Do You Need an Actual Computer If Everything’s In the Cloud?

If the majority of what you do with your computer is access things on the Internet, do you need to pay extra for a fast processor and big hard drive? Or can you get away with a $150 Chromebook and its pared-down operating system? Or maybe a tablet with a keyboard is the way to go?

Answer these 12 questions to see if you need a computer or can stay just as productive with a device that lets you connect with the Internet:

1. Which apps do you use most?
If your top apps are cloud-based — like Microsoft Office Online, Google Apps, Amazon, Facebook, Dropbox, Salesforce, Evernote and Slack — you can get away with a device that’s lighter, cheaper and has less computing power.

2. Do you use graphics programs like Photoshop or AutoCAD?
To work with huge data files that have layers, you need processing power and RAM. Filters, renderings, calculations and other utilities are designed to work on fast computers. Even if you access the app through the cloud, your device still does the work. Still, getting a Chromebook with extra RAM and a faster processor might work for you.

3. Are you on the road a lot or away from power sources?
Chromebooks and tablets have much longer battery life than laptops —13 hours in some tests — because they have smaller screens and fewer components.

4. How fast and reliable is the Internet where you use it most?
Internet-accessing devices are definitely most useful when they can access the Internet! But offline apps are available for tablets and Chromebooks, including Google Drive and Gmail.

5. Do you need to access your company network?
For security reasons, you may not be able to get away with computer lite. Security apps for corporate environments run locally on a hard drive.

6. Where do you store your photos?
If you have a ton of photos on your computer hard drive or external hard drives and you like it that way, switching from a computer might not work for you. Today’s Chromebooks and tablets max out at 320GB storage and 128GB is more common.

7. How’s your eyesight?
If you like a big screen so you don’t have to strain to see, you’ll have trouble finding a low-cost option. But you will find options and more of them all the time.

8. How’s your posture?
Hunching over a tablet all day creates muscle strain that’s not good for your head-neck musculature over time. Propping it up and connecting a keyboard solves that problem. Lugging a heavy laptop isn’t good for your posture either — having a lighter weight device is one of the most popular reasons users switch to tablets. Tablets weigh about 1.5 pounds, Chromebooks 2-4 pounds and laptops 3-6.5 pounds.

9. Do you have a decent desktop computer?
If you have a desktop that works for your heavy processor and hard-drive needs, having a full-blown laptop might be overkill. Note: a desktop that runs Chrome OS is called a Chromebox. Just in case you didn’t have enough options to choose from.

10. Are you big on gaming?
Then you’ll probably be disappointed playing on a Chromebook or tablet. There are limited options when compared to traditional computers, AAA games won’t work and game streaming doesn’t fare well.

11. Do you want to be able to upgrade the components?
Being thinner and lighter means most Chromebook and tablet components stay put, just like they do with your smartphone. But a brand new Chromebook can cost less than a bigger hard drive for an old computer. Some Chromebooks do have upgradable RAM and drives.

12. How’s your budget?
You can get a Chromebook for as low as $150. You can get a MacBook Pro for $3,000+. You can get an ultra-portable (a super lightweight laptop) for $500 – $1,500. You can compare pricing here. You’ll be more upset if you lose the latter but really it’s all about meeting your needs so you can do what you want.

Leapfrog believes technology should work for you! Having more technology than you need is wasteful and having less slows you down. Choose the best device to meet your needs for the next two to three years, then reevaluate when it’s time to replace it.

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