There is no denying that computers have advanced greatly over the past two decades. Taking a look at laptops will show you that hardware power has been growing steadily each year, but that’s not the only sign of rapid technological progress.
When compared to the clunky, heavy laptops that were considered state-of-the-art in the early 2000s, today’s thin, sleek notebooks are light years ahead. And if you want the lightest and least expensive laptop available, you’d probably find a Chromebook.
In this manual, we’ll address some of the most frequently asked questions regarding these gadgets.
Explain what it is that they are. If you’re familiar with standard laptops, how do these ones vary? Should I buy them?
Read on if you’re interested in purchasing a Chromebook or other laptop computer.
What Is A Chromebook?
Chromebooks are any portable computer, tablet, or 2-in-1 that uses Google’s Chrome OS. As a product that has been around since the early 2010s, the Chromebook can be seen as a natural successor to the netbook, since both products aim to fill a market segment that is currently dominated by tablets.
In light of the foregoing, a Chromebook may look identical to a traditional laptop at first glance; the primary distinction between the two lies in the operating system.
Chrome OS is a lightweight operating system that is based on Linux and relies heavily on the internet and cloud storage. It’s designed primarily for mobile devices and has limited support for desktop computers. Not only can it run Linux desktop applications, but it also has access to Android apps from the Google Play Store.
The difference between Chromebook and laptop
To begin, a Chromebook can be considered a laptop. Like similar products on the market, this one is a portable computer running a desktop OS. Marketers have given Chromebooks a new moniker, but the devices are actually quite different from one another in terms of hardware, software, user interface, and philosophy. Chromebooks and traditional laptops running Microsoft Windows or Apple’s macOS remain in separate worlds due to this fundamental difference in how they function.
Technically, Chromebooks are laptops as well. Primo Cervantes de Cervantes
Chrome OS, developed by Google, is the operating system powering Chromebooks. Chrome OS was originally just an enhanced version of the Chrome web browser. Chromebooks didn’t really start making use of specialized software until recently. Because of the addition of the Google Play Store, Chromebooks are now more capable both online and off. And with the addition of Linux app support, the Chromebook’s desktop app selection has been greatly expanded.
Alternatively, laptops running Windows or macOS have a wider range of capabilities. The desktop operating systems they employ are the more conventional varieties. Especially when working without an internet connection, these are far superior to a Chromebook. Because of their superior capabilities, traditional computers necessitate more energy and more robust (and costly) parts to function normally. Basic Chromebook specs would severely limit the performance of a Windows or macOS laptop.
For your own health, which option is preferable? There isn’t a quick fix for this. What’s important to you in a computer may change the answer. A comparison table between traditional laptops and Chromebooks is provided below.
|Means of Operation||Chrome Operating System.||Choose between Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.|
|Performance||In most cases, blazingly fast even on modest hardware.||Slowness is a common problem with budget laptops. If you want better performance, you have to pay for better specifications.|
|Application Obtainable||Linux app support is available on Chrome OS devices, the Chrome web store, and the Google Play Store.||For Windows, you can get apps from the Microsoft Store or from third-party developers’ sites.
For Macintosh computers, visit the Mac App Store.
Linux is open-source software developed and distributed directly by its creators.
|Capabilities available even when Internet access is not||Quite restricted.||It is not necessary to have an internet connection to use the vast majority of applications.|
|Gaming||Games available on Android devices and in the cloud.||When it comes to playing games, high-end laptops have a distinct advantage. You can get these with high-end specifications, better cooling, and dedicated GPUs to boost gaming performance even further. There are also laptops that are designed specifically for gaming.|
|Duration of use of batteries||The average life of a Chromebook is 8-12 hours.||The battery life of modern ultrabooks and laptops is 8-12 hours. Obviously your results may vary. Power-hungry games can drain the battery life of even the most expensive gaming laptop in under five hours.|
|Cost approximation||Starting at $200-$400
400-700 dollar range; in the middle
Average: between $500 and $1,000
Super premium: $1,00-$3,500
Chromebooks are lightweight, web-centric laptops designed for portability and simplicity. Since laptops are capable of running full desktop operating systems, they can effectively stand in for traditional personal computers when performing more complex tasks.
Do you need specialized software?
The greater variety of available software is the primary advantage of using a laptop running Windows, macOS, or even Linux instead of a Chromebook. The vast majority of niche applications are released primarily for those three standard platforms.
