Why You Should Not Buy A Chromebook – 9 Reasons


This is a guest post by Peter Mugi of Cloud High Club - Peter is a big fan of cloud-based OS (e.g. Chrome OS & Joli OS), web apps and online services.  He is a proud owner of a Cr-48 Chromebook.

I have seen way too much appreciations about Chromebook, why you should use it, how fast it is, etc.  Yes I think Chromebook is great.  My Cr-48 works well and I guess Samsung’s would be even better.  However, if you ask me whether Chromebook is perfect, my answer is a definite NO.  It’s great but with deficiencies.  Besides, it’s not designed for all computer users.

chromebook  Why You Should Not Buy A Chromebook   9 Reasons

There are people who are not reocmmended to use Chromebook.  In this article I’ll suggest 9 reasons that Chromebook is not recommended.

#1: It’s A Hero With Internet and Zero Without it !

Oh yes, we heard of this a thousand times, but it’s true.  Despite the growing family of offline web apps, there are things we cannot do to with Chromebook offline.

Think offline function unimportant?  Now tell me how you could edit images like in Photoshop?  There are a number of imaging web apps but none of them are up to Photoshop’s professional standard.

The day when web apps are as good as local apps would finally come, but now we have to wait.

#2: Chrome Being the Only Browser

Some people like Chrome, some not.  There are features that are exclusive to other browsers, for example, the managing tabs in panorama is not currently available in the official release of Chrome.  You can tag bookmarks in Firefox but not Chrome (you could get similar function by installing extensions or use bookmarking services like Delicious, though).

Another reason that it is not good to have Chrome as the only browser is that some web sites could only be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.  For example, the payment processing system is IE only.  I know it is not the problem of Google or Chrome, but unless we can knock down the monopoly of M$, there are problems we need to face.  If my company needs to spend money on tweaking the current web apps, most likely we would not buy Chromebooks for employees’ use.

 

#3: Chrome OS Being the Only System

chromebook  Why You Should Not Buy A Chromebook   9 Reasons

Many netbook manufacturers offer their netbooks at different prices with different operation systems.  Want cheap and hate M$?  Linux option.  Need M$ apps?  Windows option, with extra bucks please.  Or you could buy the basic one and stuff it with whatever OS you like, Windows, Ubuntu, DOS, etc.

You can install other operation systems in Cr-48 by turning into developer mode and flash the fireware with particular tools.  On commercially released Chromebooks you can enable the developer mode with a slightly different method.  But installing another system is yet another story.  Til now nobody successfully done so, and probably it won’t be as easy as how you install windows in other netbooks.

Why need another OS?  You may ask.  I would say we all want to release the potential power of the gadgets we have.  That’s why people like dual-booting two systems on their computers.  Different situations require different systems.  How great it is if I could benefit from the fast booting of Chrome OS for bedside reading while being able to use it as a fully functional computer for work?

#4: Limited Local Storage

chromebook  Why You Should Not Buy A Chromebook   9 Reasons

Chromebook is designed for cloud lifestyle so storage of files online is recommended.  Right, but we all know that online storage costs.  Most storage providers offer a free plan but with limited space only (around 2GB to 10GB).  Even Google Docs, Picasa Web Album and Music have limited free storage.  When your collection grows, soon you’ll find file storage a problem, unless you are willing to pay.  (I have over 10 GB of photos and over 60GB songs in my Macbook, where should I put them?)

#5: Lack of Hardware Support

Use Chromebook and be prepared that you may not use all the existing peripherals that work on your Windows PC.  I mentioned in Google Chrome OS For Chromebooks – A Complete Review that my Logitech web cam did not work on my Cr-48 Chromebook.  Now I found even more peripherals not recognized by Chromebook, not to mention my iPhone.

chromebook  Why You Should Not Buy A Chromebook   9 Reasons

I love watching movies.  Despite Netflix will soon officially arrive Chromebook, it cannot fully meet my movie demands.  There are movies, especially foreign ones, that are available in DVD copies.  Without support for DVD drive (and corresponding DVD playing apps), I need to rip the DVDs before playing the file in Chromebook (and the existing Media Player in Chrome OS is quite picky.  It does not eat many file formats).  Mac users you feel the same pain since Blu-ray disc reading is still out of question.

