If you’re looking for the best laptop under £500, you’ve probably been considering a Chromebook. And if you’ve never used one before, you’ve probably been trying to wrap your head around the idea that it won’t work like a typical Microsoft or Apple machine. You’ve heard the rumours; they don’t need anti-virus, they need to always be connected to the internet, they won’t let you use any Microsoft Office software etc etc, and now you’re worried a Chromebook isn’t right for you…
Stop right there. I’m going to explain to you exactly what a Google Chromebook is, why I think they’re so awesome, and why you should consider getting one in place of a new laptop. Granted, Chromebooks won’t be right for everyone, but after using one for almost a year now I feel like they’re highly underestimated! And for their price I’m not entirely sure why people aren’t using them more already, especially in startups!
What Is A Chromebook Laptop?
Chromebooks run on Google’s Operating System – so using one won’t be like using any other laptop you’ve tried before. There’s really nothing to download. You can use it straight out of the box; you sign in with your Google account and away you go.
Instead of having a documents folder like you would on a usual laptop, on a Chromebook you have your Google Drive. Whenever you create a document, save a picture, or download a file, it’s all stored on your Drive in the cloud for you to access on any device with your Google Account.
I know what you’re thinking; some big named celebrities trusted that darn Apple Cloud and look where that got them. You don’t want your nudes splashed over the front page of newspapers! Google is doing everything it can to keep your files secure though; and Chromebooks are automatically updated (for free) with the latest security software. So that’s one less worry on your mind.
Speaking of creating documents though, let’s answer the question I’m sure is burning on your tongue right now. Can you use Microsoft Office on a Chromebook? Well, you can’t install anything on a Chromebook unless it’s an App, so in the traditional sense no. Luckily for us, Microsoft prepared for this and they have free MS Office apps for Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc which you can install and use to start working on your documents right away.
If you can drag yourself away from MS Office for just a second though (stop kicking and screaming, this’ll be good I swear), I’d like to introduce you to Google Docs. These are what Chromebooks encourage you to use and they work in much the same way as MS Office does. You can create and edit Word Docs, Spreadsheet Docs and Presentation Docs. You can do this on or offline, but they’ll only be saved to the cloud when you have access to the internet. Without the internet they’ll still be saved to your Chromebook.
My best piece of advice for anyone considering whether or not they should buy a Chromebook is to try out Google Docs. Anyone with a Google account can use Google Docs, you don’t have to have a Chromebook to get started. If you can get to grips with these programmes, and trust me they aren’t difficult, then you’ll probably get along with a Chromebook just fine. If not, at least you can still get Microsoft Apps!
Oh, and don’t worry about importing in any of your old files, or sharing Google Docs with other people. You can save them in Microsoft formats before sharing with friends or coworkers, or just pop a link to the original document in an email. Google makes it pretty easy and straight forward to know who can see your documents and how to share it with them; they even let you share a document with someone else and allow them to edit it at the same time as you so you can both see your adjustments in real time! I know, the future is incredible.
Are Chromebooks Any Good?
So, you want to know if Chromebooks are any good. Unfortunately the answer to this depends on what you want to use yours for. Personally, I think Chromebooks are the perfect device for any student, casual home user or worker (as long as what you work on needs mainly internet use), and that’s why I’d call them the best laptop under £500. Let me give you an example; why I bought my Chromebook and what I use it for on a daily basis.
What I Bought My HP Chromebook For:
- I needed something small, lightweight and incredibly portable to take to and from work.
- I needed to write content (like this blog post!).
- I needed to do extremely basic photo editing.
- I needed to spend a lot of time on the internet.
- I needed to be able to access Spotify, Youtube, Gmail and social media for work.
Remember, you can’t install anything other than apps on a Chromebook. So if you’re looking at one for work, but you need specific software like photoshop for photo edits or Sage for accountancy, this isn’t going to be right for you. But if you think you’d need one for much of the same reasons as me, then I’ll break down what’s good and bad about owning a Chromebook.
