Chromebooks are hybrids of tablets and laptops, offering the perks and flaws of both. However, they are not to be overlooked when choosing a device to bring to university. Certainly, if you are needing to use any form of specialist software (i.e. more than a web-browser and basic office-type programs), then Chromebooks are not for you. Yet, some of the newer models coming out boast battery life that is double that of a laptop, increasingly important if you want to bring your device to use in lecture rooms ill-equipped for charging laptops.
I’ve managed to get my hands on a Chromebook for testing and recently debated with myself whether I would buy that or a netbook-type laptop. Chromebooks are ideal for Google Docs – the cloud-based way of creating and managing files. In-class, Chromebooks have been used to facilitate collaborative working, sharing documents and doing on-screen analysis of data with add ons like the Fusion tables (see this video on Fusion tables). I tend to use Google Docs a lot, particularly when I’m creating documents or spreadsheets just for my admin, note-taking, or deliberately as ‘work in progress’ collaborative docs.
The limitation comes when you want to do photo editing, create complex documents or utilise specialist statistical analysis software – i.e. you want a real computer. As such, Chromebooks may be adequate for in-class use, but not as a general workstation computer. That informed my decision, so I got a netbook. Though low-powered, and not as much battery life, I’m not attending many lectures these days so for my use case it was more suited.
Anyway, I hope the new guidance and some of my thoughts will help inform your decision making: