Chromebook Photo Editing Review
A little Background,
For most people, they never would even consider a Chromebook for photo editing. Well, they are right in some regards. They are usually under powered and don’t support typical programs that would work on PC or mac (IE any adobe program). When Chromebooks were introduced in 2011 they were very basic computers. Today, however, they have improved drastically. 4 years ago, I sold my laptop and built a desktop PC for school (I studied architecture so I needed a powerful PC for rendering). Shortly after I decided to give a Chromebook a shot for taking notes in class among other small tasks. I bought an Acer C720 with 2 gigs of ram and an Intel Celeron CPU on sale for $100 at Best Buy. Best decision I have made for a computer in a long time. It has been great. In fact, I am typing this up on that same Chromebook! They are great on battery life (I get upwards of 8+ hours even after 4 years of use), are fast (start up in less than 5 seconds), and light to carry around (2.8 lbs is much better than most pcs on the market especially if you are looking at one under $1000 or in this case, under $100). Yes, they don’t use any typical programs you might be used to and rely on web based apps but that can be a good thing.
Disclaimer, Google is not paying me to say any of this, I just really like what they have created. It works well for me and my workflow.
Now, onto the main topic: photo editing on a Chromebook.
Regardless of what system you are running, if you don’t have a photo editing program right now, go check out Polarr. It is an inexpensive alternative to Lightroom, it works on Chrome OS, and is a good intro into post processing your images. That is what I use on my Chromebook for photo editing. Again, I am using a C720 that has 2 gigs of ram, a Celeron CPU, and I am more often than not listening to music and have at least 4-5 tabs open alongside Polarr. That is one of the lowest spec Chromebooks that you can get. I have only had a crash when I export more than 5 photos under those conditions. It is very rare for me to export 5+ photos at once on my Chromebook using Polarr as it is more of an individual photo editor rather than a batch editor like Lightroom (check out my Lightroom vs Polarr article here Here). If you are looking to get a Chromebook in the coming weeks, be sure to grab one that has a touch screen. The reason being, Google is beginning to optimize the OS for touch screens. Plus, Polarr was just updated to be much more touch friendly with bigger sliders and a cleaner UI.
I have subjected my C720 to some serious abuse as well. Since most data is not stored locally (you use google drive for 99% of your storage) I have no fear with just tossing it in my bag and going to shoot a location which I have done on multiple occasions. Since I have an Intel CPU I have installed windows 10 on it and even Ubuntu 14.4 for a time to see how it would work. Both actually worked well, but neither were optimized for the hardware and were a little unstable. In the end I would just switch back to Chrome OS. There are just some really nice features on Chromebooks that make using them such a joy to use. The search button is the one that jumps out to me as a game changer. Seriously, every computer should have this in the future that you can link to your search engine of choice.
Two additions I need to point out:
I am able to connect to my PC at home and use all my programs over the “Chrome Remote Desktop” app. My Chromebook is NOT my main computer. I use it as a supplement to my PC. I do however, use it quite often even when I’m at home and take it on trips with me as well.
I have fully bought into the Google ecosystem. If you have not, or are not planning on doing so, buying a Chromebook is not a great option as everything you need to do on a Chromebook goes through your Google account. Its the same issue when buying a mac or iphone then buy a windows PC. They both work fine, but are not optimized the way an iphone and mac are. You can still use the Chromebook but you will need to create a google account in order to log in and connect online.
Here is a good little tip for you Chromebook editors out there. Chromebooks don’t have a ton of ram (usually). Because of this, they have a hard time showing the preview of your RAW files in the file browser (even though the OS CAN show them in the file browser). If you have an SD card large enough, shoot in raw + jpeg so you can preview the jpeg flies easier on your Chromebook to find the photos you want to edit. Its even better if you have a camera that supports dual SD cards because then you can enable the second card to be the jpeg card to review the images. If all else fails, just use your cameras playback feature, make a note of the photo number of the image you like, and just copy it once you are in the file browser.
There you have it, Chromebooks can be used as mobile photo editing stations on the cheap. It’s not ideal, but if you are on a budget, and are shooting as primarily a hobby, being able to edit photos on the go is really handy.
Hope this was helpful!