Our Favorite Budget Windows Laptops
However, because Chromebooks are so web-focused, the limited amount of local storage should be okay, as your data will be synced and saved within the Google cloud, or in the individual app youre using. Meanwhile, the browser-focused interface means you dont have to worry about installing programs or moving around files on your desktop. Instead, your Google account is your key, allowing you to use Googles most popular programs and download Play apps.
SCREEN AND BATTERY. Outside of those nitty-gritty component details, Chromebooks are much the same as other laptops. They have displays that come in various sizes , most of which will be full HD . The lowest-end Chromebooks still use 1,366-by-768-pixel panels and are best avoided, at this point, except perhaps at the smallest screen sizes, on the smallest budgets.
Both laptops and Chromebooks offer varying chassis build qualities and materials by manufacturer and price tier, batteries that can last more than 10 hours to get you through the day, and basic ports like USB and perhaps an HDMI output. Battery life is where independent testers like our own PC Labs come in to gauge it, consult reviews with defensible comparisons, rather than relying just on vendor claims.
Chromebook Portability Vstraditional Laptops
Chromebooks are ultra-portable in terms ofboth size and weight. Most feature an 11.6-inch display and weigh just 2.5pounds. This can be compared to the MacBook Air, a 13.3-inch model that weighs3 pounds.
Chromebooks are also incredibly durable. Somecome in special ruggedized models that boast water and shock resistance.Combined with a full-body case, available for practically every Chromebookmodel Ive seen, these things are tough to break.
Another underrated feature about the Chromebook is how fast it boots up. In less than 8 seconds after pressing the power button, you can reach your browsers homepage.
If youre often on the move, this makes coming and going very painless. Combined with the cloud capabilities of Googlewhich you get 100 GB and 12 months of with every purchasestopping and starting up work again isnt a major inconvenience.
What Is A Chromebook And Should You Buy One
Our advice on whether to leave Windows 10 and macOS to buy a Chromebook
Whenever visiting family and friends, I expect one question to come up: “What is a Chromebook?” It’s a query I’m getting a lot more now that Chromebooks have invaded the mainstream, giving people capable budget options at well below $500. So, what is a Chromebook? Instead of a Windows 10 or macOS laptop, Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome OS.
Originally seen as a platform built around Google’s cloud apps , Chrome OS has done well in the education market. Over time, however, the appeal for Chromebooks has widened, and the best Chromebooks are some of the best laptops overall today. In fact, the demand for Chromebooks spiked during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and Google outpunched its rival Apple by selling more laptops with Chrome OS than MacBooks in 2020 .
If you’re considering buying one for your kid, our Chromebook drop test gives us a sense of which Chrome OS laptop is the most durable. Students should also check out our Windows 10 vs. macOS vs. Chrome OS guide when the back-to-school season comes around.
Below is a comprehensive guide for anyone who is considering buying a Chromebook. We’ve put our collective knowledge together to look at pricing, features, and comparisons with other laptops, including MacBooks and top Windows 10 laptops, to see if a Chromebook is best for you.
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Whats The Difference Between A Chromebook And A Windows Pc
Though you probably already know what differentiates a Windows PC from a Chromebook, heres a brief refresher: Windows PCs run Microsoft Windows 10 , the dominant operating system for traditional PCs for more than 25 years. They run Windows applications, from Microsoft titles to a raft of third-party software. Windows PCs are available in desktop and laptop forms, and can be configured in infinite ways to accommodate needs from basic productivity to resource-intensive workstations.
Preston Gralla / IDG
The Start menu is command central for Windows 10.
Chromebooks are much simpler. They run Chrome OS, essentially a Chrome web browser vehicle, and are often priced several hundred dollars less than a Windows PC. The newest Chromebooks contain a bonus, however: the ability to run some Android apps . Another perk: the ability to run Linuxnot something that most users will care about, but a useful niche addition. Chromebooks may be cheap, but theyre surprisingly flexible.
In a Chromebook, many of the apps reside below the taskbar.
Microsoft Cortana runs within Windows, but the Google Assistant is only in Googles own Pixelbook devices.
Inside, the only real differences are the processor. Windows PCs have a wide range of microprocessors powering them, usually chips from AMD and Intel, or more recently, a Qualcomm Snapdragon.
Though the Chrome OS Files app within Chromebooks is a little rougher than Windows, its been designed with cloud storage from the beginning.
Chromebook Vs Laptop Or Macbook
|From sending emails to playing games via the apps from the Play Store||All tasks: use the internet or play games|
|Offline on a drive or online in the ‘cloud’|
|Apps||Internet applications from the Chrome Web Store and Android applications from the Google Play Store||Almost all programs|
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Which Lasts Longer A Chromebook Or A Pc
The longevity of a PC is basically determined by how demanding Windows is, compared to the hardware powering it. The willingness of the PC maker and component makers to provide drivers also plays a role. Hardware failures will eventually occur. Every processor that Intel launches is accompanied by statements comparing the new chip to a 5-year-old PC, with performance improvements in the 30 to 40 percent range. Otherwise, a PCs lifespan could go on for years, even decades.
