We live on less than $40k a year, but with all the traveling, hobbies, and awesome food, I feel like we’re living a six-figure lifestyle. We got to this point by maximizing the value we get out of every dollar we spend. This isn’t always easy with tech toys. But a few months ago, for the cost of a textbook, I found a little piece of technology that changed the way I compute – the Acer Chromebook 11. This is a rare occasion where I paid retail price, and still feel like I got more than I paid for.
Stop chasing specs
My last PC is a chunky machine that I got nearly a decade ago for processing video and photos. On paper, this machine had it all. But in reality, I ended up with a lot of compromises. More of a gaming laptop, It’s relatively fast and great for editing, but not the most portable. At this point, the battery only lasts about 20 minutes, after which it shuts down without warning. The processor puts out so much heat that I get a rash on my leg when I keep it on my lap.
I needed something more portable so I could write on the road, and started looking at cheap laptops. The problem with cheap laptops is they still want to do everything an expensive PC does, just with less resources. I looked at a few, but couldn’t take the overburdened processors and grey LCD screens with bland colors. Then a friend told me how much he loved his Chromebook.
Chromebooks – buy for what you need
Chromebooks are stripped down laptops that serve one primary purpose – browsing the internet. The only thing you really get with it is the Chrome browser. For the most part, you use Google Docs, and keep everything online. Because these things don’t need a ton of processing power or massive hard drives, they’re very cheap.
After looking at a few, I decided to give one a whirl.
While I was tempted to get one with a larger screen, what I really needed was something small and portable for writing on the road. I ended up with an Acer Chromebook 11.
Fast startup – As soon as I open it up, bam! There’s the browser. Even a full restart only takes a few seconds. Way faster than any laptop I’ve seen.
Fast browsing – When it comes to surfing the web, and watching YouTube videos, this thing is fast. Way faster than my old laptop that has 4X the RAM.
Sharp screen – Like Planet Earth sharp. I can’t take cheap, crappy LCD screens, but this IPS screen has deep blacks and great contrast.
Still works offline – Even though it’s meant for working online, Google Docs will still allow you to edit documents offline. It just syncs the changes with the online versions next time it has an internet connection. I used Google Docs offline to write about our Jamaica trip while on the airplane.
Super portable and durable – It’s tiny and hardly weighs anything. With a durable aluminum case, I can easily toss it in my backpack. On the plane, I can shove it in the seat pocket with the magazines. I’ll even carry it around the house with me to watch YouTube while I cook or do laundry.
Incredible battery life – We’re talking 8+ hours here. It stays cool, and with less software and hardware to support, it will run all day. The only time I run out of battery is after 2-3 days without plugging it in – insane!
Low energy usage – I measured the power draw with my Kill-a-watt meter and it only drew 28 watts – about 1/3 of what my laptop used. That’s with it charging an empty battery and watching YouTube.
Great sound – Considering the size, the sound has really good volume, and it’s more crisp than my gaming laptop.
SD card reader – This is one of the few Chromebooks that has a full size SD card reader. I really wanted this feature so that I can review photos we take on the road.
Can’t support too many tabs – When I got my Chromebook, it only came in a 2GB RAM version. If I have too many tabs open, it can freeze up. This isn’t too big of a deal since it’s quick to recover. Now I try not to keep dozens of tabs open. This probably made me a better user – my old laptop doesn’t like having 20 tabs open either. Who does that?
This is probably less of an issue with the 4 GB RAM version.
Too convenient – This thing is too convenient to pick up and start browsing. My Reddit consumption is getting too high, and I’m watching YouTube all around the house. I need to get off the interweb…
Editing photos with a Chromebook
Right off the bat, the Chromebook covered 90% of my computing needs. But for things like copying and editing photos, I was still using my old laptop. As I started writing this post, I decided to research how I could cover more of that 10%.
The Acer Chromebook 11 is equipped with a SD card reader and USB ports, so I can easily load any photos I take. But when it comes to editing, the built in software is junk. It would crap out with large file sizes, and the features are limited. Then I found the PIXLR Editor.
The PIXLR Editor is a free online photo editor. You just go to https://pixlr.com/editor/ and upload your pictures, make edits, then download the edited picture. It’s setup just like Photoshop and has all of the features I use. With this editor, I was able to clean up and shrink down all the photos for this post.
Now, I can do all of my blogging on this slim little gadget.
A laptop replacement alternative
While it might be different for other people, the Acer Chromebook 11 covers 98% of my computing needs. Why pay 10X as much for 2% more functionality? I still have my old laptop parked at my desk to cover random tasks that might require something like a disk drive.
Not only was this Chromebook cheap, but because it’s dedicated to browsing, it does a better job than most laptops. The battery lasts forever, it’s super light, the screen really pops, and did I mention it’s cheap? I’ve already gotten my money out of this thing, and if anything were to happen to it while traveling, I’d happily plunk down another couple hundred bucks for a new one.