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What specs do I need?

When shopping for a new Chromebook, it is easy to be overwhelmed by all the numbers and figures. Do I need 2GB of RAM or 4GB? Is a 32GB SSD needed or can I get away with 16GB? Whats the difference in a HD screen and Full HD?
Here's some useful information to consider when deciding which model to purchase:

Processor (CPU):
The processor (often referred to as the CPU) is the "brain" of the Chromebook. The faster the processor, the more responsive the Chromebook feels. When you open a new tab, the processor's speed determines how fast the tab loads and is ready to go. Video phone apps such as Google Hangouts are very dependent on processor speed.
  • Don't be fooled by the clock rate (measured in GHz) of each processor. A processor with a lower clock rate is sometimes faster than a processor with a higher clock rate.
  • There are many manufacturers and types of processors. Intel, Samsung, NVIDIA, are the most common. They make processors such as the Celeron, Exynos, Tegra, and i3.
  • Intel Celeron processors come in multiple varieties. The latest Chromebooks with Celeron processors are separated into "Bay Trail" and "Haswell" varieties. They are very different. Bay Trail models have longer battery life, while Haswell models are faster.
  • Some processors require more power to use than others. The more power-efficient the processor is, the longer the battery will last before having to recharge.



Memory (RAM)
A Chromebook with more memory (or RAM) will be able to operate efficiently with more tabs and apps running simultaneously. Chromebooks usually come with either 2GB or 4GB of memory. If you only run a few apps at once, a Chromebook with 2GB will work just as well as one with 4GB. If you want to be able to open a dozen tabs or apps at the same time without slowing down, you may want to consider a Chromebook with 4GB of memory.

Disk Storage (SSD)
Disk Storage is how much data can be stored on the Chromebook. Most Chromebooks come with a 16GB or 32GB Solid State Drive (SSD). Since Chrome OS is designed to store your data in the cloud, you don't need much storage in the Chromebook itself. If you frequently use the Chromebook with no internet connection and want access to your email, music, and movies offline, you may want to purchase a model with a 32GB SSD. Keep in mind, most Chromebooks come with 100GB free storage with Google Drive. Also, most have a slot where you can add up to 64GB additional storage with an SD card (like a digital camera). You could also attach an external USB hard drive or flash drive for even more storage.

Screen Size, Resolution and Type
The size of a Chromebook screen is measured diagonally from corner to corner. Most Chromebook screens are either 11.6", 13.3", or 14". Larger screens are easier to see, but Chromebooks with larger screens are usually larger and heavier.

The resolution of a screen is simply how many lines of pixels are built into the screen. More pixels equals a clearer image. In addition, more lines of pixels means more "real estate" on the screen. You can fit more on a higher resolution screen. Chromebook screens are usually HD (1366 vertical columns of pixels by 768 horizontal rows) or Full HD (1920 vertical columns by 1080 horizontal rows).

Benefits of a Full HD screen:
  • Text and pictures appear crisper.
  • You can see more of a website or app without having to scroll up and down.
Benefits of a HD screen:
  • Typically a lower cost.
  • Everything looks "bigger" (only a benefit for those of us with aging eyeballs).
Chromebook screens come in either LED back-lit or IPS varieties. The difference is in the color accuracy and viewing angles. IPS displays usually have more natural colors that can be seen from greater angles. LED screens use less power and are less expensive. LED screens require that you view them from directly in front. If you move to the side, or if the screen is tilted too far forward or back, LED screens can be hard to read. If color accuracy is important to you, or if multiple people will be viewing the screen at once, you may want to consider a Chromebook with an IPS panel.

Some Chromebooks come with Touch Screens similar to those found on smart phones or tablets. While Chrome OS is not yet fully optimized to take advantage of touch screens, there are some times when it is very handy.

Wireless
All Chromebooks come with WiFi wireless network connectivity. Every model will connect to networks to networks that use the common 802.11n standard (often shortened to Wireless-N). The Wireless-N networks offer enough bandwidth for just about anything a normal user would do on a Chromebook, including video streaming and video conferencing. Some of the latest models will also connect to wireless networks using the 802.11ac standard, which means an even faster connection. Buying a Chromebook with 802.11ac is a way of future-proofing your purchase.

A few Chromebooks also come with 3G or 4G coverage for when you aren't close to a WiFi network. These Chromebooks can use cell towers to provide a network connection while travelling. Some Chromebooks allow up to 200MB of usage for free, and allow you to purchase additional data.