Windows and Apple’s Mac OS are no longer the only operating systems in town (no, Linux, you don’t count). As of today, Chromebooks are now available in Canada. What’s a Chromebook, you ask? Well, it looks a lot like a PC laptop—there are models from Samsung, HP and Acer—but runs on Google’s own, cloud-based operating system. In other words, you’re going to need a Wi-Fi connection.
The good news, particularly for the price-conscious consumer, is that these things are cheap. Acer’s model is only $249.99, Samsung’s is $269.99 and HP’s, the most expensive, tops the list as $329.99.
There’s a catch, though—at least in the long run. The computers rely on Google Drive, Google’s cloud-based hard drive. The laptop’s offline capabilities are limited. As a bonus, new Chromebooks come with a free two-year 100 GB subscription to Google Drive, but after those couple years are up, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to maintain it. For 100 GB, it’s only $4.99 a month, but that adds up. Meanwhile, 200 GB is $9.99, and so on.
It’s something the value-minded shopper should remember. While being able to access the same drive at home and on your Chromebook is certainly convenient—assuming the café Wi-Fi doesn’t crap out—keep in mind that it’s part of a clever long-term business strategy.
Once you’ve uploaded hundreds of photos and documents to your cloud drive, you probably won’t want to, you know, go back. And if your account swells, you’ll need to keep forking out more cash every month for a bigger one. Think about it: If you end up needing the 200 GB account, that’s $120 a year. Google is known for finding clever, often unconventional ways to make money, as it has with ads and search—this could be another home run.
Of course, you may have no problem staying well below 100 GB. Especially if it’s mostly for work, as Word documents and spreadsheets don’t take up a whole lot of space. Either way, the (delayed) costs of Google Drive may simply be worth it for you. Being able to work from anywhere, without having to juggle flash drives, is a strong selling point. Which is probably why Samsung’s Chromebook has sat atop Amazon’s best-selling laptop list for 149 days straight.