Chromebooks guide: beginnings, future, characteristics, models, and prices

Chromebooks are the spearhead of the Google platform for PCs. Notebooks under the operating system Chrome OS that has not stopped growing since its launch and, in fact, are the only “Linux teams” that have been able to beat to Windows in some segments of the computer desktop.

Although – still – they are not computers that can cover the computing and entertainment needs of all users, it is clearly an upward platform that must be taken into account for the future of the personal computer. Today we remember its beginnings, trajectory, characteristics, the future of the platform and a purchase guide with some of the most interesting models for sale.

Chrome OS

Almost ten years ago (July 2019) Google announced its operating system for personal computers, Chrome OS. Based on the Linux kernel and the Chromium OS project, it was conceived halfway between a cloud operating system and a more traditional desktop such as Windows or macOS. Although Chromium OS is open source, Chrome OS is a proprietary commercial version that Google offers (free of royalties) to the manufacturing partners that in good number work on the platform.

Advantage

At first, his approach to the cloud was almost completely under the argument that the “web was the platform”. The system depended almost completely on servers and the Internet to run web applications on the Chrome browser, its main work tool, which together with a predetermined graphic interface consisting of web browser windows based on WIMP and with support for multitouch screens, already left Clear the commitment to minimalism.

Also highlighted its ease of use and configuration for both user management and equipment management to introduce it into corporate or educational segments. The familiarity with Chrome OS equipment was immediate because of the interface used. Chrome synchronizes bookmarks, passwords and web applications through all devices, saving all the above, the system configuration and user data in the cloud.

The issue of security is another point that Google has always highlighted its system ensuring that “is free of viruses.” Chrome OS verifies in the boot if the system is compromised returning to previous stages if necessary, Chrome OS also encrypts all the data that is downloaded to the disk. The root file system is ‘read-only’ and the system isolates processes (by tab and application) that can compromise the system. A system that is permanently and automatically updated as well as all its applications.

Chrome OS also stands out for the great speed with which the computers start (7 seconds) and the speed of execution of web applications. In addition to being able to work with modest hardware for its low requirements, below the average of a standard PC with another system. This video presentation of 2009 shows what the original system was like:

Limitations

One of its greatest virtues (simplicity) derived its shortcomings. Chrome OS was not a desktop operating system that most Windows, MacOS, and Linux users were used to. Although it supported Chrome Apps similar to the native ones in other systems, it included a media player and file manager, its limitations were evident for a part of users.

His approach to web services limited the use in local, usual in a computer desktop. The need for an Internet connection (Wi-Fi or 3G / 4G) was mandatory to get the most out of Chrome OS, and this is something that was not always available. The extreme minimalism of the user interface and its capacity outside the browser was very limited compared to other Linux desktop like the GNU distributions and it was highlighted by the free community.

It also did not work for games beyond the light ones through the browser, nor was there support for native desktop applications and almost all the software was limited to what Google offered in the Chrome Web Store and dependence on Chrome OS with Google and with its applications it was total. Although for some users it could be an advantage to operate under a single login for everything, with a system that fully integrated services and applications of the Internet giant, for others it was a great limitation.

Interesting improvements = Great future

Google soon began to overcome the shortcomings of Chrome OS. In November 2009, it released the source code under BSD license and others under the Chromium OS open project, with the aim of external developers helping to improve the platform and the hardware partners themselves could customize the system.

Another big change came in 2012 with the new graphics environment. Google put aside the cash but simple and limited environment based on the interface of your web browser, with the use of a hardware-accelerated environment called Aura. It was a before and after, as it allowed multiple desktops, taskbar, animated transitions, a status bar for each of the open applications, wallpaper or superimposed windows with the possibility of maximization or variation of size. The objective was clear: to approach what the rest of the desktop systems offered.

Outstanding improvement in this decade for the software section, starting with a fundamental aspect so as not to have to depend at all times on an Internet connection and on its approach to the cloud. Thus, the improvement of off-line support for application execution has been constant.

Another has been Android. It was clear that Google was going to take advantage of a system that devastates mobile devices and that has thousands and thousands of applications. Although there was partial support almost from the beginning, the advances came from the launch of the App Runtime for Chrome and especially the availability of the Google Play Store on Chromebooks.

It was not the only group of applications that were added at this time and we can highlight the arrival of the Creative Cloud graphics suite to Chromebooks starting with a version of Photoshop in the cloud known as Project Photoshop Streaming (PPS). The arrival of the Office suite to Chromebooks was also heard after a Microsoft agreement with Google or the approach of Windows applications through a collaboration with VMWare, which was used in the business and administration promotion, Chromebook for Business , which offers extensive discounts for models with VMware Desktop as a Service and Citrix XenApp Platinum Edition.

The final leap: Linux. It seemed impossible that Google did not take advantage of its base in a custom Linux kernel to enhance its operating system. From the beginning, there were unofficial approaches both to the execution of Linux applications and to complete systems and some time ago Crouton could be used to execute GNU / Linux distributions together with Chrome OS, Another great novelty was the possibility of installing Ubuntu in Chromebooks, with tutorial Canonical official.

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Just a year ago, Google announced the start of official support for Linux applications in Chromebooks. Finally, last week in the Google I / O 2019 the company has announced that Chromebooks will be portable Linux. They will not pre-install a distribution but will allow running Linux applications as if they were natively running a custom Debian 9.0 Stretch system on a virtual machine. An improvement as expected as interesting with which the firm adds muscle to its platform and makes it much more interesting.

