Chromebook vs laptop

Does anyone have experience using chromebooks instead of laptops? I have had several tablets that use the android os over the last 6+yrs, so I am comfortable using that system, but have no experience using windows or apple products. I am planning on upgrading to something larger, faster, more capable. So has anyone used a chromebook, or tablet when out spotting or chasing? Pros and cons vs a laptop, with or without a touchscreen?
Thank you!
 

B. Dean Berry

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May 25, 2014
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Go with a windows laptop. Chromebook is very limited in what you can use on it, as far as chasing software. Most software packages in this realm are things like GRLevel3 or Baron Mobile Threat Net, that work excellently on windows XP to windows 7.
 
You can use a tablet for radar (with RadarScope) and the like, and maybe some light photo editing (there are Android and iOS versions of Lightroom for example). Chromebooks are basically useful for basic web browsing/email, and word processing. You won't be able to get any kind of radar software on a Chromebook.

If space is a concern, the Microsoft Surface Pro series would be an option. They run full Windows operating systems, so programs like GRLevel3 and Photoshop/Premiere can be installed and ran, and they don't take up nearly as much room as a laptop. That said, anything with a touchscreen that has a reasonably capable processor and graphics card is going to be more expensive than a non touch screen (i.e. traditional) laptop.
 

Mark Blue

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Feb 19, 2007
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Having a laptop means you’ll also need to buy a mounting system to put it on (safely) and they can cost a couple of hundred dollars or more. I used to cringe at the idea of not bringing my laptop along until I loaded up my iPad and Samsung S8+ with software and bookmarks for the websites I use. I’ve been chasing locally for a few years now without my laptop so it can be done and without sacrificing much either. No GRLX programs on my iPad but RS is getting to the point where it isn’t necessary to haul the heavy hardware along anymore.
 
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Having a laptop means you’ll also need to buy a mounting system to put it on (safely) and they can cost a couple of hundred dollars or more. I used to cringe at the idea of not bringing my laptop along until I loaded up my iPad and Samsung S8+ with software and bookmarks for the websites I use. I’ve been chasing locally for a few years now without my laptop so it can be done and without sacrificing much either. No GRLX programs on my iPad but RS is getting to the point where it isn’t necessary to haul the heavy hardware along anymore.
I currently have a Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 [tablet], and a Kyocera Dura Force Pro2 [smart phone] , and have RadarScope Pro-Tier1 on both. I use a vent mount for the Kyocera, and have worked up a dash mount for the tablet, so it looks like I'll need something laptop/desktop to edit photos and do word processing.
Thanks,
Ken
 
May 18, 2013
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GRLevel3 or Baron Mobile Threat Net, that work excellently on windows XP to windows 7.
Note that Windows 7 end of support is Jan 2020 and Windows XP is already unsupported. GRLevel3 runs great on Windows 10 (I don't use Baron). While I prefer Windows 7 to Windows 10, with security updates stopping, I would not use it. Avoid Windows 8 - it is horrible.

The big advantage to using a laptop with GRLevel3 vs a tablet/phone with RadarScope is you can use shapefiles to integrate maps and things like surface obs. A common integrated view is helpful. The Windy Android/iPhone app has detailed maps, but it's radar is lacking, so having a laptop with GR is really nice. For local chases I often will chase with just a phone like Mark does, but I know the local roads well, so I don't need the detailed mapping. Sure you can use 2 separate apps on a phone, but my experience is I have sometimes misaligned the radar over the detailed map in my head.
 
Note that Windows 7 end of support is Jan 2020 and Windows XP is already unsupported. GRLevel3 runs great on Windows 10 (I don't use Baron). While I prefer Windows 7 to Windows 10, with security updates stopping, I would not use it. Avoid Windows 8 - it is horrible.

The big advantage to using a laptop with GRLevel3 vs a tablet/phone with RadarScope is you can use shapefiles to integrate maps and things like surface obs. A common integrated view is helpful. The Windy Android/iPhone app has detailed maps, but it's radar is lacking, so having a laptop with GR is really nice. For local chases I often will chase with just a phone like Mark does, but I know the local roads well, so I don't need the detailed mapping. Sure you can use 2 separate apps on a phone, but my experience is I have sometimes misaligned the radar over the detailed map in my head.
Thanks
I plan on doing mostly local spotting/reporting, and my post-Mass "Sunday Drives", mainly consist of becoming familiar the local/county grid. My Garmin Nuvi doesn't always agree with what is on the ground, and keeps showing or directing me to roads, bridges, and low water crossings/fords that don't exist! Even paper maps aren't wholly reliable.
 
