A Tale of Two Chromebooks

Posted on July 21, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Chrome OS, Chromebook with 56 Comments

And not just any Chromebooks, but premium, business-class Chromebooks that speak volumes about how far this platform has come in recent years.

But first a digression, and a lengthy contextual one. After all, it’s been a while since I started thinking and writing anew about Chromebooks.

How long? Well, the HP Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise arrived at my home in early December 2020, and the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook Enterprise came almost three months later, in late February 2021. I move more slowly on hardware reviews than most, but those are lengthy timeframes, even by my standards. This is an issue I’ve been trying to rectify in 2021, and I’m now keeping track of which laptops are in for review, including when they arrived so that I can ensure I’m not too far behind.

And as of this writing, I’m in a pretty good place: My next laptop review will be the Lenovo ThinkBook 15 Gen 2, which arrived in mid-May, or about two months ago. (I’ve published that review since first writing this.) I’d like to cut that down to 6 weeks, if possible, and then to even less. But it’s heading in the right direction, and I’ve established a more formal process for dealing with these machines and the logistics of returning them once the review is complete. One day at a time.

Granted, I skipped over these two business-class Chromebooks to keep to this slightly quicker schedule. And doing so was not just about procrastination, though I’m sure that’s part of it. No, Chromebooks are tough for me. And business-class Chromebooks are even more so because they raise the bar, and the stakes.

My issues are a combination of platform limitations, my own deeply-ingrained workflows, which don’t always work well or at all on Chromebooks, and the expectations of this site’s largely Windows-focused readership. To that latter point, as a technology enthusiast, I don’t understand the derision that Chromebooks evoke in some otherwise like-minded circles, and I feel like my own fascination with this platform should be mirrored by others. Instead, it’s often met with outright hostility.

Chromebooks are only popular because they’re so inexpensive, I’m told. Or they’re only popular in education, or only in U.S. education. Or whatever. But I’ve been arguing for years that Chromebooks are a viable platform for many if not most mainstream users for very good reasons. Yes, they are typically less expensive. But that wouldn’t be enough if that’s all there was to it. Chromebooks are familiar but simpler than competing desktop platforms (a goal Microsoft is trying to accomplish with Windows 11, by the way). They’re much easier to manage and maintain, and that’s as true for individuals as it is for schools, businesses, and governmental organizations. They also provide a great apps experience between web and Android apps. And they’re the right kind of device for a world in which most people use their smartphones for most of their daily computing needs.

Regardless of your stance on all that, it’s hard to argue with the numbers. One out of every 10 PCs sold last year and in the first quarter of 2021 were Chromebooks, making this platform number two by volume, after Windows and, most crucially, ahead of the Mac: Apple sells about 7 Macs for every 10 Chromebooks sold. The COVID pandemic raised all boats in this market, but it raised Chromebook most of all: 2021 was the best year ever for this platform, and that success has continued into 2021.

But from a review perspective, Chromebooks are still problematic for me.

As a power user of sorts, I find myself constrained by its limitations, some of which are general and some of which are very specific. The most egregious is OneDrive local sync integration: I rely on this technology on the PCs I use every day, and it’s available in the exact same form on the Mac; where it’s not available is on Chrome OS, and this is a hard problem for me to get around. If I were serious about using a Chromebook, I’d have to switch to Google Drive, which offers similar capabilities in the Google ecosystem. I’m not interested in that. (This problem makes Linux usage problematic, too.)

Or would I? I guess the other option is to just adapt. While it’s not possible to sync OneDrive files locally on a Chromebook—well, without a third-party tool, which has performance and battery life issues—what you can do is add OneDrive to the Chrome OS Files app, and that lets you browse the contents of your OneDrive and open documents … in whatever programs Google allows. For Word documents, that means Google Docs on the web, and I can’t figure out a way to change that, even after installing the Office (Android) and Word (Android) apps, and the Office extension for Chrome, which provides yet another way to access my OneDrive-hosted documents. Sigh.

