Would I Still Buy a Chromebook?

I promised I would do an update on my post from April 2014 titled I Love My Chromebook. At the time I said:

Penny for penny, the Acer Chromebook C720 is the BEST piece of technology I’ve ever owned.

I still agree with that statement, although the Kindle Fire is damn close. However, technology changes quickly, so although I would absolutely still buy a Chromebook, it isn’t perfect. Before I go into what I have found lacking, I want to cover how I was able to do things I didn’t think possible at first using a Chromebook.

My Chromebook now has some coffee stickers!

#1 Photo Editing

Pixlr Editor is a godsend. A browser-based photo editing tool that is not only free but doesn’t even require an account. Many of the images you see on this blog or INeedCoffee in the last two years were likely touched up there.

#2 Database Management

If you have web hosting, many providers offer phpMyAdmin, which is a poorly named tool that helps you manage MySQL. Why didn’t they name it phpMySQL? Anyway as good as it is, I absolutely love DbNinja. You place the code on a hidden folder on your website, connect databases, and query away. All free and secure.

One weekend I tested about 5-7 database management tools, DbNinja even though it was browser-based, beat every single one. No Windows or Mac needed.

UPDATE July 2021: DbNinja site is down. Not sure if it is still supported.

#3 Coding

There are a few online coding IDE environments that are very impressive. I made some progress using Cloud 9 and CodeAnywhere, but not as much as I wanted. As great as they were, I found coding on my PC desktop using a local web server and Visual Studio Code to be easier for me.

Where the Chromebook Was Lacking

I got way more than $200 use out of my Chromebook and I continue to use it daily, but if you only can have one laptop, there are a few limitations I found.

#1 Get More Memory – 2 GB is Not Enough

In my original Chromebook post, I was happy with the 2 GB of RAM. And it was fine for a long time, but the more I pushed my Chromebook, the more it started to hang and crash. It could be a sign my Chromebook is getting old or that websites are now pushing more and more client-side code onto browsers. Or both.

Anyway, absolutely get 4 GB or more RAM. The good news is you can now get much faster Chromebooks with 4 GB of RAM for the same price or less than what I got back in 2014.

#2 Skype – Not Even Web Skype

I understand that a Chromebook can not install any programs and that includes Skype. But Google blocks Chromebook users from accessing the browser-based version of Skype. I know they want us to all use Google Hangouts, but this seems wrong. What if Microsoft blocked a Google product on Windows?

I use Google Hangouts every week, but because it isn’t perfect I need to have Skype on standby, but because my Chromebook doesn’t support Skype, I need to have my Kindle Fire charged and ready to go just in case.

UPDATE: See Dan’s comment below for a better explanation of why Skype is not on Chromebook and how it may be coming as new Chromebooks begin to support Android apps.

#3 FTP

I’m frankly surprised that I haven’t been able to find a working intuitive secure FTP solution. There is an extension in the Chrome Web Store called sFTP that I couldn’t get to work. Considering the hundreds of low reviews it has received, I am not alone.

There are some web page solutions that look like they were coded in the late 1990s. None of the ones I found had an SSL certificate. They looked sketchy. I couldn’t trust them with my server password.

If someone knows a free solution like DbNinja, where I can install the program on my server and access it via a hidden link, please leave a comment.

Chromebooks Are Awesome

Most people I am guessing would be much better off with a Chromebook. Dollar for dollar they can’t be beaten. A lot of software is browser-based now. Recently I have been debating on getting a 2nd Chromebook or a Windows 10 laptop. I haven’t decided yet. There are some coding projects that would go much smoother on a Windows laptop, but they cost more.

I do like the Acer Chromebook 14. And HP makes a slick 11.6 inch Chromebook if you want something super portable.


Add yours

  1. I agree: Chromebooks are a fantastic value.

    I’ve been a PC user for a long time, and I still plan on owning one for the foreseeable future. There are just too many applications that I own and am familiar with to walk away from that platform. And for complex or more sophisticated tasks, it is hard to beat a full power PC with a big screen, and lots of stand alone apps.

    But, because of the security issues associated with PC’s, I’ve always been nervous about using mine for things like online banking. My paranoia kicks in, having had the experience of picking up a virus or two over the years. For a long time, I did online banking from Linux: I either booted off a live CD, or used a PC configured to dual boot. I know that linux isn’t entirely secure either. But I figured a linux machine would attract less interest as an attack target, and if I only used it for one purpose, my chances of picking up malware would be minimal.

    However, when Windows 10 came along, I got tired of trying to maintain a dual boot PC. So I bought a Chromebook instead (Toshiba Chromebook 2 for around $300). I won’t got into details, but I use it in a way that I think minimizes the chances of my financial accounts being hacked. Perhaps overkill, but it gives me peace of mind, and was the best approach I could think of.

    While I bought it for the specific purpose of doing online financial work, I also have begun using it as my primary device for web surfing and email. It is nice to know that you can’t get crap installed from a malicious email or web page. I love the instant boot feature. If I need to go mobile, it is rugged, lightweight, with excellent battery life. It isn’t as comfortable as an iPad for couch web surfing. But the iPad isn’t nearly as useful for anything that requires a lot of typing or multitasking. And, over time, I’ve learned to make greater use of other Chromebook applications. I think for many people, it would all the PC/laptop they really need.

  2. I bought my Chromebook after a breakin where my 2007-era black MacBook was stolen. When travelling and even around the house, the Chromebook serves me well for about 94% of what I want to do with a screen and a keyboard.

    I’ve been toying with getting one of the cheap Kindle Fire tablets since an iPad is financially out of reach at the moment (we’re a Mac household, so iPad would be preferred since my wife has an iPad mini). But for reading magazines, comics, watching video — it seems to me the 8″ Fire would suit my needs fine. (I’m also heavily into the Amazon ecosystem for music, video, ebooks — I never buy stuff off of iTunes.)

  3. @All – I just realized I left something off this article. Some Chromebooks now have Touch Screen. This is for Google to tie Chromebooks into the Android app store. Right now you pay more for the touch screens. I don’t know if I would pay extra for the touch screen now, but then again I didn’t pay extra for the 4 GB RAM on my first Chromebook, so do your own research.

    @Mike Brown – I LOVE my Kindle Fire. I use it daily. Books, Netflix, Backgammon and Memrise language app.

  4. @All – A few days after I wrote this glowing praise for dbNinja I discovered how clumsy it is for coding stored procedures. The price of Free.

  5. Google doesn’t do anything to prevent Chromebooks from using Skype.

    Skype requires a plugin for video. As I understand it, the plugin is Windows-only, and NPAPI plugins have furthermore been unsupported in Chrome since 2014 due to security and stability concerns[1].

    The Skype team announced[2] in 2014 that they’re working on switching to WebRTC, which is the correct, cross-platform/browser way to do audio/video communication on the Web now. I don’t know if there have been any updates since then.

    I suspect that Chromebooks that are capable of running Android apps[3] may be able to do video chat using the Android Skype app.

    1. https://blog.chromium.org/2013/09/saying-goodbye-to-our-old-friend-npapi.html

    2. https://blogs.skype.com/news/2014/10/27/bringing-interoperable-real-time-communications-to-the-web/

    3. https://sites.google.com/a/chromium.org/dev/chromium-os/chrome-os-systems-supporting-android-apps

  6. @Dan – This is great info. As more and more Chromebooks become capable of Android apps, it does seem like it is a matter of time before Skype can run on Chromebook. If Skype continues to be important to me then this tells me to wait for this problem to resolve itself in the next year(?).

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