And this is only an example.  There are lots of different scenarios that you’ll need to connect some hardware to your computer.  Chromebook is just NOT that computer.

#6: Printing is NOT Easy

Chromebook is a machine for the cloud, use it and do everything in the cloud, including printing.  To print a web page or Google doc on Chromebook, you need either a cloud-ready printer or a classic printer connected to a Mac or Windows PC.  For the former, only a limited choices of brands and models are available in the market.

For institutions and offices, this is not a problem.  They could invest on new printers or leverage existing printers hooked up to existing computers.  For home users, this could be a problem.  Unless you are willing to through away your still functional old printer or switch on the windows PC every time you want to print, perhaps just a page of document.

#7: Plug-ins, I Need Plug-ins!

I hate Java.  It’s slow, but sometimes I need it.  Just like how Apple banned Flash, Google did not open the door to Chromebook for Java.  Some say Java is an outdated technology.  I would not object to this comment.  But at times it is useful.

I regularly blog about web apps.  I need to capture screencasts to show visitors how the web app works, particularly for web games.  I have been using a web-based screen video capture tool that was built with Java.  Obviously it would not work on my Chromebook, so I have to turn to my Macbook.  Ironically these web app reviews are written for Chromebook users.

Again this is just an example of the problems that may arise due to lack of plug-ins in Chrome OS.  You’ll find out more (painfully) when you have used Chromebook for some time.

#8: Few Choices

For this one it depends on how you see things.  Chromebook specific, there are only to announced brands producing four models (I treat the white and titan silver versions of Samsung’s Chromebooks as one model).  Chromebox has only one and god knows when we can buy it.  If you consider Chromebooks as netbooks, look at the whole netbook market you could find a lot.

I do agree that choices of Chromebooks are not many.  Until it gets popular Chromebook looks like a gadget for geeks only (a non-geek friend told me so, that’s why she never considered buying one).  And the support you get is limited to the official channels from Google and the two manufacturers only.  Unlike Windows or Mac that have many users blogging tips and tricks on the web, it is relatively harder to call for help online.

#9: Well, I Actually Like It but Just Can’t Get One

Many grievances about Chromebook I found in forums and blogs are not about the machine itself but how Google restricted launches to selected countries only.  This reminds me of how Palm released Pre, the new generation Palm smartphone running web OS.

When Palm Pre first hit the market, it’s not available to most of the world.  Only the US, UK and a few European countries were lucky enough to have Pre.  This opened a large market to parallel importers.  Some loyal Palm fans were willing to pay quite more for getting one.

And you can find similar situation on eBay now for Chromebooks.  Some international buyers who can’t wait to get one had to pay extra for shipping and profit of importers in order to get one.  Of course there are limits of the factory’s productivity, but if I have to wait, why not buy a cheap netbook and install Chromium OS instead?

Summary

This is not an article to deny the whole Google Chromebook project.  In fact Chromebook it’s a great machine, but you ought to know both pros and cons about it before buying one.  This is an article for providing balancing views.

Given the above reasons I would not recommend Chromebook to you if you are one of these 10 types of people:

  1. You need many local apps that no comparable web app alternatives are available

  2. You need to access IE- (or other browser) only web sites

  3. You want dual systems but you are not technically competent to hack the Chromebook

  4. You need large local storage space (or you don’t have money to pay for extra cloud storage every month)

  5. You have many peripherals to plug into your computers, for example iPhone

  6. You often print but only have an old printer and don’t want to always switch on another PC

  7. You need Java and other plug-ins not supported by Chrome OS

  8. You want choices (of Chromebook with varying look and specs)

  9. You do not live in the launch countries and don’t want to wait (or pay more for parallel import)

Days ago I had a discussion with someone in an online forum.  I mentioned the drawbacks of Chrome OS such as lack of Java.  The other guy seemed not to be convinced, since he thought that what I did was like comparing a car with a motorcycle.  Chrome OS is a web-centric OS that shouldn’t be compared with traditional OS.