Because of the improved capabilities of cloud and mobile apps, this is starting to alter. The mobile version of Adobe’s Lightroom CC photo editor is now nearly indistinguishable from the desktop PC version. Moreover, the most essential functions of Microsoft Office can be used in a web-based environment. Nowadays, even web-based video editors are fairly professional.
In this case, you may be even more out of luck if you require software on the level of Photoshop or Premiere. Software like AutoCAD may also be useful for designers. Also, many businesses and industries have special software requirements for things like accounting and building design. Those who require this kind of specialized software should stick with the tried-and-true laptop. The reality is that desktop apps are still superior to their mobile/web counterparts in terms of functionality. True, some Chromebooks do offer Linux app support, but developers tend to overlook even the smallest of niche platforms.
Don’t even get me started on video games! Chromebooks can be fun if you’re content with Android titles, but a robust Windows laptop is required for native support of the most demanding games. Insane selection of games, especially on Windows. While this was once the case, things are starting to alter as cloud gaming evolves. Google’s Stadia and Nvidia’s GeForce are two examples of competing technologies. If you have a consistent internet connection, Chromebooks are now a viable gaming option. Unless the game is inherently online-based, Windows users can play high-end games without a reliable internet connection.
Are Chromebooks for casual users?
That’s not to say Chromebooks can’t handle a variety of demanding tasks. In the past, I have relied on them for professional photo editing and to produce content for Android Authority. They aren’t built to do extensive work in certain areas, at least not efficiently.
If you can get by with doing most of your work in a web browser, a Chromebook will serve you well. Users who enjoy sending and receiving emails, watching Netflix, interacting on social media, and surfing the web will love these devices. Google Drive can store and organize text files, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. Similarly, you can use Google Drive to store data in the cloud.
Although the Google Play Store and its multitude of apps are available on Chromebooks, I personally prefer not to rely solely on them. Typically, Android apps are not optimized for use on desktop computers with more space. There are often bugs and the user interface can be a bit clumsy. It’s true that these Android apps get the job done, but the experience could use some fine-tuning.
Since your Chromebook can run Linux programs, you may be tempted to do so; however, you will find a smaller selection of useful programs to choose from. In this respect, Windows and macOS continue to outperform Linux.
How much local storage do you need?
When it comes to data storage, Windows and macOS laptops are unrivaled. While Chromebooks are aplenty with 128GB of storage, Windows and macOS laptops are severely lacking in this department. You should think about switching to Windows or macOS if you have a lot of media files like movies, videos, photos, and music. Taking advantage of cloud computing is yet another great option.
When it comes to data storage, Windows and Mac OS laptops are incomparable to their rivals. Writer and author Edgar Cervantes
External storage options are always available. Chromebooks typically have a small amount of storage space, but external hard drives, SD cards, and USB flash drives can help. Our suggested readings are listed in the following links.
Chromebook vs Laptop — Which Should I Get?
So, which should you choose, a Chromebook or a laptop? To determine the answer to that question, you should think about the device’s primary function.
Laptops running Windows or macOS are preferable to Chrome OS if you want to play PC games or use specific applications and professional software like Adobe Premier or Microsoft Office.
However, a Chromebook may be the better option if you only plan on using the device for light tasks like web browsing, casual gaming, or work that can be done entirely through the productivity apps available on Chrome OS.
There are, of course, other considerations to take into account.
The duration of use between charges is of primary importance. A single charge of a Chromebook’s battery will last much longer than that of a comparable Windows laptop because Chrome OS is so lightweight and Chromebooks typically have low-power hardware. With a full battery, you can take them anywhere without worrying about losing power.
While the Chromebook’s compact design is a boon to portability, the trade-off is a smaller screen due to the device’s overall size. If you need a larger viewing area for work or simply prefer watching videos on a bigger screen, this may be an issue.
The issue of storage remains, last but not least. As we’ve already established, Chromebooks typically have much less local storage space compared to regular laptops because Chrome OS relies so heavily on the internet and on cloud storage. This may be a problem if you don’t have dependable internet access or if you prefer to keep all of your data on your local machine rather than employing an external hard disk drive or solid-state drive.
Who should buy a Windows laptop?
There are a number of benefits to using Microsoft Windows on a portable computer, such as a laptop. Windows gives you the most options for installing and running programs, including games, utilities, browsers, and antivirus software, all of which run natively on the system. Your personal computer is open for customization in any way you like.
