The Chromebook took the top spot on the December 2013 list of Amazon’s best selling notebook computers. The number of websites discussing the Chromebook exploded in the last few months. For about six months I’ve owned a Chromebook and love it. All of this points to a new trend that Bible study software publishers need to consider as they look to the future of mobile computing.

 

What’s a Chromebook?

These machines usually come really cheap. We’re talking $200-$350 cheap at retail and on the used market people can find them for around $100-$200. There’s one exception called the Chromebook Pixel which retails for around $1200 and I don’t recommend even looking at it.

Aside from price, the Chromebook sets itself apart in simplicity. It runs the Chrome browser as it’s interface. It looks similar to an OS X interface, but the screen you look at when you boot up is a browser without the window around it. There’s a launcher bar at the bottom that includes icons for web apps, which are applications designed to run inside the Chrome browser. You’d be surprised as to the kinds of apps one can use. We get office suites that do word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. There’s also a couple of photo editing apps, programming and even games.

As of yet I don’t know of a church presentation software program for ChromeOS. However a number of online Bible study sites work great on the Chromebook, like the Logos website for Faithlife Study Bible (http://bible.faithlife.com) and Bible Gateway (http://www.biblegateway.com). Other sites work similarly, but those two serve my needs well.

 

The Best Chromebooks

A bunch of the big name manufacturers make Chromebooks. HP, Acer, Samsung and Dell sell them. The average Chromebook comes with a lower powered Intel Celeron processor or an Atom processor for older Chromebooks. They offer either 2 or 4 gigabytes of RAM. They usually only hold 8, 16 or 32 gigabytes of files on fast solid state drives or SSDs. They boot in seconds and restart in less than 20 seconds.

Screen sizes usually start at 11-inches with 1366×768 resolution. That’s awfully small for most people, which is why we are seeing bigger screens. I’m typing on an HP Chromebook 14 (see my review at http://bit.ly/hpchromebook14review and my video review at http://youtu.be/vl0MTdUcQtM). The 14 stands for the screen size. It has an ample and comfortable keyboard and 32GB of storage. It also comes with 4GB of RAM. Toshiba just announced that they will sell a 13-inch Chromebook and it will become available in February. Other promise new models later this year.

Battery life on a Chromebook ranges from a few hours to the older models to over eight hours on the machines using the newest Intel Celeron processor, like the HP Chromebook 11 and 14 and the Acer C720 or C720P.

The four best options include the HP Chromebook 14 or the HP Chromebook 11 if you don’t mind the smaller display. For those who want a touchscreen laptop, look at the Acer C720P. It’s a fast, elegant machine with a touchscreen. Acer also offers one without the touchscreen called the C720. If you can wait, don’t buy one until Toshiba makes their new Chromebook available. It will likely really satisfy Chromebook users since it comes with a really great looking chassis and excellent components, except for the RAM. It only offers 2GB of RAM which is enough for people who don’t run a lot of apps at once or open lots of browser tabs at once. However, I’d much prefer 4GB on a Chromebook.

My HP Chromebook 14 is the best available right now. It looks great, feels nice to type on and comes with 200MB of T-Mobile data per month for the life of the machine. You can also swap out an AT&T SIM card if you use their network for mobile data.

One final word before we move on. The average Chromebook comes with a 16GB SSD for storage. That’s because webapps and the ChromeOS don’t take up much space. Most of that 16GB is for personal files. Google designed the ChromeOS with the cloud in mind. When someone buys a Chromebook they will get 100 GB of free Google Drive storage. This holds a lot of documents, pictures or other files.

 

Who Should Buy a Chromebook?

Don’t plan to use the Chromebook as your main system unless you meet a few criteria. It’s easier to say who shouldn’t buy one as their primary computer. In other words, people who only want one computer shouldn’t buy a Chromebook if they fit the following list of users types.

  • Video editors – there isn’t a good solution for even simple video editing on a Chromebook unless you just plan to upload uncut video files to YouTube or you like to edit video on YouTube
  • Serious Photographers – even though I like Picasa and Pixltr, two great video editing tools online, serious photographers who use Photoshop, Aperture, Lightroom or something like one of those, should not bother with a Chromebook as their primary computer.
  • Church Presenters Needing More than Simple PowerPoint Style Presentations – there’s no such thing as Proclaim or Mediashout for the Chromebook. If I’m wrong, please let me know.
  • Offline Bible Software – If you can’t live without the power of Logos, WORDsearch, PC Study Bible or Bibleworks, then don’t bother with a Chromebook. The best online sites still feel limiting compared to these powerful and mature Bible study software applications.
  • Offline Most of the Time – I’m seldom out of reach of an Internet connection. If you’re seldom in reach of one, then don’t get a Chromebook. The only exception comes for people who wouldn’t mind  using T-Mobile or AT&T for data connection. Then get the HP Chromebook 14 with the data feature built-in. There might be other Chromebooks that work on other carriers. Remember that this adds at minimum $10 to your monthly wireless bill and may add $30 or more.

 

The best candidate for a Chromebook is a person who wants a simple, fast, second computer to do online tasks like web surfing, email, social networking and some of the cool webapps available. Spending $300 on a computer that is easy to carry, works all the time and is simple to use makes a Chromebook a great option even for Bible students.