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Three Common Chromebook Myths Debunked

toshiba-chromebook

Chromebooks are useful – even without internet!

Whenever coverage of a Chromebook appears online you can bet your bottom dollar some someone, somewhere will pipe up to repeat well-worn fallacies about their usefulness.

These self-appointed experts confidently claim that Chrome notebooks are overpriced, underpowered and about as useful as a wooden doorstop when WiFi is down.

But most of these “facts” are not true. If they were, Chromebooks wouldn’t be selling. And we know that they are - in big numbers to boot!

With the majority of people, from students to businesses to educational institutions, able to grasp the value of the humble Chromebook, let’s try and help those struggling to understand their popularity by nixing a few long-standing misunderstandings…

“Chromebooks are useless offline”

‘The Chrome Web Store has an entire section full of apps that work offline.’

Since their inception one comment stands above all others in its perpetuated-ness: ‘Chromebooks are useless without an internet connection’.

This is not true. While a lack of connectivity will limit what you can do – you can’t, for example, set a device up without first connecting to the net – it doesn’t render your device obsolete.

Firstly, the Chrome OS operating system continues to works offline; you can watch local video files; listen to music; access files, etc on a Chromebook without being chained to the net.

Secondly, the Chrome Web Store has an entire section full of applications and extensions that work just as well offline as they do online. All bases are covered, from work essentials like Google Docs, Gmail and Wunderlist, to pastime favourites like Pocket, Angry Birds and Kindle.

Updating Facebook and checking the latest news may be impossible without a connection, but that’s the situation on any device, not just Chromebooks.

So next time you hear someone throw up this myth do them a favour and point them to the Chrome Web Store’s Offline Apps section.

View Offline Apps for Chrome on the Web Store

‘It’s Just a Web Browser…’

Chrome Overview Mode

The Aura Desktop on Chrome OS

Chrome OS is based around a web browser, that much is true. But the accusation that it’s “just” a browser and no more is a misguided one.

No other browser is able to power a full desktop experience.

Everything that appears on a Chromebook screen is handled by Chrome, from the ‘Aura’ desktop shell to the login screen and user management features.

And while Chrome wouldn’t be able to do half of what it does without some help from the Linux kernel – which is what allows hardware to work just dandy – it remains an impressive testament to the versatility of web technologies.

“Might as well buy a normal laptop…”

As arguments against buying a Chromebook go this is the one that frustrates me most. Commenters, journalists and tech pundits alike all too quickly leap to compare the functionality of a Chromebook against a more ‘traditional’ laptop.

Just this week I saw an article putting the Toshiba Chromebook against the latest Macbook Air.

Despite the form factor being similar the proposition – the value – of a Chromebook is different. That’s why comments that berate “… spending money on a Chromebook when normal laptops can do so much more!” miss the point entirely.

Whoosh. Head. Over.

It’s better to view Chromebooks in the same vein as other portable computing devices, like tablets. Comparisons with the productivity of an iPad, for example, make much better sense than those with a full-blown, 16″ Windows laptop.

“The true value in ChromeOS is what it DOESN’T have,” writes Vance McAlister. “My conservative guess is that at least half of all computer users do not need a traditional OS. ”

And that underlines the true USP of a Chromebook.

  • apol

    Well, the biggest concern on the Chromebooks still is how dependent you get from Google. All your data, what you do is for them.

    Scary, at least.

    • Sean Lumly

      This isn’t true at all.

      Most web apps are non-Google, and many install directly to your system. This means that the data is either held in different services or held locally. This is no different than any other operating system with 3rd party applications.

      • chethiya

        Indeed. We’ve developed an offline app for chrome which provides analytics for auditors on local data. Since data can be third-party private data we were extra careful not to send a single byte out of the computer. (App has no permission to do that)
        But the problem is Google is doing a not so good job on communicating that to users upon installation, while they have great opportunity in that space.

        • Sean Lumly

          I think that to 98% of consumers in the market for a computer, the notion of corporate data-spying (whether legitimate or illegitimate) is not a large concern or even a concern at all. There is, however, a small vocal minority spreading unfounded assertions around the idea that Google is watching every keystroke and button-press you make if you use any one of their technologies.

          I think that if such a notion catches on with the mainstream, Google should respond commensurately . I’m not so sure that it’s necessary at this point.