Or we thought so, anyway. As the previous section noted, Windows 11 suddenly cut off millions of PCs from an upgrade to Windows 11, because of new hardware restrictions. Older PCs, even Surface devices made by Microsoft, are being cut off. Could Microsoft do this again in the future? We dont know.
A Chromebook lasts as long as Google is willing to support it, and thats much easier to determine: . In the beginning, it was just five years after the original production date for any Chromebook . More recently, Googles begun extending the time it supports Chromebooks by about six months to a year, and even up to eight years in some cases. Beginning with Chrome OS 80, in February 2020, it appears youll be able to dive into the Settings menu and discover exactly when your device will lose support.
Who Are Chromebooks Meant For
Are you looking to replace a sluggish PC laptop or an older Macbook that you just don’t have the money to buy all over again? If so, a Chromebook may be just what you need.
If you use your computer primarily for email, Facebook, and general internet surfing, then you will probably really enjoy a Chromebook. However, they are not necessarily a good fit for everyone, so here’s what you need to know.
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Chromebook Hardware Vstraditional Laptops
The majority of Chromebooks use MultiMediaCard storage. eMCC is a form of flash storage comparable to solid-statedrives in the way that there are no moving parts. However, SSDs deliver vastlysuperior performance and are available in much larger sizes.
Chromebooks come with storage sizes typical tosmartphones: often 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB. With a 16 GB eMMC, Chrome OS issmall enough to where youll have around 9 GB of usable space.
Chromebooks often come with low-resolutiondisplays, and many of them are also fanless. Since they cant be used forintensive tasks like video editing, most Chromebooks can do just fine withoutinternal cooling. This helps cut down on noise and weight.
Lastly, Chromebooks are well-known for theirbattery life. As a result of their low profile and intended workload, themajority of Chromebook models will outlast laptops while on battery. Forexample, the Dell Chromebook 13 will last for around 12 hours ofgeneral-purpose use and 7 hours on Netflix.
Chromebook Vs Windows Laptop: What You Can And Can’t Do
The best place to start when this topic gets discussed is to mention the things even the best Chromebook won’t be able to do that a Windows laptop can, then talk about what a Chromebook can do that a Windows laptop can’t. Most everything here isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all affair because we all do different things.
Your Chromebook won’t be able to play most of the games you play on a dedicated gaming laptop. With Linux support baked into Chrome OS, you can install the Linux client for Steam, but you won’t get much mileage even on the best Chromebook. This goes double if your current Windows 10 laptop has a discrete GPU because Chromebooks all use integrated graphics, at least for now. If you use a laptop with a separate graphics adapter, you already know this.
Your Chromebook also can’t use the same titles for productivity apps that a Windows laptop does either at least, not exactly. Android support means Chromebooks can use a million or so apps, and the recent Linux support adds another set of even more powerful apps, but some products just aren’t made for any operating system other than Windows. You can find an equivalent for almost any program that works on a Chromebook Google Docs for offline office programs, Polarr editor as an image editing and processing tool, or Power Director for video editing are just a few examples.
You can install Steam on a Chromebook, whether you should is a different question entirely.
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They Are Not As Functional Offline
Chromebooks are for obvious reasons less useful offline than online but you can still use them to , and you can use Gmail in an offline mode too.
And an increasing number of other apps which work offline are being made available for Chrome OS too. So, as long as you plan things in advance, and make sure you save the right files onto your Chromebook before you go offline, you should still be able to get a decent amount of work done when you are not connected to the internet.
Chromebooks Vs Laptops: The Differences
First of all, a Chromebook is technically a laptop too. Its a portable computer with a desktop OS, just like the options it competes with. Chromebooks have taken on a different name mostly for marketing reasons, but also because they largely differ in functionality, software, UI, design, and overall philosophy. This gap in how Chromebooks and Windows or macOS laptops operate keeps them in different realms.
Chromebooks are technically laptops too.Edgar Cervantes
Chromebooks run Chrome OS, Googles own operating system, which focuses on online usage. Essentially, Chrome OS used to be a glorified Chrome browser. It was more recently that Chromebooks started taking more advantage of specialized software. After gaining access to the , Chromebooks have become much more functional offline and online machines. Furthermore, Chromebooks now have access to Linux apps, which widens their portfolio of desktop apps significantly.
On the other hand, Windows and macOS laptops are more well-rounded devices. They use traditional desktop operating systems designed to operate independently. These do much more than a Chromebook, especially offline. Because they are more capable, traditional computers require more resources and need more powerful components to keep things running smoothly. A Windows/macOS laptop would do horrible with basic Chromebook specs.
