The Chromebook is a newer kind of laptop that’s neither a Mac nor a Windows-based PC. As such, Chromebooks don’t run traditional software like Microsoft Word, and they work a bit differently from what most people are used to. So, what are they for? Given the familiarity of Windows and macOS, why would anyone choose a Chromebook instead?

You’ve probably heard of Chrome, Edge, Firefox or Safari. They are web browsers — apps that retrieve pages of information, pictures and videos from the Internet. When you’re using a computer to search Google, read Wikipedia, shop on Amazon and so on, you’re using a web browser.

In recent years, innovation in technology has made it possible to do an increasing variety of tasks using only a web browser:

Google created the Chromebook to reflect this shift in people’s habits. The Chrome browser takes centre stage, and much of the extra technology – and complexity – of traditional operating systems is left out. This makes Chromebooks:

Chromebooks are not for everyone. Photographers, designers, musicians, film-makers and programmers are unlikely to use a Chromebook as their main computer because they require more specialist apps that cannot feasibly run in a web browser. But for a growing number of people, the benefits noted above make Chromebooks a very attractive proposition.

Chromebooks are made by Google itself as well as by several familiar computer manufacturers like Acer, Dell and HP. They are available online, of course, but if you’d like to see one first you’ll also find them in shops like Currys and John Lewis.

You may notice some surprisingly low prices, and here I urge caution. To avoid disappointment, I have two general recommendations when it comes to specification — you’ll see that this rules out the very cheapest models: