The Chromebook has emerged from its niche category and is no longer just for kids and pupils. OEMs are now building Chromebooks with powerful internals that would easily rival best laptops based on Windows and macOS. In addition, Google recently announced support for Linux and brought many improvements to the user interface to make Chrome OS a desktop operating system. With all the points in mind, it looks like the Chromebook is finally ready to face the competition. Therefore, in this article, we present a detailed analysis of the conflict between Chromebook and laptop. From performance to battery life and the user interface, we compare the two Chromebook and laptop comprehensively. So without wasting a moment, let’s find out who wins the battle between Chromebook and laptop in 2020.
Chromebook vs Laptop: the showdown
Since the Chromebook is the unknown quantity in this comparison for most users, we try to explain its features in more detail. In addition, we are using Windows as our main comparison tool, but most of these points remain valid even for other desktop operating systems. With that out of the way, let’s start our confrontation, shall we?
The operating system
The main difference between the Chromebook and the laptop is in the operating system. To clarify, The Chromebook runs Chrome OS – a lightweight, Linux-based operating system developed by Google. And laptops mainly run Windows and macOS, developed by Microsoft and Apple, respectively. So how does Chrome OS do against Windows and macOS in this battle between Chromebook and laptop?
As I said, Chrome OS is a lightweight operating system and is very modular. In terms of storage size, it takes up only 4 GB of space and the installation image is only 1 GB. In contrast, Windows and macOS occupy more than 15 GB of disk space and the installation images are over 4 GB. Not to mention, Windows has more than 50 million lines of code, while Chrome OS consists of less than 7 million lines of code.
All of these numbers indicate that Chrome OS has a very small area on hardware resources and this reflects on your performance (more on that later). For now, we can deduce that Chromebooks have very little resource overhead compared to laptops, mainly because of their lightweight operating system. However, there is a reason why Windows is so heavy and resource-intensive. If you want to play games with heavy graphics, do 3D modeling or create large document designs, Windows will be a reliable platform. I discussed the features of both operating systems in detail below, so read on and you will get a better idea of the two ecosystems.
Chromebook vs Laptop: hardware need
Since the Chromebook doesn’t run on a demanding operating system, it doesn’t need top-notch hardware. You can actually run Chrome OS on any low-power chipset without worrying about performance. For example, you can comfortably use Chrome OS on Celeron or Pentium processors which, by the way, are not counted among the best chipsets and can achieve quite decent performance. In addition, Chrome OS is compatible with ready-to-use Intel and ARM processors. Therefore, Chromebooks consume less resources and are also future proof.
Coming to laptops running Windows and macOS, you need a capable processor to get the operating system up and running. Since the operating system is demanding, you need at least an Intel i3 to get decent laptop performance. This translates to more costs, but you can perform several tasks that Chrome OS does not have (such as video editing and games). Plus, with a powerful processor in tow, you can run many desktop-class applications on Windows laptops without any worries. So, to simplify, for general tasks like browsing the web and Watching videos, you don’t need a powerful processor, so a Chromebook would be enough. However, on laptops, you’ll need a capable chipset to get started, but on the plus side, you’ll also have more power on your side for applications with many features.
After understanding the difference between the Chromebook and the laptop in terms of operating system and hardware, we can now move on to performance and find out who wins the battle between the Chromebook and the laptop. Let me clarify, Chromebooks perform much better than traditional laptops with regard to general tasks. To give you a personal example, I use a Chromebook i5 and a Windows i5 laptop of similar specification and the performance difference is significant. After turning on the Chromebook, I can get in seconds, while the Windows laptop takes considerable time to boot. In addition, after login, the Chromebook is ready to work, while the Windows laptop takes longer to start its services.