Windows’ ease-of-use comes at a cost, however, as it typically requires more powerful hardware and a higher price tag than most Chromebooks. Chromebooks can’t compete with powerful PCs for gaming or video editing, and the price can easily reach several thousand dollars. However, we have compiled a list of the best Windows programs that won’t break the bank. To explore additional possibilities, check out our laptop buying guide.
Who should buy a Chromebook?
Chrome OS-powered Chromebooks are more efficient and streamlined. A Chromebook can be thought of as a computer with only the Chrome browser installed, all of which is housed on trusted hardware. It can also be significantly less expensive than a Windows PC of the same caliber. Chromebooks have been adopted by many American schools for use in both traditional and online classrooms, and many schools even provide Chromebooks for students to borrow.
Chromebooks were originally designed for business use, but they’ve expanded their capabilities to include entertainment options like Android apps and cloud gaming. (Android apps are coming to Windows 11 soon, too.) Google is also expanding Chromebooks’ feature set to make them competitive with Windows laptops. You can see for yourself that Chromebooks are consistently popular by looking at Amazon’s “best-selling laptops” list. If you keep an eye out around the holidays or on major sales days like Prime Day, you might save yourself $100 or more. Be wary of purchasing a Chromebook that has passed its end-of-life support period. (More on that in a moment.)
The updates are done automatically in the background, so you can just open the lid and go. Google also manages all of the safety measures. Much of what you require is available online, whether you prefer to use web-based applications or Chrome extensions. But the compromises and extra effort might be too much to bear.
In addition, Chromebooks were generally limited to clamshell designs and nothing else for a number of years. (Chromeboxes) are almost extinct as a category of standalone Chrome OS-powered cubes with no display. Chrome OS-based devices are now widely available, including convertibles like the HP Chromebook x360 12b (currently $360 on Adorama) and tablets like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet (currently $300 at Best Buy). Some Chromebooks even appear to be convertible in all directions, allowing the device to be used as a thick tablet running Android software. It’s also worth noting that high-end Chromebooks, equipped with robust Core processors, are still available. We think that’s because, as we discuss further on, Google is quietly pushing to make these gaming PCs.
Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise, co-created by Google and Parallels, will add support for running Windows apps on Chromebooks for the low, low price of $69.99 per user. (Windows applications can already be accessed remotely using parallels.) However, in order to use it, you will need a particular kind of enterprise-grade Chromebook.
In this article, we’ll delve into the specifics of how Chrome OS differs from Windows, and we’ll also provide some product suggestions based on our findings. Know that the conversation will center on low-cost machines that can get the job done. Chromebooks can’t compete with high-end gaming PCs that cost $2,000, but some online gaming services come close.
How fast do I need a Chromebook to be?
You can easily find the best deal on a laptop by searching for the most recent model with an AMD or Intel processor. However, Chromebooks can be equipped with a wide range of low-end microprocessors, some of which you may have never heard of.
If you’re unfamiliar with Chromebook specifications, PCWorld’s Alaina Yee suggests starting with a Pentium or Celeron-powered laptop. A more powerful processor, such as an Intel Core processor, would also work.
Is a Chromebook or laptop better for office work?
The majority of a typical workday is spent utilizing productivity software such as word processors, spreadsheets, and the like. There are a number of options for both Windows and Chromebook users, and they are essentially interchangeable in this respect. Chromebooks support Android apps for Microsoft Office, while Windows computers can use the web version of Google Workspace. (G Suite, and before that Google Apps, were the previous names for what is now Google Workspace.)
In addition to the misconception that Office is only compatible with Windows, here are some other platforms on which you can install it. Office.com, also known as Office Online, is a browser-based alternative to the full Office 365 suite that provides users with nearly all of the same features, provided they have a subscription to Office 365 (now known as Microsoft 365). (Android versions of Microsoft Office are a possibility; however, they are much more easily utilized in a web browser.) Actually, because it runs in the cloud, Office Online often receives updates with new features before Microsoft 365 does. Most businesses use Office, and if your IT administrator is lenient, you may even be able to access company files from your Chromebook.
One small change, though: Microsoft’s Office apps for Android won’t be supported on Chromebooks after August 2021. The good news is that you can still use Office, albeit in a web-based form, on a Chromebook by going to Office.com (also known as Office Online).
