If all you want to do is pound out a screenplay, it seems like a $200 laptop should do the trick, right? That’s what makes screenwriting on a Chromebook such an alluring promise. The low cost Google based machines have pretty good keyboards and displays, and the processors are more than sufficient to handle typing. But the requirement that all software run in a browser and mostly be tethered to the Internet have been a major stumbling block to would be blockbuster writers.
I have had two Chromebooks and tried out a number of writing apps on them. I wrote about my early efforts here. Although there are web based tools like CeltX, none of them were really good enough, especially if you’ve ever spent time working with a traditional (by which I mean real) computer. But I still wanted a solid state based, inexpensive, fan-less laptop for writing duty. I absolutely love my MacBook Air, and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it is filled with distractions. Hence my desire for a writing only machine.
Well lucky for all of us, Microsoft has come to fear the free Chrome OS and has introduced Windows with Bing, the free version of Windows, and HP and Asus, two companies with solid Chromebook backgrounds, have taken up the call to produce Chromebook killers.
Let me introduce you to the HP Stream and the Asus X205. Both laptops will run you roughly $200, they run Windows with Bing (which, like a Chromebook, requires you to have a Microsoft account) and have decent keyboards and mice and processors. And they come with cloud storage. Sound familiar? But the killer difference, and the one that makes them useful writing computers, is they run a full version of good old Windows. And if you get the “Signature Edition” of these computers at the Microsoft Store, there’s no bloatware slowing them down.
Chances are you have a favorite screenwriting app, so I won’t spend any time reviewing those. I purchased the HP Stream 11 system, and my comments below refer to that machine.
The first thing you should know is that whatever writing app you want to use, it will just run like it does on any other Windows based computer. I loaded up Final Draft and Scrivener, my go-to apps, and they opened quickly and performed great.
Chromebooks are known for their quick start up and waking, and snappy web performance. Startup on my Stream 11 was just a little slower than a Chromebook, but still fast, and web response is just as good.
The HP and Asus systems are about the same physical size and roughly the same cost. The Asus has a brighter screen and a more responsive trackpad, and the screen has a large degree of movement, but it has pretty mushy keys with a very short throw. It also uses an Atom processor. The HP uses an Intel Celeron processor and has a MUCH better keyboard. Since I primarily wanted to use the device for writing, better keyboard won out over better display. Beyond that, the two devices are strikingly similar, with 32 GB solid state drives, 2 GB of RAM, and web cams (which I’ll never use.)
So, this article was a very long winded way of saying, if you want to do screenwriting on a Chromebook, get the HP Stream or Asus X205 instead. Having spent a fair amount of time on both the Chromebook platform and the Win 8.1 with Bing platform, the latter is an unambiguously better solution.