Having done extensive testing on a number of Chromebooks we’re now able to bring you a list of issues you might want to consider before you buy a Chromebook. If you’ve come from the world of PC’s, accessories and advanced desktop applications then you might find ChromeOS limited. There are workaround to many of the issues listed here but some can be time-consuming.
Last update: August 2014
Skype is the most common issue that you’ll find associated with Chromebooks. Google Hangouts are supported as an alternative but that’s hardly a solution if you need to chat with someone on the hugely popular Skype network. Skype chat works through the browser at live.com but the plugin required to do voice and video calls is not supported.
Local storage is often limited on a Chromebook. Chromebooks with 32 GB of local storage offer at least enough space to take a handful of films and enough music to keep most people happy but it will need to be well managed. SD cards or USB sticks and drives can be used and in some cases the storage is upgradable.
Printing is an issue as Google does not provide built-in drivers for USB printers. Instead you’ll have to use the Google Cloud Print service which requires you to share a PC-connected printer via the Google Cloud Print service. That PC and printer will need to be on in order to print. It works but it’s not that simple and it goes against the grain of the easy-to-use Chromebook promise.
Microsoft Office and other Windows (or OSX) productivity suites are not supported on the ChromeOS system which means you are limited to using the Google Drive applications. The online versions of these apps offer some nice collaboration and sharing features but they can be slow and limited in functionality. Features improve over time though and as long as you don’t intend to use a Chromebook as a business-class word processor, spreadsheet or presentation device you’ll probably be OK with the Google Drive applications.
Offline applications are supported in some cases. Some aplications require you to have run them once while online before the offline features are available but many still don’t support an offline mode. Interestingly Google have recently announced that a selection of Android apps are coming to Chromebooks. This is not a current feature and it may be 2015 before we see progress here.
USB device support is limited. USB sticks and USB drives work and there’s file system support for CD/DVD drives. Don’t expect to be able to play a CD or DVD though. Our USB mic wasn’t detected and it was the same for the USB webcam we tested. We plugged a USB 3.0 docking station into the ASUS C200 though and were surprised to see the hub, the Ethernet port and the audio module working though. The attached Logitech MK320 keyboard and mouse worked too but the USB video, a DisplayLink feature, didn’t. USB Support may improve as time goes on but it’s unlikely to ever be as wide-ranging as on other desktop-style operating systems.
Network attached storage, DLNA and other sharing services will be an issue. SMB (Windows) and NFS protocols are not supported. We had to enable a web-based share on a test Linksys NAS in order to access files via the browser.
Video format support is limited but these limits may not be a problem for most people. We were able to watch a 2560×1440 33Mbps H.264 video without issues but we had problems with WMV. Divx is supported when the file extension is not ‘.divx’ but, as is often the case, a Hi10p encoded H264 video didn’t work. MKV containers are supported but beware of AC3 and DTS incompatibility. Neither down-smapling or pass-through are working. This is likely to be a licensing issue.
Music player synchronization is not possible using a Chromebook. This includes smartphone music collection synchronization when connected over USB.
Amazon Prime Video does not work on the ASUS C200 in some regions due to lack of Microsoft Silverlight support. Amazon.com supports HTML5 streaming and is working.
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