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Chromebook vs. laptop: Buying advice and recommendations

Chromebook vs. laptop: Buying advice and recommendations


Chromebook vs. laptop: Buying advice and recommendations

Should I buy a Chromebook or a Windows laptop? Whether you’re seeking out the best computer for your child or just weighing which inexpensive computer would make a great gift, we can help you choose the right one. 

Who should buy a Windows PC?

A notebook PC powered by Microsoft Windows offers several advantages. Windows offers the most flexibility to run just about any app, as well as your choice of any browser. You can tweak and configure your PC as you choose.

Windows laptops for the budget buyer, 2019

Our quick-hit recommendations:

That convenience demands more computing horsepower, and often a higher price compared to most Chromebooks. Prices can soar into the thousands of dollars, and if you need a powerful PC for gaming or video editing, Chromebooks really don’t offer that much competition. But you’ll find some great deals among our more affordably priced, top Windows picks.

Who should buy a Chromebook?

A Chromebook powered by Google’s Chrome OS is a simpler, more optimized affair, a locked-down PC that’s little more than the Chrome browser—but it can be hundreds of dollars cheaper than a comparable Windows PC. Amazon’s list of the “best-selling laptops” is often dominated by Chromebooks—see for yourself! Holiday deals can also drop really low–down around $100 or more, though you’ll probably want to pay a bit more for a better experience.

Chromebook buyer’s cheat sheet

Our quick-hit recommendations:

Updates occur behind the scenes, so you can just open the lid and go. Google handles all the security, too. The internet offers much of what you’ll need, whether it be working within web apps or Chrome plugins. But it’s the workarounds and little inconveniences that you may find annoying in the end.

There are two more wrinkles. For years, there were plain, clamshell Chromebooks and…not much else. (Chromeboxes, a niche class of standalone Chrome OS-powered boxes that lack a display, are nearly defunct.) Now there are Chrome OS-powered convertibles like the HP Chromebook x360 12b (currently $360 on Adorama), as well as Chrome OS-powered tablets like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet (currently $300 at Best Buy). 

Besides the obvious physical differences, a Chromebook is no different than a Chrome tablet—but Chrome tablets haven’t done that well up to now. The Google Pixel Slate flopped, but we like the more recent Lenovo Chromebook Duet very much. 

Google has also hinted that it will support—gasp!—Windows apps on Chromebooks, by building a version of Parallels into Chrome OS. (Parallels can be used to provide remote access to Windows apps.) At some time in the future, enterprise Chromebook users will be able to run Windows apps directly on their Chromebooks, including Microsoft Office. But we don’t know when that capability will arrive.