Chromebook vs laptop: Which one suits your needs? | Daily News Byte


Chromebook and MacBook (labeled Laptop) are compared.

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The term laptop is often used interchangeably with Chromebook, but there are some differences that every buyer should be aware of before hitting the buy button on each one. We’ll answer frequently asked questions about what makes Chromebooks unique, who they’re good for, and what you should look for when buying one.

Also: The 27 best laptops and Chromebooks right now

A Chromebook is a portable computer running ChromeOS, a special operating system designed by Google that relies more on cloud and cloud services than traditional operating systems like Windows or MacOS. Chromebooks are similar to most laptops or notebook PCs, but generally have less powerful hardware due to their reliance on cloud services, instead of installed software requires horsepower.

An Asus Chromebook opened and closed

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

A Chromebook is a portable computer that runs ChromeOS. They have slower processors, less RAM, and less internal storage than their laptops. However, there are some high-end Chromebooks that exceed the specifications of most modern laptops.

In this context, “laptop” refers to portable computers that run traditional operating systems such as Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s MacOS (aka MacBooks). Operating systems like this rely heavily on locally installed software that resides in their database. This unique approach to accessing apps and services is what separates a Chromebook from a laptop.

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For example, a person editing a photo on a regular computer can use natively installed programs such as Microsoft Paint, Adobe Photoshop, or GIMP, or online editing programs. images like Pixlr, Imgur, or Photoshop online (beta). The user must complete the same task on the Chromebook to rely on web applications, because the installed options such as Paint and Photoshop are not compatible with ChromeOS.

Next to. Simply put, a Chromebook can do everything that most people use a laptop for. This includes browsing the web, social media, texting, emailing, watching or listening to streaming media, productivity activities such as word processing or other ​documentation, video communication and distance learning, and basic photo and video editing.

Laptops, however, are for certain tasks, especially for certain niche and business use cases. For example, professional writers, myself included, can get by using a Chromebook because we do most of our writing online these days. However, professional photo and video editors need a Windows or MacOS computer to access programs like Adobe Photoshop or DaVinci Resolve, which are not available on ChromeOS due to the lack of native software support.

More: 5 reasons Chromebooks are the best laptop (for most users)

This makes Chromebooks great for students, office workers, and those who work and play games online, but it’s not so great for those who want more powerful software installed on them. the country.

A teenage girl using a Chromebook for distance learning


Chromebooks have more limited gaming options than older laptops. While dedicated gaming laptops can play a variety of games well enough to allow an entire game console to run (albeit at a lower framerate), gaming Chromebooks are limited to two types of games: mobile games through Google Play and cloud games. service.

Mobile games from Google Play can be downloaded by any Chromebook that supports the Android app store. These games work just like they do on a phone or tablet if you have a touchscreen Chromebook. For a Chromebook without a screen, you should choose games that support keyboard, mouse, or touchpad input.

More: How to install Android apps on your Chromebook

With gaming services like Nvidia’s GeForce Now or Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming, the game runs on a connected server, rather than the Chromebook itself. This can play AAA titles with demanding system requirements on low-end Chromebooks, or on smartphones. However, the quality of the gaming experience does not always match the responsiveness and resolution of an installed game.

That said, you can get closer to the perfect experience by sticking with light (or retro) titles, having a fast internet connection, and using a Chromebook that’s specifically designed for gaming. The first wave of “gaming Chromebooks” has arrived recently, and models like the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook and Acer Chromebook 516 GE I recently reviewed.

Lenovo's IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook is a desktop with gaming peripherals

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

Ideally, yes, but some work can be done outside. Since Chromebooks rely heavily on connected services like cloud storage and web apps, it’s impossible to leave you without important files or software you need. necessary.

However, some basic functions will remain the same even if a Chromebook is not connected to the internet. This includes things like using Google products (such as Google Docs and Sheets); viewing stored files such as movies, music, and podcasts; and viewing or editing stored images and documents.

More: How to set up online access in Google Drive

To be clear, you shouldn’t buy a Chromebook if you don’t plan on connecting it to the internet most of the time. Although it can be used offline, its full functionality depends on having a strong internet connection.

Google has no warnings on Chrome


Are Chromebooks expensive?

Generally speaking, Chromebooks are among the cheapest portable computing devices.

Their reliance on online and cloud services means their local infrastructure can be cheap. This translates to higher hardware costs for Chromebook models available under $300eat sometimes less than $100.

You can buy a much cheaper laptop for the same price, but the build quality and components may disappoint. However, Chromebooks in this price range are almost always better options.

As an alternative, there are some high-end Chromebooks available. Advanced features such as Google Pixelbook Go or otherwise Samsung Galaxy Chromebook put valuables, high-resolution displays, and parts in the home on a high-end computer. While these features are overkill for most Chromebook users, they can be perfect for someone who considers their Chromebook their primary use.

The answer depends on your intended use. Do you want a desktop PC for casual browsing, maybe some social media, and the occasional streaming video? Then your priorities are very different from a student who wants a system with a lot of portability and epic battery life. Because of this, ZDNET has the best lists based on specific user types, which you can find below.

If you want my quick picks for the best Chromebooks, I’ve included a few below along with my reasoning behind choosing them.

A laptop saleswoman


For joint use:

This is the Chromebook I have recommended to family and friends, all of whom have expressed long-term satisfaction. Its touch screen lets you play Android games, and its reliability and build quality help you power through work or homework with ease. like. It is the “laptop” that most of us need.

To play:

I reviewed two of the three Chromebooks that included the first wave of gaming-centric models, and the Acer 516 GE slightly separated its competition due to the inclusion of an Ethernet port. If you are a Wi-Fi user with a good connection, the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook is also a good choice.

For the road warrior:

The price may be $650 if it has the same options as the larger Lenovo model above. But the build quality, 12-hour battery life, and laptop-class CPU make this a great Chromebook to buy if you want to be a one-computer traveler.

For young students:

I wouldn’t call the Dell Chromebook 3100 used at $100, but it’s about as close as you can get to a laptop-type device. It is also durable, which means it lasts longer than the smaller ones.


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