's not perfect, but miles better than anything else I've used. So, I would second a iPad. Used one maybe?
posted by dripdripdrop at 4:01 PM on December 25, 2017

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