Back in October, I was on the hunt for something very rare: a laptop that performed well but didn’t cost a lot. When I started my search there was only one option for me, and that was Windows. MacBooks were too expensive and, aside from exorbitant pricing, Windows was really all I knew anyway. Yet, as a lifelong Windows user, I knew that I was still looking at $400 or more to get a decent Windows experience which was still more than I really wanted to pay. That’s when I decided to consider – and eventually purchase – a Chromebook.
It was an enlightening decision. I had written off Chromebooks long ago as a waste of time because who would ever want to use a laptop that almost exclusively worked through a browser? Apparently I do, because purchasing a Chromebook is one of the better decisions I made last year. The design of my first Chromebook, the ASUS C202SA, wasn’t beautiful by any means, but its performance was – particularly for its $199 price tag. I was amazed at the battery life, the simplicity of ChromeOS, the frequency and, more importantly, ease of updates (especially compared to Windows; no more “Hey pal, you have an update and we gotta do this thing right now hopeyousavedyourworkrestartingnowbye.”), and also at the amount of time I spent using a browser (a lot).
Shortly after I purchased my first Chromebook, I traded up to a Dell Chromebook 13 that was on sale. The Dell 13 not only had better specs and a much cleaner design, but it was also one of the few Chromebooks that had the Google Play store. The ASUS made me love Chromebooks, but the Dell 13 made me really love Chromebooks. And with the next generation of Chromebooks coming out, I think a lot of people are about to start loving Chromebooks.
Even without the Play Store, I find that Chromebooks are a lot more useful than I was ever willing to give them credit for. The Chromebook quickly became my “go-to” laptop simply for its quick and convenient browser access because, as I mentioned, I use a browser quite a bit between school, work, e-mails, and catching up on the news. I had assumed that the Play Store would further enhance the experience, but that wasn’t exactly the case.
When I got a Chromebook with the Play Store enabled, I came across a few obstacles that I hadn’t previously considered. My Dell 13 doesn’t have a touch screen. Did you know that a lot of Android apps require a touchscreen? Yeah, me too, but admittedly I completely overlooked what enabling the Play Store meant for Chromebooks without touchscreens; I was just excited by the words “app support”. In some cases Android apps worked just fine, but more often than not I ran into trouble.
The next generation of Chromebooks, however, look to tackle this problem by being built around the Play Store rather than the Play Store being built around Chromebooks. I imagine that this means a lot more manufacturers are going to start using the 2-in-1 design rather than a traditional laptop design. Some Chromebooks already have this form factor like the Acer R11, ASUS Flip, and soon two new Chromebooks announced during CES, the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro, both of which are the first Chromebooks to support active digitizer styluses. With a 2-in-1 design, you don’t have to worry about being left out from certain touch-only Android apps – you simply get the best of both worlds.
I do wonder if pricing will affect Samsung’s new Chromebooks. The Plus is priced at $449, while the Pro’s price is undetermined but guaranteed to be higher due to a better processor. Chromebooks are typically known for being much more affordable save for a few exceptions. A new Dell Chromebook 13 starts at $429 and has been criticized for its high price point, but it also doesn't have a touchscreen. Perhaps the Plus's price, although expensive for Chromebooks, is more palatable with the 2-in-1 form factor, inclusion of an active digitizer, and optimized for Android app use.
It will be interesting to see how other manufacturers design and price Chromebooks from here on out, but I have a feeling that Chromebooks have a much brighter future due to this small but significant shift.
Readers, what do you think about Samsung’s latest Chromebook offerings? Does the 2-in-1 design and inclusion of an active digitizer tempt you, or is the price too much for what ChromeOS has to offer?