You don’t have to buy an expensive laptop to get a fast machine. I like Google Chromebooks, but learned my lesson on the more expensive ones.
Chromebooks are fast because they aren’t gunked up with software. Almost everything takes place online. Any errors are automatically fixed each time you boot up. But reviewers often encourage you to spend more money than necessary. Except for a cheapish Lenovo, everything listed on “The Best Chromebooks for 2020” at TheVerge.com is around $600 on up, with one well over a thousand. Same goes for CNET and Wired reviews.
For more than a week, I used a friend’s $199 HP Chromebook 14, comparing it with my own $650 Pixelbook Go from Google. Sure, the Pixelbook Go has a touch screen, but I don’t need that. The Pixelbook Go also has backlit keys — so nice in a dark room– but I can turn on the lights. The Pixelbook has an amazing battery life: nearly 16 hours. But I’m rarely away from a wall outlet. Eight hours is plenty.
The full name of the HP I’m trying out is HP 14 db0043wm. It seems just as fast as my more expensive machine. Like my Pixelbook, the HP has the kind of screen you can view from all angles. This is especially helpful if you’re watching a movie while sitting on the floor and looking up at the screen, or sitting off to one side. The HP also has a nice variety of ports: two USB 3.o ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a micro SD card slot, and a headphone/microphone jack. The Pixelbook Go doesn’t have any USB 2.o slots or a card reader. (All of my flash drives are USB 2.o, so I need those slots.) What’s more, the HP Chromebook, at 3 pounds, is only 7 ounces heavier than the Pixelbook. And like all Chromebooks sold in the last four years or so, you can install Android apps on it, which includes Xbox games, printing apps and other useful stuff. It also has great sound and a nice screen resolution.
Walmart.com is selling the HP 14 for $90 less than Amazon is, though they’re currently out of stock. But before I get carried away on bargains, I must admit that cheap isn’t always better. It’s safe if you get a good brand like HP. I bought a cheap Vssoplor mouse that stops working half the time. I should have gone with Logitech.
PLAYING MUSIC IN AN OLD CAR
A reader wants to play his favorite music in an old car with no Bluetooth capability. It’s stored on a flash drive. But where can he get a radio receiver with a USB port?
Start at Crutchfield.com and search on “radio receiver.” Then put in the make, model and year of your car; this ensures you’ll get one that’s compatible. Scroll down to the cheaper models. If you see one that says “screen mirroring with USB,” it will play your thumb drive full of music. I checked to see what they had for my 20-year-old Honda Odyssey. I found the Jensen CMM7720 for $150. A friend bought the Kenwood Excelon KDC-X304 CD receiver for $120. Once you stick your flash drive in, it will start the music right where you left off the last time, when you turned your car off. The sound quality is better than what typically comes with an older car.
Best Buy says they’ll take out your old receiver and put in a new one for $65, even if you don’t buy the receiver from them. I gave this advice to a reader, but he had a different experience. Instead of $200, they wanted to charge him more than $400 with tax. I took a look at the invoice. They’d tacked on a steering wheel gizmo that lets you change the music with a tap. It required an extra installation fee. Otherwise, the total would have been around $199, not $400. All the reader needs is the $17 dash kit for his Toyota Avalon, the $65 in-dash installation, a $17 wiring harness and a $100 Alpine In-Dash Media Receiver.
Alternatively, get a boombox. Search Amazon for “portable radio with USB.” For example, the WSHDZ Bluetooth Speaker Portable Wireless Radio Desktop Speaker J19 has a USB slot and high-definition sound. It’s only $22 and you can use it in the house too.
COVERING YOUR PHONE
In a craft project, a lint-filled, gluey blob landed on my Android phone. Try as I might to remove it, it wouldn’t budge.
A friend suggested an alcohol wipe. I’ve read you shouldn’t use those, but I was desperate. No dice. The blob still obscured my Pixel 2. So I tried a razor blade. That did it, but the phone stopped working. Uh oh.
Fortunately, I had a Pixel 3a that my late husband discarded in favor of our landline. For $9 I bought a Tocol screen protector for it, made of tempered glass. It works well. Though I mostly use a stylus, I’ve noticed my fingerprints don’t smudge it half as much as they did an unprotected phone screen.
Find a less-crowded train using Amtrak’s free app for Android and iPhone. It shows you how full the train is, as a percentage. You can use the app to book, board and check the train’s status. You also get route details and service alerts.
Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at [email protected]