Just this one issue is worthy of an article series, and maybe I’ll get there. But for now, there are other issues too. On Windows (and, less often, the Mac), I use specific applications for writing (the desktop version of Word and a Markdown editor) and image editing (Paint, Affinity Photo), and not having them on other platforms slows me down and makes me less efficient; none of them are available on Chrome OS. I could use the web or Android versions of Word, of course, and have of course tried both, and there are various web- and even mobile-based Markdown editors. And there are web app replacements, of sorts, for the imaging editing applications, but none are ideal for my needs, and none bridges that local-file-to-cloud bridge as easily and seamlessly as the native OneDrive client on Windows.

And wow. I’ve already hit on a number of things that might halt the move to a Chromebook for some people, and there are so many more. So I do get it.

But I’m also not a Chromebook denier. I see the value of this platform, believe it will work fine for most people, and I would like to be able to adapt to it more ably. I don’t really expect Microsoft to help me, per se, with native versions of Word (let alone Paint) or OneDrive, of course. But it is what it is. I need to find workarounds or replacements for the tools I rely on every day when I turn to a Chromebook.

Millions of people have done this successfully, of course, but most don’t share my preferences or requirements. If you think about the typical OneDrive user, for example, it’s someone who fell into it because it came with Windows, or it was something their workplace requires. This is true on the Google side of the fence, as well: Those who pick Chromebook, perhaps because of its synergy with Android, will naturally drift into Google Drive (and other Google apps and services) usage.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that. But the problem with experience is that it ties you to the thing that is familiar, and it makes the unfamiliar and different less viable, and it gets worse over time. Many confuse this experience as “intuitive”—we see this light form of delusion a lot in the Mac community—but really, it’s just familiarity. Semantics aside, there is a very real efficiency that comes with familiarity, and so switching to something new can be difficult and painful. And so it is, for me, with Chrome OS and the Chromebooks on which it runs.

If all this sounds like a long-winded excuse for not formally reviewing the HP Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise and the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook Enterprise, well, fair enough. I can’t argue with that. But what I can do, where my decades of laptop reviewing can at least shine a little bit of light, is examine these two premium alternative PCs and compare them to each other and to other similar Windows-based PCs.  I have, after all, reviewed literally hundreds of computers over the years. Surely, there’s some takeaway here.

And there is.

With the Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise and the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook Enterprise, HP and Lenovo have collectively landed at the same conclusion after years of experimentation: It’s possible to sell an expensive, premium Chromebook for businesses and prosumers that doesn’t compromise on the quality offered by their other premium PCs while still providing customers with all of the advantages of this simpler, newer platform. In other words, Chrome OS isn’t just viable on low-end “stripper” PCs aimed at under-funded educational institutions or lower-income families who can’t afford a “real” computer. This platform has evolved to become quite powerful, and now the hardware on which it runs is evolving to match.

If the notion of buying a Chromebook that costs as much as a MacBook Air seems odd to you, I get that too. But surely the past year and a half has taught us the value of, if not embracing change, at least better handling change. It’s interesting what you can put up with when you put your mind to it. Plus, we need to let go of some out-of-date notions about this platform. Yes, it was once originally all about value and simplicity. That’s still there, but the Chromebook market has evolved. It’s more diverse now.

Just look at these two Chromebooks.

If you spied someone, perhaps on an airplane or train, or in a coffee shop or hotel lobby, using the Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise or the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook Enterprise, you probably wouldn’t even realize that the PCs are Chromebooks, unless you got up close and were already looking for the tell-tale Chromebook logo on the outer display lid. Both PCs are representative of HP’s and Lenovo’s premium portable PC families, and both fit in naturally alongside their Windows-based siblings.

That alone is kind of interesting, right? Chromebooks used to stand out in the same way that hybrid and then electric vehicles stood out. They were just off, somehow. Recognizable as PCs, in this case, yes. But … different. Cheaper looking. Usually smaller. And less versatile, with standard clamshell designs, rather than the convertible and 2-in-1 designs that are more common in the Windows PC space.

Well, not anymore. The Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise and the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook Enterprise are both convertible PCs that support multitouch and smartpens, and both can contort into other usage modes—-tablet, stand, presentation—just like modern Windows PCs. They’re both obviously premium PCs, built of premium materials like aluminum, and not plastic, and they both survive the kinds of MIL-SPEC durability tests that businesses require (and that schools should require, when you think about it).

From a specifications perspective, both Chromebooks are modern and powerful, and they have components that rival what we see in the premium PC space.

