Our four year-old Chromebook  started freezing on us. So we shelled out for a new one.

A Chromebook is a laptop using Google’s operating system. The best thing about them is their ability to fix themselves when you reboot, so they don’t slow down over time. The freezing we experienced on the Acer 14 was the first problem we’d had in four years.

The old Chromebook, an Acer 14, cost $274. The new one, the Pixelbook Go from Google, costs $649. Before taking the plunge, we asked: “What do you get for an extra $375?”

Number one is reliability: Our Acer should have lasted longer than four years. It was Joy’s favorite machine until it started freezing on her, just often enough to be annoying. We’ve had good results with our other Google devices so we decided to go with the latest version of their Chromebook.

The negative side is you can’t install programs, only Android apps. Almost everything you work on exists outside your laptop, somewhere in the refrigerated dungeons of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent. In other words, the cloud. Everything you download is encrypted, and getting started requires a password, so if you lose your laptop, no one can get at your stuff.

We use the free Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Sheets instead of installing Word, Powerpoint and Excel. But we also use the free versions of those programs on the Microsoft site, If you like Photoshop, you can substitute the free Photoshop Express and Photoshop Mix from the Google Play Store. If someone sends you an MP4 file, (an audio or video file), drag it into the browser window in Chrome to play it. In short, all the software you need is free when you get a Chromebook.

The first thing we noticed about the Pixelbook Go is how light it is, 2.3 pounds, compared to 3.4 pounds for our old Chromebook. The second thing we noticed is the back-lit keyboard, which glows at night and is heaven to type on. The battery life is excellent at around 12 hours, but the old one was equally good. The sound quality is excellent: The orchestras we listen to on Spotify sound much better on the new laptop. It’s also lightning fast, with twice the amount of memory and a better processor, though the old Chromebook seemed plenty fast enough. And it has twice the storage space: 64 gigabytes instead of 32. But what really stands out is the resolution. Even in our bright, sunny, living room, it’s easy to see the screen on the Pixelbook Go.

The only thing we worried about was the display size: It’s 13.3 inches instead of 14. Would we have to squint? It seems fine, but we sometimes enlarge the font by holding down the “Ctrl” key and tapping the plus sign. This also works in Windows and on the Mac. But on the Mac, use “Cmd” instead of “Ctrl.”

Should You Buy a New Phone?

A reader wrote to ask if it’s OK to keep a phone when it no longer gets security updates after two or three years. Sure. All you need is a security app, such as the free one from

Our phone, a Pixel 2, is three years old and we expect to have it for years to come.

After starting with the free app from, we bought the premium version for $12 a year. The premium version protects you in advance, the free version fixes problems after they arise. has a great article called “How to Make Your Smartphone Last Longer.” Here are four of their seven tips. One: get a new battery as often as every two years to improve performance.  Two: Clean the lint out of the charging port with a toothpick. Three: Remove the case and wipe the phone with a microfiber cloth that’s barely damp, using half vinegar, half water.  Four: If storage is running low, backup your files to the cloud and delete them from the phone.

A Boost From Apple Watch

A friend loves the activity app on her Apple Watch. “It starts you off each morning with three circles, and you have to move like crazy, all day long, to complete all three rings!  My husband laughs when he hears me upstairs walking quickly back and forth, to complete the green activity ring. I usually get that one finished in the morning on the treadmill. I might be watching a movie or sitting at my computer, and I’ll get a ding and a command to stand up!  I just love it.  I move all day long and it is really a good thing.” The green ring shows how many minutes of brisk exercise you’ve done. The red one counts active calories. The blue one tells you how many times in a day you’ve stood and moved for at least one minute.

If you want to compete against friends, tap the “activity” icon on the watch, which looks like concentric rings. Then go to the bottom of the screen and tap “Invite a Friend.”  Competitions last one week. Earn up to 600 bragging points.



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