Those in the market for a new laptop have probably stumbled upon a few Chromebooks at local shops or online. They seem like another variety of laptops, but have a much cheap price tag. That does not make their valueless.
Chromebooks vs laptops: The differences
Chromebook is technically a laptop. It is a portable computer with a desktop OS, just like the options, it competes with. Chromebooks have taken on a unique name because for marketing purposes, but also because they mainly change in functionality, software, UI, design, and overall opinion.
This division in how Chromebooks and Windows or macOS laptops operate keeps them in different kingdoms Chromebooks run Chrome OS, Google’s own operating system, which focuses on online methods.
Basically, Chrome OS used to be very much a glorified Chrome browser. It was more recently that Chromebooks began taking more advantage of specialized software.
After progressing access to the Google Play Store, Chromebooks have become much more active offline and online machines. Furthermore, Chromebooks now have access to Linux apps, which broadens their portfolio of desktop apps considerably.
Software availability is the main purpose to go with a Windows, macOS, or even a Linux-based laptop, as compared to a Chromebook. Most specialized software is released largely for those three traditional options.
This is beginning to change as the cloud and mobile apps become more sophisticated. Adobe’s Lightroom CC photo editing software is now almost identical to its desktop PC software counterpart, for example. You can also run Microsoft Office online with most important features available. Even video editing web apps are pretty elegant now.
You may feel unlucky if you need to use something like Photoshop or Premiere. Designers may also want to run apps like AutoCAD. Furthermore, accountants, architects, and other professionals all have their dedicated software requirements. Those who use specialized software of this kind are still better off going with a traditional laptop.
The ultimate truth is that desktop apps still offer a fuller experience when described in relation to their mobile/web alternatives. You could argue there’s Linux app support on some Chromebooks, but even that platform is significantly ignored by most developers.
Chromebooks are for casual users
It is not that Chromebooks can’t take care of serious work. Chromebooks will work amazingly if most of what you do can be done with a browser. Email checkers, Netflix bingers, social media buffs, and web surfers will have a blast using these machines.
You can use Google Drive for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Google Drive can also harness the power of the cloud for your storage needs.
While Chromebooks have the Google Play Store and its large portfolio of apps. Android apps are usually not well designed to work on larger computer screens. The UI can be a bit messy and bugs are common. These Android apps work, but the experience is not as refined as it should be.
If you decide to rely on Linux apps, given that your Chromebook supports them, you will find that the portfolio of available apps is not as wide. Windows and macOS still have Linux beaten on this department.
There is no doubt Windows and macOS laptops have the upper edge when it comes to storage. While 128GB is regarded huge in the Chromebook world, Windows and macOS laptops with that amount of storage are seriously requiring. If you have a vast collection of movies, videos, photos, music, and other files, you might want to consider going with Windows or macOS. Taking advantage of the cloud is another great option. You can always utilize external storage too. External hard drives, SD cards, and USB flash drives can help alleviate the commonly low storage space in Chromebooks.
Speaking of the cloud
Chromebooks can live on low storage space because they rely heavily on the cloud, especially Google’s own internet services. If you (like me) already use cloud storage for most of your files, stream music, watch movies online, and store your photos in the web, you may not even require that much local storage.
Keep in consideration Chromebooks can operate offline to a certain extent. You can download emails and work on them offline. Similarly, you can edit documents offline too. Many Android apps can also run without an internet connection, not to mention Linux ones.
While everyone gets 15GB of cloud storage for free with Google Drive, upgrading to more costs money. Luckily it is not too much. A $1.99 Google One subscription can get you 100GB of cloud storage. You can also pay $2.99 for 200GB or $9.99 for 2TB. There are higher plans for those who need them, too.
Chromebook vs laptop: Portability
Chromebooks tend to be slimmer, smaller, and lighter, for the price. Meanwhile, ultra-portable Windows and MacOS laptops are less common, and the few that can compete with Chromebook portability are usually significantly more expensive.
Chromebook vs laptop: Performance
Performance is relative. How well a machine runs depends on its specs, workload, and many other facets. If we put the same specs on a Chromebook, a Windows laptop, and a Macbook, the Chromebook will always surpass the others (at least for basic tasks). Chrome OS is a lightweight operating system and does not need much power to run smoothly.
However, if what you are looking for is true performance, you will not find it in a Chromebook. On top of that, they are actually equal with intensive software. You can get much more raw power out of a regular laptop… if you are willing to pay for the beefier specs.
No matter how much money you throw at a Chromebook, the specs plateau after a specific point. For example, the Google Pixelbook Go can be completely specced out for $1,399. This gets you an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and a 4K screen. This is nothing to scoff at, but these are specs you can easily surpass in the Windows and macOS market. Remember the Google Pixelbook Go in its top configuration is one of the most expensive Chromebooks around. You can’t really get much better even if you are willing to pay for it.
Chromebook vs laptop: Operating system
Chrome OS is based on Google’s web browser: Chrome. In Chrome OS, you also perform many tasks online. You can work directly from the internet browser, but you can also install Android applications. Because a Chromebook is based on the ‘internet first’ principle, the operating system is very light and fast.
You are less dependent on the specifications of your laptop for speed and performance. And that benefits the price of a Chromebook.
The speed at which Windows 10 and macOS run relies on the specifications of your laptop or MacBook. If you have a more powerful laptop, the operating system and programs run faster. In contrast to Chrome OS, both of these systems are a little freer. You’re less dependent on apps and you can install any available software.