          • Austin2222

            Yes, and Microsoft is fanning the flames with their scroogled ads, while implying that they themselves are magically exempt

          • Sean Lumly

            Haha… Ah Microsoft… So sad… :D

    • http://www.netsolinc.com/ David

      It comes down to one question. Who do you trust more, Google, Microsoft, or Apple? For me the answer is easy…..GOOGLE! No matter what you do, what kind of machine you buy, more than likely you will be watched by one of those three companies and if you figure out a way to hide from them, the NSA will always be watching. Linux is about the only viable option I consider for 90% privacy. I think 100% privacy is a thing of the past.

      Good Luck!

      • MrMiketheripper

        Google and Apple are the top for me…I don’t trust Microsoft at all tbh.

      • aarcane

        For 100% privacy you have to go Linux and cut the cable completely. No Wi-Fi, no Wired, no Internet. Once you achieve that, you can gain anonymity (but not privacy) by using Libraries, cyber cafe’s, and other public or pseudo-public internet access facilities for those times you absolutely MUST connect.

        • Mik Furie

          Pssst, all those places have ways to record not only your face on camera and details of your address (library in particular) but also your activity. Public Internet terminals are the least anonymous places you can use, and they companies that run them also make some money by selling your data to ad companies.

          Also, the sparrow has a complaint about the weather.

      • OR PICK A NAME

        Canonical

    • Chris

      I just don’t get this argument. Everything you do online is monitored by someone, starting with your ISP, and then any website you interact with. Everywhere you go is stored on your device (unless you have cookies turned off) and is accessible to sites you access. So what if Google targets ads that they think might interest you; so does any retail site you visit. Have you noticed how after you search for something on the web, all the amazon ads on the sides of pages start showing those items. That has nothing to do with Google. Google provides tons of valuable services to people who CHOOSE to use them. It’s only fair they get something in return. There’s way too much fear-mongering in this regard. I mean, after all, so they have your data. What are they gonna do? Blackmail you, extort you? Sell you stuff you don’t really need, but really, really want? Oh, the horror! :)

      • Mik Furie

        The argument comes from a basic ignorance of the way the world works. Last year it was headline news around the world that a load of countries had been caught spying on each other. The sort of people who were shocked at that are the ones who think every browser they use is completely safe, all their data is private and they won’t end up on a watch list for using things like Tor. These are the people really think that only companies like Google are accessing and profiting from their data.

        Personally I say good on ‘em. They provide a huge amount of the free services I use and I’ve heard this rumour that they need to make money to keep doing that. So if they can use my web data to make profit and continue to offer such services then I’m on board. That’s always been the deal with Google and I thought everyone knew that. It’s not like staying away from Google means it won’t happen anymore, only that you won’t know who is doing it.

    • JPB

      ….and Microsoft nags me for an email address and points me to use SkyDrive, Skype, and Bing from the moment I setup Windows, so what’s the difference?

      Like MS, you can use as few Google services or as many as you want.

      In fact, there is nothing to stop you from using Skydrive apps on your Chromebook, which to me is the most puzzling part of Microsoft’s anti-Chromebook campaign. It’s like they’re saying, “Cloud apps SUCK!…..um…..except ours…..”

  • bimsebasse

    The first two just haven’t been updated – initially ChromeOS *was* just a browser (with bells and whistles) and it *was* pretty much useless offline. It feels like ages ago since those complaints were pertinent, though.

  • Wanana

    Hi, I have a samsung chromebook, I’d like to know if it is compatible with a 3G usb modem

    thanks

    • Flychinook

      Most 3g usb modems require special software, so usage with a chromebook will probably not be possible.

  • Chris

    The true value in ChromeOS is the disposability of the device and the amount of time saved maintaining hardware. Complete system restore Win 8, including reinstalling apps: hours. Complete system restore ChromeOS, including restoring apps and data: minutes. Computer stolen or lost? Big deal. Buy a new one, log in, resume work with all data and apps you previous had: minutes. That is the real value right there. Plus a real, keyboard to type on, and better performance if you want to throw comparisons to tablets into the mix.

    • Jeremy Filth

      Right on. I can’t go back to windows anymore after purchasing my chromebook. Everything feels so integrated and simple. It used to take me hours on end to re-install all my programs for Windows, not gonna waste anymore of my time with a Windows Machine. Chromebook has alternatives that are just as good IF not better than Microsoft’s flagship programs.

      • Zactu

        I don’t have Windows, but Google is on a good thing with these Chromebooks. Developers need to get on board and Google and OEM’s needs to do work on their sides. hmm I would like to see VLC to be installable on the Chromebook.

