Last year I wrote a post about why I loved our company Samsung Chromebook:
If I drop it or spill something on it or it gets stolen we’re out $329.99 and I maybe should change my Google password to be safe. That’s nothing compared to the cost of losing the Zenbook – both financially and the data on the computer. Most of my non-programming work is done in the browser, but if I need to do some quick programming or access a file on my Zenbook I can do it with Chrome Remote Desktop, which is free, secure, and works pretty well.
The only real downside was the technology of the Chromebook itself. With only 2 GB of RAM it was noticeably slow, and a 1366 x 768 screen feels downright restrictive when you’re used to working on a 1920 x 1080 screen. The result was I’d use it at the coffee shop or out on the porch to answer email and do light work, but I didn’t really feel productive doing much else. I still ended up bringing my ASUS Zenbook with me most places, including traveling.
Here’s the thing though: as I alluded to last year, there are some real benefits to traveling with a Chromebook instead of a laptop. If I were to lose my laptop I’d have no choice but to work under the assumption that it got into the hands of someone capable of accessing all of the data on it, and that would be a nightmare both personally and professionally. The Chromebook? Make a few security tweaks when you buy it (which are really optional) and then if it’s stolen you change your Google password.
Since picking up that Samsung I’ve been on the hunt for a fast, high-resolution, cheap Chromebook that could serve as the ultimate travel laptop. The “cheap” part is important because it has to feel “disposable” if it’s damaged or lost. Disposable is different to everyone, but to me $400 was the limit. No one likes to lose a $400 device, but that’s much easier to shake off than $1,200, and in turn I’m more likely to use it in any and all situations.
After reading reviews of every single Chromebook that came to market, I finally settled on the Toshiba CB35-B3340 Chromebook 2, the one that The Verge called “the best Chromebook you can buy.” 4 GB of RAM? Check. 1920 x 1080 screen? Check. Under $400? Check ($329.99 retail). Not to mention light and thin, which is a given with all Chromebooks.
For whatever reason (probably the cell carriers), Chromebooks have gone away from offering 4G LTE options. I loved how our Samsung had $9.99 day passes for Verizon 4G LTE. It fit my needs. However, with my Note 3 on T-Mobile I get 3 GB of Mobile HotSpot data every month, which suffices for all my on-the-go computing needs.
I ordered it during Toshiba’s Black Friday sale for $279.99, which was a steal. It took forever to get to me, but I received it just in time for my January vacation. Sometimes when I use it I forget that I’m not on my laptop. It’s as fast as Chrome is on Windows for me and the screen is beautiful, probably crisper than my Zenbook to be honest. It feels like a high quality piece of technology, a remarkable feat for a device this inexpensive.
Now that we have someone else covering our email when we’re gone, I really only would need it in an emergency anyway. For the minimal functionality tradeoff, I get the peace of mind that if I leave it in airport security or drop it somewhere I’m not creating a tremendous catastrophe for myself.
This worked out so well that my partners are now considering implementing the same policy and only traveling with a Chromebook instead of their main laptop. Chromebooks and Chrome OS might not yet be competitive as everyday solutions for most people, but they sure are perfect for situations like this.