Buying Computers: What is a Chromebook?

Lesson 3: What is a Chromebook?


What is a Chromebook?

If you're thinking about buying a new computer, you might consider getting a Chromebook instead. A Chromebook is a low-cost alternative to traditional laptops from Google, with several models available for less than $300.


Unlike most computers, Chromebooks do not run Windows. Instead, they use Chrome OS, which is similar to the Google Chrome web browser. This means you can use a Chromebook to do just about anything you'd normally do online: read websites, check your email, watch online videos, and so on.

Chromebook tour

Watch this video to learn more about Chromebooks.

Is a Chromebook right for you?

For many, a Chromebook can do just about everything they need for much less than a traditional laptop. This doesn't mean a Chromebook is perfect for everyone, though. For example, most Chromebooks don't have very much hard-drive space. This is because Google expects you to have consistent Internet access, storing most of your documents, photos, and other files in the cloud.

Another limitation is that Chromebooks use Chrome OS, which means you can't install traditional Windows software like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop. If you use a lot of third-party software or like playing the most recent games on your computer, a Chromebook probably won't be able to do everything you need.

Try using the interactive below to see if your computer habits are better suited for a Chromebook or a PC.

Buying a Chromebook

There are several Chromebook models, many of which cost between $200 and $300. If you're buying a Chromebook in person, we recommend major retailers like Target and Best Buy. If you're buying it online, we recommend the online stores below:

If you're not sure whether a Chromebook is right for you, you can review some of the pros and cons in our lesson on Choosing Between a Chromebook and a Laptop.

Learning how to use a Chromebook

While a Chromebook isn't all that different from a regular computer, it may take some time to become familiar with the interface. We'll talk more about the interface in our Getting to Know the Chromebook Interface lesson. Google has also created some excellent how-to guides for new users, and they're really helpful when you're just getting started:

If you're struggling to work without Windows software like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, remember that there are free alternatives to these types of software, including Google Docs, Office Online, and Pixlr, which are compatible with Chromebooks. For more examples of software alternatives, review our lesson on Migrating to a Chromebook.