For many, a Chromebook is something like the lighter cousin of the traditional laptop. However, when comparing Chromebooks vs. laptops we find differences that go beyond their appearance. Their operating system is different to begin with, and they also rely much more on the internet to work.
- What is a Chromebook?
- What can a Chromebook do?
- What can’t a Chromebook do?
- Who is a Chromebook for?
- What are the available options?
Since they’re also cheaper, it’s fair to wonder how a Chromebook compares to a traditional laptop. Is it waste of money? Or maybe a diamond in the rough? Next, we will explain some details about Chromebooks: what they are, what they are for and who should have one.
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When they first appeared in 2011, Chromebooks were dirt-cheap laptops running Chrome OS, Google’s operating system. These devices relied on cloud-based apps more than native apps, and while some things have changed over the years, value for money remains at the heart of a Chromebook.
Acer, Asus, HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung are some of the companies that sell Chromebooks. The offer ranges from ultrabook-like designs to traditional laptops to 2-in-1 hybrids.
The cheaper models are generally less powerful than the premium ones. These low-cost Chromebooks are often seen in schools, while more expensive models, like Google’s Pixelbook , have aluminum bodies, fast processors and, in some cases, 4K-resolution screens.
While it’s not possible to buy a $2,000 Chromebook like Windows or macOS laptops, there are a wide variety of options for different needs.
Unlike the vast majority of laptops, Chromebooks have their own operating system called Chromes . Although it has basic elements of an operating system, such as a file manager or an application launcher, the focus of these devices is on the Chrome browser.
As it is not possible to download web applications, all of these have to be run in the browser. This may seem like a limitation, but many applications already offer web versions such as Spotify, Netflix, Gmail, Slack or Evernote.
Given the prevalence of these, many people spend most of their time in the browser, and if any work revolves around Chrome (or any other) tabs, the transition to a Chromebook will be easy. It’s just a matter of connecting it to the internet and that’s it.
However, thanks to the addition of the Google Play store, Android apps can be downloaded to fill the gap. Deploying these applications in a desktop environment can be awkward at times.
Some apps, for example, are displayed full screen while others stay small, like on a phone – but Android apps are available if needed.
Chromebooks also have Linux support. If you need desktop applications yes or yes, Linux is the option. There are Linux versions of Audacity, Firefox, GIMP, OBS Studio, Steam, VirtualBox, and many more. Although yes, it is likely that many popular applications do not have a version for Linux, so first of all it is necessary to review said feasibility.
Lastly, if you’re into gaming, there’s also plenty of choice with a Chromebook, even though the offerings are much smaller than Windows. In this case, it’s best to use a service like Stadia, and while Steam for Linux does exist, hardware specs can be major limitations.
Many programs cannot be installed on ChromeOS. For example, it is not possible to install Adobe apps or any other software restricted to Windows or macOS. So if you need any apps that fall into that segment, you’ll have to find a Linux version or simply avoid a Chromebook.
Other limitations extend to overall computer performance as well. Chromebooks are fast, but in some cases it depends on the internal components. The lower-end ones come with an older processor that can’t compete with what’s in the same range in Windows, especially when it comes to multitasking.
Similarly, if you want to spend around $200, a Chromebook is always an option. There are also high-end alternatives like the HP Chromebook x2 or the Pixelbook, which come with quad-core 8th-gen Core i5 processors and pretty respectable power.
Chromebooks with these processors are flying, and some newer models like Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook or Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713 pack 10th-gen processors, bridging the gap with Windows laptops.
Chromebooks are designed for very specific segments. One of those is the student one, as many schools use them for their security benefits, build quality, and software limitations. Therefore, it is common to find Chromebooks for school use.
These teams go beyond being a product for children. Higher-end options target professionals or college students as they are lightweight and offer very good battery life, making them a good choice for those on the go.
Among the most expensive alternatives are Google’s Pixelbook and Pixelbook Go or Asus’ Chromeflip 436 in first place. There are computers with similar specifications and prices that come with Windows.
However, Chromebooks have certain advantages, for example, a $500 Chromebook is very good, while a Windows laptop of the same price has many performance issues and the overall build quality will not be very good.
The most expensive Chromebook is Google’s Pixelbook, which starts at $1,000. It is the top of the range equipment, not only in construction materials but also in performance.
In general, Chromebooks move in the range of 11 inches (2-in-1 computers) up to 15. Normally, they have HD resolution, although there are also models with 4K and even a touch screen. It is also common that they come with Celeron processors, in dual-core versions that never go beyond 2 GHz speed.
Most Chromebooks come with 2 or 4 GB of RAM, enough for average PC tasks, but still far less than the 8 or 16 GB found in more traditional laptops. As for storage, Chromebooks don’t have large hard drives, as they rely on the internet for most operations, although this can usually be expanded via an SD card or via USB.
Speaking of ports, Chromebooks compare to a traditional laptop and come with the most common connections: USB-A, USB-C, and a headphone jack, though they may have fewer ports than a traditional notebook .
A Chromebook has a longer average battery life than a laptop. The most common is that this is about 10 hours, although the newer ones go up to 12 hours, and although Windows computers are improving in this aspect, a Chromebook will always have better battery life.
On the other hand, you will never find a Chromebook with six or eight core processors, like you will find in a MacBook Pro, a Razer Blade or a Dell XPS 15. Those models are on another level and definitely, well above what can be a Chrome book.
Finally, there are also some Chrome OS tablets, like Google’s Pixel Slate, but it’s hard to recommend one of these designs without a physical keyboard.
No matter how expensive a Chromebook is, it’s usually going to be cheaper than a Windows laptop. HP’s latest Chromebook 15 is just $450, for example, while Lenovo’s Chromebook Flex 15 starts at $410.
For $226, you can get a 2017 Samsung Chromebook. Chromebooks are popular precisely because of their price, and the only really expensive product is Google’s Pixelbook, which costs around $1,000.
But of course, a Chromebook, with its features, is never going to be able to compete with the most expensive laptops. Even so, these teams have a good utility and are reliable products that bail out the most basic needs.
Thanks to their design, they are also very easy to use, which makes them an excellent alternative for all those people who have never felt very comfortable with a traditional computer.