iSwitched to Chromebook

In past three years, I was a happy user of my 13-inch MacbookPro Retina. But somehow, I managed to damage it (drown in a beer). So I had to look for the new laptop.

I own powerful desktop that I use for any heavy computing, so when talking about laptops, my needs are a bit different. I prefer portability over power.

By the portability, I mean few important factors. First is battery life. I am a daily student at the university, and also working as a software engineer. That means, that I'm away from home 8-13 hours every day. I have to use my laptop about 60% of that time. So ideal laptop should have at least 7 hours of battery life, so I don't have to carry a heavy charger with me all day.

Another thing is weight. Through the day, I carry everything in my backpack. During the time, things get quite heavy. Other things like books and headphones aren't super light either, so I don't want to ruin my back carrying another heavy notebook. Based on that, < 2kg is a must.

The last one is screen size. Preferably (but not strictly) I would like to have max of 13-inch screen size. I hate, when my older laptop didn't fit in my backpack, and I had to carry it in it's own bag. With that, I do also hate a numeric keypad which is in most of 15" laptops.

After setting my requirements, another huge factor to consider was a budget. Around 1500€ are laptops that can satisfy my requirements not even in portability, but also in performance and build quality. Something like MacbookPro or Dell XPS.

But, I was wondering, how low can I go with my budget, while still picking a decent laptop with features described above.

I researched a bit and longer I was looking, more I started thinking about Chromebooks. I've always considered them as useless. No native apps, I mean, how the $^#% should I leave only in the browser?

But now, if I strip down any heavy computing, it seems more than possible. Especially including some Android apps into my daily workflow.

(Later, I learned that it runs on Linux kernel, and about crouton. That allowed me to install Ubuntu, and use that computer to its full potential event for lightweight development, while I'm on the go.)

While there are lots of Chromebooks out there to pick from, I came across the Acer Chromebook R11 and ordered one immediately. What an impressive laptop!

It has a 64GB flash drive which is luxury, compared to other Chromebooks out there. 4GB of RAM and Intel's Celeron are enough for my needs. The 11-inch display is good to look at for hours, and with touch-screen support and 360-degree rotation, it's perfect for traveling by bus (as a tablet, for reading). Keyboard is decent, and I'm really enjoying typing on it. Battery lasts 8-10 hours. Laptop is small, light, without any fans to produce noise.

How I use that laptop

Since I'm most of the time away from home, a laptop can be considered as my main device (better to say, most used one). So it has to handle not only basic usage but also a tiny bit of heavy work.

By basic usage, I mean browsing the web, social media, emails, playing music on Spotify and writing some blog posts. They are those little things, that can be handled even on the phone. For the office needs, I'm pretty happy (and used to from work) with google docs.

As a computer engineering student, I do a lot of coding. For that, I'm using Ubuntu Linux via crouton. I didn't have any problems, using C, C# and even Java inside IntelliJ was running quite good. Sure, it's a bit slower, but it can handle its job through the day, until I get home, to continue on my desktop.

Since Chromebooks are just web browsers, most of the "apps" require an internet connection. On the one side, it's not a problem for me since I have mobile internet that I can share, but on the other, I hate it! I can't help myself, but I strongly prefer native applications. That's what I use Android apps for. Outlook, Spotify, Skype, Slack, iA writer and even VLC. Everything works like a charm!

Conclusion

Chromebooks are great devices, that have found their place on a market. Ability to run Android apps and install Linux distros side by side brings a lot of great software to the platform and opens up device potential to the fullest. Although I really miss my Macbook, I found a way to enjoy a Chromebook and I'm happy with my choice, at least for now.