Well, I agree that Chromebook is not an ordinary computer.  But customers don’t necessarily appreciate this.  To them as long as the product is good and matches their needs they’ll pay.  If I have to buy a computing device for my girlfriend, I won’t care about theories and academic talks.  If my girlfriend does not fall into one of the 9 categories of people above, Chromebook is a good choice.  That’s all.  So dear friends, think thoroughly before you purchase.  Chromebook is a great device, but only people know how to handle it could release its full potential.

chromebook  Why You Should Not Buy A Chromebook   9 Reasons

chromebook  Why You Should Not Buy A Chromebook   9 Reasons

chromebook  Why You Should Not Buy A Chromebook   9 Reasons

chromebook  Why You Should Not Buy A Chromebook   9 Reasons

25 Comments

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  1. Warning: Detailed comment! :)

    Peter, I tip my hat to you. This is one of the few posts I’ve read, arguing against chromebooks (even if as a devil’s advocate) that I’ve been impressed with. I feel like most reviews just spend three paragraphs griping about how chromebooks lack local apps and abruptly throw in the towel. So, thank you.

    I’m glad you brought in the car-motorcycle comparison, at the end. While Google could try to be all things to all people, it wants to move computing forward and in an arguably new way. The veb is the new platform (I can just picture Sundar saying this, and I love his accent (in a friendly, rather than mocking way) — sorry, Dinu, I do!), and I am stoked, I tell you, stoked, for August 1, when Google stops supporting ancient browsers (IE6 is at least 10 years old!). Who knows what kind of awesomeness we’ll see, after this declaration of independence (from old, incapable slowness) takes effect.

    Also, when it comes down to it, I still have a hard time seeing the average user knowing what Java is, beyond the coffee in his cup, or understanding that dual boot is actually a tech term and not a sneaky euphemism for something off-color. After all, netbooks and then tablets (iPads, I guess) have been the recent rages and both experiences offer serious functionality limitations — yet they’ve sold like hotcakes.

    Finally, regarding your non-geek friend seeing chromebooks as being for geeks, at the moment, I agree and submit the reaction’s intended. Sundar Pichai said (I think at IO) that Google wants to _seed_ users (via word of mouth and evangelism), rather than splashing a new idea in their face. This is why chromebooks are available only online, currently. The average Joe might be rather jolted, at home, upon realizing his shiny new device lacks a bluray or even local apps (gasp, the mother of all sacrifices!). On the other hand, I’m confident within a year or two, most Joes will come to realize 98% of what we do is online, anyway (especially with Google’s purification via Google+ and the associated tweaks on most of its services – I love this unification, by the way). As Dinu and others have noted, Google’s “The Web Is What You Make of It” ads and airline/hotel placement could go a long way in getting this point across: The web is the new OS.

    (Sorry for all the parentheticals, I think ChromeSource’s Nichoals Greene and I must be long lost siblings, or something.) =D

    • P.S. I did just have a rather important, you-MUST-have-IE moment, the other night. So, I went ahead and whipped out IE9 (the horror!). Turns out the site said even IE9 was technically unsupported (I think IE8 was the highest) . . . May the interwebs speed up, fast!

    • Thanks Cougar! I share the same view about the future of Chromebook. It takes time for users to agree that the web is the OS.

      I recall the time when I got my first Palm (no Pre… it’s over 10 years ago). None of my collage classmates knew what it is, and all of them doubted whether a digital info management device could be of any use. People at that time prefer paper and pen. Now most of my friends use Google Calendar (iPhone fans may switch to iCloud?).

      I just wrote a post in my blog about how good Chromebooks are selling on Amazon. They are the best selling notebooks now. Even Google does not put them in physical stores, people start to realize the advantages of Chromebooks. I think Google’s seed planting strategy is correct.

  2. I disagree with just about everyone of these assertions.

    Chromebook is not a complete replacement for a PC just as the iPad is also not a complete replacement for a PC. Sure, you can get a lot done on it, but when you try to compare it to a PC– just like the iPad, it fails.

    Still, this does not mean it has no value– again, just like the iPad, the Chromebook has tremendous battery life, 3G (free!) built in, and 100% backup all the time (great for kids and family).