The HP Elite c1030 is powered by a quad-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5-1031OU or Core i7-10610U CPU with vPro management capabilities, 8 or 16 GB of RAM, and 128 or 256 GB of PCIe NVMe-based SSD storage.

The Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook veers off in an interesting and, to me, unfamiliar direction by opting for a choice of AMD Athlon Gold 3150C or AMD Ryzen 7 3700C processors, the former of which helps to really keep the starting price down. And then 8 or 16 GB of RAM and up to 256 GB of PCIe NVMe-based SSD storage.

The displays are suitably impressive as well. The HP provides an excellent 13.5-inch Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) IPS display panel with a 3:2 aspect ratio and glossy, anti-glare, and SureView Reflect Privacy options. And while the Lenovo opts for a more traditional 13.3-inch 16:9 panel, you at least can choose between Full HD (1920 x 1080) and 4K/UHD (3840 x 2160) resolutions; both of which are coated with either anti-glare or anti-reflective material.

Connectivity? Ditto, it’s modern: Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 are available in both, and 4G/LTE cellular data capability is an option in the HP.

Expandability is likewise impressive. The HP, despite its thinness and lightness, provides a combo audio jack, a USB-C 3.2 port, a lock slot, power and volume buttons, and a webcam privacy switch on the left side. And a full-sized USB-A port, a USB-C 3.2 port, and a micro-SD card reader on the right.

The Lenovo provides a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, a combo audio jack, and a micro-SD card reader on the left. And a lock slot, a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port, a full-sized HDMI 2.0 port, and power and volume buttons on the right.

In both cases, power arrives via a standard 65-watt USB-C-based power connector, the same connectors that HP and Lenovo use for their other premium PCs.

That both of these Chromebooks have excellent keyboards and touchpads is, perhaps, not surprising given their respective pedigrees, but it’s still quite welcome. As a writer, I spend entire days tapping away on keyboards, and HP and Lenovo make some of the best portable keyboards in the business. I happen to prefer HP over Lenovo these days—Lenovo still prefers longer key throws, and I find them a bit mushier—but both are excellent.

And of course the Lenovo offers the vaunted ThinkPad dual-pointing system with both a touchpad and the TrackPoint nubbin.

One more point about the keyboards. If you read any of my PC reviews, you may know that HP has been evolving its keyboard layouts and offers different designs on its 13.x- and 14-inch PCs. On Chromebooks, however, things are different. Google has standardized the keyboard layout for the most part, and so the only layout differences you will see are in the function row. But even then, the differences are minor: Both Chromebooks support the same keys in the same locations, but the HP has a few additional keys.

Given this, the differences boil down to the typing experience—key throw, key feel, and so on—and then the design. The HP has light gray colored keys with white backlighting, and the keys can be a bit hard to read when they’re lit.

But the Lenovo has black keys with white letters, and they’re easy to see when not lit. Overall, I prefer the look of the Lenovo but the feel of the HP.

I apologize for not having any battery life observations. I’ve been using both Chromebooks around the house, and I’m not aware of any way to accurately measure battery life on this platform. But HP notes that the Elite c1030 gets “long battery life,” which is hilariously vague, and can Quick Charge to 90 percent in 90 minutes. The ThinkPad, by comparison, sees “all-day battery life,” or up to 12.5 hours with the Full HD-based versions, and it supports Rapid Charge to 80 percent in 60 minutes.

While the battery life is unclear, one of these Chromebooks has a decided portability advantage over the other: The HP is considerably less heavy, at 2.87 pounds, than the Lenovo, which weighs in at a noticeably heftier 3.3 pounds. The HP is also smaller, at 0.6 x 11.6 x 8.5-inches, compared to the Lenovo, at 0.61 x 12.11 x 8.35-inches. What’s odd about these numbers is that they seem close to each other on paper, but the HP is notably smaller and lighter in person. I would very much rather carry around the HP.

From an audio-visual perspective, both Chromebooks offer similar capabilities.

Each offers stereo sound, but neither is particularly impressive. I generally test sound on Windows-based PCs using movies streamed from Microsoft’s Movies & TV app and from YouTube Music on the web, but the former is unavailable on Chrome OS, so I watched bits of Atomic Blond using Google TV instead. (Thanks, Movies Anywhere.) On the HP, the volume levels are pretty low, despite the HP’s requisite Bang & Olufsen tuning, and even hitting 100 percent volume didn’t provide the oomph I was hoping for. The Lenovo is much louder, though the quality isn’t all that impressive. I’d call the audio performance serviceable in both cases.

