Looking to buy a new computer? Chances are you are considering either a Chromebook or a laptop. They go hand in hand when it comes to price, performance, and portability, all of which are important to consider when buying a new machine. They are even made by the same companies and often have similar Intel and AMD hardware.
Still, the differences between Chromebooks and laptops are bigger than they might seem at a glance. This guide will help you decide which one is worth your money.
We compare Chromebooks and laptops with the following in mind:
- Features and Daily Operation
- Battery life and portability
- General performance
Chromebook vs laptop: specs and day-to-day operation
Some may find it hard to tell a Chromebook from a conventional laptop at a glance. Both have a screen, keyboard and touchpad. Each offers a variety of display options that can be purchased as an old-school flip or a more modern touchscreen. 2 in 1 laptop.
Still, there are key points that make each one stand out.
Common Chromebook Features
- Google Chrome OS operating system
- Integrated connectivity with Google cloud services
- Wi-Fi always available – mobile data is not scarce
- Limited RAM (4GB to 8GB is common)
- Limited storage (32GB to 128GB is common)
Chromebooks come with ChromeOS, Google’s web-centric lightweight operating system that’s simple, fast, and heavily geared toward using the Chrome web browser. Most tasks performed in the browser will feel a little faster on a Chromebook than on a similar laptop. That’s why Chromebooks can get away with such limited amounts of RAM and storage. Chrome is often the only app you will use and very little data may be stored on the device.
Common Laptop Features
- Microsoft Windows operating system
- Wide range of cloud service options
- Wi-Fi always available, mobile data is scarce
- More RAM (8GB to 32GB is common)
- More storage (128GB to 1TB is common)
Laptops take a more-is-more approach. Microsoft’s popular Windows operating system supports decades of apps and is usually the go-to launch pad for new laptop apps and services. A laptop’s versatility comes at the expense of efficiency, so web browsing often doesn’t feel any better than a Chromebook. However, laptops ultimately pack more RAM and storage. It is possible to install large applications and store large files like high-resolution photos or 4K videos more easily.
Chromebooks vs Laptops: Software
Software, apps, services – whatever you call them, you’ll want your Chromebook or laptop to work Things. And there’s a big difference in the things Chromebooks and laptops can run.
Chromebooks are designed to run apps available through the Chrome Web Store. Many also run Android apps available through the Google Play Store. That sounds promising, but apps installed on a Chromebook often aren’t fun to use. They are designed to spend most of their time accessing services through the Chrome browser. Developers know this, so most don’t put much (if any) effort into the app experience on ChromeOS.
Laptops are another story. A sweaty Steve Ballmer took the stage at a Windows conference and shouted “developers, devs, devs!” until his voice dropped and Microsoft still focused on locally installed and hosted apps. The vast majority of software designed for a computer ends up on Windows first. A laptop provides access to hundreds of thousands of apps that a Chromebook can’t run.
Chromebooks vs Laptops: Battery Life and Portability
Chromebooks and laptops can offer long battery life, but it really depends on the device. The best of both categories can easily handle eight hours of use on one battery, and some can stretch well beyond that. Yet there are differences.
Chromebooks tend to fare better when it comes to battery life. This is thanks to ChromeOS, which is less demanding than Windows. A Chromebook can deliver decent performance on relatively slow hardware that consumes little power. Windows laptops require faster, more power-hungry silicon for acceptable performance.
It’s hard to define that difference given the thousands of budget Chromebooks and laptops available. Generally speaking, however, budget Chromebooks offer five to eight hours of battery life. Entry-level Windows machines will provide around three to six hours.
However, laptops are catching up when you start looking for higher-end options, as the more expensive models offer massive batteries with a capacity of 80 to 99 watt hours.
When it comes to physical portability, Chromebooks also tend to be smaller and thinner than laptops, but the difference is often hard to notice. Chromebooks and laptops are available with screen sizes ranging from 11.6 inches to 17 inches.
Chromebook vs Laptop: Overall Performance
Chromebooks and laptops offer similar performance at a given price. The cheapest models (under $200) are underpowered. Mid-range models improve by adding better and faster processors with more cores and more RAM. A typical $500 Chromebook or laptop will have a quad-core processor, at least 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage.
The latest Chromebooks extend that to a price tag of around $1,000, matching laptop peers. Chromebook superfans will find models with the latest Intel and AMD processors, at least 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage.
But, again, laptops take the lead in the high end. Chromebooks more or less top out around $1,000. Laptops are moving to more expensive configurations with faster, more power-hungry variants of Intel and AMD processors that aren’t available in Chromebooks. RAM and storage can reach extremes in laptops: the latest Dell XPS 17 offers up to 64GB of RAM and up to 2TB of solid-state storage.
Chromebook vs Laptop: Gaming
The current state of gaming on a Chromebook is not good. Very few games are designed to be installed and played locally on a Chromebook. It is possible to install Android games on some models, but the experience is often slow and hampered by bugs.
Cloud gaming is available for Chromebooks through several services. These include Google Stadiawhich is not great, and Nvidia GeForce now, what is better. Microsoft Xbox cloud gaming also works through a browser, although the support is unofficial. The list of titles available on cloud gaming services is still limited and the quality of the experience will depend on the speed and reliability of your internet connection.
Beyond that, Steam recently announced that it’s bringing Steam to Chrome OS. Support is only in alpha testing, but it is a step in the right direction. Rumors suggest HP and Lenovo are working on gaming-centric Chromebooks.
Chromebooks are not sold with discrete graphics at this time. The best models offer integrated Intel Iris Xe or AMD Radeon graphics that come with an Intel or AMD processor, while budget machines rely on Intel UHD graphics or graphics that come with MediaTek processors.
Laptops, on the other hand, run on Windows, the world’s premier PC gaming platform. Virtually all games designed for a computer come to Windows first. Gaming Laptops can be purchased with powerful discrete graphics hardware from AMD and Nvidia that can handle modern 3D titles. Gamers can even access the same cloud gaming services available on Chromebooks, if they so choose. Laptops also have access to services not available on Chromebooks such as Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now.
In short, laptops are better than Chromebooks for gaming, and it’s not even close.
Chromebook vs Laptop: The Verdict
Although similar at a glance, Chromebooks and laptops are very different.
Chromebooks are ideal if you want an inexpensive, easy-to-use laptop. They are ideal for people who choose to use a computer only when absolutely necessary. A Chromebook can also work for dedicated PC gamers who choose to game on a gaming computer and only use a laptop for simple tasks when traveling.
Laptops are best for those who want a complete and versatile computer. They have better software support and can store more data locally. Laptops are also great for gamers. They give access to a huge library of pc games cross-platform, and the best models offer smooth, beautiful high-resolution graphics.