    I have a pretty good review of it which addresses most of your concerns and more at:

    http://blog.chipp.com/chromebook-first-impressions/

    • Regardless of whether Chromebook is considered a replacement for a PC, the assertions mentioned in the post are indeed accurate. Also, as important a feature as 3G is, it is by no means free. The 100MB monthly allowance is used up in no time flat. That free allowance will do in an emergency. which is its purpose, but for real use of 3G, expect to shell out for a monthly plan or for a daily stipend.

      I have yet to see a post that discusses a very real and I believe the most significant limitation of Chromebook – 2GB of memory. Later on when I have time, I will post a comment about my dealings with this limitation, the multiple website and extension crashes, and my experience with Google’s Chromebook Ninjas.

      • Yeah, I’d been wondering about 2GB of RAM. Which machine are you using? I think my Cr-48’s crashes are unrelated to how much RAM I have, because I often have just 1GB in use.

      • I get it that you, like the original author, is mistaking the Chromebook for a full fledged PC- which is your desire. To complain a netbook designed to work with data in the clouds has too little disk storage tells me he just doesn’t get the point.. That’s understandable, especially with high tech types who want powerful machines that do everything. Think of the Chromebook like the Nissan Leaf- it’s not for everybody, but does solve some unique features.

        I’ve had my Chromebook for a few weeks now and have yet to run into the 100Mb 3G data DL limit. I try and visit establishments with free wifi, but just today I was showing a YouTube clip on it to some friends in 3G mode. I may not be a typical user, but I also don’t mind paying for 3G if I have to. I certainly can’t use my Mac Airbook outside of wifi and that’s why I take my Chromebook with me instead.

        I run a company where we use many virtual office tools, and the Chromebook works for us. I get it it doesn’t work for you, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for others.

        • I by no means ever mistook the Chromebook for a laptop replacement nor have I attempted to treat it as such. I value many aspects of the device as your (very good and complete) review addresses – instant on, great battery life (I’ve been sitting here for three plus hours working on it and it’s at 70 percent charged). and the Samsung model is an awesome piece of hardware.

          I was expecting an experience similar to using Chrome on my PC laptop, but the OS isn’t quite there. Even Google’s Chrome Ninjas have acknowledged to me that they will eventually get it there.

          All in all, I quickly got used to the the ease of use and portability of the device and I enjoy using it. It has become the “go-to” device in the household.

  3. For some reasons, Google Chrome team does not believe in the Desktop, it is all one big browser, I am sorry but on my Windows 7 I have a desktop with files, Android has a desktop, Apple has a desktop, even Windows 8 will have a desktop.

    Chrome can become a very good OS if they add a desktop, and thanks God there is a competition, Microsoft is making Windows 8 as an html5 browser / operating system (look at the demos) and suddenly, Google Chrome started working on a desktop for Chrome (can be enabled using flags)

    I may start using Chrome OS, but it must have a desktop, local storage, and an easy way to write none cloud business apps, otherwise, I will use Windows 8, it can balance both cloud and local files.

    • And you know the coming Mac OS Lion has a boot-to-browser-only (Return to Safari) mode, in which users have no access to file system but just the ability to surf the net?

      People begin to realize that need the browser only for most of the time. Apple, M$ and Google know that this MAY BE the future of computing, so they started to steer towards developing more web-centric OS. All those operation systems being compared by people are attempts by different companies to test the market.

      No body knows who the winner(s) is (are). For now, I think Chrome OS is a great product, but not suitable for all kinds of computer users. If people deny Chrome OS’s (almost) web-only concept, I bet Google may adjust it. Eventually we may see a Chrome OS looks quite like Windows 8, or vice versa.

    • Chrome OS will never have a desktop, at least not a desktop you can put icons and files on. The point of Chrome OS is that it’s the browser. The point of Chrome in general is that you get the same data, files, and experience no matter what computer you’re on. You don’t have to worry about syncing or backing up, and if you happen to lose or forget or destroy your Chromebook, you can just use Chrome on another computer and it will feel the same.

      So Chrome OS is not really competing with any other OS that’s out there right now, and it doesn’t want to. If you want an OS in the classic sense, try Ubuntu — after all, Google does reccomend it (did you know that Google doesn’t use Windows internally anymore?).

