Is the Chromebook a Good Laptop Replacement?

Andrew Comeau   April 15, 2019   Comments Off on Is the Chromebook a Good Laptop Replacement?

A few weeks ago, I bought an ASUS Chromebook and did an unboxing video to accompany the review on my site at ComeauSoftware.com. I’ve been using the Chromebook frequently since then, taking it out during my daily travels instead of my regular laptop. I’m just as impressed now as when I wrote the review.

The Chromebook is less than half the size of my laptop and, although the screen is a little small for long-term comfort, it’s very enjoyable to work with for the majority of tasks that I’m going to do from a coffee shop or elsewhere on the road. It comes pre-loaded with an assortment of apps that cover most daily tasks and the Chrome browser provides access to anything I need on the web. The sound and video are very impressive so Hulu and Netflix are also an option and the 10-hour battery life is a lot better than the three hours that I might get from my laptop.

The only negatives I really found with the Chromebook were the camera which needs bright conditions and still records less than stellar detail and the trouble I had connecting to my camera via Bluetooth but neither of those were dealbreakers. Printing also has to be done through a cloud print service so that’s an inconvenience but I don’t do much printing these days, anyway.

Of course, the Chromebook is limited to Chrome apps and isn’t going to run Quickbooks, Visual Studio or any other other apps that you might use on a daily basis. The Chrome office apps are there and you can access converters and stripped down versions of MS-Office for your documents. Still, even if it handles 90%, you might miss some of your Windows apps when using the Chromebook.

Remoting in to a Windows 10 virtual machine using the Chromebook and Chrome Remote Desktop.

One solution I found to that tonight was to use Chrome Remote Desktop to remote into a Windows PC. For the test, I setup a Windows 10 virtual machine through Microsoft Azure, installed Chrome and Chrome Remote Desktop on it and was easily able to remote in using the PIN that it asked me to setup. When I restarted the virtual machine, Chrome Remote Desktop auto-started in the background so I was able to remote in again with no problem. During a second test, I did need to login to the VM once through Windows Remote Desktop to get the Chrome Remote Desktop to start on the machine before the Chromebook would see it.

You would want to investigate for yourself whether Chrome Remote Desktop provides the security you want for this kind of computing but it’s an option. Whether you remote into an Azure VM like I did or your home computer, it extends the capabilities of the Chromebook and makes it more attractive as a laptop replacement.

If you’re tied to using specific apps like Quickbooks or other Windows software you can’t do without, the Chromebook is not going to be a PC replacement but it does make a great laptop for traveling. Having used it for a few weeks, I can say it’s potentially more than that for the decent percentage of users who never do more than surf the web, check their e-mail and maybe type a few documents. If you’re on a budget, it’s definitely worth considering.

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About Andrew Comeau

Organizer of the Ocala I.T. Professionals. Software developer and consultant based in Ocala, Florida.