Laptop and Chromebook: What’s the Difference and Which Works Best for You

The Acer Chromebook Spin 13 is a rare 13.5-inch model with a 2,256 x 1,504 pixel touchscreen in a 3: 2 aspect ratio.

Josh Goldman / CNET

Chromebooks are laptop and two in one running on Google’s Chrome operating system. The material can look like any other portable, but minimalistic web browser-based Chrome OS is a different experience than the Windows and MacOS laptops you’re probably used to. If you are planning to upgrade to one on Windows portable or MacBook, your kid got one from their school or you’re just curious about Chrome OS, here’s all you need to know.

Read more: Best Under $ 500 Laptop Of 2020 In Stock From HP, Lenovo, Acer And More

When Chromebooks first arrived in 2011 they’ve been regularly ridiculed – and rightly so – for their limited functionality and reliance on a consistent internet connection. The operating system turns 10 this year and today’s Chromebooks are a long way from where they started, but some things haven’t changed and you might not be willing to work with the limitations they have. Also, if you don’t feel like reading this and just prefer to experience Chrome OS, here is how to run it temporarily on any laptop using a cheap usb stick you probably already hang around.

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The HP Chromebook x2 is a great detachable two-in-one.

Sarah Tew / CNET

What can I do with a Chromebook?

When Chrome OS launched, it was basically Google Chrome Web Browser. For those who were used to an operating system like Windows and Mac, it felt like the average Chromebook was little more than a laptop running a web browser and that’s it.

While Chrome OS never matured beyond that, the fact is that a lot can be done entirely on the web these days. Take stock of everything you do on a daily basis and you might find that you can’t accomplish anything with Chrome at its most basic level.

That said, a Windows laptop or MacBook can run the Chrome browser as well as other software supported by these operating systems. Even if you don’t immediately need any particular software, it’s good to have this option. Additionally, if you buy a Chromebook for distance learning with Google Classroom, a Mac or Windows PC will work as well.

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Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a top-of-the-line model offering better performance than most.

Josh Goldman / CNET

In this sense, Chromebooks are not natively compatible with Windows or Mac software. You can use VMware on Chromebooks to run Windows apps and there is Linux software support, too much. More, current models can run android apps and there are also web apps available through Google Chrome Web Store.

Read more: Best Laptops, Desktops & Tablets For Designers And Creatives In 2020

One of the big obstacles here for many people is accessing Microsoft Office. You can’t install the full Office software on a Chromebook, but Microsoft does make web and Android versions available. in Chrome and Google Play stores, respectively. But generally speaking, if you need or want a specific Windows or Mac app – and there is no suitable web or Android app substitute and you don’t want to use VMware – don’t buy no Chromebook.

Plus, if you need advanced photo and video editing capabilities, you’ll need a Windows, Mac, or Linux laptop. Basic photo and video editing is fine, but Chromebooks generally don’t offer the graphics performance you need for demanding tasks or, again, the ability to install Windows or Mac games and software. On the other hand, with game streaming services like Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce NowChromebooks can now be used for more than Android and browser-based games. You can also install and play Linux games, although you need a high-end Chromebook to do so. In addition, there are several Android apps available for editing photos and videos as well, including Adobe options.

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Gamers will want at least an entry-level Windows gaming laptop like the Dell G5 15.

Sarah Tew / CNET

What is a good Chromebook?

A few years ago, all Chromebooks were pretty much the same no matter which company made them. Now there’s a much wider variety of laptops and two-in-ones – convertibles and tablets – to take advantage of Chrome OS’s current capabilities. You’ll always find more sizes and styles when it comes to Windows laptops, especially if you need top-notch processing and graphics performance, but the variety of options is much better than in the past.

If you’re just looking for a good, basic Chromebook experience, the small, lightweight OS has minimal hardware requirements and so do web apps. Having a high-end processor and more memory will help move demanding multitasking forward, but if not, here’s what I recommend when asked what specs to get:

  • Intel Celeron or Core i-series processor
  • 4 GB of memory or more
  • 64 GB of storage
  • Full HD display (1920 x 1080 pixels)

There is flexibility with these recommendations. You can get a 1366×768 resolution screen, for example, but the cheap screens used in low-end Chromebooks look especially soft next to Full HD models. And you can get by with 32GB of built-in storage as long as there’s a microSD card slot to complement it or you don’t plan on downloading a lot of Android apps. Unlike a regular laptop, a Chromebook relies more on cloud storage for files than local storage. It’s also worth noting that storage and memory are often soldered together and cannot be upgraded after the fact.

Whatever Chromebook you buy, before you buy it, you need to know the name of the device. Automatic update expiration date or WUA. Currently, non-Google hardware is only supported for a period of time before it stops receiving Chrome OS and browser updates, including security updates. For models released in 2020, the date is around 7-8 years from the device’s initial release, but that’s not always the case. Google maintains a list of WUA dates for all models and you should check it out before buying a Chromebook, new or used.

Do Chromebooks Need an Internet Connection?

When Chromebooks were first launched, they became clipboards when offline – a real problem if you were editing an important document that you suddenly couldn’t save because your web connection was interrupted. Fortunately, things have improved as Google has improved offline capabilities, and popular apps like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify have offline options as well.

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For a regular laptop, being offline is a bit less of a problem since you are using installed software that records to internal storage. While no experience is great offline these days, Chromebooks aren’t a great choice if you don’t want and can’t be online most of the time. On the positive side, Google has made it super easy for Android users to turn their phones into instant mobile hotspots and have Chromebooks and Android devices work better together.

Are Chromebooks Inexpensive?

Due to Chrome OS’s low hardware requirements, not only can Chromebooks be lighter and smaller than the average laptop, but they’re also generally cheaper.

New Windows laptops for $ 200 are rare and, frankly, rarely worth buying. Find a good $ 200 Chromebook, on the other hand, is pretty easy to do (or at least that was before COVID). And while spending more will get you better build quality, more features, or faster performance, even these high-end Chromebooks typically start between $ 400 and $ 500, but can easily go over $ 1000 depending on your needs. needs.

With Windows laptops, you typically have to spend $ 700 or more to get a thin, light model with decent performance and battery life that will keep its performance going for years to come.

Sarah Tew / CNET

The simplicity of a Chromebook can’t be beat. If everything you do can be done in a web browser or with web or Android apps, there’s no reason not to use a Chrome device. Although with support for Linux and VMware, you can do a lot more today than when they arrived in 2011.

Read our review of the Acer Chromebook 715.

Joshua Goldman / CNET

With a wide range of designs, sizes and styles that can be configured with all kinds of components and available with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to thousands, a Windows or Mac laptop offers a greater variety of performance and performance. of use, especially if desired. Easily use software or play games available only on these operating systems.

Read our Asus ZenBook 13 review.


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