Do You Need 2gb or 4gb of RAM On a Chromebook?

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One of the things that spill out from the lips of a Chrombeook user is the amount of Chromebook RAM that the current devices ship with and whether the manufacturers should or should not add more to it than the default 2GB or 4GB RAM.

So, you want a Chromebook because you need something lighter than a laptop, faster than a netbook and something a lot more suited for writing than a tablet. Because, let’s face it, writing is awkward without a keyboard… 

Chromebooks give you that by putting one foot in those three lands while still being lightweight and inexpensive. But all good things come with its perks and its drawbacks these devices are no exception to that.

As the Digital Age evolves every year with all sorts of innovations, one thing never changes: bigger is always better when it comes to memory.

Chromebook: need more RAM?
Do you need more RAM on a Chromebook?

Currently, Chromebooks come with either 2GB or 4GB of RAM. However, users keep up the age-old plea of needing more RAM.

Is it really necessary though?

If you’re just surfing the web with a couple of tabs open, listening to music in the background and typing up a word document, then you might not really need that much RAM. The only job a Chromebook has to be great at is its speed and its connectivity to the internet and everything else that branches down from that. That typically means no Adobe Photoshops, Sony Vegases, Microsoft Offices, or extreme heavy duty gaming to name a few. Leave all that to a laptop with a full OS.

Chromebooks are simplicity objectified and it’s not really down for the nitty gritty programs that use heavy processing like a demented black hole. But if you have another PC with all those programs, with the help of an ingenious application (bless you, Google!), you could access its desktop securely and enjoy its features on your Chromebook as long as both devices have internet connection. And others say a Chromebook isn’t a real laptop… hah! Plus, in case you haven’t noticed, web-based applications are on the rise and software companies are riding that wave.

Without much further ado, let’s do a short breakdown to the who’s who of the World Wide Web to further understand if you really do need more RAM — or not.

The Many Faces of the Internet (And Their RAM Usage Level)

Type A – The Lurkers
RAM Usage Level: Light

Also known as the Quiet Ones. They roam across every kind of website such as blogs, forums and social networking sites. They don’t exactly interact with anyone but you know they’re there… liking and hearting in the shadows.

Type B – The Socialites
RAM Usage Level: Moderate

Basically, these are the people who use the internet mainly for its social network services and everything in between. Unlike the Lurkers who’re practically nomadic presences in the web, a socialite’s natural habitat is Facebook. To them, Facebook probably is the internet. Their focus is to connect with friends, family, and fans via the different kinds of social media platforms.

Type C – The Multi-Taskers
RAM Usage Level: High

Schools that have incorporated Chromebooks into their learning system as an educational tool, falls into this category. College students who are looking for a compact computing device that could hold out to 8-9 hours while taking notes and browsing the web also belong here. These are the people who have a load of tabs open in their browsers such as Wikipedia, Youtube, Google Docs, Google Drive, and Google Slides, to name a few.

Type D – The Visuals
RAM Usage Level: Intense

These are the users who are incredibly into HQ, HD and 720p (or more!) quality whether it be photos, videos or music. They browse and stream different kinds of media on Flickr, Youtube, Netflix, and Google Play with the sharpest resolution in mind. Gamers also belong to this type.

Although, there are a lot who are a combination of 2 types or possibly even all of the types. So, classify yourself and think of your wallet. Your RAM usage depends on the way you use your Chromebook overall. Everything boils down to one question whether the user is one stereotype or another: isn’t 4GB of RAM in a Chromebook already enough for all your online needs?

2GB RAM vs. 4GB RAM: The Battle of the GBs

For the first two types, 2GB RAM is enough for the user while for the last two types a 4GB RAM is more appropriate. Any more than that and you are already looking for a laptop running on a full OS. Not a Chromebook.

In thewirecutter.com’s test, with 15 open tabs simultaneously, they pitted a 2GB HP Chromebook 14 and a Toshiba Chromebook against a 4GB Acer Chromebook. The results were that 2GB Chromebooks took 15 seconds longer to switch tabs and 45 seconds longer to reload older tabs than the 4GB Chromebook. On the 4GB Acer, there was no delay in switching between tabs at all.

There were also slight faults in 2GB Chromebooks such as the jerky scrolling in a loaded tab while trying to load a new tab as well as video stuttering when switching between full screen and windowed Youtube and Netflix videos. The 4GB Acer is crowned as the only Chromebook that could smoothly and quickly run a research session with multiple tabs AND stream video without issues.

4GB Chromebooks should really help if you’re in the habit of opening a lot of tabs on your browser and watching a lot of videos. 2GB models tend to be a bit sluggish if you run multiple tabs especially those who use Chromebooks for video streaming purposes which inadvertently need more processing power. Though, if you’re using a Chromebook just for some casual browsing, a 2GB Chromebook is the choice for you as it costs a little less than its 4GB sibling.

So, if a manufacturer gave you the privilege of having a custom made Chromebook with more RAM, how much RAM would you want? And what do you think you could do with it that you couldn’t do with a 4GB RAM Chromebook? Share your thoughts below.

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13 Comments

    1. Andrew Baker says

      Glad you liked it, Felix!

  1. Ian Buck says

    I recall that when the C720s came out, the 2GB base version cost $200 and the 4GB version cost $250 or $300 (I don’t remember which). But then the 4GB version disappeared from Google Play and from their list at google.com/chrome/devices. Other retailers now must the 4GB model at more than $400. How did that happen?

