Chromebooks have quickly become the go-to devices for Schools because of its budget-friendly pricing, simplicity of usage and ease of management. However most folks don’t understand how Chromebooks are different from Laptops.
Web browsing as core use case
Both Chromebooks and Windows Laptops perform identically when it comes to web browsing. In fact, the browser which comes with Microsoft Laptops, Microsoft Edge, is built on top of Chromium which was first part of Chromebooks.
If your primary use case the web, I recommend picking Chromebook which was designed for the Web and is still the best web browsing device in the world.
Secure by default
Both Chromebooks and Windows Laptops are considered secure devices. However, unlike Windows Laptops, Chromebooks were designed with security in mind from the ground up. Chromebooks do not need an Anti-Virus to be installed to prevent malicious attackers from taking over your device. However, Windows Laptops do
Windows Laptops however do require additional Anti-Virus software installation which may cost you extra.
Sharing devices and Mobility
Unlike phones, Chromebooks and Laptops are often shared between multiple users (home, at Library or at school). Windows Laptop does allow one to add/remove users and allow “guests” to use devices temporarily, but its the Chromebook which makes this seamless. Its quickly becoming the preferred way for users to share devices.
What sets Chromebooks apart from Windows is that ChromeOS keeps the user profile information securely in the Cloud. This allows any user to use any Chromebook and quickly sync their profile with a brand new device with a single sign in. And then allows them to continue where they left off. Gone are the days when users have to carry their Laptops from Home to School, or Home to Work… in today’s world, you can leave one Chromebook at home and one at Work and work effectively on both without having to carry the devices back and forth.
If someone tells you that no Laptop needs to be “Managed” they are lying or are being naive.
Every device needs a frequent check to make sure it’s not running out of space, it’s getting security updates and it’s not compromised in any way. For users at home, this can be a daunting task as knowing what to do may require IT skills which most of us may not have. Chromebook was designed to be used by someone with very limited IT knowledge. Storage management, Security/Threat management and OS updates are all automatic.
And when Chromebooks are deployed in a large organization, like schools or enterprises, it also allows IT admins to remotely management, track, monitor and update the fleet without ever having to physically touch the device in its lifetime.
Third party hardware
It is a fact that Windows Laptops have lot more Third Party hardware support than Chromebook today.
Chromebooks come with a “Secure boot” feature which dramatically limits what third-party code can do on the device. This secure-by-default design has made it challenging for some hardware manufactures to port their existing drivers from Windows Laptop to Chromebooks.
Chromebooks have instead provided new ways for devices to talk to hardware which do not need direct access to low level kernel code to do its job. Chromebooks are also slowly rolling out Android OS integration which allows more drivers built for the Android ecosystem to be used by it.
Windows Laptops have been running Apps for decades now and they are good at it. However, Apps were designed for the world which predates Cloud. It was designed for use cases where data was never shared, the device didn’t move and every user has only one device.
That world has changed today. We now live in a world where every user has multiple devices, and everyone loves mobility and presence in the Cloud.
There is a new breed of apps which now run on the web and it runs on every device with a web browser. As long as you are using one of these new breed of apps, you will feel at home with Chromebooks.
As explained above, most Chromebooks are designed for the web, and rely on cloud computing resources for the most part. This allows the device to run on cheaper processors which are also lower-powered. And lower-powered processors allow batteries to run longer.
It’s typical for most Chromebooks to allow a full day of use with a single charge. And they generally perform better than their Windows Laptop counterparts because Apps on windows are more CPU intensive.
Performance issues usually show up when a device is used for something it’s not designed for. For example, while Chromebooks can run CPU intensive applications on the web, some of them require way more processing power than what many of the cheap Chromebooks are designed for.
A Chromebook which is not designed for CPU intensive applications may not have a CPU Fan to aggressively cool it when it gets hot. By skipping the fan, the device manufacturer could make it cheaper, could make it lighter/thinner and could make it come with a smaller battery. But that optimization comes at a cost. When this device does get hot, it will slowly throttle down the speed of the CPU, and to the user it would look like the device is slowing down.
This “thermal induced CPU-throttling” can be avoided if you understand your use cases and pick devices which are the right for your workload. For example, consider picking Chromebooks/Chromeboxes which have a CPU Fan to regulate the temperature and have broad enough vents to allow the air to exchange.
As long as you pick the right device, you shouldn’t experience any performance issues.
Ultimately the most important question asked by every buyer is “How much does it cost ?”.
As explained above, Chromebooks are designed for the modern workforce which work in the cloud and because of that, it has taken liberties with how the product is designed. This design makes it light, thin, secure and cheap. You can find tons of Chromebooks under $200 today and there are many many more if you want to a little higher.
In summary, while both Windows Laptops and Chromebooks are comparable, if you are on a budget and primarily live on the web, pick a Chromebook which is perfectly designed for you.
Fun fact: This is what I personally used to type up this blog post.