For people who just want to have a laptop to send emails, browse the internet, or write essays, a Chromebook offers the ideal solution. Some of the best Chromebooks available today are renowned for their inexpensiveness, solid battery life, and simple-to-use software, but others quickly became a nightmare. Many Chromebooks purchased as recently as three years ago are already breaking, leading to consumers throwing them out and subsequently creating electronic waste.
According to a report from the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), many schools and parents purchased Chromebooks for their students in the midst of the pandemic, as they offered a way to get schoolwork done from home without the caveat of buying an expensive laptop (via Engadget). While they might have gotten a deal at the time, consumers are now facing durability troubles as well as software issues.
The report explains that Chromebooks are notoriously difficult to repair thanks to rare replacement parts and high prices. It notes that replacement keyboards for Acer Chromebooks were either out of stock or cost $90 each, which could equate to almost half the price of certain models. Naturally, many have opted to simply replace the laptops instead of repairing them, leading to an increase in electronic waste.
Chromebooks have solid update support, but that doesn't help when retailers are selling antiquated models
Poor durability isn't the only factor leading to this increase in Chromebook excess. Many models come with a built-in expiration date, where Google stops providing the devices with updates after a set amount of time. While Google promises certain models can get eight years' worth of software updates, which is in line with Apple's support for MacBooks, the clock doesn't start at the time of purchase — rather when the product releases. This becomes a problem when school districts and parents are looking for the cheapest possible Chromebook and turn to older models approaching the end of their support timeframe. For students, this may seem like a non-factor, but PIRG explains that Chromebooks that can't update also can't access online state testing websites.
PIRG's solution to reduce waste stemming from Chromebooks is to extend the life of these devices. The group suggests Google can do this by guaranteeing updates long past their initial eight-year window and by forcing manufacturers to use stronger and more durable materials. As such, the price of Chromebooks may go up, removing their affordability factor. The report also claims increasing the lifespan of Chromebooks could cut CO2 emissions by 4.6 million tons, which is equal to removing 900,000 cars from the road in a year. On top of cutting back on CO2 emissions, spending less on Chromebooks could save taxpayers $1.8 billion before any additional repairs could potentially be needed.
Despite this report, Chromebooks may still be the best, most affordable option for some, and Acer's latest Spin 714 model could wind up being the best Chromebook of the year.