• Alisa Williams

A Writer Reviews the Chromebook



A Review of the Acer Google Chromebook

As a writer and editor who travels A LOT for work, a reliable (and preferably lightweight) laptop is essential. This past Prime Day, I spotted the Google Chromebook on sale.

I’d been looking for a new laptop to replace my old, clunky, super slow model that was making my on-the-road life rather difficult. I’m not a particularly tech-savvy person, so this isn’t going to be a tech-heavy review of the Google Chromebook. Besides, plenty of those types of reviews already exist. Rather, this review is going to be about what I was looking for as a writer and editor who relies on technology daily, and how the Chromebook does (and does not) meet those needs.

I’ve been using the Chromebook for approximately five months now and have taken it on six trips so far. Overall, I’ve been super impressed. It’s not perfect (what is?), but it’s reliable and gets the job done.

Below are my top pros and cons for the Google Chromebook. As a point of clarity, I’ll mention there are a lot of Chromebook models out there from different brands, but I’ll be discussing the one I purchased specifically: the Acer Chromebook with 2 GBs of RAM and 16 GB of storage.

Pros:

  • Affordable. The various Chromebooks are all priced reasonably (especially when compared to the similarly-sized MacBook Air), but unlike the Air, my Acer Chromebook was under $200. That’s a hard price to beat.

  • Great battery life. I’m not always near an outlet when I’m working and having a laptop that lasts the whole day is so helpful. The Acer Chromebook boasts a 9-hour battery life, and I tested that to its limits during a recent trip to Brazil where I was on country roads with no chance to charge up. On that particularly long day, my Chromebook lasted 13 hours. Obviously, battery life is dependent on what you’re doing, but if all you need is Google Docs and some minimal web browsing until you can get back near an outlet, the Chromebook will serve you just fine.

  • Lightweight. My old laptop was a beast and when you’re constantly on the go, lugging around a bulky laptop is no fun. The Acer Chromebook is 2.4 pounds which is about as light as you can get. I paired it with a super light but well-padded laptop sleeve.

  • No viruses. I don’t know about you, but as a writer, I’m often researching obscure subjects and landing on websites I’ve never heard of before, which always leaves me worried about accidentally clicking on an infected link. Chromebooks, however, boast “one of the most secure operating systems on the market” and it is “nearly impossible for a Chromebook to be infected” because you can’t install any executable programs (whether you want to or not).

  • Great for streaming video. After a long day of work, and assuming I got all my writing done (or not), catching up on my favorite television shows is how I unwind. Fortunately, streaming video is easy with the Chromebook. Like I said earlier, I’m not tech-savvy, but the Chromebook has Intel HD Graphics and High-Definition Audio (whatever that means), and they do a great job as far as I’m concerned.

Cons:

  • Google Apps. Okay, so I know plenty of people who absolutely love Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, etc.), but personally I’m not a fan. Obviously, if you’re purchasing a Google Chromebook, you’re going to be relying on Google Apps (and yes, I knew that when I bought it). Google Apps do get the job done, but they also cause me some headaches in the process. One of the main problems for me is that Google Docs and the CMS for the website I manage do NOT play nicely together. Docs introduce a lot of junk code that messes with the formatting on my site. I don’t have the same issues with Microsoft Word. And unfortunately, though there is a Microsoft Office extension built in to the Chromebook, it’s super slow and prone to crashing. So, I use Docs and grumble as I manually delete junk code and fix formatting issues any time I have to publish a new article. It’s not the end of the world, but it sure is a pain.

  • Chrome crashes on the regular. Again, I’ll say I know many people who swear by Chrome as their go-to browser and though it is the one I use most often as well, I’m not a fan for various reasons. At this point you may be asking why someone who doesn’t care for Chrome or Google Apps bought a Chromebook where you have to use both, but my desperation for a new laptop was high and my budget was low, and like I said above, overall the Chromebook delivers. But there does seem to be a bug that will crash your browser if you’ve had too many tabs open for too long on the Chromebook. Like my App issues outlined above, it’s not the end of the world, especially because you can usually just restore them (and did you really still need all 20 of those tabs open anyway?), but not crashing in the first place would be preferable.

  • Two finger scrolling is super annoying. Chromebooks come with a trackpad that has two finger scrolling hardwired in, so you can’t change it in settings. If you even slightly graze the touchpad with a second finger while you’re working, your page will scroll up/down, right/left with abandon. It’s irritating and incredibly easy to do. I am getting used to it now after five months, but I wish it was possible to turn this setting off. When I’m in an environment where I have a table or other solid surface, I just use a wireless mouse instead. Problem solved.

There you have it. Five pros and three cons for the Acer Chromebook from a writer and editor who uses it daily while traveling. The cons are annoying and I wish they didn’t exist, but overall the pros really can’t be beat and I’m happy with my purchase. The affordability, reliability, and convenience are really top notch. I’d definitely recommend a Chromebook to any writer/editor who is in the market for a new laptop.

Alisa Williams is the managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org. She blogs at alisawilliamswrites.com and tweets at @AWWritesStories.

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