The physical appearance of Chromebooks and Laptops look the same, but they are a lot different when it comes to overall functionality. In this article we will compare the two portable computer devices and discuss the main differences of each together with our recommendations.
The most notable difference between a Chromebook and a laptop is the operating system on which they are running.
Chromebooks run on web browser minimalistic Chrome OS, while a laptop runs on either Windows or macOS (or even Linux for more advanced users).
However, Chromebooks make the name in the market for being lightweight, inexpensive, and fast.
So, if you are looking for a new device and are confused between purchasing either a Chromebook or a laptop, then this article is for you.
Here we are comparing them from 10 different points that can help you make the right decision.
10-Point Comparison between Chromebook and Laptop
1) Software Support
A Chromebook is not natively compatible with either Windows or macOS software, but it does support Linux software. The latest models of Chromebooks support Android apps and other web apps that are accessible from Google’s Chrome Web Store.
If you want to run Windows applications on a Chromebook device, you can do it using Parallels Desktop.
However, if you are looking for complete Office software installation on the Chromebook, then that’s not possible.
You can use some Android office apps or their web-based version, but cannot install specific Windows/Mac apps directly on the Chromebook.
Similarly, Chromebook does not give you advanced software capabilities, such as advanced photo/video editing, etc.
You can somehow manage to do basic editing with relevant Android apps or online editing tools, but it lags offering support for advanced or feature-rich capabilities.
In short, Chromebooks are more suited for lightweight web apps, while laptops are best for advanced, sophisticated software with heavy performance requirements.
Winner: Laptop Total Points: Chromebook = 0 || Laptop = 1
2) Battery Life
In laptops, the battery’s energy is mostly consumed from their processor, graphics card, and performance demands.
On the other hand, Chromebook functionality mostly relies on the internet, so it does not need heavy-duty processors or graphics cards, thus there is lower battery consumption.
So, if the same batteries are used in laptops and Chromebooks, then the battery life of Chromebooks will be more long-lasting.
However, laptops usually come with larger batteries compared to Chromebooks, so this balances out the lower battery demands from Chromebooks. You can consider that battery life and endurance in similar in this comparison, so we give this feature a Draw.
Winner: Neutral Total Points: Chromebook = 0 || Laptop = 1
3) Storage Capacity
In terms of storage capacity, laptops are undoubtedly the winners. Since laptops are designed more for offline use purposes, they come with more storage capacity, such as 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, etc.
On the other hand, Chromebooks are meant for online storage, so you will get less offline storage capacity, which is usually either 32GB or 64GB.
However, every Chromebook comes with 1 year of 100GB free Google Drive cloud storage. But you can easily get the same online storage with a laptop by just paying the monthly/annual subscription fee. Overall, if storage capacity is deemed important to you, then laptops are the best.
Winner: Laptop Total Points: Chromebook = 0 || Laptop = 2
Since laptops come with more hardware specs compared to Chromebooks, so they are more expensive.
The more specs you demand in a laptop, the more price you have to pay. On the other hand, Chromebook relies on the internet with minimal hardware specs, so it is a more economical option.
The clear winner here is terms of price is the Chromebook option.
Winner: Chromebook Total Points: Chromebook = 1 || Laptop = 2
5) Printer Access
Laptops running on either Windows or macOS can directly link with printers via Wi-Fi network or USB port and complete the job instantly.
However, Chromebooks are not printer-friendly. You cannot link a Chromebook with a printer directly using a Wi-Fi network or USB port.
You have to route the printing tasks over the web Google Cloud Print (GCP) service or something similar. Moreover, Chromebooks are only functional with GCP-ready printers.
Winner: Laptop Total Points: Chromebook = 1 || Laptop = 3
Laptops come with complete OS, processor, multiple ports/slots, and all other capabilities that you need to use a computing device for any purpose you want.
On the other hand, Chromebooks come with a limited user interface and fewer types of ports but boot up faster due to solid-state drives and Chrome OS.
In terms of processor speed, laptops offer faster clock speed, as they contain the latest processors and can easily expand the RAM capacity of the device if needed.
Chromebooks are not slow, but they cannot compete with the performance capabilities of laptops. In short, you get best-in-class performance in laptops for offline and online processes, while you only get best-in-class performance in Chromebooks for online processes.
Winner: Laptop Total Points: Chromebook = 1 || Laptop = 4
Laptops come in multiple sizes and dimensions depending on the manufacturer. You can easily get laptops in lightweight and thin models by paying some premium price but still their cost will be much lower compared to laptops.
Moreover, Chromebooks do not require heavy-duty processors and other hardware, so they are designed to be very lightweight and thin.
In simple words, Chromebooks are more portable compared to the price associated with them.
Winner: Chromebook Total Points: Chromebook = 2 || Laptop = 4
8) Gaming Experience
Laptops lead when it comes to on-the-device gaming experience due to their high-performance processors, graphics cards, and more RAM and storage.
With Chromebooks, you cannot install AAA games as native apps. However, the concept of cloud gaming services is growing that can facilitate Chromebook users greatly in the future.
For example, you can now take advantage of Blade Shadow, Nvidia GeForce Now, and Google’s Stadia services to get the cloud gaming experience you would expect on a local gaming device.
All these services make you subscribe to a virtual PC running in the cloud through which you can play games just like on your laptop.
In fact, Google has been sending Chromebooks with pre-installed Stadia since February 2021. On the other hand, you can still subscribe to cloud gaming services even with your laptops. Overall, the gaming experience is much smoother with laptops compared to Chromebooks.
Winner: Laptops Total Points: Chromebook = 2 || Laptop = 5
9) Offline Capabilities
Laptops come with great offline capabilities. You can use different software, do business/study activities, play games, and similarly do plenty of other activities without even connecting to the internet.
On the other hand, Chromebooks have minimal offline capabilities and want continuous internet connection for effective use.
Winner: Laptop Total Points: Chromebook = 2 || Laptop = 6
To keep laptops safe from viruses/malware, you have to keep them updated and install antivirus and other security software.
A laptop gives you the capability to install a lot of software on it but this can be a weakness as well.
A vulnerability or loophole in one application can make the whole system vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
On the other hand, Chromebooks are much more secure because your main storage will be Google servers and you will be installing minimal software on Chromebooks. So, the attack surface reduces a lot with Chromebooks.
Some believe that Chromebooks are more vulnerable to malicious websites that can download malware on your device.
However, they are not considering the top-notch Chromebook’s defenses. Google built Chromebooks while keeping security as one of the top priorities.
That’s why you can see secure environments from sandboxed, isolated processes to verified boot.
Winner: Chromebook Total Points: Chromebook = 3 || Laptop = 6
Out of 10 comparison elements between Chromebooks and laptops, we found laptops winning in six of them, while Chromebooks only lead in three points (one of them is a Draw).
Overall, you can consider laptops a winner option compared to Chromebooks because almost all the Chromebook capabilities are accessible on a laptop and much more.
However, if you are looking for an economical computing device and your activities rely mostly on the internet, then you are good to go with a Chromebook device.