Laptop vs. Chromebook: Which portable computer is best in 2020

Google PixelBook Go delivers a premium Chromebook expertise.

James Martin/PJDM

Chromebooks are laptops and two-in-ones operating on Google’s Chrome working system. The {hardware} would possibly seem like some other laptop, however the minimalistic, web-browser-based Chrome OS is a unique expertise from the Home windows and MacOS laptops you are probably used to. Whether or not you are contemplating switching to at least one from a Home windows laptop or MacBook, your child acquired one from their faculty otherwise you’re merely Chrome OS curious, here is the whole lot it’s good to know. 

Learn extra: Best laptop under $500 of 2020 in stock from HP, Lenovo, Acer and more

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. Right this moment’s Chromebooks are removed from the place they began, however some issues have not modified and also you won’t be keen to work with the restrictions they do have. Additionally, for those who do not feel like studying this and would simply quite expertise Chrome OS, here is how to temporarily run it on any laptop using an inexpensive USB flash drive you in all probability have already got laying round. 


HP’s Chromebook x2 is a wonderful removable two-in-one. 

Sarah Tew/PJDM

The software program state of affairs

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

Even when the Chrome OS by no means matured past that, the very fact is quite a bit could be executed fully on the net today. Take inventory of the whole lot you do each day and chances are you’ll discover there’s nothing you may’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 programs. Even for those who do not instantly want a specific piece of software program, it is good to have the choice. Plus, for those who’re looking for a Chromebook for distant studying with Google Classroom, a Mac or Home windows PC will work as properly.  


Samsung’s Chromebook Plus can do quite a bit, however it could actually’t natively run Home windows or Mac software program.

Sarah Tew/PJDM

Alongside these traces, Chromebooks are usually not natively appropriate with Home windows or Mac software program. You should use VMware on Chromebooks to run Windows applications, and there is support for Linux software, too. Plus, current models can run Android apps and there are additionally internet apps which can be obtainable via Google’s Chrome Web Store

Learn extra: Best laptops, desktops and tablets for designers and creatives in 2020  

One of many massive hurdles right here for many individuals is entry to Microsoft Workplace. You’ll be able to’t set up the total Workplace software program on a Chromebook, however Microsoft makes each web-based and Android variations obtainable in the Chrome and Google Play stores, respectively. However typically talking, for those who want or need a particular Home windows or Mac utility — and there is no appropriate internet or Android app substitute and you do not wish to use VMware — do not get a Chromebook.

Additionally, for those who want superior photo- and video-editing capabilities, you may need a common laptop computer. Chromebooks usually do not provide the graphics efficiency you want for demanding duties or, once more, the choice to put in Home windows or Mac video games and software program. Then again, with streaming-game companies like Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now, Chromebooks can now be used for greater than Android and browser-based video games. 


Avid gamers will need at the least an entry-level laptop computer just like the Dell G5 15.

Sarah Tew/PJDM

A various vary of gadgets

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 with regards to Home windows laptops, particularly for those who want prime processing and graphics efficiency, however the number of choices is significantly better than up to now. 

If you happen to’re simply after a great, primary expertise with a Chromebook, the small, light-weight OS has minimal {hardware} necessities and the identical goes for internet apps. Having a higher-end processor and extra reminiscence will assist hold demanding multitaskers shifting alongside, however in any other case here is what I like to recommend after I’m requested what specs to get:

  • Intel Celeron, Core m- or Core i-series processor
  • 4GB of reminiscence or extra
  • 32GB 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 delicate subsequent to full-HD fashions. And you will get by with 16GB of onboard storage so long as there is a microSD card slot to complement it. Not like an everyday laptop computer, a Chromebook depends extra on cloud storage for recordsdata quite than native storage. It is also value noting that many occasions storage and reminiscence are soldered on and cannot be upgraded after the very fact. 

Net connection (largely) required

When Chromebooks first launched they principally grew to become paperweights after they have been offline — an actual difficulty for those who have been in the course of enhancing 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: The best VPN services for 2020

For an everyday 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 are usually not an awesome alternative for those who’re not keen and capable of be on-line more often than not.  

Value constructive

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 cheaper, too.

New Home windows laptops for $200 are few and much between and, frankly, are hardly ever value shopping for. Finding a good $200 Chromebook, however, is fairly straightforward to do (or at the least it was previous to COVID). 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 over $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 first rate efficiency and battery life that may maintain its efficiency for years to come back. 

Sarah Tew/PJDM

The simplicity of a Chromebook cannot be beat. If the whole lot you do could be executed in an internet browser or with internet or Android apps, there’s little purpose to not go together with a Chrome gadget. Though with Linux and VMware assist, you are able to do far more immediately than after they first arrived in 2011. 

Read our Acer Chromebook 715 review.

Joshua Goldman/PJDM

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 affords larger selection in efficiency and use, particularly if you wish to simply use software program or play video games solely obtainable on these working programs. 

Read our HP Spectre x360 13 (late 2019) review.

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Joshua Goldman