Chromebook vs. Laptop computer: What Can and Cannot I Do With a Chromebook?

Chromebooks are a tempting choice for the budget-conscious, particularly should you’re on the lookout for a new pc that you may simply tackle the go. The primary factor to bear in mind when evaluating a laptop computer to a Chromebook is that it is not an apples-to-apples comparability. The primary distinction, apart from value, is the working system. When you’re used to utilizing Home windows or MacOS, Google’s minimalist Chrome working system might not have all of the performance you want. However then once more, possibly it does, and with some Chromebooks even dipping beneath $300, possibly you stand to avoid wasting a bundle of money by nixing the options you do not use anyway. 

Learn extra: Greatest Laptop computer Beneath $500 for 2022

When Chromebooks first arrived in 2011 they have been routinely derided — and rightfully so — for his or her restricted performance and reliance on a constant web connection. The working system turned 10 years previous final 12 months and at the moment’s Chromebooks, which are available each laptop computer and two-in-one designs, are removed from the place they began, however some issues have not modified, and also you won’t be prepared to work with the restrictions they do have. (Additionally, should you do not feel like studying this and would simply fairly expertise Chrome OS, here is the best way to briefly run it on any laptop computer utilizing a reasonable USB flash drive you in all probability have already got mendacity round.)

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What can and may’t I do with a Chromebook?

When Chrome OS launched it was primarily Google’s Chrome internet browser. For these used to an working system like Home windows and Mac, it made the common Chromebook look like little greater than a laptop computer that runs an online browser and that is all. 

Even when the Chrome OS by no means matured past that, the actual fact is quite a bit may be carried out fully on the net today. Take inventory of all the things you do each day and chances are you’ll discover there’s nothing you possibly can’t accomplish with Chrome at its most elementary stage. 

That mentioned, a Home windows laptop computer or MacBook can run the Chrome browser in addition to different software program supported by these working techniques. Even should you do not instantly want a selected piece of software program, it is good to have the choice. Plus, should you’re searching for a Chromebook for distant studying with Google Classroom, a Mac or Home windows PC will work as properly.


Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a premium mannequin with higher efficiency than most. 

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Alongside these traces, Chromebooks should not natively appropriate with Home windows or Mac software program. Companies can use VMware on Chromebooks to run Home windows purposes however that is not a straightforward choice for many Chromebook homeowners. Nonetheless, there may be assist for Linux software program, plus present fashions can run Android apps and there are additionally internet apps which can be obtainable by way of Google’s Chrome Net Retailer. Additionally, should you’re contemplating a Chromebook as a secondary system, it is potential to use Home windows or Mac software program on a Chromebook through the use of Chrome’s Distant Desktop characteristic and it truly works very well!

Learn extra: Methods to Purchase a Laptop computer to Edit Images, Movies or Different Inventive Duties

One of many massive hurdles right here for many individuals is entry to Microsoft Workplace. You’ll be able to’t set up the complete Home windows or MacOS desktop variations of Workplace software program on a Chromebook, however you should utilize Workplace 365 on-line and set up the Workplace progressive internet apps. PWAs act identical to cell apps, so you should utilize them offline, get notifications and pin them to the taskbar. However typically talking, should you want or need a particular Home windows or Mac utility — and there is no appropriate internet or Android app substitute and VMware is not an choice — do not get a Chromebook. 

Additionally, should you want superior photo- and video-editing capabilities, you may need a Home windows, Mac or Linux laptop computer. Primary picture and video modifying is ok, however Chromebooks usually do not supply the graphics efficiency you want for demanding duties or, once more, the choice to put in Home windows or Mac software program and video games. However, with streaming-game providers like Google Stadia, Nvidia GeForce Now, Amazon Luna and Xbox Cloud Gaming, Chromebooks can now be used for greater than Android and browser-based video games. It’s also possible to set up and play Linux video games, although you may want a higher-end Chromebook to do it. Plus, there are additionally a number of Android apps obtainable for picture and video modifying, together with Adobe choices.

Asus Chromebook Flip CM5

At this time’s Chromebooks just like the Asus CM5 are prepared for enjoying cloud gaming providers, Android video games and even Linux video games.

Josh Goldman/CNET

What is an efficient Chromebook?