Both Chromebooks offer a middling 720p webcam, pretty standard on the PC side of the fence as well, and the Lenovo can be configured with a second “world-facing” 5 MP webcam that’s oddly located above the keyboard; I guess you can only use it in tent mode. For what I don’t know. Both offer privacy switches for physically blocking the (front) camera. And both offer dual-array microphones for conference call clarity, but if you opt for the world-facing camera on the Lenovo, you only get a single microphone.

Both Chromebooks also provide wrist rest-based fingerprint readers, which is huge for this platform: Signing in, otherwise, can be a problem on Chromebooks since you have to type in your full password or use a 6-digit (as opposed to 4, as on every other platform on earth) PIN, or use the phone integration functionality to quickly finagle a sign-in that way, which I find unreliable.

Put simply, both are damned good PCs. That happen to run Chrome OS, which may be a benefit or a problem, depending on your perspective.

For me, I still find Chrome OS limiting, but I feel like I could make some workflow adjustments with regards to how I access OneDrive-based documents, and make a few key app replacements, whether they’re web or mobile apps, and make this transition successfully. What’s holding me back is complicated, and perhaps multifaceted. I do happen to prefer Windows, of course, and I write books about Windows that require me to stick with real PCs. I write software as a sort of hobby, switching between Visual Studio Code (which is cross-platform) and Visual Studio (which is not), depending on what I’m doing. I do a lot of testing, and that sometimes requires virtual machines, and while there is at least one major tool on Chrome OS, Parallels Desktop, it’s currently very limited.

And … I don’t know. Chromebooks have always played an ancillary role in my life, and as the platform has evolved, I’ve kept expecting my final blockers to be slowly pushed aside. It’s getting there, but not quite for me. Not yet. But if I do ever make this shift, I will say that the Chromebook I end up with will be something very much like the two I’ve highlighted here today.

Tagged with , , ,

Join the discussion!

BECOME A THURROTT MEMBER:

Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Register
Comments (56)

56 responses to “A Tale of Two Chromebooks”

  1. pesos

    Is this basically a hardware review, since with these specs you could easily throw Windows on these puppies?

    • ebraiter

      Most likely would work with Windows.

      I'm not touching Chromebricks.

      • hrlngrv

        Chromebrick every bit as much a sign of maturity as M$.

      • curtisspendlove

        Most likely would work with Windows.

        I'm not touching Chromebricks.


        And yet…many, many multitudes of people are getting all sorts of things done on these “Chromebricks”.

        • bettyblue

          Looking at any market share tracking site, I would say that "many" is not that many.

          • curtisspendlove

            According to this article, they sold more Chromebooks than Apple sold new Macs, and Apple has a pretty healthy Mac business.


            So, I’ll stick with “many, many”.

            • thewerewolf

              Not really valid logic.


              If Windows sells 83 out of 100, Chromebooks 10 out of 100 and Macs 7 out of 100 (which I believe are the numbers given in the article), then yes, Chromebooks are doing better than Macs, but not by very much, given that they should have a huge cost/functionality advantage over Macs... but NEITHER are doing well compared to Windows.


              Macs on the other hand are made by exactly one company, so 100% of Macs are actual Apple Macs while ChromeBooks are made by many companies and so have a broader distribution network. That's one reason Windows is so prevalent.


              Windows is "much more". Chromebooks are "a little more, but should be a lot more given the situation".

              • hrlngrv

                Your logic doesn't hold up well either. Same manufacturing and distribution channels doesn't affect demand.


                It's the available application software which keeps Windows PC sales where they are compared to other microcomputers running other OSes. Some of that is also inertia and ignorance, but the bulk of it is wanting to use familiar software without paying Apple's premium prices for Macs.

