This part of the Webspresso Digital blog is dedicated to our switch to Chromebooks for ALL our design work. Yep … ALL of it. Before I go too much further, here’s a little bit about me …
My background? I’m a long time (closet) nerd with a loving for all things gadget and tech. Since leaving the RAF (I was a “Top Gun” fast jet navigator and instructor for nearly 20yrs) I’ve been focused on freelancing as a web designer and SEO consultant, predominantly using Linux-based laptops. I love Linux and Open Source software and since buying an HP Chromebook for my partner 2 yrs ago, have followed Google’s foray into the Operating System world with much interest. Our HP Chromebook boots quickly, updates when necessary (without any hitch) and is brilliant to use for ‘almost’ anything. The fact that ChromeOS is basically an optimised Linux distribution ticks many boxes for me: we don’t have to ‘buy’ into Microsoft or Apple’s pricey OS, hardware and software, we have access to 1000s of apps and Chrome extensions (ok, some are not ‘open source’) and we have a great platform to watch movies on Google Play, Amazon Prime and Netflix.
So, when my trusty but aging Lenovo Thinkpad, which I use for every web design task (from development and text editing to graphic design and photo editing) my freelancing requires, started to give up the ghost I had a decision to make … Do I buy another laptop (preferably 12-16gb ram, fast processor and 1-2TB hdd) for £4-500, install Linux, sync my Dropbox and carry on as before, or do I dare to try something, ‘different’.
Can Chrome OS, and a Chromebook, manage everything I need to throw at it? Can I edit, design, ftp, update and manage dozens of websites on just a Chromebook? Can I use it as my ‘daily driver’?
I undertook a trial with our oldish HP Chromebook (with 4Gb ram). It transpired there was a solution for almost every problem I could foresee (I’ll address these in later posts). All I had to do now was find an affordable Chromebook, with a decent screen (pref 1080p), good battery life, an easy to use keyboard, with plenty of USB/HDMI ports AND … 4Gb ram with preferably 32Gb SSD.
I suppose first up was the screen and processor. Screen size was easy enough – I wanted 14″ – 15.6″ – that instantly ruled out a lot of models. Once I’d ascertained the ones which had 4Gb ram (I’m certain I’ll need it, as although Chrome runs more frugally on ChromeOS than on Windows, MacOS or Linux, I will undoubtedly have many tabs open) I had to work out with processor was for me.
Wow … how many processors are there? The answer is, quite a few. Celeron (about a dozen types)? Tegra K1? Rockchip? Baytrail? What were all of these? I thought I’d prefer an Intel i3+ but I didn’t really want to spend £450+ on this Chromebook (it was a kind of experiment after all!). I’d already ruled out Google’s stunning ‘Pixel’ on the basis that spending that money is a little silly, so I was back in the sub-£300 (UK) market.
I thought I’d settled on the excellent Toshiba Chromebook 2, until I saw an Acer Chromebook 14 (CB3 model) with a Celeron N3060 processor. This looked good enough for me. The processor, whilst not brand new, was fairly quick, and much quicker than our tried & tested HP Chromebook with a 1.4Ghz Celeron 2955U processor, so that was ok. A quick look on the vendor’s website revealed a number of Chromebooks in many different flavours. Oh no, I could be back to square one here! As I scanned through the specs of each, looking for 14″ screens, 4Gb ram, then onto the processor I found something new – Chromebook for Work. What’s this? It seems that Google is supporting Chromebook manufacturers by featuring specific ‘work-optimised’ models and hence, the website I was on listed an Acer Chromebook 14 for Work, with 4Gb ram, 32Gb SSD, a 1366×768 16:9 14″ screen and a 1.6Ghz Celeron 3855U processor … the price? £244. Now, that seemed to be the answer to everything. A Chromebook that was well under £300, a decent screen (sadly not 1080P, but hey-ho) and 4Gb ram with a decent processor.
Whilst I’m talking about processors … our old HP Chromebook had an Octane Score (let’s be simplistic, ‘speed’) of around 9,000. It’s highly likely that the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work will be significantly faster – I’ll report on that another time. Suffice to say that where I was more than happy with the older HP, I’m sure I’ll be happy with the Acer.
So, what next. Well, I’ve ordered the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work, from a company called Ballicom – they’re a Google Certified Store, so my online purchase will be protected by Google, happy days. I paid extra for next day delivery and decided to set up this blog to record my progress with my new device.
Once I’ve got all my files transferred across to the Drive on my Google Apps for Work account I won’t be touching my old laptop. I will endeavour to find a cloud solution for EVERYTHING I need … and with the promise of access to the Android App Store in the near future (my new Chromebook is one of a few compatible models, I’ll be a very happy web designer.