I’ve been wanting to get a laptop again for a while. With neighbour issues seeming to want to escalate I’ve wanted to be able to make a lot of what I do online as portable as possible. If I want to go into the bedroom and talk to people, or post on forums and such I should be able to, if only to get away from the problem temporarily. As much as I love having my Bluetooth keyboard and a tablet available, it’s not the same as having a laptop. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a laptop that has too much, but I was also painfully aware, thanks to tablets with keyboard attachments, that not spending enough and not doing enough research was going to hurt my purchasing in the long run.
I had been eyeing up a Chromebook for a while, purely because I spend almost all of the time I am not gaming, or video editing (i.e. things that I wouldn’t attempt on a laptop anyway) in Chrome in some way or another. Even when I’m in Discord it’s a version of Chrome with a few things attached. After doing research, it turned out that the cheapest Chromebook I could find was perfect for my needs; an Acer Chromebook 11 (2016).
I’ve not had a new laptop since mid-2010 when I bought from the first iterations of Dell’s Inspiron 1545, and the low-end version at that. That was six or seven years ago, and frankly I expected similar specs. I know that Linux and by extension ChromeOS would run on a lot of hardware (it was just about usable on my 2007 EeePC 901 with spinning HDD) and as such I expected the specs to be low to match. What I had missed was that with SSDs becoming cheaper to produce and more in demand thanks to the speed differences inherent in the design they remove a significant bottleneck in cheap notebooks at a decent price point. SSDs are no longer a gimmick in laptops; they are the norm.
I would recommend a Chromebook if you’re OK doing everything in some version of a Chrome Window, and are happy with using bookmarks on the taskbar/’Shelf’ instead of fully fledged applications. For £170, I’ve not been able to find fault (aside from the lack of PgUp/PgDown/Home/End or Del keys, but that is symptomatic of the standardised Chromebook keyboard) and it’s a genuine quality of life improvement; I’m liberated enough to take it elsewhere in the flat, or out and about, without having to look like a fool while I prepare my jerry-rigged set-up with a keyboard that can slide everywhere or a tablet (or phone) that could be stolen with a single swift hand movement.
The Acer model I chose has an IPS display, and that was the big selling point for me having seen it in person, looking crisp and bright even with brightness at 50%. The speakers aren’t killer but it’s a laptop and there’s a headphone jack if I want more. The weight and thickness has changed so much that I am afraid without a case it will fly out from under my arm if I turn too quickly. Hyperbolic maybe, but as I said I am used to my last laptop. which weights literally more than double (5.37lbs vs 2.4lbs) with a profile to match.
I’m still blown away by the price, given that I get a responsive, fast-loading notebook (with a couple of caveats) for £170, when my previous laptop was, again, more than double (£379), and laptops then were still far from enthusiast or business hardware. If I don’t fancy ChromeOS, turns out I can put Windows 10 on there with a little effort when the warrant runs out, with another SD card in as storage. It reminds me of my EeePC, honestly; a cheap, fast notebook/netbook for lightweight computing meant as an addition to a well-spec’d desktop.