  2. Devin says

    All Chromebooks should have the option to expand the RAM. I have an Acer C720P with 4GB of ram and I love it. I’m a student and I love it for taking notes and writing my papers. I do want to buy an Asus Chromebox though as that machine has the option for expandable RAM. It can take up to 16GB which is freakin insane. It also doesn’t void your warranty if you do so. 😉

  3. Mikael Magnusson says

    As I wrote on Google+ [1] one of the things I disliked about the HP Chromebook 14 was the amount of RAM (2GB). I don’t consider myself a multimedia type of user but I do open a whole lot of tabs; right now I’m up to 27 and I haven’t even been working today. And that would bring the Chromebook to a stop, it would just crash.

    Maybe 4GB would be sufficient but I’m not sure, my MacBook with 8GB sometimes stutters.

    Otherwise I pretty mush agree with The Verge: “The Chromebook 14 would be one of the best $399 or $449 laptops on the market” [2]

    1: https://plus.google.com/+MikaelMagnusson/posts/5ydyA8BGEA2
    2: http://www.theverge.com/2013/12/5/5175850/hp-chromebook-14-review

  4. riberto says

    Just over a year ago, I got the Acer C710. It came with 2 GB Ram and a 160 GB hard drive?
    It was a $190. Walmart special. It was OK. A couple a months later, after further reading, I installed a second 2 GB of matching ram (now 4 GB total) and its slightly better.
    My only concern is all that stuff we tend to pile up in the extra drive space.
    I though about replacing the hard drive with a solid state drive. But it will still be a C710!
    Instead I will be upgrading to the HP 14 (4 GB and broadband), of course I’ll upgrade the SSD to 128 GB. Let’s see how that works out?

    A lot of us tend to judge or compare new tech to our past experiences, ie: “my macbook does this, or my desktop did that. Remember: That was then, this is now!

    1. Al says

      I have a C710 and I upgraded the RAM to 4 GB and the hard drive to solid state. A notable difference! Still, after trying out a friends HP 14 (2 GB), I noticed the extra responsiveness not to mention the battery life, which was more than double the C710. I definitely want to get 4 GB on my next chromebook and at least a 13 in screen. Not sure if I should go with the new Tegra K1 or an Intel chip. Would anyone happen to know which Chromebooks are easily upgradeable RAM-wise ?

      1. Ian Buck says

        Seems to me that getting the 4GB version of the Chromebook 13 is the best deal right now. Not sure how upgradeable its RAM is, but with 4GB you shouldn’t need an upgrade anyway.

  5. Holly says

    I suppose I fall into one of the lighter categories. I rarely have more than 3 tabs open at a time, and have experienced no problems with my measly 2 GB of ram. It was worth the $$ savings for me, and I am sure would be for a lot of us non “power” users. I often listen to Google play in the background while performing other tasks and have had no problems whatsoever. My little “2” has suited me just fine.

  6. . Ω . says

    I would fit in the B type group, but just ordered my C270-2844 4GB ram 16GB SSD. Here in my country I need to pay additional for the shipping cost so C270 comes under my budget range, hope this device will going to serve my need flawlessly for another 2 or 3 years use.

    Great nice read. Thanks for it. 🙂

  7. Grant says

    Here are a few questions I have regarding the Chromebooks and I hope that you know the answers.
    Background: Canadian Elementary school, Chromebook cart (30), used 4 – 5 hours / school day
    Looking to buy more ( cost, versatility, sharing – docs etc. Parents committee would prefer to spend $10 000 three times ie every three years buy new ones than 1 set of iPads

    1) Are they coming out with two camera version – ie back ( useful for presenting projects
    2) Can you or will you be able to produce small videos ( this I realize is a memory sucker so expect a No answer
    3) What is the best model today and RAM size etc.?
    4) A down side we have right now is setup. Presently I have them setup by divisions (each division having one google account, all students access that single account and use folders in drive to access their assignments). I realize that I could get every student a Google account and invite them but … 650 students … too much organizational nightmare. Plus our District IMS (info management) refuses to support these devices. Why … control probably.

    Any ideas would be super helpful.

    Thanks in advance,
    Grant

  8. Pssst3 says

    One thing that’s making me considering Chromeboxes instead of Chromebooks. Is memory expansion. I’m satisfied with the cabilities of the device and OS, except for speed.

    I have a fast cable internet connection. Having used a 4GB Samsung CB3 to prepare a 40 page document with lots of graphics, I found that loading time from Drive was excruciating slow about a minute,. After marking work files to “offline accessible” internal memory, it was faster loading into Docs when offline than when online, but as soon as I reconnected I noticed a significant slowdown in major edits as the revisions were forced up to Drive.

    I also experienced delays offline when offline revisions accumulated in the Downloads folder, until I redirected it to extSD. 4GB RAM was apparently marginal once the Browser, Docs, Drive, Gallery and Files were open and handling several large documents, with large graphic files being edited before insertion.And 16GB Inters mrmirⁿpk as apparently not enough to handle the data files plus the data in ram that was being w to internal memory.

    So even though I can do what I need to with. Chromebook, having more RAM and a SSD would make everything go faster offline.

  9. Paul Schmied says

    For the extra $20 it costs, IMO, it would be follows to not get 4GB of RAM.

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