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Mark Blue

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The other issue with running Windows XP and 7 is you’d need virtualization software to run those on current hardware. I’d opt for a beefy hardware setup running on Windows 10. Supposedly the latest MS update package allows users to attain a look and feel that removes the tiles from the Start Menu, so it’s more like Windows 7. I read that in MaximumPC where they discuss those kind of things.
 
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Jul 16, 2013
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While Chomebooks are cheap, I would not recommend a Chromebook for storm chasing over a laptop. You will be very limited as to what you can do and will be limited as to what apps you can run on Chrome OS. I personally would never want to own a Chromebook. If you're wanting just something basic, not big but still runs Windows OS you can get a tablet for pretty cheap. Here's a basic one that runs Windows 10 and think it would do just fine running your standard radar apps (GRLevelX, etc).. Amazon.com: Chuwi HI10 AIR Tablet,10.1 inch Intel X5 Z8350 Tablet PC,4G+64G,Official Windows 10 OS,WiFi,BT4.0,2K Resolution Screen (HI10 AIR): Gateway
 

B. Dean Berry

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May 25, 2014
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Having a laptop means you’ll also need to buy a mounting system to put it on (safely) and they can cost a couple of hundred dollars or more.
RAM makes great laptop mounts, with many custom floorplate options for no-drill installations. Mine is a RAM Extend-A-Pole mount with a Toughtray II that I picked up used for less than $150. The floor plate bolted right in place, too. Of course, driving a 6th-gen Taurus, floorplates that fit that car are very easy to find. Might not be so easy with other makes/models, if you drive anything that's not commonly found in public safety or construction/industrial usage.

I currently have a Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 [tablet], and a Kyocera Dura Force Pro2 [smart phone] , and have RadarScope Pro-Tier1 on both. I use a vent mount for the Kyocera, and have worked up a dash mount for the tablet, so it looks like I'll need something laptop/desktop to edit photos and do word processing.
I myself us a Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.5" and a Kyocera Duraforce PRO. Excellent hardware.

Thank you B. Dean Berry, Drew Terril, and Mark Blue, for the quick and informative answers
No problem.

Note that Windows 7 end of support is Jan 2020 and Windows XP is already unsupported. GRLevel3 runs great on Windows 10 (I don't use Baron). While I prefer Windows 7 to Windows 10, with security updates stopping, I would not use it. Avoid Windows 8 - it is horrible.
I've never really given much consideration to end of support timelines, really. Microsoft has only really ever been interested in taking my money, much less so on supporting anything. I'll likely use XP until it completely ceases to function. I have a laptop that I upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and have been sorely disappointed. Agreed on Windows 8 being absolutely terrible, though. I had Windows 8 on another computer once, and even this garbage Windows 10 is great in comparison.

The other issue with running Windows XP and 7 is you’d need virtualization software to run those on current hardware. I’d opt for a beefy hardware setup running on Windows 10. Supposedly the latest MS update package allows users to attain a look and feel that removes the tiles from the Start Menu, so it’s more like Windows 7. I read that in MaximumPC where they discuss those kind of things.
Computers that can run Windows 10 adequately are still so expensive, the cost is really prohibitive. Personally, I've been using a handful of Seagate drives with Windows 7 on them for many years now, and I keep swapping out Dell Latitude D630 bodies, probably for about the last 10 years. I think this D630 body I'm on is maybe the 8th or 9th I've had so far?
 
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Sep 7, 2013
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I myself us a Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.5" and a Kyocera Duraforce PRO. Excellent hardware.
I just bought a Tab A 10.1" to replace an aging LG 8" Tablet that has become unreliable. Should be arriving today. It was only $200 (wifi only model from Amazon).

I still use a First Gen iPad for mapping because it's so incredibly smooth to use and has/had the biggest screen of my tools. Beyond mapping and internet though, its completely unsupported and I'm generally not a fan of Apple products. It was a bonus gift from my boss way back when. I'll give it this though, it still works 10 years later and the battery, if I forget to plug it in, lasts all day.

I've only ever chased with phone/tablet(s). Never felt the urge to have a laptop in the car, particularly when tablets are so strong.

As for the discussion at hand, I was recommended a chromebook by a friend. I passed solely on the price and general lack of needing a keyboard while chasing. I don't run any PC tools when chasing, FWIW. No GRL or Baron or anything like that. It's a hobby for me, so my investment is more towards my own safety and photography tools. And as others have mentioned, if you're on a budget, any Win10 machine worth it's weight isn't going to be a low budget item.
 
