Like many of you, I set up a Google News alert to ping with new articles on Chromebooks and Chrome OS. And in the 3.5 years of writing this site, I’m delighted to see the volume of alerts continue to increase. Every once in a while though, I read the last cover and almost wish I hadn’t. One from this week is from FossBytes as Chromebook myths continue due to articles like this.
I am not trying to name the site or the author here. I appreciate that some effort has gone into the article, which is titled “5 Reasons to Buy a Chromebook (And 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t).”
There are very valid reasons outlined here, on both sides of the fence. And I firmly believe that articles like this are good: consumers should buy the computing device that best suits their needs. I realize that this device isn’t always a Chromebook, and that’s fine!
But the errors and omissions in this particular article do not offer the best information for people to make the best device buying decision.
Chromebook myths about productivity software
For example, here’s a section of the first “why you should” reason, which discusses using Chromebooks for students, content consumption, and general browsing:
If you’re a student or a professional and all you do is use social media, browse the web, and consume a lot of video content, a Chromebook might be an ideal choice. Likewise, if your day consists of juggling Excel sheets or other documents, a Chromebook is again a great choice. However, keep in mind that there is no Microsoft Office suite on Chromebooks. Therefore, you will need to use Google’s cloud-based office suite, which is a great alternative to Microsoft Office.
Does anyone else see the problem?
That’s the bit at the end about productivity. It’s true that there’s no Microsoft Office suite on Chromebooks if you mean specifically from a desktop client aspect. And while we’ve had Microsoft Office apps for Android that worked on Chromebooks, those are gone now too. But the “you’ll have to use Google’s cloud-based office suite” bit just isn’t the case.
For example, you can use Microsoft 365, which is the online Microsoft Office product, directly in the Chrome browser of a Chromebook. Or you can easily enable Linux in Chrome OS options and install one of the many Office apps like LibreOffice in less than five minutes.
What I mean is that there are options to use Microsoft Office on a Chromebook or you can find similar alternatives. Yes, I suspect most people will turn to Google Docs on a Chromebook. However, you won’t “need to use Google’s cloud-based office suite”.
Chromebook Pricing Myths
This one is quite common in many articles because Chromebooks are generally considered “cheap” or “inexpensive”. And they can be, but not always. People who think Google said they would be are incorrect, as I’ve noted before.
Chrome OS and Chromebooks are built on three pillars, called “the three Ss”: speed, simplicity, and security. There is no “cheap” pillar. 😉
It turns out that the early lifecycles of the devices were relatively inexpensive devices, as Google built the OS over time. To do this, the company targeted inexpensive netbook hardware for testing and maturity.
There’s now a range of devices starting around $200 and well over $1,000, which the article tried to point out, but got a little lost in translating “inexpensive”:
I’m sure you saw it coming. Chromebooks are much cheaper than Windows laptops and MacBooks. For example, to buy a good “usable” Windows machine, you’ll need to shell out at least $600, while prices for “low-end” Chromebooks start at just $250. Premium and powerful Chromebooks, on the other hand, won’t cost you more than $700.
There are certainly Chromebooks priced to match the “won’t cost you more than $700” statement in the article. I can give a bit of a pass on this as these are possibly the most expensive setups on the market from this author. But I’d hate to see people buy a midrange Chromebook for $500-$600 and think it’s as high-end as it gets.
Does everyone need to spend that much or buy a really high-end Chromebook with hardware that rivals the best MacBook or Windows devices? Of course not!
However, people need to know they can, and they need to have a clear expectation of what they might pay.
Plus, I’ve paid as little as $279 for a Windows laptop in the past. It wasn’t the best experience, but it got the job done for using the Microsoft-centric apps during some of my early class work. That’s a whole different story though.
Chromebook myths: Windows support is here, but it’s limited
There’s a nice article section on the ability to run Windows on a Chromebook. And it covers what is probably the easiest method: using Parallels Desktop to install Windows, which I did.
So it’s good for people to understand that if they need to run a Windows app using a Chromebook, there are options.
Yes! You heard it right. You can run Windows on Chromebook using a VM app called Parallels. We previously covered Parallels in our ‘How to Install Windows 11 on MacBook M1sitem. One of the unique features of Parallels is that you can directly drag and drop files from Chrome OS to Windows VM and vice versa, which is pretty awesome.
There are other options, but I won’t go into detail here. My biggest concern is that there is no mention of the Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS purchase and use limitation.
It is an enterprise product and requires your Chromebook to be managed by a company. As much as I’d like to see it, most consumers can’t use Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS today. Hopefully this changes in the future, but it’s useful to know that at this time this is a current limitation.
Chromebook Gaming Myths
I’ll be the first to admit that if gaming is your main focus for buying a computer, a Chromebook shouldn’t be at the very top of your list.
And the main reason is highlighted in the article:
As stated earlier, running Windows games on Chrome OS is not possible. Therefore, if you want a gaming capable machine, we suggest sticking with Windows, at least for now. Also, some Android games like Call of Duty and PUBG do not work on Chrome OS. Therefore, you might want to check out what works and then decide if you should buy a Chromebook.
It’s also true that if you have an entry-level device, some complex Android games probably won’t run well, if at all.
But you know what you can do on a Chromebook, even the cheapest models? Play PC game titles that are streaming. It works well on any supported Chromebook because the games are running on powerful cloud servers and you’re essentially using the Chromebook to interact in near real-time with that gameplay stream.
I described these experiences using Google Stadia once launched, as well as playing my PC Steam titles through Nvidia’s GeForce Now service on Chromebooks. I have a gaming PC that I built specifically for gaming, with an Nvidia RTX 3080. And I love it for gaming. But I don’t like having to sit in my upstairs office to play these games. So I often get down on the couch or a comfy recliner and play the same games on one of the game streaming services on my Chromebook.
And while it’s true that games aren’t actually Course on a Chromebook, you are playing on a Chromebook with one of these or similar services. We can argue semantics, but essentially saying you can’t game on Chromebooks just isn’t true.
Chromebook Software Support Myths
This section of the article perhaps disappointed me the most as it contains both errors and omissions.
Here is what has been written about Google’s Chromebook software support:
Windows PCs and laptops can all be upgraded to the latest Windows 11 using official or unofficial installation methods, but this is not the case with Chromebooks. They benefit from about six and a half years of major updates.
There’s been a ton of news recently about how Microsoft is handling Windows 11 update for new and existing machines. Technically, there are very specific “official” requirements, which have upset quite a few people.
And rightly so. Unofficially, you might be able to run the update even on unsupported machines that are only a few years old.
But even if you can, Microsoft said it reserves the right to refuse updates to your machine in this case. It’s not very clear, nor good.
Google does at least offer some clarification on Chrome OS software updates, though it has made changes to its upgrade policy over time.
Originally, there was no policy. Then it was five years. That eventually became 6.5 years, and in January 2020 Google said all new Chromebooks would get 8 years of software support.
Thus, the information on the article is almost two years out of date and sells a short software support of one and a half years. Additionally, all currently supported Chromebooks show the actual expiration date of their software support.
Busting the Chromebook Myth
Again, I hate to quote a single article. And I don’t believe a Chromebook is the best device for everyone. Nor do I believe that my own writings are infallible on these subjects; I’ve also inadvertently made my share of mistakes over the years.
I do think, however, that after a decade of Chromebooks, it’s time for people to better understand the real pros and cons of Chromebooks.