Today Chromebooks are the most widely used computer in education.
My top tip: If you're not a "power user", buy a Chromebook. In short: they are inexpensive, fast, and will do everything most people want to do on a computer.
You can actually get a new one that looks like a Macbook Air, is almost as fast, but costs 1/3 the price of a Macbook Air. Yes really (see pic below). They are cloud-based computing, and many say that is the future.
My top tips on buying a Chromebook:
1) get 4 Gb of ram
2) get an IPS screen, unless you don't mind washed out colours, and
3) pay for the extended warranty, often a good idea with technology
The exceptions are: if you need to do fancy music production or a lot of complex video editing, if you need to use the full MS Word application, or the full Photoshop application.
The really cool change that has put Chromebooks on the map for many people happened just recently: they began to run Android apps. Which means if you're already using an Android phone, you will already be very familiar with it. However not all Chromebooks are running Android apps at the time of publication of this blog, but most will be by late 2017. Bonus: you can even get a Chromebook with a touch screen for under $400 CAD, which means you've got a laptop and tablet in one.
But definitely do your research, since they run a more simplified operating system.
The main differences between a Chromebook and a Mac or Windows laptop is:
1) a Chromebook has small storage, often 32 or 64Gb, but it usually comes with 100Gb of cloud storage for two years, and
2) Chromebooks run "Chrome OS", a simplified operating system compared to Apple's OSX or Windows 10. That said, I've spoken to many people who run their business from a Chromebook, and they love it. They will still do most things that most people want a computer to do: play music, edit photos, surf the web, edit documents, do video chats, and so on.
3) Chromebooks cost less.
But to be safe, before you buy a Chromebook, I recommend taking the time to list the apps or programs you need it to run, and make sure that Chromebooks will run them. Or find a similar app in the Android app store that achieves the same thing.
But let's say you're still not sold on a Chromebook, or you just aren't ready yet to leave the Cult of Mac (I understand completely), then the question becomes, "How, oh wise Don, do I choose a used Mac? or Windows computer?" :-).
Here's what the guy at the used laptop store said:
"Computers are made in two kinds: a) consumer grade (Acer, etc), and b) professional or business grade (Toshiba, Apple, Lenovo Thinkpads...). Consumer grade are only made to last just past the warranty...about 14 mo's. Business grade are made to last much longer, and they cost more."
And that's why I suggest buying the extended warranty! Because unless you're buying professional aka business grade, you're getting a consumer grade laptop and they aren't really made to last very long.
The next thing to ask about is battery life. Ask how long the battery lasts - in an older computer the battery will hold a charge for much less time. But, if you get the computer for less, you can afford to buy a new battery, and whammo, you've got an older computer with a new battery, Nice!
And that's my computer buying advice.
My fancy advice: take an older computer, and stick Chrome OS on it, and it will be instantly faster. I haven't done it myself, but I see many places on You Tube and the web explaining how to do it.
Some Chromebooks I like - all have excellent reviews, with approximate prices:
- Acer Chromebook 14 - comes in gold or silver, $350 CAD
- Acer Aspire CB5 11.6" - touchscreen and tablet mode, $325 or less
- Asus Chromebook C302, 12.5" - touchscreen and tablet mode, $600 CAD
- Asus Chromebook Flip 10.1" - touchscreen and tablet mode, $350 CAD