Q: My old laptop is pretty close to being completely dead. It's no longer a "laptop" since it has to stay plugged in, and it's over five years old. Any recommendations for good, inexpensive laptops? I just need to be able to run Microsoft Office and do Internet stuff.
A: We get this question all the time at Deemable Tech. No one wants to spend a lot of money on a computer, unless they want a really powerful machine. Most people don't use their computer for editing video, photography, or recording and mixing music. If you did, I'd recommend buying a Mac. Most people also don't use their computer for playing video games, programming or web design. If you did, I'd heavily recommend buying a Windows PC.
You can't buy a Mac laptop for less than $999, unless you buy something used or refurbished. Even then, you'll only save a few hundred off of that price, at most. You can buy a cheap Windows laptop for $200-$400, but you're going to get an underpowered computer that barely meets the minimum requirements for the operating system. It'll probably run fine for a little while, but once you get a few updates and install a few programs on it, it will start feeling sluggish. Cheap laptops are the worst thing you can buy for the money.
If you're like most people, you just need a computer that you can get on the Internet with and do some document creating and editing. If that's you, there is a much better option than Windows or Mac, and it is really cheap. It's called a Chromebook. Chromebooks don't run Windows or Mac OS; they run an operating system that's been out for a few years from Google called Chrome OS. If you are familiar with Google's Chrome web browser, you already know how to use Chrome OS. It's a very simple computer that boots up in 5 seconds. Chromebooks are made by companies like Acer $199, Samsung $249 and HP $329. Chrome OS has tons of apps that will let you do almost everything you can do on a Windows or Mac computer. You don't need to worry about keeping it updated because that happens automatically, and you don't need to worry about antivirus software because it is built into the operating system.
Now, before the computer nerds attack me, I'm not just talking from theory; I'm speaking from experience. I have been using a Chromebook almost exclusively since December of 2012, and I wouldn't go back. The only time I dust off my Windows PC is why I have to do a lot of photo, audio or video editing. There are a bunch of great games on Chrome OS like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. I can watch Hulu, Netflix and Comcast videos online, and there are tons of productivity apps. I can do almost everything I need to do on my Chromebook. In fact, every single one of these articles has been written on my Chromebook.
If you're concerned about having to be connected to the Internet to do anything, fear not. Many of the apps for Chrome OS work offline, especially the productivity apps like Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations. However, if you need to stay connected all the time, there are several models that include 3G data connections. Personally though, I've found that there is so much that you can do with your Chromebook when you're online, that it's nice to sometimes turn off the WiFi to stay focused on finishing what you are working on. Speaking of which, I'm gonna wrap this up now so I can go watch Firefly on Netflix.