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Are Chromebooks getting boring?

Chromebooks are getting boring: Why that’s both good and bad.

It’s Sunday morning. I’m sitting here listening to ambient music and drinking my coffee. There are no less than four Chromebooks within an arm’s reach, not counting the one I’m currently using. Maybe I’m being too contemplative today but I can’t shake the feeling that Chromebooks are getting boring. For most of you, that’s good. For me, not so much.

Dell Latitude 3445 Chromebook featured

Why I don’t write about Chromebooks daily or several times a day

If you’re a regular follower of this site, you know that I don’t write several Chromebook posts each day. Often there is a day or two, if not longer, between posts. At least more recently. Did you ever wonder why?

I’ll tell you a secret. When I covered the smartphone and tablet industry from 2006 through 2015, I was writing up to 10 posts a day. I wrote nearly 10,000 articles during that time. And it negatively impacted my health severely. So when I launched this site in 2018, I promised myself not to repeat that lifestyle. I didn’t want to be on a treadmill that never stops, as it were.

I also made another decision in 2018. I made a conscious effort to not waste your time.

Meaning: If there wasn’t something worth writing about it a given day, I wouldn’t write that day. I wanted to focus on providing value in terms of quality over quantity. I may not have always met that goal, but I have always tried.

And that gets me to my major thought today.

It feels like Chromebooks are getting boring

Since returning from our Utah hiking vacation (pictures here for those interested), I’ve seen little to really write about when it comes to Chromebooks.

Let me share a brief list of stories published on other sites, to illustrate this. And note: I am not pointing out these articles to suggest the sites shouldn’t have written these articles.

Most of these people are personal friends, or at least acquaintances, and I respect what they do. They’re good at it and I’m not questioning their editorial content choices in any way. I’m simply sharing what news has hit my radar to illustrate my take that Chromebooks are getting boring:

Yeah, I included my own article on the last bullet point because I’m in this camp too. I could write one or more of these articles daily but I won’t. I try to focus on the best, or highest value, deals for Chromebooks that I’d actually recommend. Not some of these refurbished, sub $100 Chromebooks that won’t get ChromeOS security updates within a matter of months or a year.

The point is: Where’s the excitement?

It’s good that Chromebooks are getting boring

In a very tangible way, it’s actually great if Chromebook are getting boring.

This means that the devices and the operating system have matured to the point where they’re close to on-par with other platforms. There are some activities and use cases where a Chromebook will always be second fiddle to a solid Mac or Windows machine. That’s the nature of a browser-centric, simple to use operating system.

Linux on my Chromebook

Obviously, I’m OK with that. And so are plenty of you since if you’ve chosen to use a Chromebook.

Go back five short years ago and both Chromebooks, and perhaps more importantly, ChromeOS, had plenty of room for maturity. Heck, look at the original Chrome OS in 2009 and this was even more evident.

ChromeOS has matured and Chromebooks are getting boring
Chrome OS in 2009

But only a handful of years ago, there weren’t many high-end Chromebook models to choose from unless you wanted to pay $1,000 to $1,500 for a Google-branded Chromebook, for example. Now there’s a wide range of such devices from Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung, many of which offer far more capabilities at a much lower cost.

ARM-based Chromebooks started the market but quickly faded with Intel-based options. Here too, we’ve seen progress as great devices powered by chips from MediaTek and Qualcomm and have made inroads. I think here of the original Lenovo Duet Chromebook in 2020 as a turning point. Since then, we’ve seen a successor Duet 3 and a superb Duet 5, for example, not to mention some of the newer Acer Chromebooks with ARM chips.

Hardware aside, we’ve seen a slew of new features and updates to ChromeOS. I try to find and cover those as soon as I can to give you a heads up on what’s coming down the pike. And recently, I’ve shared great works-in-progress, or completed features, such as the Virtual Desks button on the Shelf, an updated Google Password Manager app, and Android app streaming.

So even in this perceived by me “boring” state, things are still improving. However, there are fewer improvements over time and they’re typically small bits of extra value. Still, I see that as a good thing. For you.

Boring Chromebooks aren’t good for me

Flip the perspective from you to me and you’ll see why this might not be a good thing. I’ve already said I don’t want to waste your time with “fluff” pieces, just so I can make a buck or two. And trust me, I’m not setting the world on fire when it comes to income. Ad rates have been flat or down for at least two years and usually reliable traffic sources are receding. I never set out to make gobs of income here. I simply want to have a relaxed, low-stress activity that pays my bills.

So writing low-value stories isn’t in my wheelhouse. Nor is covering every super incremental change to devices or software. With Chromebooks and ChromeOS having matured this far, that’s mostly what the changes are. Incremental.

