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Definition: Chromebook


A laptop that runs Google's Chrome OS and Chrome Web browser. Introduced in 2011, Chromebooks were designed as an Internet appliance that provides a more secure system than Windows or Mac because data are stored in the Google cloud (see Google Drive), and all apps come from the Chrome Web Store. Chrome-based tablets came out in 2018 (see Chrome OS).

Widely adopted in schools, an Internet connection is mandatory, but some apps may run offline. Chromebooks boot up fast and require minimal user configuration. They also come with Google's office suite (see Google Docs).

Limited Storage
Designed for saving user data in the cloud, Chromebooks typically have from 16GB to 32GB of local SSD storage, although some models have 128GB. However, Chromebooks may accept SD cards for more.

Finally Network Friendly
Early Chromebooks did not recognize a nearby local network like Windows and Mac computers do. Eventually, file sharing apps became available that recognize file shares on local computers.

Android Emulation
Starting in 2016, some of the latest Chromebooks were updated to run Android apps via emulation, opening the platform to thousands of additional applications from the Google Play store.

Stable, Beta and Developer Channels
By switching the OS to the Beta channel, users can review apps that are still in test mode. At a higher risk, brand new features of the OS itself can be tried out by switching to the Developer channel.

The Chrome "Box"
In 2012, Google introduced the Chromebox desktop model, offering the same functionality as the Chromebook in a mini PC footprint. The Chromebox includes a faster CPU and ports for a monitor, mouse and keyboard. See mini PC and Windows 10 S.




A Chromebook Keyboard
Some, but not all, Chromebooks have dedicated Web browsing keys, such as the Back, Forward and Reload buttons on the top row of this Acer keyboard. Caps Lock was replaced with a Search key.






Just Like Any Computer
Chromebooks look like any other laptop computer. You can only tell the difference when you use it.