While similar to Microsoft Office in that it is web-based and has a focus on the essentials, Google Workspace is stripped down to the bare minimum. I used a Chromebox (the nearly extinct desktop version of a Chromebook) exclusively for over a year because I preferred Google’s straightforward interface and near-instant autosaves to the then-current Windows version of Office. (Most office suite programs, including Word, have added auto-saving functionality.) Either a standard Chromebook or Windows PC will work for our purposes, as both are compatible with Google Workspace and Office Online. However, if you need to install Office locally, only a Windows PC will do.
In September 2021, Google released Cursive, a Progressive Web App (PWA) made specifically for Chromebooks with detachable displays, such as the HP Chromebook X2 11. Cursive is an app that, as the name suggests, lets you take notes in cursive, much like Microsoft OneNote. It’s technically available as a Chrome browser download, but some features reportedly won’t function on anything other than a Chromebook. The Cursive app will eventually make its way to other Chromebooks.
Either a Chromebook or a Windows PC can be used for light work without much trouble, though you may want to invest in a paid subscription to Microsoft Office or Google’s apps to make the most of them. Windows PCs might also be simpler to set up for printing.
In terms of hardware, we find laptops to be more user-friendly than alternatives like external Bluetooth keyboards or extra-large typewriter-style keyboards. To illustrate, consider the Lenovo Chromebook Duet’s cramped, removable keyboard. The increased utility of Android apps on tablets comes at the expense of reduced efficiency when used in laptop mode.
Which is better for web browsing, a Chromebook or Windows PC?
While it would be an exaggeration to say that Chromebooks and Windows PCs are functionally equivalent when it comes to web browsing, this is probably the closest point of convergence. Chrome’s web browsing experience on Chrome OS devices is nearly identical to that of Chrome on a PC. However, on a Windows PC, you can access additional browsers like Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Firefox. However, beginning with the Windows 10 October 2020 Update, Edge, Microsoft’s new browser, is also based on Chromium, allowing Edge to use Chrome plug-ins. You couldn’t tell the difference between the two!
Some complicated websites work better on a Chromebook because the Chrome OS is so lightweight. However, Chromebooks typically come with less RAM than a PC, so you’ll be limited in the number of tabs you can have open at once. Even though Chromebooks are compatible with Opera and other browsers, these alternatives typically run as Android apps that are adapted from the mobile versions of the browsers.
Can a Chromebook play games as well as a Windows PC?
Windows PCs have access to a huge library of classic PC games, making them the clear frontrunner when it comes to portable gaming. Chrome OS 53, released in 2016, can run Android apps and games, so there are also games that are “exclusive” to Chromebooks. This feature is present in all Chromebooks released in 2019, and even in some from previous years. Nonetheless, the gap isn’t as wide as it once was.
As of March 2022, Google has ported Steam over to certain Chromebooks, allowing you to play dozens of Steam games on a supported Chromebook, although the experience is still in its early stages and you won’t be able to play the latest Battlefield game as a native app. This is a very preliminary implementation, so there may be serious flaws and the number of supported Chromebooks is very small. For more, check out our guide on how to use Steam on a Chromebook.
Moreover, Chrome OS now has native support for RGB keyboards, which may signal the imminent arrival of Chromebooks optimized for gaming. And we thought it sounded strange when you told us!
Don’t lose hope if your Chromebook is one of the less expensive and more basic models. The good news is that you can rely on ccloud gaming services to save the day, and playing them is almost as good as loading and playing them on the Chromebook itself. You can now “subscribe” to a virtual PC that exists in the cloud and play regular PC games on it through a number of different services, including the original Parsec, Nvidia GeForce Now, Blade Shadow (based in Europe), and Google’s Stadia (which has had a rocky start). Since February 2021, Google has been pre-installing Stadia on all new Chromebooks due to the company’s firm belief in cloud-based gaming. You can access the service via a web application that has been designed to have you up and running quickly.
However, Chromebook owners have another major perk: access to Xbox games via the cloud. The Chromebook is compatible with the Android app for Xbox Live and other cloud games. Confused? Certainly not. We detail how to play Xbox One games through the cloud on a Chromebook. Only requirement is that you own an Xbox console or subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. To play Xbox games on a Chromebook or PC, all you need is a browser that supports HTML5, which was added to the Xbox cloud service in June 2021. We’ve already tried out Xbox cloud gaming on the web, and it works quite well. (The Xbox app is the most convenient way to play Xbox cloud games on a personal computer.)
