Despite all the growth they’ve made in the last few years, Chromebooks still get a bad rap or are often thought of as “just a browser.” That couldn’t be further from the truth, especially now. In fact, there are several ways that Chromebooks are actually better than Windows laptops for many users.
Now, I already know what you’re thinking: “But Cam, I can’t <do this one specific thing I like to do> on a Chromebook! They’re awful!” And, yeah, I would never argue that they’re not limited in certain areas compared to a more traditional laptop. Like, you know, photo editing. But with each passing day, those limitations are becoming fewer and fewer.
Let’s take gaming for example. Once upon a time, there weren’t really any games outside of basic browser titles available on Chrome OS. Then Android apps opened the door for more titles. Now Stadia and GeForce Now both allow AAA titles to be played on Chrome OS. Things have come a long way in just the last year on that front.
And, those are the changes that are happening pretty damn regularly on Chrome OS. As I said earlier, the only real mainstay that’s missing for most users now is Photoshop. And if you don’t need Photoshop (or Lightroom, etc.), then guess what?
A Chromebook is probably a better choice for you than a Windows laptop. Here’s why.
They’re More Affordable
If there’s one huge argument in favor of Chromebooks, it’s always going to be price. Because you can get a very usable Chromebook for a fraction of the cost you’ll pay for a Windows laptop with the same level of performance.
Let’s take one of our new favorite Chromebooks for example: the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet. This $300 Chrome OS device is a Chromebook and tablet in one, and despite only packing a MediaTek processor and just 4 GB of RAM, it takes a lot to bog this little guy down.
Chrome OS is just incredibly efficient on resources, so Chromebooks can get do more with lower-end hardware compared to Windows machines. I’m not sure if you’ve ever used a $300 Windows device before, but it’s … not a good time. Hell, even $500+ Windows laptops with only 4 GB of RAM often struggle to do more than one or two things at a time.
That’s not an issue on Chrome OS. But it’s also just one of the benefits.
There’s No Threat of Viruses
While Windows Defender has gotten pretty great at detecting viruses over the last few years, Chromebooks literally can’t be beaten in this regard. Why? Because there’s no such thing as a virus on Chrome OS.
The reason for this is multifold, but we like to keep things simple, so that’s exactly what we’ll do. To start, you don’t install things directly to the system on Chrome OS. Because you don’t run installable software on Chrome OS, it can’t catch a traditional virus.
Secondly, it’s because of sandboxing. Every browser, web app, Android app, or Linux app you open runs in its own virtual sandbox, which keeps it isolated from the rest of the system. So if a virus or some other form of malware exists on that page, it not only can’t into the rest of the system, but the process is killed as soon as the tab is closed. Take that, malware.
But! Let’s set up a hypothetical scenario where some big badass malware makes its way out of the sandbox and onto the system. What happens? Chrome OS takes care of that, too, with a feature called Verified Boot. Every time you boot up a Chromebook (or Chromebox), it runs a check on system integrity. If something is amiss, it’ll fix it.
There is one threat to consider, however: extensions. This is probably the biggest threat to Chromebooks, as sometimes reliable extensions get bought out by not-so-reliable companies and go rogue. And unfortunately, there isn’t a great way to stop this yet. That means it’s up to you to keep an eye on your extensions to make sure everything is on the up and up.
It’s also worth pointing out that rogue extensions aren’t exactly “viruses,” either. They’re more annoyances than anything else—things that can hijack your search engine, for example.
But as far as traditional viruses and malware are concerned, it’s not a concern on Chromebook. At all.
They Boot Instantly and Run Fast
Quick—open your Windows laptop. How long did it take before you could actually start doing stuff on it? If it was just asleep, maybe it was fairly quickly. But if it was in hibernation mode or turned off, the wait was probably a lot longer.
Pretty much all Chromebooks boot in a matter of seconds, and they wake from a sleep state even faster. I can open my Pixelbook and type in my PIN before the screen fully wakes and it’s ready to go. It’s the closest thing to “instant” I’ve ever seen from a laptop. I’m working within single-digit seconds on my Pixelbook.
And not only do Chromebooks boot instantly, but they run like butter even on limited hardware. Unless you’re an 85 tabs kind of person, it’s honestly hard to bog a Chromebook down. In my house, we have more than one 5+-year-old Chromebook still in commission, and they both are still incredibly serviceable. It’s shocking, especially considering they were both budget models when they were released.
Pair the quick boot times and excellent overall performance with the modern eight-year update promise, and a Chromebook is a laptop you buy for the long haul. Oh, and they also get pretty incredible battery life. So, you get the long haul on day-to-day use, too.
Setup Is Also Insanely Fast
Do you remember what life was like the last time you set up a Windows computer? Did it take hours? Installing applications, setting preferences, and all those other little quality-of-life tweaks that most Windows users do seem to take ages. Ages.
The last time I completely wiped my Pixelbook, it took about 20 minutes from start to finish. And I’m talking about login, setup, organization—the works. And I use a more specific workflow than most other Chrome OS users I know! It’s easy to forget how amazing this feature is if you don’t get new Chromebooks often (or powerwash one).
Once you have everything set up on your Chromebook, it syncs with your Google account. Then, the next time you log in to a new Chromebook (or after a powerwash), everything syncs to the new machine and you’re ready to rock and roll in literal minutes. Minutes!
And if you’re a new Chrome OS user, your existing extensions and apps will sync over from your Windows or macOS Chrome installation. You’ll be up and running in no time.
They Run More Apps than Any Other Operating System on the Planet
This may come as a shock to many, but Chrome OS has access to more apps than any other OS out there. It can run web apps, of course, but it also has access to the Play Store for running Android apps. More recently, Google also brought Linux apps to Chrome OS. Now, Google is even working to bring Windows apps to enterprise Chromebooks. And you can, of course, always run software like Microsoft Office on the web if that’s a must-have for you.
All told, that’s three (or four) operating systems’ worth of apps all in one place. Combine this with streaming games from Stadia or GeForce Now, and you have a nearly endless selection of available tools, apps, and games directly on your Chromebook.
This is far from a conclusive list on some of the ways that Chromebooks are better than Windows laptops, but it’s also not meant to say that Windows laptops don’t have their place. They absolutely do—I own a Pixelbook and Surface Laptop 3 and use them both equally. They’re both great and excel in different ways.
The Best Chromebooks Available Today
Okay, so you’re sold and now you want a Chromebook. But which one do you buy? There are a ton of great Chromebooks on the market, but these are our three favorites at the moment.
Lenovo IdeaPad Duet
When it comes to bang-for-your-buck in the world of Chromebooks, it’s hard to beat the IdeaPad Duet. It’s a tablet and a laptop in one, and the perfect little sidekick device if you already have a Windows desktop or full-size laptop that you’re just looking supplement. It’s so good that it got a 10/10 in our full review.
Acer Spin 713
If you’re looking for a convertible laptop replacement, the Chromebook 713 by Acer is hard to beat. With an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 128 GB SSD, it packs powerful specs for a Chromebook. You’ll have a hard time bogging this little guy down.
If you’re not concerned about using your Chromebook as a tablet and just want a tried-and-true clamshell form factor, the Pixelbook Go is the one for you. You can get it in four different variations, ranging from a Core m3 with 8 GB of RAM for $650 up to a Core i7 with 16 GB of RAM for a whopping $1400. The sweet spot is likely the Core i5 with 8 GB at $850, but you can double the RAM for an additional $150 if you need to. And despite not being a convertible design, it still has a touch screen for when you want to reach out and give something a little tap-tap-tap-a-roo.