The performance difference is understandable because Windows has been around for years and has added game libraries, developer tools, recovery tools, drivers, network utilities, support for third-party applications and countless other things. On the other hand, The Chromebook doesn’t have the burden of supporting so many things because it does not support native applications, games, special software or numerous third-party utilities. We can say that Windows laptops are slow, but complete, and can be used by professionals and consumers in general. On the other hand, Chromebooks have limited resources for professionals, but a great machine for users in general. When it comes to tasks like web browsing, photo editing, music playback, document recording, drawing – which most of us do – the Chromebook is smarter than the laptop by a huge margin.
User interface and user experience
The Chromebook was first conceptualized in 2009, so the underlying operating system is quite modern compared to Windows laptops. You have a centralized taskbar, an app launcher similar to what we have on smartphones, a quick setup panel and more. Basically, Chrome OS seems inspired by the smartphone interface, mainly by the Android design language. There is also a tablet mode, support for touchpad gestures and various keyboard shortcuts to facilitate navigation in the user interface. Due to the mobile-oriented user interface, the operating system looks very responsive and responsive to use.
In addition, the positive result of following the smartphone’s design language is that you get a granular permission system similar to Android. This basically means that, unlike Windows, apps and sites on the Chromebook need your explicit permission to access local files, microphone, webcam, notifications, etc. However, the negative result of this approach is that some elements of the user interface, such as menus, buttons and controls, have smaller target areas – as if they were designed to touch and not click – which feels like an immature desktop OS. Likewise, the file manager is not as full of features as Windows laptops and many would be disappointed to discover that you cannot operate anything on the desktop.
That said, the reason why Chromebooks look so nimble and nimble maybe because of this minimal approach. Certainly, Windows laptops have a lot of file explorer and user interface customization features, but that’s exactly why it looks slow – compact features, but of little use. So to conclude, compared to laptops, The Chromebook falls short of some user interface and file management features. However, the user experience remains solid due to the user-oriented controls of the user interface, gestures, tablet mode, notification and permission.
Chromebook vs Laptop: Application support
If you’re confused, choose a Chromebook or laptop, then this section will help you choose one. Chromebooks mainly support web and android apps. With web apps, sites that work and behave more like an offline supported app. They are also called PWA (Progressive Web Apps). For example, Twitter, Pixlr, Spotify, Zoom, etc. – all offer web applications and work absolutely well, usually better than the native applications found on Windows laptops. In fact, companies are increasingly adopting web apps, including Windows, which started hosting web apps on the Microsoft Store.
In addition, you also have access to Android apps on your Chromebook. And the best part is that Android apps are optimized to work in full screen mode with mouse and keyboard support. You have access to many quality Android applications, such as Microsoft Word and drawing apps straight from the Play Store. However, keep in mind that some Android apps don’t offer the full desktop feature set on the Chromebook (like Microsoft Word) as you would use on a Windows laptop. In addition, Google recently introduced Linux apps on Chromebooks. In summary, you can run applications from three ecosystems: Web, Android and Linux. I use web applications for most of my work, but there are GIMP (Linux application) for photo editing and ProtonVPN (Android application) for VPN. And when I want run a Windows program on your Chromebook, I use the Linux application called Wine, which works very well.
Coming to Windows laptops, there is not much to write about application support. Since the platform has been around for four decades, laptops have enjoyed incredible support from developers around the world. From the basic photo editing app to professional-grade software, laptops are widely supported and you can get dedicated native apps and utilities for almost anything. Simply put, in terms of the wide range of application support, laptops are way ahead of Chromebooks. Another big win for laptops is the app’s features. Although the same applications can exist on both platforms, the applications on the Windows device offer more features. Take Microsoft Word as an example. Since you can only use a mobile app or a version of Word on Chromebooks, you’re using a diluted version of the app.
That said, Chromebooks have also improved a lot and everything is available to a general user. Not to mention, with Linux support in tow, Chromebooks have also become a solid machine for developers.