As of the “spring 2022 update,” Windows 11 PCs are able to run Android apps, though the Google Play Store is still missing. Instead of running Windows software, Amazon’s Android apps will power personal computers. Find out how to get Android apps on your computer below. In Asia, Google has also launched a test of its Google Play games on Windows 11 PCs.
Don’t, however, let gaming be the deciding factor between a cheap Windows PC and a Chromebook. Despite the PC’s superiority, the Xbox One Series S console is the best budget “PC” for gaming.
Which offers more apps, Chromebooks or Windows PCs?
Local apps include games, of course, but they also include a wide variety of utilities and other programs that can make life a little less complicated. Similar variety can be found here.
The Android app market is diverse, housing everything from games to mobile productivity programs. As of June of 2020, the total number of apps available in the Google Play store was nearly 3 million. Microsoft is no longer sharing details about how many Windows apps are available. This does not speak to the quality of the apps available on Android or iOS, but it does show that the former has far more.
Unfortunately, not all Android apps can be used on a Chromebook. There is no Global Positioning System (GPS) chip in a Chromebook, so no location-based apps will run on it. The same goes for users of apps like Pokémon Go that require rear cameras, which the Chromebook may or may not have.
One of Windows’ advantages, however, is the wealth of code, utilities, and other applications that have accumulated over the years in forgotten file folders and File Transfer Protocol archives. Everyone has their go-to image-batch-resizing apps, calendar apps, and macro managers, and Chrome OS can’t hold a candle to them. On the other hand, and this is crucial, Chrome OS doesn’t include the crapware that Windows PCs also sometimes ship with and that can only be removed with third-party software like CCleaner.
PCs running Windows 11 are the de facto standard, as they can run any app, including Win32 programs, Web programs, Linux programs, and Android programs. It can be inconvenient that Windows 10 S PCs can only run software downloaded from the Microsoft Store.
Another benefit of Chromebooks is the ability to run Linux, though we recognize that not everyone will find this useful. It takes some work, but Linux can be installed and run on some Chromebooks. Computerworld, a trusted resource, has published a comprehensive guide to installing Linux on a Chromebook.
Can I run Windows apps on Chromebooks?
I’d say yes and no. While not available on all Chromebooks, Google recently added support for the Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise. With Parallels, you can run full-featured, legacy apps like Microsoft Office quickly and locally on Chrome OS, so you can use them even when you’re not connected to the internet. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to take advantage of Parallels on a cheap Chromebook from Amazon because it is a managed solution for enterprises with IT managers.
However, only select enterprise Chromebooks powered by Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, such as the HP Pro c640 Chromebook Enterprise, the HP Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise, and the forthcoming HP Chromebox Enterprise G3, will be able to use Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise. (The Core i5 and i7 processors’ virtualization features are probably necessary for these business Chromebooks.)
Could consumer Chromebooks eventually gain the ability to run Windows apps? Possibly. But for the time being, it remains out of reach for the typical user.
Windows 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based Windows operating system, could be the better option. Windows 365 is similar to cloud gaming in that it is stored in the cloud and “streamed” to the user’s computer. Windows 365 was developed by Microsoft, but it is only available to businesses at this time.
What’s it like using a Chromebook vs. a Windows PC?
It’s easy to get caught up in the big picture when deciding between a Chromebook and a Windows PC (web surfing, games, etc.), and overlook the finer points.
Google’s approach to updates and security is one of the best but often-overlooked features of a Chromebook. Behind the scenes is where the action is. Antivirus and other software updates are downloaded automatically by Windows, but some updates may necessitate a system restart. These reboots can happen even while you’re using the PC if Windows isn’t properly configured, which is extremely annoying. Chromebooks occasionally require a reboot to apply updates, but the process is faster and less intrusive than with other laptops because Google quickly reloads the pages you were viewing before the reboot.
One of the best things about a Chromebook is how fast it is. They may have fewer features than a Windows PC, but starting them up and resuming work is noticeably faster. One reason for this is the ease with which it can be used; Google handles many of the tedious aspects of running a PC, such as installing necessary software and keeping it up to date. Commercials highlight how rare it is for a Chromebook to crash in contrast to Windows, which is where the term “blue screens of death” originates.
However, Chromebook users may also find some of these less exciting activities annoying: like printers, file managers, and software: Here’s where the gulf between the two systems becomes most noticeable, especially if you have strong habits. Google is still operating in isolation from the rest of the world in many ways, such as when it tries to implement diagnostic tools for the Chrome OS platform.
