IT IS almost Christmas and if your thoughts are turning to a festive computer purchase then maybe you are considering the Chromebook.

Google’s browser-in-a-box doesn’t do everything, but it does do most things Chromebooks represent Google’s typically left-of-centre approach to laptop computers. They look ordinary enough, but work very differently to most of their counterparts.

Unlike most laptops, they don’t run an operating system. They’re just a vehicle for Chrome, Google’s hugely successful web browser.

The downside of this is that they’re not quite as powerful or as versatile as a laptop. The upside, though, is that if you don’t need much power and versatility, so they’re great little machines. If all you need is email, web browsing, writing simple documents, and perhaps a bit of social networking, a Chromebook can do it all.

The biggest advantage is also that its battery will last nearly all day, and it costs a fraction of a ‘proper’ computer. There’s also little risk of being hit by a virus. There’s no system for it to invade and infect (although you should still be careful where you type your Google password, and you have to have a Google account to use your Chromebook at all).

Chromebooks are happiest when they’re online constantly, so they’re less useful to frequent travellers struggling to find WiFi, although many Chrome apps do have an offline mode.

Many will pick a Chromebook this Christmas simply because it’s cheap, but it’s more than that. Though it might not pack the same punch as a ‘real’ computer, for a lot of people it will provide all the punch they need.