How is a Chromebook different from a laptop? The answer has more to do with what it does rather than what it is. If you look at a Chromebook and laptop side by side, you may not be able to tell them apart. Their physical appearance may be similar, but these devices are designed for two very different jobs.
What is a Chromebook?
A Chromebook is basically a budget laptop that does not run Mac OS, Linux, or Windows, and instead operates on a special Google-based operating system called Chrome OS. Chromebooks are especially popular with college students.
The concept of Chromebooks—laptops that are primarily used to access the internet—is relatively new. And it's definitely something worth taking a closer look at if you're looking for a new computer.
Chromebook vs. laptop
You might be wondering, apart from the operating system, what's the difference between a Chromebook and a laptop? Well, a few other defining characteristics set Chromebooks apart from any other type of laptop.
Chromebooks are probably the cheapest, widely available laptops. How much is a Chromebook, you ask? You can get a new Chromebook in 2021 for less than $230. Of course, you can find a few cheaper windows refurbs, but they'll probably be dated and not support any modern software.
This is where the Chromebook loses points for some people. Unlike Windows laptops and MacBooks, which are made for smooth offline use, Chromebooks are meant to be used online. As a result, they often have low local storage. You instead get 100 gigabytes of free Google Drive cloud storage with each Chromebook.
Operating system: Chromebook vs Windows laptop
Chrome OS shares a few slight similarities with Windows, but it lacks some of Windows' robust offline capabilities. Chrome OS is built on an 'internet first' principle. As a result, it works best online with its Chrome browser-based applications.
Apps and software
Speaking of apps, Chromebooks have access to the same Google Play Store found on Android phones. While these apps might seem lighter than their Windows counterparts, they run effortlessly on Chromebook hardware and software, something that cannot be said of cheap Windows laptops.
Initially, people avoided Chromebooks because of this lack of standard PC software. Thankfully, the Play Store has seen significant growth in recent years due to the increasingly high number of powerful Android phones. As a result, you can now find some version of any Windows software on the Play Store.
This is one of a Chromebook's strongest points. To keep your Windows laptop protected from malware, you need to keep installing the latest antivirus software. This is not the case with Chromebooks. Instead, Chrome OS is safe from malware by default, add to the primary storage being on Google servers, and you get possibly the safest laptop in the world.
This is another area where Chromebooks perform better than Windows laptops. While your typical laptop's battery life is determined by its processor, graphics card, and the intensity of the tasks you perform on it, Chromebooks have a consistently long battery life. This is because they don't need solid processors or video cards to function well. The result is a full day of usage of the battery regardless of the tasks you run on it.
Chromebooks have evolved over the last couple of years to become more functional and competitive compared to their Windows and Mac OS rivals. But a few main differences—price, storage, and battery performance—may come into play when choosing between a Chromebook and a laptop. You can have both on the same device through virtualization software, such as Parallels Desktop.