                • pwingert

                  If these are Enterprise Focused, then the real problem is applications. I have worked at a couple of large bank and medium-sized financial companies. At the Bank, there were 10,000 custom applications running on a mainframe back end with a windows front end or in many cases a client-server oracle back end and a windows UI front end. The medium financial business was a software development company. All their apps (25 in total) were custom, and windows based using MS access as a local database and moving data to and from a SQL server backend. IN both cases the cost to redevelop and retest applications would be prohibitive. The costs of testing between major windows versions can push $CDN50,000 just for configuration and setup to create the testing environment and writing of testing scripts by a four-person development team. It is hard to justify a platform change that requires development and testing and, in many cases, a full rewrite. One trading application that was rewritten from Windows to a Unix backend and X-windows front end cost $CDN250,000 and took three months. This we-write was done because of a performance requirement that could not be met on the Windows platform without significant hardware upgrades. This may explain why Chromebooks are not as widely adopted in a certain enterprise environment.

  2. longhorn

    Insync (paid product) offers OneDrive and Google Drive client for Linux, Mac and Windows.

    It works well in my experience, but I don't really use these cloud services.

    There used to be a time when the official Google Drive client on Windows wasn't stellar so even if there are free clients on Mac and Windows, I think Insync fills a niche, but mostly for Linux.


    I don't think there is a OneDrive client for Chrome OS. You are supposed to use Google Drive. Google services are the driving idea behind the platform. That is the reason Chrome OS is disliked by many.


    • hrlngrv

      It's not clients, it's file systems.


      There used to be a file system extension for OneDrive which would show OneDrive as a mounted file system in Chrome OS's Files app. I believe it died. However, this is such an extension for Dropbox, and FWIW Zoho can use Dropbox, so it IS possible to use a Chromebook to use Zoho web apps with files stored on Dropbox. Contrived? Sure, I'll give you that, but one can avoid most of Google's services if one wants to using a Chromebook. Hard to fault Google that it's easier to use Google services.

      • longhorn

        This is the difference between a Personal Computer and a Google Computer.

        As a remote terminal I'm sure Google Computers get the job done.

        Google Computers aren't a replacement to Personal Computers unless you are knee deep into the Google ecosystem or willing to go there... It's only for the bravest of souls.

        That being said, Chrome OS might be well engineered despite the heavy use of containers.


  3. basic sandbox

    I have an older Chromebook with a Celeron processor and 4 GB of memory. It works well even with the pathetic processor and memory. 

    Is an i7 with 16gb RAM overkill for ChromeOS?

    • hrlngrv

      | Is an i7 with 16gb RAM overkill for ChromeOS?


      For running the Chrome browser, web apps, and Chrome OS offline apps, yes.


      For running Linux desktop software, maybe not. If one sticks to using Flatpaks, there's an Octave (MatLab clone) Flatpak, and I could think of a few ways to soak up most of that RAM and CPU cycles using that.

    • Paul Thurrott

      The point of these systems is that you can run virtualized Windows via Parallels desktop, run multiple Android apps, have an unlimited number of browser tabs, and more all at the same time.

      • Scsekaran

        With the hardware specs like that and the price category, running Windows natively(rather than virtualized) with chrome browser will be a better option.

  4. red.radar

    I see the attraction. Its a set and forget system that you can give to your kids or parents and its one less thing to manage. I am surprised the open source world hasn't created a similar Linux distribution that mimics the functionality and ease of management. That way you can decouple the Chrome/Google Requirement.


    I like the concept. I just don't trust Google and to be quite frank I rather use DOS 6.22. Said another way, I rather kiss my locally vaccinated IRS Agent and invite them over for Christmas Dinner. To put a finer point on it, I rather have root canal coinciding with a colonoscopy during an Anesthetic shortage.... than use a Google Product.


    I jest..

    • hrlngrv

      | I am surprised the open source world hasn't created a similar Linux distribution that mimics the functionality and ease of management.


      CloudReady, but one would need to install it oneself, and it's not as easy as dumping everything into a single partition.


      To what sort of perpetual calamity do you figure a Google web search for CloudReady would expose you?

      • Dave

        Cloudready now owned by google so hopefully they will invest in neverware (rather than kill it off) and make for a much better experience of a D.I.Y. chromebook/chromebox.

  5. bettyblue

    I have been given a few Chromebooks to use and eventually I just give them back. I am not a Google app user. Outside of YouTube I do not use any Google products.


    At work we have loaner laptops in IT. Basically Windows, Global Protect VPN client and a RDP client to connect back to work (VDI, RDSHOST farm, desktop in a cube etc). These loaner laptops are either old laptops or cheap ones to do the job.