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James K

EF2
Mar 26, 2019
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B. Dean Berry said:
I've never really given much consideration to end of support timelines, really. Microsoft has only really ever been interested in taking my money, much less so on supporting anything. I'll likely use XP until it completely ceases to function. I have a laptop that I upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and have been sorely disappointed. Agreed on Windows 8 being absolutely terrible, though. I had Windows 8 on another computer once, and even this garbage Windows 10 is great in comparison.
Same...the 'end of support' means nothing to me. I still use a Win-98se PC for basic internet stuff like reading forums. I have an old XP laptop and a XP desktop that I use for video editing (the desktop isn't even setup to go online since I don't need/want access on it). I also have a Win-7 laptop with a busted screen that I got free, and basically use as a desktop by connecting a separate monitor & keyboard that I use for online stuff. I've used Win-8, and have no problem with it. Simply add the missing start menu back (easily done, no downloads or anything needed).
I want nothing to do with Win-10 & its embeded spyware. I'll go with Linux before using that.

As for chasing, when/if I get the chance, I'd be leaving the computer at home, and bring my android tablet (and hope there'd be a place with wifi to stop along the way for if I wanted to check radar.)
 
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B. Dean Berry

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May 25, 2014
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I only got a chance or two to chase this year, and found that I hardly used anything requiring the internet on my laptop. My tablet handles Radarscope with dual-pane display very well, so my laptop was pretty much just for Baron Mobile Threat Net, which is delivered by satellite. Without need for that, my use of a laptop would probably evaporate.
 
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Same...the 'end of support' means nothing to me. I still use a Win-98se PC for basic internet stuff like reading forums. I have an old XP laptop and a XP desktop that I use for video editing (the desktop isn't even setup to go online since I don't need/want access on it). I also have a Win-7 laptop with a busted screen that I got free, and basically use as a desktop by connecting a separate monitor & keyboard that I use for online stuff. I've used Win-8, and have no problem with it. Simply add the missing start menu back (easily done, no downloads or anything needed).
I want nothing to do with Win-10 & its embeded spyware. I'll go with Linux before using that.

As for chasing, when/if I get the chance, I'd be leaving the computer at home, and bring my android tablet (and hope there'd be a place with wifi to stop along the way for if I wanted to check radar.)
I have a Verizon MiFi mobile wifi/hotspot, it works wherever I have a cell signal. I may look into a signal booster, because there are many dead spots in my area.
 
May 18, 2013
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To clarify, "end of support" isn't really about getting help from Microsoft - it is all about getting patches for security issues. The internet is a bad place and even "safe" sites can become unknowing hosts to some pretty bad stuff. If your are going to connect a machine to the internet without the latest security patches you are gambling. Sure you will probably be fine most of the time, but when you go to leave for a chase and find your laptop infected with malware you are going to have a bad day.

Speaking of going to leave for the chase and finding your laptop in a bad state - for those not used to Windows 8 and 10 - you no longer have control over when or if Microsoft updates your OS (outside of a setting to keep it from updating on a metered connection). I have been looking at data at home before a chase and suddenly it decides to install an update right as I am heading out the door. Not good. Also not good is Microsoft can (and does) add/delete features as they see fit. They have moved to a licensed model on their OS and you no longer own a copy - just the right to use what ever copy Microsoft decides to get you.

Another issue with not running the latest Microsoft OS, is that more and more websites are checking web browser version. Some sites are refusing to display anything in IE (even though it is still a part of Windows 10) and requiring a certain version of Edge, Firefox or Chrome. None of these browsers support XP and Vista anymore. Can you get it to work - probably. Is it worth the time and headaches - that is your call.

As you can see, I don't think anyone here is a die hard Windows fan. Having said that, it is the gorilla of OS market share and until programs like GR will run on other OSes, you will probably find most of us using Windows.
 
Mar 8, 2016
176
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Bloomington, IL
The only purpose of bringing my laptop with me on a chase anymore is just for editing and uploading footage on the road. I'm able to do the majority of my forecasting on my android tablet and phone, and when actually chasing Radarscope gets the job done.

A Chromebook itself would be fairly limited compared to an actual laptop, and you'd likely be better off just sticking with a tablet at that point or going for a full blown laptop.
 
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Jan 6, 2019
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Tyler
I guess I like my setup somewhat.