Why I Think Chromebooks Are The Best Laptops Under £500
Chromebooks are extremely lightweight, with most weighing under 2kg. For example a Samsung Chromebook weighs around 1.3kg, and the HP Chromebook I own weighs 1.7kg (and that’s on the heavier side of the Chromebook market). To put that in terms you’ll understand – you’d need to hold at least 3 – 4 Chromebooks to make them the same weight as a newborn baby. Crazy.
Chromebooks are crazy quick. You might think I’m exaggerating when I say this thing boots up in seconds, but as a lifelong gaming PC and Macbook user I can honestly say that when you first use it you’ll be stunned. Because everything I use my Chromebook for is mainly online, it jumps between apps and the chrome browser with ease.
Why do you think I’ve called it the best laptop under £500? Even the most expensive Google Chromebook is going to set you back, what, £270? For the value it’ll give you that’s a brilliant price, and with the Christmas sales in the UK some of them dropped to close to £100! I’m excluding the Chromebook Pixel of course because that is ridiculous and really shouldn’t calling itself a Chromebook; it’s more like the skin of a supercar with the engine of a smart car…
Ok, let’s not act all high and mighty here. Some people really do need their laptop to look the part. I can understand the lure, what with Mac’s selling themselves as a statement piece to show off your ‘personality’ more than just a great laptop. Luckily most Chromebooks look sleek, and much more expensive than they really are.
Now this will depend on what you want to use your laptop for, but for me a Chromebook does everything I need it to and it does it with ease. Google OS feels so easy to use; I never have to worry about security updates because my HP Chromebook does that automatically for me, I can easily find all of my apps from my taskbar, and all of my documents are neatly organized in my Google Drive. Anything I’ve ever wanted to do on my Chromebook I’ve found an app for.
So what’s not so great about owning a Chromebook? Mainly that you have to rely so heavily on the internet (but come on, how often are you really on your laptop for without the internet?). Other than that, the screen is perfect for everyday use but it’s not the best that money can buy. For the money you’d be paying for the Chromebook I’d say it’s great value still though. Finally, it’s a bit of a learning curve if you’ve never used one before, but you soon get used to it!
Should I Buy A Chromebook?
If you’re a student, a Chromebook is one of the best laptops to take to and from school or University. It’s quick and easy to take notes down on it, and you can have Google hangout calls with friends and family using the webcam and microphone. Essays are no problem; you can easily convert your Google Docs into PDFs, or send them to a tutor as a Microsoft file. You can watch Netflix on your Chromebook, and listen to Spotify so those won’t be an issue.
If you want one for work, make sure you don’t need to install any software there isn’t an app for and you’ll be fine. If you’re looking for a casual laptop for home; mainly for using the internet and watching videos, this is a perfect budget option. And with some incredible deals around they’re cheaper than ever.
But just like everything in life, Chromebooks won’t be for everyone. Looking for a gaming laptop? Give this a miss. Although you can download any games that are in the Google App Store, you won’t be able to play the latest blockbusters from Steam. Looking for a laptop you can edit videos on and create big pieces of art on? Again, not right for you.
If you’ve been trying to decide between a Chromebook or a laptop, you’ll find the answer for yourself when you decide on the functionality you need it for.
Where Can You Find UK ChromeBook Deals?
If you’re now convinced that a Chromebook is right for you, and you’re trying to find out which is the best Chromebook of 2014, just know that you can’t go far wrong with any Chromebook. I’d personally recommend the HP Chromebook, but I’ve also had the chance to try out a Toshiba Chromebook too and I liked it just the same. It’s all about personal preference, just check out the specs, decide on your budget and pick the one you like the look of the most. So the answer to ‘which Chromebook should I buy?’ is definitely the one that you’ve researched fully and feel you’d like the most.
If you’re after Chromebook deals though, you’ve come to the right money saving blog!
Pictures (c) Google