A notebook without Windows or macOS?
You can - with Chrome OS.
The so-called Chromebooks are available from various manufacturers at prices from around 300 euros upwards - up to the 1000 euros top model.
What they all have in common: They boot up incredibly quickly, and the battery lasts a long time, and there is usually a touchscreen too.
Otherwise, the hardware is usually on the cheap side.
This is due to the concept: Chromebooks are not powerful notebooks, but inexpensive access to the World Wide Web and the services of online giant Google.
Almost everything takes place in the browser, there is no need to install programs.
It is saved on the Google Drive in the network.
If you want, you can download Android apps from the Play Store.
In Germany, Chromebooks have so far been a marginal phenomenon among notebooks - but a growing one.
Google itself does not give any specific sales figures for Germany.
At the market researcher IDC, analyst Malini Paul calls the number of almost 183,000 Chromebooks sold in 2020. In the previous year it was 70,000, in 2018 it was just 33,000.
Most of the growth is currently based on home users, according to IDC.
For the future, the analyst also anticipates growing sales of higher-priced Chromebooks for business users.
Chromebooks are on the rise
Whether it's the pandemic or the widespread use of Google services: Chromebooks are on the rise.
Since March 2021, a new version has also been available for improved collaboration with Android phones and better file handling.
But who actually needs such a notebook?
"This is something for everyone who needs a reliable device that costs little," says Stefan Porteck from the specialist magazine "c't".
So something for schoolchildren and students on a tight budget.
Or for older people who may not be that computer savvy and want a device that just works.
A little bit going on on the display - Chrome OS is a very puristic operating system
Because if you can come to terms with working almost exclusively with Google's web services, you usually don't need anything more than what a Chromebook offers.
Google delivers word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, emails or photo editing via web service.
If you want to play more than Android games for your smartphone, Google's Stadia is also a game service for Chromebooks.
Computers and smartphones are moving closer together
And according to Porteck, the platform has a few more advantages: “If you open it up, it's ready to go in six to eight seconds.” During the day you can use it as a computer, in the evening it continues to work as a tablet for entertainment.
Thanks to the Google ecosystem: All functions of the Android smartphone can be continued seamlessly on the Chromebook.
Photos, calendar entries, calls and messages can be edited on both devices.
The devices also move passwords for online services and WLAN networks back and forth via their own Google account.
With the recently introduced Phone Hub, Chromebook and phone can now share the Internet connection with one click and swap browser tabs.
Chrome OS is clearly developing in the direction of Apple's iOS: one system, many devices, no limits - as with Apple's iPad and iPhones.
If you will, the Chromebook's forte is also its weakness: simplicity.
“It's a very closed system,” says Stefan Porteck.
"You don't really have the choice of what to install."
The choice is somewhat limited
Sometimes downloading a missing program is not possible without further ado.
Chromebook users are limited to what is available on the Chrome Web Store or the Google Play Store.
What is not there cannot be installed.
And often you don't know what you are getting, says Porteck: You often only notice whether an app is really suitable for Chromebooks with its large screen after it has been installed.
This can be annoying, especially with paid apps.
In the past, Chromebooks were mostly inexpensive entry-level models with inexpensive hardware.
There are now metal housings and fingerprint scanners too
An example: Microsoft's Outlook mail app in its Android version is well adapted to Chromebooks.
The large screen is used well, and operation is also convenient with a mouse or trackpad - which is practical.
The Netflix streaming app, on the other hand, always jumps to a smartphone-like portrait view and has extremely small-scale controls - that's impractical.
So Chromebook users often have to look: is there an app or am I using the web version of a service?
The latter in particular is usually the best choice, even with some Google services, some of whose apps do not work well on the Chromebook.
And: without Internet access, the devices can only be used to a limited extent.
Chromebook instead of notebook Ferrari
For analyst Malini Paul, Chromebooks still offer their target group clear advantages: “Not all users need a lot of computing power all the time,” she says.
One of the main advantages is mobility.
And users benefit from the ease of use, the low hardware and software costs and the security of the cloud-based notebooks.
The Chromebook product range is wide.
One of the currently cheapest Chromebooks, the Asus C223, has an almost twelve-inch screen with HD resolution, no folding hinge, a plastic housing and no touchscreen.
For 300 euros, occasional users can still work quite comfortably with it.
Notebook, tablet, standing screen, tent: Chromebooks like the Thinkpad C13 Yoga Chromebook have appropriate hinges for more than one application
At the other end of the price spectrum is Lenovo's Thinkpad C13 Yoga Chromebook.
With its full HD screen with 360-degree hinge, touchscreen, professional keyboard and metal housing, it can hardly be distinguished from the manufacturer's other business Thinkpads.
For 700 euros, prolific writers and creative workers should also get their money's worth here - if the web services and apps are enough for them.
Who is a Chromebook for?
In summary, two cases can be distinguished:
Are you already in the Google universe with a Google account and Android smartphone?
You have no problem with doing a lot of things in the browser or more or less good apps?
Then a Chromebook might be enough for you.
The devices cover most use cases and the platform is still in development.
According to Google, around 50 models will be launched in 2021.
In terms of price, there should be something for everyone.
Do you need a lot of additional programs?
Do you want to decide for yourself what will be installed on your computer?
Standard settings are not enough for you, and you don't want to save your personal data and documents on Google either?
Then a Chromebook is not an option.
Looks like Android and uses it in a similar way: Users of Google's smartphone operating system can quickly find their way around Chromebooks