Best for: Affordability and Ease of Use
A Chromebook is a laptop that runs Google’s Chrome OS operating system and is designed to take advantage of cloud computing to let you do many of the same things you do on a traditional laptop, but with less resources. It doesn’t consume much or need to run powerful hardware. This keeps the cost of the device down, but at the cost of slightly less functionality than traditional laptops.
Choose one of the following:
- very affordable
- good battery life
- Easy to use
- A large and growing app ecosystem
- underpowered hardware
- You may not have your favorite apps
- Generally made from cheap materials
Best for: functionality and performance
Chromebooks are also laptops, but when we talk about laptops we mostly mean Windows or macOS devices. These devices can run all (or at least most) of your favorite apps. And thanks to much more powerful hardware, the laptop app is more robust and functional than most on Chromebooks.
Choose one of the following:
- A more robust operating system
- full function
- Great for games and creative work
- Wide price range
- generally more expensive
- Requires more powerful hardware
- Can be complicated to get the most out of
With each new school year, parents and older students face a crucial decision: to buy a Chromebook or a traditional laptop. Chromebooks are only 10 years old. That means many parents have little to no experience with her Chromebook and may even be confused by the differences between Chromebooks and laptops.
However, to understand what the best student laptops and thin and light laptops are, it’s important to first understand the difference between Chromebooks and laptops. We’ve been reviewing PCs for years. Our unique expertise allows us to find the best laptops on the market.
If you need help figuring out what to look for when comparing the best Chromebooks and the best Windows laptops, this guide will break down the differences between them and help you decide which one is best for your needs. is useful for
What are Chromebooks?
Chromebook pros and cons
good battery life
feels cheap / looks cheap
not very robust
First thing is first. You already know what a laptop is. But before we dig down the Chromebook vs. laptop rabbit hole, we first need to understand what a Chromebook is and how it differs from a traditional laptop. So let’s start there.
A Chromebook is a laptop that runs Google’s Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system that relies heavily on the Chrome browser as its primary user interface. In other words, everything you can do on your Chrome browser, you can do on your Chromebook.
This does not mean that you can use your Chromebook only when you have an internet connection. Google designed Chrome OS to make apps Chrome Web Store or Google Play store From word processors and spreadsheets to simple photo editing and light games, there are thousands to choose from that cover all the basics. Also, many of these apps work even if your Chromebook isn’t connected to the internet.
What’s the difference between a Chromebook and a laptop?
To the untrained eye, Chromebooks and laptops may look the same. After all, Chromebooks are technically laptops, just different operating systems. Both are notebooks with keyboards, cameras, built-in screens and trackpads. And like laptops, many Chromebooks are clamshells, but quite a few tout touchscreen displays and 2-in-1 form factors.
However, internally, there is not much difference between the two. When it comes to comparing Chromebooks and laptops in terms of power, it makes a strong case for laptops. This is generally because they have higher performance microprocessors (usually from Intel or AMD) and more robust integrated or discrete graphics.
Chromebooks, on the other hand, typically have lower-performance chips and graphics inside, but a small number of premium Chromebooks are known to run on Intel Core chips. There are two reasons for this. Chrome OS is light enough that it doesn’t need to run a powerful chip, keeping Chromebooks down in cost.
Traditional laptops run Windows 11, macOS, a much more robust operating system, and Linux, an open source operating system. The best Windows laptops and the best MacBooks and Macs typically require high-performance CPUs and GPUs, as well as faster memory, and therefore tend to cost more. The advantage is that students can use the same computer to write their semester papers and play their best PC games when they need a break after homework.
Windows laptops usually have 128 GB and much more local storage on the low end. These apps and files take up more space after all. Chromebooks typically include much less storage, sometimes as much as 32 GB. That’s because Chrome OS and the apps it runs don’t require as much storage space as Windows, and are designed to store documents in the cloud.
Chromebooks vs Laptops: Which is Better for Schoolwork?
Pros and cons of laptops
Wide variety of models for every budget
Chromebooks are great for students who use their computers primarily for web browsing, word processing, and streaming video and audio. Storage isn’t an issue when Google-focused students can store files in Drive. You can also use SD cards and USB drives to hold your documents.
Chromebooks are also a great low-cost option, with low-end models dropping to $100/£120/AU$140 during the holiday season. However, Chromebook prices can skyrocket to $1,000/£1,000/A$1,400 when you opt for enterprise or luxury options like the Google Pixelbook.
Chromebooks with few features are great for schoolwork. Even without the extra games and dozens of applications, Chromebooks are powerful tools for homework, allowing students to access classes online without distractions.
Students can create papers in Google Docs and share their work with teachers and parents directly from their Chromebooks. No need to print. The Microsoft Office suite is also available online so students can easily create Word documents.
Chromebooks are also fragile devices. Chromebooks can be easily wiped and reset if students tend to install programs that contain viruses. Few features are confusing if your child is not particularly tech savvy. Chromebooks are plug-in and play devices. Some of the newer Chromebooks are physically a little more delicate, but since many parts are plastic, they can withstand a tipping in most cases.
As for a Windows laptop, it’s more of an investment, but offers a lot of versatility and convenience. You can create almost anything on your laptop and even save your files.
Laptops also have many of the drawbacks of owning a full-fledged computer. It takes a long time to boot, needs an update, and even has the occasional “blue screen.” Chromebooks rarely crash. If it crashes, it can be easily fixed with a simple reboot.
However, there are some tasks that are easier on Windows devices. Chromebooks have traditionally struggled with direct printing, but laptops can print documents quickly. Accessing and organizing files is also a bit of a pain on Chromebooks, but there’s a workaround.
However, in some ways the versatility of Windows laptops is a weakness, as there are other features that hackers can exploit with laptops. Keeping your PC safe requires regular maintenance. This is true even if you only maintain scheduled software updates.
Chromebooks are much less expensive to maintain. Google built Chromebooks with safety and security in mind. It also has defenses that work in the background to protect you while you browse the web.
How should I decide?
One way to determine which option is right for you is to test drive a Chromebook. You can try using Google Chrome exclusively as your browser on your desktop computer for a few days to determine if your students need more functionality than the browser can provide. Use only Chrome extensions and online apps such as Google Docs.
However, while Windows offers a much more complete computing experience, Google OS is a much cheaper and scaled-down alternative, just what students need in the classroom.
Even if you’re not sure which one you want, you can always check out the latest back-to-school sales going on right now to better assess your options if you decide now is the time to buy.
Watch the video here: Chromebooks and Laptops: How to Choose the Right Device for Back to School