Your Chromebook is getting a free upgrade from Google with all-new features

Though Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s macOS tend to rule the conversation when it comes to personal computing software, there’s a third option available to you at a cheaper price that can do nearly as much and has just got a big upgrade. Google’s Chrome OS runs on Chromebook laptop devices made by companies including Acer and HP, and these more budget computers are proving more and more advanced as the years go by.

Chrome OS software for laptops looks and acts a lot like a Microsoft Windows PC but only runs Google apps – Chrome, Gmail, Photos, Maps, etc. But because so much computing these days happens in apps or in the Chrome browser, this is all the computer many people need, which is good news when Chromebooks are often relatively affordable, starting from about £199.

Google no longer makes its own Chromebooks, instead relying on other manufacturers to make the hardware. There are regular Chromebooks and also a more powerful type that’s sold under the ‘Chromebook Plus’ branding. It’s these Chromebook Plus models that are getting a big software update today, bringing several new features – but some are locked behind a paywall.

Free updates are aplenty though, and include the Magic Editor tool for editing photos in Google Photos. This was first available on Google Pixel phones only, but is available on many other Android devices and is now coming to all Chromebook Plus devices from today. You can remove unwanted people or objects from snaps, or edit them to have different lighting and other changes.

This tech uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help create new images, and AI is the main driver of all the new Chromebook features. For when you need some aid in typing something up, a new tool called ‘Help me write’ is now live on Plus laptops. It works through the Chrome browser on all websites and also in apps such as Google Docs. Express.co.uk had a play with it and it isn’t too advanced – it couldn’t write us a joke for Twitter, but it managed a thank you note template.

‘Help me read’ can summarise large chunks of text within apps (below picture). You can then have a text based conversation with the AI to find out more.

Other fun and useful updates for Chrome OS for Chromebook Plus users include personalised wallpapers using AI, new video call backgrounds that automatically work across all video apps (not just Google’s), improved image search, GIF recording and Live Caption, a tool ported from Android that can caption spoken audio even if your device is muted.

Google is also hoping you’ll fork out £18.99 per month for its Gemini Advanced subscription. This unlocks the latest version of Google’s AI model, Gemini, and the new features work on your Chromebook Plus. This exists as an app on laptops that can process typed requests, summarise Google Docs for you, and even edit and run code if you’re a programmer. Gemini is Google’s rival to the popular ChatGPT AI software that can perform tasks based on prompts, search the web, write original content, and more. These are fairly advanced tools that aren’t for everyone, but it’s good to see it available on lower-priced Chromebooks and not just reserved for expensive hardware.

Google even claims you can type in a prompt and Gemini can plan a whole holiday for you. What it’s really doing is a more advanced type of Google search where it can pull in several threads of information and present them to you as bookings to make or reservations. We gave it a go and it’s quite good for researching flight prices.

If you are in the market for a Chromebook Plus, both Acer and HP have announced two new models each, priced from £379 – £799. All have 14-inch screens and will run the latest Chrome OS software. If you buy a Chromebook Plus, Google will give you 12 months of Gemini Advanced for free.

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