And for the future, games. If Google is able to offer the support it promises with its STADIA streaming game service (running triple-A video games from its Chrome browser and without the need for a machine with advanced hardware), Chromebooks will overcome another of its limitations. It is in development and will require a remarkable broadband Internet connection, but will also be exploited by Chromebooks.

Chromebooks arrive

A year after the launch of Chrome OS, Google announced a pilot program distributing the Google Cr-48 laptop. Already in 2011, Samsung and Acer launched the first commercial Chromebooks. They were netbooks with very similar hardware based on a dual-core Intel Atom. Although at first, these teams did not go beyond being merely testimonials, the hardware platform was launched.

Google also promoted other lesser-known formats such as mini-PCs, Chromebox; the compact AIO Chromebase or the same streamer multimedia Chromecast, that although they are not PCs have added for the platform Chrome OS. All in all, Chromebooks laptops have been the most successful teams.

With support for x86 and ARM processors, today they have extensive support from all major manufacturers: HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, Acer, Samsung, Dell, ASUS or LG. The support of the OEMs and the channel is fundamental for any platform and Google counts on it. In addition, Google sold in 2013 the Chromebook Pixel, a laptop with the power and design of an Ultrabook, operating system in cloud Chrome OS and a touch screen with a density of pixels that exceeded the very MacBook Pro Retina Display. Google did not want to compete with its partners and its sale price was very high.

It was not (nor is) the general rule, because another of the highlights of Chromebooks was the low price with which they were marketed, surely with the best balance between performance and price, although Microsoft responded with basic Windows equipment almost at the same cost, in the barrier of 200 dollars.

Buying guide Chromebooks

The hardware level of Chromebooks has been increased to the same level as the possibilities of the software, although you can find almost everything that is sought. The super-basic specifications of the beginnings have improved a lot and although it is still below (especially in memory or storage) the trend indicates that in the short term they will approach or even be the same as you can find in equivalent models with Windows.

We must also highlight the expansion of offer with new formats from a typical design to convertibles and 2 in 1. New HP and Acer equipment with AMD hardware have been another of the novelties of recent months to complete the existing Intel-based and ARM. In terms of its target market, education is still the main one, but the improvement in software and hardware has brought them closer to the business market and manufacturers such as Lenovo has models under the ThinkPad professional series.

The large consumer segment should be its next big goal. And they can serve perfectly for a large number of users, always keeping in mind the limitations that they still have against other desktop systems and that we hope Google will dilute in the future.

Finally, note that although the support of OEM manufacturers to this platform is total, Chromebooks are not as well distributed in the computer channel as Windows machines and not all Chromebooks are available in all regions. We point out some of those that can be found in Spain.

Acer Chromebook CB5-132T

  • 11.6-inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
  • Intel Celeron N3150 processor at 1.6 GHz.
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 32 GB.
  • Price: 369 euros.

HP Chromebook 11 G6 EE

  • 11.6-inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
  • Intel Celeron N3350 processor at 1.6 GHz.
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 32 GB.
  • Price: 277 euros.

Lenovo 100E

  • 11.6-inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
  • Intel Celeron N3350 processor.
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 32 GB.
  • Price: 289 euros.

Dell Chromebook 3180

  • 11.6-inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
  • Intel Celeron N3060 processor.
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 16 GB.
  • Price: 312 euros.

ASUS Chromebook C202SA-GJ0025-OSS

  • 11.6-inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
  • Intel Celeron N3060 processor.
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 16 GB.
  • Price: 329 euros.

Lenovo N42 Chromebook

  • 14-inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
  • Intel Celeron processor N3160.
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 32 GB.
  • Price: 358 euros.

Acer Chromebook r13 (Convertible)

  • 13.3-inch screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
  • ARM MediaTek M8173C processor.
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 32 GB.
  • Price: 414 euros.

Dell Chromebook 14 3400

  • 11.6-inch screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
  • Intel Celeron N4000 processor.
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 32 GB.
  • Price: 398 euros

HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 EE (Convertible)

  • 11.6-inch multi-touch screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
  • Intel Celeron N3350 processor
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 32 GB.
  • Price: 337 euros. (With 8 GB RAM and 64 GB eMMC: 434 euros )

Dell Chromebook 5190

  • 11.6-inch multitouch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
  • Intel Celeron N3350 processor.
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 32 GB.
  • Price: 527 euros.

Acer Chromebook 15 | CB515-1H

  • 15.6-inch screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
  • Intel Pentium QC 4200 processor.
  • RAM memory of 4 GB.
  • eMMC 32 GB.
  • Price: 472 euros.

HP Chromebook x360 14 G1 (Convertible)

  • A multi-touch screen of 14 inches with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
  • Intel Core i3-8130U processor.
  • RAM memory of 8 GB.
  • eMMC 64 GB.
  • Price: 652 euros.
  • With Intel Pentium Gold 4415U – 8 GB RAM
  • eMMC 32 GB: 555 euros .

We are missing many models of the last generation that have been announced this year. We hope also improvements in the section of the distribution to promote this alternative platform increasingly capable of hardware and increasingly closer to a modern desktop system thanks to improvements in the Chrome OS and what comes from Linux.



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