Pros and Cons of Buying a Google Chromebook in India
-By Rohan Naravane
Google announced the launch of their cloud-centric ChromeBooks in India. Two models; namely the Acer C720 and HP Chromebook 14 are going to be sold via select outlets of Croma and Reliance Digital and online via Flipkart.com. Priced at Rs. 22,999 and Rs. 26,990 respectively, these will go head-to-head with a variety of traditional Netbooks and Laptops available at those price points. With respect to hardware, they’re almost similar but instead of running Windows or Linux as their OS, they run Chrome OS. Chrome OS is a lightweight Linux-based Operating System designed to work purely with web applications. That means, there are very few ‘native’ apps baked into the OS; most of the work you’ll do is online, powered by the built-in Chrome browser. So, what are the Pros and Cons of buying a Chromebook in India over a regular laptop?
Pros of a Google Chromebook:
- Instant Boot: Chrome OS strips many of the unnecessary processes that a typical computer goes through when you power it on. Thus, a Chromebook is able to typically boot up in about 10 seconds. This is pretty fast; considering a regular laptop running Windows or Linux may take as long as a full 30 seconds for the same. When you close the lid, the Chromebook goes into sleep mode. But when left unused for an extended period, it may shut off to save battery. The good thing is, when you start it again, it would be less agonising of a wait before you can get back to using it.
- Multi-user features: Chromebooks are designed to be shared. The multiple-login feature, that allows multiple users to keep their data and settings private, and the Guest mode that protects your data when somebody else is using it aren’t unique features as they’re available in other Operating Systems too. But one unique thing is — since very little data is residing on the Chromebook itself, when you log into your Google account on any Chromebook, your desktop, shortcuts, wallpaper…basically everything you personalised shows up the way you left it on any other Chromebook.
- Virus Protection and Auto Updates: Chrome OS is fairly immune to viruses as it is based on Linux, which by itself has been reasonably virus-free as compared to Windows. Beyond that, Google has baked in the Verified Boot, which stores the initial booting code in read-only memory, so a malicious app cannot take over when your Chromebook boots up. Then there’s the Trusted Platform Module (TPM); a specialised chip that serves hardware-based authentication. Also, all the apps installed from the Web Store run in a sandboxed mode, which means a malicious app cannot mess up the core of the OS. Finally, since there aren’t any apps natively installed in Chrome OS; web-apps by default run their latest version. And Chrome OS updates by itself; much like how the Chrome browser does on other Operating Systems.
Cons of a Google Chromebook:
- Cannot use native applications: Because Chrome OS is a Linux-based OS that boots into the Chrome browser, there’s no scope for installing native applications. So, if you need to use Tally, Photoshop, MS Office, Skype or any other typical applications people use on computers, beware that you cannot install them on a Chromebook. Sure, you can use web-based alternatives to these apps that may be available on the Chrome Web Store, but they may not provide you with the kind of usability you’re used to.
- Can’t use Printers and Scanners in a Typical fashion: Google promotes the use of ‘Cloud Print’ with their Chromebooks. What this means is, you’ll need to have a Cloud Print Ready Printer , or have a printer connected to a computer with Internet and Chrome browser installed with Cloud Print set up, to be able to fire a Print from your Chromebook. So, although you may have noticed the USB ports on that Chromebook, you can’t simply plug it in and print or scan, like you can on a regular computer.
- Can’t store a lot of files locally: Many Chromebooks (especially the ones mentioned above) come with a 16GB SSD as the primary storage. Out of this, roughly 10GB is available to the user. So, if you intend to tank up the Chromebook with photos, videos, music and other big files, you’ll be running out of space pretty soon. Then again, the concept of Chromebook involves you not having to store anything locally, but rather store it on the Internet (Google offers 100GB of cloud storage complimentary for the first two years). In comparison, typical laptops in its price range come with an ample 500GB hard disk that you can fill up to your heart’s desire.
- Can’t use discs: Chromebooks don’t come with optical drives, nor do they support external ones that connect over USB. If you require to use CDs and DVDs from time to time, the Chromebook is a no-go for you.
- It needs the Internet to work (most of the time): Although Chrome OS has supports apps to work offline, the crux of the matter is that your content is still online. With the puny 10GB internal storage, most of us possibly cannot have everything we need stored in that much space. So, to retrieve something, the Chromebook is going to need the Internet. And in a country like India where easy-to-connect, open WiFi networks are non-existent, it could be cumbersome when you’re out in the open. Sure, you can use a 3G dongle, but then be prepared to incur the expenditure to access every file that could have just resided on a typical computer.
Weighing the Pros and Cons suggests that the Chromebooks are suitable only to a certain type of audience — the kinds who are assuredly going to have Internet omnipresent, and for whom the only application they use on a computer is the web browser. Some people argue that Chromebooks aren’t meant to replace computers; rather serve as inexpensive 2nd computers. Compared to their cost in the US, the Chromebooks launched in India are being sold good 25 to 35 percent higher. In fact, their India pricing is at par with traditional laptops from the same manufacturers. This makes a tough case for Chromebooks to the Indian consumer. But even if it got cheaper, would you want to get one? Or are you not yet ready to migrate to a cloud-only computer?
Rohan Naravane manages the content for PriceBaba.com. He is usually found rambling tech on Twitter @r0han.