Maybe this is all due to my mental health health challenges. It’s no secret that I’ve been clinically depressed since my 2011 diagnosis. Perhaps the last few weeks are a direct result of this insidious condition. If so, I’ll likely bounce back like I always do after an indeterminate amount of time.

I don’t think my mental state is the main driver for my thoughts though. Or at least I don’t think so.

We’re at a point where Chromebooks and ChromeOS are truly viable options, more so than ever before. That’s because the biggest improvements have already occurred. And that’s a good thing for consumers like you. Perhaps I just need to recharge my creative juices to see beyond the boring when it comes to Chromebooks.

Steam won't help that Chromebooks are getting boring.

I know one thing: It’s not the next iteration of processors that will add a few hundred clock cycles per second to boost performance a negligible amount. Nor is the soon likely widespread availability of Steam on Chromebooks that will offer average-to-low experiences on all but the oldest, simplest PC games. At least on currently available devices.

Maybe I’m wrong on these, and other unnamed examples but right now, I can’t help but feel that Chromebooks are getting boring.

author avatar
Kevin C. Tofel

25 thoughts on “Chromebooks are getting boring: Why that’s both good and bad.

  1. I appreciate and value the articles you have written over the years. I have had similar thoughts about the lack of exciting news regarding ChromeOS and chromebooks. I especially recall feeling that way when coverage about “rounded corners” started making the circuit. I look forward to reading your future articles. Take care.

  2. Sadly means marketing wise Chromebooks wont ever be mainstream, unless taken up by a new generation (Chrome OS Phone).

    Personally though it’s good for me. Only two things tech have ever been “exciting” to me – from DOS to GUI and tabbed browsing i.e easy reliable multi tasking. Pretty sure that’s the same for the average person too. The rest is just stress and hassle, as it goes wrong with new updates, security issues or making me need to buy new hardware, or learn new stuff that has little benefit.

    Get more excited when my freezer or washing machine breaks down and the new one arrives. We forget how that kind of tech really did change society.

    Modern tech has brought communication and consumerism advantages, but they have massive downsides too, the jury is still out on whether it was worth it, especially taking into account climate change and AI etc. It’s even questionable whether tech has made the average business more effective or efficient. The economy is about to crash big time and we’ll see how much growth there really has been since the 1950s.

  3. I am in the camp that boring is mostly good, the sign of a mature product. My Pixelbook Go is my daily computer, with my ancient Thinkpad X1 Carbon fired up when I need to run a few things in Windows. These few things are Scrivener, Calibre ebook manager, along with Adobe Digital Editions, and an AI ECG program that analyzed my home ECGs.
    I wish I could run those few things on my Chromebook, but that sort of defeats the purpose of a Chromebook. Nevertheless, I recently enabled Linux and install some programs, but I probably will uninstall most of them.

    I still learn something useful to me almost any time I “drive by” to see what is happening.

  4. By calling Chromebooks boring, you’re really saying more mainstream, less controversial, better understood, more Plug & Play. That’s what any solid OS should be. But the Chromebook market needs excitement to thrive. Excitement generally comes from innovation. Lenovo, HP, and Acer are mostly going to innovate on the Windows OS platform. Only Google can lead Chromebook innovation if they make a line of Chromebooks. Not to compete but for the vitality of the Chromebook market.

  5. Greetings,

    First of all, i like your newsletters, because when they arrive they generally contain subjects worth reading.
    If anything, out may be a useful thing to write about photos to mark up photos, or maybe how Microsoft integrated with it’s suite into Chrome, or commentary on Linux applications, of which I find they often are sluggish….
    I don’t think Chrome book is more boring than Apple or Windows…..
    I appreciate what you do.
    Kind regards

    Frank Buddingh’

  6. I always love to read you. Keep going on, on your own pace. And more importantly, take care of yourself.
    Best regards from France,

  7. There are still things I’m waiting for before I consider Chromebooks boring.

    USB device passthrough to Linux. In particular:

    – storage devices (for partitioning, formatting with advanced filesystems, bootloader installation / configuration, and data recovery)
    – gaming controllers (so I can play Linux games with a wired controller)

    Persistent port forwarding to the Linux VM, so I can run services without having to approve them on every boot.

    The Linux VM/container is easy to backup/restore and easy to reinstall from scratch. In the event of malware (which is easy to install, and doesn’t require devices), Linux is back in service in minutes. There’s no security issue preventing this functionality. There are feature requests open for years – what’s the hold-up? Without the functionality, people turn to dual-boot and Linux-only replacement of ChromeOS, which is arguably a much worse solution.

  8. See the one thing that was interesting was the separation of Chrome and Chrome OS, what happened to that?

    I remember someone actually said it coming Chrome OS 100 and I laughed because seemed to quick to make stable working.

    so where is it because I remember all the Chromebook sites hyping it and say coming very soon, but never did and no word as to why?

    or did it happen and was done so well I didn’t notice? but I can’t remember seeing any articles saying it has now arrived in stable?