In the game war between Chromebook and laptop, there is simply no competition. Chromebooks are not the best machines and you should be looking for laptops to play, preferably a Windows laptop. There are some good Android games available on the Chromebook and they work very well, but then again, you won’t find AAA titles and other popular games. Plus, with Linux support, you can install Steam on your Chromebook and play FPS Games like CS: GO, but you’ll need more storage and a powerful processor. I tried to install some Steam games, but let’s say it wasn’t the best experience. O only the silver coating on the Chromebook is a cloud gaming service, like Google Stadia, but so far has not demonstrated the promise we expected. In short, if you want the best gaming experience, choose a Windows laptop with a Chromebook.
Contrary to the popular misconception, you can use Chromebooks even when you’re offline. You can sign in to your Chromebook, play downloaded music and movies, use offline apps, continue writing documents, and more. For example, to use Pixlr (a photo editing website) while offline, all you need to do is create a PWA website. Click the “Install” button in the address bar and an application will be created. You can now use it even when you’re offline. If a website does not have offline support, you can download the Android version. For example, Office 365 does not have a PWA so you can download Microsoft Word or Excel from the Play Store, which comes with offline support. Likewise, you can download Netflix shows and movies for offline viewing on the Android app on your Chromebook. Like laptops, Chromebooks also work completely offline and there’s nothing to worry about.
Many companies have experimented with voice assistants, but Google Assistant is still the current champion. And the best part is that Chromebooks now ship with Google Assistant support with a dedicated Assistant button on the keyboard. With Google Assistant on Chromebooks, you can ask, create a stopwatch, play music, set a reminder and everything will be synchronized with your Android smartphone. Likewise, all calendar notifications from your smartphone will be notified on your Chromebook. How incredible is that? On the other hand, the Cortana laptop on Windows is not as advanced and, most of the time, fails to recognize voice instructions. I would say that in the battle between the Chromebook and the laptop, this time the Chromebook registers a great victory.
In terms of security, Chromebooks are considered one of the most secure devices and is part because of its update system. Google tightly controls the update mechanism on Chromebooks, unlike Windows laptops, where the update system sucks. Since Chromebooks are made for general users, Google has created a perfect way to update the operating system. this works in such a way that users don’t even realize that their machine has been updated. With something called the Seamless Update Engine, the update is downloaded in the background and installed on a secondary partition. Now, when you restart your Chromebook, the boot slot changes and you update in seconds. So if you want a safe, no-frills machine, especially for general users who update quickly, I recommend the Chromebook on laptops any day.
As I said above, the Chromebook is equipped with a lightweight operating system, so there’s no overhead and therefore doesn’t overload crucial resources. As a result, this translates to stellar battery life on the Chromebook. I use the Chromebook and Windows laptop side by side and the old one lasts more than 10 hours of continuous use on a single charge, while the latter fails in just 4 hours. I can say one thing for sure. If battery life is essential for you, choose a Chromebook instead of a blindfolded laptop. In terms of battery life, it’s even better than laptops running macOS as well.
The final point that we need to discuss is the price. Since Chromebooks can run on older hardware, you can find quite capable Chromebooks starting at $ 300. You can get even cheaper if you want, but it is at the $ 300 mark that you get the good stuff. On the other hand, buying a good Windows machine will cost more than $ 500. The entry point for a macOS notebook is $ 999, so there is no point in discussing it in the mix. The bottom line is that if you have budget constraints, it will be better buy a capable Chromebook than a junk laptop for the same price.
The verdict: Chromebook vs Laptop
To find out if your Chromebook or laptop is right for you, start with the goal first. What do you want to do on the computer? If you want to browse the web, write articles, create presentations, watch videos, edit photos, draw an outline, the Chromebook is a perfect choice and much better than traditional laptops. Performance, battery life and security are great on Chromebooks.
However, if you want a complete solution where you can do everything, including games, video editing and access professional software from companies like Adobe and Autodesk, laptops would be a suitable choice for you. But remember that you would get everything from a laptop, but at the expense of excellent performance, stellar battery life and quick update.
Anyway, that’s all of us. If you found the article useful or have any questions, make a comment below and let us know. And if you’ve decided to move on with a Chromebook, go to our list of best Chromebooks to buy.