Laptops & Chromebooks

Laptops & Chromebooks

Does a laptop’s overall versatility make it the better option? Or is a Chromebook’s minimalistic operating system (OS) and web-based usability more suited to your needs? Keep reading to learn the differences between a Chromebook and a standard laptop, the relative advantages of each device, and which one will serve your needs with the most overall value.

Chromebooks are laptops and two-in-ones running on Google’s Chrome operating system. The hardware might look like any other laptop, but the minimalistic, web-browser-based Chrome OS is a different experience from the Windows and MacOS laptops you’re likely used to. Whether you’re considering switching to one from a Windows laptop or MacBook, your kid received one from their school or you’re simply Chrome OS curious, here’s everything you need to know. 

Chromebooks may be better than their Windows or macOS counterparts, depending on your needs. Regardless, it’s important to do your research before buying a Chromebook — you might not want one at all if you’ve got particular needs. Choosing between a Chromebook vs laptop can be hard, so let’s get into what makes them different.

Chromebooks

When Chromebooks first arrived in 2011 they were routinely derided — and rightfully so — for their limited functionality and reliance on a consistent internet connection. The operating system turns 10 years old this year and today’s Chromebooks are far from where they started, but some things haven’t changed and you might not be willing to work with the limitations they do have. Also, if you don’t feel like reading this and would just rather experience Chrome OS, here’s how to temporarily run it on any laptop using an inexpensive USB flash drive you probably already have lying around.

First of all, a Chromebook is technically a laptop too. It’s 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.

While both laptops and Chromebooks are portable PCs intended to be used anywhere a computer is needed – say, at a desk, on the couch, or while traveling – there are many differences between the two devices, some of which may be critical to your buying decision.

Unlike laptops that can slow-down when low on memory or accessing internal storage components, Chromebooks operate somewhat differently:

  • Chrome OS: Chromebooks are powered by the lightweight (compared to Windows) Google Chrome OS, which uses the Chrome web browser as the primary user interface (UI). Nearly everything is done online within the Chrome browser or via the cloud – improving system speed and efficiency across the board.
  • Browser-based web apps: Chromebooks are built to use web-based applications rather than software you load into local storage. Web-based apps can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Simply enter the URL of the web-based tool and start being productive.
  • Memory and cloud storage: Another advantage of web-based apps is that they typically reduce demands on your RAM. And while there is some local storage on a Chromebook, users typically save their documents, photos, music, and other files on the cloud, with convenient features for syncing and storing data across devices (e.g., your Chromebook, tablet, and smartphone).

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’re less dependent on the specifications of your laptop for speed and performance. And that benefits the price of a Chromebook.

Chromebooks rarely sport the latest, fastest processors because they don’t need them. And many features are intentionally absent, such as advanced graphics cards, large storage drives, and so on – all to make Chromebooks more lightweight and streamlined compared to regular laptops.

Of course, Chromebooks are less customizable than laptops. They offer a certain feature set, and that’s that.

Laptops

All laptops are suitable for browsing the internet, sending emails, and writing texts. You can also watch movies and series on all laptops. Depending on the processor and the RAM, you can also edit photos and videos on some laptops. To play games, you need a laptop with a ‘separate’ dedicated video card. MacBooks are less suitable for gaming because few games are released for macOS.

Most users are already familiar with laptops. A laptop is controlled by a PC operating system such as Microsoft Windows 10 that provides the familiar “desktop” workspace where you launch programs, write documents, save files, and so on. Hundreds of gigabytes (at least) of internal storage are provided either by a spinning hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD). Laptops may also have added features such as optical drives (i.e., DVD, CD, etc.), and multiple ports to connect external devices and accessories.

For instance, Lenovo Legion laptops are engineered to be the ultimate gaming machines. The Lenovo ThinkPad series caters more to enterprise and professional users. In fact, there are so many different kinds of laptops that for some buyers, shopping for a simple-but-powerful Chromebook will seem like a breath of fresh air.

With a broad range of designs, sizes and styles that can be configured with all kinds of components and available with prices going from a couple hundred dollars to thousands, a Windows or Mac laptop offers greater variety in performance and use, especially if you want to easily use software or play games only available on those operating systems.

The speed at which Windows 10 and macOS run depends 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’ll find that macOS isn’t as suitable for gaming, though, because there aren’t as many games available for macOS.

The speed at which Windows 10 and macOS run depends 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’ll find that macOS isn’t as suitable for gaming, though, because there aren’t as many games available for macOS.

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