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What About Chromeboxes Chromebases And Chromebits
Chromeboxes are essentially desktop versions of Chromebooks compact boxes that run Chrome OS. They are quite reminiscent of a Mac Mini or an Apple TV box.
You generally have to sort yourself out with a keyboard, mouse, and monitor when you buy one but they can still be picked up considerably cheaper than traditional desktop machines.
Chromebases are all in one computers that run Chrome OS they look something like of the current generation of iMacs.
And finally, theres the Chromebit to consider a dongle that just plugs into the HDMI port on a television and turns it into a computer.
Pretty funky stuff!
The pros and cons of using a Chromebook generally apply to using any of the above Chrome OS devices assuming Chrome OS works for your business or personal needs, you just have to make a call on the appropriate form factor.
How To Turn A Laptop Into A Chromebook
Interestingly, you dont necessarily to buy a Chromebook to get one!
If you have an old laptop that is struggling to run the latest version of Windows or Mac OS, you might find that repurposing it as a Chromebook gives it a new lease of life and turns it back into a really useful machine.
This can be done by downloading Chromium OS and installing it on your old machine.
Chromium OS makes much lighter demands on your computer than traditional desktop operating systems, and accordingly can turn a sluggish computer into one that boots up quickly and works perfectly fine as a tool for web browsing, consuming content or working in the cloud.
If this sounds of interest, you should check out Android Centrals guide on how to install Chromium OS on your computer.
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So Should I Buy A Laptop Or A Chromebook
The answer to this ultimately boils down to your needs and workload. For serious professional use, a laptop is almost always better, but some folks could get away with just a Chromebook for work. Anyone who primarily does word processing and e-mail communication for work could do these tasks on a Chrome OS browser. That said: More so than laptops, Chromebooks lose a big chunk of their productivity potential if youre without access to the web, so even though many services have an offline mode, keep that in mind.
One wild card, though, is actually Microsoft, and your reliance on itor non-reliance. The entire Microsoft Office suite is , which takes the potential of Chromebook productivity much closer to that of other laptops. For many students and workers, Microsoft Office is the be-all and end-all in terms of what they need from a computer. So now, with a Chromebook, your bases are covered for potentially much less than the cost of a $500-to-$1,000 Windows or macOS laptop.
Chromebook Vs Laptop: Which Is Best For You
Now that you know the main differences between Chromebooks and laptops, which side are you picking?
In a nutshell, we would recommend Chromebooks to anyone who uses a computer for web purposes and can live on Android apps for more complex processes. Chrome OS is faster, more affordable, more secure, and much simpler to use. Windows, macOS, and other Linux-based operating systems can run more advanced programs and are more efficient offline. They also have a healthier selection of apps optimized for the laptop form factor.
Regardless of your preference, we have lists of the best laptops from each realm. Check it out below.
The best laptops you can get:
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You Cant Install The Full Versions Of Microsoft 365 Apps On Chromebooks
If you are attached to Microsoft applications like Outlook, Word and Excel, you should note that you cant install the full versions of them on a Chromebook.
Accordingly, a lot of Chromebook users end up making a move to Google Workspace, which, being a Google product, works extremely well in a Chromebook context.
switching to Google Workspace will inevitably bring a learning curve
if youve never used it before
even if you start using Google Workspace, youll probably still end up with a need to occasionally supply content to other people or organisations in MS Office format.
The good news is that it is perfectly possible to create, save and edit Microsoft 365 files using Google Workspace but you should note that when it comes to editing complicated Microsoft documents, you may have to watch out for formatting problems when you save your files.
There ARE still ways to use Microsoft products on a Chromebook, however.
First, you can use the online version of Microsoft 365 using a Chromebook .
Whilst not providing as comprehensive a set of tools as the desktop version of the Microsoft productivity suite, it nonetheless enables you to edit most Word, Excel and Powerpoint files in a browser and without some of the formatting headaches you might occasionally run into when you try to edit Microsoft format files with Google Workspace.
Which Is Better A Chromebook Or A Laptop
Knowing which is better, a Chromebook or a laptop with a more traditional OS like Windows of macOS, really comes down to your needs and how you intend to use your laptop.
If you do almost all of your work online using web apps like Google Docs, SalesForce, GeForce Now, or other similar products, then a Chromebook is just as good at handling that kind of work as a more traditional laptop, since all of the actual application processing takes place in the cloud, which then displays the contents in a browser.
If you have a fast enough internet connection, you’re not going to tell the difference between a Chromebook and a fully-featured Windows laptop or a MacBook.
If you plan on using locally installed apps like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, or Steam, then you’re going to find Chromebooks simply can’t do that. The Android apps available through the Google Play marketplace are great, but they aren’t as fully featured as similar desktop software. In most cases, Chrome OS simply can’t run most of the installable software you’d find on a Windows laptop or a MacBook, so a Chromebook would be a bad choice for anyone hoping to use major flagship software offline.
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