Tech

Just a Chromebook: my switch in 30 days

Google is now promoting Chromebooks more strongly on German TV, but can the stripped-down operating system really offer comfort, simplicity and variety?

Can I only work with a Chromebook today that leaves the top dogs Windows and macOS behind me? For a test I tried it for 30 days, since then the Windows PC has only been active in one exception. In the meantime, the test has become my everyday life, because Chrome OS is my prioritized operating system and the Chromebook is my everyday tool. Basically, I wanted to switch to new hardware, the separate components PC and notebook should become one piece of hardware again – a notebook. This absolutely had to have USB-C, a device without this miracle connection no longer comes into my bag.

On April 29, 2020, the article was updated, improved and expanded in some places.

Due to the meager selection of powerful hardware, the decision was made quickly. Cyberport supported me in my attempt and sent me the Acer Chromebook 13 CB713. The highest configuration (1W-50YY) has an Intel Core i5-8250U and 16 GB of RAM. USB-C is available twice, the 13.3 ″ display resolves with QHD, the keyboard is illuminated and the integrated data storage is enough for me with 64 GB. After my test I bought the device, the test copy went back to Cyberport.

Note: A separate report followed for the device used, which is primarily about the hardware.

Special programs are sometimes a hurdle

Anyone who is somewhat more familiar with this topic should already know the true and often propagated problem. It is usually not the hardware, even if the selection in Germany is small. The software is the challenge. At least in the beginning. After all, Chrome OS is little more than a browser. Today, however, with the support of powerful web apps (PWA) and access to Android apps. If necessary, there is even Linux a test environment so that Linux applications can be used.

For my use case, Chrome OS can already be sufficient in the delivery state. I work 99 percent in the browser anyway, basically all you need in everyday life is a useful tool for simple image editing. In the meantime I have found a very extensive tool in Photopea that can be used in Chrome on the web on any platform. Alternatively, there are the Pixlr tools, whose basic versions are also available free of charge.

Photopea screenshot

The big BUT can be found in the applications that are only offered for the large desktop platforms. However, this is now getting better and better, even the Wiso tax is now alternatively provided as a web app and is therefore independent of the operating system. The platform-independent offer is growing, that’s for sure.

Of course, things are different with really special applications. A full Photoshop with all its subtleties does not (yet) exist and extensive video editing could also be difficult. In addition, despite existing system performance, web apps have to struggle noticeably when edited files turn out a bit larger.

Usecase a few days ago: I had to open a magpie file (tax). I had no chance with the Chromebook, the dusty backup Thinkpad had to be used for that. But it is getting better and better, many services are shifting their offerings more to us on the web. Nevertheless, the alternative is still often missing, there is only one good (native) app for various application scenarios. Eat or die, you have to deal with that.

Update September 13, 2019: After several months it is clear that until now the Elster tax was the biggest and only “problem”. I also miss iTunes because I had to back up and restore a backup of my wife’s iPhone. / Update

A lot of performance makes sense

I’ve always had a Chromebook in recent years. Most of the time, however, these were inexpensive devices that lack memory and processor performance. But it was never really bad, for one or the other item the devices were easily enough. But demands and needs are changing, extensive web applications also require more performance.

With 16 GB RAM and the Core i5, my requirements are completely met. The device runs smoothly, I rarely have “waiting times” and the Chrome browser has enough RAM available. If only my everyday tabs (~ 15) and apps are open, Chrome OS easily swallows 9 GB of RAM. Holla the forest fairy. Data storage is almost irrelevant to me, everything is in the cloud.

Which apps I use

I use a screenshot tool for everyday use, Chrome OS has one on board and there are numerous configurable extensions for Chrome. For years I have been using Google Docs and spreadsheets for documents, I can use Instagram and Bring! using the Android app and do the same with Spotify. In any case, the usable Android apps are quite practical in some cases, also because you are used to the surface of the Android smartphone.

I use Google Analytics via the app as well as the Facebook page manager. Twitter, Gmail, Feedly and Co., on the other hand, are used in the browser with their web apps or websites. I found a good mix because everything blends seamlessly into one another. Nevertheless, Android apps on Chrome OS have to be easier to use.

The small and big problems

Web apps do not fit in the “Open with” (context menu). Some apps can only be used in a single instance. Two windows of a code app next to each other? It does not work. Rename multiple files at once? It does not work.

Standby times for the display are not configurable, many devices do not have an external power button and there are no adequate Chrome OS accessories for peripheral devices (keyboard, mouse / touchpad). Sure, any other mouse or keyboard works, but sometimes without the Chrome OS shortcuts. Brydge is an exception, only not available in the German layout.

If I thought about it for a long time, I would probably find even more small hooks that are no longer available with Windows and macOS. Of course, this also means that you are very inflexible with regard to applications. At least under Windows, I could install any program and find many alternatives if someone sends me a rather “rare” file format or my needs change.

For example, I can forward a photo from the file manager directly to the Instagram app by right-clicking it so that I can post it there as a storie. One of the advantages is that various mobile-only applications can be used on Chrome OS as on a smartphone. But everyone has to be clear about what they want and what they want.

Chrome OS is simple: advantage and disadvantage at the same time

I only blog (almost). My life takes place in the browser and it is almost always the same on all platforms. Since the Chrome browser has prevailed for me years ago, there is no better platform for me in this regard. Here my browser is the operating system. You get used to it briskly, everyday work is fun. But I also know about the sometimes high walls that are difficult to overcome.

Your questions in the comments!

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