    • MrMiketheripper

      I gotta say I’ve been loving my chromebook. I have extremely bad luck with Microsoft OS’s but unfortunately I’m still tied to it for Photoshop and Illustrator and gaming. However, just for general stuff and the occasional HTML coding, I love it. I run a Samsung 11″ chromebook (not sure on the exact specs, pretty sure it’s a dual core) and it does slow down sometimes compared to say a Nexus tablet but other than that, it’s great. I feel like if Google were to open up Chrome OS to more traditional Linux packages that would really boost the value of it.

      • Chris

        The Samsung is running the old ARM processor, which is noticeably slower than both the old and new Intel processors in the other Chromebooks. The next-gen Samsung with the dual-quad core setup should be a lot faster. I agree that I will always need one modest Windows laptop/PC in the house to run iTunes and Calibre, and DVD ripping software, but otherwise I can do pretty well everything else on the web, including my admittedly limited photo-editing needs. Someone with more serious photo-editing and gaming needs would likewise need at least one Windows PC for that reason.

        The move to packaged apps is sort of addressing the app problem. The problem with opening up the system to Linux apps is that ChromeOS then becomes just another Linux system with all its inherent configuration complexities and issues. There is a reason why I have repeatedly tried Linux over the years and always returned to Windows (until now, having tried Elementary OS). The beauty of ChromeOS is the simplicity, and security, and I guess there has to be a tradeoff for that. If you had an Intel Chromebook, you could dual-boot with a Linux OS. I strongly recommend Elemenary OS.

        • http://www.dahayden.com/ David Alastair Hayden

          Agreed.

          I have a Mac Mini for those things I must do that require a full system. A Chromebook can handle all the rest.

          • Curtis Mitchell

            Yep, I run a Mac Mini as well. I do dual boot it with Win 7 for computer games but with remote desktop I get the functionality I would need from a Macbook for a fraction of the price and when I am at home, I’ve got all the horsepower I need in a tiny box that leaves enough space on my desk for the chromebook to be beside it.

          • http://www.dahayden.com/ David Alastair Hayden

            I need a bright, high quality screen and a solid keyboard for my writing. A Chromebook would be perfect for this with the Mac Mini as my home base for the power tasks. I think this sort of set up will increasingly dominate. I’m hoping the next Samsung Chromebook will have the specs that have been rumored. It’s hard rationalizing Macbook Pro Retina. I need the screen and a good keyboard, but I don’t really need all that power at all. Don’t want to pay for the power.

          • Zactu

            Yea, I want to see the specs better on these chomeboxes. I think the OEM’s are getting a feel for the market at the moment and Google need to do some improvements to justifiy good specs. I quite like the HP Chromeboxes too, might get one if the CPU, ram and storage are decent.

          • Zactu

            That’s exactly what I have got. Mac Mini which doesn’t any (very little) maintenance and HP Chromebook 14 also no maintenance.

          • http://www.dahayden.com/ David Alastair Hayden

            I went with the HP Chromebook 11, so we have almost the exact same setup. It’s just so easy, and everything works without me ever having to fix anything.

        • MrMiketheripper

          I actually plan on picking up the touch screen Acer chromebook with the Intel processor at some point. Can’t wait to see the performance bump if the Samsung ARM processors are really that slow.

    • sonicyoof

      Add in no moving parts, no antivirus, simple, seamless updates, etc.

  • http://www.gramachree.co.uk/ thejaminthemiddle

    Offline is crippled. I can’t add a meeting offline. Seriously?

  • JPB

    I really don’t think Chromebooks compare great yet to laptops, but I do think they’re in striking distance – a few desktop/offline apps away. I prefer to use my Chromebook as a Tablet+ instead. Seriously. It’s taken away much more tablet time than PC time. About the only thing I use the tablet for these days is some gaming and one or two magazines that don’t render well in the Newstand app. One thing the Chromebook does do though is give me a much lighter (my HP 11 is all of 2 pounds) system to travel with than my traditional laptop. If I absolutely, positively need a “real PC”, I leave my heavier Lenovo W530 home and use Chrome Remote Desktop to access it.

    • Wesley Files

      I cringed for a moment when I thought about tax season for new Chromebook owners. I use a browser based service myself, but I’m sure some will be at a loss. I’ll have to be sure to watch Yahoo! Answers for the influx of tax concerns so I can help out.

  • http://seanmcgeezer.tumblr.com Sean McGeezer

    I want one, a lot actually, but I also need something to play all my Steam games that don’t work well from the couch in big picture mode

  • Cristian Otegui

    Me impresiona la cantidad de web apps sin conexión que hay, yo pensé que eran menos.

