I am the chief technology officer of a four-person household that is composed of two teachers, one middle school-aged child, and one child entering into middle school next year. Needless to say, trying to maintain the family’s technology budget while simultaneously trying to make sure that everyone has the right tools in their hands to get their work done is a daunting task. Thanks to the newest generation of Google Chromebooks, I have been able to strike the right balance between budget-friendly technology and powerful productivity. For me, the Acer C7 series Chromebook has been the perfect tool for my family.
Why Chromebooks are Right for Families
At this point, my family has three Acer C7 Chromebooks, and I cannot imagine trying to do family productivity without them. For those that are unfamiliar with a Chromebook, they are not your typical computer. One part netbook and one part PC, a Chromebook is a small, light computer designed to operate using only Google’s Chrome OS – essentially it is a thin-client that only runs the Chrome Web Browser. With the Chromebook, you can access any website, web application, or web-based service that you might need. With built-in Adobe Flash support and a great browser, my children have complete access to their documents, calendars, email, and entertainment. Granted, a Chromebook requires access to WiFi to be fully productive, but WiFi is so ubiquitous that there are very few places they cannot have access. I do not have to worry about viruses, software updates, patches, or upgrades because the Chrome OS takes care of the upgrades itself, and there is no traditional operating system to be concerned about.
Why the Acer C7 Chromebook is Right for Families
The Acer C7 Chromebook is the right price. The Acer Chromebook can be purchased for $199 from several retailers or directly from the Google Play store. For the three Chromebook’s my family owns, I only spent $600. This is nearly half the cost of an equally productive MacBook. Please note that I didn’t say powerful, but my children need productivity not power. Here are the specifications of the Acer C7 Chromebook: it features a dual-core Intel Celeron processor (1.1GHz), 2GB DDR3 memory, 320GB hard drive, a very clear 11.6″ LED-backlit display (1366 x 768), and integrated Intel graphics. You are correct if you read these to be under-powered specifications for a Apple OS X or Windows 8 computer. Chromebooks, because of the lightweight nature of their OS do not need to be very powerful. The Acer C7 Chromebook is fully capable of being productive with its under-powered insides.
There are other Chromebook options available. Samsung makes an ARM based model that is strikingly reminiscient of the MacBook Air, and Google even offers the Chromebook Pixel that is a sleek and powerful computer that costs over $1000. The Acer C7 stands out because it strikes a perfect balance between usefulness, cost, and believe it or not, expandability. The Acer C7 has a removable battery that can be upgraded for longer life, the hard drive can be swapped out easily if current one is not fast enough or it dies, and the RAM can be expanded. On the Chromebook I use, I have swapped out the 3-Cell battery for a 6-cell battery giving me twice the battery life (I clock over seven hours), I have also added 4GB of RAM (for a total of 6), which almost guarantees me no hiccups or skips in video or opening tabs. Soon, I will be upgrading to a solid-state hard drive which should extend battery life even further and give me nearly instant boot-up. The Acer C7 still allows me to tinker and be a computer hobbyist without breaking the bank.
What Can a Family Do on an Acer C7 Chromebook
At my children’s school, they use Google Drive and it’s productivity suite (Google Docs, Sheet, and Slides) for their writing and classroom tasks. As a family, we manage our schedules through Google Calendar. This is where the Acer C7 Chromebook shines. It perfectly integrates into the Google Ecosystem for productivity. Web applications fill in the gaps for almost all other needs. Pixlr becomes a photo editor/Photoshop replacement, my children stream music through Pandora while they work, and they have access Netflix, Amazon Video, and the Google Play store when it is time play. Personally, I use Writer as a distraction-free word processor and Lucid Chart as a mind mapping tool. If you browse the Chrome Web Store, you will see a wealth of applications, games, and utilities that bring the Chromebook experience to life. Once you realize the power of cloud-computing and the potential of powerful web applications, a traditional PC with hundreds of dollars in software starts to seem silly.