A few years ago, I attempted a bluetooth keyboard and tablet for travel purposes.
My main machine is a 17″ laptop and while I appreciate it as a “desktop”, it’s really not all that portable. Heading to Vancouver for nearly a month, I needed to keep up with client work and thought I had it dialed.
Not so much.
Typing on a keyboard made for Lilliputians is not a pleasurable experience for a speed-typer like me. I drive a keyboard.
I looked into a lot of tiny laptops – but considering that my on-the-go needs are minimal and mostly involve writing, I didn’t need anything fancy or expensive, so my wife and I walked out of a random trip to Best Buy with a $175 Samsung 3 Chromebook. Conspiratorial thoughts about Google aside, it’s a handy machine for practical stuff, and I’m honestly not too worried whether Google is secretly skimming my works in progress, college papers, topic lists or blog drafts for clients anyway.
No, it does not feel classy. This is no MacBook Air, not in the slightest (I quit Apple a long time ago, anyway). What it is, however, is nearly weightless, very small, and easily replaceable should it grow legs. As a keyboard jockey, I also appreciate a keyboard that feels practically normal. This is now the gadget I cart off to school during the early mornings I spend in the study lounge before class. It’s the one I bring out to the living room when I want to join the family after hours of being holed up in my study. It’s the thing we watch Netflix in bed with, the thing I take to coffee shops, the thing I do an awful lot of writing, research and fact-checking on.
And sometimes it’s gotten very, very slow. Because it’s the cheapie model, it doesn’t have a whole lot of memory or hard drive space (Chromebooks aren’t made for that anyway). I have to keep my open tabs under control (relax though, I’ve got 11 open right now). It hates Facebook. Storage capacity isn’t massive, either, but I’ve made the moves and now it’s back to just-out-of-the-box speed.
Here’s what I did to speed up my Chromebook:
Drop a micro-SD card in it and store local files there. Amazon had a Sandisk Ultra 200gb on sale for $28 recently. Worth its weight in gold. Plus Google Drive. 100gb for $1.99/month.
You can also turn off syncing, but that terrifies me – coordinated efforts between my desktop, phone, and my Chromebook are important to me, especially with the amount of research and fact-checking I do. Also, because I’m slightly obsessive, I back up my desktop computer to a portable pretty frequently, too, and that includes my Google Drive folder there. Bases pretty covered.
If you keep your machine clean you can probably just avoid this – but a Chromebook with a lot of stuff stored on it, and a Chromebook with a lot of stuff open, is going to be a slow Chromebook.
Check your specs. There’s great information here on how to see your space and usage both on your Chromebook and on Google Drive. Do some spring cleaning if necessary, and again, move stuff around. Clean out and organize your downloads, frequently. I also work in Google Docs offline a lot, so turning that option off is not an option for me – but if you don’t need it, turn it off.
Change this setting, after you read about what it does. As the author notes, this may not improve the situation for everyone, but it did for me, despite being from 2014.
As for Facebook and Chromebook’s seeming hatred of it, turns out Facebook + Chromebook + Grammarly are a bad idea. Buh-bye on Facebook, Grammarly. I love and recommend you for a million things, just not this one. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, but… clients.
AdBlock Plus can also be very useful, but if you’re like me, you’ll notice that most quality news sites these days know when you’re using it – and they’ll offer you an option to either turn it off or get behind a paywall.
I don’t mind supporting high-grade journalism in whatever way I can. Writing takes time, effort and research – we deserve to eat, too. The unfortunate thing is that I can’t afford to buy into every news source I enjoy, so I turn off AdBlock when I can – but ads really, really, really slow down your browsing experience on a cheap Chromebook. The more ad-laden a page that requires me to turn off ad blocking is, the more likely it is I’ll just leave, instead.
Finally, reboot it. Frequently. The beauty of Chromebooks is that a reboot takes just seconds. Everybody and everything benefits from a frequent reboot.
So, if you’re on a cheap, sluggish, and very useful little Chromebook, I hope this helps.