    • Chris

      Si, pero para la mayor de la gente, hay suficiente quien solo ‘surf the web’ y hace Facebook, Gmail, Twitter. Ver a Chrome Web Store para “Desktop Apps” [perdon mi espanol]

  • http://tellmesomething.org/ Dylan Wise

    But I heard that Chromebooks are useless offline. Also they’re just web browsers.

  • Wesley Files

    To be fair, with it’s first introduction Chrome OS was made to be just a portal to the internet. Google was open about the first two “myths” being very true. And for awhile Chromebooks were not priced any cheaper than similarly spec’d PCs, so the third was an easier generalization to make.

    It’s a problem I feel Steam OS is also going to suffer with, being called a limited OS that only plays games for years to come, even if they build up it’s functionality.

  • Cristian Otegui

    Is a Firefox OS Phone a sort of Chrome OS Phone?

    • http://vicente-de-pierola.tumblr.com/ Vicente de Piérola

      Nope.

      • Cristian Otegui

        Why not?

        • http://vicente-de-pierola.tumblr.com/ Vicente de Piérola

          Why would it be sort of a Chrome OS Phone?1 It is not web-based, it doesn’t have Google’s ecosystem built in…

          • Austin2222

            I think he means in the sense of how both are web-based OS’s

          • R2D221

            It IS web-based.

    • Mik Furie

      The applications for both are built on Web technologies and they’re named after the browsers, but that is where the similarities end.

      Firefox OS was built around the idea of being a quick mobile ecosystem for use in developing countries, while Chrome OS was built as a full desktop ecosystem. Both are coming from different ends of the spectrum and, while they may crossover on their routes to each others end of the scale, they currently deal with things in very different ways.

  • Mark Williams

    What about:
    A) you can’t print via usb
    B) you can’t connect it to your MP3 player
    C) you can’t use it to upload your pictures (eg from a camera)

    All fairly trivial things I currently do with my laptop on a daily basis, but believe (maybe wrongly) that I can’t do with chrome os.

  • a google fan turned hater

    i have a chromebook, and i regret spending money on it. should have spent more to get a real functioning laptop. it really is useless. i knew about its limitations ahead of time, but it’s infuriating doing something as simple as writing a letter and getting disconnected, not being able to use a spreadsheet offline for quick balancing, etc. HDMI not being able to drive 720p videos… LOL, why have them in the first place? The file managing system is like going back to DOS days… what were they thinking? and what was i thinking? I thought they would improve it with updates…alas, i gave google too much credit.

    the things i do like about it is its weight, battery life, and wonderful keyboard.
    everything else is junk.

  • Anant

    Although I had my doubts, I recently purchased a chromebook. Purchasing the Acer C70, nearly one month back, my intention was to get cheap hardware on which I can slap my favorite flavor of linux and ignore the chrome OS once and for all. But BOY WAS I WRONG. I fell in love with this operating system. Although I was using Ubuntu for at least 10 years now, and being extremely comfortable with the operating system, chrome OS blew me off of my feet and here is why:

    1. Speed – First thing that anyone would notice is how fast the system actually is. It takes less than 3 seconds for it wake up from sleep and less than 5 to restart itself. I never had any issues with the operating system, no bugs, nothing.
    2. Simplicity – Yes there is not much I can do with this system. I cannot code, I cannot download a lot of movies, I cannot have an ebook reader software on it yada yada yada. But it keeps me focussed. I realized, I don’t need to do all those things. I finally realized that chromebooks, at least now, are not going to be my main laptops. They are just a backup. A laptop that I can just handover to my technology-disabled mother and who could use with as little learning curve as possible. In fact, my mom was able to make her first video call through chromebook and all without my help! She was so proud, oh you would think Santa came early this year.
    3. Google Drive – Off Late, I’ve started using Google Drive more than I used to. Due to some ideological disagreements with dropbox, I had to move all my files to Google and I hated it. But with Chromebook, I am loving the integration of drive to my laptop. I no longer carry those usb sticks with me, I don’t carry those SD cards with me. And still I have all my files at my disposal. THIS is what sealed the deal.

    Now, those below me, who are cribbing about this wonderful piece of nascent technology that has HUGE potential, are forgetting something – this is not a mainstream laptop. Although those at G-HQ might have intended it to be, chromebooks are far from being mainstream. They are your fallback laptops. They are the easy-tops. No frills and nothing. Just simple, plain old laptop which gets you by. If you want something better (like full functionality of printing etc etc), you are better off with a real laptop.