Gifts for Chromebook Users

Upgrades and Peripherals to Improve the Chromebook Experience

Nov 16 2015 - Chromebooks have become an extremely popular item for those looking to have a low cost internet connected laptop computer. Much of their appeal is their low cost but to achieve this, the lack a number of features. If you happen to have a Chromebook or know someone else that has one, these are some great upgrades and peripherals that can really help make using a Chromebook better.

The problem with most of the Chromebooks on the market is that they are very small. This gives very limited space for the trackpad which can make them extremely difficult to use. Thankfully, most Chromebooks come equipped with Bluetooth which make them easy to add a wireless mouse to for easy navigation. The Microsoft Sculpt Comfort is an excellent choice because it is affordable, small and offers very high level of tracking detail. Priced around $30. For those that may have some wrist issues, another option could be a wireless trackball but it will require a USB port for the dongle.

Storage space for local files is one of the big problems with the Chromebooks. The typical configuration comes with just 16GB of solid state space of which users tend to get around 10GB. That can quickly be eaten up by local high definition media that you want to access when away from the network for cloud storage. Most Chromebooks feature SD compatible card slots for adding flash memory. A 64GB microSD flash card is an inexpensive way to add lots of storage to a Chromebook. This SanDisk card offers very fast transfer speeds and a SD Card adapter for use with larger slots. Priced around $25.

Continuing with the idea of expanded storage, an external USB based hard drive is another option to provide even more storage space than even a flash card can provide. While most SD cards top out around 128GB of space, portable hard drives can go as high as 2TB such as with this Seagate Expansion Portable drive. This uses a small laptop size hard drive that runs off a USB 3.0 port to provide it with quick access times. Pricing is very reasonable at roughly $90. There are of course more affordable smaller drives as well

Because of the small size of Chromebooks, most only feature about two USB ports of which only one uses the new USB 3.0 speeds. If you happen to have more peripherals that you need to plug into a Chromebook, a USB hub is a convenient way to add more ports. Since the Chromebook is about portability, a small 4-port unit is generally a good option as it is easy to pack and take along. Just be warned that this is not powered so some USB 3.0 devices may not work properly. Pricing is around $15.

Acer S241HL
Acer S241HL. ©Acer
The displays on Chromebooks are generally not the highest resolution or quality. If you use a Chromebook heavily in an office or central location, it might be useful to have an external monitor that you can hook it up to. Almost all Chromebooks feature an HDMI port to use with an external display and there are many affordable 24-inch displays that can make for a great primary or even secondary display with the small laptops. Prices start around $150 to $200. More »
Laptop Memory Modules
Laptop Memory Modules. ©Crucial
The typical Chromebook comes with roughly 2GB of memory. The Chrome OS is very efficient and for the most part this does not cause many performance issues. Having said that, if you like to have lots of tabs opened in Chrome at the same time while playing media, you can run into problems. An easy solution is to upgrade the RAM within the Chromebook. The problem is not all Chromebooks have memory modules that can be replaced and those that do often require you to void your warranty by opening the case. So only do this upgrade if you feel you really need it and have properly investigated that it can be upgraded. A 4GB DDR3 SoDIMM module used can be priced as low as $35. More »
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Transcend MTS400
Transcend MTS400 M.2 SSD. ©Transcend Information, Inc.

Just like a RAM upgrade, a SSD upgrade is something that can likely be done in many Chromebooks but opening up the system will likely void your warranty. If however you really want to have better storage space and performance, a solid state drive upgrade can often supply that. Make sure to investigate if the Chromebook's drive can be upgraded and what kind of interface it uses. Many use with mSATA or M.2 interface and are restricted on the type and size. Prices generally start around $60 for a 64GB drive. More »