As much as I love my gaming PC, I needed a device that’s lightweight, not too expensive, and does everything I need it to do as a writer.
After I went to Gamescom this year and my old Lenovo laptop was wheezing its last breath (even after I switched it from Windows to Ubuntu), I figured that I needed to upgrade. I’d considered another Windows laptop, but I feel like you don’t really get much for your money unless you’re willing to spend a heap, but even then, I only really needed it for on-the-go writing and web research.
With the cheaper laptops you end up lugging around a hefty chunk in your bag and they feel inconvenient to me.
WHAT I WANTED FROM A LAPTOP
Inexpensive as possible, but not poor quality
To be able to open several tabs at once while I’m writing and researching stuff
The battery to last a while when I’m out and about
Lightweight and small so I didn’t need a separate bag to carry it around
An actual keyboard, so a tablet was out of the question
Researching Chromebooks a while back, I came to the conclusion that not only would having one save me a ton of money, but they’re super convenient, compact, and hold charge like a Nokia 3310.
Armed with a few YouTube videos’ worth of pros and cons, I opted for this 11.6 inch 4GB HP Chromebook.
Luckily for me, Argos were offering a discount on this model and I picked it up for £159.99, but at the time of writing, you can buy it for about £120 on Amazon – that’s dirt cheap!
Here’s a quick run-down of the tech specs:
11.6 INCH 4GB HP CHROMEBOOK SPECS
ChromeOS operating system
Intel Celeron N3060 processor, dual core, 1.6GHz
4GB DDR3 RAM
16GB eMMC storage
11.6 inch screen.
Micro SD card reader
2 USB Type-C ports
1 Ethernet port
1 HDMI port
So it’s not groundbreaking to look at on paper.
But hear me out, because remember I’m not planning to use a ton of apps or do anything spectacular with it – it just needs to be a reliable companion that I can take places with me. Like a cat that knows how to save stuff to the cloud.
For the paltry amount I paid for this, I love the way it looks! So thin, light, and sleek. It looks like it’s a more expensive device than it is. I’m not the biggest fan of a chunky bezel, and this admittedly does have them, but it’s not horrendous.
Honestly, I was getting flashbacks of the time I bought a cheap Chinese android ‘netbook’ about six years ago which looked like a kid’s toy – but I am pleasantly surprised by how sturdy this feels, and the smooth, minimal design.
Naturally, I covered it in stickers immediately.
The keyboard keys feel good quality – like they aren’t going to get stuck down (like they did on my Lenovo laptop) but they’re not too clicky and rigid, either. I like how the power button feels the same as a keyboard key, too, and not like one of those super shallow clicky buttons.
The screen, whilst not the most high resolution one ever made, is crisp and you barely get any glare. There’s even a built in setting to change the lighting to a soft, yellowish tone when the sun goes down. Ideal for a writer who spends most of the day hunched over a screen – I’ve definitely noticed it minimises eye strain.
Windows has been my companion since my first ever family computer in the 90s, and I have only strayed once since then (not including the weird netbook I mentioned earlier, because that barely worked), so it was unusual to get used to the Chrome OS.
Not quite Linux, not quite Android, it’s based around the Chrome web browser. As Wikipedia says:
Chrome OS is an operating system designed by Google that is based on the Linux kernel and uses the Google Chrome web browser as its principal user interface. As a result, Chrome OS primarily supports web applications.
Luckily for me, I use Google Drive for pretty much everything (am I the only one who is paranoid that saving stuff on their PC will summon a freak accident that loses all their data?) and Google Docs, Sheets, and Trello are my holy trinity of writer and business tools.
Here’s where I had my first problem.
Drive is already installed on the Chromebook as an app, along with the Google suite of office apps, too. If you’re like me, and use several Google accounts for your work, personal, and clients, this is where it doesn’t seem to work as you’d hope.
As the OS is based around Google Chrome, when you sign into your Chromebook, it also signs you into the apps and the Chrome browser using the same account. That means you have to create several sign in accounts to be able to access everything you need, swapping between them as you need to.
Which sucks and is really time consuming.
So instead, I log into the account that has my bookmarks, and then simply access Drive and office suite from the browser, just like I’d do at my PC, because then I can switch accounts easily. I’m used to doing it this way, so it doesn’t worry me too much.
I will say that the advantages to Chrome OS over, say, Windows, has been that there’s no unnecessary bloat to the system – features I won’t use, dodgy software, or constant manual updates.
Chrome OS auto updates and has several inbuilt security features, which keep your data secure and seems to speed things up.
As I’ve repeatedly explained already, I wanted this Chromebook as an easy tool to carry around with me as a writer. I took it to Game Anglia 2018 to make notes for my event coverage and it did exactly what I needed it to do.
The battery life on this thing is INSANE. Anyone who takes a laptop with them to work on knows that they always have to stash their charger in the bag too, because laptops usually last about 3-6 hours (in my experience, anyway).
This baby keeps its charge for 12 hours when being used. I also left it on sleep by accident recently and opened it a week later and it still had battery! This absolutely channels the Nokia 3310 in battery life – and it relieves a ton of stress when I need to work somewhere that doesn’t have a charging point.
It handles simultaneous tabs easily – perfect for when I’m juggling writing, project managing in Trello, and researching stuff. Admittedly I was worried the most about this feature, because I’m hideously impatient and won’t wait around for something to chug along at a snail’s pace, struggling to load; and luckily, this Chromebook is pretty nippy for a cheap one.
The only time it seems to gasp for breath is when it’s trying to load music or videos – more than two tabs open reduces it to tears.
VERDICT – DID IT DO WHAT I WANTED?
When I look back at my reasons for getting a Chromebook, I have to say a resounding YES! This device did everything I wanted it to and I was pleasantly surprised that such a great device exists for so little money.
It slots into my backpack nicely and doesn’t give me backache like my old one did. The battery goes on and on, and it makes writing a breeze.
Noteworthy features also include a little ‘screenshot’ key that allows you to either capture the entire screen, or select a custom part of it. Just like the snipping tool on Windows! And the battery doesn’t only last a long time, but takes about an hour and half to go from empty to full. So convenient!
If you need a minimal device that won’t break the bank, and you’re not worried about being able to run software or play games, I’d definitely recommend this Chromebook!