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How to get your Chromebook online from anywhere without killing your mobile data cap

Chris Hoffman | April 6, 2015
Chromebooks were made to be online, even if Wi-Fi's nowhere to be found. Here's how to get online with a cellular signal without blowing through your data cap.

chromebook

Chromebooks work best as always-online devices, and even though Google's laptops still pack quite a few useful offline features, skating by with your Chromebook's offline tools is ideal only a temporary fix.

Finding an active mobile Internet connection shouldn't be too difficult for many people--the real trick is making sure you don't blow your data cap in short order. Google just launched a new Data Saver extension for Chrome, allowing you to reduce browsing bandwidth on a Chromebook (or any other device running the full desktop version of Chrome.) This will come especially in handy when you're connecting your Chromebook to a mobile data network.

Here's everything you need to know to get your Chromebook online with a cellular signal, from basic connectivity to browsing considerations and tricks.

Some Chromebooks include free mobile data
Do you want to get online from anywhere with only your Chromebook? Look for Chromebooks with built-in 4G LTE data connections.

The exact Chromebooks on offer with 4G data tend to vary. Currently, it's easy to find HP and Asus Chromebooks that include mobile data connections capable of connecting to Verizon's network. But you'll have to sign up for a two-year contract or month-to-month payment for that data from Verizon.

Other Chromebooks have offered better deals in the past. One of HP's 14-inch Chromebooks included 200 MB of free T-Mobile data "for the life of your device," but this model appears to no longer be for sale. Google promised that the extra-expensive LTE version of the original Google Chromebook Pixel would include 100 MB of free LTE data from Verizon for two years, but Verizon actually broke that promise. Google must have learned a lesson because the second Chromebook Pixel doesn't come in an LTE version. So don't count on any Chromebook's free mobile data too much, as it could be yanked out from under you.

Chromebooks with included 4G LTE data are nice, but a questionable proposition. The Verizon models require a separate contract, and even the older models with free mobile data only offer a little bit of free mobile data--enough to get online in a pinch, but not to really use unless you pay for more. If another Chromebook with free monthly data pops up for a good price, it may be a good idea to pick it up. Otherwise you may just want to tether.

Google also says Chromebooks can use USB mobile dongles--but, curiously, only Huawei dongles are supported at the moment.

Tether your Chromebook to your smartphone
Your Chromebook doesn't need to have its own mobile data connection. Rather than looking for one of the handful of Chromebooks with the built-in hardware, you can choose any Chromebook you like. And you don't need to pay for a device-specific contract or mobile data plan.

 

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