Tablet : Galaxy Tab S4. I installed Win 10 Pro on it so i would not get any surprises if it decided to update itself.
Run Radar Scope on it, along with RepeaterBook to locate repeaters around me.
Don't like the case too slippery (about the only thing i do not like about it). Need to get an arm to mount to my RAM mount to hold it.
Just sticking it upright in the console makes it not easy to glance at.

Laptop : Asus, something like around 16 inch screen. I7 proc. Draws too many amps : 2.5 or there about, battery good for only about 3 hours.
Its too big really, but spent too much money on it to think about going smaller at this time. Use a mifi and an external GPS dongle on it when I need positioning and maps on it. It also has Radarscope on it for larger images. Also runs an app for controlling the PTZ roof camera, plus some other programs i use at times.

Mount for the Asus is a RAM mount. Suppose to fit my vehicle, but didn't really.
Had to drill the base of it to match right hand floor mount and cut a 2 inch piece of 1/2 inch pipe for left side to hold it more forward of the seat. Even though was listed as fitting my vehicle as a bolt up, it did not.
 
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James K

EF2
Mar 26, 2019
170
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6
Colorado
Ken Perrin said:
I have a Verizon MiFi mobile wifi/hotspot, it works wherever I have a cell signal. I may look into a signal booster, because there are many dead spots in my area.
A device along the line of that is deff something I'd have to consider If I ever really got into chasing.
At this point though my cell plan is .very. basic... 1 device, and 500 megabytes/month data limit. (but it is free)
I don't know how coverage is here in CO once you get east of the city areas.

Randy Jennings said:
for those not used to Windows 8 and 10 - you no longer have control over when or if Microsoft updates your OS (outside of a setting to keep it from updating on a metered connection). I have been looking at data at home before a chase and suddenly it decides to install an update right as I am heading out the door. Not good. Also not good is Microsoft can (and does) add/delete features as they see fit. They have moved to a licensed model on their OS and you no longer own a copy - just the right to use what ever copy Microsoft decides to get you.
Actually with Windows 8, you can simply turn off updates just like in all previous versions. Problem solved. (Windows 10 you can't turn it off)
You can also do as I do, and network-block anything with 'microsoft' in its URL (also needed for various other domains they use).
Can be done a home network pretty easily _if_ your router supports url/keyword blocking. (same would be true of a mobile hotspot).
Some routers have a bug that causes blocking to fail if its a SSL connection...which is why I plan on looking more into something better like pfSense firewall or pi-hole.
 

James K

EF2
Mar 26, 2019
170
69
6
Colorado
I also do have a suggestion on tablets:
A smaller tablet with 7" or 8" screen is nice for portability, but a larger one with say, a 10" screen sure is nice for seeing things. I personally would go for the larger one...unless you plan on carrying it around with you allot.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
I’ve never used a Chromebook but there are plenty of chase days when I use nothing but an iPad. It gives me access to all of the data and models I need on the Internet, I’ve got both Google and Apple maps, and I’ve got RadarScope. I bring a laptop with me but some days I don’t even boot it up at all. My chase buddy used to have Baron on his laptop, but we stopped using that years ago and never did adopt GR.
 
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A device along the line of that is deff something I'd have to consider If I ever really got into chasing.
At this point though my cell plan is .very. basic... 1 device, and 500 megabytes/month data limit. (but it is free)
I don't know how coverage is here in CO once you get east of the city areas.


Actually with Windows 8, you can simply turn off updates just like in all previous versions. Problem solved. (Windows 10 you can't turn it off)
You can also do as I do, and network-block anything with 'microsoft' in its URL (also needed for various other domains they use).
Can be done a home network pretty easily _if_ your router supports url/keyword blocking. (same would be true of a mobile hotspot).
Some routers have a bug that causes blocking to fail if its a SSL connection...which is why I plan on looking more into something better like pfSense firewall or pi-hole.
The MiFi, was my only internet connection for the last four years, until fiberoptic data became available here, and I installed it last spring. So it's not new, just repurposed.
 
I also do have a suggestion on tablets:
A smaller tablet with 7" or 8" screen is nice for portability, but a larger one with say, a 10" screen sure is nice for seeing things. I personally would go for the larger one...unless you plan on carrying it around with you allot.
My tablet has a 10" diagonal [7 3/4" × 5 3/4" actual] screen.
To mount it, I took a Urban Armor Gear Exoskeleton for Samsung tablets, and mounted the socket from a CD slot smartphone mount, to the back of its frame. This is what I will mostly use as a mount for it. I also added a Steelie magnetic socket to it.
The phone goes into a low profile vent mount, that I picked up at a Dollar General.
The Garmin uses the suction cup windshield mount that came with it.