    It went very quiet on that subject either way and other subjects that should be written about go quiet too. Often wonder how many these Chromebook sites are really controlled by Google. Especially Chromeunboxed because they are all hype and no trousers, especially lately. Whilst this site is more real world.

    But what did happen to Browser separation from OS and why everyone gone quiet about it? Did google tell the journalists to shut up because it made no sense to have end of life dates but keep updating the browser after that? It never did make sense business wise and the tech was questionable.

    1. They are working on it with the Lacros browser. Make it your primary or keep the ChromeOS browser as well.

      Lacros support
      Support for the experimental lacros-chrome browser. Please note that the first restart can take some time to setup lacros-chrome. Please DO NOT attempt to turn off the device during the restart. – ChromeOS


  9. I feel like there are still a lot of changes under the hood that Google could be making, if they chose to invest (but I think they are minding their pennies).
    – improving the crostini performance & optimisation of RAM more (perhaps – is a container inside a VM really necessary for security & the best optimisation? OR would another setup provide similar security benefits, but have less memory & performance overhead, especially on RAM constrained devices…. I’d like to feel less tempted to install linux to the bare metal). MS seems to be investing more for their linux setup. Not sure if it’s any better though.
    – the Android experience is a lot better now days. However it would still be nicer if it was closer to the ‘current’ version (or would this just give some ‘feel good’ without much actual benefit – no sure).

    Overall though, Chrome OS is definitely much more mature these days, meeting a much wider set of use cases more securely than it used to (thinking back to the hacky crouton days). I installed a test webserver on crostini recently. It’s great that I don’t really have to worry about it’s security as much, as it’s only exposed to the chromebook itself, so ‘just works’. Fantastic.

  10. “I made a conscious effort to not waste your time.”

    Which is precisely the only reason that of all the ChromeOS sites yours is the only one that I subscribe to.

  11. Your articles are always informative and, in the case of ChromeOS, teach something about the OS.

    I think its good Chromebooks are getting boring: It means the ones that stand out will be easier to see, and you can concentrate on the interesting stuff and leave the rounded corners for other publications.

  12. The user experience is similar across all Chromebooks, because ChromeOS is such a good environment for both work and play. It delivers exactly what the user needs in both cases. As a retired developer, I’m something of an authority on this. We get the added pleasure of regular incremental improvements, which all but dry up on most systems.

    On a technical level, ChromeOS is not a version of Linux, as Linux heads often claim. It is only a small subset of Linux, and that is its great strength. Because the less you implement in the kernel, the faster the system is. No Linux distribution would be nearly as fast as ChromeOS Flex, which allows me to run Android Studio on very modest hardware.

  13. Well done, Kevin. We all appreciate your selective and discerning nature when it comes to reporting. I can think of another famous ‘Chrome’ site that I can barely visit any more due to the article churn and unnecessary author ego affections and grammatic tics.

    As for ChromeOS, well, right now, boring is terrific. Boring is grown-up and stable and mature.

    All I hope for the future is that we will still be able to control what appears within our browsers to a large degree. The moment that’s no longer the case, it’ll be straight over to the occasionally painful Linux OS and a browser that allows me to control what I see.

    Anyway. Keep on trucking!

  14. I’ve been using Windows OS for about 20 yrs. and have never really liked it. Apple is too expensive so I’ve been considering a Chromebook as my next laptop. I need only very basic features; email, internet searches, & youtube. What would be a decent Chromebook for me?
    I use an HP laptop with Win 10 and the computer is always having problems. I also have a 2012 Dell with Win 7 that is beginning to have problems. Neither computer is worth spending money on.

    1. George, those are *perfect* use cases for a Chromebook. And you don’t have to spend much to get a decent experience. A $250 to $300 device will certainly handle that although you might end up with some slowness compared to a Chromebook with more CPU horsepower. Skip the 768p displays too IMO; might as well watch YouTube in 1080p if you can. I recently reviewed the Lenovo Flex 3, which is great for the price: https://www.aboutchromebooks.com/news/lenovo-flex-3-chromebook-review-exceeding-expectations/ If you want a little more overall performance or headroom, the Acer Chromebook Vero 514 is a solid choice, or even last year’s Acer Chromebook 714 if you can find it on sale for $499. I’m sure other readers have good suggestions as well, so maybe they’ll chime in. Cheers!

      1. Thanks, Kevin, that’s helpful. The one problem is that I live in Thailand and Chromebooks are twice that price here.

          1. I’m an 84 yr. old digital ignoramus and Chome OS make it too complicated for me to download.
            I have found some places to buy the Lenovo Chromebook for $300, and when this HP once again fails, I’ll purchase one.

