Are Chromebooks Good for College and University?

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Robert_Stark
edited August 2023 in PC Tech

As you gear up for a new college semester, you may wonder if Chromebooks can cut it at your college or university. Powered by Google's Chrome OS, Chromebooks are simple, streamlined, and speedy, with long battery life. With built-in features like automatic updates, virus protection, and secure logins, they've become a popular Windows or MacOS alternative for students.

In fact, in 2018, Chromebooks accounted for nearly 60% of computers purchased for K-12 schools. But can these devices handle the demands of college and university coursework? In this article, we'll explore whether Chromebooks match your academic needs and help you decide if they're the right choice.

What is a Chromebook? 

A Chromebook is a low-cost alternative to a Windows laptop, with pricing starting from $250. Chromebooks don't run Windows. Instead, they run on Google's Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system similar to Google Chrome web browser. Anything you can do online; you can do on a Chromebook:

  • Read websites. 
  • Check your email. 
  • Write assignments with Google Docs. 
  • Watch online videos. 
  • Stream video games.

Chrome OS integrates seamlessly with Google's apps like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, so you can stay focused and connect with your teachers and classmates.

Chromebooks offer built-in virus protection and security features to safeguard your personal information and academic work from digital threats, including:

  • Mic mute button. 
  • Camera shutters. 
  • Data encryption.

However, Chromebooks do have some limits as they're not as full-featured as a Windows laptop. They're mainly designed for online use and don't have the processing power and storage space of more expensive laptops. A traditional laptop might be better if you need to run resource-intensive Windows software (Photoshop or Microsoft 365) or store large amounts of data locally.

What's the difference between Chromebooks and laptops?

Chromebooks and laptops look similar, but the main differences are:

  • Operating system. 
  • Internal components. 
  • Storage capacity. 
  • Cost.

Laptops run on robust operating systems like Windows 11, which demand high-performance CPUs, GPUs, and additional memory. Chromebooks run on the lightweight Chrome OS, which doesn't need powerful hardware, making them more affordable.

Laptops have more local HD storage, at least 256GB, because apps and files require more space since they're stored locally. Chromebooks require less storage, sometimes only 32GB since Chrome OS and its apps run on the cloud.

Due to their minimalistic OS, Chromebooks generally get an extended battery life of about 10 hours. Due to their minimal feature set, Chromebooks boot up fast, within 5 - 15 seconds.

Why Choose a Chromebook for College? 

These are the 8 Pros of choosing a Chromebook over a laptop for college:

1) Affordability 

The first thing that attracts students to Chromebooks is their price point. While some high-end models cost over $900, many Chromebooks are under $300, making them ideal for students who only need:

  • Web browsing for research. 
  • Word processing for essay writing via Google Workspace or Microsoft Office 365. 
  • Streaming video and audio.

2) Extended battery life 

Whether you get a budget or premium Chromebook, you'll get a better battery life than most laptops. You can go around 10 hours without a charge, so you can get through an entire day on campus.

3) Lightweight and portable 

Weighing just 3 - 5 lbs, Chromebooks are slim and lightweight, making them easy to carry around campus.

4) Seamless integration with Google Workspace 

Chromebooks work seamlessly with Google Workspace, which includes:

  • Google Docs. 
  • Google Drive. 
  • Google Sheets. 
  • Google Slides. 
  • Google Meet.

These apps are famous for collaboration and sharing work with peers and professors. You won't lose your docs with automatic version history and saving to the cloud.

5) Low-maintenance and secure 

Chromebooks are easy to maintain and require far less upkeep than laptops. They come with built-in virus protection and automatic updates. Chrome OS safeguards your personal information and data with secure logins. This low-maintenance approach lets you focus on your studies without worrying about technical issues.

6) Fast startup time 

Chromebooks are known for their speedy startup times, usually booting up within 5 seconds. This quick startup allows you to jump straight into your work without wasting time waiting for your device to load. This efficiency is particularly valuable during busy college days when every minute counts.

7) Cloud-based storage 

Your files are primarily stored in the cloud, which ensures your documents and photos are always backed up. Plus, you can access them from any internet-connected device. This eliminates the risk of data loss due to hardware failure or accidental deletion.

8) Simple to learn 

Chromebooks' ease of use makes them accessible to users with varying technical expertise. Setting up a Chromebook is a breeze; sign in with your Google Account, and all your Google files and preferences are ready.

The Chrome OS Everything Button simplifies navigation, enabling you to quickly find what you need, such as files and online answers, all in one place. This streamlined approach makes managing your work and research more efficient.