A number of years in the past, all Chromebooks have been just about the identical no matter what firm made them. Now, there is a far larger number of laptops and two-in-ones — convertibles and tablets — to reap the benefits of Chrome OS’s present capabilities. You may nonetheless discover extra sizes and kinds on the subject of Home windows laptops, particularly should you want high processing and graphics efficiency, however the number of choices is a lot better than prior to now. 

When you’re simply after a very good, fundamental expertise with a Chromebook, the small, light-weight OS has minimal {hardware} necessities and the identical goes for internet apps. Having a sooner, higher-end processor, extra reminiscence and larger storage for recordsdata and apps will assist preserve demanding multitaskers shifting alongside; an Intel Core i-series or AMD Ryzen processor, 8GB of reminiscence and a 128GB SSD for storage will take you far however definitely drives up the associated fee. Here is what I like to recommend after I’m requested what fundamental Chromebook specs to search for:

  • Intel Celeron or Pentium, Qualcomm or MediaTek processors
  • 4GB of reminiscence
  • 64GB of storage
  • Full HD (1,920×1,080-pixel) show

There may be flexibility with these suggestions. You may get a 1,366×768-resolution show, for instance, however the low cost ones utilized in low-end Chromebooks look notably mushy subsequent to full-HD fashions. And you may get by with 32GB of onboard storage so long as there is a microSD card slot to complement it or you do not plan to obtain a number of Android apps. Not like a daily laptop computer, a Chromebook depends extra on cloud storage for recordsdata fairly than native storage. It is also price noting that many occasions storage and reminiscence are soldered on and cannot be upgraded after the actual fact so that you would possibly need to plan forward. 

No matter what Chromebook you purchase, before you purchase it you need to discover out the system’s Auto Replace Expiration date, or AUE. Presently, non-Google {hardware} is just supported for thus lengthy earlier than it stops receiving Chrome OS and browser updates, together with these for safety. For fashions launched now, the date is roughly seven to eight years from the preliminary launch of the system, however that is not at all times the case. Google maintains an inventory of AUE dates for all fashions and you need to test it before you purchase a Chromebook, new or used. 

Do Chromebooks want an web connection?

When Chromebooks first launched they mainly turned paperweights after they have been offline — an actual situation should you have been in the course of modifying an necessary doc you all of a sudden could not save as a result of your internet connection dropped. Issues have fortunately gotten higher as Google improved offline capabilities and customary apps like Netflix, YouTube and Spotify have offline choices as properly. 

Learn: Greatest VPNs for 2022

For a daily laptop computer, being offline is rather less of an issue because you’re utilizing put in software program that saves to inner storage. Whereas neither expertise is nice offline today, Chromebooks should not an awesome selection should you’re not prepared and capable of be on-line more often than not. On the upside, Google has made it very straightforward for Android customers to show their telephones into prompt cell hotspots and to have Chromebooks and Android gadgets work higher collectively

Are Chromebooks low cost?

Due to the low {hardware} necessities of Chrome OS, not solely can Chromebooks be lighter and smaller than the common laptop computer, they’re typically inexpensive, too.

New Home windows laptops for $200 are few and much between and, frankly, are not often price shopping for. Discovering a very good $200 Chromebook, however, is fairly straightforward to do. And whereas spending extra will get you higher construct high quality, extra options or sooner efficiency, even these premium Chromebooks usually begin between $400 and $500, however can simply run greater than $1,000 relying in your wants. 

With Home windows laptops, you usually must spend $700 or extra to get a skinny, light-weight mannequin with respectable efficiency and battery life that can maintain its efficiency for years to return. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The simplicity of a Chromebook cannot be beat. If all the things you do may be carried out in an online browser or with internet or Android apps, there’s little motive to not go along with a Chrome system. Though with Android, Linux, Parallels and VMware assist, you are able to do far more at the moment than after they first arrived in 2011.

Learn our Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2021) evaluate.


Josh Goldman/CNET

With a broad vary of designs, sizes and kinds that may be configured with all types of elements and obtainable with costs going from a pair hundred {dollars} to hundreds, a Home windows or Mac laptop computer presents larger selection in efficiency and use, particularly if you wish to simply use software program or play video games solely obtainable on these working techniques.

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