    We bought 25 Chromebooks to do that same job...Chrome OS, Global Protect, RDP client. Well the VPN client and various RDP clients were not in the same class as Windows apps...not even close. Soon we had 25 Chromebooks nobody wanted to use as a loaner. 2 of them we never pulled out of the box. They sat on a shelf in a storage room for over 2 years. We tried to give them away...no one wanted them. They went to the recycler.

  6. RobertJasiek

    I will never use Chromebooks because missing privacy, web first, Chrome first, option for Android apps are the last things I want. Nevertheless, I want to understand what of the following is possible with current Chromebooks:


    • offline-only use
    • printing / scanning and their drivers
    • local file management from basic to batch processing and file tools
    • local file transfer / local backup / disk image to / from USB drives and Windows / Linux computers
    • local-only software


  7. agilefrog

    Everytime I use a Chromebook I think the same thing - why the heck doesn't Microsoft do this? A fast booting, secure and slimmed down OS tied to 365 would surely be a winner in education and for the majority of casual home users?

    • hrlngrv

      Can MSFT shrink down Windows sufficiently? Or would MSFT need to create a new OS? If the latter, and if MSFT wished to avoid all FOSS components, it may be a lot more expensive than you believe, and it'd take YEARS to test it. If you believe MSFT should come up with it's own Linux variant, wouldn't that be a tacit admission that Windows can't be made light, in which case would that really be a message MSFT would want to send?


      I figure MSFT hasn't done this because Windows can't, in fact, be stuffed into 1.1GB of storage, perhaps not even into 8GB, and it really would be far too expensive to create a new OS.

  8. Belralph

    With Windows 365 now a thing I'd be curious how well these work as a thin client. With Remote Desktop and Teamviewer, Anydesk, ?

    • hrlngrv

      My 7-year-old Chromebook (yes, now out of support) still runs the Citrix Receiver app for Chrome OS, and works just fine as a thin client. Presumably Windows 365 would be no worse, but I'm not going to pay $31/month to find out.

  9. scj123

    I purchased a cheap chomebook to see what they were like to use, and whilst it was ok, I struggled with missing apps I wanted to use that are available on Windows. They feel like a compromise to me, you can pick them up cheap and they run well but you dont get access to everything that makes windows great, but then this is balanced out by the price. I dont get why you would want to spend a lot of money on a chromebook, and the arguement thst you can run Windows apps in parralles doesnt make sense for me, you might aswell run Windows as the business still has a copy of Windows to manage, its just hidden.

  10. thewerewolf

    The problem for me is simple: in terms of functionality, a ChromeBook is a Windows laptop running exactly one app, Chrome, then trying to run everything else in Chrome. It's pretty amazing you can get stuff done, but it feels like trying to do everything in the hardest way possible.


    The argument that it's stabler is a bit specious because again, take a Windows laptop, uninstall everything but the bare minimum you need to run Chrome and then set updates so they happen once a week in the middle of the night. Now you're 90% of the way to ChromeBook.


    But notice, to get there, you gutted a big chunk of Windows - like any other app, except those you can get to work in Chrome. It's enough of a problem that even Google had to address it by letting ChromeOS run Android apps (something coming to Win 11, ironically) and the Linux apps (again, which Win 10 can do).


    If ChromeBooks were at least cheaper, I'd get it, but look at the Samsung Galaxy Book Go... an ARM Win 10 laptop for $350 that will run Win 11 when released. There are tons of sub $350 Windows laptops and tablets.


    Like Paul, I'm not anti-ChromeBook. Much like how Android and iOS tablets work as primary (or even only) computing devices for a LOT of people who really only do browsing, media consumption, email and light text editing (and who, let's be realistic here, weren't buying computers before or were and weren't using them much), ChromeBooks have a market, but the notion that it's "ChromeBooks work for everyone - let's beat Windows or MacOS" is infantile.


    Each product has its niche.



  11. abdulla77

    Chrome OS is more prevalent in K-12 schools.. for years (and not just US). In higher Ed, it’s a mixed bag of OS’s. In the corporate world, Chrome OS is hard to find.

    • hrlngrv

      FWIW, Charles Schwab borkerage offices use Chromeboxes as lobby kiosk machines for customers. Any situation in which all that's needed would be a browser and a handful of small, simple offline apps would be far better suited to Chrome OS than Linux, Windows or macOS.

