avatarby Edgar CervantesAugust 30, 20161 comments

Chromebook-Pixel-1

Those trying to get a new computer have probably already wondered whether a Chromebook is for them or not. These laptops are affordable, often good-looking and perform very well, but there are a few caveats to be had with the newer, lighter operating system. Likewise, the promise of a traditional OS like Windows, Mac OS X or Linux is very enticing, but they are plagued with other downsides.

Which one should you go for? In this article we are taking a deeper look into the pros and cons of going with either type of laptop. Keep reading to find out which operating system is best suited for your needs!

Apps, apps, apps!

Software is what makes or breaks any platform. It doesn’t matter how great an operating system is, it serves no purpose without a good selection of apps. This is one area where Windows and Mac OS X will definitely have the upper hand. These operating systems have been around for a long time and come with a wide selection of software. Pretty much everything is available for Windows or Mac OS X.

windows-apps

On the other hand we have Chrome OS, which has so far been seen as a glorified browser with a traditional-looking PC interface. And it really is just that. Sure, it has native apps and can do some things offline, but ultimately its main functionalities live online… on Chrome.

Chromebooks are about to reach a new stage, though. Google has announced Chrome OS is getting access to the Google Play Store, meaning over a million Android apps will come to the platform. This changes everything; the Google Play Store is the leading app store (according to Statista). Things may look and function a little wonky at times, as Android apps were mainly designed for mobile use.

Related reading:
How to run Android apps on your Chromebook
Best Android tablet apps

Furthermore, some applications just can’t be replaced by their mobile counterparts. Drawing, handwriting and note taking apps like Adobe’s mobile Photoshop Touch and Lightroom apps are great, but they are not really up to standards when compared to the Windows or Mac OS X counterparts. Full desktop operating systems still win this battle, but you may not need all that software anyways.

Google Play Chromebook

Performance

We must remember Chrome OS is a super light operating system, so it needs very little power to run efficiently. This is why you will often find that Chromebooks seem much faster than their competitors. Most Chromebooks will boot in a few seconds and will rarely stutter. This will probably change once they actually start running Android apps, though.

Regardless, in order to get the same performance from a non-Chrome machine you will have to really pay up.

Storage

Because Chromebooks are made to be light and affordable, most come with SSD storage. This makes the computer much faster, but the technology is also much more expensive, and the price is alleviated by lowering storage capacity. Most Chromebooks have 16 or 32 GB of internal storage, but you will find that could be enough for your needs. This minimal amount of storage is alleviated in a few ways, including that many Chromebooks have an SD Card reader, leave a large capacity card plugged in full time to store your bulkier files. Just be sure to grab the right SD Card, we can help.

google-drive-device

You do get 100 GB of Google Drive storage. Making the switch to a Chromebook, you have to keep in mind you are going to mostly live in the cloud. Chrome OS has very tight integration with Google Drive, so you could have as much storage as you want to purchase from them.

Those who prefer storing all their files locally will probably prefer going with another type of machine. HDDs are currently very cheap, and it’s very common to find laptops sporting 1 TB of storage (even the cheap ones). We do advise that you go with an SSD, though, which will be much faster. And even if you do pick a computer with an SSD, chances are you will get much more than 32 GB of storage.

Display

Once again, Chromebooks are meant to be affordable – this means you often have to make sacrifices, and the screen is a very common downside in these laptops. Chrome OS computers tend to have lower resolution 720p displays. There are some exceptions, like the Toshiba Chromebook 2’s 1080p panel and the Chromebook Pixel’s 2560 x 1700p screen, which is one of the best ones on the market (and will cost you $1,299).

Other computers are very varied in terms of screen quality. It is not hard to find laptops with 4K displays, others enjoy QHD and many tout a Full HD panel. Meanwhile, some do go down to 720p. It just depends on what you get and how much you are willing to pay. What we do see more often in Windows machines lately is touch screens, a feature that is usually a luxury in Chromebooks – just keep in mind how the lack of a touchscreen will affect your usage of Android apps on a Chromebook, can you play that game with a trackpad or external game pad?

Chromebook Pixel 2015

Gaming

If you want to game, go with Windows. There is no doubt these laptops have the widest title availability. We would advise you get a powerful machine, though, as games eat up a lot of resources. There are some good options out there, though! And even if you have a more affordable computer, there are plenty of light games around.

Related reading
Best gaming laptops under $500
Razer Blade Stealth review 

Chromebooks are currently limited to Chrome apps, which are usually cloud and internet games you find on the web. This will change once Google Play Store compatibility becomes widely available, but these are still mobile games you would be playing.

Windows 10 Anniversary update

Battery life

Chromebooks will definitely win this round. It is very common to see Chrome OS machines with battery life ranging between 9 and 12 hours. That is something rare to find in traditional machines, unless you are willing to pay up. And even then, laptops with that amount of battery life are very few.

Price

If you were to take two identically spec’d laptops, install Chrome OS on one and Windows on the other, you will find that the Chrome OS machine will be much faster. In fact, a low-end Chromebook would run Windows horribly. This is why Chrome OS machines are much more affordable. They don’t need that much power to run well.

You can buy an entry level Chromebook for about $129, a good Chromebook for about $169. Then you can get more powerful units like the Dell Chromebook 13, starting at $429, with a last gen. Intel Core i3 model available with up to 8GB of RAM and 32GB of storage space, all the way up to that $1299 Chromebook Pixel straight from Google.

Around here, we’re fans of the high-end HP Chromebook 13 line, starting around $500, opt for the model with the 6th gen. Intel Core m5 chipset with 8GB of RAM, Intel HD Graphics 515 and a QHD display for about $800 right now. This configuration is almost exactly what you will find on the latest MacBook and the Huawei MateBook – both of which may not be the peak of computing power, but it would be wrong to call them low-end or slow devices.

Buy the HP Chromebook 13 now

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Chromebooks vs other laptops – which should you get?

The question is simple, but the answer not so much. As it goes with anything else, it highly depends on your needs. Those who are very dependent on certain software (Office, Photoshop, games, etc.) are better off going with a more traditional laptop. But if you can replace these with cloud alternatives (and soon Android apps), you will find plenty of benefits to going with a Chromebook. These are faster, lighter, simpler to use, easier to recover from if lost or stolen, and much more affordable.

Also consider the level of freedom you get from Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems. These machines allow you to customize your experience to your liking, and you can play around with a bunch of tweaks. Chrome OS is for those who want something that is much more simple, intuitive and… just works.

Considering a Chromebook? Best Chromebooks

I will be sticking with Windows for now, as there are certain games and applications I can’t fully replace with a Chromebook. How about you? Are you making the switch to Chrome OS?

What’s next?
Running Android apps on Chromebooks
How to run Android apps on Chromebooks
Best laptops under $200
Best laptops under $300
Best laptops under $400
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  • Chromebooks are a science project pretending to be an actual product.