Finally, if you can navigate Google Chrome, you can use a Chromebook.

What are the disadvantages of a Chromebook for college?

1) Less versatile than Windows laptops 

Chromebooks are primarily designed for web-based tasks and may not be suitable for resource-intensive applications or specialized software. This limitation can be an issue for engineering, graphic design, or MBA students, where powerful hardware and specific software are required to complete coursework and projects. Many MBA programs only allow Windows machines.

Begin by googling your University + Degree "laptop requirements." For instance, Chromebooks are only viable for the College of Education and Human Development at Temple University.

2) Limited local storage 

Chromebooks typically offer less local storage, with some models providing as tiny as 32GB. While cloud storage often compensates for this, students who need to store large files or work offline might find the limited storage capacity a drawback.

3) Internet connection required 

Chromebooks rely heavily on an internet connection for their functionality, as most of their applications and services are web-based. This reliance can disadvantage students who often work in areas with limited or unreliable internet access or prefer to work offline to avoid distractions.

4) Limited gaming experience 

Chromebooks are not built for high-performance gaming, as they lack gaming laptops' powerful hardware and graphics capabilities. Students who enjoy gaming during their downtime need a cloud gaming service to unlock AAA gaming titles.

5) Lack of software compatibility 

Chrome OS, the operating system used by Chromebooks, is incompatible with many popular software programs designed for Windows or macOS. This incompatibility can be problematic for students who need to use specific software for their coursework. They may have to find alternative programs or rely on web-based versions, which might not offer the same features or performance.

Acer Chromebook 516 GE: ideal for college and gaming 

Discover the ultimate balance between academics and entertainment with Acer's Chromebook 516 GE. This device is tailored for cloud gaming with cutting-edge technology to ensure crisp and clear frame rates.

With a powerful Intel® Core™ i5-1240P processor, Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics, and a stunning 16" WQXGA display at 120 Hz, this Chromebook delivers an immersive high-FPS gaming experience without compromising your college productivity.

Acer Chromebook 317: affordable productivity

Stay productive and entertained on a budget with the Acer Chromebook 317, the world's first 17.3-inch Chromebook. The anti-glare coated display and narrow bezels provide an immersive viewing experience, while the two upward-facing speakers deliver impressive audio quality.

Powered by Chrome OS, an Intel® Pentium® Silver N6000 processor, and Intel® UHD Graphics, this budget-friendly Chromebook offers seamless performance for school and play.

Acer Chromebook Vero 514: uncompromised productivity

The Acer Vero 514 is a high-performance Chromebook with features tailored for the modern student. Verified for its rugged durability through independent MIL-STD-810H4 testing, this Chromebook is built to last through the rigors of college life. Its sustainable design incorporates 30% PCR plastics, reflecting Acer's commitment to a greener future.

The 14" Full HD touchscreen display, Intel® Core™ i5-1235U processor, and Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics provide a seamless and immersive user experience. You can effortlessly handle your academic work and stream movies with 8 GB of memory and a 256 GB solid-state drive.

Stay mobile with its fast-charging battery, which can recharge up to 50% of its 10-hour battery life in 30 minutes. The Acer Chromebook Vero 514 is the perfect companion for college students seeking uncompromised productivity and performance.

Chromebook Spin 714: lightning-fast performance for college and beyond 

Experience unrivaled speed and versatility with the 2-in-1 Chromebook Spin 714, designed to elevate your college computing experience. At just over 3 lbs, this dodeca-core Chromebook boasts lightning-fast performance that makes multitasking a breeze.

The stunning 14" WQXGA (2560 x 1600) IPS touchscreen display, Intel® Core™ i7-1260P combined with Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics, ensures smooth, vibrant visuals. The 360° durable hinge provides four different viewing modes.

With 8 GB of LPDDR4X memory and a 256 GB solid-state drive, you'll have ample space for your projects, presentations, and coursework. The quick-chargeable 10-hour battery gives you a four-hour charge in under 30 minutes.

The Chromebook Spin 714's instant wake-up feature ensures you can work in less than a second, maximizing productivity and minimizing downtime. Make the most of your college experience where cutting-edge performance and sleek design come together to deliver the ultimate computing companion.

In conclusion, are Chromebooks the ideal choice for college students? Absolutely. They balance performance, price, security, and user-friendliness perfectly. With exceptional 10-hour battery life, Chromebooks are undoubtedly the right choice for today's savvy college and university students. However, always check your school requirements before making a purchase.

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.

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