  12. simard57

    Can ChormeOS be run in a VM so I can test drive it on my Surface Pro 7?


    also is ChromeOS well supported for content creation and s/w development?


  13. hrlngrv

    Tangent: if you do move home and adopt semiannual migration, wouldn't you need to abandon hardware reviews? Or would that be a perk of such a lifestyle change?

    • Paul Thurrott

      That will definitely change how/whether I'm able to do hardware reviews. I wouldn't mind doing fewer, it's a huge responsibility and a lot of work. I wouldn't mind doing none at all sometimes if it comes to that.

  14. pecosbob04

    Did I miss your EVO PC vs. M1 Mac comparison article or is that still in the pipeline?

  15. djross95

    I too like the idea of Chromebooks more than their actuality. I've owned at least 4, from Asus, Acer and Lenovo (2), and I've never kept any of them for more than 3 months. At the end of the day I like a real file system, desktop, and desktop apps I guess (though I'm far from a power user and enjoy my Android phone). And the idea of spending ~ $1,000 on one seems off-putting to me at least. Maybe I'll change one day, but that day hasn't arrived yet!

    • rmlounsbury

      That is the albatross that Google created for themselves. Chromebooks where originally positioned as the cheap alternative to Windows & MacOS. Need a computer that get things done? Don't spend a boatload of money on a PC/Mac get a Chromebook for half the price and still get everything (kinda).


      By virtue Google in a round-a-bout way made ChromeOS/Chromebooks synonymous with cheap.

  16. hrlngrv

    Did you mean the picture of the HP's keyboard to be mirror image, with the inverted T on the left side?

  17. anoldamigauser

    The biggest issue I have with Chromebooks is Google. I know that the data is not read by humans, but the fact that every email, document, spreadsheet would be machine checked for keywords and such to add to their knowledge of me is simply unacceptable. When asked to recommend simple devices for people with limited computing needs, I invariably default to an iPad with a keyboard and cover. They then have the option of using Apple's, Microsoft's or Google's applications to get things done.

    • hrlngrv

      While you need a Gmail account to log in, and you would have access to Google Drive, you could use a Chromebook to work with Zoho, OneDrive or other services. You don't have to use Google services. Do you believe Chrome OS/browser would be intercepting all I/O with non-Google services?

      • anoldamigauser

        Yes, but Chrome will capture most of that data as well. Google has built their business on the idea that no individual should have any privacy on the internet...that all our bases are belong to them.

        I would gladly pay to use some of their services if they would forego the data collection, but that is never going to happen.

        And yes, I know that many others are guilty of this as well.

  18. LocalPCGuy

    We replaced a dead Asus tablet with an Acer Chromebook for use in the kitchen a couple of years ago. As it turns out, my wife used the Chromebook more than she does her Windows ThinkPad. If Quicken would run on Chromebooks as a full app, she'd might use it even more. They have grown into usable machines that are ideal for consumers that only use a browser and never actually use a dedicated Windows program.

  19. ringofvoid

    I'm one of those that found their home workflow matches what a Chromebook can do. Outside of work, my needs are light office app use, media consumption and light gaming. Gsuite, web apps & Geforce Now cover most of the bases with Steam & Signal on Linux covering a few more. I've even used it for my IT job in a pinch & it works (though not ideal since the RDP clients are not as fully featured). As it works for me, I'll be in the market for a higher-end machine the next time round.


    If you're in a position where ChromeOS meets your needs, getting a Windows or MacOS machine is overkill and introduces unneeded complexity. For the doubters, think of it more like an iPad Pro. You're in a very similar security & maintenance posture. With the Chromebook, you typically get a touchscreen Android tablet, desktop browser/webapp experience plus desktop Linux apps. I'm very glad to see devices like these providing options at every price point.

    • rmlounsbury

      I do agree that ChromeOS/Chromebook devices make a lot of sense for most users when it comes to most use cases. I do like the security profile of ChromeOS which makes it really easy to recommend for folks.


      I really wish Android devs would embrace tablet apps (ney ChromeOS full-screen apps vs. smaller phone focused apps) more than they do today. That is the one space that Apple continues to provide a better experience since iOS dev's have embraced tablets more.

