If you’ve been toying with the idea of buying a Windows Laptop, you’ve probably wondered whether the Chromebook is right for you. Chromebooks are thin, light and inexpensive machines, designed to offer functionality and portability to users that are always on the Internet. They often seem underpowered on paper, but the efficient Chrome OS handles activities like document processing, web browsing, movie watching and basic multitasking without breaking a sweat.
Of course, there are more than a few downsides to choosing Chrome OS over Windows, but if you’re only looking for a budget laptop that can get you through an average day’s workload at school or in the office, a Chromebook is well worth considering.
Alternatively, you have the choice of buying a Windows laptop. Chromebook prices typically stretch from $150 to $300, but you can also find some budget Windows laptops in the same price range. So, what notebook do you get when you have the money to buy either?
Below, we’ve compared Chromebooks and cheap Windows laptops to give you a clear scope of the strengths and weaknesses with either option and possibly help you make a choice.
Chromebook vs Budget Windows Laptop – Design
Chromebooks and budget Windows laptops are meant to offer the best they can at an affordable price. Consequently, they both come with several compromises, among them being the design. With both choices, therefore, don’t expect strong builds, stylish cases, and flashy, metallic finishes.
That said, Chromebooks are known to be exceptionally thin and light, which is great if you’re looking for something you can carry in your backpack and not feel the added weight. The best Chromebooks even serve up a few touches of class, with gold or silver frames, polished aluminum or polycarbonate chassis, tapered cases and leather linings, that give them an upscale Windows ultrabook feel at a friendly price point.
You’ll rarely find an under $200 Windows notebook that promotes portability or elegance. So, if you’re in the market for a budget laptop that’s beautiful and lightweight, your best bet lies with a Chromebook.
Chrome OS and Windows 10 offer very different environments, and your choice here will be mostly determined by preference, rather than merit. Keep in mind, however, that Chrome OS is, essentially, a web-based platform, while Windows is an offline ecosystem. Therefore, while you do get more with Windows 10, Chrome OS is much easier to navigate.
Clicking the Start-like button at the bottom-left corner of the screen reveals a Google search page with all your apps and widgets and a taskbar that shows currently active apps and shortcuts. Chrome OS interface is undoubtedly limited, especially if you’re coming from Windows 10, but the good thing is that it offers a simpler and more straightforward layout. Everything seems to be just one click away.
One thing worth mentioning, however, is touch-friendliness. Although you’ll find Chromebooks with touchscreens, it’s Windows 10 that makes the most out of the technology. Launching tablet mode removes icons and puts apps in full-screen mode, eliminating unused desktop space for a more finger-friendly working area. So, if your preferences are inclined towards touchscreen capabilities, you’re better off with Windows 10.
Apps and software
The apps are what determines a laptop’s functionality, and in this case, none is more functional than a Windows device. If there’s a program you’re thinking of running, the chances are high that Windows 10 supports it.
Chrome OS, on the other hand, is still a work in progress. Sure, you’ll find apps for editing documents, playing music, viewing photos, watching movies and surfing the Internet, but if you want comprehensive productivity, you have no choice but to go the Windows way. Google Docs offers quite a lot, but Microsoft’s Office Suite is still the go-to software for productivity. You can get Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on your Chromebook through OneDrive, but these will be available only for online use.
Things get even more intricate when you want apps for photo and video editing or design packages like AutoCAD or Dreamweaver. You simply won’t find any praiseworthy ones on Chrome OS.
Things might change for the better, now that you can run Android apps on the latest Chrome OS version, but even Android can’t compete with Windows, as far as computer software is concerned.
File management and compatibility
We’ve become so accustomed to Window’s File Explorer that the Files folder on Chrome OS almost seems like a joke. With all your apps hosted online, however, you don’t really need much from your file management system. The Files folder gives you access to your Google Drive files and any that have been downloaded and saved to the offline storage drive.
The main drawback, however, comes with compatibility. Windows 10 supports a horde of files, made with different apps. Take media playback, for example. While you can download codecs and play anything on your Windows laptop, Chromebooks only support 3gp, .mp4, m4v, .mp3, .mkv, .ogv, avi, .mov,.ogm, .ogg, .oga, .wav. and .webm.
This means no .acc files, and, therefore, no iTunes. You won’t find support for .h264 files either, which is the default codec for many cameras and the backdrop of most web videos. And if you’re a graphic artist, you can’t do anything with .tiff image files on Chrome OS.
If you still can’t make a choice, maybe one of these additional but still important features will be the factor that breaks your dilemma.
Chrome OS is entirely based on Google Chrome, which means it’s the only browser is supports. Now, don’t get me wrong, Chrome is a great browser that offers a simple, easy-to-use interface, strong performance, and a ton of extensions.
However, Chrome is the only browser option you have, and if you want to run important plugins like Flash or Java that aren’t supported by Chrome, you have no choice. Windows 10 can run Chrome, along with any other web browser you want, giving you a flexible browsing experience.
Being the most used computer OS in the world, Windows has a long history of hacks and malware attacks, and while Windows 10 comes with Windows Defender pre-packaged, it’s always a good idea to get yourself an antivirus from renowned third-party developers.
Chromebooks haven’t caught much attention from many hackers, but that hasn’t stopped Google from introducing measures like automatic checks for security updates, such as Web filters and sandboxes. Moreover, if something does infect your system, restoring your Chromebook to its default settings takes only a few mouse pad clicks. And, you won’t have to worry about backing up your data because most of it will be in the cloud anyway.
Customers often consider the Chromebook’s limited flash memory as its biggest weakness. Chrome OS forces a user to invest in online storage which, while safe and reliable, will always require the Internet to access.
Windows laptops usually come with ample space for your files. With Chromebook money, you can get a budget Windows notebook with as much as 500GB offline hard drive storage.
Chromebooks and cheap Windows laptops have their ups and downs, and depending on your needs you can go either way and be satisfied with your decision.
However, a laptop’s software features are what makes it a laptop. Add that to a wider support for files and sufficient offline storage, and buying a Windows laptop just makes more sense. If you could overlook portability and design, you really can’t go wrong with a good, reasonably-priced Windows laptop.
Article by Jo-Ann Coetzee