“Chromebooks aren’t built to last”: Average device has 4 years of updates left

Enlarge / US PIRG’s “Chromebook Churn” report casts a harsh highlight on flaws in Chromebook repairability and longevity.

Scharon Harding

Google is within the US Public Curiosity Analysis Group (PIRG) scorching seat. This week, the nonprofit revealed its “Chromebook Churn” [PDF] report, pointing a finger at Google for enabling Chromebooks that “aren’t designed to final.” It highlighted Chromebook quirks, like seemingly pointless {hardware} tweaks throughout fashions that problem parts-sourcing and automated replace expiration (AUE) dates, as examples of the repair-averse Chromebook tradition Google has enabled. For goal Chromebook markets, like colleges, that go for Chromebooks to save cash, long-term prices might outweigh the speedy financial savings, PIRG’s evaluation concluded.

The report focuses on Chromebooks in colleges and relies on an interviews with 10 “faculty IT administrators, technicians, journalists, restore store homeowners, components suppliers, and academics,” in addition to a “five-question survey with 13 faculty IT directors and technicians.” The pattern measurement might be a lot bigger, however the particulars within the report are additionally based mostly on undisputed traits of ChromeOS gadgets. And whereas PIRG’s paper emphasizes the impression this all has for colleges, particularly the inflow of Chromebooks bought for colleges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic’s peak and past, it is price contemplating for any present or potential Chromebook homeowners or individuals who wish to vote with their greenback.

Sneaky design adjustments hinder repairs

The report, written by PIRG’s Designed to Final Marketing campaign director, Lucas Rockett Gutterman, argues that as a result of Chromebooks are largely web-based and do not fluctuate in energy as a lot as different laptops, it ought to be “straightforward” to supply modular designs that enable for components to be shared throughout Chromebook fashions. Certainly, Framework’s modular Chromebook proves that is doable. However in its “Failing the Repair” [PDF] report from February, PIRG reported that Chromebooks have a median French repairability index rating of 5.8 out of 10, in comparison with 6.9 for all non-Chromebook laptops.

PIRG’s “Chromebook Churn” paper particulars hurdles IT managers and others in schooling encounter when dealing with Chromebook repairs. For instance, PIRG checked out bezel availability for six Chromebook distributors by way of “in style components reseller” eduPARTS. Discovering alternative bezels is extra sophisticated than it ought to be:

All six of the producers we surveyed made non-functional adjustments to the bezels of their Chromebook 11 sequentially launched fashions that made these components incompatible from one mannequin to the subsequent. For instance, from the Samsung Chromebook 11 XE500C12 to XE500C13 the cutout within the bezel for the digital camera modified from a sq. to a circle. This beauty change rendered alternative components incompatible throughout fashions. From the Dell 11 3100 to the Dell 11 3110 the bezel shouldn’t be suitable throughout fashions, the one seen adjustments to the consumer between them being the addition of small notches on the underside of the newer mannequin. On the again of the bezels the 3110 model has lacking or much less pronounced clips, which renders them incompatible.

Even when these adjustments have any advantages, like decreasing general laptop computer measurement or weight or enabling an improved match in some way, it is clear there are repairability drawbacks, which have monetary and environmental implications.

The top is a Dell 11 3100 bezel, and the bottom is a Dell 11 3110 bezel. Spotting the differences is like a game that makes repairs no fun.
Enlarge / The highest is a Dell 11 3100 bezel, and the underside is a Dell 11 3110 bezel. Recognizing the variations is sort of a sport that makes repairs no enjoyable.

Chromebook makers can take liberties with their particular SKU designs, however each Chromebook relies on a Google reference design. Ultimate laptop computer designs are a collaboration, which means there’s probably blame to go round.

PIRG did reward Google’s standardization of Chromebook chargers, however in relation to the “typical restore, you have to change 50 p.c of the machine and chuck it,” Jeannie Crowley, director of expertise and innovation for the Scarsdale, New York Public College District, mentioned within the report. Examples, cited by extra individuals PIRG interviewed, embrace having to switch a complete Chromebook keyboard as a result of a single key would not work.

“Now we have piles, a whole bunch of Chromebooks, and it is so irritating as a result of I can not simply take a key off one,” Crowley says within the report.

Some newer Chromebook fashions, like Acer’s Chromebook Vero 712, market keyboards which might be speculated to be spill-resistant whereas utilizing drainage techniques and mechanically anchored keys to withstand breaking, however there are numerous causes a single key may break.

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