  20. rmlounsbury

    I've tried a number of Chromebooks and usually land at the same place that Paul does when it comes to Microsoft compatibility with OneDrive and the like. While I get that ChromeOS is built around Chrome the browser it, for the most part, prevents any sort of alternate browser installs. Even Apple isn't so esoteric with browsers and you can install whatever you want.


    I suppose at the end of the day ChromeOS suffers from an imposed lockdown feeling from Google making any third party eco-system feel like an intrusion rather than playing harmoniously with other platforms.


    ChromeOS has value and is used by plenty of folks. The Android integration still feels so-so on account of Android devs not embracing tablet or laptop/desktop screen sizes. Linux is there and works if you have enough horsepower but still feels oddly difficult to utilize for anything less than a dev or power user.


    I guess my world is just colored too much by being a Windows guide for the past 2 decades.

    • ringofvoid

      On a Chromebook, you can install multiple Android browsers from the Play Store: Firefox, Brave, Vivaldi etc. You can also install any Linux based browser: Edge, Firefox, Brave, Vivaldi etc. While none of these are quite the first-class citizen that the built-in Chrome browser is, Google is not in any way preventing alternative browser installations.

      • rmlounsbury

        That shows the amount of time since I've last used a ChromeOS device. Last time I was on one trying to install any alt-browser even from the Play store was not allowed. I tried a number of browsers and couldn't get them to install.


        I just picked up a Pixelbook on the cheap from Swappa to pickup my experimentation on ChromeOS again.

  21. millerkl61

    What about a Chromebook combined with a prosumer friendly SKU of Windows 365? I could imagine a future where a Chromebook might replace my Windows laptop, on which I could run Windows from the cloud when I needed it. If nothing else it would be less vulnerable to malware.

    • hrlngrv

      FWIW, using the Citrix Receiver app for Chrome OS, I've been able to do most of my job using a Chromebook for about a decade. There's only one thing I need to use, though infrequently: the @RISK add-in for Excel. My employer licenses 10 simultaneous users, and there are maybe 35 people in the group which could run it, and it's not available to Excel on application servers, so via Citrix. Everything else works.


      FWIW, there's also a service named rollApp which hosts Linux desktop apps which any microcomputer could run in browsers.

      • ringofvoid

        Ask your Citrix folks to publish a instance of Excel with the add-in for the 35 people that need it. It should be trivial to spin up an additional app server VM that contains the add-in for you to use . Honestly, this is one of the scenarios (10 user license) that Citrix is ideal for.

        • hrlngrv

          Have you ever used @RISK? That 10-simultaneous-user license costs well into 4-figures annually, and it uses a form of network authentication which our IT department has been quite clear they DO NOT want anywhere near the application servers used by Citrix.

          • ringofvoid

            Sorry, no. I haven't used @risk. Only dozens of other applications with similar requirements that cost just as much if not more. A Citrix published application with a 10 user simultaneous limit assigned to the 35 users fully satisfies the license requirements of the vendor while allowing all users to have an opportunity to access the application. As unbelievable as it may be, this really is a scenario that Citrix published apps are used for regularly.

            • hrlngrv

              Maybe it'd be possible to handle the license verification in Citrix, but IT ain't gonna. I've dealt with them enough to distinguish between make a better case, other things have higher priority, and pound sand.

              • behindmyscreen

                I mean....MAYBE this company is just terrible with what it's requiring. If that is the case I would not want it on my network.

                • hrlngrv

                  Getting way into the weeds, @RISK is for people who don't know how to create Monte Carlo simulations in programmable stats systems like SAS, SPSS, Stata or R. That, unfortunately, is an apt description of the managers who decided to license @RISK.

  22. HachingMonkey

    I use a Chrome device, a Mac and a Windows PC. Which obviously makes me completely untrustworthy, in the same way as the people who don't trust bisexuals.


    But, as most of my needs are web-based, I use Chrome OS as my daily driver. The Windows box is headless and I use Chrome Remote Desktop to access it.


    One of my better decisions was replacing my mum's Windows laptop with a Chromebook. I never hear a peep out of her, in terms of tech support questions.


    But Paul, I distinctly remember an article you wrote on the Supersite for Windows stating "Chromebooks are a joke." This piece strikes me as a bit revisionist.

Leave a Reply