Chromebooks: Sometimes less is more

When it comes to mobile tech, it's not always best to go big if a lesser option makes more sense.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor on
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

A couple of articles have appeared on the web recently that dictate the philosophy that it makes no sense to buy a Chromebook, when for roughly the same price you can get a Windows system. One article by ZDNet's Larry Seltzer makes the statement in the headline that there's no good reason to buy a Chromebook. Another by Winsupersite's Paul Thurrott takes it further by stating in the sub-headline that Chromebooks are a joke. Both of those articles carry a strong message that overlook one little factor: sometimes less is more in mobile tech.

I'm not going to explain why Chromebooks are good options for some people, as I've done that many times in the past. I've also explained why some people, Seltzer and Thurrott are obviously in that group, don't understand what makes a Chromebook a good option for some folks. 

See also: The misunderstood Chromebook: Why few get itWhy there's no good reason to buy a Chromebook | Why I've all but given up on Windows | Why there are at least two great reasons to buy a Chromebook

What I will do instead is apply the logic expressed in those two articles to other areas of mobile tech. This will point out how it's not a good idea to dismiss Chromebooks for all users.

Small Windows tablets are starting to appear and they look pretty nice.  Paul Thurrott reviewed one such small tablet, the Dell Venue 8, and finds a lot to like about it. It's a nice 8-inch tablet in a world of larger slates.

Chromebooks are the same for some folks. They don't require a full PC to do what they need so it would be a mistake to take on the overhead and complexity of one.

Thurrott doesn't address a big problem with the Venue 8 that is worth pointing out. The small display makes no sense. For roughly the same price of the Venue 8 buyers can get a Windows tablet with at least a 10-inch screen. A larger screen is easier to see and displays more stuff at once. Thus there's no reason to buy Windows tablets with smaller screens.

The same applies to the iPad mini. Other than cost, why on earth would anyone buy the mini when the larger screen of the iPad Air is available? A bigger screen is obviously better than a smaller one so it's logical that no one should buy the iPad mini.

That doesn't make sense, does it? It's not very prudent to dictate that larger tablets are the better device for everyone simply because they display more than smaller ones. The highly portable nature of small tablets is exactly what makes them the better fit for some users, and the reason they choose them over bigger models. For those buyers, less really is more and meets their needs better.

The same can be said for those who find that using an Android tablet or iPad better meets their needs than a laptop. Those tablets do exactly what they need and not a bit more, so a MacBook or Windows laptop would be overkill. It works for them and that makes it the better choice.

Chromebooks are the same for some folks. They don't require a full PC to do what they need so it would be a mistake to take on the overhead and complexity of one. The focussed nature of the Chromebook is ideal for what some find preferable to other options so it's the perfect choice for them.

To dismiss a segment of mobile devices, no matter what it might be, is not prudent. Everyone's needs are not the same for hardware and software so choice is a good thing. For those who want a mobile device that can do everything, MacBooks and Windows PCs are the best option. For others who have simpler needs other platforms and devices are the proper way to go.

I respect both Seltzer and Thurrott and follow their work religiously, but I think they don't get the draw of the Chromebook for some. I also think that to dismiss any segment of mobile tech for everyone is not prudent. People should use whatever works for them and more importantly, what they want to use. Not what someone else tells them they should.

Special thanks to ZDNet's Mary Branscombe (@marypcbuk) for the "less is more" thought on Twitter that triggered this article).

Chromebook coverage: 

Editorial standards