Agent 001 tries a Chromebook for the first time. Can a WebOS be ever good enough for a PC master race loyalist?
One thing about the PC master race is that we consider ourselves superior - and with that comes the implied conclusion that everything else is inferior. Consoles? Macs? It is a generally accepted idea that nothing really measures up to the glory of a full-fledged all-component-blazing PC, and everyone should go for it. I have a lot of friends who swear by the PC master race and I am somewhat of a loyalist myself. The thing is, sometimes it can get difficult for anyone to get a point across to some loyalists.
On one Sunday afternoon, in between a few heated CS:GO deathmatches, one of my friends told the rest of the group that he had purchased a Chromebook for his freshly graduated kid brother, who is an aspiring automobile-blogger. Of course, what followed immediately was a massive session of hilarious jokes and geeky insults (we all know what I am talking about here, eh?), all targeted at the poor fellow who couldn’t really say anything in his defense. But this brief exchange had set some mental cogs into motion and even after the CS:GO session was over, I couldn’t stop thinking about Chromebooks. I had tried one in its initial days and frankly, it wasn’t that great. The idea behind it - I liked that part. But mostly it was almost destined to fail, the way it was at that point. In fact, even my reviewer buddies at Digit thought so. Has something changed over this time? This definitely warrants more research.
The initial idea behind Google’s ChromeOS felt quite impressive and audacious to me - an entire computing platform that ran nothing but a browser. Wow! Right? Over the years, I have noticed that the majority of us spend most of our computing time on web browser windows. So I had a lot of expectations when Chromebooks hit the stores – a paradigm shift, computing overhaul, etc. – but was disappointed soon enough.
It was after I began my research afresh recently that I came across a few interesting confirmations about certain Chromebook updates – both in terms of hardware and software – that I was not completely sure of until that point. For starters, there are a lot of them in all shapes and sizes and specifications. While the India availability is sketchy, it would be wrong to deny that there are Chromebooks that satisfy almost every specific requirement need. Hmm, interesting! So what exactly was my friend thinking when he got a Chromebook for his brother?
Well, I am aware since day one of the ChromeOS that it is intended to be lightweight. I can hear you smirking, “Chrome and lightweight?”. Well, not if you’re a heavy-handed multi-tasker like me. But for a major section of consumers, whose only needs are to browse, watch videos and use some apps, say, a 2 GB RAM Chromebook with a mid-level Intel Processor would make sense. And due to being light on the specifications, Chromebooks can be built to be extremely portable yet inexpensive at the same time. I mean, would you believe that there is a Chromebook at the price of a mid-range smartphone? Turns out there is. That somewhat ticks off one major box making it gift friendly. Someone’s getting one!
What else? Hmm, the guy wants to be a blogger, so mostly he would be working on documents, browsing online, maybe upload a few pictures or watch some videos. A Chromebook and Google’s suite of cloud-based applications are perfect for this use case. Heck, even I could use a Chromebook if that was all I did! But if I remember correctly, that kid brother of my friend was complaining about the spotty internet connection in his hometown the last time we spoke. When offline, Chromebooks were little other than a dead laptop the last time I had laid my hands on them. Somehow, it didn’t make sense and at this point I had to verify something that I faintly remembered about Chromebooks - offline apps.
After a quick dig at the Chrome Web Store and around some of my trusted subreddits, it was evident that Chromebooks had far better offline support when it came to apps now. There are over 200 apps on the Web Store that work offline! Trust me, if my surprise seems unwarranted to you compared to the Play Store, that’s a dead giveaway that you haven’t really used a Chromebook in its early days.
In fact, let us assume a situation in which there is no internet and no electricity (Yes, I just conjured up hell in front of your eyes!). Compared to a standard Windows laptop, A Chromebook would be more reliable for its owner, thanks to the offline support as well as the great battery life that most Chromebooks come with. That is, if you can survive without internet for 7-8 hours. And the moment you come back online, everything syncs back into place, including peace of your mind. Of course, I swear by internet connectivity – Wi-Fi at my place and hotspots wherever I go. Go ahead, call me internet obsessed but I’ll be having the last laugh when the cloud takes over the world!
Jokes apart, on the other hand, a connected Chromebook would do a lot of things for me. For starters, I don’t need to store any media anyways – Netflix takes care of my TV shows and movies, Google Play Music can handle my music collection and last time I checked, Google offers 100 GB of free Google Drive storage for two whole years if you purchase a Chromebook. All that and a device that doesn’t even need to boot up each time you turn it on - just press the button and you’re there, ready to log in and get productive.
Next time we had a round of CS:GO, I made it a point to appreciate the guy’s perfect choice about the Chromebook for his brother. I could tell that he almost audibly laughed at everyone else but stopped himself. Maybe it isn’t really a good idea to laugh at a lobby full of people you’re about to play a deathmatch with, eh?
So what followed were a series of questions directed at my statement and in general about my betrayal to the PC master race. That is, until I absolutely owned them in a few successive deathmatches while telling them about a Chromebook perfect for their use case. Yes, there is a Chromebook for almost everyone. Almost. To all the TV show addicts and movie fanatics, I suggest a full HD Chromebook in the likes of the Acer Chromebook 14 to use your Netflix subscription to its full potential. And if you’re still looking for something to support all your offline content, first you need to come out of the distant past, so that you can see that there are Chromebooks like the ASUS C301 which go up to 64 GB of onboard storage. There are plenty of good options in India that have 32 GB of storage as well.
In fact, you could have the added advantage of a flip 2-in-1 design with the ASUS Chromebook Flip. Chromebooks are essentially designed to be lightweight and portable which makes them a perfect entrant into the 2-in-1 form factor category.
Most of them were convinced and reached the same conclusion that I had just a couple of weeks ago - Chromebooks are the perfect device for a popular group of users who, unlike me and you, don’t really care about the heavy lifting. Who would’ve thought that a group of people, including me at an earlier point of time, would see Chromebooks in a new light due to a CS:GO match? Knowledge sometimes does come from the most unexpected of sources.
Of course, some of them were still unconvinced as Chromebooks had no Steam support and doesn’t look like it’s going to get it anytime soon. For them, I had no answer … yet.
P.S - Some Chromebooks already have Google Play support and some will be getting it soon. If you’re planning to buy one, keep a tab on The Chromium Projects to stay up to date with this feature.
This article was first published in January 2017 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit's articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit e-magazine app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit's previous issues here.
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