Chromebook vs. laptop: Which is right for me?
You're looking for a thin and light PC and have decided to buy either a laptop or a Chromebook. So which system is best for you? Will the laptop's overall versatility give it an edge? Or is a Chromebook's minimalistic operating system and focus on cloud storage and services more suited to your needs?
What's the difference between a Chromebook and a laptop?
Both laptops and Chromebooks are portable PCs intended to be used anywhere a computer is needed: at a desk, on the couch, or while moving from place to place. But there are some important differences:
- Laptop: Controlled by a PC operating system such as Microsoft Windows 10, with a "desktop" workspace from which the user launches previously loaded software programs. Internal storage is provided either by a spinning hard disk or a solid state drive. Typically has additional built-in features such as optical drives (DVD, CD, etc.), multiple ports to attach external devices, etc.
- Chromebook: Controlled by Google's Chrome operating system, which uses the Chrome browser as the primary user interface. Relies mostly on internet-based applications and cloud storage (internal storage is comparatively limited and always solid state). Additional built-in hardware features are intentionally omitted to keep system size to a minimum. Learn more at What is a Chromebook?
Some of the points mentioned above are not exclusive to one system or another. Laptops can make equal use of cloud storage and services, and Chromebooks have multiple external ports, just fewer of them (typically). The essential difference will always be that Chromebooks run the Chrome OS.
How are laptops and Chromebooks similar?
There are several categories where Chromebooks and laptops score roughly equally.
Battery life: Laptops can run for extended periods thanks to their typically larger batteries. Chromebooks get more from their batteries thanks to their intentionally minimalistic OS.
Portability: All Chromebooks are designed to be extremely thin and light. Laptops have a far wider range of sizes and weights but every manufacturer makes models that are Chromebook-size.
Durability: Laptops with sturdy frames and keyboards have long been popular for military and industrial use. Chromebooks are catching up, and with fewer moving parts may ultimately have an advantage.
Note that as the Chrome OS evolves, new, more PC-like capabilities become available. For example, some Chromebooks now provide an optional Windows-style desktop from which to start your work. Likewise, PC operating systems are in some ways becoming more Chrome-like, with some now capable of running mobile-style apps.
Comparing Chromebooks to laptops
Shoppers who are choosing between a laptop and a Chromebook can refer to the following table for a quick review of the comparative advantages of each system.
Advantages of a Chromebook
Compared to a laptop, a Chromebook has these advantages:
Advantages of a laptop
Compared to a Chromebook, a laptop has these advantages: