The Chromebook vs laptop

In its early days, tech experts labelled the Chromebook as little more than hardware with Chrome pretending to be an operating system. Since its launch, it has definitely evolved, making it highly viable as a primary work laptop for some users. Now the Chromebook vs laptop comparison is very real – and likely to grow as the Chromebook is enhanced.

It’s worth pointing out that Chromebook is, by definition, a laptop. Powered by the Google Chrome operating system, it is intentionally different from its Linux, Windows, OS X operating system counterparts. Some tech gurus got upset when Microsoft ran a Chromebook vs laptop ad that claimed Chromebook is not a “real laptop.”

Our overview of the difference between Chromebook and laptop functionality with “laptop” will refer to laptops built with Linux, Windows and OS X.

The most important first step in the laptop vs Chromebook evaluation is to define how you’re going to use it. There is substantial difference between Chromebook and laptop usage expectations that influenced how the hardware and software manufacturers designed them. The Chromebook vs laptop decision is also dependent on your long-term needs. We compiled this list of key laptop vs Chromebook differences to help you.

The Chromebook vs laptop matchup

1. Chromebook vs laptop: Pricing
Let’s address the fundamental difference first. Chromebooks are quite affordable, with most models available for under $300. This is a leading reason many schools are opting for Chromebooks in lieu of tablets – likely contributing to the Chromebook’s explosive sales growth in recent years. There are Windows laptops in the under-$300 price range, too. So, if price is your main consideration, you have several options.

Winner: Chromebook wins because several features come baked into Chromebook that have to be purchased separately with other laptops in the same price range (i.e. anti-virus software).

2. Chromebook vs laptop: Apps
The apps topic in the laptop vs Chromebook debate is ever changing. There are hundreds of thousands of apps available in the Chrome store for Chromebook.

laptop vs chromebook

Most Android apps also now work with Chromebook, which is a major points booster in the Chromebook vs laptop debate. It should be noted here that these apps are in limited-features versions of the full app programs you install on laptops. There are certain programs you can’t use on a Chromebook. If you want to use any photo editing, graphic design or video editing software beyond the basic ones available in the app stores, you are out of luck. If have you have an interest in certain tools, this Chromebook versus laptop difference may be important to you.

Winner: Though Chromebook has an increasing abundance of apps, laptop wins this one, as there are no limitations on app versions. As a whole, you can run nearly all apps on a laptop.

3. Chromebook vs laptop: Security
In the laptop vs Chromebook big picture, this may be a game changer. Chromebooks, relying on their Google Chrome operating system, are built to implement automatic virus protection and OS updates. No need to purchase anti-virus software. Chromebooks are essentially immune to attack. With updates happening automatically, you’re free of those annoying OS update prompts.

Winner: Chromebook, hands down. However, when it comes to privacy and Chromebook (via Google), read the fine print in the user level agreements to ensure you’re comfortable with how Google manages your data.

4.    Chromebook vs laptop: File storage and management
Chromebooks are designed to work with Google’s cloud file storage solution, Google Drive, which is now one of the mega online file management brands. It fits well into the Google ecosystem. This brings up a notable difference between Chromebook and laptop design. Since Chromebook is intended to work when connected to the internet, most models have very limited local drive file storage space. Since cloud file management is the common file storage route, this may be more than sufficient for you.

Google Drive and other popular file management systems like Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive should be on your radar when evaluating the laptop vs Chromebook debate. Enter a keyword in the search field and the app will scan your files and folders. Be mindful, though, that some of the search functionality may be limited within the basic/personal plans. For example, only Dropbox for Business users benefit from a search throughout filenames and file content. Basic and pro plan users who search will only see results based on the file names. For a full break down of differences between Dropbox and Google Drive read our expert guide

Even with search through contents, searching can end up being extremely time-consuming. That’s why we created Cloudfind: to turbo charge the search process. It works with all of the leading cloud file management solutions including Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and others. You can find and share files faster so you can get on with your work. Cloudfind is powered by a highly-intelligent algorithms, as well as tags, filters and favorites folders.

Winner: Chromebook due to its popular Google Drive offering already built into it.

5.    Chromebook vs laptop: Usability
Chromebook is designed for use when connected to the internet. Unless you travel frequently in Wi-Fi-free zones, there’s likely little time you’re not connected to the internet. Some apps can be used offline with updates happening when you connect to the internet again, but as a whole, Chromebook doesn’t really work when it’s offline. For some people, this may not work out well. On this laptop vs Chromebook topic, Mac laptops bring their own approach here, achieving similar stellar design. PCs have been historically behind in this category, but Windows has worked hard in recent years to change this. Windows 10 offers a more distinct experience now with a Google-like Corona app, which is far more useful than Windows’ previous attempts at similar tools.

Chromebook fans praise Chromebook’s lightweight design and extremely long battery life making portability among the kudos it earns. Google, well known for its aesthetically pleasing, intuitive design and user experience, does not disappoint with Chromebook.  

Winner: The Chromebook versus laptop winner on this one, then, is complicated. It really depends on what you need it for, as the offline vs. online factor changes the performance.

The Chromebook vs laptop takeaway here? The overall Chromebook vs laptop winner will come down to how you plan to use the laptop and what you really need it to do for you.

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