As we enter the era of the server in your pocket, our habits of computer use are going to change. They already are. As I’m buying new products (I don’t get free stuff like some bloggers ;-)), I’m finding the things that used to be important in products just aren’t any more. The elements of the hardware ecosystem we each live in are constantly changing, and so are their importance in our lives. Yesterday I packed up the Macbook Air I bought last week and was so excited about, headed over to Best Buy, and returned it.
The thing is, I don’t hate my Macbook Air. I still love Mac products. They’re solid. They’re beautiful. The experience is smooth. The problem I kept coming back to however was for the price I paid (about $1300 with tax), the experience I was getting just wasn’t worth it. For that price I got the ability to run desktop apps like Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite, but the experience was sub-par for what I paid.
As I visited the store, I actually tried out numerous other notebooks and tablet hybrids. The Macbook Pro – a little more expensive, better specs, but not much better, and from my past experience it still is no workhorse machine compared to the standalone desktop workstation I have at home. It’s also a bit heavy for my preferences.
I looked at the Microsoft Surface Pro (I didn’t like the RT, per my earlier review) – I was closest to buying this one. I also looked at a few other tablet/laptop hybrids, including the Lenovo Yoga and another one from Dell. The thing I kept coming back to though was that the only thing I really gained from a traditional desktop OS like Windows 8 or OS X was Microsoft Office, and the ability to record my Youtube movies and edit my photography.
I thought long and hard about those positives. For Microsoft Office, if I really need to do any editing that I can’t do in Google Docs (my publishers, including Pluralsight, all use Microsoft products for their templates), or even if I need to use Exchange and Outlook for some reason, Microsoft now has online products for that which support what I need fairly well. Even without that, I have a Windows 8 desktop at home that already has significant power to it (I built it myself), and I can run all of those at home, as well as do all my editing.
Trying to edit on a notebook or tablet, no matter what experience, I’ve never had a good experience, and that includes my Retina Macbook Pro that I had in a previous life. Notebooks just weren’t built for heavy publishing, video, photo, or audio editing capabilities. Heavily fortified workstations were built for this, and I’m willing to take that work home when it needs to be done. In fact, I may even switch to the new MacPro at some point to do this.
Which brings me to the Chromebook decision. For $250 (I got the Samsung model 303C12), I get a decent machine with almost the same specs as my old Macbook Air. It focuses solely on the web, allows me to add a SIM card for constant internet connection if I want to (I just use my cell phone connection for that), and comes with a 3 year warranty if anything ever goes wrong. Apple only gives me 1 year! Oh, and did I mention the $250 price tag? I’ll also add that so far, the battery life on this thing, even with the newest Macbook Air model, far out-paces my previous Macbook Air before dying (that’s because it only needs to connect to the web!).
Will Chromebook be for everyone? Remember, I also have a workstation at home that I’ll be using for my recording, editing and publishing tasks that the Chromebook can’t cover. It doesn’t solve everything. Also, my wife still has her Macbook Air if I ever need a Mac for something. So I have a fallback unlike others.
However, if you don’t need to do serious photo editing, don’t need to do serious video editing (Google has solutions for both of these through Youtube and Google+ if you’re more amateur), and don’t have specific publishing needs (remember, even Microsoft has online versions of Office as well as Exchange, so even this isn’t necessary), this machine is just perfect. And for someone like me that just needs a machine “that works” as I go out on the road, this Chromebook is amazing, and only 1/20 the cost of the Macbook Air! I can proudly say so far that this is the best notebook I’ve ever owned. And for only $250 you should try it too.