The only budget computer you should buy someone this holiday is a Chromebook

Lenovo Chromebook C340-11 Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

This is the newly-released Lenovo Chromebook C340, a $300 Chromebook with 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, and over six years of support ahead of it. I’ve just swapped to the C340 after spending the majority of the year on its predecessor, the $250 Lenovo Chromebook C330. Traditionally, the only time most people would ever even consider computers priced this low is Black Friday or Cyber Monday, and as these sales approach, I have two very serious slices of sage wisdom to share:

1.If you’re buying a laptop this holiday, it better run Chrome OS.
2. Be very careful when buying Chromebooks during big holiday sales.

Black Friday is a great day to grab great products at budget prices, but it’s also a day where retailers like to get rid of older, slower tech that seems like a huge discount when really it’s just a clearance bin clunker. This can get even harder to spot on sight for Chromebooks that normally sell for under $300 and can go for under $100 during Black Friday and Prime Day events. Thankfully, Chromebooks have a few very easy ways to gauge how current and worthwhile they are.

Why go Chrome? Simplicity and sensibility

Chromebooks are wonderful laptops that are very easy for strangers to pick up and get used to. Chrome OS is a streamlined operating system, centered around the Chrome Browser and Android apps available through Google Play. There’s not even a real desktop: it’s just your wallpaper and the app shelf since your files live in Google Drive or the Downloads folder.

Chromebook logoSource: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

Chrome OS is a resilient, secure system made for busy business environments and people with little to no experience with computers. As a result, it’s much harder to break a Chromebook, and if it does happen, it only takes five minutes to Powerwash and re-add your Google account and apps. The hardware tends to withstand a beating, too; Google has durability standards it requires for Education Chromebooks, but nearly all modern Chromebooks can withstand short drops, have reinforced ports/hinges, and feature either spill-resistant or pick-resistant keyboards.

Perhaps the best part is that due to the way Chrome OS is designed and optimized for computers with lower specifications, while a $300 Windows laptop will be painfully slow in 6-12 months, a Chromebook will be puttering along just like it did fresh out of the box.

Quick ways to check for older Chromebooks during Black Friday

Because all Chromebooks get their Chrome OS updates direct from Google every few weeks, Google puts an expiration date on all Chromebooks, a date after which they’ll no longer get those all-important system and security updates. This is called the Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date, and it tells you how many years of service you can expect from the Chromebook you’re about to purchase. It’s listed for every single model on Google’s Support page and you’ll want to check it for every Chromebook you consider buying.

For instance,…

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