Are Chromebooks good for programming?

Chromebooks are designed for students. A fact that you need to accept. Nonetheless, choosing a Chromebook over a regular laptop (windows, macOS) is not recommended unless you are on a tight budget and know the technical stuff. Like replacing ChromeOS with any OS of your choice.

Investing in a Chromebook can be an excellent choice if you are aiming to learn coding in an institute or want to give one to a student. I recommend them — they’re small, cheap, portable, and definitely, be used for programming.

This article explains in detail how to code on a Chromebook.


Why are Chromebooks better for programming?

Cheaper than regular laptops.

Their cheap price is what makes these devices ideal for students in any field. At least, 13-inch screen size is more practical than learning to code on a tiny mobile screen. A Chromebook with excellent specs comes somewhere between $300. Refurbished options reduce the price to $150. In contrast, buying a Windows or Macbook laptop will probably cost you around $1000. 

Best Chromebooks for programming.

Easy to use.

Designed for kids, they are quite easy to use. Fast booting, easy access on the menu, and everything on it is just so simple. Online cloud-based apps are the most suitable for these devices. Included are online compilers of your choice of programming language, online Photo editors, and all google cloud-based apps. Though online Compilers may not be the best option, they are sufficient for learning a programming language and developing school projects.

Faster reset

At times when you get into problems making a Chromebook compatible for programming, some tweaks are required during that you may run into some problems. Anyways, if something goes wrong, the process of troubleshooting is easy and can be done quickly. Use the powerwash option and reset your Chromebook to default settings. 

Compatible with many Linux distros.

Chromebooks have breakable limits. Built on the Linux kernel, it’s possible to replace ChromeOS with Linux distros, including kali linux, Debian, and Ubuntu and you can even use windows OS. It involves some technical work, but at least you can do it. This means that ChromeOS can be made compatible with popular IDEs in this way. 

Good battery timing

Battery life is one of the reasons why Chromebooks are so popular among students. Most can run upto 10 hours easily, enabling you to code for an entire day without charging. Even the cheaper models have good battery timing as the ChromeOS itself consumes minimal power. 

Why are Chromebooks not good for programming?

Even if you have heard that Chromebooks can be used for programming. But what are the disadvantages? The following points will highlight them. Afterward, you’ll know if this is something you want to buy or if you’d prefer windows or Mac OS laptop.

Let’s assume that you’re buying a Chromebook simply because it’s cheaper than other laptops. Here are a few things you should know.

ChromeOS on Chromebook is not supported by many popular IDES

Running popular IDEs on ChromeOS will not be easy. IDEs such as Pycharm and Jupiter, IntejiIdea, Netbeans, and Eclipse are mainly supported by Windows and macOS. There is, however, a way to install IDEs on Chromebooks with some adjustments. As such ChromeOS is based on the Linux kernel, and with some tweaks, you can replace ChromeOS with windows, or Linux (kali Linux, ubuntu, Debian). 

You always need an active internet

Internet connection is always a need for a Chromebook user. With regards to programming, there are online IDEs for coding apps in C++, or pythononline to use python interpreter and code debug code online. Locally debugging is not possible on ChromeOS. To be honest, depending on online editors for programming projects is not something professional programmers would prefer unless you are learning to code, you are good to go.

Best online Compilers you can use on a Chromebook.

Best PHP Online Compilers

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20+ Best C++ Compilers

Chromebooks are more cloud-based:

Chromebooks are more cloud-based. Hardware memory is less than regular laptops. Local file storage isn’t ideal, while Google cloud storage is where you will most likely store most of your files. Definitely, many Chromebooks can be upgraded from 32GB to 64GB or 128GB for an added price. Or expensive Chromebooks can solve this problem. Nonetheless, the sole purpose (they are cheaper) will make no sense. Better to get a regular laptop.

Chromebooks are not great for game development.

Despite the fact that powerful hardware is not the only requirement for programmers. But if you are a wannabe game developer, then Chromebooks are not just for you. In addition, ChromeOS does not support popular game engines like Unity, Gamemaker, Tencent etc. But also (even if you replace it with windows) Low powered MediaTek GPUs are not sufficient enough for rendering. 

Many Chromebooks don’t have good keyboards

The keyboard is important, as programming is better done on a comfortable keyboard than on a cheap one. Most Chromebooks have cheap keyboards, but you can find Chromebooks with reliable keyboards. Premium Chromebooks will have good keyboards, so again the cheapness is gone. 

The whole thing is designed to be the ultimate Google safe space. Downloads are minimal, you’re constantly on Google (not a bad thing, but seriously, it’s difficult to even use anything Microsoft Office), and everything is basic.

Is it possible to code on a Chromebook?

Coding on a Chromebook definitely is possible. With proper knowledge, you can use a Chromebook to code any language of your choice. By using online editors it’s possible to code in C++, and C by installing visual code studio, as well you can write python commands directly in the terminal.

When should you buy a Chromebook for programming?

As a student, getting started with programming a Chromebook can help. Prices are reasonable, the battery life is good, and online compilers can assist in learning to code. 

You should not shift to Chromebooks if you are a strict developer. ChromeOS can only be used if it is replaced with a more compatible OS that is more compatible with programming. In light of this, buying a Linux-running laptop makes much more sense. You can save a lot of time and money by purchasing a laptop that already has Linux installed (and perhaps even some frustration).

However, the Google services students need are not available on Linux laptops.

Should you use a Chromebook for programming?

Buying a Chromebook as a secondary device makes more sense. 

Chromebooks are typically used for development in conjunction with another machine that you can log into remotely. Most educational institutions provide students with a remote desktop that they can use remotely on Chromebooks.

Chromebook vs laptop- which is better as a software student?

Chromebooks vs regular laptops for programming (or actually ChromeOS vs Windows or macOS) does not mean we are talking about how powerful the hardware is. As such, an expensive Chromebook can have powerful specs, with performance better than a regular laptop. But in terms of programming such as data science, front-end development, and hardware support is not all that matter.

Programming of any type is not really CPU-intensive. An 8GB of RAM backed up by a 1.8GHz rate of the processor is enough to create data science projects, or build web-based apps. 

With that being said, hardware specs are not really a problem. A low-end laptop is enough to code whatever you want to. For instance, building sites by implementing javascript, HTML, CSS, or using python to build your school project. Chromebooks are capable enough to handle such tasks, of course with some tweaks. The first is to replace ChromeOS with a reliable OS for programming using Crouton.