You will find that macOS isn’t as suitable for gaming, though, because there aren’t as many games available for macOS
Chromebook vs laptop: Apps and programs
On a Chromebook, you can’t install programs like on other laptops. You only use internet applications from the Chrome Web Store and work with these in the Chrome internet browser. Think of text editor Google Docs or Google Slides, an alternative to PowerPoint.
You can also install Android applications from the Google Play Store. If you’re a Microsoft Office enthusiast, you can install the Office 365 Android application. As a gamer, you can now use Google Stadia, which enables you to play and stream the latest games on your Chromebook, even in 4K.
On a laptop or a MacBook, you can download and install just about any application you want. If you want particular applications for work or school, a laptop or a MacBook is the best choice.
When it comes to downloading apps from a store, you use the Windows Store on a Windows laptop and the App Store on a MacBook. Or install software from other sources.
Chromebook vs laptop: Storage
On a Chromebook, you automatically save documents, photos, and videos to Google Drive. Since Chrome OS is specifically laid out for this, a Chromebook often has limited offline storage. That’s why you receive 100 gigabytes of free online storage when you buy a Chromebook. You’ll always have the option to buy extra storage or use other storage services on your Chromebook, like DropBox
A laptop or Macbook has a hard drive or SSD to physically store your files. In addition, a Windows laptop or MacBook allow you to store your files online in the cloud. You can save files online, for example on Google Drive, but you can also choose an alternative, such as Dropbox or OneDrive.
Chromebook vs laptop: Virus protection
A Chromebook is protected against viruses by default and doesn’t require a separate virus scanner. Files stored online are protected by Google, so threats and viruses have little effect on the operating system and Chromebook itself. This way, you can be sure a Chromebook is always secure.
On a Windows laptop, you need an antivirus program or virus scanner to protect you against viruses, malware, and spyware. MacBook models are less sensitive to viruses, but it’s a good idea to install an antivirus program. As MacBooks are becoming increasingly popular, the number of threats is also increasing. Apple’s built-in security does not always protect against this.
Chromebook vs laptop: Battery life
A Chromebook does not need a heavy processor, video card, and hard drive that use a lot of energy. The operating system is light and requires little of the Chromebook itself, including the battery. That’s why a Chromebooks lasts a whole working day, without you having to look for the outlet.
With a MacBook or an energy-efficient laptop, you can easily work an entire day unless you perform a lot of demanding tasks like photo editing or gaming. In that case, the battery drains in a few hours and you’ll have to look for a socket. The more powerful hardware of Windows laptops and MacBook models, and their less energy-efficient operating systems, require more energy than a Chromebook. As a result, these laptop types need to be recharged sooner.
Chromebook vs laptop: Price
Chromebooks offer the best value right now. The operating system’s not compatible with most power-hungry software, which means Chromebook components can lean into more affordable territory.
This is why a $300 Chromebook can often run faster and smoother than a traditional laptop costing twice the price. Chromebooks will boot, open apps, load pages, and even turn off faster. Looking for a deal? We also regularly look around for new Chromebook deals and gather them up into a Chromebook deal guide.
Advantages of a Chromebook
Compared to a laptop, a Chromebook has these advantages:
- Boot times: Chromebooks boot up faster than other PC systems thanks to their solid state drives and the Chrome OS, which is intentionally designed to activate a minimal set of functions — little more than the Chrome browser — when first turned on.
- Simplicity: For anyone who has not yet used a PC or gets frustrated using a standard laptop OS, a Chromebook can be a great choice because there’s less to learn to get started, with most tasks initiated directly from the Chrome browser.
- Thin and light: Generally, Chromebooks are thinner and lighter than standard laptops because they use solid-state storage exclusively and omit big, heavy add-ons such as DVD drives, etc. But read the specs. Many new laptop designs compare favorably to Chromebooks in terms of portability.
- Unplugged lifestyle: There’s nothing like a Chromebook to help push a user to adopt a more unplugged lifestyle — saving files to the cloud rather than a hard drive, streaming music rather than downloading it, and perhaps even avoiding some viruses or other negative aspects of using a standard laptop OS.
Advantages of a laptop
Compared to a Chromebook, a laptop has these advantages:
- Advanced software: Virtually every software program — photo editors, spreadsheets, word processors, games — can run on a laptop, whereas some software makers have yet to release Chrome-compatible versions of their programs. NOTE: Some newer Chromebooks can run Android apps, which could, over time, help them catch up to laptops, software-wise.
- Processor speed: Laptops typically have faster clock speeds than Chromebooks, as even small models have frame designs that can contain (and cool) the latest processors, additional RAM, etc. Chromebooks aren’t slow, by any means. But laptops can do more at once.
- Business use: Most analysts give laptops the edge for business, particularly those with multi-core, multi-thread CPUs and better multitasking. A Chromebook’s suitability for business increases for frequently mobile users who put extra value on portability, especially if it’s at a lower cost.
- Offline time: Laptop users can stay relatively productive even when beyond the range of their home or office wireless, whereas the Chromebook’s “connected-for-everything” approach could make it hard to complete some tasks when out-of-range.
Below, we have lists of the best laptops from each realm. Check it out.
Best Laptop We Recommend From Amazon
Best Chromebook We Recommend From Amazon
In a nutshell, we would suggest Chromebooks to anyone who means to use a computer for web purposes and can live on Android apps for more complex processes. Chrome OS is quicker, more reasonable, secure, and much simpler to use. Windows, macOS, and other Linux-based operating systems can work more advanced programs and are more efficient offline. They also have a stronger selection of apps optimized for the laptop form factor.