My Chromebook Experience: Six Months later

After changing jobs nearly a year ago I found myself in need of a new laptop as I had handed back my corporate Sony Vaio and that left me with an old heavy weight dual core laptop with Windows 7.

I had wanted to try a Chromebook before and had seen several on demo stands at Citrix Synergy in LA. Having already moved over to Google apps where I keep docs, spreadsheets and pics, a Chromebook seem to be a logical move and I didn’t want to splash out hundreds of pounds in a Windows laptop with bulky updates and AV to maintain.

I had been using Google Docs to do some online coursework and found it very easy, reliable and was accessible on laptop, PC and my iPad.

So I set about reading up on product reviews and found some very capable devices ranging from cheaper sub £200 devices right up to the top Google Chromebook and HP models that come in at at £500-1000 pounds. A bit pricey for a first timer I thought. My old Sony was very lite with a dual core i7 CPU with 8GB Ram and a touch screen for £650 – a cracking price at the time some 5 years ago now.

In the end, I settled for a Acer Chromebook 14” with the full 1080 Full HD Screen and 32Gb local storage. Not a lot – but then Google kindly threw in an additional 100GB of online space.

When I went into my local PC World they made a big deal about telling me that the Chromebook didn’t have any Microsoft Office apps, and that it could not install any. This is not a problem to a Citrix guy, and a quick demo of published Word and a virtual desktop had them well impressed. I did try Word on Office 365 but was very disappointed when doing some documentation and found that Word was missing the Table Of Content feature and prompted me to download and instal the full application for local install. Google Docs just has it, and the ability to share docs from Google drive makes for easy collaboration. You can even have multiple people editing the same doc at the same time. Google Docs, Sheets and Slides is pretty much all I need. Business mail can stay in Outlook Web Access, and I’m writing this in Docs now before uploading to my blog.

As nearly all my work-work is designing, setting up and implementing Citrix virtual solutions, a Chromebook is a perfect tool for the job – both at home, in the office and on the move. Google Docs can be used offline – so I can work on the train with no connection quite comfortably. If I need Office or other business application – I just login to a Netscaler Gateway and launch any apps using the latest Citrix Receiver over HTML5. This is a great way to run published apps as the Receiver puts the apps along the bottom in a toolbar style – almost like running a full desktop.

Google Chrome web store has a load of techie apps including RDP connector, notes, screen snipping and even network troubleshooting tools. There are loads of others.

This little Acer has a great screen with 14”  full-hd, 4Gb RAM, and a nice keyboard, though it’s not backlit. Battery life is amazing at around 12 hours. Its silent, has USB3 and HDMI for external screen. The casing is finished in silver metal much like a Macbook Air and overall I’m very please with the quality for only a £300 layout. I could nearly buy four of these Acers for the price of one Macbook Air.

As for not having touch screen laptop – well, that novelty has passed me by. I have tried a Microsoft Surface – but I just don’t get Windows in tablet mode. Sorry, but I prefer the traditional laptop model, and would certainly prefer a £300 14” Chromebook to a 13” Surface Book  for £1300. I’ll keep using my Android phone or iPad if I need a tablet for other content.

For business users, I would definitely recommend giving Chromebooks ago. They can be centrally managed via Google MDM type service, and if you’re using Citrix already or moving apps to web or SAAS models – they make a great option for BYOD or CYOD without breaking the bank. This may be the first laptop that I buy twice, but there are plenty of great models to choose from.

Acer Chromebook 14 Review

Citrix Receiver HTML5 Demo