      2. I think you right. I has the Samsung Chromebook for a few years before buying the Pixelbook. I bought my wife the Lenovo duet 5 but sadly the screen is very sensitive to slight knocks and I have now switched her back to Macbook Air M1 for 800$.

        I have been wanting a new Chromebook (I’m still using the Pixelbook happily) but there is just nothing of real interest or similar. I would love LTE. The pixelbook is a great size, great screen, the keyboard acts as a great stand for watching stuff and I can flip it over to use as a tablet sometimes. The point is there is just nothing interesting for me to replace it with.

  15. Kevin,

    I’ve always enjoyed your articles and I have been using Chrome OS since the CR-48 and work on one daily and work with schools and companies on leveraging Chrome. I have definitely seen an increase in ChromeOS being more mainstream and more widespread use. I think covering some how-to’s would be great, especially for people new to ChromeOS.

    I also like that you are working to take care of yourself, which is the most important thing.

  16. I agree they’ve gotten a bit boring and that maybe it’s a good thing since it shows how mature the segment is. I got a 13″ Lenovo of some sort based on your recommendation from about a year and a half ago. The battery life, screen, processing power, and everything have all been great for the light web browsing I’ve thrown at it. To even write this comment I had to squint at the wording on the bottom to see what size screen it had since I’d never had a need to memorize the specs for screen or processor or anything since it just quietly does what I ask of it. I had an HP Chromebook 11 years ago and it was the perfect device for travel but I…never really traveled. I replaced it with just an iPad for a couple years until the Lenovo that allowed me to have a keyboard and real browser. Anyway, that’s a long winded comment to say thanks for this site and your reviews all the way back to MoTR. Take care.

  17. NOTE: I’m not financially in a position to buy coffee for you or me, and I am a big contributor online currently earning about $30/week making huge contributions to others. I say this because the only time I recently had a response –not that you ever ‘should’– was the one time I DID buy you a coffee. I hope it was a good one!

    I’m writing about a passionate belief of mine relative to your theme: BORING. I read a lot of Robby Payne, who seems really bent on all things Google being stimulants for him. This expectation I see as a driving force is most of what is wrong with all things tech: they need to make just for change’s sake as the primary role of tech has gone from making our lives easier, more efficient and higher quality to feeding our addictions for constantly new stimulations. While you laud the maturity of ChromeOS, I lament the increasing glitches, bugs, contrary or arbitrary choices of Google that many (or most?) users are not thrilled about, and all the kinds of things that paid proponents like Robby (maybe a leading voice on behalf of all things Google?) applaud, while fully ignoring so much of what is wrong, things that would never happen on Windows.

    Though I am of meager means (late 60’s, low fixed income) I have, between a desktop (HP Chromebase) clamshell, 360’s, convertibles and tablets, a lot of ChromeOS hardware (and a pixel phone!) and am ready to chuck it all… almost, not really, but you get that I’m somewhere between frustrated and infuriated at mostly software stuff (and some hardware problems I don’t find even on my history of Windows machines. It seems like Google is the Mac in all the ways that also drove me from a 100% Apple world. Constant change and constant use of users as unofficial beta testers, lack of information about changes made, and so many things that don’t work as they should (lately enabled flags that don’t work, one because it was improperly offered, requires ChromeOS116 beta or some such).

    ChromeOS is no longer so simple, and before even perfecting Android on Chromebooks, between Android upgrades and mostly ChromeOS ones, the still common 4GB hardware is like a Windows maching selling with 4GB. I’ve not only removed Play Store from all of my 4GB devices, but even my ChromeBase with 8GB began to both run short on RAM and the processor was working way too much with nothing going on, all from the PlayStore. When I removed it, I had a new new computer. I still have 2 with 8GB and PlayStore installed, one is a 11th gen i3, the other a CoreM3. That CoreM3 ASUS amazes me, almost compares to the i3, and I paid beans for it. They manage OK, but have to be restarted (what? is this Windows?) to recover RAM drain.

    I know, this is abusively long, maybe I won’t write anymore, but my hope is this will somehow have value for you. I WANT BORING, and not even today, but yesterday, because today 8GB no longer is comfortable, but rather strains google’s past glory of excellent RAM management. No longer my experience unless Play Store is removed. In fact I bought my first Android tablet (Samsung A8) to replace my Chrome tablet, as newest interactions have ruined most of what/how I use my bedside tablet, while Android fully serves my needs, with on 4GB or RAM, an awesome experience. … signed: never bored, the content is my entertainment, not the hardware or the software!

  18. I think Chromebooks are getting a little boring. I like the idea of them, but I don’t think they’re as interesting as they used to be.

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