Consider the printing press. All printers in the world are 100% compatible with Windows and Mac OS X, and they all have the option to print wirelessly or via USB. Contrarily, direct printing and utilizing the more advanced features of certain printers have proven challenging for Chromebooks. The company’s workaround, Google Cloud Print, necessitated a printer with Wi-Fi connectivity but will no longer be available after 2020.
It’s also important to note that there are some tasks that must be performed differently on a Chromebook than on a Windows computer. To take a screenshot in Chrome OS, you need to know to press Ctrl “switcher” on your keyboard. You’ll be able to see where the screenshot has been saved in a folder, but renaming the file will require opening it first. Chrome OS lacks the right-click context menu found in Windows, which allows you to perform a wide variety of actions on a selected file.
If you’re using Chrome OS, you’ll need to click the “home” circle in the bottom-left corner, then swipe up or click the exposed up arrow to access the Chrome OS apps, some of which can be saved in the taskbar dock.
The same holds true for various methods of input besides typing. Although Chromebooks have the ability to record audio and support inking (with a stylus or your finger), no one should count on a Chromebook to have pen input that can be converted to text. This is something that can only be found in Windows. You’ll soon be able to charge your Chromebook pen without hunting down a AAAA battery or plugging it in thanks to NFC wireless charging.
However, Chromebooks are increasingly including Windows-only features. Your Phone is a Windows app that lets you transfer photos from your phone to your computer and send texts from your desktop. The M89 release of Chrome OS includes new features like the Phone Hub, which allows you to connect your phone, Nearby Share, which allows you to send documents wirelessly to nearby phones and other Chromebooks, and a method for sharing Wi-Fi passwords among trusted devices. Google detailed additional features at CES 2022 that will make it easier to share files among Android phones, Chromebooks, and other devices.
Indeed, Windows 11 now more closely resembles a Chromebook in appearance than previous versions. For the time being, the Windows 11 Taskbar can only be positioned at the bottom of the screen, where the apps are launched from a Start menu that resembles the Chrome OS launcher.
To learn more about Chromebooks, our colleagues at Computerworld have compiled a Chromebook cheat sheet, which you may find helpful.
Which is more secure, a Chromebook or a Windows PC?
While there is no absolute answer to the question of how safe Chromebooks and Windows PCs are, there are some notable differences. Chromebooks have less of an “attack surface” than Windows laptops because of their simplicity. Hackers have more entry points due to Windows PCs’ complexity, which includes the software Windows supports.
Google built Chromebooks with security in mind, employing measures like “sandboxing” to keep apps and background processes separate and verified boot to ensure your computer is up and running properly. (TechAdvisor, our sibling site, has a more in-depth explanation.) Chromebooks have built-in protections that keep you safe from malicious websites like those that try to take over your browser or install malware without you even realizing it.
Windows security measures can be more involved. Setting up a new computer securely begins at the very beginning. Both your antivirus program and Windows require regular maintenance, though Microsoft takes care of most of it for you automatically. Even so, new vulnerabilities are always being uncovered, such as Meltdown and Spectre, and the Foreshadow and L1TF exploits. Windows PC security requires vigilance, or at least the willingness to not be too lax. Windows Defender, the built-in anti-malware program, has greatly improved in recent years and now effectively handles most security concerns by itself.
The safety of login is roughly equivalent between the two systems. A Chromebook can only be accessed with a Google account and its corresponding password. Although U2F hardware keys for authentication are supported, a typical home user is unlikely to make use of them. However, you can still log in locally without a Microsoft account and password if you absolutely need to use a Windows PC. Windows Hello provides a casual level of security and makes it easy to get back to work after a brief break (via a fingerprint reader, depth camera, or a short PIN). Microsoft has put a lot of effort into this combination of user friendliness and safety, and the vast majority of Windows users find it useful.
However, Chromebooks have also advanced in this respect. Launched in January 2021, Chrome OS 88 includes support for the biometric authentication method known as WebAuthn. (A fingerprint reader is essential on your Chromebook for this to function.) In this scenario, the PIN is replaced by the use of a mobile phone as the second authentication factor.
However, Windows 11 adds a significant complication: not all PCs will be able to be upgraded to Windows 11 due to a lack of necessary hardware, such as a Trusted Platform Module (TPM).
Which can be personalized more, a Chromebook or a PC?
