Chromebooks Were Once a Good Deal for Schools. Now They’re Becoming E-Waste:

Low-price, easy-to-use Chromebooks were once a boon to cost-conscious schools. Educators say the simple laptops are no longer a good deal.

This is incorrect. Chromebook’s were never a “good deal.” They were cheap. That’s it. 

…Models have shot up in price in the past four years. Constant repairs add to the cost. Google imposes expiration dates, even if the hardware still works. This year, Google ceases support for 13 models. Next year, 51 models will expire.

These surging costs are presenting a predicament for anyone who runs a school and wants to educate children. Some administrators say they are throwing precious funding at a product that just doesn’t last long enough. Doubling the lifespan of Chromebooks could save public schools—and taxpayers—an estimated $1.8 billion, according to U.S. PIRG, a public-interest research group that analyzed Chromebook data.

Chromebooks have no second life. When they expire, they become e-waste. By contrast, Macs and PCs can run apps even after their native software is no longer supported. They can even be repurposed into Chromebook-like devices.

Chromebooks “win” on initial cost of ownership. That’s it. As soon as you factor in longevity—total cost of ownership—the game is over and the Macs win. (Macs win against PCs as well.)

…Forrest Smith, a ChromeOS product manager at Google, explained why expiration policies exist, saying they correspond to manufacturer support for hardware components inside the laptops. “These dates aren’t arbitrary,” he said.

Google must get laptop and components manufacturers to guarantee the hardware that runs ChromeOS can continue to perform, and test new features across supported models. Extending the lifespan is no trivial effort, Smith added.

In other words, hardware manufacturers want to sell new products, so Google has agreed with them to arbitrarily limit how long the ChromeOS will run.

…“We used to buy new MacBooks, then after four years, resell them for hundreds of dollars,” said Jeannie Crowley, a former director of technology at Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx, New York. Chromebooks, she said, can actually cost money at the end of their life.

Crowley could sell bulk lots of Chromebooks mixed in with other Macs or PCs as scrap. No one bid on the Chromebook-only lots, so the school paid to haul away the e-waste.

Macs retain value, far more than PCs or Chromebooks. You might ask, “Why?”

…After all, a 14-year-old Mac can run the latest version of Chrome, but a six-year-old Chromebook can’t. 

On the macOS side, a Mac life cycle is usually closer to 8-10 years, but that doesn’t mean the Apple hardware—and it’s almost always best of class hardware—can’t be repurposed.