Comparative advantages: Chromebooks vs. standard laptops
To help, here’s a short list of the relative advantages of each device. When is a laptop the best choice? When would a Chromebook be better?
There’s really no “right” answer, since both standard laptops and Chromebooks have many similarities. But for certain users and certain needs, one type of device may be the best option. [For more about the basic differences between laptops and Chromebooks, visit “Chromebook vs. laptop: Which is right for me?”)
Advantages of a Chromebook
Compared to a traditional laptop, a Chromebook has these advantages:
- Lower prices
With “lighter” features such as limited internal storage and the minimalistic Chrome operating system, Chromebooks are more economical than regular laptops. Chromebooks range from $150 - $300, with top-of-the-line models as high as $500 or more. Laptops start at around $400, but at that price, as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” (See our trusted guide: How to Buy the Best Laptop Under 500.)
- Faster boot times
Chromebooks boot up faster than other PC systems (in as little as 10 seconds). This is thanks to their solid-state storage drives and the Chrome OS, which is designed to activate a minimal set of functions -- little more than the Chrome browser -- when first turned on.
- Simplicity and ease of use
A Chromebook can be a great choice if you’re a less tech-savvy user, or if you’ve ever been frustrated using a standard laptop OS. The simplified Chrome OS is easy to learn and navigate, with most tasks initiated directly from the Chrome browser.
- Thin, light and portable
Generally, Chromebooks are thinner and lighter than standard laptops because they use solid state storage exclusively and omit big, heavy add-ons such as DVD drives, etc. But read the specs. Many new laptop designs compare favorably to Chromebooks in terms of portability.
- Unplugged lifestyle
There's nothing like a Chromebook for embracing an unplugged lifestyle – extra-long battery life, saving files to the cloud rather than a hard drive, streaming music rather than downloading it, and so on.
Advantages of a traditional laptop
Compared to a Chromebook, a standard laptop has these advantages:
- Flexibility and customization
A laptop with a full PC operating system, optical drive, and multiple slots and ports will always be more flexible than a Chromebook, which has a relatively limited user interface, fewer port options, and is more reliant on remote applications and services.
- Advanced software
Nearly every software program – from photo editing tools and PC games to spreadsheets and word processors -- can run on a laptop. The same can’t be said for Chromebooks, since not all software companies have developed Chrome-compatible apps. For now, if you’re looking for an advanced gaming box or powerful multimedia ultraportable, a traditional laptop is best.
- Processor speed
Laptop processors typically have faster clock speeds than the CPUs in Chromebooks. Even smaller laptop models have frame designs that can contain (and cool) the latest processors, additional RAM, etc. Chromebooks aren't slow, by any means, but a standard laptop will likely have more raw computing power.
- Business focus
Most analysts give laptops the edge for business use over Chromebooks, particularly when equipped with multi-core, multi-thread CPUs that enable extensive multi-tasking. So-called “road warriors” might opt for a Chromebook, but business travelers have long valued highly portable Lenovo ThinkPad X Series laptops.
- Function without Wi-Fi or Internet
On a laptop, you can stay productive (at least for a while) with a poor Wi-Fi connection or even no Internet at all. In contrast, the “connected for everything” nature of a Chromebook can make it hard to get things done in offline mode (i.e., with no access to the internet).