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Chromebooks vs Laptops: What Should Buy?

Chromebooks have quickly grown from a curiosity to a force to be reckoned with. Offering a simple and stripped-down experience, Google’s Chrome OS is extremely easy to use (if you can use a browser, you’re good), and it comes inside several affordable laptops that start as low as $199. However, Microsoft isn’t taking this threat lightly.


In an attempt to bridge the gap between mobile and desktop operating systems, Windows 8 ended up suffering from an identity crisis, alienating some users. It features a Live Tile interface for quickly scanning social updates, weather or sports scores. Then, there’s the traditional desktop view. Thankfully, the Windows 8.1 Update brings back some of the features you’d want. But there are still two very distinct, siloed environments.

In some ways, we find the Chrome OS more reminiscent of traditional Windows than the current Microsoft OS. The current Start-like button sits on the bottom-left corner, and when it’s pressed, a pop-up shows you your apps and a search bar. You can then pin apps to the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. Basic settings, such as Wi-Fi and time, are accessed on the bottom right.

Apps and Software

For a laptop to be fully functional, you’ll need a few basic programs, including one for productivity, photo editing, video editing, video playback, music playback and a browser. For Windows laptops and Chromebooks, all of that’s possible, but Google’s OS is still a work in progress.

Photo and Video Editing

Windows 8.1 offers a plethora of photo editing programs, including support for Photoshop Elements. Adobe’s creative suite, as well as many other options, simply don’t exist on Chromebooks.

Web Browsing

Prefer a variety of browsers? Microsoft Windows wins hands down. You can download and install almost any browser you want on a PC, including Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome. But on a Chromebook, you get only one option: Chrome. Considering how good Chrome is, that’s not necessarily terrible, but we’d prefer a choice.

File Management

Windows still provides a traditional and familiar folder of files, which appears in the simple Windows Explorer program. You can also save to your desktop, pin documents to the bar and create new folders in a jiffy. You can even access your Microsoft OneDrive files to see what you’ve stored in the cloud.

There’s also a Files folder in the main menu for Chromebooks. But it’s not pinned to the bottom nav bar by default, as it is on Windows 8. From here, you can access your Google Drive files or any files that have been downloaded and saved to the machine’s hard drive.

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