  4. Cloud and none cloud balance!

    Why everyone goes to the extreme? Why only cloud? Why not a balance? Why Chrome removed the entire API that can help you balance Cloud and none Cloud? Why they want a copy of all of our files? Why I should upload the page to the internet and they send it back to my printer for printing, so many stupid ideas!

    It can be a great OS, just cut the stupid ideas, balance!

    • I imagine there will be hybrid options (like tablets or Jolicloud?). I personally prefer Google’s, to borrow a line from Steve Ballmer, “All in for the cloud” approach.

      I also prefer to avoid having a desktop because I see it as clinging to the old concept of traditional files and folders. I see Chrome OS as essentially the non-OS. The point is that we’re not supposed to know it’s even there. Like I say, above, we just focus on the new platform — the veb.

    • If Google wanted to make a classic, full-fledged OS, it would just have contributed to Ubuntu (which is an operating system that it seems to like) or another Linux distro. Chrome OS IS based on Linux.

      But the point of Chrome OS is to really just be the browser, so that you can lose your computer and can still log in on another computer with Chrome and get everything back. Or so that you can borrow a friend’s computer with Chrome and be able to access all of your stuff in the cloud.

  5. Great article
    Most of these points are things that make me doubt about buying one.
    But it is also because a chromebook isn’t made for me.
    I never had a laptop and I am buying one this summer. But I need to do more on that than just using the web.
    I need photoshop and such software.
    But I think for a lot of people, chromebook could be the answer because it is easy, fast and secure. But more support and apps are needed to accomplish this.

  6. And the most important reason: it’s really slow! All Chromebooks run on a single core 1GHz-ish processor. Opening multiple tabs or image galleries (like searching for images on Google or viewing a tumblr.com archive) will make your computer lag and even freeze for some time. I’m waiting to see it run on a quad-core processor for at least 2.5 GHz.

  7. Well sorry then. My CR-48 has one core and it’s slow and I read about the Chromebooks as runnion on a one core Atom processor. Maybe I missed something. My bad. But yea, CR-48s are slow

    • I can definitely appreciate the confusion. I can also feel your pain regarding the slowness on the Cr-48. It’s probably my principal gripe.

  8. I am unable to have transliteration into Malayalam although this language is provided for in the chrome. Kindly advise what to do.

  9. Chrome being the only browser…. Are you serious? Your review loses all credit with that comment alone. Do you know what the product is? That’s like saying the iPod is missing Zune store…

    • Hi Richard, I’m the author of this review. Thanks for your comment. I certainly know what Chromebook is, I use my Cr-48 Chromebook everyday.

      Yes, “Chrome”book should use “Chrome”, but it’s an advantage as well as disadvantage of Chromebook. In that paragraph I already explained why Chrome is not almighty. For many times I could not open web sites that Chrome does not support (say, those with Java applets). And Chrome does not have some functions, like I said, manage tabs in panorama for example.

      Being an active user, I truly like Chromebook. I think it is by pointing out its defects I made my article credible. If Google is to make Chromebook better, it should make Chrome a better browser. Otherwise it will lose potential customers who ultimately opt for other netbooks instead because the only browser on Chromebook cannot do what they want to do.

  10. Wijnand Baretta

    01/09/2011 — 1:37 am

    Extra painful in respect to not allowing other browsers than Chrome is the fact that Chrome doesn’t support off-line mail, which really renders the machine useless without an internet connection.

    As for your last remark: I do think this will speed up the development of “pure HTML” sites, so without the need for Java or other plug-ins.

    Until then, I’m afraid I just have to make screencasts on a different computer, as well as doing my on-line book-keeping (requires Silverlight…. Come on guys, that shouldn’t be necessary!)

    • It’s not the Chrome that doesn’t support off-line email. Chrome is just a HTML5 browser. It’s the Gmail, Yahoo mail, AOL mail etc. websites that don’t support offline mode yet. HTML5 standard allows to manipulate, store, sync data locally. But keep in mind that most popular browsers IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari (taken together) started supporting HTML5 in the 2nd quarter of this year. It takes years to get the full potential of HTML5 out, same way it took 2-3 years to create hundred of thousands of Android and Iphone apps.

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