Traditionally, Windows PCs have provided a plethora of customization options, and we’ve covered them all in our specialized guide. While most of these features are standard in Windows, additional customization is possible with the help of wallpaper theme packs and even a dedicated Bing Wallpaper app.
Until recently, Chromebooks lacked this feature, but now you can replace the default lock screen image with one of your own photos or one hand-picked by Google. Access to music controls is also included.
Which lasts longer, a Chromebook or a PC?
How demanding Windows is in comparison to the hardware powering it is a major factor in how long a PC will last. The availability of drivers is also dependent on the PC manufacturer’s and component manufacturers’ willingness to do so. There will inevitably be hardware failures. Intel always boasts that their new processor is 30–40% more efficient than the average 5-year-old PC in the press materials accompanying the launch of the processor. However, as long as the operating system is regularly updated, a PC can last for years, if not decades.
To some extent, at least. New hardware requirements for Windows 11 abruptly barred millions of PCs from upgrading, as noted above. Microsoft Surface devices and other older PCs are being discontinued. What if Microsoft did this again? It’s unknown to us at this time.
It’s much simpler to know how long your Chromebook will last, because Google will tell you. Initially, it was only five years after the Chromebook’s initial production date (something to keep in mind if you’re looking to buy a used Chromebook). Recently, Google has started increasing the length of time it supports Chromebooks by anywhere from six months to an entire year, and in some cases up to an incredible eight years. There has been talk that beginning with Chrome OS 80 in February 2020, you’ll be able to go into the Settings menu and see exactly when your device will lose support.
A Windows computer or Chromebook that is no longer within its support window will no longer receive new features or security updates. This can result in both systems being susceptible to attacks from new forms of malware or other threats.
Additionally, Google has recently stated its intention to partition Chrome OS’s security features from future additions. When a Chromebook reaches the end of its support period, it stops receiving updates of any kind, including security patches. However, in the future, Google’s support window may impose a strict end to new Chrome OS features while continuing to add security patches for a longer period of time.
How does Windows 11 influence my purchase?
The release of Windows 11, Microsoft’s newest operating system, occurred in the late autumn of 2021. (Check out our comprehensive guide to Windows 11 or our frequently asked questions for more info.) As a whole, it changes the way Windows 10 looks and functions, adds new features like support for Android apps, and effectively disables millions of computers in use today for security reasons. However, if you invest in a brand new computer, you won’t have to fret over hardware problems any longer. Windows 11 has been compared visually to Chrome OS by some.
The latest version of Windows, Windows 11 SE, adds yet another twist. In an effort to compete with Chromebooks in the classroom, Microsoft released Windows 11 SE in November 2021. In addition to not being available to consumers, Windows 11 S Essentials and devices running it, such as the astonishingly affordable $249 Surface Laptop SE, will only be sold to educational institutions. That is to say, you probably won’t be able to buy it at all.
Windows 11 SE requires some background information in case this option suddenly appears. Although it helped protect computers from malicious software, Windows 10 S (Windows 10 Home in S Mode) made it extremely difficult to install any apps from outside the Microsoft Store. Compared to Windows 11, the most notable changes are as follows: Windows 11 Simplified Edition no longer includes the unnecessary Widgets menu. By default, apps will open in full screen mode. PCs running Windows 11 S Essentials can only multitask with two programs instead of four. In the end, four “Recommended” files are all that will be visible on the Start menu to aid children in their search. Microsoft also provides additional details at the Windows 11 SE marketing site.
Overall, we think Chromebooks are great if you’re looking for a cheap and/or lightweight laptop with a simple and streamlined operating system that can be used for light gaming and basic productivity tasks.
However, due to their weak CPUs and GPUs and inadequate amounts of memory, Chromebooks are not suitable for more intensive gaming or more demanding professional applications. Therefore, gaming laptops and MacBooks continue to be the best options if you need a laptop that can run PC games and video editing software.
It’s worth noting that Google has added support for Windows apps on some Chromebooks, though this isn’t a feature that’s widely available in Chrome OS devices.
However, there are high-end Chromebooks available, and some of them cost four figures. When compared to high-end gaming laptops and MacBooks, however, these can be difficult to sell unless the product in question is a 2-in-1 device, which offers its own unique benefits.
Now that we’ve covered what differentiates laptops and Chromebooks, you should be able to make an informed decision about which is best for you, depending on your requirements and budget.